CHICAGO - When it comes to balancing your budget, it pays to think outside the box.
Gas and groceries are usually the first place people look when trying to save a few bucks in the budget — but there are plenty of other spots to look at.
"The first place you want to look is your energy bill," said Consumer Expert Andrea Woroch. "A lot of people don't realize if they have gadgets, small kitchen appliances that are plugged in, but not in use…that they actually still consume energy — even in off mode."
Woroch says that could account for about 10 percent of your energy bill.
"So you just want to get in the habit of unplugging gadgets, electronics, tv, cable boxes, your home office, your coffee maker," said Woroch.
If this sounds like a bit of a hassle, Woroch suggests using a power strip for devices in tight spots — making them hard to plug and unplug.
"If you are not using a programmable thermostat, get one. This allows you to program you energy use when you're not home or away from home," said Woroch.
Next up: your wireless plan.
"There was a study that found 90 percent of mobile users waste money on unnecessary, unlimited data plans," said Woroch.
She says consumers sign up for the unlimited data plans thinking they are getting the best value, but then only use a fraction of the data offered.
"If you're not using it, it's a waste of money," said Woroch. "Go through your bill. See how much data you're using, and consider switching to a lower tier plan."
Another place you might not be thinking about is the number of subscription services you have.
One consumer study showed consumers are spending nearly $300 a month on subscription services, and nearly 90 percent don't realize how much they are really spending.
"I bet if you go through your bills, you are subscribed to apps or different services you forgot about," said Woroch. "And I know a lot of people took on new subscriptions during the pandemic."
Woroch says now is the time to go through your bills, and credit card statements for the last few months.
Look at every reoccurring subscription or membership fee you have and figure out which ones you are using, and which ones you are not.
"This also a good time to consider tapping into free options," said Woroch. "A lot of people don't realize they can stream movies, TV shows, even video games through their local library's digital platform… and that means you may be able to get rid of your Netflix and Hulu."
One more place to consider is insurance for your car and home.
Woroch says you could be missing out on money if you don't compare rates every few years for these policies.