budget living

Ways You Might Be Leaving Money on the Table

What does “leaving money on the table” mean? Basically, it means you’re not getting as much money as you could or not getting the best deal. The term is often used in reference to finances, buying, selling, and negotiating. A great example of “leaving money on the table” would be paying for your entire college education out of pocket instead of applying for grants or scholarships that can reduce your actual cost.

The term is often used in a business sense and can be associated with losing potential clients by not returning calls or emails, not asking for the sale, and not fully understanding the client’s needs. It can also mean not applying for government grants that can help grow your business. If you’re in business for yourself, you’re most likely familiar with the term.

But what does it mean if you’re not self-employed? There are several ways you may be leaving money on the table. Here are just a few:

Not taking advantage of employee benefits

Many companies offer a variety of benefits; the larger the company, the more benefits. Smaller companies might offer a 401K that they contribute to on your behalf, fully paid life insurance policies. Larger companies might offer additional benefits like reduced home and auto insurance rates with certain companies and discounts at your favorite stores. Know all the benefits your company offers. Many social organizations offer benefits to their members as well.

Not taking advantage of tax benefits

Retirement plans like a 401K or IRA allow tax-deductible contributions. If you have these types of savings plans, make sure you’re claiming the tax credits.

Not reviewing your budget items regularly

As a general rule of thumb, you should be looking over every utility bill every month to make sure the charges are correct and you haven’t been charged an additional fee. It’s also a good idea to review the services being provided for those accounts and assessing if you actually need them all. For instance, you may be paying $10-$20 a month for protection insurance on a cellphone when you’re eligible for a free upgrade. If you’re phone breaks, you can just get a new one with your upgrade benefit so you’re throwing the insurance payment down the drain.

Not taking advantage of reward programs

Reward programs are basically free money for things you already use. Credit cards offer rewards points for your spending that can later be redeemed for travel expenses or gift cards. Even utility companies offer rewards these days. For instance, Verizon offers rewards points for paying your bill on time, using paperless billing, referring a friend, and watching movies on-demand. These points can be redeemed for gift cards. Restaurants like Panera and Starbucks offer rewards cards for frequent purchases. After a certain amount of purchases, you earn free food and beverages. If you’re eating there anyway, you may as well get credit for it.

Not using online shopping tools.

Honey is a Chrome extension for shopping online. Just install it, then whenever you shop and get to the checkout section, Honey will search for discount codes that will reduce your cost or offer free shipping. And if it can’t find a discount code, it will offer cash back bonuses on most shopping sites. When those cash back rewards reach 1000 points, you can redeem them for electronic gift cards. You can also use Ebates or Swagbucks.

The best way to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table is to review all the options available to you. What you don’t know could be costing you money. If you’re not sure, do a little research. You may be surprised at the wonderful savings you find.

About the author

Emilie Burke

Emilie is a politics-major turned data engineer. She graduated from Princeton University in 2015 and from Smartly with her MBA in 2016. She lives in North Carolina with her college sweetheart Casey who is currently stationed at Fort Bragg. She enjoys eating food, cuddling with her dog, and binge watching HGTV. She blogs at Burke Does. You can find her around the web at @emilielimaburke.

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