Almost everyone deals with financial trouble at some point in their lives. Financial setbacks, such as the loss of employment or unplanned medical costs, can happen to anyone. If you're at a point where money is tight, then odds are you're dealing with a lot of stress and your financial health is probably suffering. If your monthly bills are beginning to pile up, then don't worry - there are still some ways that you can cut costs to reduce your monthly financial obligations.
How to Save Money on Your Monthly Bills
When you first look at your bills, you may not see a way that you can cut costs. Most people assume that their bills are set in stone and that the only way they can reduce their monthly costs is by losing whatever service it is that they are paying for.
However, not only can you reduce the costs of many of your bills, there are also a number of other monthly costs that you may not have realized could be reduced as well. The following are just a few of the ways that you can begin saving money on your monthly bills:
1. Cut Your Utility Bills in Half
You can't do without your water and electricity, but what you can do is reduce your energy usage. There are a number of easy ways that you can lower your energy use, thereby reducing your energy costs, that require very little effort, including:
- Using standby mode - Put your computers into standby/sleep mode when they aren't in use. By doing this, your computers will reduce their energy use by powering down your screen without actually shutting down. Most computers have an automatic standby or sleep mode option that goes into effect after a certain period of inactivity.
- Unplugging electronics that aren't in use - Electronic devices that are plugged in will be absorbing power even if they are turned off. This is known as standby power - or vampire power. Unplug electronics that aren't being used, like coffee makers or hair dryers. You can also plug electronics into surge protectors, which makes it easier to cut off energy usage without having to unplug everything.
- Keep the heat out in the summers - During the summer, your A/C system is going to have to work harder to keep your home cool when the sun's heat is pouring into your home. By blocking out the sun, you can reduce your reliance on your A/C system, thereby using less energy. There are several ways that you can do this, including drawing your curtains and blinds during the day, using your ceiling fans to more effectively spread cool air through the home, use exhaust fans when cooking or showering, insulating your attic, and installing new Low-E or Double-insulated windows.
- Upgrade your lightbulbs - When you replace dead or dying light bulbs, replace them with energy efficient LED lights, which use less energy and last longer to boot.
2. Negotiate Your Medical Bills
Your medical bills aren't set in stone. In fact, what many patients don't realize is that they can actually negotiate their medical bills using the following methods:
- Use the healthcare blue book - Before you schedule a medical procedure, check the healthcare blue book online to see what the average doctor or hospital charges for said procedure. This will give you an idea of how much it really costs and whether you're being overcharged. You can use these numbers to strengthen your ability to negotiate.
- Speak with the billing department - Before you go in for your medical procedure, make an appointment with the billing department and try to get the cost of your procedure lowered. The billing staff will often give you a break and lower the charge if you tell them why you can't afford the current price; for example, if you were just laid off or if you just lost your coverage.
- Simply ask for a discount - Sometimes, asking for a discount is all it takes. If you've been going to the same doctor for years, they'll often be willing to give you a discount as a reward for your loyalty.
- Don't pay with your credit card - Not only will you be paying interest, but putting your medical costs on your card will make it more difficult to negotiate with a hospital since you've already paid for their service.
3. Negotiate Your Student Loans
Student loans can be a real financial burden. Fortunately, you can negotiate your student loan payments. For example, you can:
- Apply for a student loan forgiveness program - Many programs will partially or completely wipe out your student loan debt depending on how much you've already paid off, how long you've been paying off your debts and what you went to school for.
- You can negotiate your loan payments to be based on your income- This is very helpful if you have a large amount of student loan debt. While this doesn't lower your debt, it could significantly lower your monthly student loan payments. When the Fed lowers rates, consider those implications as well.
- You can consolidate your student loans - If you have multiple student loans, you can consolidate them so that you're only making one monthly payment, which will typically be less than having to pay multiple student loan payments every month.
4. Reduce Your Monthly Mortgage Payments
If you're paying off a mortgage, then odds are it's probably the biggest monthly payment that you are making, which makes it your biggest financial burden. There are several ways that you can actually lower your monthly mortgage payments, thereby giving you some additional financial flexibility every month. You can do this by:
- Extending your repayment term - If you're currently paying a 15-year mortgage, then consider extending it to a 30 or 40-year term. Doing so will substantially lower your monthly payments since you're stretching out what you owe over time. Just keep in mind that when you do this, you will end up paying more in interest over the long run.
