Personal Finance : Nineteen smart money moves you can make today

1. Cancel a subscription or other expense

If you want to get your money in order — both for the short term and the long term — take a look at all of your monthly subscriptions and figure out which ones you don’t really need. Cut at least one. Then next week or next month, cut another one. After a few months, you’ll start to see the difference in your accounts, allowing you to save more and develop better budgeting habits over time.

Here are a few examples of subscriptions you may be able to live without:

Gym membership: If you go to the gym every day, you may want to keep your membership. Go to the manager and ask about special offers to decrease what you’re paying. You can also shop around for better prices at other gyms — then take a better price offer to your current gym and ask for a decrease in your membership fee. Also check out these 8 ways to save on a gym membership.
TV: Here’s a list of several alternatives.
Magazine subscription
Other: Are there any monthly/annual subscriptions (like Netflix or Amazon Prime) that you can cut and share with someone in your family? By sharing the account, you cut the cost in half!

Read more: 19 ways to cut costs and save more

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2. Lower a monthly bill

A lot of people don’t realize they can lower their existing monthly bills just by doing a little negotiating. Many people can even get their credit card interest rate lowered — just by asking!

Here’s more on how to lower your existing bills.
3. Increase your 401(k) contributions

Log on to your 401(k) or other retirement account online and increase the amount you’re contributing each year. A boost of just 1% is probably small enough that you won’t even notice the money gone when you get your next paycheck. And even just an extra 1% can add up to a lot of extra savings over time!

If you can’t do it online, make a note to call your plan provider tomorrow!

Read more: The #1 tip to maximize your 401(k) investments
4. Make your savings automatic

The best way to start saving more money is to make it automatic. By giving every dollar a purpose, you can avoid reaching the end of the month and having no clue where all your money went — including the money you intended to save.

Figure out how much money you can realistically save each month, after covering all your bills and other expenses, and then set up your direct deposit to have that amount sent directly to savings. That way you won’t be tempted to spend it, and if you absolutely need the money, you can access it pretty easily.

Read more: How to automate your savings
5. Cook dinner at home

According to a recent survey, among households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more, one-third live paycheck to paycheck, and 44% said lifestyle purchases, such as dining out and entertainment, were big hindrances to saving. Among millennials bringing home $75,000 or more, 71% confessed these expenses were stealing their savings.

Get into the habit of cooking at home more. The more you do it, the more you’ll save. Plus, a recent study found that eating at home will help you lose weight, too.
6. Make an extra payment toward a debt

The average U.S. household is carrying more than $15,000 in credit card debt, according to a study by NerdWallet. And as that debt rolls over each month, the total amount owed continues to increase — sometimes by quite a lot each month — depending on the credit card’s interest rate.

Think about your situation: do you have any credit card debt or student loans hanging over your head? Those debt obligations can be big obstacles keeping you from reaching your financial goals. So the quicker you get it paid off, the quicker you will be able to truly start building wealth.

One thing you can do today is make just one extra payment toward a debt. While you may not be able to pay off the entire balance today, every little bit helps. Skip a splurge this week and use that money to pay extra toward your credit card bill or student loan debt. Put the extra money toward whichever debt has the highest interest rate — as that’s the debt that will end up costing you more money over time (the longer it sits there accruing interest, the more you’ll owe).

Paying an extra $100 toward debt, instead of wasting it on something you don’t need, will be more beneficial to your long-term financial goals by allowing you to become debt free sooner in life. Plus, the more you start to pay down debt, the quicker you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel of getting it paid off.

7. Transfer a high-interest debt

If you have a big credit card bill that’s slamming you with high interest fees every month, transferring the balance could save you hundreds of dollars. By allowing you to transfer the debt to a credit card with 0% APR (annual percentage rate) for a certain number of months, these types of offers can help you pay off your debt in a timely manner — without having to pay interest.

So if you have a credit card with a high interest rate, check out this list of great balance transfer options.

