11 Ways to Save on the Expensive Monthly Bills You Can’t Escape
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You’ve done what you can to cut back your spending.
You brew coffee at home, you don’t walk into Target and you refuse to order avocado toast. (Can you sense my millennial sarcasm there?)
But no matter how cognizant you are of your spending habits, you’re still stuck with those inescapable monthly bills. You know which ones I’m talking about: rent, utilities, cell phone bill, insurance, groceries…
Although we can’t swipe these off the table for you, we can give you a few tips to help you save on your monthly bills.
1. Reduce Your Credit Card Payments
Unless you’re one of the lucky few fortunate enough to avoid it, chances are you've racked up some credit card ebt.
If you’ve already done this, it’s worth considering refinancing or consolidating your debt, which could substantially lower payments you’re already making and help you save more money each month.
A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.
A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Even Financial, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.
Even searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. Its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.
2. Let These Tools Negotiate Lower Bills for You
The price of internet — and cable, if you’re still into that kind of thing — certainly isn’t decreasing. If anything, prices are steadily climbing.
And if you’ve had to chat with a representative from your internet/cable company recently, you know how long you can sit on hold.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
That’s why it’s time to call in a robot. Trim is an AI assistant — aka cute robot — that will negotiate your cable or internet bills down for you.
It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers.
You communicate with Trim via Facebook Messenger or texts. Simply sign up with Facebook or your email address to get started. Then, upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.
Also, if you have any outages, Trim believes you deserve a credit, and it’ll handle that for you.
Trim takes 25% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.
If an app is more your style, download TrueBill, which will negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees for you.
After downloading the app, create an account and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. Boom. TrueBill is already searching for potential refunds — it might get you a refund even when you didn’t know an outage occurred.
On average, Truebill customers get $12 in credits off their cable bills each month.
The app will also remind you of all those sneaky subscriptions you’ve signed up for through the years, so you can cancel what you don’t use and reclaim your monthly budget.
Signing up and using the service is free, though there are some paid premium services that are totally optional — but could totally be worth it.
3. Find out if You’re Paying too Much for Car Insurance
For many, car insurance is just one of those things where we cave in and pay. Because, just like the electric bill and phone service, we need it, right?
Yes. There’s no getting around car insurance, unfortunately. But one way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year. Less than 50% of us do that, according to this survey from The Zebra, though 81% of us report wanting lower rates.
So, just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?
The Zebra, an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.
Don’t drive much? Car insurance companies don’t typically care. You’ll still get a hefty bill. But MetroMile lets you pay by the mile.
You pay a base rate, then a few cents per mile. If you drive less than about 30 miles a day or 5,000 a year, you could save around $500 a year. It’s available in California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.
4. Squeeze Your Bills
It’s important to make sure you’re getting a good deal on any product or service you use, and this is a lot easier than you might think.
Hop on Squeeze, a website that allows you to compare rates for mortgages, auto loans, student loans, renters insurance, and mobile and internet plans (among others) for free.
Say you want to compare internet prices. Based on your location, the site aggregates all your options and shows you companies alongside price points and download speeds.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
5. Save on Everything You Buy With Cash Back
Want to save when you shop in store? Get paid for shopping!
We know it sounds strange, but Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.
Here’s how it works:
Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.
Bam. Cash back.
Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you money. Intrigued?
One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It's free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.
Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.
6. Lower the Interest Rate on Your Student Loans
For some, a lower interest rate could be one of the best steps to paying off student loans.
Try getting a lower interest rate on your federal and private loans by refinancing with a company like Credible. Other companies offer similar services, but we like that the average Credible user saves about two interest points on their current federal loans.
Refinancing will generally mean replacing your laundry list of loans with one (or a few) loans that bring all of your student debt under one umbrella.
This could simplify your life with one monthly payment, instead of several. It may also lower your monthly payment, improve your interest rate and/or give you more time to pay.
It might seem like a small difference, but a lower interest rate can mean a lot of savings over time. It’s helping grad Ashley Williams save more than $18,000 in interest over the life of her loan!
7. Get Rewarded for Paying Your Bills on Time
Your mom probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor when you were a kid. Now all you get for doing it is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.
As an adult, you don’t typically get rewards for doing things that are expected of you… until now.
This invention kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.
MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app.
You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.
You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.
If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend.
The app also connects with all your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.
8. Get Help Paying Medical Bills
Got a big tax bill? Medical expenses? Moving to a new state?
