How to Lower Your Bills
Bills. They’re probably the least exciting part of being an adult. And there’s no avoiding them: You’ve got to eat, have shelter, and get from here to there, after all. But as the bills pile up, they can become less of an annoyance and more of a threat. You may find yourself questioning if you’ll ever get ahead—or if you can even cover this month’s bills.
Hey. Whether you just want some tips on how to lower your bills so you can have more money in savings or you’re at your wit’s end under a pile of payments you’re worried you’ll never get on top of, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some ways to lower your bills, both right now and in the long run.
How to Lower Your Food Bills
The top budget category where most Americans overspend is food. That’s groceries and restaurants. And because we know it’s a problem area, it’s the perfect place to start saving some dough.
1. Meal plan.
Meal planning is good for your body and your budget. Create a calendar for the week, thinking about all the breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack times coming your way. Then check your kitchen, the store sales and your recipes. Plan meals based on what’s on sale and what you already have.
When you meal plan, you’re being super intentional with the food you buy. That means less food going into the trash and fewer last-minute trips to the drive-thru. And that means a lower grocery bill every single month.
2. Make a shopping list.
As you’re making those meal plans, put everything you need on a shopping list. Then check it twice. If you can, organize your list by aisle or section so you have fewer back and forth moments in the store.
3. Stick to the list.
Listen: This isn’t improv night at the comedy club. It’s you being serious about cutting back on your food bill. So, don’t go off script. You’ve built a solid meal plan and grocery list based on sales, so don’t let those half-price quadruple-stuff cookies take advantage of you. Stick to it.
4. Look at price per ounce.
Which is a better deal: eight ounces of sour cream for taco night at $1.59 or 16 ounces for $2.47? Are you having math class flashbacks? Thankfully, most stores do the math for you and post the price per ounce right on the tag. But you can always use your phone as a calculator. Just put in the price and divide it by the ounces. That’s price per ounce. But be careful: Don’t buy the bigger sour cream if you know half of it will go bad before you use it up! That brings us to our next point.
5. Use ingredients wisely.
If you do have a taco night in the meal plan rotation and sour cream is cheaper in the bigger size, add another recipe that needs sour cream into that week. Same goes for the lettuce (have salad with your pasta later that week) and the ground beef (make a meat loaf).
6. Drink water.
If you’re eating in a restaurant or grabbing food to take home, you can save money in most instances by skipping the drink and enjoying free water. Plus, your body will thank you for skipping the sugar.
7. Don’t forget the leftovers.
Eating up leftovers (from a restaurant or your own cooking) is a perfect way to extend that food budget. Take them in for lunch the next day or put a leftovers night on the calendar as one of the dinner options. You already spent the money on this meal—so don’t let those leftovers go to waste.
8. Quit restaurants.
This one may sound radical, but if you really want to lower your food bill, consider quitting restaurants . . . at least for a period of time. One week. One month. How long can you go? Make it a fun challenge and get excited about what that extra money can do for your budget.
How to Lower Your Utility Bills
A great way to lower your utility costs is by making simple changes to your daily habits. Some of these tips are quick wins, and others are longer plays—but they’re all great ways to save some money.
9. Buy energy-efficient lightbulbs.
You can lower your electricity bill by $75 a year by switching your five most-used lightbulbs to ones that have earned an Energy Star.1 Double bonus, these bulbs last longer too. This energy-efficient move is super green—good for the planet and your wallet.
10. Turn off the lights.
Back in the 80s, Motel 6 had an advertising slogan: We’ll leave the light on for you. You’re not Motel 6. You’re on a mission to lower your electricity bill. So, turn off the lights when you leave a room—and train everyone in the house to do the same.
11. Save on showering.
About 18% of your home’s energy use comes from heating water.2 One easy way to lower this bill is to take cold showers—hey, relationship and mental health expert Dr. John Delony says this is great for the body and mind! But if you aren’t ready to make the plunge on that trend, just shower quicker or invest in a more energy-efficient water heater. This is an upfront cost today, but it’ll save you money tomorrow on all the showers, handwashing, dishes, laundry and pet baths. If you’re able to save up and pay cash for one, it’s a fantastic investment.
12. Turn off the water.
Here’s something that combines a little of tips 10 and 11. Don’t let the water run the whole time you’re doing everyday things. When you’re brushing your teeth, turn off the water. Lathering up in the shower, turn off the water. Handwashing your collectable Star Wars cups, turn off the water. You can lower your water bill if you become more mindful of those times you just let that tap run for no reason.
13. Replace your air filters.
Guess what? Replacing your air filters every three months is a three-way punch. One, it helps prolong the life of your HVAC system. Two, it helps your HVAC run more efficiently (which is where the lower monthly bill comes in). And three, have you looked at an air filter that’s overextended its stay? It. Is. Disgusting. And the air is going through that mess and into your whole house. No thank you. Change those filters!
14. Avoid phantom loads.
There’s something haunting your electricity bills, but you can take action and lower your energy bill without much effort. That haunting presence is called a phantom load or phantom energy, and it happens when you keep certain electronics and appliances plugged in that keep sucking power, even when they aren’t in use.
