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When it comes to saving money, there are two main theories. One pushes for cutting back on the little things –occasional lattes, sodas, and snacks are the usual targets—while the other aims for bigger savings. If you’re looking to improve your budget, the simple truth is that big changes to your budget usually make a much bigger impact on your bottom line.
Depending upon the specifics, one or two changes can drastically improve your budget in ways that leaving Starbucks behind could never match.
Of course, reducing your spending in multiple areas is not always easy.
But what if making a few changes could free up $100, $200, or even $500 and help you improve your budget? What if this could jump start your debt pay off journey, allow you to build an emergency fund, or open an IRA?
For most people, this would make all of the sacrifices easier – and well worth it!
Check out the following 7 tips to improve your budget –and free up significant cash room –in a hurry.
1. Cancel Unused or Underused Subscriptions
The odds are high that you have multiple recurring subscription services that go unused each month. Like me, you may be paying for a weekend newspaper that you rarely read. Or you might be paying for overlapping services like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Netflix without even realizing it. And don’t forget the all-too-common underutilized gym membership that could be costing you $50-100 per month.
I will be the first to admit that taking the time to cancel unused or underutilized services is pretty low on my priority list. Who wants to sit on hold, navigate intentionally misleading online account portals, or drive to the gym to cancel your services?
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
When I have canceled services in the past, I chose to look at the freed up money as a monthly raise in my budget. Writing down just how much you can improve your budget may be the motivation you need to take action –even if you’re extremely busy like me.
Another alternative is to let Trim do the heavy lifting for you. Their service is free, easy to use, and works on your behalf to cancel subscription services of your choice in a matter of minutes. It can even help you negotiate better rates on services you wish to keep.
2. Cut the Cord on Cable and Satellite
I know what you’re thinking: if I cut cable or satellite, where will I send $200 of my hard-earned money every month? (sarcasm)
Sure, I get it: rolling with over the air HD programming, Hulu, and Netflix isn’t for everyone.
And don’t expect me, a major sports fan, to cut the cord any time soon. But cutting out expensive TV services is one of the biggest wins available to improve your budget.
Live TV junkies who like to keep up with current shows can do so at a fraction of the cost by signing up for Hulu. You can watch your shows on your computer, phone, tablet, or even on your TV when you stream the service through a Roku or Apple TV.
And a Slingbox 500 can help you keep up with all of your teams without monthly subscription costs.
3. Get Better Rates On Your Insurance Policies
If you’re like the average person, you probably set your auto and homeowners/renters insurance policies in place years ago and promptly forgot about them.
Sure, your policies are getting the job done by protecting you from catastrophic loss. But the truth is your insurance policy providers may be profiting more than they would if you took the time to review your policies and update them to reflect your current needs and circumstances.
When it comes to auto insurance, it certainly pays to review your policies for coverage which may exceed your needs based upon the age of your vehicles. If you have a sizable emergency fund, for example, you may be able to self-insure to the extent that you are comfortable and significantly raise your deductible to improve your budget. This is an especially smart move if you currently own an aging vehicle with high mileage.
Start by talking with your current provider and have an open conversation about your desire to reduce your current rates. You may qualify for “special” discounts or customer loyalty programs. It may also pay to check out rates from Esurance and AllState to compare quotes. Sometimes these quotes may even give you leverage to negotiate with your current provider.
4. Refinance Your Student Loans
For years, student loan payments occupied a huge percentage of my budget, and it killed my ability to build wealth at a time when the stock market was at rock bottom and poised to rise. A little over a year ago, my wife and I decided we’d had enough and paid off nearly $18,000 of student loan debt in under 2 months.
If you can do that and wipe out your payments, that’s great! But if not, it can’t hurt to look into your options to refinance your student loan debt and reduce your interest rates and possibly your loan term.
Taking a look at your options won’t damage your credit, and there is ZERO obligation.
I recommend checking out Purefy to compare options with their selection of several different lenders. Their Find My Rate tool will ask you 5 easy questions to help you calculate estimated interest rates, monthly payment amounts, and lifetime interest savings before you even complete a credit check.
5. and 6. Take Advantage of Savings Opportunities on Your Normal Spending
If you’re not already in the habit of using simple phone apps to save money and earn cash back on the purchases you normally make, you’re really going to love the difference that two programs can have on your monthly budget.
When it comes to saving money and earning cash back on your purchases, especially groceries, Ibotta is the king for a reason: you can earn cash back from over 340 supported stores, including Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and most likely your local/regional stores.
How does Ibotta work? Simply sign-up, download the app, find rebates before you shop, go shopping, and redeem your rebates by snapping a photo of your receipt within the mobile app. Ibotta will match the items you bought to the rebates you selected and deposit the cash back into your Ibotta account within 48 hours.
A cool newer feature of Ibotta is the ability to pair it with other top apps, like Hotels.com, Booking.com, Groupon, and iTunes. In some scenarios, you could earn cash back on almost all of your consumer spending!
My favorite part of using Ibotta is that 100% of my earnings, including those that I earn from referring other new users (you can earn a $5 bonus for each new friend you refer, and they receive a $10 welcome bonus when they sign-up), can be transferred to PayPal or Venmo once I reach a $20 account balance. If you don’t use these PayPal or Venmo, you can also convert your cash back into gift cards.
While Ibotta is the king of cash back on groceries, Ebates offers some of the best coupons, promos, and cash back on purchases at countless online retailers like Amazon, Ebay, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Walmart, Groupon, JCPenney, Apple.com, Banana Republic, and many others (include link to list of retailers). The best part? Many retailers offer savings of up to 40%.
The process is easy: simply sign-up, shop your favorite stores through Ebates, earn cash back on your purchases, and receive your earnings through check or PayPal. You can even earn cash bonuses of up to $50 when you refer friends, family, and coworkers.
7. Automate Your Savings
If this sounds simple, it’s because it is: you can’t spend money that you don’t have in your account. A simple way improve your budget is to automate your saving activity to avoid keeping excess cash in your accounts.
Since early 2016, my wife and I have used Digit as our automatic savings assistant. We set-up parameters to allow Digit to make regular transfers from our checking account to our Digit savings account. Some days, Digit may save $1-2 for us, and other days it may save up to $15.
Transfers are also based upon Digit’s knowledge of our spending patterns. This means we don’t have to worry about Digit saving too much money and causing bounced checks.
Here’s a look at how we’ve used Digit to our advantage in the past few years:
- We’ve transferred money from Digit back into our checking account to avoid tapping into our emergency fund
- We’ve paused our savings when other needs and opportunities arose.
- And we’ve even let our Digit savings grow large enough to pay for a vacation to Las Vegas.
- We always think twice before making unnecessary purchases which could drain our checking account balance.
Digit was once free to use, but it now costs $2.99 per month. However, you can try it FREE for 100 days and cancel if you’re unsatisfied with the service. Full disclosure: I still use it myself and gladly pay such a small fee to make sure I’m saving money.
And unlike other free automated savings apps, Digit passes on Savings Bonuses to its users rather than keeping the earnings for themselves, which may bring down or even eliminate the monthly service fee.Sign-up for your 100 day Digit trial here.
If you’re serious about improving your budget, the above recommendations can help move the needle in far bigger ways than simply cutting back a bit on lattes and sodas. The truth is that big moves like those mentioned above have the biggest impact upon your budget. Implement a few steps today and watch how quickly they improve your budget!