We are all feeling a financial pinch during these days of rampant global inflation. We feel it at the fuel pumps, the supermarkets, and just about everywhere. The price of a dozen ears of sweet corn at my local farm stands that cost $6.00 in recent years has jumped to $9.00 this year. In all probability, you have raised the prices of your campsites. As prices increase, incomes just cannot seem to keep up. While you are waiting for corporate buyers to come knocking at your door with the right offer, here are ten concrete tips for cutting your expenses and making inflation more bearable, in some instances for your household and in some instances for your business. Several of these involve rethinking old habits and finding new ways of doing things.
1) Cut the land lines. Are you still paying your local phone company for landline telephone service? If so, you are likely paying a substantial fee each month, when half of your incoming calls are probably from telemarketers and robocallers. If you have high-speed Internet service, there are several companies that sell telephone equipment that runs Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), with monthly fees for premium services that might be as little as $20.00 per month, including unlimited calling throughout North America. The service is reliable, your existing phone number(s) will port over to the new service, the sound is crystal clear, and it generally includes some highly effective call blocking features. Service providers include Ooma, RingCentral, Nextiva and Vonage, among others.
2) You have a fax machine? The technology behind the fax machine is as old as the hills, introduced by Western Union in the late 1940s, then adapted to use telephone lines by Xerox in 1964. During the 1980s, a fax machine was considered essential office equipment. Since then, it has become little more than an annoyance that presents unsolicited (and illegal) advertising from disreputable timeshare companies, cruise agents, and roofing contractors. If you still have one of these machines cluttering up a desk in your office, it is way past time to kiss it goodbye, saving the expense of paper, ink or toner, and perhaps a dedicated phone line. The same companies that provide VoIP telephone service include easy-to-use virtual fax features. If you receive a fax, it comes in as a PDF file that you can preview, then decide whether to print or delete.
3) Are you overpaying for mobile service? Like everybody these days, you probably have mobile phone service from one of the major carriers such as AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile. Check your next billing statement to see if you are paying for services that are either unused or that exceed your needs. For example, you might be paying for a plan that includes 20GB of monthly data transfer when you never use more than 2GB. Call your carrier and speak with a sales associate, explaining that you need to reduce your monthly billing, perhaps citing prices from a competitive company. They will reduce your monthly billing, but not without you taking the initiative to ask. For example, AT&T offers a 10% monthly discount if you are a military veteran.
4) Are you paying for satellite radio? When you buy a new vehicle, it generally comes with at least a month of trial service with Sirius XM. The company hopes that you will grow accustomed to its service and continue as a paid subscriber. I personally have thumb drives in my vehicles that I have pre-loaded with about 12,000 songs that play randomly and only include music and artists that I want to hear. If you are really hooked on satellite radio, let your service expire for two or three days without renewing. Then contact the service provider for a renewal discount. You will pay half price, but may have to repeat this routine every six months.
5) Do you ask for discounts? If you are over 50, you are no doubt an AARP member. When you make a purchase, ask if there is a discount associated with your membership. Five years ago, when buying a new vehicle (and already negotiating a serious discount), I asked the sales associate if there was an AARP discount. Much to my surprise (and his surprise!), there was an additional $3,000.00 taken off the price of that vehicle. There are also discounts associated with memberships in auto clubs, fraternal organizations, and your national and state campground associations such as ARVC.
6) Go solar! Although the incentives will vary from state to state, and the savings and cost-effectiveness will vary with your local utility rates, installing rooftop or ground-mounted solar panels is a no-brainer, even in northern latitudes. Lacking a really good southern exposure, surrounded by tall trees and in a region where the panels get covered with snow during the winter months, the 47 panels on the roofs of my own home save us approximately $1,200.00 per year by feeding power back into the grid through net metering. You can purchase your system outright, or there are companies that will install a system at no charge to you. In the latter instance, you are essentially leasing your roof space, with an agreement to purchase the power that is generated at a fraction of the fees that would be charged by your local utility, over the course of the 20-25 year lifespan of the system. The installer reaps the tax incentives and is also responsible for service and maintenance. In some instances, your system can tie into battery storage with a Tesla Powerwall® or similar system that will also serve as a short-term substitute for an expensive backup power generator.
7) Cut the cable. If you are paying your local cable services provider for TV, phone and high-speed Internet, even a bundled service might be highly overpriced. In most areas, cable service providers have a localized monopoly, with no incentive to be competitively priced. There are options. For example, T-Mobile has recently introduced 5G broadband Internet service for only $50.00 per month, which could represent quite a savings.
8) Go paperless. If you have monthly recurring payments, almost all companies will offer you a discount if you agree to paperless billing, saving them the expense of mailing paper statements. There will usually be an additional discount if you set up automatic payments.
9) Lower your interest rates. If you use a credit card, and particularly if you carry a balance from month to month, call the company and ask them to reduce the interest rate, lower any annual fee, or convert you to a more affordable card. Once again, they are not going to reduce their profit margins on your account unless you ask.
10) Lower your credit card processing fees. Your small business is probably running an ever-increasing volume of transactions through a credit card merchant services provider. Be sure that the fees are competitive or be willing to switch to another provider. There are companies such as Pennsylvania-based MCPS for Campgrounds that specialize in working with the campground industry and offer highly competitive rates.
Yes, times are a bit tough, but that is when it is time to think smart, break a few old habits, and consider new ways of doing things.
This post was written by Peter Pelland