To get the most out of this guide and to hold yourself accountable, grab a friend or family member to take the challenge with you. Having someone else to go through the guide with you and discuss the tips can help you follow through and save even more money.
Each part of the guide looks over the different ways to save (there are a lot!). Try to do the ones that will save you the most in the least amount of time. If you run out of time, just come back later.
Vehicles are one of your biggest expenses, and I hate hearing from people who are saddled with big debts from their autos. Today we’ll cover everything from getting a better loan (if you currently have one), the dangers of extended warranties, and ways to save on your existing car. Plus, I have tips on the types of insurance you don’t need, and much more.
Click on one of the links below to get started or just work your way from the top down.
Get a better car loan
Shop around for insurance
Cancel your extended warranty
Gas Buddy: Find the cheapest gas nearby
Cancel whole life and get term insurance
Cancel identity theft insurance
Cancel life insurance for children and non-income earners
The Boston Globe reports that 80% of car purchases are financed at the dealership. However, credit unions offer interest rates that can be as much as 2.5% less than other lenders. If you have a car loan, it’s worth a phone call to a local credit union and see if they will refinance your loan.
Don’t extend the term! If you have 36 months left on your loan, you want a new 36-month loan with a lower rate. If you extend your current term (48, 60 months, or more), you’ll likely end up paying even more in interest.
Check with online lenders too at bankrate.com
Most people don’t bother to shop around their car or home insurance every couple of years. You can save big bucks by doing this. Listen to details on where to shop in this episode:
I just re-shopped my insurance in December 2015 and saved 30% on my new policies.
Your deductible is the amount of money you pay out-of-pocket if you get in an accident or the roof caves in on your house. Most people go with the lowest deductible available, which increases your annual premiums.
On average if you increase your deductible from $500 to $2,000 you can save %16 on your annual home insurance.
North Carolina residents, for example, save, on average, 25 percent when increasing a home deductible from $500 to $1,000.
Before you increase your deductibles, make sure you have enough money in your emergency fund to cover the cost. You want to avoid a situation where you have to charge the deductible on your credit card.
If you can afford it, take the highest deductible that your home or auto insurer will allow you to. Typically that is $1,000.
Never file an insurance claim for tiny amounts like a cracked windshield or scratched bumper. The insurance company will raise your premiums next year by as much as 25%, or worse – cancel your policy.
Consumer Reports found some surprising stats when they researched extended auto warranties:
The amount of money you will spend on extended auto warranties over your lifetime will far exceed what you would save if you took the money and stuck it in a savings account instead and paid for any repairs yourself.
If you currently have an extended warranty on your car see about canceling it if you can get reimbursed for the unused balance. If you can’t make a note to not renew it again.
Gas Buddy is a free app providing a real time gas prices forum so that consumers can have access to the information necessary to locate the lowest fuel prices available.
I’ve seen prices vary by as much as $0.25 a gallon around my house for gas stations located one mile from each other.
The only people that like whole life insurance are the people that sell the policies and make huge commissions. If someone sold you on whole life, it’s time to find a different salesperson to explain term-life insurance to you. It’s about 1/20th of the cost.
This stuff is garbage. If you want to hear the full story of why you’re paying too much for this stuff and how you can get better identity theft protection for cheaper, listen to this show episode:
Life insurance is for the protection of financial assets. Such as a primary breadwinner in the family is lost. Children are not financial assets. Parents get sucked into buying life insurance for their children because salespeople tell them it’s what every loving parent would do. It’s a waste of money. The likelihood of a child dying is minimal.
In the same vein, if you have a whole life or term policy on a spouse that doesn’t generate any income, it’s pointless. Your spouse is a financial liability, not a financial asset.
I’ve never had a life insurance policy on my wife Katie because I’m the primary income earner.
In Part 2 I’ll show you how to reduce your cell phone plans, get a discount on your cable and utility bills, and how you can save on Internet charges.
Click on one of the links below to get started or just work your way from the top down.
Lower your utility rates
Buy your own modem
Cancel your landline
Switch your landline to POTS
Lower your cell phone bill
Cancel your phone insurance
Negotiate your rates
Consider a mobile hotspot for your Internet service
Have a pro negotiate your bills
In many parts of the country, there are multiple providers for the same electricity, oil, and natural gas that heats and cools your residence. You can save up to 25% off of your monthly energy bill by switching to a lower cost provider.
