Tips to Lower Your Bills
shapecharge/istockphoto

21 Ways to Reduce Your Monthly Bills When Money Is Tight

View Slideshow
Tips to Lower Your Bills
shapecharge/istockphoto

How to Trim Your Monthly Bills

No matter how cognizant we are of our spending habits, we're still stuck with the dreaded bills — and those bills can be particularly daunting now as millions of Americans are faced with job losses and other financial challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 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.

Related: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Financial Realities of the COVID-19 Crisis

Review Monthly Expenses
tacojim/istockphoto

Review Your Current Monthly Expenses

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 ebills and estatements, the process will be simpler.

Trim Unnecessary Expenses
OcusFocus/istockphoto

Trim All Unnecessary Expenses First

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 each is needed — think utilities and health insurance over dining out (or ordering in) and streaming video services. If the answer is no, cross it off!

Keep Tabs on Spending Habits
champja/istockphoto

Keep Tabs on Your Spending Habits

Mobile apps such as 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.

Use an Automated Financial Assistant
AntonioGuillem/istockphoto

Use an Automated Financial Assistant

Have you ever forgotten to cancel a free trial or discovered an unexpected bill? An automated financial app such as 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.

Save on Mobile Phone Bills
seb_ra/istockphoto

Save on Mobile Phone Bills

In addition to matching your mobile phone plans with your actual needs (track your data use with text alerts or the app My Data Manager, downgrading to a cheaper plan, or switching to a discount phone carrier such as Twigby or Republic Wireless, websites such as Billshark 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.

Trim Cable and Internet
michaelquirk/istockphoto

Trim Cable and Internet Bills

Cutting back or bundling your cable and internet services is one of the easiest ways to reduce 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 such as 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 such as $30-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.

Reduce Energy Bills
tommaso79/istockphoto

Reduce Your Energy Bills

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.

Get Cash Back When Shopping In-store
DragonImages/istockphoto

Get Cash Back When You Shop

Did you know you can save on groceries, prescriptions, clothes, and all kinds of other everyday purchases with cash-back apps such as 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.

Use Online Shopping Codes
AndreyPopov/istockphoto

Earn Cash Back and Find Discounts When You Shop Online

Apps such as Earny and browser extensions such as 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 such as 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.

Sell Unused Items
hidesy/istockphoto

Sell Unused Items

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 flatscreen 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.

Changes in Mortgage Debt by State
Pictac/istockphoto

Lower Your Mortgage Costs

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% equity in your house, you don't need private mortgage insurance, so you get rid of this costly coverage.

Negotiate Rent
fizkes/istockphoto

Negotiate the Rent

If you don't own your home, 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 navigate the process and save yourself hundreds of dollars with some helpful lease negotiation tactics up your sleeve.

Use Ride-Share
Boogich/istockphoto

Get Around Smarter

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 carpool to work (don't forget to find the cheapest gas station), and remember that paying commuting expenses such as parking or bus/train rides with pretax 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.

Find a pay-per-mile auto insurance company such as MetroMile or consider car-sharing through Zipcar or ride-sharing through Lyft, Uber, or similar local service if you need a vehicle only occasionally.

Reduce Your Debt
3283197d_273/istockphoto

Reduce Your Debt

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, such as 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.

Related: 26 Tactics for Getting Out of Debt

Scale Down Insurance Premiums
Rawpixel/istockphoto

Scale Down Insurance Premiums

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.

Research Healthcare Plans
fstop123/istockphoto

Save on Health Care Costs

The first step to lowering your health care 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-meets-PayPal platform and app for health care expenses

Cut Back on Entertainment
andresr/istockphoto

Cut Back on Entertainment

It's smart to keep track of how much you spend on food, 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 such as 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 such as free museum days for local residents and community events such as street festivals or free music festivals.

Eat Wisely
studiocasper/istockphoto

Eat Wisely

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.

Shop Alone
shironosov/istockphoto

Shop Alone

Ever been shopping with kids in tow? If so, 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 have better shopping trips, and unnecessary items won't find their way into your cart.

Related: 50 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store

Have a Spend-Free Weekend
monkeybusinessimages/istockphoto

Stop Spending Completely for a Weekend

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.

Start Investing
BrianAJackson/istockphoto

Start Investing, Even If It's Just $5

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.