With Easter around the corner, many families are eyeing places to hide plastic eggs, candy and toys for kids to discover on Sundaymorning. Anyone can relate to the elation of finding goodies in unexpected places, but few of us take the time to seek them out. Now that spring is upon us, there’s no better time to review your budget and hunt down financial Easter eggs of your own.
Consider these eight areas where you might free up extra money and use it more wisely in the coming year.
Autopay is incredibly convenient but also potentially dangerous since the set-it-and-forget-it system may lead to overages, redundant charges and other financial missteps if you fail to review them regularly. Take a comprehensive look at all the payments automatically deducted from your bank account or charged to your credit card, and determine if you still need these expenses in your life. While traditional bills like utilities and mortgage payments are necessary, subscriptions to magazines or Internet memberships can likely be cancelled for big monthly savings. Make it a point to review these automatic charges regularly so you can catch incorrect billings in a timely manner.
One in five filers overlook valuable deductions and end up overpaying their tax bill by an average of $460. Among the most surprising and commonly missed deductions: the cost of a hobby in which you occasionally make money; and summer camp or after-school activities for your kids. If you’re rushing to file a complicated return, file an extension to give yourself time to review every detail so you don’t leave money on the table. Otherwise, download the Ask a CPA App for basic tips regarding the latest tax changes, including approved expenses and deductions. The app also gives you the opportunity to ask specific questions to which CPA’s in your local area can respond.
Free service alternatives.
Your budget may be filled with services you can get for free. Instead of that $40-per-month landline, opt for free Internet home phone service from companies like Ooma. ATM fees are a waste of money since you can often receive cash for debit purchases from grocery stores, free of charge. If you’re paying for access to your credit report, know that you can receive one free report per year from AnnualCreditReport.com. Avoid checking accounts that charge annual fees, as local banks and credit unions likely offer free alternatives. Even fitness classes can be streamed for free through YouTube and other free Internet platforms, making your pricey monthly membership potentially unnecessary.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of mindlessly spending money on everyday expenses such as fuel, groceries, cleaning supplies and medicine without thinking about ways to reduce costs. In truth, there are a myriad of ways to save money on these purchases. Mobile apps likeTarget Cartwheel make it easy to save an extra 10 to 20% on items you buy regularly, while Amazon coupon codes from sites like Coupon Sherpa help you save extra money on everything from fashion to pantry goods. Then, always compare prices using the ShopSavvy app or Invisible Hand browser tool to make sure you’re getting the lowest price available.
Spring is the best time to clear your household of the clutter that’s accumulated during the cold winter months. While it may be tempting to donate what you no longer use, there are a bevy of online sites where you can sell turn your unwanted items into cash. Specifically, you can sell used gadgets at Gazelle or NextWorth; old clothes at Tradesy or thredUp; and unused gift cards at GiftCardGranny.com or through a Coinstart Exchange Kiosk at your local grocery store.
When was the last time you reviewed your insurance policies to ensure you were getting the most competitive rate? Call around or surf the Web for new quotes on car, home and life insurance policies. When it comes to car insurance, many consumers focus on the final premium, but it’s important to check coverage selections, limits and deductibles before considering the final price. Many insurance companies offer reduced rates when you purchase more than one policy, so be sure to ask about these discounts during your search.
Reward and loyalty programs.
According to reports, nearly 16 billion worth of reward points and miles go unredeemed every year. If you’ve been collecting points across your accounts, take the time to review what you’ve accumulated and note expiration dates so you don’t miss out. This may be the perfect time to redeem those rewards to cover the cost of airfare for a summer vacation or to go towards gift purchases for an upcoming wedding, baby shower or birthday celebration. Moving forward, maximize rewards by registering for retail and restaurant loyalty programs and consolidate accounts with the CardStar app so you never miss a reward.
Credit card debt.
The best way to save money on debt is to pay it off completely, but that may not be an option for you right now. While you should always pay double to triple the minimum due on each account to save on interest fees overtime, take a moment to call your credit card providers and find out if you qualify for an interest-fee reduction. Otherwise, save money by consolidating to a low-interest personal loan from a local credit union. Compare rates using sites like LendingTree.com.
Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Consumer Reports, Forbes and many more. In addition, Andrea’s stories have been published among leading publications and sites such as Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, CNN Money, Huffington Post, LearnVest and New York Daily News. Check out Andrea’s demo reel or visit her website at AndreaWoroch.com for more information about booking an interview or requesting an original written article. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily money tips.