Visit Stream Energy to see if you can get a lower energy rate. Also, use Google to see if there are other alternatives in your area.
Cable rates are crazy. If you’re not ready to ditch the cable company, there are plenty of other ways for you to save money.
If you are, check out the great article Cable TV Alternatives – A Guide to Cutting the Cord.
Here are some other suggestions for finding online programming so you can cut the cord:
Hulu (free and pay options)
Netflix (pay service)
AmazonPrime (pay service)
Sling (pay service)
Sony PlayStation Vue (pay service)
CBS All Access (pay service)
HBO Now (pay service)
Showtime (pay service)
ESPN360.com (only available if your high-speed Internet provider participates)
OVGuide.com (warning: may contain adult content)
A combination of Internet only ($40/month), Amazon Prime ($9/month), Netflix ($10/month), and a $30 HD antenna (one-time) for local shows and sports has saved me $800/year.
If you’re paying for Internet, you’re probably paying a separate monthly fee for the privilege of renting a modem from your provider. If you buy your own modem, you can recoup the cost in as little as a year—and then start saving anywhere from $6-10 each month.
If you have a cable modem check out Wirecutter’s write-up of the best cable modem based on your Internet provider.
Another option that works is to look at your current brand and model number. Buy an identical make/model off of eBay. Once you get your new one setup, call your Internet provider and tell them you don’t want to rent your modem anymore. They will give you instructions to ship it back or drop it off at a local authorized dealer.
I have my own modem for my Verizon FIOS service, and it saves me $110/year in rental fees.
If you have a landline or one of those triple-play combos for Cable+Internet+Phone, decide if you need a landline. Chances are you can get by with just a cell phone. If you do need a home phone line check out switching to one of the following:
Here is a great write-up comparing the two services to see which best fits your needs.
I have used both of these services in the past. We currently use Vonage because one of the twins ripped the magic jack out of the wall and broke it. Kids!
In rural areas, you might still have a landline with costly phone service as part of your DSL, or as a standalone phone service. POTS (Plain-Ole-Telephone-System) is a stripped down phone connection that doesn’t have all the junk fees associated with regular phone service.
The thing is you’ll never see it advertised on company websites; you have to ask the customer service rep for it by name. If you have a landline or DSL and don’t need all the fancy call-waiting/voicemail/etc. ask for the POTS service and you can save $10/month.
Your cell phone provider is not loyal to you, and neither should you be to them. Saving money is more important.
It can be worth it to drop your current plan and pay the exit penalty if you can save $50/month on the same service from another provider.
Cricket uses the AT&T cellular network and is a much less expensive option than AT&T.
Republic Wireless is a unique service routes calls over wifi and uses Sprint when you’re not near wifi. You’ll have to use their phones though – if you like your iPhone, forget it.
Boost Mobile is a subbrand of Sprint. You get unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 2.5 GB of data for $35 a month, and no contract. If you like the Sprint network, check out Boost Mobile.
If you have a decent phone case, how likely is it you’re going to break your phone? The insurance plans on most phones is $10/month. Over the 24-months, until you upgrade, that’s $240, or the price of your next phone.
Oh, and by the way – your insurance plan usually has a $100 deductible if you break your phone and need a replacement. So on top of the $10/month insurance, you have to pay an additional $100 to get a replacement phone. And the replacement will be:
People hate negotiating, but this is where you can save money. Call up your service provider and ask the following:
You: ‘Times are tough, and I need to decrease to my expenses. What can you do for me?’
The answer will be nothing. The first-level customer support has no power to do anything, and they are locked into the canned responses they have in their phone script list.
Tell them you want to cancel your service. Don’t worry, at this point, they won’t cut you off. You’re trying to get to the ‘customer retention’ department. It costs hundreds of dollars in advertising for a company to get a new customer. It’s in their best interest to keep you as a company and making money off you.
You: ‘I need to decrease my expenses. What can you do to lower my monthly bill?’
They will hem and haw. They might say nothing. An old negotiating trick is to just not respond. Seriously. Don’t say anything. Get a good awkward silence going. They can’t jump out and grab you.
