Two years ago I got an end of the year letter from my condo association so dense with bad news it nearly cut a hole in my floor when I dropped it. I don’t need to be specific (merely recalling it makes my kneecaps hurt), but let’s just say it included the words assessment, construction and million all mixed in together in a variety of toxic formulas. Needless to say, I managed to survive the project and am happy to report that two years later…I have moved. Well, that and my spending habits changed dramatically.

Being forced into a financial pinch pushed me to find new, creative ways to save—so much so that some of my friends have adopted them. Here are a few that may be of use to you.

1. Telephone

I pay about $200 annually for phone service now. Before the change I was paying nearly $100 each month. I still have two numbers (home and cell), texting and voicemail. Now I also have Internet calling. This is how to make it work for you:

1) Get a free Google Voice number.

2) Port your existing home number to Google Voice ($20 one-time fee) as a new “home” (or additional number). This will be your phone number to make calls from your computer at home through VoIP calling (calls made over the Internet) instead of a handset. You can also make and receive calls via your device (iPad, tablet, etc.) using Google Hangouts. There are no charges for these calls; all you need is an Internet connection and a Google account.

3) Now couple that with cell service: I recommend T-Mobile Pay as You Go (there are other pre-paid services, but T-Mobile is cheap while still reliable). Sign up and buy 1000 minutes for $110. You can use your existing phone as long as it takes a SIM that will fit your phone. You can use most any iPhone or Android so long as it is either unlocked or already on T-Mobile.

4) Use your cell only when away from your home or at least limit “talky” calls when using cell. You now have two numbers: a home phone and a cell phone. Even if you use your cell a lot, you can always buy more minutes. I pay for 1000 minutes every 8 months or so. I use my cell for when I’m out to make quick arrangements and save long calls for home. Remember, anytime you’re connected to the Internet you should not have to use cell minutes—just call from your phone or other device via the Google app.

2. Internet

Call for a better rate

I pay about $15 monthly for Comcast High Speed Internet. I got that rate by…asking. Call your Internet company and tell them you are going to cancel if you cannot get a better rate. If you have a sob story that includes the words assessment, million construction, that might help. Often if you do cancel they will very soon after send you a notice for a new promotion to "come back," though quite often a call or letter to Cable Co. HQ works to reduce your rate.


You can also get 1 GB/month for home or 500 MB/month for roaming data for free from FreedomPop (if you’re careful not to go over the limits). This is something I only use for back-up and for low-use data via my iPhone (mainly checking email and texting via the Google app). I don’t recommend using this for much as going over the free limits will expose you to significant charges. You have to buy a FreedomPop device to begin, but after that—so long as the use is under the limits—it’s free.

Note: Be sure to remove all default services they try to sneak in when you sign up – look for the tiny “no thanks” or “skip” links.

3. TV

I spend nothing on TV and get all local channels and access to most basic cable. Here’s how:

For broadcast

For broadcast (yes, it still exists) I use an HDTV antenna (I like this one: Amazon Basics). Unless you live in a deep valley or many miles from a metropolitan area, you will get most (likely all) local TV stations with this. Just plug the antenna in like it was cable and place it in an area to get the best reception (this may require a little testing). Then run the auto-tune scan on your TV and you should be set. I get all my local networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS) and a host of other interesting ones that broadcast old favorites (remember The Twilight Zone?).

For cable shows

Many cable shows are available online without the need for subscription, such as some ESPN broadcasts and The Daily Show (new episodes available the day after broadcast). For paid cable stations there’s a trick: you gotta have a family member let you log in to their service (thanks, Mom). Most people who have cable TV do not also watch online, but as part of their package they can stream as long as the content is part of their subscription. Almost every cable TV show is available online now and when you go to the network site to stream it, it will ask you to log in to the provider.

Note: Dish Network has plans to launch Sling TV, a $20 monthly streaming service. Food Network, ESPN and the Disney Channel are just a few of the networks that will be available with this program. Read more about it here.

For better viewing

Once you have the content streaming you can “mirror” the broadcast on your TV. I do this from my iMac using an HDMI cable and this adapter. There’s probably an adapter to mirror from PCs as well, but Macs are easy for this sort of thing and what I know. The other option for streaming is to do it wirelessly straight into your TV with a Roku or Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV. The only downside is the costs to buy these devices (a bit more than the $5 HDMI adapter). That said, Roku and Apple TV are very good players and are not too expensive (I have not used the Amazon Fire).

4. Movies

Go to the library

One word: LIBRARY. If you’re willing to wait a few days (or weeks for new releases) to watch a film, then why pay RedBox for it? I have watched tons of movies and cable TV series for free, some within a few weeks of their DVD release. And I get a nice walk to the library to boot (yes, that was a footwear pun). Plan in advance: when the Oscar list comes out go through and put a hold on all the films you want to see. Forget about it and before you know it the library will email you telling you they’re in. If you schedule several every so often you’ll always have a few films in the house to watch.

Go online

You can also see many films—especially documentaries—online at YouTube or sites like Documentary Addict. PBS streams many programs for free, such as the best program on broadcast TV: Frontline. Stream these to your TV through the adapter set-up described above and you have quality programming on your TV at your call.


This is a guest post by Jesse from Seattle, WA.

How I Managed a Financial Headache Through Creative Cost-Cutting