Since we’re all cooped up at home — some of us now unemployed and all of us looking at a slow economy and spreading disease — it makes sense to be finding ways to cut down expenses and improve our chances to stay healthy.
Cost cutting falls into two categories: Things you could ditch entirely, like subscription services, and things you can’t avoid but could save on, like insurance and utilities.
Let’s start with ways to cut necessary expenses, and then look for ways to save on optional ones — and then we’ll offer a couple of tools to help you comfortably stay home and out of harm’s way.
1. Reduce your bills through BillCutterz
As you look through your existing bills and identify things you can’t or don’t want to drop entirely, look for ways to save. You may be able to make do by downgrading to a lighter plan, switching and bundling service, or finding new discounts.
One way to do that is with professional help. BillCutterz will negotiate bills on your behalf — cell phone, cable, internet, landline, security, satellite, gym, landscaping, pest control — all kinds of stuff. The only bills they say they can’t help with are regulated utilities, credit cards, medical bills, and bills in collections.
They help secure you discounts and promotions, and split the savings with you 50/50 for a year. If you pay them their share of the savings in full right away, you save an extra 10%. And any savings you get after the year are up are fully yours.
If they can’t save you anything, you don’t pay anything. So there’s nothing to lose, unless you’re willing to do all the legwork of negotiating yourself.
Two other similar services you may want to check out are Truebill and Trim.
2. Save on insurance using The Zebra
Comparison shopping for car insurance can be a chore, and you’re often left with the niggling doubt you didn’t get the best deal. So why not have pros handle it?
You can have The Zebra fetch real-time online comparisons from as many as 200 insurance providers based on your zip code.
All you have to fill out to get started is basic information about number and type of vehicles, how much you drive and a couple questions about your driving history. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, in just a few minutes.
It can also compare home, boat, motorcycle, RV and renters insurance for you.
One of the best things about The Zebra is that it generates quotes, not a bunch of annoying calls from people trying to sell you insurance.
3. Save on online shopping with Rakuten and Ibotta
If you’re under direction to stay at home or shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic, you’re probably doing more shopping online than usual — and you could be saving on almost all of it.
One of the best ways to do that is with Rakuten, a cash-back portal formerly known as Ebates. Signing up for free and using their website to access thousands of popular retail stores will earn you money back on your purchases. This is possible because Rakuten gets a commission from online retailers for referring you, which it then shares with you.
Another option is the rebate app Ibotta. While it’s well-known as a way to earn cash back on items in brick-and-mortar stores, it also has a sizable number of cash-back offers for online retailers and services.
4. Save on TV with Philo
If you’re eyeing the cable bill and noticing you spend less time watching traditional pay TV these days, you have options for savings.
One of the more affordable ones is Philo, which offers a 59-channel subscription, including live TV channels and familiar series, for $20 per month with a seven-day free trial.
You can stream live or on-demand on up to three devices at once, including your computer, phone and most streaming devices — and save shows for up to 30 days. Each account can have up to 10 profiles, and you can cancel any time.
5. Save on phone service with Tello
Tello is a discount wireless carrier that operates on Sprint’s network (which means you get the same coverage as Sprint customers) with monthly rates ranging from $5 to $39.
You can customize your plan and price to suit your needs. For $39 you get unlimited data, texting and calling. Tello allows you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot at no extra charge, and some plans allow you to make international calls to Canada, Mexico and China at no extra charge.
There are no gotcha contracts or hidden fees. You can transfer your existing phone number over and continue using your own phone if it’s Sprint-compatible. If not, Tello sells phones for prices ranging from $25 to $429.
6. Track spending better with YNAB
YNAB is short for “You Need a Budget,” and if you’re trying to cut costs and plan for a possible recession, it’s a good idea.
YNAB will teach you how to automate your expense tracking, prioritize your spending, keep you making progress toward your financial goals and measure your progress month after month. It does all that by teaching you to allocate every dollar you make into flexible spending categories, and it comes with a healthy suite of tutorials and free hands-on workshops.
This service isn’t free: It costs $7 a month after a 34-day free trial. But users report average savings of more than $6,000 in their first year, which sounds like a good return on investment.
7. Get food delivered with HelloFresh and Instacart
If you’ve been on the fence about grocery or meal kit delivery, there’s never been a better time to try it than now. You can avoid crowds at grocery stores and have home-cooked, stress-free meals.
If you’re looking to improve your cooking skills, HelloFresh is a meal subscription service that lets you pick meals and then delivers pre-portioned ingredients and recipes to your door. They offer a variety of plan options, including vegetarian, low-calorie and family-friendly options for two to four people.
To learn more about meal kit subscriptions tailored to different needs and tastes, click here.
If you’d rather plan your own meals, services like Instacart can still help you avoid the crowds at the store and get fast delivery from grocery stores in hundreds of U.S. cities. They can deliver from pet stores, pharmacies and wholesale stores as well.
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