Every year, there are millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet, and most of them never realize that they could save hundreds if not thousands of dollars by making some very simple changes. For those of you in search of cost-cutting solutions that don’t turn your life into an episode of Survivor, here are 30 simple, easy to follow tips you can implement today.
1. Combine Your Utilities – If you pay over $100 a month for cable TV, you can probably save a lot of money by adding in your cable Internet and phone bill to the same package. Many times, cable companies and phone companies are able to offer packages of all three for around $100 a month. You may lose some of the 500 channels you currently enjoy, but remember, it’ll take compromises to save a few dollars.
2. Send in Rebates and Use Coupons – Remember all those rebates you got from Best Buy last year for your home office equipment? Did you send any of them in? Rebates may seem like a pain to deal with, but they are basically free money. If you receive rebates or coupons for things you already buy, put them in a folder somewhere, and act on them once a week. This will ensure you never space on sending them out.
3. Refinance or Consolidate Loans – If you have loans or major debt, consider consolidating or refinancing to get better interest rates. Student loans and mortgages are great examples as they allow you to pay off the debt faster and with a fixed rate to reduce interest charges.
4. Borrow, Don’t Buy – If you want to read a book, watch a DVD or listen to a CD, borrow it from the library or a friend instead of buying it brand new. The cost of entertainment alone can add up extremely quickly. Consider services like Netflix for DVDs or Pandora Internet radio for music – both of which have low subscription fees.
5. Magazine Subscriptions – If you currently buy magazines (or newspapers), replace those hefty monthly fees with a single subscription cost. Most magazines can be had for an 80% discount if you subscribe for the whole year.
6. Order or Buy Groceries Online – These days, you can buy nearly anything online. Add your groceries to that list. Services like Fresh Direct and websites like Amazon make it easier than ever to order food in bulk at big discounts. You not only cut back on what you spend on groceries; you cut down on how much you must drive to get them.
7. Pay Down Credit Card Debt – Debt is a big part of most people’s bills. Some people spend as much as half their income paying off loans, credit cards and other debts. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars a month on interest charges, pay down those cards, and stop using them to buy things you cannot afford.
8. Wait for a New Car – Unless your car is falling apart and can’t go over 55 miles per hour, you don’t need a new one. Avoid the urge to spend money on the flashy new sedan you saw on TV. It’s not necessary, and you’re adding yet another bill to your list.
9. Pay Bills Annually – A lot of bills can be reduced by paying them in a lump sum upfront. Car insurance, life insurance, phone bills, and many others offer plans to pay upfront and save as much as 25% of the total. It may seem like a lot to spend, but it’s far more cost efficient.
10. Cut Back on Gifts – Gift giving adds up significantly, especially around Christmastime when so many gifts go out. You don’t have to stop giving gifts, but cut back on them as much as you feel comfortable. Find ways to show your love without maxing out a $5,000 credit card every year – you’ll feel far less stressed come January 1st.
11. Make Your Own Lunch – Lunch is a huge expense for many of us. If you work 5 days a week and spend $10 a day on lunch, that’s $2600 a year just to feed yourself while at work. What are the alternatives? Bring something from home. A brown bag lunch can cost as little as $2 and often includes more food than takeout – plus it’s healthier. Another tip: don’t spend so much money at coffee shops. That $5 latte could easily be replaced by a thermos of coffee from home that costs twenty-five cents.
12. Cook Meals for Dinner – Again, eating out is expensive, but now we’re talking about your whole family. What did it cost the last time you took the entire family out to your favorite restaurant? $50? $100? That same meal could be made at home with bulk foods and fresh ingredients for as little as $10 for four people.
13. Join a Wholesale Club like Costco – When it comes to buying food and household goods, no one has better deals than Costco. The membership is only $50 per year, and you’ll be able to take massive discounts on everything from milk and vegetables to toilet paper and toothpaste. It may be a hefty monthly shopping trip, but it’s well worth the savings.
14. Use Free Software – If you have a home office or simply use your computer for a lot of personal projects, consider downloading and using free software options instead of pricy retail tools. Google Documents and Open Office are great replacements for Microsoft Office while Paint.net offers many of the basic tools that Photoshop does for $600 less than its pricy counterpart.