- Refinancing your mortgage - Refinancing your mortgage is a process in which you basically take out a second mortgage to pay off your first mortgage. This can be beneficial if you qualify for better terms than you originally had or if the current interest rate is much lower than that on your first mortgage. If the interest is much lower, it can not only save you money every month, it could save you money over the long term as well. Be sure to take out the calculator (or use this online refinancing calculator) in order to calculate what your savings will actually be since you will need to pay for additional closing costs as well.
5. Reduce Your Monthly Car Payments
Your monthly car payments can be pretty expensive depending on what type of car you bought. If you bought a brand new vehicle over the past couple of years, then you may be paying a hefty amount every month. The following are a few ways that you can lower your monthly car payments:
- Consolidate your car loan - If you have a number of other loans that you are paying off, then you may be able to consolidate them, especially if they are from the same lender. This way, you'll only make one monthly payment for several loans. While this payment will be larger than the other payments you were making, it will be less than the amount of those payments added up.
- Downgrade to a less expensive car - If the car payments are simply too big to keep up with, then consider selling the car so that you can pay off the loan and then purchase a cheaper vehicle. You may need to finance that vehicle as well, but if it's a lot cheaper than your previous car, then your monthly payments will be much less.
If you've fallen way behind on your car payments and are facing potential repossession, then be sure to contact us at Woodall & Woodall for professional legal advice.
6. Save Money on Cable and Internet Bills
Your cable and Internet may not represent your largest monthly costs, but that doesn't mean that you can't save some money on them. The following are a few tips for reducing your cable and Internet bills:
- Audit your premium cable features - Go through your cable package and determine whether you're actually using the extra features you're paying for. For example, are you paying for DVR in every room? Do you actually watch the channels in your sports package all year long? Are those premium movie channels necessary now that you're using streaming services, like Netflix? Getting rid of some of these premium channel packages can save you between $20 and $40 a month.
- Cut cable - Consider whether you even need cable. These days, many people depend solely on streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, for all of their movie and TV needs.
- Reconsider your Internet plan - If you're paying for cable, Internet and phone services in a single bundle, then odds are you've been oversold for your Internet portion. Internet companies often push Internet packages with super fast download speeds. If you have a small household, then you don't need the fastest Internet available. Reducing your Internet speed won't have an impact on the quality of your service in this case and can save you up to $20 a month.
7. Lower Your Grocery Bills
Last but not least, there are a number of ways that you can save money when it comes to grocery shopping. There's no getting around buying groceries - everyone obviously needs them. However, few people realize that even saving a few dollars on their groceries here and there can add up. The following are some of the effective ways that you can lower your monthly grocery bills:
- Shop less - The more time you spend in the grocery store, the more money you spend. If you're going to the grocery store two or three times a week, go just once instead and make sure you get everything you need the first time around. One of the biggest mistakes people make is returning to the grocery store to pick up single items that they initially forgot. If you do this, you'll probably end up buying a few more things that caught your eye. To avoid this, go shopping less. Block out a time every week to go shopping for the next week's groceries (maybe Sunday afternoon, or better yet, during a week day if you can).
- Pay in cash - Not only do you avoid building up credit card debt and paying more in interest, but it makes it easier to budget when you pay in cash. If you pay with a credit card, you can easily go over the amount you planned on spending.
- Bring a calculator or use your phone's calculator to tally up costs as you shop - Always shop with a budget. Use your phone or calculator to add up your costs. This way, you don't spend money on snacks you don't need.
- Plan your grocery shopping around sales - Plan ahead by scheduling your grocery store trips around sales to help save money.
- Don't buy prepared meals - Prepared meals are more convenient, but their costs add up. Instead, buy ingredients that can be used for multiple meals.
- Shop seasonally - When it comes to buying fruits and vegetables, shop seasonally. These foods go up in price when they are out of season. Use this seasonal food guide to see which items are in season in your area.
- Switch to generic brands - When comparing name brands to generic brands, you'll find that many items have practically the same ingredients. Go for the cheaper generic brands when you can.
Considering Your Options
If your debt has gotten too out of hand and you're dealing with constant creditor harassment or even the threat of foreclosure or repossession, then you may want to consider filing for Chapter 13 reorganization bankruptcy. Chapter 13 will allow you to develop a repayment plan to repay all or part of your debts without the threat of foreclosure or repossession.
If your bills are starting to pile up, don't panic just yet. Use this comprehensive guide to begin saving money today. Doing so can help you drastically reduce your monthly bills, thereby giving you significantly more financial breathing room. If you're considering entering Chapter 13 reorganization bankruptcy, then be sure to contact us at Woodall & Woodall for professional legal advice today.