So, 2020 was a really terrible year, am I right? This pandemic has stolen all kinds of things from us. It took millions of jobs, hundreds of thousands of American lives, and countless hours of in-classroom school instruction. It emptied our bank accounts and shredded our peace of mind.
How about 2021? Is 2021 coming for us, too?
When it comes to money, we’re firm believers that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Here are five ways 2021 will try to rip you off — and five ways to fight back.
1. Watch Out for Car Insurance Rate Hikes
Prices don’t normally go down. But in 2020, car insurance companies cut their rates because the market demanded it. Customers who were quarantined in their homes figured that, because they were driving so much less, they should be paying less.
Ah, but it’s a whole new year. And as Americans gravitate back to their old driving patterns, auto insurance rates are expected to climb back up, according to industry observers.
You don’t have to take that! That’s why 2021 will require you to shop around for car insurance like never before.
A free website called Savvy will help you find the best price — in just 30 seconds. In fact, it saves people an average of $826 a year.
All you have to do is connect your current insurance, then Savvy will search hundreds of insurers for a better price on the same coverage. It’ll even help you cancel your old policy and get you a refund from your current insurer.
If you find a better deal, you can switch right away and don’t have to wait for your next renewal or even your next payment.
2. Don’t Get Ripped Off While Shopping Online
The pandemic has changed how we shop, and that’s expected to carry over into 2021. More of us are shopping online now — including nearly 70% of Americans, according to a new NPR poll. Of those, more than 90% have bought something from Amazon.
Sure, it’ll be convenient to have boxes of stuff appear on your doorstep all through 2021. But no matter what you’re buying online, you may be paying too much for it. In many cases, there might be a better deal somewhere else. It just feels like a pain to look for it.
Wouldn’t it be useful to get an alert when you’re about to overpay? A polite little alert, not an obnoxious one. That’s exactly what this free service does. These free alerts can be added to your browser.
Before you check out on Amazon, Target or Best Buy, it’ll check other websites, including eBay, Walmart and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. It’ll even apply any available coupon codes to your order automatically.
So far, this free tool has saved users more than $160 million in the last year. You can get started in just a few minutes and see if you’re overpaying online.
3. Watch Out for Rising Food Prices
Some purchases are optional, but food isn’t one of them. Unfortunately, the price of food is expected to rise in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA predicts that grocery prices will rise by at least 1% to 2%, and restaurant prices will rise by 2% to 3%. That may not seem like a lot. But over a whole year, that’s really going to add up.
We’ve got a way for you to get some of the money back. A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for any of hundreds of items at the grocery store. Right now, it’s even offering shoppers a $10 gift card when they spend $30 on dozens of Unilever products at the grocery store. You can do this five times, or up to $50.
Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just look for products branded with the Unilever “U.” Then take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the participating brands. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart.
You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards. Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something.
4. Don’t Overpay for a Mortgage
Housing prices these days are sky high, and they’re only going up so far in 2021.
The median price of homes sold in January 2021 was nearly $304,000, a 14% increase compared to January 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s the highest January price that the Realtors have ever recorded.
If you’re looking to buy a home in 2021, do everything you can to save money on your mortgage. A good credit score will make a big difference in how much interest you’ll pay on a mortgage or car loan. That could easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a mortgage.
Try using a free website called Credit Sesame. Within two minutes, you’ll get access to your credit score and personalized tips to improve it. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).
Want to check for yourself? It’s free and only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.
5. Beware of Expensive Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt is the most expensive kind of debt because of the high interest rates. Unfortunately, the pandemic and its shutdowns and its job losses have forced more Americans to fall back on their credit cards to pay their bills and pay for necessities like food. That’s carrying over into 2021.
Could you imagine waking up with no credit card debt? A free website called AmOne can help you wipe out your credit card debt even faster.
AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan to pay off all your credit cards at once. Its interest rates start at 3.99% — way lower than the 20% or more you’re probably paying your credit card company. That could save you thousands in the long run. Plus, you’ll be debt-free that much faster.
It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000.
In summary: Hopefully 2021 will be better than 2020. At the very least, you’re likely to get a COVID-19 vaccination at some point.
Just watch out for all the other ways that 2021 will try to rip you off.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After 2020, he’s scared of 2021.