21 Tips and Tools To Reduce Your Monthly Bills
No matter how cognizant we are of our spending habits, we're still stuck with the dreaded bills. There are dozens of ways to reduce monthly costs, but it can still be a challenge to figure out where to make cuts. We can't pay the bills for you, but we can give you some tried-and-true strategies, including cost-cutting mobile apps and services, that'll help you save money for a healthier financial outlook.
If you don't know what you're spending your money on each month, it'll be harder to figure out where you should make cuts. Examine all of your monthly expenses, leaving no bill unexamined. Bank and credit card statements as well as old bills and receipts can help you go through all the line items you're responsible for every month. If you've signed up for e-bills and e-statements, the process will be simpler.
Once you've reviewed your ongoing monthly expenses and know where your money is going, cut the obvious ones first. Figure out where you're overspending and what can easily be eliminated. Go through your expenses line by line, and ask yourself whether or not it's needed -- think utilities and health insurance over dining out and streaming video services. If the answer is no, cross it off!
Mobile apps like Mint make tracking your spending on the go easy. The app manages all your finances in one place. Create budgets and get money-saving advice based on your spending habits, avoid late fees by tracking and paying bills on the spot, and check your credit score for free -- you'll even uncover tips on how to improve it.
Have you ever forgotten to cancel a free trial or discovered an unexpected bill? An automated financial app like Truebill takes care of canceling subscriptions, lowering bills, and refunding bank fees. The free service will help you find, manage, and notify you of any changes to your monthly subscriptions -- from Netflix and gym memberships to recurring bills and utilities -- and cancel unwanted or fraudulent services in a matter of seconds.
In addition to matching your mobile phone plans with your actual needs (track your data usage with text alerts or the app My Data Manager), downgrading to a cheaper plan, or switching to a discount phone carrier like Twigby or Republic Wireless, websites like ReviewMyBill.com find ways to lower your monthly phone bill. Their experts will find savings with your same carrier and plan -- and all the same features you have now -- by unlocking unadvertised discounts, even contacting your provider to make those changes for you. You won't pay any out-of-pocket costs, but they'll take a nominal share of any bill savings.
Cutting back or bundling your cable and internet services is one of the easiest ways to reduce your monthly spending. Stop paying for channels or internet connection speeds you don't need; shop around for the best deal or use a negotiating bot like Trim to lower your bills. Downgrade from premium to basic cable or consider getting rid of cable altogether. It can help supplement cheaper TV alternatives like $20-a-month Sling TV, Netflix, or other streaming video services (make sure your Wi-Fi plan accounts for this). A low-cost antenna can also help you tap into local broadcasts for free.
Americans put down a lot of dough for their energy bills; the average household spends about $2,060 annually. Fortunately, there are plenty of energy-saving tips -- from unplugging devices completely to installing energy-efficient light bulbs to using programmable thermostats and electrical timers to washing your dishes and clothes in full loads during off-peak hours to getting paid to save energy through the OhmConnect app to simply double-checking your bills -- that can help lower your utility costs year-round.
Did you know you can save on groceries, prescriptions, clothes, and all kinds of other everyday purchases with cash-back apps like Ibotta? The easy-to-use tool pays you in real cash when you shop at one of their many partner retailers -- bricks-and-mortar stores and online -- including Walmart, Target, CVS, and Amazon. Add qualifying cash-back offers before you shop, buy the products at your favorite stores or online, then take a photo of your receipt to get cash back. Save even more by using the app in conjunction with in-store coupons.
Apps like Earny and browser extensions like Honey can help you earn cash back or scan for promotions automatically while you shop online. It's impossible to constantly monitor fluctuating online prices, but price-protection bots like Earny can help. It takes advantage of retailers' price-match policies to negotiate a refund on your behalf, so all you have to do is wait for an alert that you've earned cash back. The browser extension Honey automatically finds and applies coupon codes with a single click at checkout.
Rummage through your closets and storage for valuable items that you no longer use. Selling seasonal clothes, furniture, antiques, collectables, and like-new electronics, such as extra flat screen TVs, tablets, and smartphones online with Craigslist, eBay, or with a consignment store can help pay off other debts. Pare down your home finds often means you'll tidy your abode and bring in extra funds more regularly.
