Saving money doesn’t have to look like an episode of Extreme Couponing. No need to collect circulars and run all over town to secure the best deals.
Want to get maximum savings with minimal effort? Think beyond your coupon binder, DIY projects and bulk buys. With these five strategies, you can uncover savings with significant impact, all from the comfort of your coach.
1. Check your credit score for any errors
Maintaining good credit can make many of your essential expenses significantly cheaper: Cell phone bills, car insurance premiums, even the interest rate on your mortgage.
Keep your credit in check by paying your bills on time, keeping your credit usage low and checking all three of your credit reports regularly. You can do this at annualcreditreport.com, which you can use for free once a year. If you see something that looks like an error—examples include incorrect or outdated personal information, incorrect account information or lines of credit you never opened—contact the appropriate credit agency immediately to file a dispute and have the error removed. Then, go back to your lenders and service providers with your new and improved credit score to negotiate a better rate.
This is key because a 2013 Fair Trade Commission study found that 5% of consumers had errors on one of their credit reports. Left unchecked, these errors can be costly, saddling you with a lower credit score and, as a result, higher rates on many of your recurring bills.
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2. Refinance your student loans
Speaking of negotiating a better rate, refinancing your student loans is another way to enjoy long-terms savings without leaving home. Like with any debt, the goal of refinancing your student loans is to get the lowest interest rate possible. Depending on your current rate and how much debt you have, the potential for savings is substantial. Refinancing startups like CommonBond, SoFi and Earnest offer simple, streamlined online platforms, giving you a new interest rate estimate within a matter of minutes—minutes that can potentially save you thousands.
3. Review your spending
If you’re already debt-free and your credit is in top form, you’re in good shape. But you can undoubtedly still stand to save by reviewing your spending.
Pull up your latest credit card statements or favorite expense-tracking software, and look through your purchases from the last few months. Separate each expense into one of four categories: Keep, cut, reduce or renegotiate.
This simple process of reviewing your spending can generate renewed mindfulness around your finances and inspire changes that bring your spending into alignment with your goals and values, often increasing savings.
If, for example, you find yourself with a $100 charge for cable each month and know that you’ve become a full Netflix convert, you can call up your cable provider right then and there and get rid of that bill for good.
4. Try to renegotiate your recurring bills
If you find yourself with recurring expenses that you don’t want to or can’t cut out, spend some time considering alternatives for savings.
Your cable provider, for example, may be able to give you a better rate in place of canceling your service entirely—and the same goes for your cell phone bill or gym membership. If negotiations aren’t working in your favor, try comparison shopping online. A few Google searches and follow-up phone calls can get you saving for months to come.
5. Set up automatic transfers
All of these savings techniques won’t do you much good if your newfound cash surplus never makes it into your savings account.
Having reviewed your spending, you should have a solid sense of how your total monthly expenses compare to your income—and how much you can afford to set aside. Take a few minutes to set up an automatic transfer of this amount from your checking into your savings account, scheduled for the start of every month. By setting up this system of paying yourself first, you help ensure that your diligent cost cutting actually manifests in increased savings.