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10 Best Ways to Lower Your Bills Now

Want to save more for retirement or other financial goals? There are plenty of ways to put money back in your bank account. 

By
Laura Adams, MBA,
December 20, 2017
Episode #524

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10 Best Ways to Lower Your Bills Now

Whether you need quick ways to cut expenses ahead of the holidays or just want to save more for retirement (or other financial goals), there are plenty of ways to lower your monthly bills now. Some tactics might put a few dollars back in your bank account, while others can save hundreds each year.

Whatever the goal, use these 10 methods to cut your bills and save more money now.

10 Best Ways to Lower Your Bills Now

  1. Switch to a better smartphone plan.
  2. Cut your food bill.
  3. Buy online for bigger discounts.
  4. Buy in bulk when possible.
  5. Use a rewards credit card.
  6. Save power at home.
  7. Save gas on the road.
  8. Cancel unused memberships and subscriptions.
  9. Shop your auto insurance.
  10. Pay less interest on your debt.

Here's more detail about each of these ways to lower your bills and save money.

1. Switch to a better smartphone plan.

Everyone has a smartphone these days, but you can save by finding a plan that gives you the right amount of minutes and data for less. Figure out how much data you’ve used for the past several months and then research plans that fit.

Check out TracFone, a pay-as-you-go wireless phone service that doesn’t require long-term contracts, credit checks, deposits, activation fees, or monthly bills. This simple service runs on the nation’s best 4G LTE networks and with Unlimited Carryover you keep any unused minutes, text, and data. Even more, you have the power to alter your no-contract plan as often as your needs change, without penalties. 

2. Cut your food bill.

Stick to the perimeters of the supermarket, where you find vegetables, dairy products, and meats. The middle aisles are stocked with processed foods that can wreck your food budget.

In general, Americans eat too much and waste too much food. If you’re in the habit of buying loads of prepackaged or frozen foods, it’s time to change your approach to cooking. Instead, buy whole foods that cost less, are healthier, and will probably taste much better.

Stick to the perimeters of the supermarket, where you find vegetables, dairy products, and meats. The middle aisles are stocked with processed foods that can wreck your food budget.

Also, find out where the best farmer’s markets are in your area. You can choose from a variety of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables from the people who grow them or broker them. Depending on where you live, some bigger farmer’s markets also have a variety of fish, meat, bread, coffee, condiments, and pre-made salads.

Making it a routine to visit the farmer’s market every week can also be a fun family outing. Even if you must drive to another city or town, the savings and quality you get can really be worth it. Be sure to bring cash, since some vendors may not accept credit cards. Plan several meals at once so you shop less frequently, which saves time, hassle, and gas money.

When cooking at home, a great strategy is to double or triple a recipe and then freeze portions for future lunches and dinners. Not a fan of leftovers or shopping? No problem, try a meal delivery service like Sun Basket that can be very economical They bring seasonal, pre-measured ingredients to your door in a recyclable, refrigerated box, so you have zero waste.

3. Buy online for bigger discounts.

For many items, you’ll come out ahead purchasing them online. Here's why:

  • You stay focused. When you wander around a brick and mortar store, it's easy to get distracted by in-store displays, sale items, or trying things out, and end up buying more than you really need.
  • You save time. Shopping online is much faster and more efficient than battling traffic, parking, and long checkout lines in stores.
  • You get free shipping. Many large online retailers offer free shipping to keep you loyal. So, you get what you need without having to pay for transportation or go anywhere. 
  • You don’t have to handle what you buy. Having items delivered to your doorstep or apartment mail room saves you from having to do the heavy lifting, especially for bulk orders. 
  • You can easily compare prices. Searching for an item online shows you a variety of sites that sell it. It's easy to see which merchant has the lowest price, an upcoming promotion, or free shipping.

When you’re shopping online, never check out before searching for ways to get even more savings. There are some great cash back and discount code sites that can really sweeten the deal.

TopCashBack and Ebates are a couple of my favorite ways to cut the cost of just about any online purchase. These rewards sites are completely free to join and use. They get paid from thousands of top online stores when you buy something. Instead of keeping the whole commission, they share a portion of it with you.

Buying non-perishable items in bulk can save a lot over time—as long as you expect to use the excess in the future.

4. Buy in bulk when possible.

Buying non-perishable items in bulk can save a lot over time—as long as you expect to use the excess in the future. For example, buying one box of 50 garbage bags may cost $0.15 per bag. But buying 250 of the same item may reduce the cost per bag to $0.08.

I always buy paper products, cleaning products, soaps, vitamins, and office supplies in large quantities because I’m certain that I’ll use them. Additionally, some grocery items with long shelf lives—such as coffee, popcorn, cereal, rice, beans, pasta, and canned food—may be smart bulk purchases, if you’re sure that you will consume them before they expire.

I’m a big fan of Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program because you get up to 15% off a huge selection of grocery, personal care, and household items, plus free shipping. You set the delivery schedule you want and can cancel at any time. It’s a really great way to manage bulk orders in one place.

5. Use a rewards credit card.

There are a variety of rewards credit cards that can layer on additional savings. The more qualified purchases you rack up, the more cash or points you’ll get back to spend. I use a rewards card to pay for just about everything from everyday purchases to household bills.

When you use a rewards card responsibly and pay off your balance in full and on time each month, you get to take full advantage of the rewards without having to pay any interest charges or late fees. The idea is to get benefits for purchases that you’re going to make anyway—not to buy more than your budget allows or to buy extra stuff just for the rewards. So, my advice is not to change your spending habits, just change your payment habits.   

See also: Canceling Credit Cards--5 Questions to Ask Before Closing Accounts

Choose a credit card that will earn rewards at the stores where you shop or for the type of products that you buy frequently, like groceries, gas, or airline tickets.

Use these tips to get the most from a rewards card:

  • Earn rewards where you spend the most money. Choose a credit card that will earn rewards at the stores where you shop or for the type of products that you buy frequently, like groceries, gas, or airline tickets. For instance, Amazon Prime members can get a rewards card with 5% back on purchases at Amazon.com, plus discounts at restaurants, gas stations, and drug stores.
  • Get a card with no annual fee and the lowest interest rate possible. This will increase the value of your rewards and cost you less if you do have to carry a balance from month to month (but remember that’s not what I recommend). However, paying an annual fee can make sense if you’re a big spender and will earn more than enough rewards to offset the cost.
  • Stay alert to rewards expiration dates. If you earn points that must be redeemed by a certain date, be sure to put a reminder on your calendar so you don’t lose them. 
  • Consider a card’s additional free benefits. Extra offers like travel insurance, extended product warranties, and other buyer protections may make one card a better deal for you than another.
  • Take advantage of bonus programs. Some rewards cards offer discounts or extra points or travel miles when you shop with their merchant partners or through their online shopping malls. Always review the partner offers before you make a big purchase so you don’t miss any discount opportunities. Getting the most out of your rewards program will mean spending a little time managing it—but it’s well worth it.

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