Aside from moving to a less expensive area, refinancing your home to lock in a lower interest rate or consolidating your debt are ways to substantially reduce your monthly housing payments. If you need to take out a loan or consolidate debt, online lending platform Upstart can be a good resource. If your house has lost value since its last assessment, appealing your property taxes could qualify you for a lower annual bill. If you have at least 20 percent equity in your house, you don't need private mortgage insurance, so you get rid of this costly coverage.
If you don't own your home, then your largest monthly expense is most likely the rent. Before throwing in the towel and moving to an entirely different neighborhood or city, try negotiating the rent with your landlord. You can successfully navigate the process and save yourself hundreds of dollars with some helpful lease negotiation tactics up your sleeve.
We all have to get somewhere, but doing so sensibly can save you money each month, and might even be more efficient or better for the environment than your current mode of transportation. Use public transit or carpooling to work (and finding the cheapest gas station). Paying commuting expenses like parking or bus/train rides with pre-tax earnings can greatly reduce your overall income tax bill. You can even sell or trade in your vehicle for a more efficient one with lower payments.
Paying off debt cuts a portion of your monthly bills and ultimately puts more money back in your pocket. To reduce debt ask for a credit card rate reduction or a lower interest rate. You can also take advantage of balance transfers to a lower-interest credit card, or one with rewards if your debt has a high interest rate. Sign up for automatic debt repayment plans; many installment plans, like those for student loans, reduce the interest rate if you sign up for automatic monthly billing. Lastly, refinancing your home or automobile is another option.
Insurance protects us against the unexpected, but that doesn't mean we have to overpay. To reduce your annual premiums, you can often raise your deductibles to ease the monthly bill strain. Shop around for homeowners and auto insurance (or bundle policies together for a discount). Get a few quotes and switch providers for a better deal if you can maintain your current level of coverage, but give your current one a chance to match. Downgrade your health insurance and consider a cheaper term life insurance if you're currently paying for whole or universal life insurance.
The first step to lowering your healthcare costs is to ask your employer about the various options available to reduce your insurance costs. Choosing a high deductible plan for a lower monthly premium might be reasonable if you don't rely on regular medications or checkups. Also, consider opening a Flexible Spending Account and visit in-store pharmacy clinics for minor illnesses. Always double-check your medical bills for errors, and look into Simplee, a Mint.com-meets-PayPal platform and app for healthcare expenses
It's smart to keep track of how much you're spending on dining out, shopping, travel, and other splurges, but don't forget the regular expenditures that eat away at the monthly budget. Take a close look at gym memberships, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and other regular paid services like cleaning or lawn mowing services or streaming music or video subscriptions. Cancel anything you're on the fence about, and see if you really miss the service. Additionally, look for budget-friendly entertainment opportunities like free museum days for local residents and community events like street festivals or free music festivals.
Dining out for meals, even if it's just a sandwich here and there from the nearest sub shop during the workweek, can add up. Overspending (and often overeating) on food -- whether it's from a restaurant or the grocery store -- can be a problem area for our budgets. Resist the temptation of takeout by preparing meals -- even freezing some for easy cooking later -- at home and packing lunches during the week, which can leave room for a nice restaurant dinner over the weekend. Buy cheaper generic products at the grocery store, and consider growing a garden for your own supply of fruits and vegetables.
Ever been shopping with kids in tow? If so, then you know how many things they beg for and think they just absolutely must have. To eliminate the temptation to give in and just buy them the $10 toy they keep demanding, simply find a time to shop without them. You'll definitely have better shopping trips, and unnecessary items won't find their way into your cart.
What would it take to go a whole weekend without spending? Try to go an entire Saturday and Sunday once a month without buying anything, and you're sure to feel some financial relief if you're accustomed to weekend splurges. Go to the park with the family, shop your own closet clothes rack, give yourself a mani/pedi, eat and drink what's already in your fridge, and read a book or watch a movie on TV or one of the video streaming services you've kept on the docket.
Stash, a mobile app with micro-investing services, is giving novices a chance to build their own personalized portfolios with confidence. The secure app lets you invest with as little as $5, and it makes the process incredibly simple. Prefer clean energy or American-made products? It'll break down your investments by categories aligned with your beliefs, goals, and risk tolerance. Whether you're more hands on or "auto-stashing" with scheduled recurring investments, you'll learn as you go with in-app guidance catered to your personal profile.