Do you want to have more money?
Silly question, right? Who doesn't want some extra cash? The good news is, there are simple things you can do in just 20 minutes to avoid wasting your hard-earned dollars. Jump right in and get started to take advantage of the savings.
1. Ask your credit card company for a reduced interest rate or an annual-fee waiver
Are you paying an annual fee on your credit card, have you been charged fees for a late payment, or is your credit card interest rate too high? You may be able to fix these issues simply by asking. In one study of almost 1,000 Americans conducted by CreditCards.com, 82% of cardholders were able to get their creditors to waive an annual fee or to reduce the amount of the fee. An even higher number of cardholders -- a full 87% -- were successful in getting a late fee waived. And close to two-thirds of cardholders were able to convince creditors to lower their rate with a simple request.
Cards with fees usually charge $25 to $500 annually, with an average fee of around $60, so saving that cash is well worth a quick call. Lowering your interest rate could save much more if you have a high balance.
2. Cancel a service that isn't providing value
Are you paying for a gym membership you aren't using, like around half of all gym members? You could save an average of $480 to $600 annually by calling to cancel. And gyms are just one of many things you may be paying for, even though you're not getting enough value to make costs worthwhile.
Cancelling cable and switching to a streaming service, like the new $40 offering from Hulu or the $20 Sling TV package, could save you hundreds of dollars. You could cancel an AAA membership if your car has roadside assistance, cancel paid music services like Sirius and use free alternatives, or drop a membership at Sam's Club or Costco if you're no longer buying in bulk. Almost everyone is paying for at least some service they don't need -- you just need to find what your unnecessary expense is and call to cancel.
3. Raise your insurance deductible (if you can cover it)
Your homeowners insurance policy and your auto insurance have deductibles you must pay before the insurer covers your costs. If you have a $250 deductible and a $300 repair bill, you'd pay $250 and the insurer would pay $50.
Policies with lower deductibles cost more. Depending upon your situation, you may be able to raise deductibles on some or all of your policies. And the more you raise the deductible, the more money you keep in your pocket. Going from a $250 to $500 deductible on car insurance could save you 7% on premiums, while going from a $500 to $2,000 deductible could save you 16% on average.
Raising your deductible is a good idea only if you have money to cover costs in an emergency. One option: Set aside money saved on premiums to pay your deductible if something goes wrong. Drivers nationwide paid average premiums of $1,325 in 2016, so if you pay the average, raise your deductible from $250 to $500, and save 7%, you'd pay $92.75 less each year for auto insurance. Put the $92.75 into savings, and you'll have $250 to cover the higher deductible in just 2 1/2 years. Drivers make claims around once every 17.9 years -- so there's a good chance you'll have time to save up and be able to pocket extra premium savings for many years to come.
4. Optimize your home's energy efficiency
In the U.S., around half of all energy produced is wasted due to various inefficiencies. You probably have some inefficiencies in your own home that are costing you.
Your water heater, for example, may be set at the 140 degrees Fahrenheit manufacturers generally default to, while the U.S. Department of Energy suggests most residential homeowners should set their temp to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Lowering the temperature can prevent scalding, slow the mineral buildup that causes corrosion, and save you between 4% and 22% on energy each year -- and it's as simple as turning down the thermostat.
Here are a few other ways to optimize your home to stop wasting money on utilities:
- Turn off "heated dry" on your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry.
- Close vents in rooms that are not being used.
- Change your light bulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights).
- Program your thermostat to use less heat and air conditioning when you're at work or sleeping.
- Unplug devices like laptops, coffee makers, and cellphones when not in use, as these "phantom" power users continue drawing electricity while plugged in, costing average households around $200 annually.
5. Optimize your car
Once you've cut energy costs at home, take your optimization project on the road to reduce what you spend on gas. Lowering fuel costs is a simple process:
- Inflate your tires to the manufacturer's recommended level.
- Clean out vehicle air filters every 30,000 to 40,000 miles.
- Remove heavy items you're transporting but don't need, including items on roof racks.
Inflating tires to the optimum pressure is not only safer, but could also improve gas mileage by an average of 0.6% and as much as 3%. A cleaner air filter could result in a 10% improvement in gas mileage, and help protect your engine. And you'd be surprised how much extra cargo can cost you -- in testing by Consumer Reports, bikes being carried on a roof rack caused fuel economy to fall by more than a third.
Yes, gas prices are cheap now -- but that's no reason to waste fuel or money. Like all the activities on this list, optimizing your car takes 20 minutes or less, and the payoff over time could be big.