10 Brilliantly Frugal Tips for Reducing Your Biggest Bills

10 Brilliantly Frugal Tips for Reducing Your Biggest Bills. BrilliantlyFrugal.com

Your Brilliantly Frugal Motto: EVERYTHING is negotiable.

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Brilliantly Frugal Tip #1: Electric

If you are able to shop for electricity in your area, start by shopping on powertochoose.com. You will need to know your average monthly kilowatt per hour (kWh) usage to know your TRUE rate. Find your average (kWh) by looking at your last few electricity statements to see what you used. You may have to dig around on your electricity provider’s website a bit to find the statements.

Now head over to powertochoose.com, enter your zip code, filter by your average kWh usage, companies with good ratings, and whether you would prefer a company with renewable energy or not. I would also suggest picking a fixed-rate plan to be sure that your rates will not increase. Now, look through the available plans, considering the kWh charge, any new customer signing bonuses, and your current rate charges to pick a new plan!

Brilliantly Frugal Pro Tip: Follow these ^ steps each time your electricity contract is set to expire to make sure you’re getting the best rate.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #2: TV

You’ve probably seen this a million times now, but it’s true. If you have cable, you need to cut right now. There is nothing on the cable channels that you can’t watch on a streaming service like Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, etc. Hulu even has a live TV option with live sports. Though, if you don’t watch live TV now, there’s no need to buy that ore expensive version of Hulu. Who has time for live TV anymore anyway?! Even when I had cable, I found myself almost exclusively watching my recorded shows on the DVR. Which is basically like watching streaming services with more steps and for more money.

If you aren’t willing to cut your cable, check to see if you can get a better rate with a competitor or at least check to see whether you’re actually using the channels in your current package. If not, you may be able to at least downgrade the package you’re subscribed to and save a little bit of money each month. When that’s not an option, call your cable company to see if they have any current promotions available. Sometimes they’ll at least give you free premium movie channels for 3 months.

Brilliantly Frugal Pro Tip: Review your bills, subscriptions, etc for ways to reduce your subscriptions or ask about promotions once a year for the best savings.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #3: Internet

The major internet companies often work together to keep options limited and prices high for customers. However, shop around once in a while or see if you can bundle services to reduce your bill. It may be worth switching between companies every once in a while when your contract is up to get the “new customer” promotional rates. If you’re lucky enough to have Google Fiber in your area, switch to Google Fiber. It is incredibly fast, reliable, and cheap.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #4: Credit Cards

If you have consistently paid on time, call your credit card companies and remind them of how long you’ve been a good customer. Ask for a reduction in interest rate. Even if they won’t permanently reduce it, they may give you a limit increase or 0% interest for a period of time. If they give you a limit increase, this can help your credit score (read more about that here). If they give you 0% and you have balances on other cards, consider transferring the balances to reduce the interest you will accumulate on the debt. Read more about credit cards here and how to focus on reducing your debt here.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #5: Student Loans

If your student loan payments are a struggle to keep up with or afford, consider switching to an income adjusted or an income-driven repayment plan. You can talk to your student loan servicer about your options. You will pay more interest in the long term, but may help you keep your head above water if you need the help. I have an income-driven repayment plan and focus any extra money I make in the month towards the one student loan with the lowest balance. Read more about paying off debt using the snowball method here.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #6: Cell Phone Data Plan

Get on a good unlimited plan! Do your research! I personally suggest switching to Google Fi.

Pros: Unlimited data. You can sign up for a straight unlimited plan. If you don’t use much data each month, you can sign up for a different plan for less. If you use less than 6 gigs per month, they will refund what you didn’t use as a credit on your next bill. In other words, you ONLY pay for what you use. And yes, they pay CASH on your statement, not “rollover minutes” or “rollover data”. Each line is only $20 per month. They use both Sprint and T-Mobile towers, so coverage is both good AND backed up. If one of them has towers down, Google will auto-switch you to the other towers. It auto switches you to open wifi when it detects it. It encrypts the connection, so you don’t have to worry about security. This keeps your data usage WAY down! I only used about 2-3 gigs per month now. It also includes free international data in over 200 countries.

