We had a bit of a family crisis in December, which coupled with holiday shopping, left us financially strapped heading into the New Year. I’ve been going through our budget to find areas where we can cut back on our expenses and collecting as many money saving tips I can find.
Most of you are bright readers. I know from your comments that you are savvy and well-informed. So, I’m going to skip all the obvious tips like insulating your home, turning down the water heater temperature, and checking your car’s tire pressure. Instead, I focused on the tips that were either new to me or ones that I knew but thought were good reminders.
Here are the money saving tips I found the most helpful.
Know how much you’re spending
Most people significantly underestimate how much they spend each month. For one entire month keep EVERY receipt in a box. At the end of the month, tally it up to find what your real expenses are. This is the easiest way to identify areas where you are overspending or have unrealistic expectations.
Consider ditching cable
You can watch most of the shows on the internet now and depending on your home electronics, can even stream them to your television.
Impose a deliberation period on yourself for making purchases. Don’t buy anything immediately, but instead give yourself a mandatory time limit to consider whether the purchase is a necessity. Also, don’t store your credit card numbers in your online shopping accounts. This will force you to take at least a few minutes to retrieve a credit card before you make a purchase, which might be just enough time to talk yourself out of it.
Apply the same principle to driving. Before getting in the car to go somewhere, ask yourself if the trip is really necessary. If it is, determine if there are other errands you can run in the same area to eliminate the need to drive again later.
Make cheaper meals
Eat more soup or vegetarian dishes to make hearty and nutritious, but inexpensive meals.
Ask for rate reductions
Call your credit card company, insurance company, cable provider, phone service provider, (basically any one you pay money to on a regular basis) and ask them to reduce your rates. You’ll be surprised how many companies will accommodate you after just a simple request. You may have to do some research and be willing to switch companies if you want greater bargaining power.
Ask for discounts
Many businesses will give you a discounted price if you ask for one. Since we are a military family, I always ask if they offer a military discount. Ditto for AAA. And if neither, sometimes I will simply ask, “Is that the best price I can get for that item? I really do like it but I’m uncomfortable paying that much.”
Ask for samples
Makeup and perfume counters aren’t the only places you can score some free samples. The dentist always gives you a free sample of toothpaste and a new toothbrush so why not ask your optometrist for a few samples of contact lenses or your doctor for samples of the medication he/she is prescribing?
Stop buying things for your kids
How many of your kids toys are taking up space in their rooms or closets, rarely being played with? If your family is typical, there are a lot. Though your child might tell you he or she is going to die if they don’t get the newest, most expensive toy, the truth is kids can just as easily be entertained making a fort in the family room with old blankets which doesn’t cost you a penny.
Calculate the value
Before you buy anything, convert the price to hours (divide your hourly wage by the cost of the item). That new sweater you want might seem less appealing when you realize it equals 3 hours of work!
Enjoy rewards without temptation
Create an e-mail account specifically for store e-mails. Then, sign up for every free customer rewards program you can using that e-mail address. This will prevent your personal e-mail account from being clogged up with promotional e-mails. When you are ready to shop, you can easily search your shopping e-mail address search function to find any coupons or deals for the stores you are going to visit.
Replace your paper napkins and paper towels with cloth, which can be laundered. Not only will this save you money in the long run, cloth napkins and towels are more absorbent and thus, work better anyway.
Use a Smart Power Strip that will cut ALL power to electronic devices when they are turned off. Why? 40% of the energy used by your home electronics is burned when they are turned off! If you don’t want to invest in a Smart Power Strip, you can still reap the same savings by unplugging items when they’re not in use.
Rent out items you don’t want to sell
Most of us know we have many options for selling items we don’t need anymore (e.g. Craigslist, eBay, garage sales), but what if you have an item that you don’t want to get rid of but don’t use very often? You can rent it out! Zilok allows you to rent items to or from other individuals.
Streamline your subscriptions
If you get multiple magazine subscriptions, consider signing up at Texture which gives you access to over 100 magazines for one set monthly rate. You can try the service for 30 days free and if you decide to continue you can cancel at any time.
Make your own convenience foods
One weekend a month, when you make your favorite casserole, lasagna, or other dish, make several batches of it and freeze the extras. Then, on those days that you forgot to plan dinner and are tempted to eat out, you’ll have a homemade meal you can quickly reheat instead.
If you like to entertain or go out with friends, save everyone the stress and expense of playing hostess or eating out by pushing for potluck get-togethers.