For Mark Roberts’ Use:

As we enter our retirement years, many of us find ourselves facing a fixed monthly income. While it’s always best to prepare years in advance, and to plan for as much income as possible in retirement, there are always surprises along the way.

If you find yourself with less money each month than you had anticipated, odds are good that one of these budget killers is sucking extra money out of your checking account:

Subscriptions. We often sign up for subscriptions to magazines or online movie services on a whim, thinking, “6.99 per month won’t hurt!”. But then we often forget about the services, rarely use them, and keep paying for them because they’re on direct debit from our checking accounts. Be sure to review your account statements carefully, and ask yourself whether you really use all of these services. Chances are you can discontinue a few, and free up some cash in your budget.

Account maintenance fees. Banks and credit card companies can be sneaky. Even if you think you have a free checking account or credit card, you may be charged fees when your deposits fall under a certain amount, you write too many checks, your balance falls below a set amount, or you don’t charge enough in a particular month. Check account statements carefully for these charges. Sometimes banks will remove the charges if you complain, or you can switch to a new bank that won’t engage in such sneaky tactics.

Excess utility bills. Phone, internet, and cable bills can really put a dent in our budgets. We need to remember that these items are basically entertainment expenses, and ask ourselves whether we really want to budget that much for entertainment. You could be paying for a higher level plan than you really use – such as extra movie channels you never watch, or more minutes than you ever use on your cell phone. Try bundling services, dropping expensive add-ons, or switching to prepaid plans.

Credit card interest. Credit cards can be so convenient that we end up over-using them, and charging more than we can afford to pay off at the end of the month. Remember that a sale item isn’t such a great deal once you add a few months’ worth of interest onto the purchase price. Keep an eye on your credit card balances by logging into your accounts online, and don’t charge more than you can pay off each month. Otherwise the interest you pay can eat a hole in your budget.