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5 ways You Can Trim Your Monthly Expenses

About 61% of Americans say they have been financially impacted by Covid-19, according to a recent TransUnion poll.

While that may look different household to household — about 45% say either they or their partner lost their job, while 37% say their hours at work have been reduced — an overwhelming majority say that they’re worried about stretching their dollars to cover their monthly expenses. About 68% of Americans are concerned about their ability to pay bills and loans, TransUnion’s April 6 survey of over 3,000 U.S. adults found.

That means many are looking to trim costs this month. Here are five steps you can take if you need to cut down your budget, according to experts.

1. Cancel any unnecessary subscriptions
Recurring payments can add up, even if you’re not looking to trim your budget. That’s why it’s worth keeping track of all the services you currently subscribe to.

Don’t remember exactly what you signed up for? Go through your credit card statement and look for any subscriptions you might be paying on a monthly basis, money expert Tori Dunlap tells CNBC Make It. Some apps, such as Albert and Truebill, can also help you identify subscriptions.

When it comes to determining what to cut out, prioritize your expenses, says Ryan Hughes, founder of San Diego-based financial planning firm Bull Oak Capital. Decide what’s essential and what can you live without, perhaps just temporarily until you’re back on your feet financially.

Steaming services and magazine subscriptions are “low hanging fruit,” Hughes says. If you don’t need them right now, go onto your account and cancel or contact customer service.

In addition to finding and cutting any nonessential subscriptions, Hughes recommends creating a budget to make it easier to track your money. “Going through the budgeting process exposes a lot of hidden expenses that are fairly painless to reduce or eliminate,” he says.

2. Negotiate your bills
Even if your income hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, negotiating your recurring bills can save you a ton of money, Dunlap says. The easiest bills to negotiate tend to be cable, cell phone and auto insurance coverage.

First, pick up the phone. You want to have a conversation for this rather than emailing your provider or using an online chat bot. But keep in mind that you may be waiting for a while to connect. Once you do get hold of customer service, be direct about what you want. You can say something like, “I saw that a competitor is offering an unlimited data plan for 20% less,” Dunlap says.

Make sure to remind the company if you’re a loyal customer. “Companies are more able and excited to help you if you can demonstrate you’re a repeat customer,” Dunlap says. “They want you to continue doing business with them and for you to have a great experience.”

Not a loyal customer? Turn that into a potential win for the company by saying something along the lines of: “I’d really love for you to earn my loyalty and business today.”

If your income has been impacted by Covid-19, make sure to specifically say that during your conversation since many companies have recently rolled out assistance programs. Many popular car insurance companies, such as Allstate, State Farm, Liberty Mutual and Nationwide, have promised to issue refunds while driving rates are low, for instance.

You should also revisit what your policy covers, Hughes says: “Most people have unnecessary auto coverage and simply realigning the coverage you need can save hundreds of dollars.” If you’re now driving significantly less because you’re currently working from home, you may want to call your insurance company and ask to be re-rated as a lower mileage driver.

3. Change providers
If you don’t have success negotiating down your current rates, do some research on the alternatives. If you currently have an unlimited plan with Verizon or AT&T and your phone is paid off, consider switching to a budget carrier such as Visible or Cricket. Both companies, which run on Verizon and AT&T networks, offer plans that could save you as much as half of your current cell phone bill.

Verizon charges $70 for its basic unlimited plan, which has taxes and fees added on top of your plan price, while Visible offers a $40 monthly unlimited plan with the taxes and fees baked in.

If there is more than one cable or internet provider in your area, consider switching. That could be especially helpful if your current provider won’t lower your rates and others are offering introductory rates that can reduce your monthly spending until you get back on your feet.

4. Lower your interest rates
Negotiating your credit card interest rates can have a huge payoff, Dunlap says. If you have $1,000 on a credit card that charges 18% interest, you’ll likely pay about $200 in interest to pay off that debt over the course of two years. But by shaving off just two percentage points to 16%, the interest drops to just $175.