Money

5 Unexpected Ways to Cut Debt, Lower Bills, and Secure Your Future During the Pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic has us all feeling uneasy. The future is uncertain, and we’re all waiting to see how things are going to pan out, medically and economically.

Take a deep breath.

Instead of feeling completely powerless, take a look at a few simple, unexpected ways you can be proactive — to take steps to cut your debt, lower your bills, and secure your future.

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1. Stop Paying on Your Student Loans

Do you have student loans? Do you need some room in your budget to take care of more pressing monthly bills? Or would you prefer to pay off some higher-interest debt? If so, you can stop paying your student loans.

You thought you’d never see the day, right? But the federal government has passed the CARES Act, which suspends payments and interest on federal student loans until Sept. 30.

Of course, this doesn’t cancel out those payments. You’ll still owe the money. But because you’re not getting charged interest, this could be a good opportunity to put your monthly student loan payment toward more pressing bills.

You could also take the money and put it toward your car payment or pay more on your credit cards, which hold higher interest rates.

This six-month pause is automatic, but be sure to double-check your account and make sure your amount due reads $0.

2. Turn Your Countless Grocery Receipts Into Prepaid Visa Cards

You’re probably doing a whole lot more grocery shopping these days. The kids are home for lunch, and it seems like everyone in the house eats when they’re bored. Which is constantly.

All those useless grocery receipts you’ve been collecting the past few weeks? It’s time to let a free app called Fetch Rewards turn them into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for prepaid Visa cards.

It’s perfect for those of us who don’t have time (or want) to clip coupons. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.

When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt. Then start snapping photos of your recent receipts to see how many points you can earn without a single trip to the store! (Receipts are good for 20 days.)

Finally, a little bit of a reward for venturing out to the grocery store these days.

3. Find Out if Your Car Insurance is Overcharging You by $887/Year

Have you heard that some of the big car insurance companies are offering customers refunds and discounts? No lie — they’re handing out credits, mailing checks and depositing money back into customers’ bank accounts because people are driving less. This could give you a little more breathing room in your budget right now.

If you haven’t heard from your insurer, reach out and ask.

And, if you want to save even more, there’s an app called Jerry, and it can tell you if you’re paying too much on your car insurance. In fact, Jerry says it finds that people, on average, are overpaying by about $887 a year. 

Once you’re with Jerry, you’ll never have to worry about shopping around for insurance again. From now on, Jerry will automatically do that for you. Also, it won’t cost you anything — it’s all free.

And if you’re worried about ditching your current policy, know you can back out at any time, even before your policy runs out. In fact, by law, insurance companies have to give you a refund for the remaining unused days on your policy. If there are any cancellation fees involved (these are usually small), Jerry will let you know.

To find out if you’re getting ripped off, fill out the online questionnaire. This should take less than two minutes, then Jerry will take care of the rest.

4. Leave Your Family $1 Million in Life Insurance; Rates Start at $5/Month

While you’re taking stock of your bills and debts, consider how overwhelming it would be for your family to handle these if you weren’t around. How could they afford the mortgage? The kids’ schooling? The bills?

Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a life insurance policy.

You might be thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But you might be surprised to hear your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $5 a month, but the peace of mind of knowing your family’s financial future is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even leaving the house, get a free quote from Bestow.

5. Ask Your Power Company For a Discount

At this point, we’re all spending more time at home, which probably means you’re using more electricity. This means you’ll be paying a higher electric bill, right? Not exactly.

Here’s some good news: Some power companies are lowering customers’ bills, because fuel costs have been lower. For instance, Florida Power & Light plans to reduce residential bills by 25% beginning May 1. Duke Energy Florida is also temporarily reducing bills.

Even if you haven’t heard from your electric company, it doesn’t hurt to reach out. Give them a call and see if they’re offering any refunds or discounts during this time. The money you save can go toward other bills — or even your groceries.

6. Ask For Help — Even If You Normally Never Would

If you’re in a particularly dire situation, raise your hand and ask for help.

Sure, many of us would rather do anything but ask for help, but these are unprecedented times, and life’s a little bit out of our control right now.

For example, if you’re struggling to make your mortgage payments, reach out to your lender. Sure, foreclosures and evictions aren’t allowed right now, but your accounts could still get pushed to collections and you could still face penalties.

You might have to provide proof that you’ve been laid off or need financial assistance, but it never hurts to ask about your relief options.

This same idea can be applied to any of your other bills — rent, utilities, cell phone and car payments.

You won’t know the answer unless you ask.

First for Women has partnered with The Penny Hoarder to bring you expert money saving tips like these.

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