How to bankroll your financial protection plan in 5 simple steps

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How to bankroll your financial protection plan in 5 simple steps

We've all got some money thing we should do, but just aren't. Start an emergency fund. Save for retirement. Get life insurance. Put more money in a health savings account — these moves are important to your long-term financial health, but easy to push aside when money gets tight.

Thing is, you can usually "find" the $20 to $50 a month you need to do any of the above. Here's how to bankroll your financial protection plan in five simple steps.

1. Audit your bank & credit card statements

Go back at least three months. Look for subscriptions, memberships or services you're no longer using, but still paying for. Flag spending spikes. ("Did I really spend $500 on Uber rides last month?" says everyone in New York City.) Record what you're paying for fixed expenses, like housing, or near-must-haves, like internet. (Psst: We've got a budgeting spreadsheet that can help with that.) Next ...

2. Cancel clear money-wasters

Almost everyone has at least one auto-subscription or recurring charge for something they aren't using or, worse, have ever used. Common culprits: gym memberships, credit monitoring, magazine subscriptions (especially when they're going to an old address) and insurance on something you no longer need to protect. (I currently have homeowners and renters insurance. Ask me how.) Make the cancellation call — or, if you're truly time-pressed, outsource the task. There are apps that help you lower your monthly bills. Some also help you ...

3. Negotiate a long-time service contract

Don't assume must-have expenses are fixed. In fact, you're possibly paying more for a service contract you signed awhile ago. Cable companies, for one, are known to jack up prices after a subscriber's first year. But whether your bill went up or not, you can probably score a better price just by asking for one. Service providers, like cell phone companies, change pricing structures all the time to stay competitive. And insurers, too, are apt to "find" you a discount if you tell them you're looking for a new policy. (That's why they tell you to shop for auto insurance every few years.)

4. Make the hard(er) cuts

I mean ... do you really need Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV, Amazon Prime, HBO Go and a cable subscription? Ditto for all that cold brew and Halo Top ice cream (stuff's expensive). If you can't find one guilty pleasure to cut, see if you can pare back each budget line item by $10. Those dollars add up.

5. Pay off your debt

Interest is a budget killer. Carry an average daily balance of $3,000 on a credit card with a 15% annual percentage rate for 30 days and you'll owe the issuer $36 in interest. Pay that balance off and, well, you've got more money to fund your financial protection plan. Granted, paying off debt is easier said than done. Luckily, we've got some easy ways to get that done here.

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