Does your list of goals have “save more money” at the top of your objectives? Then you are part of the more than 34% of Americans who aspire to do the same.
Several solutions are right at our fingertips, we just don’t realize how much we can save by slightly adjusting our spending habits. Harvard bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren believes we should all do our best to live by the “50/30/20 rule:”
Your needs, which should be limited to just 50% of your net income; your wants, which should only take up 30% of your spending; and your savings and debt repayments, which should equal at least 20% of the money you earn each month.
Establishing your 50/30/20 will require tracking your expenses, making a budget and even some emotional soul searching on your part. A bit tedious, perhaps, but worth every second of your time.
Saving money requires sacrificing convenience, entertainment and even some fun. But with some effort you can (and will) find a balanced solution that works for you. Discovering this “savings discipline mentality” will help you develop more efficient habits with the dollars and cents you work so hard to earn. The more money you save, the more you’ll enjoy seeing those dollars add up.
The suggestions that follow barely scratch the surface when it comes to ways to save money, but they are a great starting point. Let’s begin with some simple but perhaps less obvious ideas to save money and work toward the more difficult assignments.
10. No More Late Fees
Avoiding late fees means avoiding spending money on nothing. It should aggravate you if you’re constantly seeing extra charges for not paying on time; being prompt could save you hundreds.
This seems so apparent, yet many people fall victim to unnecessary fees that add up over time.
Get organized about your regular bills. Consider automating the payments. Most utilities and other recurring bills can be set-up to be charged to a credit card or deducted from a checking account.
There is really no excuse for forgetting to pay a bill on time and forking out late fees. But if a situation comes up and you do forget to pay a bill, call the company. If you are a first time offender and politely request to waive the late fees, most likely they will dismiss the additional charge.
9. No More Laziness
Think twice! Use only the ATMs of your bank or credit union. Using the cash machine of another financial institution just once a week could cost you $3 per withdrawal or more than $150 over the course of a year. This savings tip is extremely preventable and just involves a little forethought.
No more laziness in cancelling memberships that you don’t use on a consistent basis. For example, gym associations. Use it or give it up. Some people even have memberships at multiple fitness centers, but find they spend the majority of their time at only one health club. End the habit of paying for something you don’t use.
The same goes for magazine subscriptions. Most of us read articles of interest on line for free. Cancel those publication and newspaper payments unless you absolutely need them.
A tiny bit of energy in being mindful for unnecessary expenses goes a long, long way
8. Bundle Up
We all use cell phones, internet and satellite television. Most of these providers allow you to bundle all these services for extra value at a discount rate. Some bundles can even save you $50 a month.
But you won’t know unless you ask. So pick up the phone and research your best savings options.
A word of warning…do not purchase excess channels or services you won’t utilize (will you really watch that channel of 24 hour cat videos?)
7. Stay Off The Peak
If your utility company defines “peak” and “off-peak” hours, you are being charged more to run appliances during certain time periods. Instead, shift your usage to “off-peak” hours. Don’t know what’s what? Ask your utility company.
And listen to those public service announcements…Turning down the heat in the winter and the air conditioner in the summer is one of the fastest ways to see a significant savings on your electricity bill.
6. Better Food, More Savings
Fast food may advertise cheap prices, but consistently eating out is costing you money. Instead of eating fast food or just nuking some prepackaged food when you get home, try making some simple and healthy replacements.
An hour’s worth of preparation one weekend can give you a substantial amount of cheap and handy meals that will end up saving you a lot of cash.
Just begin slowly. Start out with the habit of cooking at home once a week and slowly increase the frequency.
And of course, there are apps for that.
5. Generic Saves Money
If you believe you cannot live without a certain brand of hand lotion, think again.
Instead of just picking up the ordinary brand of an item you buy, try out the store brand or generic version of the item. You’ll save a few cents now and will discover that the store brand is just as good as the name brand. The only difference between the two, often, is the marketing.
More importantly, you should know that all generic versions of drugs and baby formula are FDA-required to provide the same benefits as name brands. These generic private branded products are made from the same ingredients as their pricier counterparts.
Once you’re on board the generic train, you’ll find your regular shopping bill getting smaller and smaller.
4. Make a List and Check It Twice
There is a reason stores put cute little items at the cash register. Impulse buying is big business. Most people have a very tough time resisting the temptation to purchase extras while shopping.
So make a list and stick to it! Without a list you will inevitably purchase items that you simply do not need. Getting everything you need in one trip (and nothing more) can help avoid another unnecessary trip and the expense of spending extra money. And please, do not go shopping when you are starving!
3. Brown Bag It
Instead of going out to eat at work, take your own lunch.
Yes, this takes some planning, but wait until you find out how much money will stay in your pocket. Besides, it can be healthier and delicious and made just the way you like your sandwich.
With some thoughtful preparation, a little imagination and just a few minutes of time, you can create something your co-workers will envy during lunch.
Most people save $60 a month and $720 a year.
2. Let Go of the Latte
Sometimes a cup of coffee is just a cup of coffee. But when ordering it requires using words like “double tall” and paying more than $4, a cup of coffee can become a large expense.
These small expenses pile up, and had you consciously made a choice, you probably would’ve preferred to save that money rather than spend it on coffee, no matter how pretty it looks. This is the reason why Starbucks is rich and you are not.
If you put aside as little as a few dollars a day for your future, rather than spending it on seemingly small purchases such as lattes and even bottled water, it would likely make a difference between accumulating a bit more wealth and living paycheck to paycheck.
1. Hide Your Credit Cards
Okay, this change in spending is probably going to be extremely difficult.
According to the Federal Reserve, total U.S. outstanding revolving debt, which is chiefly made up of credit card balances, was $880.5 billion as of July 2014.
Did you know an individual with just a $5,000 balance with a 16% APR who makes a $125 payment each month would need 4.8 years and $2,000 in interest to pay off the balance?
The amount of average credit card debt has been steadily increasing over the long term and today. Overall, approximately 40% of families hold credit card balances.
Don’t let yourself fall into this black hole. If you are struggling to pay off your credit card debt, stop using these cards now!
Cut the cards up and live off cash only. Yes, it seems impossible, but if you put together a budget, you can live in a “cash only” world and stop accumulating debt.
Remove your credit cards from your wallet and put them in a safe place in your home. It is much too easy to be tempted to pull out a credit card for even a small purchase.
If you argue that you need it for “emergencies,” just be sure to keep a small amount of cash hidden in your wallet for these emergencies.
And stay committed! Don’t keep plastic on you until you have the willpower to not use it even when you’re sorely tempted.