With the new year upon us, many people are taking the time to review or create their budgets and otherwise get their financial houses more in order. If keeping better track of your finances is one of your 2021 financial goals, then this post will help with trying to keep your monthly and recurring costs low. Here’s how to renegotiate your bills to save money this year.
The danger of recurring monthly bills
Bills and expenses come in three main categories:
- One-off expenses like clothing, car repairs, or meals out. These can be budgeted for and in some cases are perfect for an emergency fund.
- Recurring expenses that come regularly but with different amounts — this includes things like grocery purchases, some utilities, or a cell phone on a variable plan.
- Regular expenses that are the same amount every month, like your home mortgage or monthly rent payment.
It is this last category that can sometimes lead people into financial danger. While some regular expenses like your mortgage or rent are mandatory expenses, others may be for things that you no longer use. With the explosion of various subscription services, it’s very easy to find yourself in a position where you are paying for subscriptions that you are no longer using.
Tracking subscriptions with Mint
One of the great features of Mint is automatic subscription tracking. Mint will let you see all your subscriptions in place, and notify you if any of your subscriptions increase or decrease in price. That will help give you the information you need to decide which subscriptions still make sense for you.
Regularly reviewing your budget
Another way that you can save money is to regularly review your budget. One of the budgeting problems that many people run into is that they create a budget, but never get back to regularly review it. What happens in many instances is that you get excited about getting your finances in order, spend an evening creating a budget, and then…. forget about it.
While setting your finances on autopilot can be a good thing in some cases, that’s not the case for maintaining your budget. You should be regularly reviewing your budget — every month at a bare minimum. Most financially successful review their expenses against their budget more often than that — every week or even every couple of days. That can help you keep an eye on where your money is going and make sure that it fits with your expectations.
Decide which subscriptions fit your budget
Once you get in the habit of regularly reviewing your budget and being aware of the different subscriptions that you’re paying for each month, it’s time to decide which subscriptions fit your budget. It’s a bit of a financial cliché to say that if you give up your gym memberships and Starbucks that you’ll be a millionaire by the time you retire, but it is important to remember that the little things can add up too.
Are all of those food delivery and subscription services really worth it to you? The point of asking the question is not to shame you into living a spartan existence where you never pay for anything. Instead, the point of having a budget and reviewing it regularly is to decide what is still giving you value. A tool like Mint can be a great way to view that information and make the decisions that are right for you.
Renegotiate your bills to save money
Another way to save money in 2021 is to renegotiate some of your monthly bills. This can be great for regular bills like the Internet, wireless phones, cable TV, security, or satellite radio. These types of companies know that there is a huge cost to attracting new customers, so they often will offer retention bonuses to keep their existing customers. In many cases, all you need to do is call them up, say you’re thinking about quitting, and see if there are any offers available on your account. Sometimes the answer may be no, but in many cases, a 10-minute phone call can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
For some of the other subscription services, you may not be able to get a retention offer like that, but another way to renegotiate your bills is to renegotiate with yourself. Many subscription services offer different tiers of membership. So if you still find value in the service but are looking to cut costs, consider whether downgrading to a lower level might make sense for you.
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.