10 ways to cut $500 on monthly bills
There are dozens of ways you can easily stop wasting money on discretionary expenses. But, what about those monthly bills that consume the bulk of your budget?
Here's some good news: There are plenty of ways you can cut these costs. By using the following savings strategies, you can lower your monthly bills by $500 or more. But keep in mind the actual savings you'll see will vary depending on which cost-cutting moves you choose to make. Still, these examples prove it's possible to cut hundreds of dollars off your monthly expenses.
1. Save Big on Groceries
Grocery spending can take a big bite out of your monthly budget. A family of four spends up to $1,284 a month on food at home, according to May 2016 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to stock up on items that are nonperishable or can be frozen when they are on sale, rather than buying just what you need for the week.
"When shoppers buy only their weekly needs, they are forced to pay full price for 50 percent to 80 percent of what goes in their cart," said Teri Gault, founder and CEO of TheGroceryGame.com.
Once you have a stockpile, you can plan weekly meals around what you have and perishable items that are on sale at the supermarket. Gault said that TheGroceryGame.com members reported average savings of $523 a month for a family of four by stockpiling sale items and using coupons.
2. Lower Credit Card Payments With a Balance Transfer
If you carry a balance on a credit card with a high interest rate, you could dramatically decrease the amount you pay each month by taking advantage of a 0 percent balance transfer offer. Depending on your current credit card balance and current interest rate, you could easily save more than $500.
But when you compare balance transfer credit card offers, pay close attention to balance transfer fees that might eliminate some of the savings you'll get by moving your balance to a lower-rate card.
3. Cut the Cost of Wireless Service
If you're not locked into a contract with a wireless service provider, you might be able to lower your monthly bill by switching to a smaller carrier that offers more competitive pricing than major carriers.
But if you don't want to switch to a smaller carrier that might have a limited coverage area, you still might be able to lower your monthly bill with a major carrier. Check your statement to see if you're actually using all of the data for which you're paying. When my husband and I did this, we cut our wireless service bill by $30 a month by switching to a plan with a lower data allotment.
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4. Eliminate Your Landline
Growing numbers of households are ditching their landline telephone service and relying only on wireless service, according to a CDC National Health Interview Survey released in 2015. If you rely primarily on your smartphone or cellphone to make calls, what's holding you back from joining the 47 percent of wireless-only American households?
Consumers spent an average of $353 a year on residential phone service in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Expenditure Survey. So, you'd save about $30 a month by dropping your landline.
5. Cut the Cable Cord — or at Least Trim It
The cost of cable TV isn't getting any cheaper. In September 2015, the Leichtman Research Group released a report that found the mean reported monthly spending on pay-TV is $99.10, which is nearly a 40 percent increase since 2010. Cutting your cable chord can quickly save you close to $100 a month.
But if you're not ready to give up cable TV entirely, you could lower your bill by forgoing pricey premium channels and opting for the most basic package. Then, you can get your movie fix with inexpensive streaming options, such as Amazon, Hulu or Netflix.
6. Re-Shop Your Auto Insurance
Loyalty doesn't always pay when it comes to auto insurance. The J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study found that consumers who shopped for better auto insurance rates and switched insurers saved an average of $356 on their annual premium.
Based on that figure, you could save about $30 a month by switching to a lower-rate auto insurance policy. You can get quotes and compare offers from several insurers at TheZebra.com, InsuranceQuotes.com and CarInsurance.com.
7. Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Premium
Raising your homeowners insurance deductible from $500 to $1,000 could shave 25 percent off your premium, according to the Insurance Information Institute. So if you pay $1,000 annually, that translates to savings of $250 — about $20 a month.
8. Slash Your Electric Bill
You can lower your heating and cooling costs by using a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature in your house when you're away from home. In fact, proper use of a programmable thermostat can save about $180 a year — or $15 a month — in energy costs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program.
You can reduce your bill even more by identifying and unplugging "energy vampires," devices such as cable TV boxes and DVD players that use electricity even when turned off. They can account for up to 20 percent of your electric bill, according to Duke Energy, the nation's largest electric power holding company. Since the federal Energy Information Administration found the average monthly electric bill to be $114 in 2014, you could save about $23 a month by unplugging all of your energy vampires.
9. Shrink Your Monthly Mortgage Payment by Refinancing
If your home's value has risen since you bought it and interest rates have dropped since you locked in your mortgage rate, you might be able to lower your monthly mortgage payment by refinancing.
According to a 2016 Black Knight Financial Services report, 3.3 million homeowners could save at least $200 a month by refinancing their mortgages, and nearly 1 million could save $400 or more each month.
Keep Reading: How to Pay Off Your Mortgage in 10 Years
10. Stop Overpaying Uncle Sam
If you got a big tax refund this year — the average was about $3,000 — that means you're letting Uncle Sam withhold too much from your paycheck each month. Sure, it's nice to get a big check every spring, but you'll have more spending money each month if you adjust your tax withholding so that you're not overpaying the IRS.
File a new W-4 form with your employer to claim more allowances because the more you claim, the less tax is withheld. If you received the average refund of roughly $3,000, you should get an extra $250 in your paycheck each month by adjusting your withholding.
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