Wondering how to pay for it? Well, it’s probably way easier than you think to apply for a personal loan — just make sure you know you can repay it.
A good resource is online lending platform Upstart, which can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score.
Unlike traditional underwriting models that use only the common FICO scoring model, Upstart’s technology looks at factors like your education and employment history to determine your creditworthiness.
It can help you borrow up to $50,000, potentially with better terms (e.g. lower interest or lower monthly payments) than traditional lenders.
9. Get a Better Price on Insurance in These States
If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you might be paying too much for it. Try shopping around.
If you’ve never looked into it, start by getting a free quote.We recommend the online insurance company Lemonade, through which renters insurance starts at $5 a month and homeowners insurance starts at $25 a month.
Beyond affordable rates, Lemonade adds a layer of transparency you don’t often see in the insurance world. Instead of profiting extra when it doesn’t have to pay out claims, the company keeps a set 20% of your premium for itself, and 80% goes into a pool for paying claims. Money left over after paying claims each year goes to a cause of your choice.
That also means Lemonade isn’t going to be super stingy about granting customers the claims they deserve — ’cause the money isn’t going into its pockets.
Lemonade is available in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.
Now that your homeowners or renters insurance is covered, let's talk about your car.
You’re probably overpaying for car insurance. And how would you know, really?
Have you shopped around lately? Have you compared rates from the 20 largest auto insurers that do business in your area? That sounds kind of difficult and time-consuming, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you. And you don’t even have to fill out any forms.
Once you link your insurance account to Gabi, it will:
- Scan your existing insurance plan
- Analyze what coverage you have
- Compare the major insurers’ rates for that same coverage
- Help you switch on the spot if it finds you a better rate
Gabi says it finds an average savings of over $460 per year for more than 60% of its customers.
It is a true “apples-to-apples” comparison at the same coverage levels and deductibles you currently have. Once you have signed-up you never have to shop again. Gabi's software has your policy on file and keeps on monitoring for savings as your life changes.
Gabi’s available in Arizona, California, Illinois, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Maryland, Alabama, Tennessee, Oregon, South Carolina, Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
10. Getting Married? Ask Loved Ones to Pitch in for the Expenses
When John Horner proposed to Alyssa Casares in July 2017, she was elated. They immediately started planning the dreamiest wedding day. But the Colorado Springs couple hit a wall when it came to the registry.
“We spent a lot of time debating which stores to register with,” Casares writes in an email. “We didn’t want to register at 100 different places.”
They stumbled upon Zola, which proved to be the perfect solution. It’s a free virtual wedding planner that houses everything you need in one spot — a registry synced with dozens of stores, a free wedding website, invitations, checklists for the big day and a digital guest list to help manage RSVPs and thank-you notes.
Zola is also helping the frugal couple save money. In addition to pie dishes, cutlery and bath towels, their registry includes a honeymoon fund.
“We could pay for these excursions, tours and safaris out of our own pocket, but having someone else ‘gift’ the experience is awesome,” Casares says of their scheduled South Africa adventure.
11. Break up With Your Expensive Cell Phone Provider
You might be paying an absurd cell phone bill each month — just so you can avoid eye contact in awkward situations and scroll through Instagram instead. I mean, you probably use it to check for important emails and keep in touch with your mom, too, but still, it costs how much to do that?
Try switching over to a discount prepaid phone carrier like US Mobile, where the average user’s monthly phone bill is $15. This can save folks on average more than $670 a year.
Want to see if the switch could be worth it? Run a hypothetical.
Create your own custom plan by entering the number of minutes you talk, the number of texts you send and the amount of data you consume each month. You’ll get a free estimate within seconds. Or you can opt for one of US Mobile’s unlimited plans starting at $35 a month.
Once you choose your plan, order a SIM card. If you’re a student, it’s free; otherwise, it’s a $3.99 one-time fee with the starter kit. If at any point you decide you need more or less data, you can adjust accordingly through the US Mobile dashboard.
Plus: US Mobile operates on two of the largest cellular LTE networks — T-Mobile and Verizon (heard of them?) — and covers more than 320 million Americans.
Bonus: Earn Rewards When You Go Shopping
The best kind of savings are the kind where you earn seamlessly. That’s what makes the Drop app so appealing.
As a Drop user, all you have to do is link your credit and debit cards. When you complete an offer on Drop, you’ll automatically earn points, whether you’re shopping at Walmart, hailing an Uber or ordering a pizza.
The points will add up, and you can exchange them for gift cards to popular retailers like Amazon and Starbucks.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.