Post-Present Blues: Save for Travel in 2012 by Reducing Monthly Expenses

30 Dec
2011

This week, we created a series of posts to help you save money in 2012 to make your travel dreams a reality. Today’s is about cutting unnecessary monthly expenses. 

Monthly expenses kill savings. They chip away while you’re not looking, weakening your financial strength. You should evaluate every one of your monthly expenses, but there are two easy ones to start with: cell phone bills and cable TV subscriptions.

Check out pre-paid Android phones

If your mobile phone contract expires this year, Virgin Mobile is worth a look. They offer a handful of Android smartphones that are eligible for their unlimited data and text plans. The cheapest plan starts at $35 a month. Their most-affordable Android-powered phone is $140, and their nicest phone, the Motorola Triumph, is $240 on Amazon.

Boost Mobile is another option. They have Android phones and plans that eventually will give you unlimited data, text, and minutes for $35 a month. Insane.

T-Mobile is the only “big” carrier that competes. They have a $30/month plan that includes unlimited data, text, and 100 minutes of talk. And you get 4G if you buy one of the nicer phones (T-Mobile 4G prepaid phones are $300+).

Right now, my Verizon plan is around $80 a month ($45 for 450 minutes and $25 for unlimited data + tax). Switching to Virgin would mean saving about 50% for me. My contract expires in two months.

With pre-paid phones, your monthly fees don’t subsidize your phone purchase. So while you’ll pay $240 for the phone up-front, you’ll pay only $1,040 over a two-year period for everything ($240 phone + 24 months x $35 per). Using my plan as an example, I’ll end up paying around $2,000 over two years ($99 phone + 24 months x $80 per) — about 2x as much.

Sure, you sacrifice 4G (most of the time) and top-of-the-line phones, but 3G ain’t bad (hell, the iPhone 4s is a 3G phone) and how much phone do you really need to update your Facebook status?

The Motorola Triumph for Virgin Mobile
Creative Commons License photo credit: marc.flores | Sweet phone.

Ditch cable TV

If one of your 2012 goals is travel, then it’s time to get used to not having 200 channels to distract you. Cable TV is a really expensive way to sit on your couch and waste time. You don’t need it. Broadcast TV is digital and great and most cities will have a bunch of PBS channels which offer great travel-related programming (we miss Globe Trekker), and you can always supplement with Netflix or Hulu.

Stop paying $40 or more a month for a distraction. We don’t miss TV, and we used to watch a good bit of it.

smashed up old tv
Creative Commons License photo credit: the great 8 | You don’t have to go this far!

If you cancel cable and switch to Virgin, you could be $80 ahead every month, $960 a year. Travelocity has vacation deals to Mexico starting at $466 per person and ski vacations start at $499. Seems like a pretty sweet trade.

Got any other ideas to cut monthly expenses? Leave a note in the comments.