Con: You have to use one of the few approved phones. Sign up here for a $20 discount on your first bill.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #7: Groceries

Always go shopping with a list and use coupons. The list will help give you an idea of what you will be spending before you even leave the house to go to the store. It can also help you be sure that what you will be spending will be within your grocery budget for the month. Lastly, it will keep you from placing random things in your basket while you shop and help keep down your overall cost.

Coupons of course help reduce your overall bill by helping you save on individual items. Thankfully, couponing is not as time-consuming or laborious as it once was. If clipping coupons from the paper sounds like a lot of work, you don’t have to do that at all!. You can find and print coupons on coupons.com. Additionally, almost every store has an app with digital coupons available. You just need to save the coupons ahead of time when you’re making your list and scan the barcode at checkout at the store. If you shop Target, use Target Circle. You can read more about that here.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #8: Gas

Use the GasBuddy app to find the cheapest gas in your area. I’ve been surprised a few times when I thought I already knew the cheapest gas station in the area only to find that a different gas station is a bit cheaper in the area.

Google Maps will also sometimes show the gas prices when you search for gas stations along your route.

Brilliantly Frugal Pro Tip: Check the app every single time you need to fill up and you’re low on cash for the best savings since gas prices change so frequently.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #9: Eating Out

Use a loyalty program every single time that you can. You’ll usually rack up points for free items later, get free items on your birthday, or coupons for discounted items frequently. The trick to this is to not eat out more than you normally would. You should go the same amount, just be sure to scan the reward code to keep free items later. Whataburger, Starbucks, and Chick fil a are good examples of fast-food restaurants with rewards programs. Most restaurants also usually give free items or coupons if you join their email list. Ask your waiter about it.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #10: Car Care

Get your car regularly serviced. I know, that seems daunting or like a luxury when money is tight. However, I promise it will save you a ton of money in the long run. The trick to this is to set aside a little bit of money each month (put it into a savings account on payday if you have to so that you won’t spend it.) Most auto servicing chains like Jiffy lube or Kwik Kar always have coupons for oil and brake changes. Just google for those coupons in your area, print or show the coupon on your phone when you get the service for the discount!

Brilliantly Frugal Pro Tip: Follow Brilliantly Frugal on Facebook and sign up for the email list on our website for notices and alerts about how to save more money!

Target Circle is Here and it Will Save You Money!

Target Circle is Here and it will save you money!


Text is laid over a red circle that is laid over an image of daisys.

Target is one of my favorite places to shop. The addition of Target Circle makes it that much better! I am so excited to tell you all about it!

How it Works

Target Circle is built straight into the Target App and is completely free. Download the Target App on your phone and register. Search for what you plan on buying through the search bar at the top and add the Target Circle offer if one is available. If you just feel like browsing offers, click on “Shop” and then “Target Circle Offers” to browse the offers and add any offers to your list.

If you don’t feel like making a list ahead of time, open the app and click on the barcode in the search bar while you’re out shopping. You can scan the barcodes of each item while you pick it up to see if a Target Circle offer is available. It will automatically add any offers it finds to your list! It’s so exciting when you’re out shopping for your daily essentials and you see an offer pop up!

At checkout, click on the wallet in the Target App and have the cashier scan the barcode. All of your Target Circle offers will automatically be deducted from your total before paying at checkout.

To save even more money, sign up for the Target Red Card, debit or credit, to save another 5% on any purchase that you use your Target Red Card. (Read Understanding your Credit Score and 5 Credit Card Myths before deciding whether you want the Debit or Credit Card.) I personally opted for the debit card, because I didn’t need or want another credit card at the time.

You can also add other Target coupons and target gift cards into the wallet. No need to keep up with the plastic cards that I am constantly losing.

Wait. But What Happened to Cartwheel?

