Cutting Back on These Key Expenses Will Save Money and Complement Biden’s Social Spending Bill
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill to support transportation, broadband and utilities for taxpayers at a cost of $1 trillion. However, the social spending and climate policy bill is still up for a vote. Key Democrats hope to pass the social spending bill by Thanksgiving.
Despite the cost reduction to $1.75 trillion over a decade, according to CBSNews, the bill still contains some of the items from the original Build Back Better framework. However, many provisions have been cut from the proposal, including free community college, paid family and medical leave and home healthcare assistance. And several of Americans’ biggest expenses, including gas and groceries, aren’t addressed in the bill. In fact, even with gas prices rising, the Biden Administration doesn’t have many tools available to lessen Americans’ pains at the pump.
With costs continuing to rise on expenses like utilities, gas, groceries and child care, it’s more important than ever for Americans to examine their monthly bills and see how they can cut costs. A recent doxoINSIGHTS survey showed that Americans are paying more than ever for the top 10 most common bills.
“In general, the best way for consumers to understand whether or not they are getting the best deal is to know how much they should or could be paying for their bills,” said Jim Kreyenhagen, Doxo VP of Marketing and Consumer Services. He notes that doxoINSIGHTS offers a database of national and regional averages across the most common household bill pay categories.
“Our bill comparison database has detailed infographics for all 50 states, and more than 900 cities and towns across the country,” Kreyenhagen explained. “We believe that if we can arm consumers with hard data about how much their neighbors are paying, they will be much better equipped to negotiate, whether through using a bill negotiation tool or reaching out to engage with their providers directly.”
When you’re looking to negotiate your bill payments or cut costs in other ways, certain spending categories may have more impact on your family’s budget than others.
Reduce Heating and Cooling Costs with Home Improvements
Decreasing utilities expenses often doesn’t require stressful negotiations or shopping around. Kreyenhagen said that 66% of survey respondents reduced their gas and electric bills by making living adjustments at home to reduce energy use. Only 8% negotiated a lower rate with their provider, while 5% switched to a lower cost provider, which is only an option in regions with deregulated energy providers.
“People can install home features to improve insulation and conserve energy costs,” he continued. Improvements include insulating window treatments, smart power strips and energy-efficient bulbs to reduce energy costs. Also, consider smart devices for lighting and thermostats to help monitor and reduce usage.
“Smart devices, like programmable thermostats, are often helpful instruments to invest in because they allow people to more carefully calibrate and track their utilities usage,” Kreyenhagen said.
Kick Cable to the Curb for Added Savings
If you’re still paying for cable, you shouldn’t be paying top dollar. “Individuals can reduce cable and internet costs by engaging with their providers to negotiate, as companies may be willing to match offers from competitors in order to prevent the loss of customers,” Kreyenhagen explained.
He noted that 51% of consumers who reduced their cable and internet bills used this tactic, either negotiating a lower payment or cutting costs by reducing their service with their provider. Reducing internet bandwidth or signing up for a package with fewer television channels can cut costs significantly. If you work from home, though, minimizing your bandwidth could affect your productivity, so you’ll want to cut costs on TV and streaming services, but keep your internet access at the highest level.
Another option is to eliminate services, such as cutting the cord on cable entirely, to reduce bills. “Twenty-two percent [of those polled] permanently eliminated at least one cable and internet account, showing that at least 1 in 5 individuals looking to save on these bills were looking to slash their spending substantially,” Kreyenhagen stated. Another 12% lowered their cable and internet bills by switching to a lower-cost provider.
If your household qualifies as low-income, you may look into the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit. “Qualifying households get a monthly $50 subsidy for broadband and a one-time assistance subsidy to purchase a connected device like a computer or a tablet,” Kreyenhagen said.
Fuel Funds by Shopping Around for Gas
Most experts recommended Gas Buddy to reduce fuel costs during travel, with average gas prices at $3.415 this week. “Download the GasBuddy app and use it to find the cheapest gas near you or along your route,” said Dylan Houlihan, founder at Swift Salary. Houlihan also recommended downloading gas station rewards apps for further savings.
Ryan Nelson, founder at APY GUY, also suggested being mindful of when you fill your tank. “Monday and Tuesday tend to be the cheapest days to fill up your tank, while Friday, Saturday and Sunday tend to be the priciest,” he clarified.
Keep Grocery Shopping in Check
With costs creeping up at grocery stores, American families are looking for more ways to save on produce, meats and pantry staples. Avoiding the store entirely, experts say, can be one of the best ways to save.
“Instead of going into the store where you are more likely to overspend, order your groceries online for pickup,” suggested Alli Williams, money expert and CEO of FinanciALLI Focused. “This way you can compare prices, stick to your list and see what items are on sale.” She also advocated for planning meals around seasonal items, which are often on sale.
Matt Weidle, Business Development Manager for Buyer’s Guide, recommended putting pantry staples and paper goods on autoship through Amazon or another website. “Look for the ‘subscribe and save’ option at the checkout,” he explained. “There are several discounts available on many websites when you subscribe to a specific item.” You’ll save time and money at the grocery store and can reserve your shopping trips for meats and produce. You can save even more by shopping at your local farmer’s market or food co-op, Weidle recommended.
When you do make that trip to the grocery store, Nelson suggested being a more careful shopper. “Always cross reference your receipt with what’s in your bag,” he said. “Cashiers sometimes make mistakes.” Even if you choose the self-checkout option, some items may ring up incorrectly. Keep an eye on store signage so you know what’s supposed to be on sale.
Also, Nelson advised that shoppers make sure to always use store rewards cards to take advantage of sales and earn bonus points. “If you’re like me, you rarely have your rewards card on you and instead enter in your phone number or email,” he elaborated. “Double-check with the screen or the cashier attendant to make sure the number was entered properly and registered by the system.”
Get a Handle on Child Care Costs
Whether or not the government offers a Paid Family Leave program for 2022 along with Universal pre-K, most working parents will still need child care for their children who are not yet of schooling age. And if UPK comes to fruition, they will still need child care to cover the hours between when the typical school day ends (between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.) and when the average workday ends, which is typically 5-6 p.m.
Nelson, a parent of two children under 5 years old, advises parents to think of innovative ways to save on child care. “Get together with co-workers or friends who also have small children and see if they’d be interested in sharing a child care provider or nanny near your home or office,” he said. “A highly qualified and well-referenced nanny split three or four ways could save you hundreds per month versus your standard accredited day care center.”
Nelson also recommended speaking to your employer about covering some of the day care costs, or even implementing on-site child care if you have enough working parents in the office. With employers looking to provide perks and benefits to recruit and retain high-performing team members, employers may realize that on-site child care can boost productivity, improve peace of mind for workers and reduce absenteeism. “If you have an office full of highly talented co-workers who also happen to be parents, then they may go for it,” Nelson said. “Never hurts to ask!”
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If there is one piece of advice that can help you cut costs in many different areas, that would be it: Just ask. You may be able to negotiate lower rates on everything from credit card interest charges to your smartphone plan.
Being mindful of spending, comparing costs and seeking the best value can help savvy consumers weather whatever the economy brings over the next few years.
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