5 bills you can lower this year

A new year is a perfect time to make over your spending. Start by cutting unneeded expenses that can blow your budget and stop you from building up savings.

Internet and cable. Consider switching to a different internet and cable service. Many providers offer a great promotional rate to new customers. And there’s no rule that says you can’t switch again after the promotional period (and any required contract) is over. Or you could ditch cable altogether and watch shows on the cheap or for free through streaming services such as Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.

Gym. If you haven’t been hitting the gym consistently over the last 12 months, now might be the time to unload that membership. Videos on YouTube or other sites make it easy to exercise at home for free. Or tag along with a friend whose gym membership allows a guest. Working out together is more fun anyway!

Dining out. Skip the restaurants and make your own lunch and dinner to save some serious cash. The average household spends about $3,000 per year dining out. And if you spent just $5 less a day on lunches, you could save over $1,000 in a year! As you ramp up your grocery shopping, keep in mind that many supermarkets offer online shopping, which can make it easy to search for sales and take advantage of digital coupons — while avoiding impulse purchases that often happen when you stroll through the store. Home delivery or pick-up service saves you time, too.

Utilities. You can cut utility bills by being smart about energy usage. Make sure you turn down the heat or air conditioning when you’re not home — why keep an empty house nice and comfy? Installing programmable thermostats is an easy way to make sure you don’t waste any unnecessary heating or cooling. And stick to a reasonable temperature when you are home. Even a few lower degrees of heat or higher degrees of air conditioning can make a big difference to your bill. Also, be sure to turn off lights and the TV when you’re not in a room.

Loans. You might be able to finance your mortgage, car loan, personal loan, or credit card debt at a lower interest rate. Call around or check websites like www.bankrate.com. Be sure to ask about fees and make sure the savings justify the expense. If you have a lot of debt, consider a debt consolidation loan.

Sources: U.S. News & World Report (money.usnews.com); U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics