This is a guest post from Empower, the FREE savings app. They’ve help more than 250,000 users get out of paycheck-to-paycheck living and even build a savings by analyzing their accounts for opportunities to save. They’ve dug into their strove of data to tell you where you may be leaving money on the table. Enjoy!
Raise your hand if you’re tired of reading articles about saving money. Why is it that these articles can be so frustrating — but we can’t help but click when we see the headline?
So much content falls short, more often telling us to do extreme things like selling our plasma than helping us find everyday savings opportunities. It doesn’t always seem like the need to save is being taken seriously by those offering tips.
But between student loans, a rising cost of living, and pay that doesn’t seem to increase as quickly as our work hours, the squeeze is very serious. That’s why we could all use help finding ways to save. So we dug into some data to discover real ways that real people can find savings in their current lifestyles.
Here’s what we found: Six ways to save money this year you can try without drastically altering your daily life.
1. RENEGOTIATE YOUR BILLS
When’s the last time you added up the total cost of your monthly bills?
These costs tend to feel set in stone — we can’t live without our phones, right? But that doesn’t mean their price has to be set in stone.
We dug into some data and found that the average costs of internet, cable, and cell phone plans can add up to more than $3,000 per year. Three thousand dollars per year just to keep your internet, cable and phone running. Crazy, right
You don’t have to live with this. Look around to find comparable services at lower prices, and then either make the switch or use that information to negotiate with your service provider.
Or you could let Empower do it for you. Having helped thousands of users find negotiation potential across cable, cell phone, internet, and security services, we found that their typical initial savings is $260, and can get as high as $3,000.
2. CANCEL UNWANTED SUBSCRIPTIONS
Speaking of auditing financial accounts, do you know how many subscriptions you have?
Let’s take a look at just a few popular subscription services that might be creeping up on your credit card statement:
- Amazon Prime: $119 per year
- Hulu: $95.88 per year
- Netflix: Basic is the same price as Hulu, but Standard is $131.88 per year and Premium is $167.88 per year
- Spotify: There is a free version, but premium is $119.88 per year
That’s just the tip of the iceberg:
- Like meal boxes? Blue Apron is $8.99-$9.99 per serving
- How about subscription boxes? FabFitFun is $199.96 per year
- Don’t forget about phone apps. Headspace costs $95.88-$155.88 per year
Oh, and cord cutters. How much do you pay for the specific stations you can’t get on Netflix or Hulu? Check out how rough this can get for sports lovers:
- The current price for NFL Game Pass is $49.99
- Live streaming MLB games right now will cost you $53.99 per year for one team or $69.99 per year for all teams
- Last year NBA League Pass was $119.99 to watch one team’s season or $199.99 to watch all the teams play
Need we say more? So many of us don’t even realize what subscriptions we’re paying for. It’s just too easy for these small but pernicious costs fall through the cracks. That’s why you could stumble on hundreds of dollars of savings per year if you find and cancel a few subscriptions you no longer want. If you use Empower, the app detects automatically for you!
3. PUT YOUR SAVINGS WHERE IT WILL GROW
This is the fun part now.
What could possibly be fun about this, you ask? Making your savings 🌳. And the best way to do that is to put it in the highest rate interest account you can.
Many savings accounts bring in a meager 0.01% of interest per year. But high yield savings accounts move that decimal over. For example, Empower is currently offering 2% per year on its high yield savings account.
Here’s how this can add up.
The average 35-44 year-old (3) has a savings account balance of $5,000. If you were able to get your savings up to that amount and park it in a high yield account earning 2%, then you’d make an extra $100 by the end of the year. Compare that to the two quarters a 0.01% interest rate savings will give you.
4. SET UP AUTOMATIC SAVINGS
But how can you grow your savings to $5,000, you might be wondering. The answer? Automatic savings.
All you have to do is decide how much you can save each month and create an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings for that amount on payday. Doing that takes away the natural drudgery of taking money away from your spending account.
Consider this. The average American is only putting $1,584 per year into savings. But if they increased it to the recommended amount of ten or 15 percent of their income, then that same average American would end up with $6,336 at the end of the year.
That’s $4,752 more. And it’d be a lot easier to achieve that massive increase if you don’t have to think about it every single month.
