Four Simple Ways to Cut Household Expenses

Jean Chatzky
The following was written by none other than personal finance expert Jean Chatzky.  When I got word that she was interested in sharing an article with my readers I screamed (well typed) a big YES in response.

I recently wrote a short report — not quite an ebook, not quite a blog post — about how you can save money on household expenses

I did it to offer up the tips I use in my own home, and so far, the downloads have been off the charts.

This is clearly something we all care about.

When Glen asked me to guest post, I knew that pulling my favorite tips from this report would be a big hit.

In writing the document, I focused on the areas where we all seem to spend the most money — things like electricity, cable/satellite TV, and cell phone bills.  (I also talked extensively about lowering your heating bills — the report was released in February — but I’m hoping we’re over that hurdle at this point, so I’m not going to address it here.)

Below, a few of my favorite tips for cutting your monthly expenses.

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To Itemize or Take the Standard Deduction, That is the Question

Itemize vs standard deduction

When life becomes more complicated, so do your taxes.

As you claim dependents, purchase a home, or are involved in a major loss or theft you can claim specific items on your taxes that will reduce your tax burden.

Other reasons such as owning your own small business, earning money in more than one state, or if you have investments or property that can be claimed as a loss then your taxes become slightly more difficult to file.

Most single people will file a Form 1040-EZ, but if you have any type of deduction that is greater than the standard deduction it may be best to file using a Form 1040.

So when should you itemize on your taxes?  The following will provide some major reasons for itemizing.

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How to Spend Less on Some of Your ‘Needs’

How many times have your children said, “I need this?”

Or how many times has your spouse said it?  What about you?  How many times have you said it?

At the risk of dragging out the old, “I had to walk to school uphill both ways in the snow,” argument, what Americans consider a need today is much different from the past.

In addition, Americans have created a culture in which the concept of “need” is much different from anywhere else in the world.

Enough about historical comparisons and international economics.  Let’s look at a few examples of what Americans today consider needs and just how ridiculous (and expensive) they are.  While we’re at it, let’s consider some common sense alternatives.

How You Can Spend Less on These ‘Needs’

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Do I Need Life Insurance In Retirement?

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You can save a boat load of money by re-evaluating your life insurance needs once you retire.

If you do, you’ll probably find that you need a whole lot less insurance after you retire than you needed while you were working.  In many cases, you’ll discover that you won’t need life insurance at all during retirement.

So Do I Need Life Insurance in Retirement?

The Purpose Of Life Insurance is the Key

Counter to what many life insurance agents tell you, life insurance isn’t an investment.

That’s one reason why term life is far better than whole life.  It’s also one of the reasons I question the need for life insurance on a non-working spouse.

Insurance is a financial tool and nothing more.
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How to Invest in Real Estate Without Speculating

Let’s get one thing straight: the kind of real estate investing you often see on the television flipping shows is not true real estate investing.

Sure, it involves putting money into a deal and expecting to make something back.  And yes – sometimes these individuals make incredible profits.

However, the kind of real estate seen on the flipping shows is more closely related to the buy-wholesale, sell-retail model of a clothing store at your local mall than it does to real estate investing.

As Glen mentioned in his popular article, Seven Ways to Get Rich Quick, many people have tried to “get rich quick” by buying real estate only to lose it all when the market dropped out.

Flipping houses, as well as most development, raw land purchases, and betting all your chips on “black” is not investing but rather “speculation.”

Speculation involves taking a high risk with the potential of earning a high reward, often in a short period of time.  Investing involves taking calculated but dependable risks with the assumption of earning solid returns.

It’s important that for you, as someone looking to grow their financial position in life, to make that distinction in your mind now, rather than later.

Now, don’t get me wrong: house flipping can be fun, profitable, and entertaining.

However, flipping houses involves heavy risk with a smaller hope of return.  It’s a business, at best, and while it can be exciting and profitable if done correctly, it’s not what I want to talk about today.  Millionaires are generally not made through speculation (at least not for the long haul.)

Let’s talk a bit about what true real estate investing looks like, without the speculation added.

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3 Debt Lessons from Game of Thrones

“A Lannister always pays his debts.”

Growing up, Tyrion Lannister learned that lesson from his father.

Whether the debt was in promised payment for a deed done, or whether it was revenge for a debt of honor, that theme is something associated heavily with Tyrion Lannister in the A Song of Ice and Fire books (made famous by the HBO show Game of Thrones).

Warning: There may be spoilers, since this piece is based on the books, and not the TV show.

Even though it might take time to engineer your plan to get out of debt, it’s important to do what you can to reduce your obligations, and Tyrion Lannister is a perfect example of this.

Debt Lessons from Game of Thrones

Make a Plan to Pay Off Your Debt

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Ten Things The Walking Dead Can Teach You About Life and Money

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You don’t really believe a zombie apocalypse will come to fruition, do you?  [Well, not really...]

But you may be one of the millions that loves the AMC show The Walking Dead.

Like most great series you get more than just entertainment from The Walking Dead.  If you pay attention you can learn a lot of great lessons that can help you, even without a zombie-pocolypse.  (This is a continuation of our previous article on our site, 10 Life Lessons from the Television Series “The Walking Dead”.)

Here are ten things to learn from The Walking Dead about life and money:

1. When It Comes to Survival Tools, Simple Is Better

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