32 “Genius” ways to save money in 2021: insurance, loans, subscriptions, and more


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UPDATED: 2021-02-02T21:15:47.474Z
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A young woman at her computer finding ways to save money.

Are you looking for new ways to save money? Many people make an annual resolution to save money in the coming year, and 2021 is likely no different. The definition of “genius” ways to save money are simply ways you haven’t thought of yet, often because they are easily overlooked.

Over the years, many of us get out of practice of looking for ways to save money. This post will be a refresher course for some readers and have some new ideas for others.

Here’s a list of ways to save money on your daily expenses. Hopefully some of these money saving tips will be new to you.

Savings Category 1: Save money on insurance

If you haven’t checked your insurance policies in a while, it might be a good idea to do so in order to make sure you have the coverage you need at a reasonable price. Here are some ways to save money on your insurance policy.

  1. Ask for discounts – You might be surprised at how many discounts are available to you through your insurer, so make sure that you ask. Some insurers offer car insurance discounts to drivers who complete a defensive driving course. Renters, look around your apartment. Certain features like fire suppression sprinkler systems could earn you a discount. (Carriers offering good discounts according to customer reviews: Progressive Insurance profile, USAA for military families, AARP The Hartford (Age 50+) and Liberty Mutual)
  2. Look into affiliations – Your line of work could save you money on insurance. If you work in an educational setting such as a public or private school, college or university, you may qualify to join Meemic. If you’re a member of the military or an immediate family member of someone who serves, you might qualify for USAA insurance. Affiliation insurance companies offer a wide range of products and services, and they are available for a number of professions.
  3. Bundle your policies – If you have multiple policies, you might save money by “bundling” all of your insurance with one insurer.
  4. Shop around for better prices – Insurance companies continuously revise and update the formulas they use to underwrite insurance policies. That’s because the more information they have, the better they are able to estimate risks. As they collect more information over time, the better their estimates. This means that quotes can change from year to year as well. If you don’t shop around, you might miss lower prices.
  5. Read reviews – The best tips for saving on insurance come from other customers, so take time to read reviews and learn from other customers how they have saved money on insurance.
  6. Homeowners insurance – If you want to know how to save money on homeowners insurance, ask your insurer about smart home technology, or if they offer discounts for burglary or fire detection systems.
  7. Car insurance – And, if you’re looking to see how to save money on car insurance, there are a bunch of options. If you’re driving less because you aren’t commuting to an office every day, you could save money by asking your current insurer for a low mileage discount, or, you could switch policies to a “pay as you go” insurance model.

Savings Category 2: Save money by being intentional with your spending

When trying to save money, it’s a good idea to check and make sure you know everything that you’re paying for. You could be paying for things that you don’t even know about!

  1. Review your automatic payments – Setting up automated payments is great for the ease and convenience, but for services you don’t use anymore, it’s just money flowing right out of your account. If you want to know how to save money fast, take a minute or two to review all of the automatic payments you have set up that draw from your bank account or credit cards, and cancel anything you don’t use anymore.
  2. Charitable donations – If you’re looking to save money because you’ve lost a job or your income has dropped, even charitable donations need to be reviewed. If you can afford to keep giving, do—but reviewing these expenses means you are doing so with intent and at a level your budget can handle.
  3. Gym/Fitness memberships – Gyms know that there’s a rush to sign up at the beginning of the year, when resolutions are made. Unfortunately, when the resolve drops off, the monthly charges remain. If you aren’t using your fitness club membership, cancel it. And, even if you decide to keep your membership, make sure that you’re on a plan that reflects your usage level. Check your math and make sure that paying for the unlimited monthly class pass for a set amount per month is actually less than paying a per-class charge.
  4. Streaming services and other subscriptions – Did you sign up for a streaming service to watch a hot new show and binged every episode in two weeks? Chances are, you signed up for a monthly charge. Five or six dollars a month doesn’t sound like much…until you sign up for multiple services. Review and only keep the ones you actually watch. (Don’t forget: Netflix, Hulu, Sling, HBO and others.) This is true for any other subscriptions as well including newspapers, mobile apps, magazines and more.
  5. Cell phone agreements – Has it been a while since you looked at your smartphone contract? You might be paying for data you aren’t using, or a plan that doesn’t fit. You should call your carrier to see if you can get a better rate (possibly even a new phone).
  6. Cable – Take note of the channels you really watch regularly, paying close attention to how many are streaming services you’re paying for separately. You might be able to spend less on cable by changing your cable package. And, if you find you are more likely to watch programs on a streaming service, consider cutting out cable altogether.
  7. Groceries – Americans throw out more food than any other country, tossing an estimated 40 million tons of food a year. The USDA estimates between 30-40 percent of our food supply is wasted at the retail and consumer level. One way to save on groceries? Only buy what you need. To save on what you do purchase, build your shopping list based on weekly offers, clip coupons, and don’t overlook generic equivalents.
  8. Personal Care – Check out points programs and stock up on sale items when it makes sense to on items that won’t expire.
  9. Stock up smartly – Pay attention to expiration dates when you do stock up on sale items, as you won’t be saving money if you have to toss things out should they expire before you have a chance to use them. Many over-the-counter medications, sunscreens, and even toothpaste can lose effectiveness when they pass expiration dates.
  10. Time your purchases – When does lawn furniture go on sale? At the end of summer. When can you get 75 percent off on holiday gift wrapping? In January. Sometimes life intervenes and something breaks at the worst possible time, but if you know you want to replace a seasonal item, try and time your purchase for after the season has ended.
  11. Restaurants and takeout – 2020 was an incredibly rough year on the restaurant industry, so if you’re following the money saving tips on this list, spend it here and tip generously.

