We’ve all heard the ubiquitous GEICO car insurance commercial, about how fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent on your car insurance, right? Well, as popular as those commercials are, it turns out there are plenty of things you can do in fifteen minutes that have the potential to save you a lot of money. Shopping around for car insurance, for starters, is a great way (and there’s no reason to start or stop with just one company) but don’t limit yourself to just car insurance. Here are a few other places where spending fifteen minutes can save you lots of cash.
Review Your Credit Reports
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to review your credit report every 12 months at each of the three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian). Take advantage of it. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and request your credit report so that you can review it for errors and omissions. Making sure your credit report is correct has a huge impact on your credit score, which is what lenders and other businesses use to decide whether or not, and at what cost, to do business with you. If you do find an error, report it to each of the bureaus as soon as possible since resolving it can take some time.
Start an Emergency Fund
If you don’t have a rainy day emergency fund, start one today. An emergency fund acts as a buffer in the event you experience a financial emergency, from an unexpected medical bill to a car repair to losing your job. Experts recommend that you keep a minimum of six months of expenses in a savings account, preferably an online savings account offering higher interest rates, for this purpose. If you are feeling conservative, you can always put a year’s worth of expenses in your emergency fund. Once you have the fund set up, you might consider laddering CDs to boost the interest rates even more. Remember, the purpose of this fund is to protect you in case something happens, it’s not designed to generate a lot of income.
Restructure Your Debts
If you’re currently battling debt, look to restructure it to either consolidate that debt or lower the interest rate. If it’s a double digit credit card debt you’re struggling with, consider doing a credit card balance transfer to give you a year or more to catch up on the balance. Compare the post-promotional APR to your current APR, along with your ability to pay, to see if this is a good deal. If not, consider joining a credit union and turning the high interest credit card debt into a lower interest personal loan. If that still isn’t an option, research peer to peer lending as it might be a way for you to trim the interest rate without much hassle.
Shop Around Everything
As I said in the beginning of this article, shop around every service you pay for, not just car insurance. Whenever my cable and internet contract expires, I always go back to the provider with competitive offers and request a reduction in my rates. It’s so much cheaper for them to charge me less than it is to find a new customer, especially after you consider what goes into getting a new customer. With my cable provider, I had been with Comcast when Verizon entered our neighborhood with brand new fiber optic technology. I went to Comcast with the Verizon FiOS promotions, they couldn’t meet or beat them, so I switched. When my Verizon contract expires, I’ll play the same game in reverse.
Clean Your Financial House
Over the course of several years, I accumulated a lot of online savings accounts, many of which I reviewed on Bargaineering. At its peak, I probably had over a dozen savings accounts, which resulted in a dozen 1099-INTs, and a headache at tax time. Within the last year, I’ve embarked on a journey to simplify as much as I could in my life and that includes all of these, now useless, bank accounts. Spend a few minutes each week just cleaning house, whether it’s closing dormant accounts to shredding documents you no longer need, keeping a tidy financial life is crucial to reducing mistakes. The last thing you want to have to deal with is a CP2000 letter from the IRS because you omitted a 1099-INT from a bank you forgot you had an account in.
Most of these moves won’t take you more than fifteen minutes to half an hour and they can have a big impact on your finances in the coming year.
This guest post was brought to you by Jim Wang from bargaineering.com. The Bargaineering philosophy is that life is about enjoying the things you love doing and spending time with the people you love spending time with. To read more from Jim be sure to sign up for the RSS feed.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
I know these steps don't necessarily translate to a household that is in a bit of financial trouble, but it's where I find myself right now. I've been looking for a way to consolidate debt, but because we've missed some payments the banks aren't very receptive to us (low credit score and the house isn't worth as much). We continue to pay our bills, but it's getting tough. If we could roll all our debt into a one loan even at 7 percent interest it would save us nearly $400 per month. Any ideas for the not-financially sound? Thanks.
All great advice. One question regarding the emergency fund however... is laddering CDs still a good strategy? CD rates have been the dumps for a while now and are paying almost nothing. Anyway, just curious to get your 2 cents on this...
I've been shopping around for just about EVERYTHING lately. I checked my credit and I'm not happy with it, so I'm working on boosting the score within the next year to year and a half so we can be in good financial shape to buy a house.
I found that a lot of people with high interest debt were afraid to ask the bank or other lender for a consolidation loan because they thought they'd be turned down. Restructuring your debts can save you a lot of interest and should be seriously considered.
Jason, this day and age I'd just prefer to be liquid and keep the cash in savings. With rates so low the advantage of a CD can often be as little as 20-50 basis points. Unless you have an obscene amount of cash the little benefit in rates often aren't worth it. And even if you do have that kind of cash on hand where it would be worth it I'd argue a lot of that money could be put to better use outside of savings/CDs to begin with.