18 Free or Cheap Things You’re Probably Overpaying For
Even if you're already a frugal person, it can be hard to find new ways to save money. We've identified 18 free or cheap things that you might already be overpaying for.
You’ve heard the saying hundreds of times, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” but take a moment and consider the impact of that fact. Every penny you save is one you don’t have to go out there and work to earn. Not only are you saving money, but you’re saving yourself time and, hopefully, financial struggle in the future.
Certainly, maximizing your earning potential is crucial, but so is living within your means. A frugal approach may not be as flashy as spending big money on a sports car, but it will earn you plenty of financial mileage that makes the road to retirement much easier.
If you’ve been working hard and can’t get traction on socking away savings, take a deep dive into your monthly budget and incidental expenses. Small daily expenditures can add up, and we all inadvertently shell out cash for products or services we could get for free.
Use the following list to help you cut the fat by eliminating expenses that don’t pull their weight. Then use the recommendations for cutting costs to whittle down your monthly expenses so you can finally get serious about that nest egg.
Stop paying for these 10 things you can get for free
Sometimes tracking down where to get the following things for free can take a little time, but it’s well worth the effort.
1. Credit Monitoring and Credit Score Reports
Did you know you can obtain a free copy of your credit report every 12 months? The three credit reporting agencies—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax— are required by law to provide you with a yearly snapshot of your credit score if you request it.
You should periodically check your credit history but stop paying for credit monitoring services and take advantage of the freebies.
Think Credit Karma is free? Think again.
While you don’t have to pay for credit services like Credit Karma with money, you are paying with your data and they are in the business of selling that data to credit card companies.
2. Extended Warranties and Service Plans
Nearly every expensive purchase, from automobiles to electronics, comes with a hard sell at the end to add on extended warranties or service plans. But most consumers who pay extra for these services will never use them.
Consider the ticket price of replacing the item and then what the warranty or service plan will cost over the life of the product. Often, you’ll discover the odds work in your favor to rely on the standard warranty and pay out of pocket for repairs.
3. Rental Car Insurance
You’re at the agency counter, and you have that moment of panic when the rental car company asks if you want insurance. Are you covered by your personal auto policy? In most cases, the answer will be yes.
And even if you’re not, many credit cards also offer additional or secondary collision coverage when you charge the rental cost to your card. Do a little research before you book so you can decline the costly insurance fees and drive away assured you’re covered.
4. Cable or Satellite TV
One of your most costly monthly utilities may not be one you need. Sit down and make a list of shows you regularly watch, then research other ways to get access to that content. You’d likely save significantly with streaming subscriptions like Netflix or Hulu rather than having your favorites bundled with a bunch of channels you never watch.
5. Checking and ATM Fees
You shouldn’t have to pay to access or use your money, so choose your banking services carefully. Look for places that have a network of ATMs that are easily accessible to you. Make cash draws when you do banking to avoid racking up costly fees when you run out of cash. You can also save money by skipping the checks and relying on electronic transfer services and debit cards.
6. Computer Software and Apps
The Microsoft suite of products you use at work is mighty expensive and probably unnecessary for the limited scope of your personal use. Leverage free products like Open Office, Adobe Reader, and Google tools and applications. Most paid apps also have a free version that limits some features but may be perfectly adequate for what you need.
7. Bottled Water
Studies show that many bottled water brands are virtually the same or worse than tap water when it comes to contaminants and even taste. Ditch the bottled water and invest in a decent multi-use water bottle. You’ll not only save money but also reduce waste and invest in environmentally friendly practices that are priceless.
Did you hear that? It’s 1980 calling, and it wants its landline back. If you’ve got a cell phone, there’s little reason to hang onto your landline these days. Mobile phones can do everything landlines do better, including screening calls, flagging spam, and blocking numbers.
9. Gym Memberships
When you snagged that gym membership on a discount, you probably had every intention of using it. Now it’s just dead weight dragging down your budget.
Skip the membership fees and invest in fitness apps and health monitoring technology. You’ll get the bonus of enjoying the great outdoors as your gym. Health apps and platforms also have supportive communities and motivational competitions built into their platforms, which is something you might not find at your local gym.
10. Books, Newspapers, and Movies
Much of the media we consume is now available online, free to download. There’s also a neat thing in almost every town called a library, and the good news is you already pay for it with your tax dollars.
Libraries have had a resurgence of sorts in the last few years, in part because they offer so many other things to the public besides books. Libraries now loan a plethora of products and offer services like internet access, the latest movies and documentaries, free classes, and even unexpected items like toys or equipment.
How to spend less on 8 parts of your daily life
Not everything in life is free, but limiting consumption of the following items will keep the monthly budget lean and your financial outlook healthy.
12. Credit Card & Loan Interest
Interest rates are extraordinarily low right now, so there’s no good reason to be struggling with high percentage credit cards, mortgages, or other loans.
Start researching options to refinance at a lower rate or transfer your balance. Even if your credit rating isn’t stellar, you may be able to knock a few percentage points off the debt you’ve been paying down for decades.
13. Clothing, Appliances, and Furniture
Thrift shops and second-hand stores aren’t just for those on a budget anymore. Saving the planet and conserving resources means that everything old is new again.
Don’t pay full price if you’ve got time to invest in a little bargain hunting. Local classifieds are a goldmine, especially for larger items like furniture and appliances.
14. Storage Fees
Feeling guilty about boxes of nostalgia items squirreled away in a storage unit? It’s unlikely you’re going to get rich the next time antique roadshow rolls into town. Instead, make money by simply cleaning out your stuff, selling it, and downsizing to a more affordable unit.
15. Lawn care and Pest Control
Sure, it’s easier to pay someone else to take care of it, but lawn care and pest control require minimal expertise and effort. Read up on the kind of grass, plants, and trees you have and the challenges your yard faces, including the most common insects in your area.
Set up a lawncare schedule that makes sense for your climate. If you need an extra pair of hands, consider hiring a neighborhood kid who will be glad for the extra pocket change.
16. Cleaning Products
If you’ve got some basic supplies like vinegar and baking soda and a little elbow grease, you can stop buying expensive cleaners. Even the grimiest areas in your house can be tackled with natural, biodegradable DIY solutions at half the price. You’ll save on your budget, and you’ll cut down on the chemicals and toxins your family might be exposed to in your home.
17. Paper towels
Many times a day, we spill something or see a sticky spot on the counter and reach for a roll of paper towels without thinking. Investing in some extra kitchen towels might cost a little more upfront, but you’ll get way more mileage out of them than a single-use product. And you’ll also get the satisfaction of saving trees in the bargain.
Use it or lose it is a good motto when it comes to utilities. If you’re not using something, turn it off. This rule of thumb applies not only to hitting the switch when you leave the room but also to turning off appliances like your computer when you’re finished.
Think about what’s sucking up power and what other resources such as water that are being wasted. Turn off the tap when you’re brushing, flush sparingly, and take shorter showers to put a dent in that monthly water bill.
Frugality fosters mindfulness.
While living a frugal lifestyle might take some effort, it also has perks. Once you begin to save receipts and track expenses, you’ll be astounded at how much money slips through your fingers simply because you’re not paying attention.
Thinking more intentionally about your budget can also foster better habits in other parts of your life. Once you check the tags and see the difference in cost between the name brand you’ve been buying for years versus the generic, you’ll start trying out all sorts of new things.
This list is a start to cut through the chaos of your checking account and maximize your savings, but it certainly shouldn’t end your quest to trim expenses. Once you’ve practiced frugality, it’ll become a habit that lasts a lifetime.