Take a look at your annual income and find out how much ten or 15 percent of that would be and then divide it by that amount by 12. The sum of that could be the amount you set your automatic savings to be. If you can afford to live without that amount each month, then your savings goals just got a lot easier to reach.
5. REFINANCE HIGH INTEREST DEBT
Here comes the big one: the savings you get after decreasing high-interest debt. And since paying it off can take so long, we’ll talk instead about reducing the interest rate. Why? Interest rate is the cost of borrowing money. You signed up for a certain interest rate, but there are people who are willing to let you borrow for less if you move your debt over to them. You could see the impact in either a lower your monthly payment or fewer months to pay off your debt. What not to like?
How? Here are a few options:
- Call your credit card issuer and ask them to lower your interest rate. This is easier to accomplish if you have a long and positive history with them
- Apply for a balance transfer credit card to achieve an introductory zero percent interest rate, that is, you pay no interest within the introductory period. Just make sure the debt is paid off before the introduction ends — or be ready to do another balance transfer
- Pay off high-interest credit card debt with a personal loan. You agree upfront to pay back the entire debt in a finite period of time, at a fixed interest rate and monthly payment
The first two might options require a high credit score, which makes the last option a good one if your credit isn’t where you need it to be. And it can still save you quite a bit of money.
Let’s look at an example:
- Say you have a credit card with a balance of $10,400 and an interest rate of 25%
- Making minimum payments would keep you in debt for 30 years. And the overall amount paid would balloon up to $20,985.78
- Now let’s say you refinance the credit card to a five-year personal loan with a 10% interest rate
- Not only would you be paid off 25 years earlier, your total amount paid would be $13,258.16
That’s more than $7,700 in savings just from refinancing
Want to run your own numbers to see how much a refinance could save you? This credit card calculator and personal loan calculator from Bankrate can help. The cost? A bit of uncertainty whether you can be approved for a personal loan, so start out by researching your options carefully. Empower has a great marketplace for that.
6. REVIEW YOUR INSURANCE PLANS
The last sleeper that could be destroying your savings is how much you pay for your insurance policies. From car insurance to health insurance and more, these policies can add up fast. And, like your utilities, you might not think they’re negotiable.
But they are.
Insurance marketplace Gabi claims to save its users an average of $460 by shopping for their home and car insurance policies. And Empower can analyze your insurance coverage to find lower quotes for comparable plans. Just a few minutes could save you hundreds of dollars and your peace of mind intact.
AUTOMATE THESE STEPS WITH EMPOWER TO BOOST YOUR SAVINGS ON THE REGULAR
In a world that loves to make us think that budgeting is all about locking up our wallets and throwing away the key, it’s easy to forget that real savings can come from reviewing our spending.
Using the examples mentioned in the steps above, you could see a one-time savings of nearly $13,257. And that’s not even talking about subscriptions since it’s hard to say what an average person would choose to cancel.
So… a few minutes of your time to gain more than $13,000 in savings. And you can make it even easier by letting Empower do the heavy lifting. Download the Empower app for free to automate each of these savings tips and get more of your hard-earned money back into your pocket.
My husband and I have been talking about how we get barely any interest in our bank account. I’m going to look into Empower sounds like it might be much better than what we have now.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
I would definitely look for a better option than what you currently have, if you aren’t earning much.
I do much of this exercise every few years and it really works. It always seems possible to find ways to stop wasting $50 to $100, which I then redirect to my savings snowball.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Awesome and creative ways to save some serious $$$ Michelle!
Most of these are pretty simple and almost everyone can implement a few of these.
I’ve never heard of Empower but I will definitely check them out now!
As always Thank you!
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Joanna Finch says
Michelle, an eye-opening article. I didn’t realize we can save so much by canceling our subscriptions. We did sign up for Netflix which we hardly use. I didn’t realize there are banks in US that pay interest. Thanks for letting me know about Empower.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Glad you enjoyed it!
Emmanuel Chidiebube says
Great piece, Michelle.
The rollover subscription is the worst nightmare anyone can have, especially for apps and services you never used or is going to use for the month. I had a feel of it last time when Zoom charged me for something I was never going to use.
Thanks to you and the guys at Empower for this valuable article.