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Ask the Expert: What Are Easy Ways to Save Money?

Question: I already follow a lot of the advice on Debt.com, and I’ve gotten my credit card balance down to less than $1,000 after it had climbed to $5,000. But I want to know if there are other ways to save — easy ones, because to be honest, I don’t have a lot of free time in my life to pinch more pennies. i already do that.

— Mehlor in California

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on how to get out of debt fast

Your email made me laugh, Mehlor. I know that saving money isn’t the fun part. Spending it is. I’m very glad you’ve pinched those pennies and saved thousands, so let’s talk about how to save even more.

The secret is knowing the secrets. This month alone, there have been some interesting developments you can take advantage of — in just minutes.

Car insurance savings

It’s a running joke that insurance agents are people we never want to talk to. I’m suggesting you call yours.

Why? Because a poll by the website InsuranceQuotes.com reveals, “Just 16 percent of Americans have asked their car insurance provider for common discounts.”

Some of those include hefty savings for certain occupations that insurance companies view as safer than others (say, accountants compared to delivery drivers). You won’t know if yours qualifies until you ask.

Then there’s the awful fact everyone knows: Young drivers are more reckless, therefore they pay much more in premiums. However, did you know, “All of the 10 largest car insurers give good student discounts, yet just 21 percent of millennials and 2 percent of the overall population have asked for one of these.”

Even if you don’t qualify for these and other discounts, your total time investment was only a few minutes.

529 plans

You’ve probably heard of a 401(k), and you know it helps you save for retirement. What about a 529 plan?According to financial services firm Edward Jones, two-thirds of Americans don’t know what this is.

“Only 34 percent of Americans could correctly identify a 529 plan as a college savings tool,” Edward Jones said. Oddly, that was down from 37 percent in 2012.

These plans, named for their IRS designation, allow parents to start young and save tax-free for their children’s college education. If you have an accountant, they can show you the ropes.

Learn about Debt.com’s Credit Monitoring Service here, and if you have questions, call one of our certified counselors at 1-800-810-0989.

401(k) plans

I just mentioned those, and you probably know what they are. So why mention them again? Because here’s a fascinating headline: “Americans Likely Leaving $24 Billion in Unclaimed 401(k) Company Matching Contributions on the Table Annually.”

While many Americans are consumed with paying down their credit cards and student loans, they forget about free money right in front of their faces. Investment advisers at Financial Engines studied an amazing 4.4 million retirement plan participants at 553 companies. They found 25 percent are eligible for matching and don’t take advantage of it.

They explained it like this…

If your boss offered you a $1,300 bonus on the spot, you’d take it, right? So why do so many employees pass up the chance to potentially receive thousands of dollars every year in the form of a 401(k) match?

To find out if you’re one of the 25 percent, simply speak to your Human Resources department.

As you can see, Mehlor, sometimes saving money is simply about looking around you. Try these three tips, and I promise if I find more, I’ll post them here at Debt.com.


Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a  CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

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