Saving money has never been more important, but it’s not always easy, especially during an economic downturn. In fact, 52% of Americans would not be able to come up with $500 without selling something or taking out a loan, and 75% of consumers who were laid off due to COVID-19 couldn’t come up with $500, according to the 2021 Retirement Confidence Index from SimplyWise, a financial management app.
Although finding extra wiggle room in an already tight budget may feel impossible, making a few small adjustments here and there could result in big savings. In fact, here are 10 simple ways to save more than $5,000 this year:
— Adjust your thermostat.
— Cut the cord.
— Raise your auto insurance deductible.
— Ditch the car wash.
— Snag a sign-up bonus.
— Nix that unused gym membership.
— Cut back on takeout.
— Reduce food waste.
— Eliminate bank fees.
— Organize a babysitting co-op.
Adjust Your Thermostat
Though household electricity costs declined by 1.8% in 2019, the average energy bill in the U.S. still hovers around $115 per month, with heating and cooling accounting for 43% of this expense, according to the Energy Information Administration. Cutting out this cost altogether isn’t an option, but you can save by simply adjusting your thermostat. In fact, U.S. Department of Energy says to expect a savings of 10% a year on your energy bill by turning the temperature back by 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day from its normal setting.
Potential annual savings: $138.
Cut the Cord
According to NationWide.com, the average price for basic cable is $60 per month, and that cost jumps significantly when you add premium channels. However, there are several streaming services to consider that can slash those costs, says John Schmoll, founder of FrugalRules.com and former U.S. News contributor.
Those who aren’t ready to give up their favorite cable shows should consider signing up for Sling TV, which offers a selection of top channels like HGTV, ESPN and CNN for $35 per month. Opting for this streaming service over basic cable will trim $25 off your monthly entertainment bill, and more if you’re paying for premium sports or movie channels. Keep in mind that cable replacements are contract-free, which means you can move whenever you like, or downgrade or upgrade throughout the year, which can help make the switch feel a little less permanent, Schmoll says.
Potential annual savings: $300.
Raise Your Auto Insurance Deductible
Lowering your insurance cost doesn’t mean sacrificing coverage. In fact, raising the deductible on your auto insurance policy will result in quick savings. Data pulled by CarInsurance.com estimates that you can pocket an extra $30 per month just by bumping your deductible from $250 to $1,000.
When adjusting your insurance deductible, Jim Wang, founder of personal finance blog Wallet Hacks and former U.S. News contributor, suggests putting the money you save every month into a separate online savings account. This way, you’re covered in the event of a repair, he says.
Meanwhile, Cameron Huddleston, personal finance writer and author of “Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances,” suggests paying in full upfront rather than monthly to save. “This is a pretty common discount, so ask to see if your insurer offers it. Just make sure you set aside enough each month so you can cover the full premium when it’s due,” she says.
Potential annual savings: $360.
Snag a Sign-up Bonus
Don’t just swipe any credit card — make sure you’re using one that will help you maximize cash back on every purchase.
“Using the right card can make a huge difference,” says Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com and former U.S. News contributor. She recommends using GigaPoints, a free platform that analyzes your credit card usage and recommends the best cards for you based on your purchase history. “The site showed me that I could have earned almost $2,000 more in rewards, just last year.”
Not only does the site ensure you get the most back on your purchases, but they’ll also show you how to get a free cash bonus when switching cards. For instance, the Chase Freedom card offers a $200 cash bonus when you spend $500 within the first three months of signing up. Use this card to buy groceries or pay monthly bills, and you can easily meet the spending threshold to earn the free cash bonus.
Potential annual savings: $200.
Nix That Unused Gym Membership
Signing up to use a fitness facility always comes with good intentions, but many gym memberships go to waste. In fact, according to data from Statistic Brain Research Institute, the average cost of a gym membership is around $58 per month, with 67% of those contracts going unused. Even if you like going to the gym, but don’t feel safe, you may still be paying a fee each month.
“Review your gym membership terms to ensure you are not paying to have your membership suspended,” Juan Carlos Cruz, founder of Britewater Financial Group, a financial and retirement planning firm based in Brooklyn, New York. Otherwise, Cruz suggests canceling your plan altogether and taking advantage of the many free online fitness classes available these days.
“YouTube is the best source for free videos because of the broad range of fitness programs and channels to choose from. It offers a range of exercise channels at no cost that would amount to hundreds, if not thousands, at the gym. Plus, there are videos for people of all experience levels, too,” Cruz says.
Potential annual savings: $696.
Cut Back on Takeout
Food delivery apps have taken off, with more U.S. households using services like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Postmates to order meals than ever before. Considering that the average DoorDash buyer spends an average of $36.95 per order, according to data from Slice Intelligence, cutting back on just one takeout order per month would result in considerable savings. Just make sure you’re cooking meals in bulk and freezing leftovers so you always have a meal that’s easy to reheat in a pinch.
Meanwhile, Catherine Alford, family finance expert at www.CatherineAlford.com, suggests researching deals at local restaurants to reduce the cost of dinner out, a convenience many working parents may not be willing to give up.
“My local seafood place lets kids eat free on Tuesdays, and our local Mexican restaurant lets kids eat free on Sundays. By knowing the deals available to you throughout the week and the different perks your restaurants offer, you can save as much as 25% per year on restaurant costs,” she says.
Potential annual savings: $443.40.
Reduce Food Waste
Food waste isn’t just tough on our planet — it’s tough on our wallets, too. In fact, the average U.S. household tosses out roughly $1,866 per year in uneaten groceries every year, according to a 2020 study from Pennsylvania State University. Although eliminating food waste completely may take time, there are a few simple tricks you can start implementing now to save groceries and money.
Shelly Longenecker, author of “Dinner for a Dollar,” suggests conducting what she calls a fridge check. “A fridge check is where you take two to three minutes, every few days to check your refrigerator to see if anything needs to be used up before going bad,” she says. “Taking this simple step helps you rescue food and find a use for it before you have to throw it out.”
Meanwhile, planning a few weekly meals in advance that use similar ingredients will also keep food waste to a minimum.
Potential annual savings: $1,866.
Switch to a Free Banking Account
When trying to save money, bank fees can eat away at your efforts, especially with average checking account maintenance charges hovering around $14.39 per month, according to a 2020 study from MoneyRates.
However, Simon Zhen, a research analyst for financial services comparison site MyBankTracker.com and former U.S. News contributor, says there are plenty of free options. “By switching to a free checking account, such as those often offered by online banks, a consumer can avoid paying any monthly fee,” he says.
Potential annual savings: $172.68.
[Read: Best Checking Accounts.]
Organize a Parent Babysitting Co-op
Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that babysitting costs add up. Beyond day care while you’re at work, you may need a sitter for a weeknight or weekend. With the average babysitting rate at $16.25 per hour, according to the 2019 Care.com Cost of Care Survey, going out sans kids for four hours once per month will set you back an extra $780 a year in child care.
However, Violette de Ayala, founder and CEO of FemCity, a networking group for professional women, says you can easily save by setting up a babysitting co-op with other parents in your neighborhood or through your children’s school. “It creates an instant play date for the little tykes and saves parents the hourly rate for a sitter,” she says.
Potential annual savings: $780.
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Update 02/24/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.