The average American can waste as much as $1,000 a year in financial leaks in their budget. What are financial leaks? They are the places where you are leaking money that you don’t need to be spending. Here are three ways you can plug your financial leaks.
List all of your expenses
Still paying for that gym membership that you have been meaning to cancel for more than a year? Not sure if you are over-paying for your cable? The best way to find leaks in your budget is to list all of your expenses. Print out your bank and credit card bills from the past couple months and list all of your expenses and how much you spend on each. Then figure out what you are spending money on that you don’t need to be. These are some of the areas that people waste the most money on:
- Not canceling memberships: Make sure you aren’t paying for a gym membership, website membership or wine club that you no longer use. This could save hundreds of dollars a year.
- Not noticing billing changes: Cable and cell phone companies are notorious for offering deals for the first couple of months and then jacking up the price for their services. Make sure you know when that change happens and how much more you are spending on those bills. You can probably save money by switching to another service, canceling features you don’t need or even calling and negotiating with the company.
- Setting up automatic bill pay and forgetting about it: If you set up automatic bill pay on utility or credit card bills, you might not be checking how much you are spending on each. You might not know that you are spending a lot more on electricity or water than you were a year ago. If you keep track of what you are spending, you can adjust your lifestyle (like turning off lights during the day) so that you aren’t spending unnecessary money. Always be aware of what you are spending on everything.
Check your credit report
Many people can have a leak without even knowing it. When we move or switch utility providers, sometimes there is a miscommunication when it comes to closing our your account. You could still owe money for your old apartment or utilities without knowing it, especially if you’ve changed your address without forwarding your mail. If these balances are not paid, your account can be sent to a collections agency, which can severely hurt your credit score. You can also continue to be charged interest or late fees on the balance until you pay it.
Not sure if you have an old account in collections? An easy way to make sure you do not have accounts in collections is to consistently monitor your credit report. Your credit report is the first place that collection accounts will show up. Once you pay the account and bring it up to date, the collection account will be removed from your credit report. A bonus of monitoring your credit report is that you will also be alerted to any suspicious activity on your financial accounts, so if you are a victim of identity theft, you will know quickly and can fix it. Here is a good list of the best credit report monitoring services that won’t break the bank.
Know your interest rates
Interest rates can be the biggest leaks that need to be plugged. If you don’t know what your interest rates are on your credit cards or loans, you may be paying a lot more in interest that you don’t need to be paying.
Refinance your loans. If you can refinance your loans and get a lower interest rate, it’s going to save you a ton in the end, especially on a mortgage. Most people avoid refinancing because they don’t understand how it works. Make the effort and educate yourself on refinancing, otherwise you could be spending more on your loan than you need to. Here are some mistakes to avoid when refinancing.
Always transfer balances when you can. Most people don’t take advantage of balance transfer credit cards, which can be a huge benefit for those who are paying interest on credit card debt. If you have credit card debt, apply for a balance transfer card with a lower interest rate. A lot of cards even offer a 0% intro APR period for up to a year and half, which can give you a year and a half to pay down your credit card debt without being charged interest. Here is a good list of balance transfer cards with long 0% intro APR periods.
Keep your credit score healthy. Your credit score will be a big factor in determining your interest rate on a credit card or loan. If you keep your credit score healthy, you will be offered the lowest interest rates, meaning you aren’t spending any extra money on interest. Don’t know your credit score? Get a truly free score here.