Once you transfer the debt, your payments will go a lot further without the high interest — which will cost you less money in the long run and also allow you to get it paid off quicker.

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8. Find free money

Unclaimed money from bank accounts, insurance policies, rental and utility deposits, safe deposit boxes and other places could be hanging out there somewhere in your name. All you need to know is how to check and collect it without paying any fees.

It’s particularly easy if you have a unique last name. Simply go to MissingMoney.com and punch in your name to do a database search of available unclaimed funds across all states. With one click of your mouse, you can cover the entire spectrum of what’s available.

Please note that not every single state participates. If you live in a state that doesn’t participate with this free site, there’s one more option for you: Unclaimed.org. This website is a clearinghouse for the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

Also, if you ever had an FHA home loan, HUD may be sitting on refund money for you. Go to HUD.gov and see if you’re in their refund database.

More ways to find free money in your name.
9. Reduce your student loans

Many people don’t realize that a big chunk —often the majority — of their monthly payments are probably going toward interest, depending on the interest rate and other factors (we’ll get to that). So even by paying hundreds of dollars each month, you may not even be making a dent in the total cost of your debt.

Student loan refinancing can be a great way to reduce your payments and decrease the total cost of your debt — while shrinking the time it takes to get it all paid off.

Here’s how to get started.
10. Shop for cheaper car insurance

It may be a pain, but taking a few minutes to sit down and shop around can end up saving you big bucks! Here’s where to look and how to start shopping for a better deal.
11. Reduce your utility bills

By making some basic tweaks around the house – like replacing your light bulbs – you can save a ton of money on your monthly bills! Here are 10 ways to get started.
12. Don’t pay full price

For anything you buy today, find a coupon, a promo code or maybe an alternative option — just don’t pay full price! Once you start to realize all the different ways you save on things, you’ll rarely have to pay full price!

Check out today’s best deals on Clark Deals
Apps that find you the best prices
10 websites that help you find the best discounts
9 things to always buy used
10 best drugstore bargains

13. Check your bank statements

If you don’t check your statements daily, there could be fraudulent charges on your account without you even realizing it.

Plus, it’s a good way to keep an eye on your spending and recognize any expenses you can cut!
14. Create stronger passwords

The easier your passwords are to hack, the easier it is for criminals to get their hands on your personal information — including your bank account. Each little piece of information that a scammer has about you can help them get access to your accounts.

Here’s how to make sure your passwords are strong and some free ways to safely keep them all in one place.
15. Get a cheaper cell phone plan

A recent survey found that most people are paying about twice as much as they have to each month for cell phone service. Why? Because they don’t make the effort to look for a cheaper plan.

You may be able to get the exact same place, or at least pretty close, for less money. Check out our guide to the best cell phone plans and deals here.
16. Invest spare change

There are some great apps available that now allow you to start investing with just a few bucks! Here’s a list of some of the best ones to consider.
17. Create a budget (or reevaluate your budget)

If you aren’t giving every dollar a purpose, you’re probably wasting more money than you realize.

Creating a budget will help you keep your spending on track. If you already have one, then take a good hard look at each area of spending and see if there are any categories where you can cut costs, which will free up more money for savings.
18. Start tracking your spending

Making a mental note is not an efficient way to track your spending. If you want to actually stick to a budget, you need to track every dollar that comes in and every dollar that goes out.

And it can be a lot easier than it sounds. In fact, there are tons of apps that will do it for you. You can even get updates on your progress throughout the month — like if you get close to going over budget or get closer to paying off a debt!

Here’s more on how to start tracking your spending.

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19. Eliminate a fee

There are so many fees out there these days, there’s likely at least one in your life that you can eliminate. Here are a few to consider:

Investment fees: Do you know what you’re paying in investment fees? If you don’t, you need to find out — because a difference of just 1% can save you (or cost you) up to tens of thousands of dollars over time — maybe even more. Here’s a look at some low-cost investment options.

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