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!

The 2018 Ultimate Guide to Sell and Trade In Used Items

I love spring cleaning!

 

Spring is the time of year that I start to clean out all of the things in my home that no longer make me happy, in order to make room for the wonderful new things that will come into my life! It also provides an opportunity to make some extra cash for my used items. I have a secret ultimate list of places that I sell, trade in, and swap my items. Today I’m sharing that list with you. It’s a good one so be sure to save it!

 

Best Places to Sell

1. Kid to Kid

Kid to Kid is a second-hand store for all things kids! They ACTUALLY PAY for used kids clothes and toys! I’ve taken kids clothes and toys to Kid to Kid for my busy friends with kids and have received a ton of money back. Enough to say that it’s definitely worth a quick trip on a Saturday with a tub or two of clothes and toys.

 

Brilliantly Frugal Tip: Get a nice friend to do it for you if you don’t have time. Offer to take the kids on a playdate for them and ask them to stop by while they are running other errands.

 

2. PoshMark

Poshmark is a great app that lets you sell brand name clothes like Forever 21, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Vera Bradley, Target brands, and so many more! People go here purposefully looking for specific brand names for cheap. Poshmark handles charging for shipping, sending you a shipping label, and provides many helpful articles for being successful in your sales.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip: Be sure to use code DANIELAMCL when you sign up for an instant $5 bonus!

 

 

3. OfferUp, 5Miles, Facebook Market Place, etc.

Offerup, 5Miles, and Facebook marketplace are meant to sell items locally. These apps are great for selling furniture, home goods, and electronics (ESPECIALLY Phones). I’ve made hundreds of dollars selling items online this way.

You can find Offerup and 5Miles in the app store.

 

 

4. GameStop

GameStop is a good option to sell video games, consoles, and accessories, especially if you have a membership. However, you will definitely get back more if you sell these items yourself. Be sure to double check their offer(s).

 

5. Half Price Books

Half Price Books is a great place to sell BULK books, magazines, board games, DVDs, video games, or old textbooks that Amazon and the bookstore won’t buy back anymore. You probably want to bring at least a tub or two of items to make it worth it. You can either get CASH or use the cash towards your purchase. I almost always use the cash towards my purchase because I have a book buying problem.

 

The best offer I’ve ever gotten from them is for two boxes of old textbooks. I got back $76 for those boxes. Amazon and my bookstore where no longer buying them back because they were old editions. They were useless to me and just taking up precious space on my bookshelf.

 

 

6. Old Fashioned Garage Sale

Garage Sales are my absolute favorite way to sell my used items. I can easily make a few hundred dollars in one weekend instead of selling one item at a time. Here are my tried and true Garage Sale Pro Tips:

 

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #1: Garage sale season starts in early spring and ends in early fall. Try to schedule your garage sale at popular moving times. Those are typically in June after school is out, and in August, right before dorm move in season.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip#2: Make sure to have some furniture available to get people to stop. Focus on ways to repurpose or spruce up furniture when talking to shoppers!

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #3: Make lots of signs! Make prices clear and low so that you have lots of shoppers. Your goal is to get a HIGH volume of items sold, not necessarily a high price for each item.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #4: Towards the end of your sale, offer bulk prices. EX: a whole grocery bag of items for $5 or even $1. A whole table of things for $X.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #5: Provide shopping bags! I keep all of my plastic grocery bags. When it’s time for a garage sale, I take the entire stash with me outside. If you provide shoppers with bags, they are more likely to buy more items at once. I have had shoppers ready to check out, but when I offered them a bag, they took the opportunity to fill a second bag with items they weren’t initially sure about!

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #6: Have organized tables! Keep like items together such as clothes, toys, home decor, auto accessories, etc. It helps shoppers find what they are looking for.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #7: Hang jewelry on a cork board! It’s easier for shoppers to see the displayed pieces, especially the small ones.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #8: If you don’t have time to do one yourself, see if you can enlist someone else to run it or give a friend your items to sell at their garage sale.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #9: When I do garage sales I sell items for my friends all the time. The more items I have out, the more people stop at my garage sale, the more of my own items I  will sell. Sometimes my friends will allow me to take some of the profit from their items as a thank you. I’ve also had friends donate whole truckloads of items for me to sell! I’ve made so much money on garage sales.