Right, Target used to have an app called Target Cartwheel. It worked similarly to Target Circle, in that you could add offers and scan the barcode at checkout to save. You could add friends and see how much your friends were saving along with you! Target was striving to add a social media type aspect to its offerings. However, the app evolved a lot over the years. Eventually, the social part was completely removed and the separate app was incorporated into the Target App. Now Cartwheel is being incorporated into Target Circle, but there are a few differences.

How Target Circle is Better Than Cartwheel

A major complaint about Cartwheel was that the discounts were essentially in-store only. Every once in awhile a cartwheel offer was available on the online store, but it was incredibly rare. It also meant that you couldn’t use Cartwheel offers if you wanted to order online and do in-store pickup or Target Drive Up (the curbside service). Now though, Target Circle makes all of that possible. You can shop in the app, add cartwheel offers, pay with gift cards and your Target Card, save a ton of money and have the items delivered to your door, pickup in-store, or use Target Drive Up to have the items brought and loaded in your car.

If you’re not using your Target Red Card, you’ll still get 1% back in Circle Rewards to use later when you scan the barcode. You can redeem those on your next trip when you add the rewards in your wallet in the Target App and scan the barcode at checkout.

Target is now doing an amazing thing by supporting local nonprofits through Target Circle. When you use Target Circle, you earn “votes.” With those votes, you can vote for who Target will support next in your local area. Voting periods are usually a few months and there are usually about 4-5 local nonprofits to choose from. Target includes the company’s logo and a brief bio of each to help you decide. You don’t have to use all of your votes on one nonprofit, you can vote for more than one, diving your votes however you like between the nonprofit if you would like.

What is Zombie Debt? How to Avoid a Resurrection.

What is Zombie Debt? How to Avoid a Resurrection.
What is Zombie debt? How to avoid a resurrection. BrilliantlyFrugal.com

Zombie Debt is OLD Debt

Zombie Debt is debt that has been dead and gone for a LONG time now. This is debt that hasn’t had any activity for over 7 years. Activity is when you make a payment, you missed a payment, or the balance increased.

Check Your Credit Report

Zombie Debt cannot be added to your credit report or should have already dropped off of your credit report if it was already on there. If you notice debt on your credit report that should have already fallen off, report it to the credit bureaus. Check the Transunion, Experian, & Equifax websites to see how to report old debt.

Read The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Credit Report here.

Check Your State Law

In most cases, the statute of limitations has also expired, meaning that the creditor or a collections agency cannot take you to court for it. Check your local laws to learn about the statute of limitations in your state

Don’t Resurrect Zombie Debt

Do NOT pay Zombie Debt if the statute of limitations has expired in your state. If you make a payment or promise to make a payment and miss it, the debt counter goes from 7+ years to 0! This means that now it CAN be added to your credit report and it may start the statute of limitations over as well, which means they may still be able to sue you over the debt. DO NOT let that happen! Do not let a zombie that is dead in its grave come back to life. Never make payments or promise to make payments on Zombie Debt.

Collections Calling You About Zombie Debt?

Collections agencies will often buy Zombie Debt from creditors or other collection agencies for PENNIES on the dollar. They then hope to scare consumers into paying old debts that they, in most cases, no longer are legally obligated to pay.

Here’s what to do If you are getting collections calls about Zombie Debt:

1. Don’t Panic.

You and you alone are in control. Do not let a creditor or collections agency call scare you.

2. Make it stop.

Tell the collections agency to stop calling you and to remove your number from their list. Under the Federal Debt Collections Practices Act, the collection agency must stop calling you when you tell  If they call you again, report them to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here.

3. Know your dates.

Know when your account went into default so you know if it can still be added to your credit report and if the statute of limitations is up.

4. Know your rights.

It is abusive for a collections agency to threaten legal action or a lawsuit or to threaten to call your work or bosses. If a collections agency threatens to do any of these things, make sure you know the name of the collections agency and report them to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here.

