We’ve all been there. Can’t resist the new model year of your current car. Hey, it’s only an extra $90 per month (plus an insurance bump of $37 a month, but who’s counting?). Seduced by the cushy sectional that would pull the whole living room together and will only cost $60 per month. That great deal for upgraded Internet and all the move channels. What’s another $23 a month?
Problem is, before you know it you’re sinking in bills and your monthly payments have become a burden. Here are 14 ways to lower your monthly nut and get back to stress-free living.
1. Renegotiate everything
That means cable/satellite, phone and cell phone contracts, Internet service, bank fees, even your gym membership. You never know what’s possible until you ask.
2. Lower your credit card rate
If you have decent credit, you might be able get your credit card company to lower your rate and/or maybe get rid of some of the fees. Transferring a balance to a card with a lower rate is another good trick for lowering payments and doesn’t even require you to ask a representative for anything.
“If you don’t have an account with a lower rate, shop for one,” said CreditCards.com. “Also, see if an offer for a balance transfer might provide a lower rate. Before jumping at a balance transfer offer, though, run the numbers on a balance transfer calculator to make sure the deal makes sense after you consider the fees and the duration of the teaser rate.”
3. Cut the cord
You could opt to get rid of your cable or satellite altogether and use streaming services instead. It’s a growing option that can save you a good amount of money while still providing a wide variety of viewing options. For example: “Netflix and Hulu Plus both cost $7.99 per month each, while Amazon Instant Video will cost you $99 per year, which is $8.25 per month,” said GottaBe Mobile. “This means the total cost for these three services all together would be $24.23 per month, which is a lot less than you’ll ever pay for a cable subscription.”
How does that compare with your current bill? It’s about one-sixth of what we’re currently paying. Calling DISH in 3…2…1…
4. Refinance your house
If you have enough equity in your house and rates have dropped since you bought (or refinanced the last time), you might be able to refi and lower your monthly payment. Remember that refinancing will add to what you owe, so if you were trying to pay your home off quickly, this would be counterintuitive.
5. Refinance your car
Refinancing your car could save you “hundreds of dollars each year and sometimes thousands over the life of the loan,” said Bankrate. But only if you do it under the right circumstances. Check out their “5 situations when it makes the most sense to refinance your car” to see if you meet the criteria.
6. Do a leak check
A leaky home is one you’re paying too much for in heating and cooling bills. Do an energy audit to check for drafts coming in through window or under doors, among other places, and you could save more than $1,000, said RH Foster Energy.
7. Eat in
Or, at least bring your lunch to work a few days a week. According to Jeff Yeager, author of “The Cheapskate Next Door, a family that commits to eating at home can save $3,000 in one year and eat just as well,” said ABC News.
“The Daily Green calculated that the average American uses about 7 gallons of gas per week commuting to and from work,” said abc News. “Share your ride and the gas bill with just one friend, you each save $650 a year. If four of you carpool, you each save nearly $1,000.”
9. Shop smart
One of the greatest sources of waste in our household? Food that has to be throw away at the end of the week because it’s gone bad. And we’re not alone. USA Today says Americans trash $640 worth of food every year.
Meal plan, buy only what you need for a few days and hit the market again mid week, use coupons, freeze leftovers – all of these tips will help.
10. Check your balance
Hidden costs may be lurking – memberships you didn’t realize you still had, anything you put on autopay that you’re no longer using, old dating sites, gaming and iTunes charges you’re unaware your kids are making. Look over your bank and credit card balances carefully to eliminate the riffraff.
11. Buy store brands
Some might be close to or equal to the name brand stuff you’re buying. “Store brands often cost 25 to 30 percent less than name brand equivalents, which is an added benefit for customers,” said CheatSheet. They can help you figure out which store brands are worth it, and when you should stick to the name brand.
12. Pay insurance and other bulk payments in full
Yes, coming up with large chunks of cash to pay for car insurance, home insurance, and home warranties can be rough. But some of these may end up costing you more if you have to pay a “convenience fee” for splitting up the payments.
13. Clear out the clutter
You know what they say: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Do a sweep of your home, setting aside anything you don’t need or want anymore. Whether you list it on eBay or Craigslist, have a yard sale, take any acceptable items to a resale store, or all of the above, you may be surprised at how much money you can make for stuff you didn’t even like anymore.
You won’t get paid for donating your old clothes, household items, and the like, but you will get a tax write-off at tax time. Be sure to get or complete an itemized receipt.