Achieving financial peace and independence in life is hard, especially when you can barely afford the necessities. Life should be enjoyed, but it is hard to have a good time when you are funneling all of your money into your bills instead of your vacation fund.
Believe it or not, little changes made throughout the year is almost like giving yourself a raise. As a bonus, money saving habits can improve your health, not to mention your stress level.
With patience, planning and discipline you can add thousands of dollars to your year-end bottom line and your personal net worth.
Here are just a few ideas you can consider to save money:
Many families budget nearly $1000 per month for transportation costs, which may include several car payments, insurance, fuel and repairs.
Generally, buying a car less than two years old is unwise. Most cars depreciate so quickly that before you even park the car in your driveway for the first time, the loan is already upside down.
Discipline yourself to pay off one car loan before you finance a second vehicle.
Do not buy vehicles on impulse. Shop around, read consumer reports and choose a vehicle with a good resale value.
Do not buy more car than you need. It is not prudent to buy a $40,000 truck for two trips to Home Depot per year. To haul items, often you can rent a truck for less than $20 per hour.
Before financing a car, set aside the payment amount and increased insurance amount for several months. If you cannot do this, or you fall behind on other expenses, you are not ready to finance a car. If you can do this, and kept up with your regular expenses, use the saved amount as a down payment.
If you are uncomfortable taking your older car on long trips, rent instead of buying. If you were to buy a new car, at $250/month it totals $3000 per year just in payments. An older, paid off vehicle may require $1000 per year in repairs and renting a car for a weekend trip may cost around $100. Therefore, including two weekend trips per year and the repairs on your older vehicle, the cost is still $1800 less than the payments on a new vehicle.
Shop around for the best rates. Get several quotes before you decide on a new service.
Increase the deductible if possible to decrease monthly payment.
Older, paid off vehicles do not require full coverage, refer to your state laws and see if you can make any changes to decrease your payments.
See if your insurance offers lower rates for monthly, payment in full or other arrangements. For example, many quote a lower rate if you pay six months up front instead of per month.
Shop fuel prices, do not let yourself run so low on gas that you are stuck going to the most expensive option.
Use public transportation when possible.
Combine your trips. Instead of running multiple errands in several trips, organize a list and complete everything at one time. Do not run your errands during high traffic hours and burn fuel sitting in traffic.
Walk, bike or run to where you need to go.
Keep your car tuned.
Drive your vehicle that gets the best gas mileage most of the time.
Think before you go, driving to the store to buy $1 worth of soda, while spending $1 worth of gas is not cost effective.
Ask your employer if you can telecommute.
Purchase your gas from discount wholesalers like Costco or Sam’s Club.
Shop around; get at least three quotes on major repairs.
Keep up the maintenance on your vehicles to prevent larger problems later.
Put aside at least $50 per month per vehicle for repairs.
In America, more and more families and individuals are eating out. This means they spend as much on one meal as they would an entire day or even a whole week if they ate at home.
Limit how often you eat out, for example once per week instead of once a day.
Use coupons or eat out at lunch instead of during the higher priced dinner hours.
Look around, often you can find a locally owned restaurant with excellent specials.
Order water with your meal instead of soda or other higher priced items.
Split a meal.
Order only what you want, if you really only want artichoke dip, just order that.
Do not let yourself get over hungry. Store in your office desk, purse or car a few breakfast bars or other low calorie snacks that can hold you over until you get home.
Eating at Home
Home cooked food is nearly always cheaper and healthier than eating out or pre-packaged food.
Shopping for bulk items is not always the best bargain, check prices and quantities for the best deal.
Coupons are usually for name brand items; generally, the generic variation costs less.
Never buy anything at full price.
Stock up when you find an exceptional deal.
Teach your kids (and if necessary yourself) how to cook.
Consider the cost of habits such as smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages. These are expensive and you may want to reduce or eliminate them.
Decrease the amount of meat and cheese that you eat, substitute or decrease the amount in recipes to save money and lower your fat intake.
Drink more water and less soda, juice, milk or other costly beverages.
Do not shop for groceries when you are hungry, on impulse or with your kids.
Winterize/summerize your home to help prevent heat loss/gain.
Keep your thermostat no higher than 65F in the winter and no lower than 75F in the summer.
Take shorter showers, or take your showers at your gym.
Use cold water when washing your clothes as often as possible.
Consider shutting off your landline telephone if you have reliable cell phones with good rates.
Close doors to unused rooms and shut the vents in those areas.
Use your grill in the summer and oven in the winter.
Install water saving devices, such as a low flow showerhead.
Plan a xeriscaped yard, with native plants, that require less work and less water.
Sweep your walks and driveway instead of using water or an electric blower.
Evaluate whether you really need cable television, or whether it would be more cost effective to rent a movie every now and then.
Go for a walk, hike or picnic instead of a high priced alternative.
Budget your entertainment. Plan and track your expenses so they do not get out of hand.
Instead of subscribing to a magazine, read it at your local library.
Buy used books and then when you are done resell them back.
Watch movies during the lower priced matinee hours and do not buy the expensive popcorn and soda.
It is actually less expensive in the end, to go the theatre often, than to buy an expensive home entertainment system.
Rent instead of buying, often you can rent boats, hiking equipment, bikes or other recreational gear for much less than it would cost to buy them and you do not have to worry about storing them throughout the year.
When it comes to clothing, never spend an excessive amount on a trendy item that will only be worn a few times or will quickly go out of style.
Never buy anything full price.
Shop quality not quantity. It is better to have a few items that you really like, that fit and look good on you, than a closet full of stuff you do not like.
Buy large quantities of the basics if you find a good deal, such as on socks.
Shop at the end of the season for the next year.
Buy clothing that is washable and easy to care for, check care labels.
Do not shop on impulse or for other emotional reasons.
Do not view shopping as entertainment.
Bargain shop; compare prices, shop consignment stores, thrift stores, garage sales or online.
Do not waste your money by buying your kids something they do not like and will not wear.
If you do not plan how you are going to spend a windfall, it will slowly disappear into unnecessary expenses and you are going to be wondering where it went.
Tax Returns – Try to budget “extra” money towards paying off interest charging loans or credit cards. Those that charge the highest interest rates should be paid off first.
Gifts – Teach your children to put half of the money they receive as gifts into savings. Adults that receive gifts should put the money into their “rainy day fund,” in a vacation fund or towards interest charging accounts.
Do not pre spend windfalls. For example, taking an expensive vacation on a presumed tax refund, bonus or raise that never materializes can get you into trouble.
As you can see most of these money saving ideas are not going to change your lifestyle or cramp your style that much, they are just little things that with patience and foresight can add up to significant savings throughout the year.
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Palmer, M., & Markish, R. (2004)The Book of Money. Baltimore: Agora Publishing.
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