Here’s a quick list of some of those items:
- Coffee makers
- The clocks on stereos and microwaves
- DVD players and cable boxes
- Televisions and computers
- Cell phone chargers
Just unplug them all when you aren’t using them (or get a few power strips with on/off switches so you have fewer cords to deal with). Reducing phantom loads is a great place to lower your electricity bill.
How to Lower Your Housing Bills
Renters and homeowners alike—your housing bill is probably the biggest chunk that comes out of your paycheck each month. Warning: Some of these ideas might seem like a huge change to you, but since this is such a huge expense, give each one some good thought!
So, yeah, we came out of the gate with an extreme one, right? But hang with us for a second. Look at these good reasons to downsize: Your mortgage takes up too much of your monthly income. The kids moved away and you need less space. You’re tired of cleaning all those rooms. You want to free up money to focus on some other money goal. If any of these ring true for you, it might be time to move on. Literally.
Think about it—you might even be able to downsize enough that you can pay cash for a new house. That means no mortgage, and $19,200 or more a year freed up in your income to fix up that new house, add to your retirement, help the kids pay for college, or live more comfortably inside your monthly budget. Here’s the math on that: The median monthly mortgage payment in America is around $1,600.3 Multiply that by 12 months in the year. Bam. $19,200. We know this is a big concept to think over—but give it some thought! Smaller house, bigger dreams? It might be worth it!
16. Consider refinancing.
Refinancing isn’t right for everyone, but in certain situations, it can help you get a lower monthly payment or drop your interest rate. Consider it if any of these things apply to you:
- You have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).
- You have an interest-only loan.
- Your mortgage has more than a 15-year term (such as 30 or 40 years).
- You have a high-interest-rate loan.
“Hold up,” you might be saying. “How will getting a shorter-term mortgage help me lower my bills?” This is another one of those long-term games. You’ll pay thousands less in interest over the years and can get out from under your mortgage quicker. Seriously. You might want to look into this.
17. Rent out part of your home.
If you have extra space, consider getting a roommate or putting a room up on Airbnb. The extra income from either of these options can lower your housing bill by going to your mortgage or rent each month!
18. Switch insurance agents.
When was the last time you checked your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy? Never? That’s a common answer, but uncommon actions are sometimes the best way to save money.
Check in on your policy by talking to an independent insurance agent. When you go with an agent instead of a company, their loyalty is to you—not to a specific company. So they’ll shop around until they find the best fit and rate for where you are in life. You can lower this bill by hundreds a year without much effort at all!
How to Lower Your Transportation Bills
Unless you go literally nowhere, you’ve got transportation costs: gasoline, insurance and maintenance, to name three. Let’s look at some ways to lower those bills.
19. Be intentional when running errands.
Before you head out to run any errands, take a moment to plan your stops so you drive the fewest miles and burn the fewest gallons of gas. Also, that meal plan and grocery list you wrote out in tips one and two can save you money here too. How? Well-thought-out shopping lists mean fewer “Oh, crap, I forgot (fill in the black)” moments and fewer random trips to the store. All this saves gas, which means a lower gasoline bill every month.
20. Check in on your car insurance.
You might be paying too much for your car insurance. There’s a small lizard guy who tells you that all the time, but it’s true! Because you could have an outdated policy—or even worse—you might be overpaying! Who wants that? No. One. Again, you need to talk to an independent insurance agent to get the right coverage for the best price.
21. Keep your tires properly inflated.
Check the air in your tires at least once a month. If it’s below what your user manual or doorjamb says is the recommended tire pressure, you could be wasting some gasoline. Keeping it just right can improve your gas mileage.
22. Sell that extra car.
Okay, don’t freak out. We don’t mean you should start walking everywhere (unless you can and want to). But owning fewer cars means freeing up money from car payments (if you have them), gas, maintenance, insurance and other fees. So, if you’ve got an extra vehicle you don’t really need, consider selling it for a quick win. Or if you’ve got an expensive car, you could sell it and pay cash for something reliable but way cheaper.
23. Ditch the car payment.
What if you could lower your transportation bill by $554 a month? You’d jump at the chance, right? But, you’re wondering, what’s the catch?
The “catch” is this: You need to ditch that car loan. The average monthly payment is—you guessed it—$554.4 But, you’re wondering, how do I live without a car payment? Aren’t they just a way of life?
Well, for some people they are. But they don’t have to be! Look at that number again: $554. On something that loses 60% of its value in just four years.5 That’s. Just. Gross. If “some people” want to tell you it’s a way of life, then let them. But that’s a big heck no from us.
Hey, we still aren’t suggesting you start walking everywhere. But do save some cash and pay for a simple, used car you can actually own. Then sell the car that owns you. Because it’s time to feel the freedom in letting go of everyone else’s “way of life” and start living yours.
How to Lower Your Debt
Ugh. Debt. It’s literally the worst. Take a second and look over your monthly bills. How many of them are debt? You might be shocked by how much you’re spending each month on things you purchased a while back. It’s like running on a hamster wheel with your money. So, let’s figure out how to get that money back into your budget.
