Creating a budget and sticking to it is much easier said than done, especially in an age where we have multiple forms of payment—from credit cards to PayPal to bitcoin—and recurring digital subscriptions for everything from our groceries to our entertainment.
Even if we do stick to a daily cash flow budget, the little things we’ve forgotten about could be making a huge difference.
Whether you consider yourself to be a financial wiz and expert at saving money or you know you could be doing better with your finances, there are a whole lot of items that are eating away into most people’s finances without them even realizing it… and the new year is a good time to address them.
Below, we spoke to some of the top finance experts and credit specialists to get their top tips on exactly what to reevaluate or cut back on in the new year if you want to save thousands.
From cutting back on take out to examining your subscription services, here are a few sneaky expenses that can make a big impact on household expenditure.
Look out for random recurring charges.
“When cutting expenses to prepare for the new year, start by carefully reviewing your credit and debit card bills and positively identifying each recurring charge,” suggests Jason Vissers, Financial Analyst at Merchant Maverick.
You may need to go into your PayPal account as well to do this, as you may have used PayPal to sign up for services previously and have since completely forgotten about them.
This is especially problematic when we sign up for free trials and then forget to unsubscribe before being billed.
Get rid of cable TV.
Another way to cut your monthly bills is to cut the cord and get rid of your cable subscription.
The big telecom companies don’t always make it easy to unbundle your cable services from your internet services, but in most cases, you can still pay less if you choose a no-cable subscription package.
Vissers also suggests taking the time to sure you’re not paying for a landline you’re probably not using.
… but watch out for subscription services.
After identifying the subscription services you’ve been spending money on, ask yourself whether or not you really need each of the subscription services you see on your bill.
“If you can’t bear to part with a subscription, consider paring back any extras in your subscription package that could be costing you extra,” suggests Vissers. “And in many instances with streaming services, you can also share your account with a number of people and spread out the cost of the service amongst friends and family.”
Looking to save even more on entertainment? The local library is just as valuable as it was when you were a kid. Modern libraries can be a great (and still free!) source for streaming music, movies, and TV shows, and for checking out audiobooks as well.
Reconsider your daily coffee and other frivolous foods.
Another expense that can sneakily add up? Those trips to the cafe. It’s cheaper to brew your own coffee at home than it is to go to Starbucks for coffee every day.
UberEats and GrubHub also have a sneaky way of adding up over the week. However, rather than deciding to cut it out entirely, opt for a more realistic goal: like deciding to forego ordering lunches out of convenience—or sticking to a takeout schedule… like Friday nights, for example.
Check in on your credit card statements.
“A big budget-hurting item that many people overlook is interest, especially when making purchases with a loan or only making minimum payments on credit cards,” explains Mason Miranda, Credit Industry Specialist.
“Credit cards have high interest rates that can cost consumers hundreds of extra dollars or more and by carrying a monthly balance on your credit card, you’re essentially throwing away money.”
Instead, Miranda suggests paying off your full statement balance each billing period to avoid interest or looking into a line of credit, which has much lower interest rates for long term loans.
Don’t go overboard on birthdays.
This one might not be so obvious, but unexpected purchases of gifts can eat a portion of your budget especially when every penny is already assigned.
“When we forget birthdays or anniversaries, we usually resort to spending money that we’ve allotted for another purpose,” explains Alex Thompson, Director at Festoon House.
“One way you can avoid this is by noting important birthdays on your phone’s calendar and setting it to repeat yearly so you don’t miss anything. A miscellaneous or emergency fund would also help cover unexpected purchases like this.”
Reevaluate your cell phone package.
With most of us at home these days it is time to review your cell phone package and really think about how much you’re actually using it at the moment.
“Certainly, we are all using less data on our cells but using more at home,” says John Davis, Financial Education Ambassador at ScoreSense.
“Make sure to switch on the WiFi and downgrade your cell data bundle!”
Look into your health insurance.
“Check your health insurance plan and consider switching over to a high-deductible plan will lower your premiums,” suggests Davis.
“Although your out-of-pocket expenses may be higher, a Health Savings Account (HSA) which is totally tax-free can help you with expenses your insurance does not cover.”