5. Don’t Resurrect the Zombie.

NEVER pay or promise to make a payment on zombie debt. This will resurrect debt that is dead. If you resurrect Zombie Debt, it can show back up on your credit report. Let it stay dead and buried.

Don’t let Zombie Debt and collections call get you down. YOU are in control! YOU are Brilliant!

How to Start Paying Off Your Debt TODAY – Free Download!

FREE Download! Debt Payoff Calculator!

Are you wanting to pay down your debt? Does it seem impossible?




Chances are, your debt isn’t even that bad. According to Experian, the average American has $6,600 in credit card debt. Even if you have double that in credit card debt, it is possible to pay it off. You may not pay it all off by tomorrow, but it can be paid off.


Paying off debt is a journey, you just have to be willing to drive. Your first stop? This Brilliantly Frugal debt calculator.


This freebie will be helpful in calculating your debt. It will also give you a snapshot of your payoff schedule under your current circumstances.




When I first used the debt calculator, I became very discouraged. I have a lot of debt and it made it seem like I would NEVER get out of the hole.



The debt calculator does not take into account work bonuses, raises, promotions, side hustles, income tax returns, inheritances, and budget adjustments.



I had to remind myself that the longer my accounts are open and in good standing actually HELPS my credit score (Read the Ultimate Guide here).



There are two different strategies for paying off debt; Avalanche (Highest Interest First, a favorite of CPAs) and Snowball (Lowest BALANCE first, my personal favorite).


Why Snowball is the best!

Debt Snowball

When using the Snowball method you start by paying off your account with the Lowest Balance First. When you finish paying off that account, you take the payment you were making on that and add it to the next lowest balance. You Snowball it up! This is great because you get instant gratification when you pay off a small balance loan quickly. Plus you get to put bigger and bigger payments down towards your debt.


Let’s say my car payment is $300 per month and I only owe $1,000.

My student loan payment is $100 per month and I owe $5,000.

My credit card payment is $40 per month and I owe $7,000.


I will put add any extra money that I have to my car payment to pay off my car FIRST.

Once my car is paid off, I will start paying $400 ($300 car payment + $100 student loan payment) towards my student loan.

Once my student loan is paid off, I will pay $440 ($300 car payment + $100 student loan payment $40 credit card payment) towards my credit card.

You keep rolling your payments into a bigger snowball as you pay off debt until you have a GIANT SNOWBALL to tackle your debt. Snowball gives you the benefit of the snowball effect, but you may end up paying more interest over time than if you were using the Avalanche system.



If you have two debts that are close to the same balance but have very different interest rates, you may see a big difference in the total interest that you pay if you change the order of the two accounts so that you pay the account with the higher interest rate first. In that case, use the Order Entered in the Table strategy in the Brilliantly Frugal Debt Payoff Calculator.


Why Avalanche Saves You More Money

Debt Avalanche

When you use the Avalanche system, you pay off the account with the Highest Interest First. This means that you will accrue and pay less interest in the long run. In other words, you start at the top of the mountain with the worst interest rate account and then move down the mountain to the next highest interest rate account.


Let’s say my car payment has $300 per month and I have a 2.9% interest rate.

My student loan payment is $100 per month and I have a 5.8% interest rate.

My credit card payment is $40 per month and I have a 19.99% interest rate.


I will put add any extra money that I have to my credit card payment to pay off my credit card FIRST.

Once my credit card is paid off, I will start paying $140 ($100 student loan payment + $40 credit card payment) towards my student loan.

Once my student loan is paid off, I will pay $440 ($300 car payment + $100 student loan payment $40 credit card payment) towards my car payment.


You keep going down the mountain faster and faster with the added money from your paid off accounts. Avalanche will save you more in interest in the long run, but you won’t get the same instant gratification that you do with the Snowball method.



If you have two accounts that are very similar in interest rate, but one balance is lower than the other, switch the order so that you pay the lower balance account first. This way you get that gratification of paying off the debt faster.



