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Creative Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

By Team Tomorrow
Published January 22, 2021

When money’s tight, everything else in life is stressful.

Today, we’ll look at things you can do to build your savings account quickly, and slash some of those big, monthly bills. Here are ten creative ways to save money on a tight budget.

Earmark ‘extra’ money for savings.

‘If, then’ rules can be incredibly effective in building positive financial habits. If you’re trying to build your savings, for example, you might set this rule:

If I get ‘extra’ money from an unexpected source, then I will put it directly into savings to build my emergency fund. 

‘Extra’ money could include things like:

  • A stimulus check.
  • A bonus from work.
  • A pay raise from work.
  • Money people gift you on your birthday or over the holidays.
  • Tax refunds.
  • Unclaimed funds you discover on your state or locality’s unclaimed funds database.
  • Money from an irregular side hustle.

Making the decision beforehand reduces the chance that in-the-moment emotions about unexpected money will sway you to make a counterproductive decision. If you follow your ‘if, then’ rule, the money will go straight into savings.

Get your savings matched with an IDA.

Stashing money away?

Get it matched with an Individual Development Account (IDA).

These programs are typically run through community nonprofits. When you save money in these accounts, your savings will be rewarded in kind. Some programs might even match you dollar-for-dollar, turning your $1,000 of savings into $2,000 of savings total.

There are IDAs across the country. Some of these accounts must be used for specific purposes, like building an emergency fund, buying your first home or saving for postsecondary education. There is a program for every purpose, but not in every community.

Other IDAs are more flexible, allowing you to save for whatever your financial goal may be.

Negotiate your debt.

Debt — especially high-interest debt — can derail all of your financial plans. Call your creditors and see if they will negotiate monthly payments or interest rates. Making your debt more manageable can often help you improve your credit score, opening more access to lower-interest credit products in the future.

You can also negotiate to have some of your debt eliminated. This often has a negative impact on your credit score, though, and the IRS will require you to pay taxes on any amount that was forgiven by your creditors.

Ask for car insurance discounts.

Depending on the part of the country you live in, auto insurance premiums can be a huge monthly bill. Even saving small amounts per month on your car insurance can add up to big savings over the course of the year.

If your mileage has decreased due to the pandemic, call your insurance provider. The less miles you drive per year, the lower your premiums will be.

Other common car insurance discounts you can ask about include:

  • Discounts related to certain low-risk professions, like teachers and scientists.
  • Discounts for students with good grades.
  • Discounts for enrolling in electronic billing.
  • Loyalty discounts given to customers who have stayed with the same insurance company for a certain amount of years.

Negotiate your cable bill.

With so many streaming services available on demand, you might be paying for a larger cable package than you need. Call your cable company and see what type of packages are available.

Think twice before canceling cable altogether. Sometimes, getting basic cable in addition to your internet ends up being cheaper than internet alone due to bundling discounts.

Audit monthly subscriptions.

All those subscriptions that make it possible to cut cable?

They can add up quickly, too.

If you’re trying to save money, look over all your bank and credit card statements. Make sure you recognize every subscription service that automatically bills you. If you notice any subscriptions that you aren’t using or are just flat-out too expensive for what you get in return, cancel them.

It might seem like a pain to comb through paperwork. But the beautiful thing is that you only have to do it once to start saving money on a monthly basis

Switch to a low-cost cell carrier.

If you’re paying more than $50/month per line on your cell phone bill, you’re probably paying more than you need to.

Many major cell carriers have started selling access to their cell towers to third-party carriers. These third-party carriers offer the same service, often at a dramatically lower rate. For $50 or less, you should be able to find a plan with unlimited everything.

Switch your utility provider.

In some states, energy markets have been deregulated. That means that while there is a company assigned to deliver heat and electricity to consumers, those consumers can pick the company that generates their energy.

For example, maybe First Energy delivers your electricity. By default, they would also generate your electricity.

But you live in a deregulated state and decide to go comparison shopping. You find a company who generates all of its energy from wind and solar — and just happens to charge 2 cents less per kilowatt hour.

You fill out the paperwork with the green company to make the switch. Your bill would continue to be mailed from First Energy, who delivers your electricity. But the energy is contributed to First Energy’s grid by the new green company.

All the while, your monthly bill goes down even if your usage doesn’t change.

Update your income on HealthCare.gov.

If you have an ACA plan and are among the many who has seen an income decrease over the past year, make sure to update your income information on HealthCare.gov.

When your income goes down, your premium subsidies go up. That means the amount you have to pay out-of-pocket for your plan is less every month.

Note that taking the higher subsidy reduces the premium tax credit you’d receive on your taxes. If you have unpredictable income and end up making more than you estimated, you could end up having to pay back some of the subsidy when you file your 1040.

If your income has taken enough of a hit, you may be eligible for a special enrollment period. The change in income may qualify you for Medicaid.

In many Medicaid expansion states, Medicaid is cheap to free. In many states it also offers superior coverage to your current ACA plan.

Make your estate plan as efficient as possible.

After you die, your remaining assets and debts will go through a court process called probate. Sadly, many families lose money unnecessarily in the probate process. Court fees can eat away at your cash, depleting the stores even as your family waits, unable to touch anything until the probate process is over.

You can save your family money by getting together an estate plan. These plans aren’t just for rich people. Even those of modest means can get started on a free will and trust to protect their assets for their family.


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