Even the most budget-minded folks can forget that the little things really do add up. Small, overlooked costs can turn into hundreds or thousands of dollars down the drain. To help, here are five simple ways to save more than $1,500 in a year.
Use Your FSA
First up, do you have any extra cash sitting in your flexible spending account? Many companies offer FSAs, which allow workers to set aside up to $2,500 pre-tax dollars annually to pay for out-of-pocket health expenses — everything from eyeglasses to doctor co-pays. But a third of FSA holders end up leaving some of that savings untouched every year. Maximizing your FSA means more tax dollars back in your pocket. For example, if you earn $50,000 a year, an FSA could save you up to $750.
Program Your Thermostat
Next, how much does it cost to keep your home at the right temperature? If you’re like the average household, your annual bill is somewhere around $1,000 a year. As we know, a programmable thermostat can slash 5% to 15% off of your heating and cooling costs, provided you actually use it. Half of households neglect to adjust the temperature when they leave home or when they go to sleep.
For the maximum benefit, Energy Star recommends allowing your home to get eight degrees colder while you’re gone during the day and asleep at night. During the summer, make it seven degrees warmer during the day and four at night. Your total annual savings: about $180.
Update Your Cellphone Data Plan
Now when it comes to our cellphones, we don’t always make the most economical choices. It’s estimated that about eight out of 10 users overpay for cellphone service. According to online savings tool BillShrink.com, many families pay about $90 for 8GB of data, even though the average family of four just uses around 1.6GB a month. Monitor you usage with help from mobile apps like Android’s Droid Stats or iPhone’s DataMan to see if your family can get by on a smaller data plan. Choosing a 2GB plan at $60 per month can potentially save about $360 per year.
Check Monthly Statements
Your monthly bills may have some hidden savings as well. Take, for example, a bill from your home security system. You may typically see a charge for equipment for the first two years of ownership. But once that’s paid off, the security company may fail to adjust your rate automatically, so call and check. It could cut $55 down to $25, saving another $360 a year.
Negotiate with Service Providers
Finally, don’t be afraid to confront your hairdresser, landscaper or personal trainer if their charges become too expensive. Point out that the cost has risen too high for your budget and that you’d like to negotiate a better rate. If your service pro won’t budge, just move on. If you can adjust your weekly $45 personal training session back to where it started at $30, that’s close to $800 saved over the course of a year.
What’s your big savings tip for 2013? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh, using the #FinFit hastag.