12 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 Fiona, a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. If your credit score is at least 620, its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 3.84% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Modernize Your Home Insurance

It’s OK to feel protective over your home; you worked hard to purchase it.

That’s why you need homeowners insurance — to ease your mind, at least a little. But navigating policies can be difficult, and plans can be pricy.

The good news is your options are shifting, and it’s easier to find the best coverage — with the best price tag — for you.

A company called Hippo gives you accurate and free quotes online in about 60 seconds. It saves customers hundreds of dollars a year, because it automates the process and passes the money saved along to you.

Plus Hippo will help cancel your existing insurance policy at no extra cost and automatically switch you over to your shiny new plan.

Heads up: Hippo is available in Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin, and plans to offer coverage to 60% of U.S. homeowners by the end of 2018.

5. Avoid $360 in Bank Fees Every Year

When’s the last time you were slapped with a bank fee?

Maybe you didn’t maintain that insanely high minimum balance, or you accidentally overdrafted by 99 cents, Or you might’ve used an out-of-network ATM out of desperation.

Big banks make big bucks off these fees. Looking at overdraft fees alone, banks collected $6.4 billion from Americans in 2016, according to a CNN analysis.

Bottom line: We’re losing a lot of money in fees.

And if you’re a moderately frequent overdrafter (defined by the CFPB as someone who overdrafts once a month), then you’re handing over $360 in fees each year.

The good news is that there are some very nice accounts out there that won’t charge you overdraft fees — or nearly any fees for that matter — like Aspiration.

The Aspiration Account is an online-only account with no monthly fees, no minimums and pays 2% APY. Yep! Instead of getting charged fees, you can actually earn money with this account.

6. Share What’s in Your Fridge

Remember the Nielsen company? The one that’s always tracked TV ratings? Well, now it wants to know what’s in your fridge.

Once you sign up to be on the Nielsen Consumer Panel, you can either use your smartphone, or the company will send you a free barcode scanner. Every time you go shopping, you simply scan the UPC codes on the back of each product and send your data to Nielsen.

Nielsen will reward you with gift points, which you can redeem for free electronics, jewelry, household items or even toys for the kids.

The longer you stay on the panel, the more opportunity you have to earn points toward prizes. You’ll also receive entries for the panel’s many sweepstakes. Prizes include vacations and brand new vehicles.

7. Negotiate Your Credit Card Interest

We’ve heard of people negotiating their cable/internet bill, their cell phone bill and even their rent — but what about debt?

Did you know you can call your credit card company and attempt to haggle your interest rates down? This would allow you to put more money toward the sum that’s actually owed — and could save you thousands in the long run (without refinancing!).

If you don’t feel like sitting on hold and playing hardball, leave it to an expert negotiator.

Trim is a personal finance assistant that offers a debt-payoff service. One of its features? Your very own debt negotiator. Yup — you’ll hop on a three-way call with the negotiator and your credit card company to see if you can cut down those crazy interest rates.

How much you’ll save will depend on the credit card company and your credit, but Trim says it saves clients an average of $1,169 in annual interest.

The payoff service costs $10 a month and also includes a customized payoff plan, personalized advice and a debt coach. There’s a 90-day money-back guarantee, so if you’re not happy, you can always request a refund.

If you’ve tried everything you can, it just might be time to call in reinforcements.reporting earning $100 and $200 back. Nice!

8. 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.

Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

9. Break up With Your Expensive Cell Phone Provider

Your phone buzzes. It’s your cell phone provider, which might text you more often than some of your friends.

“90% of your data plan has been used,” it kindly informs you. “We’ll add 1GB of shared data to your plan for $15.”

How nice. Just go ahead and add that to my already-enormous cell phone bill.

If you’re sick of of paying your cell phone carrier hundreds of dollars each month, look beyond the so-called Big Four and into the discount carrier Twigby.

That’s what Zak Wilson did. He’d been paying Verizon Wireless about $180 a month for two lines. So he tried Twigby. For both phones, he’s now paying $60 a month.

Plus, new customers get 25% off the first 6 months of service.

10. 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.

11. 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, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

12. Get a Free Assistant to Negotiate Your Bills

On the phone with your cell phone or internet provider, trying to haggle a lower monthly bill?

Go ahead and hang up. (We know you’re probably listening to crappy music while sitting on hold, anyway.)

Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.

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 says it helps customers save more than $700 a year by lowering their bills, canceling necessary subscriptions and getting refunds.

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.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.