Here are a set of practical things you can do today that will save you some real cash without putting a damper on your lifestyle. I’m estimating everyone can start saving at least $50 per month with these tips, and some of you could be saving hundreds.
1. Turn down the thermostat by 3 degrees.
Yep, that simple. Walk over to the thermostat and do it now.
Hand out sweaters to the family, and throw an extra blanket on the bed if needed.
The key thing here is making this change stick: if you use a programmable thermostat, program in the new temperature schedule by simply lowering each set temp by 3 degrees in your existing schedule. (We turn the heat off entirely overnight, but your call there…)
If you have air conditioning, turn your thermostat up 3 degrees in summer and take some clothes off. Your significant other will appreciate it.
Savings: $10 – $20 per month.
2. Lower your insurance premiums
Increase your insurance deductibles for both Auto and Home/Renter’s. Log into your insurance carrier’s website and find where your coverage details are at. GEICO has them here:
If you have Collision/Comprehensive on your car, increase your deductible to an amount you’re comfortable with and see the premium savings. If your car is old & low value like mine (say, less than $5,000 – $10,000), consider dropping Collision/Comprehensive altogether, knowing that the risk to replace your vehicle is on you.
I also decline ‘optional’ coverages like Personal Injury Protection, underinsured motorist (again, I’m taking the risk to replace my car), and rental reimbursement. (Worse-case, I’ll take the bus, Uber, or borrow my wife’s car!)
While you’re at it, get an insurance quote from Geico or esurance (owned by AllState) to see if you can save a few bucks. Direct-to-consumer insurers like GEICO often have much better rates.
For your Homeowner’s or Renter’s insurance, do the same thing. I always set my deductibles as high as allowed both to save money, and to avoid the hassle of a small-ish claim since I’d have to cover it myself anyway under the deductible. (But I also keep enough cash or bonds on hand to pay any of those deductibles if they came due suddenly. You should too.)
Savings: $100s – $1,000+ per year
3. Cut subscriptions you don’t use or can substitute for
Maybe you’re a frequent Netflix binger, but you signed up for Hulu a while back and don’t watch it much. If you have cable, consider ‘cutting the cord‘ and using cheaper subscription services, or free apps for individual channels on your smart TV instead. Maybe you even still have a landline that you haven’t been able to bring yourself to cancel until now. Take a minute to write down all your subscriptions, and then mercilessly evaluate which ones you still want. Include music (Spotify, Pandora, Apple/Google/Amazon Music), Amazon Prime, video like Hulu, YouTube TV, Netflix, Disney+, WWE, and anything else you subscribe to.
Also include your gym membership and any other recurring payments you make for services, like meal prep sites. Maybe you can build a home gym with some free weights and a bench for a couple hundred bucks. Take up running outside, or just do some pushups and get a pull up bar. Maybe groceries would be cheaper than meal prep subscriptions, and you’d learn to cook.
Maybe your library has all the electronic media you need and you can stop buying Kindle books and start checking them out for free, or use your library’s streaming video and audio instead of paying for a subscription. Libraries also let you access paid online services like magazines or news for free. Ours even offers free museum passes. Check yours out and see what they offer.
Free-riding or sharing services
Perhaps a generous friend or family member has a subscription that they’re willing to let you use under your own name. (I see you out there still using your mom’s Netflix account. So am I…) Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, Disney+ and many other services are pretty lenient on allowing up to 5 different people use their service. If you want, offer to go half with your friend on something, or you pay for one service and they pay for another.
Savings: $10s – $100+ per month
4. Negotiate your bills down
Use Ramit Sethi’s scripts to negotiate your cable, phone, and internet bills down. Maybe you can’t live without a certain service (cable internet, I’m looking at you), but you could pay a lot less for it. Companies pay a lot to attract and retain customers, and they don’t want to lose you. Call your internet or cell phone provider and ask how you can lower your monthly bill. Explain that times are hard/your income has been lowered/or it’s just “too expensive” for you. If you don’t get anywhere, tell them you want to cancel your service and they’ll usually route you to customer retention where you’ll get a better offer.
Savings: $10 – $50 per month
5. Optimize your cellphone bill
Most people are paying too much for cell plans. See if you can investigate how to change your plan online to save, or just call up your provider and negotiate. Maybe you have way more data or minutes than you need, or you’ve been paying for some other feature that can be eliminated.
Consider switching to Consumer Cellular
I’ve been using Consumer Cellular for many years, and really like them. I only pay about $30 per month for 250 talk minutes + data, which seems pretty good. (I set my phone to ‘data saver’ mode and made extensive use of Wi-fi to avoid needing massive amounts of data.) You can add lines for $15/month to get the whole family on there. They have high-quality human customer service, great, transparent rates, and the cell service seems as good as other carriers. (They use the AT&T and T-mobile networks.)
Pro tip: get an AARP membership and save 5% on your Consumer Cellular bill. I saved more than the cost of my membership even on my cheapo plan. Anyone can join AARP, not just retired folks anymore.
You can instantly change your bill online, and they’ll automatically ‘upgrade’ you to the next higher tier if you, say, use up all your data, which I actually like. (Just make sure to change your plan back down the next month.) Since you can port your current number over (do NOT cancel your old plan until you’ve made sure this is done), the only real hassle besides the paperwork is testing to see if your current phone can work. Consumer Cellular should be able to tell you, and perhaps send you a SIM card so that you can test it out.
Savings: $10 – $50 per month
Check out the next five savings tips 6 – 10 here!
Credit: These tips are inspired by my favorite financial blogger, Ramit Sethi, who has his own version of money-saving tips here. You can also find a more complete set of his recommendations here.