Them: ‘Hello, are you still there?’
You: ‘Yes, I’m waiting for you to save me some money so I won’t have to cancel my service.’
Them: ‘Ok, hang on.’
Finally, they should come back with something better.
You’ll get different results from different people. My friend Jason negotiated his Internet modem rental for free. I was only able to negotiate one month of free rental. We both have the same Internet provider. (This was before I bought my own modem).
Karma is a mobile hotspot you could consider as a replacement for your cable/DSL/satellite internet connection. The best part is if you travel you can take your Karma hotspot with you. No more $15/night Internet charges at hotels!
Compare that to the AT&T mobility hotspot which costs $50/month for the same service. Every extra GB is $10 extra. Ouch!
Because it has a money-back guarantee, it’s worth trying out to see what you think of the performance if you can save some money.
Use this link and you’ll get $10 off your order.
Finally, if you love your current cable/cell phone service and can’t get them to budge, let the professional negotiators have at it.
BillFixers.com is a service that will try to negotiate lower rates for you on your behalf. You send them a copy of your bill, and they do the rest. Don’t worry – they won’t change your current plan or service.
I tried BillFixers to get them to lower my AT&T cell phone bill. Since I was already on a good plan there were not able to lower my bill. But it was worth a try.
In Part 3 you’ll discover how to stretch your dollars when you’re at the grocery store and the restaurant. Plus you’ll take a hard look at where you spend money each month to decide if you can get rid of unneeded services.Click on one of the links below to get started or just work your way from the top down.
Grab your credit card and bank statements and see what monthly subscriptions you’re paying for that you don’t need or want anymore.
The worst subscriptions are ones where there are cheaper alternatives. If you’ve signed up to get socks, or razor blades mailed to you each month – you could be saving more money.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if it’s something you should cancel or not:
Having a shopping list is the single biggest (and easiest) way to save on your grocery budget. It gives you a plan to buy what you want and ignore the things in the store you don’t.
I’ve found I will overspend by up to 25% if I show up at the supermarket without a list. The cart gets filled with all kinds of snacks, produce, etc., that we don’t need or had planned on eating.
Take 15-20 minutes before you leave for the grocery story (or do it the night before) and write down what you need to buy. Once you hit the store, you will be on a mission to get your items checked off and get out. No dilly-dallying, messing around and wasting money.
You don’t have to have a warehouse club membership to buy in bulk. I’ve found some of the best deals at a little produce market near my house on bulk items like oatmeal, nuts, and trail mix. You can even get deals on bulk items at Whole Foods. Just check what they have on sale for the week.
I bought Steel Cut Oats from the produce market on sale for $1/pound. Wal-Mart was selling cans for $2/pound, or twice as much.
You can be fooled into thinking a bigger bag or box is cheaper. Not so. To be savvy shopper, you must look at the per/unit ounce price. Here’s one of my most hated bad deals for you:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported recently we are throwing away 40% of our food each year! We lose money between leftovers at home from cooking, leftover restaurant food, and food that spoils or we just don’t feel like eating.
It adds up to $165 billion in wasted food each year, or nearly $2,300 each year for the typical family.
We’re all guilty of this.
Eating is out is probably one of your biggest expenses, right? It’s also one of the biggest areas in people’s budgets they can trim to get savings.
I’ve got a big list of ways you can save on eating out. Because who doesn’t love to eat out? But let’s save some money and still have fun eating out.
In Part 4 I’ll show you how to get the most for your money, whether it’s negotiating a bill, finding the lowest prices on prescription drugs, or saving big money on your kids. Click on one of the links below to get started or just work your way from the top down.
I was just talking to someone the other day who paid for a monthly gym membership, hadn’t been there in three months, and said she should go back again soon.
While your gym membership might be cheap – $30/month – that’s $360/year you’re paying for not using something. If you haven’t been to the gym in a couple of months, save yourself the money and ditch the membership.
If you think you’ll be going back ‘sometime,’ meet with the gym manager and ask to have a freeze put on your membership. Most gyms will allow you to put a 90-120 day freeze. It doesn’t cancel it, but it stops the monthly bills. Then after your freeze ends you can decide if you want to keep the membership or not.
