This post was written with the support of Dave Ramsey. Cameron and I have been using Dave’s awesome free Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) service since 2001. Every time we moved to a new area, we would look up a new local ELP to give us trustworthy financial advice. My favorite thing about ELPs? The right to become an ELP has to be earned. It can’t be bought. What a great relief to know you’re getting financial advice from someone who really knows what he’s talking about!
Is money a little tight these days?
Could you use a bank account boost?
*wipes away a tear*
Honestly, there’s nothing quite like children to drain the coin coffers. Diapers, bottles, strollers, car seats, toys, all those cute outfits… They all stack up to a Tower of Terror that threaten to topple your monthly expenses over the income line.
Today I’m going to present my three favorite mining tricks to uncover the gold buried deep in the dredges of your bank account.
There’s some there, I promise. No matter how tight you think your money situation is, at least one of these tricks will earn you a nice reward!
Find Money Tip #1
Pick Your Own Pocket
The first basic rule in “finding” money (as opposed to “making” it), is to put on your Oliver Twist thinking cap on and pick your own pocket.
Figure out where all the money leaks are, and then break out the repair kit.
Let’s be honest: This is not going to be fun.
“Fun” may feel at first like spending whatever you want on whatever you want, but it doesn’t take long for “fun” to transform into “extreme stress”.
Really, though, what’s a few disciplined years in the bucket of a lifetime?
Drastic times require drastic measures. (Or it leads to drastic debt!)
- Cable – Why not ditch cable and use an online service Amazon Fire with Alexa Audio Remote instead? It let’s you stream Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, NBC, WatchESPN and others. If you’re already a Prime Member, you can watch all those shows for free as well. It’s a one-time purchase that will free up money in your monthly budget.
- Cell Phones – Can you bundle with extended family members? Would switching to a different provider save you monthly fees? Do some digging around, you’ll be surprised how competitive companies are – especially this time of year!
- Landlines – If you decide to keep your landline phone, read the fine print on your bill. Do you really want to spend an extra $9 on call waiting? or $6 extra on CallerID? See if there are smaller tag-ons you can do without.
- Heating Costs – What kind of windows are on your house? We put plastic on our 100-year-old homes windows every winter, melting them tight with the hair dryer so they look exactly like glass. This small-time purchase drastically reduces our winter heating bill!
- Birthday Parties – If you’ve got a child’s birthday party right around the corner, ask a friend with a child around the same age to double up and split the costs in half.
- Eating Out – Are you spending too much on restaurants? Set some time aside to do some simple meal planning. It will reduce your restaurant spending AND make your grocery spending less wasteful. You can make the whole process a lot faster by signing up for a meal planning service like eMeals. Try it for free for 14-days and see what you think!
Find Money Tip #2
Check Up On Your Insurance
If you’re like us, insurance is one of those monthly bills that just happens. We have it on auto-pay, so it barely even registers on my thought radar.
Be careful! That’s a big money-mistake!
Your rates are determined by your life’s details…details that can change a lot over the years.
If it’s been a while since you looked at your insurance policies, it’s time to dust off the policy and make a few phone calls. The savings can be significantly worth the effort!
Many companies will offer deeper discounts if you bundle your insurance needs with a single company.
Tips to Save on Auto Insurance
Every few years you should look over your insurance rates and see where fees can be trimmed.
- Look for discounts for being a good driver, or having a certain brand of car.
- Make sure you aren’t OVER insured. If your car is only worth $5K, you don’t need to have $10K insurance on it!
- Have your driving habits changed? Are you car pooling? Are you driving less? Less mileage can lead to lower premiums.
As you are looking for ways to cut back on your expenses, make sure you don’t OVER-cut and end up with a bad policy, or work with a sub-par company.
Talking with a certified and trustworthy insurance expert can help you weed out bad options and help protect you from making policy changes that could bite you in the buttushki later on.
Tricks to Save on Home Insurance
Home insurance is one of the easiest ways to save money. Here are a few suggestions:
- Do you live in an old home? Get the wiring updated and get a 10% re-wiring credit off your yearly bill. (Some communities offer special deals to help pay for rewiring projects.)
- If you haven’t had any claims recently, ask for up to a 20% off claims-free credit.
