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How to Lower Your Bills: 40 Ways to Save

July 27, 2018
Bills, Personal Finance
How to Lower Your Bills
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Need to find more money in your budget? Evaluating your monthly expenses 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:

Housing | Utilities | Transportation | Food | Debt | Memberships

NerdWallet makes managing your finances easy. Keep track of your spending, credit score, and even find fresh ways to save.

HouseHousing

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 78% of the home’s appraised value — but you can ask your lender to cancel it once you’ve reached the 20% equity mark.

PMI payments are based on the loan amount and the borrower’s credit score (generally between 0.3% and 1.1% of the loan’s value on an annual basis — or $300 to $1,100 annually for a $100,000 loan). Homeowners with an FHA loan cannot cancel their mortgage insurance, and would instead need to refinance with a conventional loan.

MORE: Discover how much your could save by refinancing your home loan.

3. Downsize. Moving your family from a three-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom unit could lower your rent by $300 or more, depending on the city, according to data from the rental site Abodo. 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 $1,150 — or $575 per person if split between two people. That’s still nearly $500 less than the average rent for a one-bedroom.

5. Negotiate. If moving isn’t an option, try negotiating with your landlord. He or she may be willing to lower your rent in exchange for a longer lease or handling your own repairs.

6. Shop around for the best rateHomeowners insurance premiums average nearly $1,130 annually. Get several quotes before settling on a policy.

7. Bundle your home and auto insurance. This could lower your home insurance premium by 10% to 20%, depending on your policy.

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.

MORE: Learn more about how to save on homeowners insurance.

 

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Mail_Documents_RedUtilities

Your monthly utilities are a smart place to look for quick savings. Small tweaks like adjusting your thermostat, signing up for automatic payments or canceling HBO can add up to major savings.

9. Get rid of extras. You can lower your cable bill by $10 or more if you get rid of your DVR. Say goodbye to HBO and you could save as much as $20. Or cut the cord completely and save more than $100 per month, depending on your plan.

10. Bundle your cable and internet. You can typically get two services for the price of one if you bundle them with the same provider. But 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. Most wireless carriers will knock $5 to $10 off your bill if you sign up for automatic payments. T-Mobile applies its $5 discount per line, so a family of four could save $20 on their monthly bill by opting for autopay.

12. Change or remove your insurance. Check with your cell phone provider to see if they offer a less expensive protection plan. Standard insurance provides more than enough coverage — it protects you if your phone is lost, stolen or damaged — 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 can lower your cell phone bill even further.

MORE: Find more ways to lower your cell phone bill.

14. Dial down your thermostat. Dropping the temperature 10 to 15 degrees at night can lower your heating bill by 10% annually, according to the Department of Energy. Doing the same on your water heater can also help lower your heating bill.

15. Power down energy hogs. Save on electricity costs by turning off desktop computers, gaming consoles and plasma televisions.

MORE: Learn more about how to save money on your electric bill.

 

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CarTransportation

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. You will typically get more for your ride if you sell it versus trading it in. And you can use 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. “Swap” out your lease. You can get out of a car lease you can’t afford, by transferring your remaining lease payments to another driver, for example.

19. 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 be more than enough to cover public transportation (more on that below) and the occasional Lyft ride.

MORE: Find more ways to save on all of your car expenses.

20. Bike to work. Use your own bike or a bike share service and pedal to and from your destination, when possible. Divvy, Chicago’s bike share program, is $99 per year for unlimited 30-minute rides. That’s about the same price as a 30-day Chicago transit pass.
21. 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.

22. 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.

23. Ask about discounts, such as good student, safe driver and multi-driver, or bundle your car insurance with your home or life insurance.

MORE: Learn more about how to save on car insurance.

 

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Grocery bagFood

You don’t need to resort to peanut butter sandwiches or instant noodles to cut your monthly food costs. Instead, trying switching to store brands at the grocery store and take advantage of happy hour deals when dining out.

24. Make a list. You’re less likely to overspend if you go in with a plan. Plus, you can look for coupons and save even more on your groceries.

25. Opt for the store brand. Generic labels and store brands are a surefire way to save money, even if you’re shopping at Whole Foods.

26. 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.

MORE: Get more tips on how to eat healthy on a budget.

27. Scope out specials. Take advantage of happy hours or other specials, like burger nights, Taco Tuesday deals and game-day promotions.

28. 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.

MORE: Discover more ways to save money when dining out.

 

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Credit cardsDebt

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.

29. Sign up 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.

30. 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.

31. Refinance your student loans. If you qualify for a better interest rate, you can lower your student loan payments by refinancing with a private lender. With this option, you’ll lose any federal protections.

MORE: Learn more about student loan repayment options.

32. 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.

33. 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. This move generally requires an excellent credit score.

34. Consolidate your credit card debt. Personal loans often have lower interest rates that 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.

MORE: Find out how to get out of credit card debt.

 

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Wallet-2Memberships

You 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.

35. 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.

36. Share logins. Does your mom have Netflix? Maybe your sister has Hulu. Pool your resources — and passwords — and split the costs to enjoy streaming services for less. Popular music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music also offer family plans, which allow up to six people to share one account and save up to 75%.

37. 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.

38. 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.

39. Cancel any publications you don’t read regularly. You know, that pile you’ve collected that you promise to get to “someday.” You can always resubscribe at a discounted rate. Or, better yet, pick one up at your local library.

40. Reduce the frequency of a print subscription. Not willing to give up your Wall Street Journal or New York Times subscription? Opting for a Sunday-only Times subscription over a daily delivery will save you nearly $20 per month. Most papers also offer a student rate; The Wall Street Journal’s is just $49 for a year, compared with $311 a year for a standard print and digital subscription.

 

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