1) Track Your Spending
If you have no idea where your money is going you will not have the knowledge you need to make any cuts. Start tracking your spending today and keep doing it for at least 30 days. At the end of the month, organize your expenses into categories.
Once you see the numbers on paper, you will be surprised at just what you see. For most people, you will find that those little expenses really add up in a big way. A dollar here and a dollar there can end up being hundreds of dollars by the end of the month. Knowing how you are wasting cash will then allow you to make smart decisions on a daily basis.
2) Set A Budget
The next step in saving money is to set an actual budget. Write out all of your monthly bills, including allotments for things like food and entertainment. You should also set aside money each month for saving and debt reduction.
Once you have your budget, use it as a tool to stay on track of your spending from month to month. You will be giving yourself a maximum that you can spend on certain expenses and sticking to it will save you money.
Your budget can also be used as a tool to cut spending. Take a look at every category in your budget and find ways to reduce spending. Do this every few months to make cutting expenses a normal part of your life.
3) Lower Your Utility Usage
You might think that your energy bill is as low as it can get, but there is usually some room for improvement.
The biggest change that you can make is with your HVAC expenses. Keep the thermostat a few degrees higher in the summer and a few degrees lower in the winter. This alone can cut power usage by 10 to 20 percent.
Another great idea is lowering the thermostat on your water heater to 130 degrees. Most are set too high from the factory which wastes energy and presents a burn hazard.
Other ideas include washing clothes with cold water, turning off heated dry on the dishwasher and making sure that windows are sealed. There are literally dozens of little things that you can do that will make a big difference in the aggregate. Many electric companies will even do free energy audits to help you save energy.
4) Consolidate Credit Card Debt
If you have good credit but are carrying thousands of of dollars on credit cards, now is the time to consolidate. With the average interest rate being over 17 percent in this country, this is debt that you can not afford to carry.
A consolidation loan will do a number of things for you. For starters, it will lower that interest rate, saving you hundreds of dollars a year. It will also likely result in a lower monthly payment on your debt.
One thing it will also do is raise your credit score. Paying off your credit cards will lower your credit utilization. In addition, the new installment loan may increase your credit diversity. The combination could boost your score quite substantially. After a few months of paying on your consolidation loan, with the improved credit, you may even be able to refinance for an even lower rate.
5) Shop Your Auto Insurance
How long has it been since you shopped your auto insurance policy? If it has been more than a few years, changing policies could put some fast cash back in your pocket.
Auto insurers are great about gradually increasing your policy premium. You have likely seen an increase with each renewal. In addition, more and more insurers are switching to 6 month terms instead of annual ones. That gives them more opportunities to increase premiums.
Call or get online quotes from at least three different auto insurance providers. You will soon see that the rates vary wildly among providers and more than likely, one of the quotes will be cheaper for you.
6) Buy Your Groceries Online
Online shopping is not only convenient, it can also save you money. Switch to online shopping exclusively to avoid buying items that you just do not really need.
When you shop online, you can focus on your grocery list. That can allow you to buy only the items that you need and to shop by price. When you visit a physical grocery store, you become victim to merchandising. Everything in the store is designed to make you spend more money. From the name brand products at eye height to the fancy end-caps to the impulse buy items at the register. Nothing is positioned by chance in a grocery store.
7) Make Meal Planning A Way Of Life
Want to really ramp up those grocery savings? Turn to meal planning as a way to get some fast cash back in your pocket.
Meal planning is just what it sounds like, planning your meals. At the beginning of the week, sit down and come up with all of the meals that you plan on serving. Then, write down the exact ingredients that you need. Check off anything that you already have in your pantry and you have your shopping list.
You can very easily get 200 dollars or more back in your pocket each month just by using meal planning to cut down on food waste.
8) Start Taking Your Lunch To Work
If you buy fast food every day, you are probably wasting well over 100 dollars a month in the drive thru lane. Start taking your lunch to work and save big.
Keep in mind that the brown bag does not have to be boring. Mix up your sandwiches with craft bread and toppings. Get creative with salads, pita bread and more. You are only limited by your imagination.
The benefits to taking your lunch to work go far beyond your wallet. You will also save hours of wasted time. Time that you spend going to get your food and waiting in line. An, obviously, your waistline will also be a big beneficiary when you make the switch
9) Become A Cash Buyer
The easiest thing to do is to put a charge on your credit card. Become a cash buyer and you will quickly find that you spend less money. Why? Because we have been trained to have an emotional attachment to money. This makes it much harder to throw down a twenty than it is to pull out some plastic.
To make being a cash buyer even more effective, switch to the envelope budgeting system. Here is an example of how this system works. If you have 300 dollars budgeted for entertainment, put that much money in an envelope. When the money is gone, it is gone. It is as simple as that.
10) Get Rid Of Your Subscriptions
Over the years, you have likely picked up a number of subscriptions that you can do without. The most costly of these are gym memberships and cable TV subscriptions. Cut them out and start saving immediately and save thousands over the course of a year.
Next, look at all of your little subscriptions like gaming apps and even website memberships. There is usually no reason to pay for these because there is almost always a free alternative.