If someone told you that you could save thousands of dollars in just one day, you likely would think they were a scammer with a get-rich-quick scheme.
Taking a ‘money holiday’
Managing your money can be difficult and time-consuming. Besides the day-to-day tasks such as tracking your budget and balancing your checkbook, there are bigger concerns you need to deal with. You might have to find a new insurance provider, cancel subscriptions, or make updates to your accounts.
However, between work, family, and other obligations, finding the time to work on those things can seem unrealistic. You end up putting off those tasks, sometimes for months.
I found myself procrastinating on things I needed to do. After work, the last thing I wanted to do was hop on the phone with customer service lines or submit paperwork. But my laziness was costing me money, so I decided to make money management a priority.
Now, I take one vacation day a year that is exclusively dedicated to financial matters. I use that day to knock out all of the tasks I’ve been putting off. By putting my “money holiday” in place, I regularly earn $1,500 or more — last year, I saved $2,940 by making time to manage my finances.
For my money holiday, I focus on these seven things.
Rent is by far my largest expense. Every year, I schedule my money day about 90 days before my lease is up so I can review the renewal notice and see what the new rent will be. Last year, my landlord notified me that my rent would be increasing by $250 a month.
A lot of people grumble about rent increases, but you have the power to negotiate your lease terms. My husband and I have always been good tenants; we’re quiet, we pay our rent early, and we take care of our apartment. Replacing tenants like us can be expensive, so I’ve found that landlords are usually happy to work with us.
I email the landlord and explain that I’m not happy with the increase, highlight how we’ve been such easy tenants, and propose a new price. Most recently, I talked my landlord down from $250 to a $100 monthly increase. Taking 10 to 15 minutes to send that email saved me $1,800 this year.
If your landlord won’t budge on price, see if signing a longer-term lease — such as 18 or 24 months — would result in a discount. If you have the means, you could even offer to prepay rent for several months in exchange for a price cut.
2. Cell phone plan
I’ve had the same cell phone provider since I was 15 years old (thanks, T-Mobile!). But every year, I spend about 30 minutes on the phone with their customer service to negotiate my monthly bill.
Before calling, I research what my current plan would cost with other services like AT&T or Verizon. Usually, I find that switching providers would save me about $10 a month. I take screenshots of those deals before calling my provider’s customer service.
On the phone, I explain that I’ve been a loyal customer but that cost is important to me. I mention that I looked up other providers’ deals, and offer to email them to the representative. At that point, the representative usually transfers me to a manager. I go through the same spiel again, and the manager agrees to reduce my bill to match the other providers’ offers.
It’s a tedious process, but using the phone to negotiate my bill saves me $120 a year.
3. Car insurance
While it’s a good idea to shop around for a car insurance policy, I start by reviewing my current policy and seeing if I need any changes. Now that I work from home, for example, I drive much less. By reducing the mileage on my policy, I can save about $8 a month.
I also review my coverage. If my car has depreciated significantly, I might need a smaller collision policy. And, because I’ve built up my emergency fund, I can get away with a higher deductible. By making those changes, I can save an additional $10 a month.
Once I know how much coverage I need and what deductible I’m comfortable with, I compare car insurance policies from several different companies. Just like my cell phone plan, I use my research to find a cheaper deal. Then, I call my agent and see if they can match it or reduce my price.
Altogether, I save about $20 a month on car insurance, adding up to an extra $240 in my pocket over a year.
4. Unclaimed money
You might be surprised to hear that there could be money waiting for you to claim it, but it’s true. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators says over $3.2 billion was returned to individuals in 2015 alone.
Old savings accounts, insurance premiums, and other payments can sit unclaimed for years, but you can get government or state agencies to return it to you.
On my money holiday, I search for unclaimed cash or property using sites like Unclaimed.org and MissingMoney.com. You just enter your name and the state you live in now (or where you lived previously), and the site will tell you if there is unclaimed property waiting for you.
Last year, I found out that I had unclaimed dollars from insurance premiums I paid while I was living in another state. By searching and taking five minutes to complete and mail the claim form, I received a check for $250.
5. Bank and credit card statements
It’s a good idea to check your statements regularly, but on my money day I study every statement for the whole year, line by line. Although I do look for inaccuracies or fraudulent charges, I really focus on little subscriptions or plans I signed up for but no longer use.
Whether you signed up for a gym membership and never went or you subscribed to multiple streaming services, those small charges add up.
When I went through my statements, I found two old subscriptions for writing apps that I no longer found useful. I canceled them and saved $15 a month.
6. Unused items
The average household has about $2,500 in unused items in their home, according to iSold It.
Although my husband and I don’t have that much, we do have unnecessary clutter. We keep a box in the closet to stash unused items in, such as clothes we’re sick of, knick-knacks we no longer like, or kitchen supplies we replaced. That box usually sits there untouched — until my money holiday.
On my day off, I take pictures of each item, research their value, and list them for sale on eBay. I package each item so that when it sells, I just print a label and drop them off at the post office.
By following that process, I sold $190 worth of clothes last year.
When I first started freelancing, I wasn’t sure how to handle my taxes. I was terrified of an audit, so I didn’t deduct any of my business expenses or charitable donations. Big mistake. I could have deducted hundreds from my taxable income.
After I learned my lesson, I started a new process. I have a file organizer and several labeled folders for each tax category, such as income, business expenses, donations, and other deductions. On my money day, I go through online order confirmations or monthly subscriptions to collect all of my relevant receipts.
I print each one off and file them away accordingly; I prefer having hard copies so I can access them easily while I’m doing my taxes. By devoting a chunk of time to getting organized, my taxes are easier to complete and I get the full tax deduction I’m entitled to.
Because those deductions add up, I saved an extra $160 on my taxes by just going through receipts and emails.
Saving thousands in a single day
Those are the seven things I focus on during my money holiday, but your priorities might be different.
You could update your budget, negotiate with a credit card company for a lower interest rate, or research high-yield savings accounts. Whatever tasks you’ve been meaning to do but keep putting off, tackle them head on — your bank account will thank you.
— Kat Tretina
This story originally appeared on Student Loan Hero.