You will hear stories of people who have bought pet insurance and how great it was when their pet got sick. These stories are the exception, not the rule.
When you review pet insurance you will find so many caps and limits on what they cover, along with the high deductibles, it becomes a bad deal. You’re much better off saving the amount you would be paying for insurance into a pet fund to cover any issues for Fido and Fluffy.
If you have had an emergency and are left with a huge pile of medical bills, negotiate them to save money.
Call the hospital/doctor and ask to speak with the billing department. Tell them you are unable to pay the balance (assuming you can’t) and explain your situation. Ask them what they can do for you to lower the total.
If you don’t get anywhere, consider working with a professional bill negotiator to save you big bucks. Check out DisputeBills.com
If you have newborns, check out this list of ways you can get free diapers.
Instead of buying expensive baby food in jars or squeeze packets we saved $1,000 by making our own baby food (ok, Katie made it all). It’s simple:
A side bonus is you won’t have picky eaters. Our twins were exposed to pizza, Thai food, hamburgers, and all kinds of vegetables before they ever held a spoon.
I met three-year-old twin boys at the playground the other day. I noticed both had diapers on. Ka-Ching!
My son was potty trained at 1 1/2. My daughter at age 2. They still have diapers for naps and nighttime. But that’s a combined 2 1/2 years we didn’t buy diapers.
A health savings account lets you put money away for medical expenses not covered by your insurance. Every dollar you contribute reduces your taxable income by that amount.
HSA holders can choose to save up to $3,350 for an individual and $6,750 for a family (HSA holders 55 and older get to save an extra $1,000 which means $4,350 for an individual and $7,750 for a family) – and these contributions are 100% tax deductible from gross income.
Given the out-of-pocket costs we’re all paying for healthcare nowadays, an HSA is worth participating in either through your employer or by signing up for a plan on your own (depending on your insurance). You can save hundreds of dollars per year on your taxes.
Ask your employer if you have an HSA you can participate in.
In Part 5 I’ll show you how you can save money on some of the major purchases and services you have for your home or apartment, including upkeep, energy savings, and appliances.Click on one of the links below to get started or just work your way from the top down.
One of my first money lessons as a home owner was to ditch the expensive national alarm monitoring services, knocking my monthly bill from $30/month to $15/month, or $180 a year saved.
Look in your yellow pages for a local security monitoring company. They offer the same reliable service at half the cost. If you’re locked into a two-year contract with a national company, make a note on your calendar 90-days before your contract is up.
You will have to follow their termination instructions to the letter to avoid being auto-renewed. Usually, that involves mailing in something in writing to cancel your contract, 60-90 days before your renewal date.
Over your lifetime if you never bought an extended warranty the total money you saved would be way more than you have to pay for all of the stuff that breaks. This includes
According to Consumer Reports, TVs fail 3% of the time in the first four years of ownership. It doesn’t make sense to buy an expensive warranty when the chance of it failing are so small.
Extended warranties have massive costs and are terrible purchases. If you get an offer in the mail for one, or to extend one on an existing purchase – throw it in the trash!
If you purchased the item with a major credit card, it most likely doubles the manufacturer’s warranty for free.
If you’re looking for some quick savings around the house, check out my infographic
If you use a lawn care service, call around and get several quotes for service. It’s a competitive business, and the prices can vary by $10-$15 per visit. That can add up to hundreds per year for the same service.
If you are happy with your current service, call them and ask for a discount for being a loyal customer.
You: I’m looking to cut some of my expenses, and my lawn care is on the list. Can you give me a better rate?
Them: Hold on, let me check.
You will either get a better offer – or you won’t. If you’re happy with the company, at least, you tried. If you’re not loyal to them, call around and find someone that will beat your current price.
Who doesn’t love a nice green lawn free of weeds? Yearly fertilization service can cost $300/year and up for 6-8 treatments.
Google the following: ‘YOUR COUNTY extension office lawn fertilization‘
Skip over the ads and look through for the search results that say:
What you’re looking for is a web page/PDF with some information on when/what/how much fertilization and weed control you need to apply.
Ants, termites, cockroaches – these are all pests nobody wants in their home. Commercial grade products are available to homeowners to keep these pests out at a fraction of the cost for what you would pay a professional to treat your residence each year.
