One of the most important things you can do after filing for unemployment benefits is to take stock of your finances. Here are sevens tips on how to save money each month:
- Manage Your Mortgage: For most of us, the cost of shelter is the number one expense we face each month. For those who own a home (68% of Americans), the median monthly mortgage payment is $1,427. Take a look at mortgage rates. You can find these rates at your local bank or online. If the current interest rate is lower than the rate you are paying, consider refinancing. For example, if you have a $200,000 mortgage at a 7.0% interest rate, and are able to refinance at 5.5%, you will save $195 per month on your mortgage payment. To easily calculate how much you will save, check out the mortgage refinance calculator from Bankrate.com.
- Reduce Your Rent: The median cost of rent across the country is $784 per month. If your lease is coming up for renewal, negotiate with your landlord. Provide a reason with your request that speaks to their emotions (e.g. “my wife was recently laid off”). This will increase your chances of getting a reduction. Ask for a specific amount by which you would like the rent reduce, as opposed to asking whether or not a reduction is possible. If you have been a good tenant, most landlords will be willing to work with you, as they want to keep their unit rented and prevent vacancy. Using the $784 figure, even a 5.0% reduction will result in a savings of over $39 per month.
- Make Your Own Meals: Increasing the number of meals you eat at home can make a big difference to your wallet, as well as your waistline. The ingredients of a $12 restaurant meal, will likely cost less than $5 when purchased from the grocery store. Assuming you currently eat out twice a week, this translates to $56 per month in savings (and much higher if you are feeding a family). You can save even more if you buy your food items in bulk (e.g. from a warehouse store). If you need some direction for meal preparation, check out Minute Meals and Meals Matter. Not only will you save money eating at home, but you will also save time.
- Minimize Your Mobile Minutes: The average cell phone bill is nearly $70 per month. Take a look at your bill for the last three months. How many minutes do you actually talk? Are you being charged for additional services that you don’t use? Are there other miscellaneous charges that you might be able to reduce? Call your cell phone company and ask about how to save on your bill. They are interested in keeping you as a customer, and should help you save money. Note: Mobile phone bills will add up quickly if you have multiple users in your household. See if your provider offers a “family plan” – this is an excellent way to reduce costs.
- Trim The TV: The average cable bill is $71 per month. Eliminating a couple of premium channels can easily shave $10 – $15 per month off of this number. Better yet, see if a competing cable provider is offering a promotion. It might be worthwhile to switch.
- Compare Costs: Before buying a new product, check out the prices on the Internet. Three great websites that allow you to compare prices are PriceGrabber, Price SCAN, and Shopping.com. An additional hint: Be sure to incorporate shipping costs and taxes when comparing prices.
- Cut Coupons: After finding a lower price for your product, see if there are additional discounts or coupons available. In addition to the coupons provided in your newspaper, there are countless sites dedicated to helping you find discounts. Here are a few of the most popular: Current Codes, RetailMeNot, and SlickDeals.