I know I’m not the only one blown away by how prices are rising on almost everything (yet the Feds still claim there’s no inflation to speak of). Gasoline has doubled since November 2008, food prices are ridiculous, and my insurance and tax bills continue to rise.
If you’d like to make more money but you’re not exactly in a position to do so, you’re left with cutting your bills and reducing your living expenses. There are four big bills you can cut relatively quickly, putting more cash into your pocket and easing the strain on your budget. Hey, every little bit counts!
Which bills can you cut quickly?
- Car insurance
1. Cut your car insurance bill
Americans average over $850 per year to insure one vehicle, but in many areas, premiums can reach into the thousands of dollars. In reality, there are quite a few things you can do to reduce your car insurance premiums.
Check out InsureMe.com to get a quote from multiple companies such as State Farm, Travelers, Farmers, and AllState (among many others). These aren’t shabby fly by night insurers, but large reliable firms with decades of experience and the intense desire to not lose market share.
Raise your deductible
A deductible is what you pay (should you have a claim) before insurance will step in and start paying. Many people set their deductible low ($250 to $500), and they pay out a larger premium. They fear having a claim and being forced o come up with money they don’t have but if you raise your deductible to $1,000, you’ll lower your premium. Why? You’re agreeing to shoulder more of the financial burden in the event of a claim. Put your savings into a savings account labeled “insurance deductible.”
Cut insurance for older cars
If your car is worth less than $2,500 or so, and you don’t owe anything on it, consider eliminating all but your liability coverage, which pays for accidents that are your fault (plus your state probably requires it).
Bundle your policies with one company
Buy more than one insurance policy from the same insurer and you could get a break of 5 to 15 percent. Ask for a quote based on maintaining multiple insurance policies (homeowners insurance, life, renters, etc).
Put junior in the clunker
A driver’s age DOES have an impact on your insurance premiums. Only allow junior to drive the family’s oldest car. Then, inform the insurance company in writing that your son or daughter has no access to the more valuable cars you own.
2. Cut your banking and credit bills
Using your own money can get expensive. Believe it or not, people pay banks, brokerages, credit card companies, and mortgage companies a host of extra fees, charges, interest and penalties. One recent study by the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, found that Americans spend $36 billion annually on bank fees. Consumer Reports estimates Americans spend $216 billion a year on fees for all personal financial services, from banking to mortgages. That’s a lot of money. What can you do?
There are a ton of online banks to choose from, banks that DON’T hit you up with fee after fee after fee. My favorites are Perkstreet and Ally. ING Direct has a great banking program that doesn’t “fee you to death” as well.
Keep and eye on your checking balance
Make sure you don’t inadvertently overuse your debit card and trigger those “courtesy” overdraft protection fees. They kick in when you use a debit card and make purchases that exceed your account balance. Overdraft fees now average $34 per transaction, or $17.5 billion annually in the United States.
Pay credit card bills (and all the others too) on time
Beware of those default rates. If you miss a payment deadline, chances are very good that you’ll wind up paying steep fines. When any bill arrives in the mail, mark its due date on a calendar or set up automatic payments so you don’t miss deadlines.
Even if you pay on time each month and believe you’re the ideal customer, study your statement and look for any fees or other unexpected changes that can cost a bundle. Also notice how much interest you’re paying … that’s motivation to get that thing paid off!
3. Cut your food costs
In 101 Ways To Take A Bite Out Of Your Food Budget, I listed a ton of ways to lower your grocery expenses. As food costs skyrocket, these ideas are becoming more and more relevant. Here are a few of those ideas:
Buy food less often
If you’re running to the grocery store on your way home from work each night, it’s time to stop it. Think about what you and your family would like to eat for the next few days, and buy groceries at once. By planning ahead, you’ll save money, time and gasoline.
Use a list
A full two-thirds of purchases at grocery stores are impulse buys, according to Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. To eliminate the temptation, make a shopping list … and stick to it.
Pay with cash
You always spend less when you’re letting go of the cold hard stuff plus you’ll be more likely to stick to your shopping list.
Shop the edges of the grocery store
That’s where most of the the unprocessed basics you need are kept. Think about it: where are the dairy products, meats, vegetables, fruits, and bread? By using this tactic you’ll avoid those inner aisles brimming with tempting, processed foods that drain budgets and can be made at home anyway.
Only buy in season
If you want peaches in January, prepare to pay top dollar. Make it your personal habit to eat seasonable produce. And if you catch yourself wanting peaches in the winter, learn to buy in bulk and can or freeze them so you can enjoy peach cobbler anytime of year.
Cook cheaper meals
Instead of serving large portions of meat, use it to supplement larger portions of rice or pasta in affordable casseroles. Learn to use those healthy “fillers” like beans and legumes to stretch meals farther than you thought possible.
4. Cut those energy costs
Energy costs can eat you alive, from heating or cooling your home, to heating your hot water, to the incredible cost of gasoline. Cut your energy bills by:
Installing a programmable thermostat
These nifty little tools automatically turn on your heat or air conditioning just before you get home. Why pay to keep your empty home comfy all day? For the cat? People who use programmable thermostats generally can save $180 a year, far more than the roughly $70 or $80 it costs to purchase it.<
Working with your appliances
Clean and change furnace air filters and wrap your hot water heater. These moves help them run more efficiently and cheaply. Seal ducts on air and heating systems to improve efficiency by as much as 20 percent, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.>
Lower your water heater temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit
That’s hot enough to kill most germs and safely wash your dishes. Do all your laundry in cold water instead of hot or even warm. Many detergents today are formulated to be used in cold water anyway.
Pick up good driving habits
You’ll save a bundle if you stop speeding. If you typically race around town, you’re lowering your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by as much as 17 percent, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Pump up your tires
Tires can naturally lose one pound of pressure a month, and if you drive with tires that are just 3 pounds underinflated, your vehicle’s fuel economy drops by 1 percent, according to the ACEEE. Do the math!
Clean your car
If your car resembles a junk yard on wheels, clean it out. If you’re hauling around 100 extra pounds, for example, you’re lowering fuel efficiency by up to 2 percent, according to the ACEEE.
Cutting these 4 bills is ultimately worth it
Whether the economy is good or bad, it makes no sense to waste your hard earned dollars, but with prices skyrocketing and inflation on the horizon, cutting these bills will put extra cash in your pocket.