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Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
Need to find more money in your budget? Evaluating ways to lower your bills is a good place to start.
Small tweaks can help you save on everything from groceries to homeowners insurance. Big-ticket items such as rent, mortgage and car payments require more legwork, but can yield a bigger budget boost.
Here's how to lower your bills and save on your monthly expenses in these categories:
Lowering your housing costs is a heavier lift than, say, trimming your grocery bill, but doing so can yield big savings. Learn how you can save on your rent, mortgage and homeowners insurance.
1. Refinance your mortgage. Lowering your interest rate by a couple of percentage points can save you hundreds of dollars each month. Make sure your credit is in good shape, so you can get the best rate possible, then shop around and compare rates and fees from multiple lenders. Our mortgage refinance calculator can help you narrow it down to your best option.
2. Drop your private mortgage insurance. If you put less than 20% down when you purchased your home, you likely had to get private mortgage insurance. Your lender should drop the PMI requirement once the balance on your mortgage dips to 80% of the home’s original appraised value or its current market value.
The average annual cost of PMI is based on the loan amount and the borrower’s credit score, among other factors. It’s generally between 0.58% and 1.86% of the original loan’s value, according to Genworth Mortgage Insurance, Ginnie Mae and the Urban Institute.
Mortgage Insurance works a little differently with FHA loans, backed by the Federal Housing Administration. (Learn more about FHA mortgage insurance.)
3. Downsize. Moving your family from a three-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom unit could lower your rent by hundreds, depending on the city. It may, though, mean doubling up on bedrooms or losing a guest room.
4. Get a roommate. It seems counterintuitive, but you can lower your rent by upgrading to a larger apartment — so long as you share that apartment with a roommate.
In Pittsburgh, for example, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is nearly $1,786, according to the website Apartment List. That’s $893 per person if split between two people — nearly $700 less than the average rent for a one-bedroom.
5. Negotiate. If moving isn’t an option, try negotiating with your landlord. They may be willing to lower your rent in exchange for a longer lease or handling your own repairs.
6. Shop around for the best rate. Homeowners insurance costs an average of $149 per month, according to a NerdWallet analysis. Get several quotes before settling on a policy.
7. Bundle your home and auto insurance. This could lower your insurance premium by up to 25%, depending on the insurer and your location.
8. Look for discounts. Ask your insurer about available discounts. For example, you may be able to save money on your homeowners insurance by paying in full, signing up for electronic payments or having a home security system.
Your monthly utility bills are a smart place to look for quick savings. Small tweaks like adjusting your thermostat or signing up for automatic payments can add up to major savings.
Cable and internet
9. Get rid of extras. Evaluate which streaming services you actually use — and which you haven’t touched in a while. Canceling those unused services will save you money each month.
If there’s a service that provides just a couple shows you enjoy, consider binging them, then canceling the service. Also take advantage of free trials to watch what you want in that time period, without committing to the expense.
10. Bundle your cable and internet. You can typically reduce your cable and internet costs if you bundle those services with the same provider. You can also reduce your internet costs by switching to a lower speed tier or opting to buy a modem rather than renting one from your provider.
11. Sign up for automatic payments. Setting up automatic payments does more than help ensure you pay your bills on time. Many wireless carriers, including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, also offer monthly discounts on select plans when you sign up for automatic payments.
Like with all automated payments, track your money to make sure you have enough to fund these bills without overdrafting.
12. Change or remove your insurance. Check with your cell phone provider to see if they offer a less expensive protection plan. Standard insurance may provide enough coverage and is often a few dollars less expensive than premium options.
13. Switch your plan or carrier. Take inventory of your plan and data usage, then see if you can get a better deal with your carrier or another one. Switching to a prepaid service may lower your cell phone bill even further.
14. Dial down your thermostat. Dropping the temperature degrees at night or when you’re away can lower your heating bill. Doing the same on your water heater can also help lower your heating or gas bill.
15. Power down energy hogs. You may reduce your average electric bill with a smart power strip, which shuts off power to devices not in use. Also consider requesting an energy audit from your utility provider to get household-specific insights.
You may need more help if you're struggling to pay for basic expenses, like utilities. Learn about ways to save on a tight budget, including getting support and negotiating with service providers.
Transportation costs, whether for a car or a monthly metro pass, fall squarely into the “needs” category of most budgets. Find more room in your budget by lowering what you spend on getting around every month.
