Consumer Savings Tips

Hunt Down These 8 Financial Easter Eggs in Your Budget

With Easter around the corner, many families are eyeing places to hide plastic eggs, candy and toys for kids to discover on Sunday morning. 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.

Recurring expenses.

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.

Missed deductions.

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. 

Everyday expenses.

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 like Target Cartwheel make it easy to save an extra 10 to 20% on items you buy regularly. And, always make sure to compare prices using the ShopSavvy app or Invisible Hand browser tool to make sure you’re getting the lowest price available.

Household clutter.

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 old clothes at sites like Tradesy, unneeded wedding decor at BridalGarageSales.com and old sporting equipment at SwapMeSports.com. 

Insurance plans.

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. 

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