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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
15. Power down energy hogs. Save on electricity costs by turning off desktop computers, gaming consoles and plasma televisions.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 payments by refinancing student loans with a private lender. With this option, you’ll lose any federal protections.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.