Brilliantly Frugal Tip #10: Know your city and county rules. Some require that you register your garage sale. If you don’t, you may get fined.

 

 

7. Raise

Raise is hands down the best place to sell unwanted gift cards. You won’t get the full amount of the gift card, because Raise sells it to others at a discount, but you can trade it for an Amazon Gift Card or have the money sent straight to your Paypal account!

 

Brilliantly Frugal Tip: Sign up through my link here and get an instant $5 bonus!

Best Trade-In Programs

 

1. Amazon Trade-In Program

The Amazon Trade-In program is a great way to sell all kinds of stuff for Amazon gift cards. I used to trade in my textbooks and use the gift cards to buy the textbooks for the next semester. Now I trade in old electronics, books, and so many other things!

 

 

2. Best Buy Trade-In and Recycling Programs

If your items are new enough you can trade them in for Best Buy gift cards. If they are too old to sell anywhere, recycle them at any Best Buy store. Check their promotions before going. Sometimes when you recycle your old items, you are eligible for coupons for new items!

 

 

3. H&M Recycle

Drop off a bag of old clothes, shoes, and accessories in any condition and get a 15% off coupon on your purchase. They even sometimes do promotions where they give TWO 15% off coupons per bag of clothes. They recycle the clothes to reduce landfill waste and you save money. WIN-WIN! I never go to H&M without a bag of clothes to donate. I ALWAYS get my 15% off.

 

Follow Brilliantly Frugal on Facebook to get notifications of the special promotions!

 

 

4. Target Trade-In

Target will take old electronics video games, or gift cards from other stores or restaurants and give you a Target gift card in return! If you shop at Target as much as I do, this is a great option for you!

 

Ways I DO NOT Recommend Selling Used Items:

 

1. Plato’s Closet

They never buy anything unless it still has tags or is from THIS season, no matter what they say. They only buy a few new trendy pieces and pay nearly nothing for them. Unless you have a whole tub of new clothes with tags that for whatever reason can’t be returned, it is not worth the trip at 30 minutes of them judgingly digging through your clothes only to tell you that they can’t buy anything from you because they’re “out of season”.

 

2. Amazon or Ebay Stores

Unless you have rare, antique, or vintage items or an established store on these platforms, users are generally not going to these places to buy used items anymore. Try one of the newer apps listed earlier in this post.

 

FINALLY

Anything you can’t sell, SWAP or DONATE.

 

1. Throw a swap party with your friends!

Invite 10 friends to bring over used clothes, shoes, accessories, home goods, etc. Ask each friend to bring at least 10-15 items. Set up tables around your house for everyone to showcase their items! Stock up on wine, throw on some music and have everyone over! Tell everyone to be respectful of how many items they take versus how many they brought. Let each friend know that they have the option of taking home the items that no one grabbed, or they can leave the items with you! You can then sell the items yourself via one of the channels above (Free new inventory!) or take the items to Goodwill for them as a thank you for attending your event!

 

 

2. DONATE!

You can take the items to your local Goodwill, clothing donation boxes, women’s shelters, homeless shelters, etc. Don’t dump items needlessly in a landfill.

 

Remember, your trash is someone else’s treasure!

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?

 

IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE! YOU CAN DO IT!

 

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.

DOWNLOAD IT HERE

 

CAUTION:

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.

 

WHAT I FORGOT:

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

 

ALSO:

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).

 

LET’S GET STARTED!

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.

FOR EXAMPLE:

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.

 

BRILLIANTLY FRUGAL TIP:

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.

FOR EXAMPLE:

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.

 

BRILLIANTLY FRUGAL TIP:

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.

 

MAKE A DECISION

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,

START CALCULATING

 


REEVALUATE PERIODICALLY

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.

 

REMEMBER:

 

DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED!

THIS IS NOT FOREVER!

YOU CAN DO IT!