It's not difficult to save an extra $200 per month without having to change how you live your life. You might be able to negotiate lower rates for services you use and significantly cut the costs of your purchases through the strategic use of coupon codes. You can even get paid to shop by using an online shopping portal and cash back credit card. Here are a few ways to fill your purse or wallet with only a marginal level of work:
Reach out to your service providers. Many service providers are working in business models that reward new (and noisy) customers. But there's no reason an existing customer can't ask for a better rate or switch plans to save money. Here are two examples of service providers you can call to express your desire for better rates or new plans with lower costs (and actually get results):
-- Property and casualty insurance companies. There's a reason every sporting event has commercials asking you to check out the money you could save by switching insurance providers. Property and casualty insurance is a necessity, but that doesn't mean you have to overpay. Premium prices creep up over the years, so you will need to re-shop every three years to keep those premiums low.
-- Utilities. Don't overpay for your utilities, such a gas, cable, satellite and mobile phones, especially when there are tools that can help you research the lowest prices being offered to new customers. You can use whitefence.com to review rates for natural gas, home security, Internet and television.
Don't be afraid to shop around and change your providers. Even calling current companies can result in reduced rates if you explain that you're looking to take your business elsewhere for cheaper service.
Shop through a savings portal. Shopping portals provide a reward if you take the extra step to start a purchase transaction through their website. Ebates and credit card portals such as Discover Cards provide cash rebates on purchases. Upromise puts the reward in a connected Upromise 529 Plan that you can use to pay for college. These rewards are often worth between 1 and 5 percent of the purchase price. But don't assume that the rebates will be the same at all of the shopping portals. It's worth checking several savings portals to see which offers the biggest reward for each purchase.
Consider store credit cards. If you do a lot of shopping at a single store or are going to be making a large purchase, a store credit card could provide you with significant savings. For example,Target and Lowe's Home Improvement both have their own credit cards that offer 5 percent instant savings, and the Target card also offers free shipping on purchases. If you layer the discounts by using the store credit cards and the previously mentioned shopping portals you can get double the discounts on a single purchase.
Use reward credit cards. If you shop at a variety of different stores, a general credit card that offers rebates might be a better fit. For example, the Citi Double Cash Card offers you 1 percent back on purchases and another 1 percent when you make payments on the account, which can ultimately save you 2 percent on every transaction. Other cards, such as the Discover Card, have rotating rebate categories that might range from Amazon to the amusement park Six Flags for a given period of time. Another option is the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express, which automatically deposits 2 percent of all purchases into your linked Fidelity account.
Check for promo and coupon codes. Before you check out online, check a few coupon websites such as Retailmenot.com to see if there are any easy promo or coupon codes to apply. You can also do a quick Google search for promo or coupon codes for the store where you're shopping. You will be shocked by how often you can snag free shipping all the way up to a 15 to 20 percent savings code.
Time your purchases. It takes a little planning, but you can save significant amounts of money if you time your purchases to line up with deals offered by businesses looking to get more customers in the door during slower periods. For example, many food establishments will offer discounts on beverages and appetizers before 6 p.m. You can also snag discount movie tickets if you go at the right time. There are matinee showings early in the day that offer lower ticket prices.
You work hard for your money, and building financial independence is a long-term goal worth striving for. These savings techniques could provide a little bit of extra savings that will help you get to your goals a few years earlier. Using these techniques can also be a fun way to see how efficient you can become with your money.
Brian Preston and Bo Hanson are fee-only financial planners who host the podcast, " The Money-Guy Show ".
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