Decide whether Snowball or Avalanche will work best for you. Avalanche is sometimes the best decision for saving money in the long run. It was not the right fit for me though. When I started working on paying down my debt, I had high balances. If I had started on my highest interest rate account first, it would have taken me 5 years before I paid off my first account. That was too long for me to wait to see my reward. Instead, I decided to start with my credit card account which had 0% interest at the time and an $800 balance. I was able to pay it off it just three months and I felt great about paying it off! It helped me stay motivated to work towards paying off one of my student loans.

Once you’ve decided which method will work best for you,




You should redo your calculator at least once a year. So many things happen in a year that can change the debt calculator. Your pay will change, your budgets will change, and your balances will change. It is also possible that your minimum payments may change, and your interest rates may even change. Take the time to redo the spreadsheet and see where you are. Don’t forget to celebrate your progress, and evaluate how well you are doing.

Paying off debt is a journey. Make sure to take time to look back on where you’ve been. Stay focused, keep working, and don’t give up.







5 Credit Card Myths ANNIHILATED

5 Credit Card Myths Annihiliated
5 Credit Card Myths Annihilated. BrilliantlyFrugal.com

After reading the Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Credit Score, some of you decided to open a new credit card to build your credit! I have been getting a ton of questions about it. Turns out that there are still some credit card myths out there that need to be ANNIHILATED. Here are the top 5 credit card myths:


Myth #1: You have to carry a balance.

Incredibly FALSE! You DO NOT have to carry a balance on your credit card to keep it open or to build your credit. In fact, you should NEVER carry a balance on your credit. You should always pay off your full balance with EACH paycheck. Credit cards have the WORST interest rates. You do not want to rack up that interest.

Myth #2: You have to use your credit card every month.

FALSE! You only have to use your credit card ONCE A YEAR to keep it open. You could use it more often if your card offers rewards like cash back or miles, but only if you have the cash available in your budget to pay it off immediately.

Myth #3: You have to have credit to get a credit card.

Having credit and good credit is helpful when you want to open a credit card, but it is not 100% necessary. You have options, but a conventional credit card may not be one of the options available to you. Some other options are a student credit card (This was my first credit card!), a store credit card, a secured credit card, or a credit union credit card. Check the credit cards area of Credit Karma to see your approval odds.

If you have decent chances of being approved for a low credit line conventional credit card, consider applying for a Discover card using this link to receive a $50 statement credit if you are approved and make a purchase within three months! (Disclaimer: I will also receive a $50 statement credit for referring you).

Myth #4: Credit cards are the devil and ruin your credit.

YOU are in charge! Do not let your credit card control you. Your goal is to make your credit card work FOR you, not work to pay off your credit card. Credit cards can actually help you build your credit if you use them correctly. You should only use your credit card when it benefits you, like collecting reward points, cash back, or travel miles. You should only use the credit card when you already have the cash in your bank account to buy that item.

For example, if my credit card is offering 5% cash back for gas station charges, I will charge all of my gas on my credit card that month. This doesn’t mean that I will drive more than usual that month. I purchase the amount of gas that is available in my budget, immediately pay off the balance, and collect the 5% cash back as either a statement credit or an Amazon gift card to treat myself later (for FREE)!

Myth #5: Credit cards are impossible to pay off. You should cut up all of your cards.

DO NOT CUT UP YOUR CREDIT CARDS. You want to keep them open and active to help build your credit. If you have credit card debt that you are struggling to pay off, that is 100% okay. I know it seems scary and daunting, but it is manageable and it is possible to pay them off. Your first goal is to stop charging items on your card, if at all possible. Start by deleting your credit card information from Google Chrome and all of your online shopping accounts. Your second goal is to pay more than the minimum payments. Review your budgets to see if there is anywhere that you can cut back on to pay extra on your credit card. Make a payment on your credit card with EACH paycheck, no matter how small each payment is. You WILL accomplish your goal. YOU CAN DO IT!