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The Nitty Gritty

Simple Steps to Cut Costs

Spending less takes more than making your coffee at home. Whether you are earning less or want to save more, you can help your cause by taking a closer look at where your money goes. Here are some good places to start your search:

Food

Think of this break from dine-in restaurants as an opportunity to spend less on meals. Food prepared at home can cost a lot less than eating at restaurants. The key to saving on those homecooked meals is to create a menu. Use your menu to create a list of food items you’ll need and cut down on impulse buys that don’t always get eaten. Of course, avoid the rookie move of shopping on an empty stomach, which is a surefire way to buy more. Make sure to look for coupons, check out sales and sign up for store discount programs to really maximize your savings. 

Entertainment

If you’re like most people, you may watch movies on cable, in the theater and via a streaming service. While expensive movie theater tickets aren’t an option right now, don’t stop there and miss this opportunity to explore other methods of watching movies for less. Did you know that most libraries stream free movies to their customers?  Search for “Free Movies” and you’ll find several legal ways to access movies at no cost. Open Culture, Vudu and Popcornflix are just a few examples. And sometimes more services just cost you more. So, if you have both Netflix and premium movie channels, it may be time to pick just one.

Phone plans

When was the last time you called your phone company and asked them to review your plan? Based on your usage, could you be on a less expensive plan? You might be paying for more than you actually need.

Do you have both a landline and a mobile phone? If so, when was the last time you received a call on that landline that was not from a telemarketer? 

Gym

Figuring out how to stay fit at home could be just what you need to break up with your gym membership.  There are lots of free options to explore online. At the very least, this break will help you decide what you really need at the gym and look for a cheaper alternative. 

Shopping as a distraction

With nowhere to go and not a lot of live programming to watch on TV, avoid the temptation to spend your day shopping on the internet. How many times has “I won’t buy anything, I’ll just browse” lead to an impulse purchase? Eliminate leisure shopping. You may even want to consider suspending your premium shopping services like Amazon Prime. 

Gas

Many companies are now having their employees work from home. This can save you money at the pump. However, if you are still required to drive to work or needing to run errands, you may want to ask yourself these questions. Can you combine your errands into fewer trips? If your family has multiple vehicles, are you using the one that is most fuel efficient? When you need to fill up, be sure to check websites such as “Gasbuddy” to find the most competitive prices near you. 

Insurance

With the ease of using the Internet to compare rates, the insurance business is much more competitive than ever. Shop around for the best deals on any type of insurance you have—auto, home, life, etc. Check into bundling these with one company to save even more. How is your credit score? This might affect the cost of certain insurances.  Also be sure to ask about discounts you might apply for, and the option of raising your deductible in exchange for a lower monthly payment. If you aren’t sure where to start, Ardent Insurance Agency can do the shopping for you. They’ll compare prices from more than 40 insurers to find you the best price for coverage you need.

Utilities

You can impact your monthly utility bills more than you think just by conserving usage where you can and avoiding waste. Make a habit of unplugging anything not in use. Fix the dripping faucet that adds to your bill. And take advantage of the free stuff, like natural light during the day.

Habitual items

When you have a comfortable financial situation, it’s easy to buy coffee, cigarettes, alcohol and convenience store snacks without thinking too much about it. But in these tighter times, ask yourself about what you are really getting out of these purchases and if they are truly necessary. With everything you buy, ask yourself is this a want or a need? For every want, ask yourself why you want it. The answer had better be good to make the purchase.

Taxes

Do you get a big income tax refund every spring? If so, you probably have more money taken out of each of your paychecks than is necessary. Stop giving the government an interest free loan and put more money in your pocket now by adjusting what you withhold. Use the IRS withholding calculator to determine the appropriate amount to have withheld from each paycheck.

Refinancing

When was the last time you looked at the rate you are paying on the loans you already have? With the extra time you may have right now, take a few minutes to see how the rates compare to what’s being offered currently. Rates are at some of their lowest levels in years. This can be a great opportunity to either lower your monthly payment, pay your loan off sooner or both.

You’ve probably thought about refinancing your mortgage and student loans, but did know you can refinance your car loan, as well?  Consolidating debt from a bunch of different lenders into one loan payment is also something to consider. You can see Ardent’s rates by visiting ardentcu.org/Resources/Rates

Individually, one of this cost-cutting measures may not solve all your cash flow issues. However, collectively they can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per month.