Three quarters of Americans don't have enough savings to survive for six months if they lose their jobs. That's according to new research from Bankrate.com. Another recent study, this one by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, shows that people without that "rainy day fund" are three times more likely to make a late payment on their mortgage and twice as likely to be foreclosed on.
Bankrate's surveys show that our savings are the weakest part of our financial picture. (By contrast, measures of net worth, job security and debt level are improving.) So below are several ways you could save money each month and build up your 6-month emergency fund. Just promise me you'll use any windfall you find for this healthy purpose!
• Cancel Cable. The average American spends more than $720 a year on cable TV, according to Consumers Union. The website CancelCable.com shows you how to watch your favorite shows for free so you can cut the cable cord --and bill.
• Pick a better cell phone plan. The website Validas.com's Vera app shows you if you would be better off with a different cell phone plan or provider. Just upload a couple of your bills and the software does the rest.
• Refinance your car loan. Car payments killing you? If your car is not too old, you may be able to refinance it. Nonprofit credit unions just love stealing business from the big banks, so they often offer lower auto interest rates. Find a credit union you can join, here.
• Petition to end PMI. Are you paying private mortgage insurance on your home? Home values are on the upswing. As soon as you have 20 percent equity in your house, you can cancel PMI, but your bank probably won't alert you. It's up to you to figure out how much your house is worth and ask!
• Appeal your property taxes. Many homeowners are paying too much in property taxes because their home values went down but their tax assessment did not. Contact your assessor and learn how to appeal. It's not hard and could save you thousands.
• Take a defensive driving class. You'll be safer and your car insurance bills will be lower. Find one approved by your insurance company. A girlfriend just emailed me that she spent 2 hours doing this --and her car insurance bills are going down 10%.
• Shop around for car insurance. Then again, maybe what you need is a new insurance company. Another friend of mine compared prices at other big name insurers, and snagged herself more than $2000 in savings per year by switching!