Martha C. White – Money
February 26, 2016
It’s all well and good to talk about what you’d do with an extra $1,000 if you had it, but that money probably isn’t going to land in your lap anytime soon—you’ll need to take the initiative and find ways to save or earn those dollars.
But that doesn’t have to mean a period of extreme austerity—which is good, because denying yourself small pleasures is a good way to lose all resolve. The fact is, many of us can find fairly painless ways to come up with small change which, added together, become real money.
In other words, none of these ideas is necessarily going to net you an extra $1,000—though some of them really might. But that’s why we’re giving you 15: Pick a few and give it a try. You won’t just be getting smarter about your spending—you’ll be getting richer.
1. Cut the (cable) cord. Market research firm the NPD Group says the average American family with a pay and premium TV package shells out about $71 a month for the privilege, and that number can climb if you add on extras like high-end set top boxes and movie rentals. NPD also points out that cable services often come as part of a bundle that includes Internet, which brings the total average up to around $109 a month. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to get your screen time without the killer bill. And you can increasingly mix and match so that you’re paying only for what you really want to watch.
For instance, a combination of Hulu Plus with CBS Access and Dish Network’s Sling TV will give you major network, basic cable, and sports channels for about $34 a month (another $5 a month for an upgraded Sling subscription will give sports fans even more options). If you’re more into movies, or are an HBO junkie, subscriptions to a combination of Netflix (roughly $8 per month, a dollar more for HD streaming), Amazon Prime ($99 annually), and HBO Now ($15 per month)
2. Dial back your data. The price of going over your monthly allotment can be steep, but that shouldn’t scare you into paying for more data than you need. Although market researchers at the NPD group say smartphone users consume a bit less than 3GB a month on average, about three in 10 smartphone users are sippers rather than guzzlers, going through a relatively meager 500MB a month. Since a 5GB plan can cost in the neighborhood of $500 or $600 a year on the major carriers (and that’s not including the price of phones or voice and text service), it’s worth monitoring your and your family’s usage for a month or two to gauge how much you really need. To lower your usage, take advantage of Wi-Fi when you have the opportunity. If you’re a relatively light user but your kids spend all their time streaming video or games (both are big data hogs), a pooled or family plan might be an option. Then, tools like this interactive guide can help you find a plan, and a price, you can live with.
3. Stop subscriptions you don’t use. Know when to fold ’em, as they say. Stop paying for the gym you’re not going to go to and cancel the subscription to the highbrow magazine that just gathers dust on your coffee table. And while you’re at it, give your monthly card statements a good once-over. Research company the Aite Group says forgotten-about subscriptions or offers, known in industry buzzspeak as “gray charges,” collectively cost us $14.3 billion—an average of $61 per statement. The most common culprit is a free teaser offer that switches to a paid subscription after an initial introductory period, a marketing hook that costs us $6 billion a year.
4. Stop over-insuring your car… If your car is 10 years old or more, canceling collision coverage could save you up to 40%, according to Edmunds.com—a savings of up to $440 a year. The trade-off is worth it because you could easily wind up with a repair bill that’s higher than the value of your car. “If your premium… is more than 10% of the value of your vehicle, you may want to consider dropping collision and comprehensive coverage,” quote site Epiq Agency advises.