16. Refinance your auto loan. You can lower your car payment by qualifying for a better interest rate or extending the length of your loan. You’ll need a track record of on-time payments spanning six to 12 months.
17. Sell your car. Look into selling your car and using the proceeds to pay off all or most of your current car loan. Then, buy a less expensive model — preferably a used car, which won’t lose value as quickly as a new one.
Whether you opt for new or used, aim to keep your total costs — gas, insurance, car payment, registration and repairs — below 20% of your take-home pay.
18. Evaluate whether you even need a car. If the answer is no, sell your car and use the proceeds to pay off your existing car loan. What you save in monthly insurance, gas, parking and maintenance costs will likely be more than enough to cover public transportation (more on that below) and the occasional Lyft ride.
19. Increase your deductible. This will bump up your out-of-pocket costs if you’re in an accident, but will lower your monthly insurance premium.
20. Reduce your coverage. Full coverage may not be necessary for an older car. Consider dropping collision and comprehensive coverage, which cover damage to your vehicle, if your car is worth less than your deductible plus a year’s worth of premiums.
21. Ask about discounts, such as good student, safe driver and multi-driver, or bundle your car insurance with your home or life insurance.
You probably don’t need to resort to peanut butter sandwiches or instant noodles to cut your food costs. Instead, switch to store brands at the grocery store and take advantage of happy hour deals when dining out.
22. Make a grocery list. You’re less likely to overspend if you have a plan. Plus, you can look for coupons and save even more on your groceries. (Learn more about how to coupon.)
23. Opt for the store brand. Generic labels and store brands are a surefire way to save money, even if you’re shopping at pricier stores.
24. Become a member. Unlock exclusive sales and coupons by signing up for the store’s loyalty program and downloading its app, if it has one.
25. Scope out specials. Take advantage of happy hours or other specials, like burger nights, Taco Tuesday deals and game-day promotions.
26. Skip or split the entree. Order an appetizer instead of an entree to shave $5 to $10 of your dining bill. Or save money by splitting an entree with your friend or date.
Yes, you can get relief on debt payments. Consider refinancing or consolidating debt to lower your monthly payments. Federal student loan holders have additional options, including income-based repayment.
27. Apply for an income-driven repayment plan. Federal loans have several income-based options that cap your monthly payments at 10% to 20% of your discretionary income.
28. Ask for a deferment or forbearance. These halt your payments for a time. However, interest may still accrue, increasing your overall balance. It’s wise to first apply for an income-driven repayment plan. Private loans don’t come with the same protections, but your lender may work with you to reduce or temporarily suspend your payments.
29. Refinance your student loans. If you qualify for a better interest rate, you can lower your payments by refinancing student loans with a private lender. With this option, you’ll lose any federal protections.
30. Ask for a lower interest rate. Your card issuer is more likely to give you a lower interest rate if you have a solid payment history and good credit score.
31. Transfer your balance. Take advantage of a balance transfer offer with an existing card, or open a balance transfer card with a 0% interest rate. Moving your balance to either will allow you to pay it off interest-free for a designated length of time — after that period ends, you’ll face interest on your balance. This move generally requires an excellent credit score.
32. Consolidate your credit card debt. Personal loans often have lower interest rates than credit cards. If you qualify for one, you can consolidate your credit card debt with a personal loan to lower your monthly payments and save on interest charges in the long run.
Your monthly subscriptions may not feel like a lot, but $7.99 here and $9.99 there can add up quickly. Use these tips to chip away at your membership fees.
33. Limit the number of services to which you subscribe. Finding one that does double duty can also save you money in the long run. Amazon Prime members, for example, get free streaming and free shipping.
34. Look into family plans. Popular music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music also offer family plans, which allow multiple people to share one account and save big.
35. Negotiate for a lower monthly membership rate. Come to the conversation armed with competitors' rates and the gym’s own new customer promotions to get the best deal.
36. Cancel your membership and gym-hop. Most gyms and studios will give you a free class or two to test the waters. And many yoga studios hold community classes that are free or by donation. Thousands of free online workouts let you break a sweat without leaving home — and the only cost is dedication.
Magazines and newspapers
37. Cancel any publications you don’t read regularly. You can always resubscribe at a discounted rate. Or, better yet, pick one up at your local library.
38. Downsize print subscriptions. Not willing to give up your daily Wall Street Journal or New York Times subscription? Consider opting for digital-only versions or for Sunday-only print deliveries.