- last updated on MAR 6, 2018 -

A huge part of reaching financial independence is reducing your expenses. The reasoning is twofold. You have more money to grow into even more money, and you find that you don’t need as much to live on. I covered most of my 2017 expenses here, and I wrote here on how important saving to invest is.

Recurring expenses are the easiest way to deplete your piggy bank without you realizing it. I really recommend looking at your monthly bank account or credit card activity to see what charges have been sneaking up on you. Is there a gym membership or movie streaming subscription you haven’t been really using? Cut it or find a way to reduce the cost. For example, I split Spotify Premium with friends to pay only $2.50 every month. You can do the same with most subscription services like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

One of my bigger recurring expenses has been Internet, which is almost a basic necessity these days. We’ve had service from Optimum in our home since April 2016 when we moved in. The bill was originally a reasonable $44.95 per month for a download speed of 50 Mbps. The bill went up to $64.90 in April 2017 after the first year promotion, and the download speed was changed to 60 Mbps. In July 2017, Optimum started charging a modem rental fee of $5 and changed the plan to 100 Mbps speed for a total bill of $70.29. This is when they made the cheapest options for speed to be 20 Mbps and 100 Mbps. Finally, they increased our download speed again to 200 Mbps and our bill to $75.29 in November 2017. At that point, I was fed up with all the increases in price without notification and discussion. I decided to look into other options.

By the way, all this advice on Internet service probably doesn’t apply if you don’t have more than one option for Internet service where you live. I know that’s an unfortunate reality for many Americans, but there’s no leverage with a single provider to do much about the bill. However, you should still read the concluding two paragraphs at the bottom.

Thankfully, Verizon Fios was installed at our building in the past year. I called up Verizon and signed up for their Internet service with a bill of originally $53.37 for 100 Mbps download speed. There was also an $100 installation fee. What I did immediately was go online to review my order to see if I could reduce that bill. First, I was able to knock off like $10 for the router rental fee. Verizon wants you to use one of their routers, but you can get away with using your own. They may end up making you agree to the rental during installation, but you can always return the router and only pay the extra $10 for the first month. I was also able to knock off $15 per month by decreasing the download speed to 50 Mbps to bring the total bill down to $27.48. Keep in mind that this bill is only for the first year, and there was still an installation charge of $100.

Here’s where the negotiations come in. First, the final offer from Optimum before cancelling my service was 100 Mbps download speed for around $45 per month with a $100 gift card on top. I talked to the reps about how I had to switch to Verizon for the price, and they kept trying to get me to stay. Since Optimum only offers 100 Mbps and 20 Mbps as the cheapest options, there’s not much leeway there. There’s only so low that they can offer for 100 Mbps, and 20 Mbps seems too low of speed. I did my research online and found that 50 Mbps should be enough for my parents and me. We started on 50 Mbps originally with Optimum, and we never noticed a difference after the subsequent speed increases. In fact, we never knew that Optimum changed the service until I finally looked into why our bill kept going up. Unless you have like 5 people all streaming HD video at the same time, you probably don’t need more than 50 Mbps at your home. If that is the case, go share some screens or something! By the way, Wi-Fi range has to do with your router more than your download speeds.

Second, I wanted to see if there was anything I could do about the $100 installation charge. I’ll always try to save money however I can. I called up Verizon, and the rep said she would only be able to waive the fee in the system by applying a higher monthly rate. She assured me that Verizon would have to honor the previous rate, so I went with it. This actually led to a lot of back and forth with Verizon reps on bringing my rate back down after the installation. I even submitted a complaint to the New York State Department of Public Service, and they got on the case immediately. I don’t know how much that helped, but Verizon did end up working with me on my bill. They actually disconnected my service seemingly in order to open a new account with a lower rate. I can’t believe a company’s computer system is that strict, but that’s what I gathered from the rep who got my service back that day and eventually gave me a monthly credit to bring my rate down to what was originally stated before this whole ordeal. Supposedly, it was a glitch on the site that allowed me to get an extra discount in the first place.

I’m very happy with how much I’ve saved. I didn’t have to pay for the first 2 weeks of service with my original account, which is now closed. I got the installation charge waived. I got rid of the router rental fee. I’m only paying $27.48 per month for Internet, and I was paying $75.29 just earlier. I don’t know anybody with that good of a deal.

There’s a few takeaways to this story. First, you have to be active in cutting your costs. Don’t just sit back and keep paying whatever. See if there’s anything you can do about it. If it takes a phone call or two, go ahead. You won’t get anything without even asking. Getting that installation charge waived probably wasn’t worth the hassle, but it all worked out in the end for me. Even if I didn’t switch service providers, I probably would have gotten some kind of deal with my old one anyway. I plan to call up Verizon in about a year to negotiate the price when it does go up after the promo. If it means saving money, I’ll even switch back to Optimum. I don’t think it’ll have to come to that though.

The other key takeaway is that you really don’t need as much in life as you might think. This goes for everything. You don’t need a degree from an expensive school. You don’t need a big house. You don’t need a fancy car. You definitely don’t need high Internet speeds. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever splurge, but you should think about what everything actually costs you. The biggest cost is something you can’t see, and that’s opportunity cost. Just go back to what I’ve said about the power of compounding, and you’ll realize that any money you save will turn into exponentially more money down the road. Having nice things doesn’t make you rich. Investing does. That wealth can buy you something even more valuable than material goods, and that’s freedom. This is speaking from a financial standpoint, but minimalism is also just part of my personal philosophy. I don’t like consumerism and waste. Not only do I get to save money with my lifestyle, I think it makes life simpler.