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An increasing number of financial experts suggest a recession is on the horizon, which may spur you to batten down the financial hatches and start saving more. But most tips on “how to save money” tell you to cut everything fun out of your budget—which doesn’t sound like fun at all.
Is it possible to keep your lifestyle and save money simultaneously? The answer is yes, with some time (and initial outlay) spent on your part.
You don’t have to stop shopping at your favorite stores or cancel all your streaming services. The five ways to save money below can carve out savings without sacrificing your lifestyle.
1. Rethink Your Cell Phone Bill
According to J.D. Power, a consumer data and analytics firm, Americans paid an average of $151 per month for their cell phone bill in the first four months of 2022. However, you could score serious savings if you’re willing to get creative with your cell phone spending.
Switch to an Alternate Carrier
Gone are the days when you have to go with one of the major cell phone carriers like AT&T or Verizon. Scrappy new cell phone carriers are abundant, and some have networks powered by larger companies. They also make it easy to transfer your phone number.
While your best choice for an alternate cell carrier might depend on where you live, always explore online reviews specific to your city before committing to a new plan.
With some alternative carriers, you could also experience slower data speeds than you would as a subscriber on the main network. For example, even though Visible runs on the Verizon network, a Visible customer would likely have slightly lower data speeds than a Verizon customer. The reason is simple: Verizon serves Verizon customers first.
Here’s what you can expect to pay for an unlimited talk, text and data plan with three different alternate cell carriers:
- Cricket Wireless (AT&T network): $55/month, $50/month with autopay
- Google Fi (T-Mobile and Sprint networks): $50/month
- Mint Mobile (T-Mobile network): $30/month for a 90-day prepaid plan
- Visible (Verizon network): $40/month
Build Your Own “Family and Friends” Plan
If you’re single and jealous that your friends can take advantage of low rates on a friend’s and family plan, it’s time to make your own family. Gone are the days when a “family” cell plan meant everyone on the plan had to live together. Today, some cell providers let you build a group plan without that “same household” restriction.
Here are some providers ready to help you save:
- Google Fi: Lower your $50/month bill to $20/line when you build a group of four people.
- Mint: Everyone in your “family” can choose the plan that best suits their usage instead of everyone having to choose the same plan.
- Visible: You can lower the $40/month unlimited plan rate to as low as $25/month if you use the Party Pay option.
When building your own group plan or joining a group, vet plan members carefully and try to stick with people you know well. Otherwise, you could have to pay more than your fair share if someone leaves the plan or doesn’t pay their bill. There’s also the risk of sending money to an untrustworthy plan holder who runs off with your cash.
2. Try a Bill Negotiating App
Suppose you’re not ready to switch cell providers or just want to get in on one of the lesser-known “how to save money” strategies. In that case, Lauren Anastasio, director of financial advice for Stash, an investing and banking app, says bill negotiating apps can help you save cash without forcing you to make a provider switch.
“[These apps] can help you identify recurring expenses you may have forgotten,” she says. “They’ll also offer to negotiate the price of some of your services, which can lower the cost of bills you can’t cut out of your budget,” she says. Everyday bills these services can negotiate include cable, internet, cellular, security system and satellite radio.
Before signing up for these services, read up on costs. These companies make money by charging a percentage of the bill or total savings they negotiate. For example, Trim charges 15% of the first year’s savings they score you. BillShark charges 40% of the savings they negotiate.
Bill negotiating services could be an ideal fit if you have more desire to save than time on your hands—especially if the long-term savings far outweigh the fees. For a real-world look at fees and potential savings, reviews on a site like Trustpilot can help.
3. Buy Discounted Gift Cards to Your Favorite Stores
Instead of keeping an eye out for sales at your favorite stores, make your own sale by purchasing discount gift cards.
Online gift card marketplaces like Giftcardwiki, Raise and CardCash can help you identify the best deals for the gift card type you need (in-store or online use-only). You could save big at top stores like Home Depot, Target, and even Apple with a few clicks.
And if you can’t bear to part with that cup of Starbucks each morning, you could save more than 10% on your favorite brew. Then, load the gift card onto your app to get those loyalty stars.
4. Shop Your Streaming Subscriptions
If you’ve ever been frustrated that new subscribers to your favorite streamer get a better rate than you as a loyal customer, save your money with some streamer comparison shopping.
A number of publications including CNET and US News & World Report publish lists of the best streaming services for many popular services like Hulu and Starz. These lists also typically include ways to bundle streamers for savings and ways to get free streaming subscriptions as a perk with certain cable TV subscriptions.
If you see a rate that’s radically lower than your current bill for the same streamer, here’s a tip: cancel your service. You can sign up at a lower rate using a different email address. Even if you only save $6 per month on Hulu, that’s $72 per year you can use to fund your IRA.
Read more: How to get your streaming subscription costs under control
5. Bundle Your Insurance Policies
If you have auto and homeowners insurance policies issued by different companies, Katie Ross, executive vice president of the nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling, suggests exploring policy bundling for serious savings.
“Some companies offer discounts if you have two or more policies,” she says.
For example, Allstate advertises savings of up to 25% on multiple policies, and American Family Insurance boasts savings of up to 28% for their customers.
As you explore bundling cost savings, ensure that you’re keeping the same coverage or gaining better coverage—especially if you’re switching insurance companies.
Read more: How bundling home and auto insurance saves money