DoYourOwnPestControl.com is a website that provides information on preventive treatment, emergency treatment, application rates, etc. You can spend $75-$100 for a sprayer and a couple of bottles of pest control that will last you for years.
Compare that to spending $250/year to have a professional spray around your home.
Check the warning labels before you buy. I look for products that are safe for use in commercial kitchens. That’s how I know it will be safe to spray around my home where I have pets and children.
In Part 6 I’ll show you how to save money on fees, increase your savings rate, and share some handy apps that put money back in your wallet.Click on one of the links below to get started or just work your way from the top down.
Check your credit cards and bank statements for fees that could be waived:
Call up the bank/credit card company and try this out:
You: There is a late fee I was charged on my account that I would like removed because I’m an awesome customer.
Them: All of our customers are awesome, I’ll be glad to see what I can do.
Because I am a valued customer, the charges were dropped.
You can try the same thing with bank charges.
Most of the monster mega-banks give paltry (i.e. zero) interest rates on checking and savings accounts. And they generally rate poorly on customer service. By joining a credit union you will get:
Anybody can join a credit union. Each credit union serves what’s called their “field of membership” – that’s the commonality between the members. You can find a credit union in your area with this location tool.
Also, check out PenFed. It’s easy to sign up online.
Going online with your savings has several benefits. I’ve been with CapitalOne360 (formerly ING) for nearly a decade. Why switch?
If you want to explore all the different savings accounts offered by banks, take a look at bankrate.com
You may not be aware of all the discounts that might be available to you from:
Some of the discounts you could be missing out on include:
Speak with your the Human Resources rep at your company and ask for a list of all the perks you could be missing.
Jason, a friend of mine, works for an aerospace company. When I mentioned I was in the market for a golf cart, he said one of the discounts he gets from work is for the purchase of a golf cart!
By downloading some apps that will help you save some more money, you’ll make saving much easier.
The Slice app tracks the progress of your purchases and sends alerts about price adjustments and recalls, making it easy to save money. For example, it can track purchases from Amazon, and if the price drops, you’ll get an alert.
Get discounts with coupon and promo codes for thousands of online stores with RetailMeNot. Save offline with in-store and printable coupons!
In Part 7 I’ll show you how you can reduce your mortgage interest rate, your student loan rates, how to maximize your credit card rewards, and get more money in your paycheck. Click on one of the links below to get started or just work your way from the top down.
the math is in your favor to refinance.
Call your local bank’s loan officer and ask them to walk you through the math to see if it makes financial sense. HOWEVER: The math only works if you refinance and keep paying the same amount each month you currently are.
If you have 26 years left on your mortgage, and you refinance to a new 30-year loan, you can end up paying more in interest if you pay for the next 30 years. However if you keep sending in the old (higher) monthly mortgage payment as if your new loan had 26 years left on it, you win. If you need more help understanding based on your situation, contact me.
Check on bankrate.com for current interest rates.
I refinanced my first house twice in a five year period and saved thousands in interest charges and PMI (private mortgage insurance).
If you have private student loans, it’s worth contacting some of the new services that have come out in recent years to get a lower interest rate.
I’ve included a list of the leading companies that offer refinancing services here.
What about your public student loans?
It depends. You’re giving up the perks that public student loans have if you refinance, including:
Gift cards are real money you might have lying around in your junk drawer. Sell them and get some cash to spend on what you really want. The sites listed below talk a small cut, but it’s better than having a piece of plastic you might never use.
And if you routinely shop somewhere, buy a discounted gift card and save money. Here are just a few examples from Raise.com:
Cardpool – Buy discounted gift cards up to 35% off, sell gift cards for cash, or trade gift cards at the most trusted and most popular gift card exchange.
Raise – Shop for discount gift cards or electronic gift cards at Raise and browse our marketplace for gift cards by brand, price, discount, and category.
Use CreditCardTuneup.com to analyze your spending patterns and get the best credit cards based on your purchase habits.
Stack your savings with the app Walla.by, which lets you know at the store which credit card you should use when checking out to get the most rewards.
If you’re getting a tax refund, you’re giving the government an interest-free loan. On average you can get an extra $300 / month in your paycheck by adjusting your withholding.