Looking to trim areas of your budget without forgoing your daily latte? Consider these easy ways to lower your monthly bills.
Learn your options for student loan debt repayment. That decision you made long ago (or the one you’re making now) to borrow all that money for your education was supposed to be an investment — not a burden. So it’s important to find a repayment plan that isn’t counterproductive to your greater goals. Considering there are about 37 million student loan borrowers with outstanding loans today, according to late 2011 statistics from the Federal Reserve Board of New York, many student loan providers are offering a variety of lower-cost ways to repay these debts.
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First, check to see what type of auto-pay benefits your provider offers. Great Lakes, for example, may reduce your interest rate if you put your monthly payment on auto-pay. Next, find out if student loan consolidation makes sense for you. Depending on the current annual percentage rate, the number of years you have to repay, and the principal balance of each loan, you could end up lowering your interest rate by consolidating.
Look for promotional packages. Cable, wireless and other utility providers often advertise new promotional deals that will lower your monthly bill payment if you switch to that provider. And because you’re a new customer, the services offered are usually premium packages. DIRECTV’s Triple Savings Event, for example, allows customers to lock in three years of savings: You can save $33 a month in your first year as a customer, $10 a month in your second year, and $10 a month in your third year. (Learn more at DIRECTV.com.)
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Search for hidden fees. When you’re opening a new bank account or credit card, read the fine print, or you may end up paying money for simply not following instructions. Some bank providers, for instance, require that you maintain a certain checking account balance each month. If you go below that number, then you could be hit with a hefty charge. Also, when opening a credit card, look for options that come without an annual fee — there are plenty to choose from, so there’s no sense in paying extra money just to have the card.
Plan meals weekly. “You may love to cook but trying to figure out how to feed your family a healthy, budget-friendly meal that they’ll actually want to eat can sometimes take the fun out of it all, especially with a busy work schedule,” said Linda Descano of Citi’s Women & Co. The key, she says, is to start by making a weekly menu, not just a shopping list. Once you’re in the store, save money by only shopping for what’s on your list, and be careful not to stray. You’d be surprised how much money you can waste when you spontaneously spend in a grocery store.
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Also, Descano suggests having a plan B. You don’t always know when you’re going to have to stay late at the office, or when your kid’s soccer game is going to run over. Make sure your pantry is stocked with healthy non-perishables, such as tuna, beans and pasta, so that it’s easy to throw something together at the last minute. Finally, utilize your grocery store and credit card rewards programs. The Citi ThankYou Premier card, for example, can help you earn extra points on supermarket purchases. (Learn more at Citibank.com).
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