4 Ways to Cut Household Costs

by Dan Kadlec for CBS MoneyWatch.com

Back at Christmas, when two feet of snow fell in my town, I found myself stuck at home and, for a while anyway, happy enough with a new jigsaw puzzle and the leftover eggnog. But as the hours passed (and the eggnog disappeared) I began to grow fidgety. Soon I was watching the window for the guy who plows my driveway in these kinds of storms.

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Of course, he was busy. This was a major weather blast. But it was taking awfully long. When he finally showed 24 hours later I was relieved - until I got his bill. Without notice, he had tripled his rate.

I quickly settled our account, and then went searching for a new service. It was something I should have done long before. I was able to hire someone new at less than half my former rate, and because the new guy also plows our street he generally shows up within an hour of the last falling flake.

I saved a lot of money on plowing over the remainder of the winter, and got better service to boot. So I began to wonder where else I might be overpaying.

I'm always looking to cut my cell and cable bills and other utility-like expenses. But this was a different quest. We're a two-earner family and we have to dig deep to get certain things done for us while we're at our jobs. I value help that I can trust. Yet it seems that in my case trust is often a disguise for inertia, which carries a stiff price. At the risk of sounding pampered, here are four home services you may use that can be had for less:

  • Snow removal. My plow guy comes anytime we get more than six inches and had built in annual increases year after year, which was fine. But it continued even after the Big Reset (the Great Recession). If your neighbors have this kind of service, check to see what they pay. Get new bids before the snow returns. You'll almost always find the best price and service from someone already working in the neighborhood. Of course shoveling yourself affords the most savings. But that may not always possible, especially when a big storm hits.
  • Lawn cutting. Again, the best deal is cutting yourself. But if you hire someone for the job I found that prices have come down. The first person I asked gave me a price 25% lower than what I had been paying.
  • House cleaning. Immigration trends have brought in a huge unskilled labor force, which is putting downward pressure on the cost of house help.
  • Odd jobs. One place to get a great price on reliable labor is through a local day-labor center. These sites have sprung up everywhere; working through a community center you'll get a price that is fair for all.

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