During uncertain economic times, everyone is searching for ways to cut back on spending. Maybe you’ve already started brown-bagging lunch and stopped buying those $5 lattes, but there’s no reason to stop there. The Virginia Society of CPAs advises that there are other simple steps you can take to keep more money in your pocket.
STEP #1: Stop paying credit card interest rates
If you do not pay off your credit card bills each month — or you pay only the minimum payment — the credit card company is charging you interest that gets added to your outstanding balance each month. That means you end up paying interest not only on the purchases you’ve made but also on the interest charges for those purchases. If at all possible, consider paying off your balance or chipping away at as much as possible each month. If you don’t have the cash to do that right now, the next step is to look for lower interest rates. Begin by asking your credit card company if it will reduce your current interest rate.
Many are willing to do so if they think they will lose your business otherwise. If that doesn’t work, find another credit card provider with lower rates and transfer your balance to one of their cards. Read the fine print on any credit card agreement, though, to be sure that the new credit card company does not charge transaction, activation or other fees that might make it more costly than your old card.
STEP #2: Get a better price on Internet service
Are you using the lowest-priced Internet service provider? A quick web search will tell you if there are competitors out there with more attractive rates. Getting information about competing offers is a good idea even if you would prefer not to change your service. That’s because you can call your own provider armed with information about the competition and ask if it is willing to match the lowest price out there. There’s a good chance your provider will.
STEP #3: Slash your cell phone costs
Are you making full use of all the cell phone services that you’re paying for? This is a good time to reread your contract to see if you truly need all the bells and whistles that come with your current plan. If you don’t really do a lot of phoning or texting, don’t pay for unlimited options, for example.
Instead, choose the least expensive plan. Remember also that the fanciest phones also come with the most expensive plans. Consider whether you really need the latest gadget or if a reliable, but less elaborate phone with a cheaper plan makes more sense. Also consider a prepaid cell phone since they allow you to pay only for the service you actually use.
STEP #4: Reconsider your land line
If you find that you are actually using your cell phone most of the time, it might be a good idea to cut out an unnecessary cost by getting rid of your home land line altogether. If you’re reluctant to do so, look into cheaper options, including voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) or cable phone services.
STEP #5: Reduce your bank fees
Don’t keep paying monthly bank fees when you could be getting free checking. Many banks now offer attractive deals on checking and other services, so it’s smart to shop around. If you pay for checking, find out what services are included and decide whether you really need them. Ask also about the ATM and other added fees at your bank and at others to see who has the best deal.
Turn to your local CPA
Of course, you’ll never know how much you’re saving — or which expenses you could be cutting — if you don’t have a monthly budget. If you have questions about how to work with a budget and better manage your money, turn to your local CPA. Your CPA has the answers to all your financial questions.