- Homes in a community with a Community Watch, or those with a homeowners association could get an additional 5-10% credit.
- Have you recently done a renovation of some kind on your home? You could get up to a 25% credit.
- Some companies will offer another credit if no one in your home smokes.
These are just a few ways you can chip away at your home owners or renters insurance monthly premiums. You can learn every trick in the book to save every penny possible by talking with an local insurance expert like those in the Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) community.
Don’t forget to add your wedding bands, heirloom jewelry, and other valuables to your home insurance! It’s a lot cheaper to add them as a “rider” than to go out and purchase separate insurance for each.
Is Your Life Insurance Policy Over-Insured?
Insurance is one of my favorite ways to “find” money.
For example, if you or your spouse has life insurance, there’s a very big chance you’re overpaying. Many couples will purchase a million dollars worth of coverage, without really thinking through whether that’s necessary or affordable right now.
For example, when we were newly married we insured Cameron for $500,000 and me for $250,000.
Why did I get less? It has nothing to do with women’s rights. Replacing my income costs less because I wasn’t working at the time! If something happened to me, Cameron would keep his job and use my policy to offset childcare and other living expenses. But if something happened to him, I would need a bigger nest egg to tide us over until I was able to get a job. Make sense?
At that time, we didn’t have as many expenses so we didn’t need to pay high premiums for a million-dollar life insurance policy.
How much do YOU need in life insurance? That depends on a lot of things, like…
- The cost of living in your area
- Your monthly expenses
- Any outstanding debt
- How many dependents you have
- How many working years the remaining spouse has
To make sure you’re covered just enough, make sure to sit down for a free consultation with a local and trustworthy life insurance expert. He will be able to look over your situation and give you good advice on how to get exactly what you need at a price that you can currently afford. (You can always add more later!)
Could You Use $720?
When Cameron and I used these insurance tricks, we were able to reduce our monthly expenses by $60 a month. That’s like getting a yearly bonus of $720. Sah-WEET.
That may seem like pennies…but when money is tight, $60 can make a huge difference!
If money is super tight every month, sit down with an insurance expert for some FREE advice on all the tiny little credits and changes you could make to decrease your monthly bills and increase your available income.
Find Money Tip #3
Tax Refund Checks are NOT Your Friend
Whenever I hear someone bragging about the “huge refund check” they’ve got coming, it makes me cringe inside because I know they just got ripped off.
Take a minute to think through exactly what refund checks are. Refund checks are issued because you overpaid on your taxes the previous year.
This means that every month Uncle Sam (or Parliament, depending on where you live) used your monthly income without paying you for the right to use it.
Don’t give your government interest-free loans to spend your money on some politicians “pet project”. Pay what you are responsible for, and then keep the rest so you can spend it that month any way you DURN-DARN want to.
If your refund check last year was big enough to celebrate, you need to adjust your exemptions to keep more of that money every month for yourself.
How much does that add up to? Depends.
But I will share that when we first learned about this little secret and adjusted our exemptions we “found” $100 extra in Cameron’s monthly paycheck, AND we still got a small refund check in April.
Exemptions are your friend. Not big tax refund checks.
If you’re not sure how many exemptions to take, set up a free meeting with a tax expert. It’s your money and it’s just sitting there. Lonely and ignored each month. Reclaim it for your monthly use.
Don’t forget: the goal is to have a LOW refund. You don’t want to take too many exemptions and have a tax bill instead! Have a tax professional look over your current exemptions and give you sound advice.
Learned in the School of Hard Knocks
Back in 2005, Cameron and I found ourselves in an ironic situation. After much prayer, we had decided it was time for me to quit my job and stay home full time with Lauren. (We only had one child at that time.)
The day I came home from my last day at the office, Cameron met me in the living room and shared he’d gotten a pink slip and been let go.
The same day, people!
So within 24 hours we went from a comfortable duel-income family, to an un-comfortable zero-income family.
Needless to say, it was one of those “rough patches” that are HELL to get through, but once you do, you look back with thankfulness. I can honestly say I’m glad for the lessons we learned through that dark time. Three of those I’ve shared here with you! (Making it totally worth it, btw.)
Have you ever had a “season” like that? What strategies did you use to avoid slipping into debt? Where did you cut corners?
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