15. Cut out Snacks and Drinks – A lot of what you spend on food could be completely cut out simply by eating less. Evaluate how much you spend on things like potato chips, candy, sodas and other junk food, and start cutting it out. Even if you replace it all with more expensive fruits and healthy snacks, I can guarantee you’ll spend less in the long run. Another big money waster: beverages like soda, energy drinks and alcohol.
16. Exercise and Eat Healthy – By eating healthier and exercising regularly, you’ll save money in a number of ways. First, you’ll have more energy and get more done. Second, you won’t need to buy as many medications or see the doctor nearly as much. Finally, you’ll be happy going for a walk or talking with your family. You won’t need so many distractions and extra gadgets to keep you happy. A healthy body is a happy, inexpensive body.
17. Save Leftover Change – Don’t toss change away or leave it in your car. Get a change jar to start saving it for future use. By setting aside all the extra pennies and nickels you get, you can come away with hefty three-figure paydays every few weeks.
18. Create Monthly Budgets – One of the easiest ways to save money is to know what you’re spending it on. A monthly budget is vital to help you understand what you actually need and what expenses are frivolous. Check in on your budget at least once a week, adjust as necessary, and try to get as close to the minimum spend as possible.
19. Save Money in a Money Market Account – If you are trying to save money, make it work for you. Eventually, you’ll want that money going into CDs and IRAs, but for now at least get a money market savings account. Even just extra savings in your bank account will make small amounts of profit each week by staying here.
20. Plan Grocery Shopping Trips – The easiest way to waste money at the grocery store is to go in without a clear plan. Sit down once a week and make a list of everything you need, using recipes and your current needs as a guide. Then, when you go into the grocery store, don’t buy anything that’s not on your list. By limiting your trips to the store and cutting out unnecessary purchases, you’ll remove impulse buys from your budget.
21. Don’t Pay Unnecessary Fees – There are so many fees out there that you may not even realize where your money is going. Of course there are credit card fees, but there are also late fees if you forget to pay a bill on time, transaction fees if you use the wrong ATM, and overage fees if your subscriptions don’t cover your service. Take a look at your last bank statement, and try to cut out as many of those fees as possible.
22. Research Prices Online – Before you buy anything, sit down and look at the varying prices online. Impulse buys of major appliances or electronics can cost you hundreds of dollars.
23. Don’t Drink Bottled Water – Bottled water is a massive waste of money; plus it’s awful for the environment. Get a stainless steel or reusable plastic water bottle, and fill it up instead. You can always get a filter if you don’t like your tap water.
24. Stop Smoking – Smoking is expensive. From $5 a pack in most states to $13 a pack in New York, you could be spending anywhere from $1500 to $5000 a year on this nasty habit, not to mention the future cost of health care.
25. Drive Your Car Less – Driving costs money. So, instead of driving three blocks to work each day, get a bicycle or start walking. Public transportation is also a great option, or you could carpool with people going your way.
26. Take Care of Your Pets At Home – Pets don’t have to be so expensive. Instead of spoiling them with expensive wet foods, stick with simple dry food from a reputable brand. They won’t know the difference, and you’ll save money. Also, consider clipping nails, brushing teeth and deworming at home – all feasible if your furry friend is well behaved.
27. Review Tax Savings – Take a closer look at your income tax return next year. You may be getting less back than you should. If you’re using any of the renewable energy tips in this guide, you can likely deduct them from your bill. Plus, there are plenty of deductions for children, green automobiles and business expenses.
28. Have a Garage Sale – Get rid of your old stuff the best way possible – with a good old-fashioned garage sale. If you’re not a fan of strangers on your lawn, go online and use eBay or craigslist instead. Throwing out old stuff is almost never necessary. Someone likely wants it.
29. Buy Used Items – Instead of buying brand new electronics, cars, clothing or other goods, look for used options. Again, eBay is a great tool for finding used items, or you could talk to your friends and family to see if they have anything available.
30. Cut up the Credit Cards – Get rid of the credit cards. Paying for things with credit is the single fastest way to lose money. A $500 credit card would take three years to pay off if you paid the minimal balance, and you would end up paying nearly 200% of what you originally spent. Why do that when you could use cash and limit your spending?
This is only getting started, and don’t forget the 20 methods to save money on your utility bill we already discussed. The opportunities to cut your bills, save money and start saving for the future are nearly endless. The earlier you get started, the sooner you can relax and enjoy a life without hefty bills and massive energy consumption.