Living with credit

4 easy things I did to trim my credit card bill

Dawn Papandrea

I’m not the type of person who splurges on a big, huge item, and I don’t impulse shop. What I am guilty of, however, are all of the smaller, seemingly innocent family budget purchases that add up over time.

With the holidays coming up and knowing we need to watch our budget, I decided to trim my family’s spending.

After all, not having a budget is a main detractor from holiday enjoyment, according to 62 percent of those surveyed by Experian. Furthermore, the new survey finds unexpected expenses during the holidays caused 31 percent of people to accrue credit card debt.

Been there, done that – and I don’t want to deal with card debt again.

Here are a few ways I tightened up the ol’ purse strings in recent weeks to give me and my family some extra financial cushion:

1. Check out free e-books (from the library).
I love to read. It’s my guilty pleasure, but I read quickly and have developed a preference for e-books. As a result, the cost of downloading new reads was starting to get out of control.

Unfortunately, making trips to the physical library, which is not in my normal travel route, isn’t realistic for me. The last time I tried, I didn’t finish the books because they were too clunky to carry around, and I ended up paying late charges on them.

In sharing this dilemma with a family member, I learned that the New York Public Library offers free e-book borrowing. Who knew? I’m already on my fifth book since I discovered this awesome option, and it’s saved me at least $40 and counting.

2. Gift cards cut our cable bill.
My boys were fortunate enough to receive some iTunes gift cards for their birthdays this year, but they don’t do much downloading. At the same time, we have been paying about $14 per month for cable movie channels just so we had something to watch for our family movie night (and usually, the options are disappointing).

That’s when it hit me – we could use the gift cards to rent brand new releases or classics on iTunes, and we could reduce our monthly cable bill.

3. Less shopping trips, more savings.
I’m sure most busy moms can relate to having to make an extra trip to the supermarket because you’re out of milk, or because you need an ingredient for a recipe. However, I almost never check out without throwing in a few other items because they’re on sale, or because my kids are with me and ask for something.

All of a sudden, my last $20 bill is gone and I’m whipping out the credit card to pay for that haul of groceries.

For the past few weeks, I pledged I would buy my staples, but if I ran out of something, I had to do without it or find a substitute in my pantry.

Guess what? I didn’t have to hit the ATM or pull out the plastic once, and I’ve come up with a few creative recipe tweaks I might not have tried.

4. Early birds spend more.
I hate being late, so I usually end up overcompensating and arriving places with a lot of time to kill. Since I don’t like to sit still, my plan was usually to exit my car and hit up whatever local shop was around to either grab a coffee, or browse drugstore aisles and “pick up a few things.”

I realized that my punctuality (and ultimately, my boredom) was causing me to spend money unnecessarily.

Now, I’m making a concerted effort to find other things to do when I’m early besides shopping (like bringing along my Kindle to read one of those free library books while I wait for an appointment, or taking a quick walk before school pickup).

They say not to sweat the small stuff, but that’s exactly what I needed to do to slash my spending. I’m taking baby steps for now, but hopefully I’m on my way to developing smarter spending habits that will soon become second nature.


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