When the economy was expanding, convenience was king. We wanted to be able to read the New York Times while programming our DVRs, all while riding the subway. Extravagance and excess somehow became expected, and each little bit of convenience came with a fee or tax attached to it. That was fine then, but it's absolutely insane to pay a convenience tax in the current market. It's amazing just how much you can save a month when some of the extreme convenience is carved away. Rethinking your entertainment during the month is going to be the biggest money-saver of all, but there are other expenses flying under your radar right now that you could do without. Here are the top 10 expenses to cut immediately that could save you up to $670 per month.
No.10 - Landline
Monthly savings: $17
The landline should be as dead as the telegraph. Cell phones started out as a novelty and a convenience that was deemed an edge in business -- now they're a requirement. Can you imagine leaving your cell phone at home when you leave the house? Not answering your cell phone because you aren't home is completely unacceptable. The culture has evolved to require each and every person to be contactable at all times. That's an expectation that landlines simply cannot keep up with, making the landline an obvious expense to cut immediately.
No.9 - iTunes/downloads
Monthly savings: $25 (0.99/song, 2 albums and 1 movie)
iTunes and digital downloads in general have made obtaining media extremely easy. Going out to buy a DVD or a record would require some planning, a little forethought and at least some effort. Granted, it wasn't much, but if you were busy, you probably wouldn't make it to the music store. Now, you can buy song after song from the computer, and instantly enjoy it. Instant gratification is almost always a recipe for overspending. Cancel your iTunes account, and cut out the digital downloads. Savings will vary from person to person, but digital downloads are an expense everyone across the board can cut today.
No.8 - Newspapers/magazines
Monthly savings: $30
There's a reason the newspaper industry has been complaining about decline in readership for the past 10 years. The overhead associated with printing and delivering a physical product is enormous and it is a cost that is passed right on to the consumer. The internet (even internet that isn't blazingly fast) can load up any content that a newspaper displays. Reading a newspaper at work is quite a bit more conspicuous than checking out the New York Times in another browser tab while you work. The internet is the way of the future when it comes to news delivery: The writing is on the wall. Get on board and ditch this unnecessary expense.
No.7 - Blazingly fast internet
Monthly savings: $37.06
Cable, satellite and DSL have been ramping up the speed for the past few years. At some point, it became completely unnecessary. Unless you're downloading illegal copies of Blu-ray discs, you don't need 25 Mbps download rates. Even full-motion video on the web can be streamed at something around 1.5 Mbps with no problems, making blazingly fast internet an easy expense to cut immediately. If you can't wait an extra 11 seconds to catch the latest viral video on YouTube, then you probably need to invest in a book on time management skills and patience.
No.6 - Mobile surfing
Monthly savings: $50
3G access is something of a modern miracle. The bits and bytes flying around the ether have sped up the pace of business by an incredible degree. Getting e-mail outside of the office on your cell phone has become almost as standard in business as using overnight couriers to send documents. The problem is that, in most cases, having e-mail on your phone isn't really necessary. Lawyers want it, salesmen need it -- but the rest of us? We could really do without. Actually surfing on your cell phone is an enormous waste of time. Do you really need immediate and ubiquitous access to your Facebook profile and Twitter account? We think not. Go ahead and talk to some people around you in the coffee shop. Do a little IRL networking.
No.5 - Digital cable
Monthly savings: $54
If there is a time sink more devastating to productivity than random web surfing, it's channel surfing. At least with the internet you have a modicum of control over what content you're putting in front of your eyes. Not so with TV. Television eats time with a hypnotizing picture of "whatever is on." Digital cable has added more "choices," but not any more control. Commercials still run rampant during your favorite shows. With alternatives on the internet, like Hulu.com or the network websites themselves, cable seems like a waste of money. Depending on your geography, you can still pick up the network broadcasts in HD for free, so what's the point of cable?
No.4 - Covers
Monthly savings: $60 (6 venues in 4 weekends)
Drinks are already expensive. The cover is merely a tax for the privilege to walk in the door to pay more money. Patrons are going to wake up and realize that they don't want to subsidize the latest club remodel and will start looking for quality over flash. Patrons will cut their expenses accordingly and will support those establishments that are more forward-thinking. Some venues are beginning to go to the comedy-show model, where the cover exists, but it comes with a drink ticket or two. There's nothing wrong with supporting these establishments, but in this market, everyone needs to share in the pain.
No.3 - Lunches
Monthly savings: $100 ($5/day, 5 days a week)
This is a time-honored tradition your Grandma has been talking about since the Great Depression: Bring your lunches from home -- always. Even the most frugal of value-menu shoppers is going to be hard-pressed to come in at under $5 per lunch. And you're expected to be at the office five days a week? This is one expense that obviously adds up quickly, but rather discreetly, so it's easy to miss. This goes for the morning coffee too. It's easy and much cheaper to make it at home. Save the going out until it's a client lunch or one that will scrounge up some new business, and cut this expense immediately.
No.2 - Drinks
Monthly savings: $100 ($4-$9 premium drinks)
Out on the town or picking up a few things from the store, take your liquor purchase down a notch or two. If you're still going to the bar and calling your liquors, you're throwing good money away. Unless you're a true aficionado, there are few times when you can tell the premium vodka from the so-so vodka when mixed with a healthy dose of tonic -- even more so with juice. Old Blue Eyes made his drink as simple as Jack Daniels straight up. You aren't going to top Frank in class or classic cool, so how much cachet do you think you're garnering by being so label-conscious?
No.1 - Taxis
Monthly savings: $100 (5 trips at $20 per trip)
There are a few reasons to cut down on taxis: The first is that by not being able to afford the cab, you can't really afford to go out. So, you're saving money on both ends of the transaction. The second is that it will cut down on your drinking for the time being, allowing you to focus on something more productive than transient fun. Maybe with the downtime you can start a side career. Taxis are just entirely too expensive and should be the first expense to drop in a bad economy.
If you're taxiing to work, not just out on Saturday nights, then consider cheaper modes of transportation throughout the week, like buses and subways. Or, here's a novel idea: walk.