Savings Category 3: Savings on home maintenance

There may be small things that you can do to your home to help you save money over time. Here are some things to consider for your home to decrease costs.

  1. Weatherproofing – Check doors and windows to make sure they are still weathertight. You could be spending more money on heating and cooling if seals are wearing away.
  2. Insulation – Products designed to insulate your home have changed and improved over the years. If you have an older home, you may want to consider doing an energy audit—some electricity providers even offer this as a free service.
  3. Check for leaks - Check your home for any leaks in the faucets, hoses, pipes, and other areas. If you have any slow water leaks, it will cost you a lot of money over time.
  4. Smart meters – These are designed to help you learn more about your daily energy usage, and can help you to find ways to save. Again, some home energy providers will upgrade you to a smart meter at either no charge, or for a nominal fee.
  5. Lawns, snow, and other outsourced tasks – If you currently pay someone else to do these tasks, reexamine how that impacts your budget. Professional lawn services, hiring out to do yard work, and paying for a snow removal service adds up. If you don’t want to tackle these chores yourself, see if there’s a budget-friendly alternative, such as hiring a local teen to do the work.
  6. Consider buying used – If you need to purchase something, consider buying used. The “Marie Kondo” phase saw such a massive rise in people purging that which didn’t “spark joy” that second-hand stores were overloaded with inventory. If you need anything from a desk lamp to screwdriver to a hand-crank pasta machine, consider your local thrift store first, before buying new. Many items that get purged are the lightly used results of impulse purchases or gift-giving gone awry and almost as good as new. This is also an environmentally friendly option!
  7. Comparison shop – This was mentioned above in regards to insurance policies, but it’s a good habit to get into for other items as well. Shopping around for the best price can save you considerable money on almost all of your purchases.
  8. Books, games, movies – One big surprise in 2020 was for publishers, who saw sales of books jump. With people confined to their homes, book sales were up by around 8 percent. As supportive as we are about reading, buying new books can add up. If you’re looking to save money while sticking to your reading goals, check out your local library. In addition to books, depending on your library’s collection you can also check out DVDs, audiobooks, and puzzles and games. (If you’re concerned about COVID precautions in public spaces, see if your library offers downloadable checkouts that deliver ebooks directly to your tablet, or see if they offer contactless curbside service for pickup.)
  9. Rent, don’t buy – For tasks that you’ll only tackle once, consider renting the equipment you need instead of buying it. It will cost less overall, and you won’t have to find storage space when you’re done. This is particularly true for home improvement projects, which can involve large, expensive equipment.
  10. Borrow or barter – Borrowing equipment from a friend or neighbor rather than buying it is a good way to save money, but reserve this option for infrequent needs and make certain whatever is borrowed is returned promptly. Exchanging services (bartering) can work well too, saving both parties money.
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Savings Category 4: Saving with credit cards and banking

Are there ways you can save money with your credit cards and banking services? Here are some ideas.

  1. Credit card points and programs – If you use credit cards wisely, you can save money. Points and perks programs can offer discounts or cash back on purchases you’d be making anyway. Many credit card programs offer cash back or points for grocery and gas purchases. Others have purchasing affiliations, allowing you to save money by buying products from vendors they have agreements with, so investigate to see what your cards can offer.
  2. Interest – If you’re paying high interest rates on credit card balances, try to find a card with lower interest rates. And, strive to pay off the balance each month—you’ll benefit way more from the cash back and points programs if you aren’t paying money out in interest each month.
  3. Bank charges – Take a moment to see if you could save money on fees. Many banks now charge a fee to mail a paper statement, simply switching to online statements could save you money on fees.
  4. ATM fees – If you’re paying fees each month to use an out of network ATM because it’s more convenient, either switch accounts to a closer bank, or develop routines that take you closer to your own bank’s ATMs.

Hopefully this list will give you the jump start you need to start saving money fast this year. Once you start seeing how savings can add up, you’ll be motivated to save even more.

If you’re interested in shopping around for insurance to see if you can save money with a new policy, visit Clearsurance's resources: car insurance recommendations page and homeowners insurance recommendations page.

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