Save and Invest

Five No Effort Ways to Save Money

Are you looking for some quick cash?

Who wouldn’t like a little more wiggle room in their budget? A lot has been written about subscription boxes, morning lattes, and ditching cable to save money. However, cable bills and coffee shops are not where most Americans waste the majority of their money. The biggest budget-busting bullies are debt, taxes, and insurances.

We are huge fans of reducing entertainment costs by watching movies for free online, picking up free gift cards, or even downloading free music apps, However, if you need more room in your budget you going to have to face the meanest bullies head-on.

Following these quick tips can save you hundreds of dollars a month, and over a year could be worth a few thousand dollars in extra savings.

Five Ways to Save Money

1. Review Your Health Insurance

Review your employer-sponsored health insurance; many employers offer a menu of options to their employees. However, recent research suggests that employee tend to pick the more costly options, even if the plan doesn’t provide any additional benefit over a lower-cost alternative. In fact, according to research, many employees pay up to 40% more than necessary.

Many employees are unfamiliar with the benefits their employers offer and may be missing out on valuable incentives like funding their Health Savings Account (HSA). It can pay to sit down with the individuals at Human Resources and ask them to explain the benefits.

Most employer-sponsored plans will have a representative that services the account, and they should be able to answer questions. Should you need more help than that, it could make sense to talk with an outside financial advisor.

2. Shop for Property and Casualty Insurance

Review your home, auto, and umbrella insurance policy and periodically review your coverage. Comparison shopping competitors can save you a ton of money.

I know spending an afternoon on the phone calling around to all the companies does not sound like a lot of fun. However, saving up to a $100 a month can take the sting out of the time you spent. Additionally, there are several websites and brokers online that can run multiple quotes from competing companies to help you find the best deal.

Do you have a couple speeding tickets on your record? You may have decided to pay the fine instead of taking the day off from work and fighting the ticket. That ticket (or two, don’t worry, I am not judging) might be driving up your insurance premiums. Many times, you can appeal the ticket and negotiate a non-moving violation to clean up your record. Also, ask your insurer if they offer discounts for taking safe driving courses.

Some insurance companies base your rates in part on credit rating. If you have been cleaning up or establishing your credit and have seen a nice improvement, call your insurer and ask if they can lower your rate.

Never hurts to ask!

Tip: Ask the Insurance broker if the company offers discounts based on alumni associations, professional/trade groups, or club affiliation. Being a member of a group could save you 10 percent or more, and if you not already a member, it could pay to become one.

Drive Like a Granny

Ask your insurance company if they offer a driving monitor or tracking program.  Many insurers are offering tracking devices with giving you a 5% to 10% discount just for taking the device for a spin. It may seem a bit Orwellian to have the insurance company monitoring you driving, and the devices can pay big dividends.

First, if you brake gradually, and accelerate slowly, your insurance may reward you with even more safe driving savings.

Secondly, slowing down and driving less aggressively can save you some serious coin.

While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.18 per gallon for gas. – FuelEconomy.Gov

Wake up 5 minutes earlier so you can go a little slower.  The time it costs you will be more than worth it with the savings it brings.

3. Reduce Life Insurance Costs

You should periodically review your life insurance policies. Maybe you picked up coverage when the kids were younger, and you no longer need the coverage. Did you lose weight or quit smoking? Often an insurer will change the rating status of a life insurance policy if the insured has given up smoking for more than two years or if their health has improved.

Once a year, you should call your insurance company and ask for an enforce policy illustration. This illustration will model out how the policy is performing. You should use this information to compare the policy with offerings from other insurance companies to see if there are lower costs options or plans with better benefits.

Tip: If you decide to apply for a new insurance policy and the company orders a psychical or blood tests, ask that you be sent a copy of the results and keep them with your medical records.

4. Fix Your Credit

Savers should review their credit and fix any inaccuracies. If you have negative information on your report such as missed payments, ask the lenders if they would consider a good faith removal of the offending remark. If you’re successful in improving your credit rating, go back to your lenders and ask if they will refinance your debt at lower rates. Remember, the goal is to save money, try not to add to the balances or extend the term.

You will see some guides online about how to request a good faith removal on your credit report. There are plenty of sample letters online.  However, try to avoid the temptation to use a boilerplate form. The best course of action is to write a personal message. Explain why your payment was late, why it is essential to for you to improve your credit, and what steps you’re taking to ensure you won’t be late again in the future (hopefully).

5. Deal With The Real Bullies

A pet peeve of mine is the tired cliché that the only thing standing between people and financial success is their addiction to morning lattes. Sure, frivolous lattes can wreck a budget. However, a bigger budget-busting bully is looking to steal our lunch money; the IRS.

Do not give up your morning coffee before reviewing your income taxes. Taxes can consume 20 percent or more of your income; I doubt anyone spends that much on coffee. An hour or two planning on taxes can save you thousands. Unfortunately, everyone waits until tax season (end of January to April 15th) to think about taxes. I can’t blame them: taxes are not fun.

Savers should look ahead, to any tax credit or break they expect to use in the upcoming year and determine what is necessary to qualify and plan. You don’t want to find you missed the deadline to fund your 401k and therefore missed qualifying for the saver’s credit by a few dollars. Remember if you are buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act the amount of your premium tax credit is based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) planning could not only save you in taxes it could reduce health care costs.

Note. Every year during tax time, I see a news article about whether or not you should pay your taxes on a credit card, or what to do if you can’t pay your taxes. Don’t let that be you. Plan ahead.

Now is a perfect time to plan for your 2019 taxes. You should estimate your expected income, and look to see if you will owe money in taxes. With just over seven months left in the year, there is plenty of time left to budget and/or take corrective action.

Finding Quick Cash

There are a lot of ways to free up some quick cash in your budget. Cutting expenses and frugality can be helpful. However, costs can only be cut so much. Once you have exhausted all the quick ways to free up some money, it may sense to look at ways to boost your income or launch as a side business.

By Michael Dinich

Michael blogs at Your Money Geek where he shares his experience, unique insights, and profiles inspirational success stories. When he is not writing about personal finance Michael can be found enjoying a sci-fi book.

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