Some things in life we're stuck paying for, like shelter, clothing, and donuts. (If you've worked out a way to get free donuts, let me know immediately.)
However, you might be surprised to learn that a few life essentials (well, "essentials") can be had for less than you're paying now--and perhaps even for free. And, no, I'm not talking about trading in your car for a bike so you don't have buy gasoline; these are practical real-world savings on stuff you use all the time.
But I'm still trying to crack the donut problem.
1. Your cable modem
It's hard to live without high-speed Internet--and harder still to choke down the monthly bill for it. But there's a way you can lower that bill a little bit, just by doing something most subscribers never think of.
Right now, you're almost certainly renting your cable modem. Check your bill; the box they gave you when you signed up for service is probably costing you $6-8 per month, if not more.
Guess what: You can buy a modem, give the cable company back their hardware, and stop paying that fee. Cable modem prices vary, but shop around a bit and you should be able to find one for around $60--maybe even less. Even if you're paying just $5 per month for your modem rental, you'll make that money back in a year. And from then on it's gravy.
For example, at the time of this writing, Newegg is offering the Comcast-compatible Zyxel BRG35503 cable modem for $49.99 shipped
when you apply coupon code EMCPHWG29
2. Your home phone service
Lots of people hang onto their landline phones out of sheer habit. But that's $30-40 per month (or more) you could easily save by switching to a voice-over-IP service, which will let you keep your existing cordless phones and probably even your existing number--just without the monthly fees.
One option is infomercial staple MagicJack Plus, but I'm partial to Ooma
. Buy the Ooma Telo box ($149.99), plug in your phone's base station, then connect the whole thing to your router. Bam: dial tone. (Okay, there's a bit more to it than that, but those are the broad strokes.) Cost per month: zip. Actually, you may be on the hook for a couple bucks in taxes and fees, but I'm literally talking a couple bucks.
I've been an Ooma user for years, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Even with the optional Ooma Premier add-on ($9.99/month), which gives you a bunch more features, it's a steal.
3. Record albums
Let's do some simple math, shall we? Suppose you want to buy the uber-popular soundtrack from "Frozen." You can get the CD from Amazon for $14.28, or buy the MP3 version for $11.49. Presto: you now own a single album.
Or, you could pay $10 to a music-streaming service like Beats Music, Google Play Music All Access, Rhapsody, or Spotify, which in turn gives you access to not only "Frozen," but also millions
Granted, you're on the hook for that $10 charge every month, but that's no big deal if you typically buy an album per month anyway. Indeed, you get considerably more bang for your sawbuck. The days of buying individual songs and albums are done; for people who truly love music, a subscription service is the only way to go.4. Magazine subscriptions
I still love magazines, and subscribe to a fair number of them. Or, at least, I used to, until I discovered that my local library offers free digital editions for most of my preferred titles.
Actually, the library has partnered with Zinio to offer free e-zines you can read on your phone, tablet, or PC. Want in on this sweet action? Visit your local library's Web site (via your desktop browser, not any of the Zinio apps
) to see if there's any mention of Zinio. If so, you'll need your library card number and password to get through the registration process, which should be accessible via that site.
Then, just install the appropriate Zinio app on your mobile device, or just open Zinio in a desktop browser. Then read all you like, no charge.5. Microsoft Office
The single biggest software rip-off on the planet: Microsoft Windows. Second biggest: Microsoft Office. For most users--especially home and home-office users--there's no reason to pay $129.99 for a single-license copy of Office or $99.99 per year for an Office subscription.
Instead, grab yourself Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2013
, which offers robust Word, Excel, and PowerPoint lookalikes. (Admittedly, you don't get extras like Outlook or Publisher, but there are plenty of free alternatives to those as well.) I've been using it myself on my primary laptop for a good six months, and it's been a flawless companion.Veteran technology writer Rick Broida
is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his
money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC