Yep, it’s possible to save money on your bills. Most of us just accept that we’ve gotta pay what we pay, and that’s that. But with a little legwork and maybe a phone call or two, it’s easy enough to get discounts on your car insurance, electricity, smartphone plan, and so on.
I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and create a detailed guide. So here ya go–a big list of ways to save money on your basic bills.
Saving on Utilities & Electricity
1. Beware Energy Tiers
Watch out for tiered pricing. After a certain amount of energy usage, some electric providers increase your cost-per-kilowatt. For example, the first 1,000 kWh you use might be priced at 0.14¢. But your provider might charge 0.18¢ for any kilowatts beyond that amount. Basically, you may be paying a higher rate to use more energy. Check out your bill to see if your provider uses tiered pricing, find out what your thresholds are, and try to stay in the first tier.
2. Lock in a Low Rate for Summer and Winter
If you live in an area where you can choose electric providers, you probably have access to fixed and variable rates. Fixed rates are usually a little higher, but you lock in the price. Variable rates are lower, but the company can hike them up whenever they want. And when do they hike most? During peak seasons, when people are using the most energy, of course. A BBB rep says you can save on electricity by locking in a slightly higher fixed rate right before summer or winter–peak seasons. This way, you don’t have to worry about your rate jumping when you use more energy.
3. Learn Which Appliances Draw the Most Energy
Find out which appliances and devices in your home use the most energy. Then, focus your energy-saving on those devices. Kill-a-Watt is a tool that helps you save on electricity. You can borrow them from some libraries and energy companies. You plug the tool into an appliance, and it tells you how much energy (and money) that appliance is costing you. For example, you might not realize it, but these devices suck a lot of energy:
• Cable box
• Plugged-in laptop
• Desktop computer
• Computer display
4. Be Energy Efficient
Obviously, being energy efficient is going to help you save on electricity. Most people know using CFL bulbs and replacing old appliances can cut costs. But here are a few other options:
• Invest in a smart power strip, which automatically turns off your stuff
• Regularly change air conditioner filters and heater filters
• Invest in a programmable thermostat
• Run full loads of laundry and dishes
• Set your water heater at the lowest setting that’s still comfortable
• Use humidifiers in the winter. It makes the room feel warmer.
5. Run Appliances During Off-Peak Times
There are certain times of day when everyone uses a lot of energy. Those are called peak times, and some electricity providers actually have special “peaker plants” for electricity run during these times. These plants are usually less efficient and more expensive to operate. And, obviously, they’re going to pass that cost onto you. The point? Some electric providers offer cheaper rates for energy used during non-peak times. Here’s a chart of off-peak hours to help you save on electricity:
Saving on Cellphone Plans
1. Switch to a Discount Carrier
These days, there are so many discount carriers available, it’s hard to understand why anyone pays $50 for a cellphone plan. You can have a great phone, great reception and great service and pay as low as $25 a month. Republic Wireless and Ting are probably the most popular options, but there are a lot of others out there.
WhistleOut is a website that helps you compare discount plans, based on the type of phone you want and how much data and minutes you use.
2. Use WiFi
Most smartphones offer a WiFi option that lets you make phone calls and download data using a wireless internet connection. This means using less of the phone company’s data. This means you pay less.
3. Reduce Your Data Usage
Use less data; pay for less data. Here are a few tips:
• Turn off background data in your phone settings
• Only update your phone apps on WiFi
• Use a data compression app like Onavo
4. Use Corporate and AAA Discounts
If you work for a big company, your cellphone company might offer a corporate discount. Check with your employer or service provider.
AAA members can get 10% off their T-Mobile or Sprint bill. Call T-Mobile to get the discount. If you’re a Sprint customer, apply for your discount here.
Some providers will work with you if you call and ask for a lower rate. See if they have any special offers for new customers, then call and tell them you want that offer, too. It also helps to check competitor rates.
Saving on TV & Internet
1. Get Rid of Cable
Want to save money on cable? Get rid of cable! More and more people are cutting the cord. And why not–it’s so easy. There are lots of services and devices that let you watch what you want for much less than cable.
• Google Chromecast displays music, Netflix, Hulu–pretty much any TV app–straight to your television. You can even display your web browser, if you use Chrome. You control it with your device (iPad, smartphone, desktop, etc.).
• Roku does the same thing, but it doesn’t cast anything. The apps are built right into the device, and it comes with a remote control.
You can also find movies and TV series at your local library. Some TV networks also offer programs on their free apps. There are even websites, like Nick Reboot, that stream old TV shows 24/7. You’ve got a lot of possibilities, but basically, it comes down to deciding on your services, picking a device for streaming those services, and raking in the cash.
If you can’t bring yourself to cut the cord, there’s another way to save money on cable: ask for a lower rate.
There’s usually room for negotiating with your cable or Internet company. Check competitor prices, ask for new customer rates. These companies are usually willing to work with you to keep your business. And if you don’t feel like negotiating, there’s a cool company called BillCutterz that’ll do the work for you. They only charge you if they save you money.
3. Buy Your Own Modem
If you check out your Internet bill, chances are you’ve got a recurring monthly charge for your modem. Yep, a lot of service providers actually charge a rental fee for using their modem. You can get around this by buying your own modem, and sending theirs back to them. Of course, you’ll want to call and ask what the protocol is for doing this. You may need to buy a specific high-speed modem or one with a built-in router.
4. Share WiFi
You can opt to split Internet costs with a neighbor and share a WiFi network. This might get frustrating if you both have a bunch of devices using WiFi. But the savings could be worth it for you.
5. Switch Providers
Use a service like Billshrink to compare prices between TV and Internet providers. It takes a look at what you pay and what kind of services you have and tells you if there are cheaper options.
Saving on Car Insurance
1. Pay Your Premium Upfront
Here’s a quick and easy way to save money on car insurance: pay your premium in full, upfront. Most companies charge a service fee if you pay your car insurance monthly. Pay upfront, and cut that fee immediately.
2. Combine Policies
If you have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, ask your provider if they offer a multi-policy discount. Chances are, buying one policy will get you a discount on the other.
They might also offer a discount for multiple vehicles. So if you live with a spouse or partner, consider combining your plans. This way, you both save money on car insurance.
3. Shop Around & Avoid Being “PO’ed”
It’s a pretty sneaky trick, but some insurance companies “price optimize” their customers. If they don’t think you’ll shop around, they’ll hike your price. To combat this, well, shop around. Call a few other carriers, get quotes.
Drive less; lower your rate. You may be able to get a lower premium by using your car less. Consider carpooling to cut your drive time.
5. Get a Tracking Device
Not everyone’s a fan, but some companies offer devices that track your driving behavior. Agree to install one of these in your car, and you could potentially get a lower rate.
6. Install Safety Features
Your insurance company might give you a discount for installing certain safety features, like an anti-theft device. Give them a call and see what features will qualify you for savings.
7. Take a Defensive Driving Class
It’s an old school method, but one that’s often overlooked. A defensive driving class could help you save money on car insurance. Don’t feel like getting up at 8am on a Saturday and putting on pants? Opt for an online defensive driving class. No pants required!
Saving on Homeowners Insurance & Renters Insurance
1. Report upgrades
Certain home upgrades can qualify you for discounts on your insurance premium, and others can raise your premium. Find out which upgrades can help you save on insurance, and upgrade accordingly. A new roof, for example, might be discount-friendly.
2. Combine Policies
Again, you may be able to get a multi-policy discount by combining with your auto insurance. File this under “it can’t hurt to ask.”
3. Install Safety Features
Smoke detectors might be able to save you on homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. (Plus, they’ll tell you if your home’s on fire, which is always good.) Other safety features that can help you save on insurance? Burglar alarms, deadbolts, fire extinguishers.
Saving on Health Insurance & Life Insurance
1. Lock in a Low Rate on Life Insurance
Life insurance is a lot cheaper when you’re young and healthy. So if you can find a low life insurance rate in your twenties and sick with the plan, it’ll probably save you in the long-run.
2. Consider an FSA or HSA
If your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) , you might want to take advantage of it. The money in your FSA can only be used for medical expenses, but you’ll save on taxes. Your contributions–the money you put in the account–are tax-deductible. The only caveat is, you have to use the money at the end of each year or you lose it.
Health Savings Accounts offer similar tax savings. And if you don’t use the money by the end of the year, that’s fine. Because it’s also a retirement savings account. You can read more about both of these types of accounts here.
Saving on Credit Cards
Getting out of debt is a whole other animal, but if you’re having trouble paying your monthly credit card bill, here are some options.
1. Negotiate a Lower APR
Sometimes, it’s as easy as asking. Creditcards.com offers a script for negotiating a lower rate. They had me try it out, and I found it worked like a charm. Another credit card user didn’t have the same luck, so it’s hit or miss, but worth trying.
2. Ask for a Different Repayment Option
If you’re having trouble paying your bill, call your credit card issuer. They might be willing to help you out with a smaller monthly payment. You don’t want to stay in debt, but contacting them can help you avoid late fees and penalties.
3. Use a Peer-to-Peer Lending Service
There have been a lot of these popping up lately–Lending Club, for example. They offer loans for lower rates, and many borrowers use these loans to pay off credit card debt. It falls under the “rob Peter to pay Paul” cliche, but it’s an option, just like balance transfers. Just be warned: it’s not without risk, and you should research your options thoroughly before deciding to go this route.
Project CRediT sources data from Wealthy Genius including net worth, earnings, and various wealth statistics.