In recent months, Americans have been mindful of multiple attempts by banks to raise existing fees or introduce new ones. Bank of America’s $5 debit-card fee debacle is an obvious example. But, consumers should not forget that there are other expenses that deserve the same attention.

Chelsea Oakes / Flickr source

The tenacity and aggressiveness in protesting against changes in bank products and fees was understandable — we want to pay as little as we can.

Last year, Chase hit me with a $6 monthly maintenance fee on my checking account. In the grand scheme of things, it was not a big deal — but I was still upset that I had to pay it when it could have been avoided.

If the notion of paying an extra $5 monthly fee is infuriating, where is that emotion when we know that we can reduce a monthly expense by $5?

I asked myself that question and took action.

Do little, save big

As a way of celebrating National Financial Literacy Month, I re-read some of my favorite personal finance books and actually acted on some of the advice given, which wasn’t as effective the first time I read them two years ago, when my finances were miniscule.

One concept that really struck a chord with me was to focus on small actions that yield big effects, which is emphasized by Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich.

Sethi believes that savings ventures such as eliminating the daily $5 latte won’t work, because it involves a repetitive test of willpower against walking into the Starbucks everyday on the way to work. It may work for a while but sooner or later, the habit will return.

However small actions such as cutting down on subscriptions and memberships is one way to create a big financial change with a small action, so that’s where I started. The instant that I finished that particular chapter of the book, I began reviewing the options for my plan of action.

A quick review of recent wireless-phone bills already revealed there was an excess of minutes even under a family plan — an easy downgrade for $15 in savings. Another short haggling session with the broadband cable internet company meant $5 in monthly savings (I was paying the full post-introductory rate).

Money is money

In total, one minute on the Internet and 10 minutes on the phone resulted in $20 in monthly savings, or $240 in annual savings.

Bank of America’s would-be debit card fee was small compared to those savings. Reviewing my favorite personal-finance books delivered a wake-up call that there are more-costly issues that need to be addressed.

There should be no difference between the $5 monthly fee for a debit card that used to be free and an unnecessary $5 monthly expense.

Five bucks is five bucks. Either way, I’d prefer it in my wallet.

Follow me

Simon Zhen

Simon is a research analyst for MyBankTracker. He is an expert on consumer banking products, bank innovations and financial technology.
Follow me