24. Check on student loan refinancing.
With the right kind of refinancing, you can pay off your student loans way faster. But some companies are more focused on getting your business than helping you ditch your school loans. (No thank you.) Stay away from those and stick with a company that doesn’t charge a refinancing or early payoff fee. Also, you want to make sure they don’t try to push a longer repayment period or more debt. (Yuck.) We recommend Splash Financial for totally free refinancing and no hidden agendas. (Just savings.)
25. Break up with debt.
You know what debt’s good for? Holding you back. Debt takes yesterday’s spending and shoves it to today’s budget. And hey, today’s budget doesn’t need that crap. It has enough to cover.
This relationship is keeping you from getting ahead with your money. Debt has its best interest in mind—not yours. In fact, it racks up more interest the longer you stay together. It’s time for the “it’s not me, it’s you” talk with debt. This might be hard at first, but once you’ve got all those debt bills out of your life for good, you can really be in control of your money.
26. Don’t go back to debt.
Look back at two of those key words above: for good. You might be tempted to go back into debt—but be strong. Remember how controlling it was. Remember there’s better out there for you. When you break up with debt, don’t go back.
27. Cut up your credit cards.
The best way to lower your credit card bill to zero every month is to cut those cards up, pay them off, and never use them again (which is ensured by the whole cutting them up part). Oh, and when you cut them up, make sure you delete their info from all of your fave shopping sites. Goodbye, credit card bills and all that monthly interest. See you never!
Here’s just a quick callout. Life is possible without debt. Heck—it’s better! So, get all that debt out of your life. For. Good.
How to Lower Your Household Goods Bills
Household goods are pretty self-explanatory—they’re all the stuff you need around the house like hygiene, cleaning and paper products. You can’t avoid most of them, but you can spend less on lots of them. Here’s how.
28. Go generic.
Not with your personality—with your products. Because do you really need designer dental floss? No. Go generic wherever you can to lower the household goods spending line in your budget.
29. Use coupons.
Coupons aren’t just for grannies. You can save some serious money each week by clipping coupons out of the paper or clicking them on a store’s app. And some places will take both your manufacturer’s coupon and the store’s coupon. Shop those places. Do it now.
30. Stock up on the sale items.
Don’t buy something that’s on sale when you don’t need it. That’s wasteful. But when your family’s favorite toilet paper is discounted, stock up for the month. Grab multiple tubes of toothpaste when the bubble fruit flavor (aka the only one approved by your elementary kid) is item of the week. Just don’t forget you’ve got a supply at the ready and accidently buy more of something when it’s not on sale.
31. Reuse single-use items.
You know that gallon ziplock bag that held grapes for a week? Rinse it out and reuse it to hold builder bricks for your kid. And the toothbrush that’s past its prime? Don’t toss it, but repurpose it as a scrubber for that hard-to-reach spot around the sink handles. By reimagining an item’s use before you condemn it to the trash, you can lower home expenses each and every month.
32. Make your own cleaners.
Look into making some of your own household cleaners, laundry detergent and soaps. You’ll know what’s in them (which makes you feel good) and can save some good money too.
How to Lower Your Subscription Bills
You might have more subscriptions than you think. Have you ever signed up for something and just keep automatically paying the bill, without even using that product or service anymore? Here are some examples and ways to lower subscription bills.
33. Try working out at home.
Lower your fitness bills by dropping that gym membership and working out at home—or in the great outdoors. You can find free fitness apps and online videos all over the place that can replace the trainer too. Remember, saying goodbye to the gym doesn’t have to be a forever thing. But while you’re trying hard to lower bills, it’s a great place to trim up your spending.
34. Put the fun subscription box on hold.
Okay, so you love having happiness delivered to your doorstep every month in the form of themed ankle socks or pup pampering items. But if you want to lower bills, you need to put all subscription boxes on hold. For now. Once you’ve got your money under control, you can put this right back in the budget.
35. Cut back on streaming services.
How many television or music streaming services do you actually need? Probably not as many as you’re paying for. Cut some out or go back to the free version. Hey, you can handle a few ads on your way to gaining more peace with your budget every month.
36. Evaluate all your subscriptions.
While you’re at it, look at all the streaming services, memberships and subscriptions in your life. Are you still getting a magazine for . . . Wait—why are you still getting a magazine? Cancel that. And do you really have space in the budget to be a part of that overpriced workout streaming service?
Okay, so some of these may seem obvious or out there, but you’ll probably be surprised by how many bills you can lower—and actually cut out entirely—by taking a good look at these things. If a subscription isn’t saving you more money than it’s costing you, cancel it.
Whoa, wait. There are memberships that save you more than they cost? Yes! We’ve got one. It’s called Ramsey+, and it’s your all-access membership to our best money tools, apps and content—aka everything you need to take control of your money. Ramsey+ walks you through a money plan that actually works, and we know that because families save an average of $2,700 and pay off $5,300 in debt in the first 90 days of following it!
It’s another one of those initial investments—but it really pays off (big) in the long run. And if you want to give it a test drive, you can do just that in a free trial.
So, jump into this list, take action working through lowering your bills, and try out Ramsey+ to learn even more money-saving, debt-ditching, goal-crushing tips.