Many of our readers are young professionals, fathers, mothers, students, people looking to make a career change and/or increase their professional development. Regardless of what industry you are in, where you want to work, or who you are, being able to save money and effectively use it is something we all should consider doing. With consumer debt constantly rising, I thought I would share the following ways to save money.
PLACES TO SAVE
AROUND THE HOUSE
Cutting down on waste and excess around your home is one of the easiest ways to save money. Are you one of those people who leave lights on all around the house? With three TVs running? We’re talking to you.
- Turn off the lights: If you’re watching TV in the living room, turn off the lights in the kitchen. If you’re eating dinner in the dining room, turn off the lights in the living room. Don’t waste energy by burning lights in rooms that you’re not occupying.
- Use low energy light bulbs: Compact fluorescent light bulbs use only a fraction of the electricity that regular incandescent bulbs use. Plus they last much, much longer.
- Turn off your computer: Computers suck up a lot of energy. Most will go to sleep after a period of sitting idle, but take it one step further by just turning it off.
- Simplify your cable: Do you really need 100 movie channels? Consider a smaller package.
ON THE ROAD
Getting from point A to point B can really cut into your budget. Here’s how to get where you need to go without breaking the bank.
- Get regular tune-ups: Keep all of the moving parts in your car running smoothly to get better gas mileage and prolong the life of your vehicle.
- Keep air in your tires: Underinflated or flat tires will reduce gas mileage.
- Slow down: It’s simple. Drive the speed limit to save gas as well as make your life a whole lot easier.
- Keep it light: Remove any heavy, unnecessary items from your car. An extra 100 pounds can decrease fuel economy of an average automobile by about one percent.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Watching your order total at the checkout can be daunting. Take these steps to help ease the pain.
- Plan ahead: Map out your meals for the entire week. Go through your cabinets, fridge and pantry, making a list of any items you’ll need for your planned meals.
- Buy in bulk: It never hurts to stock up on items you use frequently. Bulk is often cheaper, so fill your cart. Be sure that you are able to use the item before it goes bad.
- Check your receipt: Before you leave the store, take a glance at your receipt to make sure everything checks out. Items may ring up at an incorrect price or be scanned too many times.
- Don’t stray from your list: If you didn’t write it on your list, you don’t need it.
WINING AND DINING
Eating macaroni and cheese, salad and Hamburger Helper every night can get old fast. Treat yourself to a meal at a restaurant from time to time, just be sure to keep it within reason.
- Limit yourself: Avoid making restaurant visits an everyday event. Treat yourself once a week or once a month.
- Avoid weekends: Everybody goes out to eat on the weekends. Restaurants may limit specials and coupons during this time. For the best deals, visit during the week.
- Drink water: Save a few dollars on your bill by drinking water instead of soda or alcohol.
- Bring leftovers home: Restaurant portions are huge, generally twice the size of a recommended serving. Ask for a doggy bag and bring the leftovers home.
DON’T LOSE YOUR SHIRT
The sheer volume of sales flyers, coupons and advertising that we are inundated with is enough to make your head spin. Cut through the clutter: focus on what you’re looking for and compare prices for the best deal.
- Distinguish between needs and wants: Before you start buying toys and specialty items, decide what you need more: the product or the money.
- Shop online: The Internet offers many items used or at a discount. Try to find sites that offer free shipping.
- Consider alternatives: Expensive does not always equal quality. Check out professional ratings from Consumer Reports and read what customers say online to find out if you’re getting biggest bang for your buck.
- Avoid fashion trends: Don’t spend a ton of money on an item that you won’t want to wear next month. Stick with classic styles that you’ll wear often.
EVERYBODY HAVE FUN TONIGHT
Entertaining yourself doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money. It doesn’t even have to include going out.
- Catch a matinee: Movies at 2PM are the same as 7PM. Beat the crowd and save money by catching the early show.
- Explore the great outdoors: Pack a picnic and go for a hike at a park or recreational area nearby. You can even pack a tent and sleeping bag to stay for the weekend.
- Go for a swim: Enjoy some good clean fun in the sun: head to the lake or beach.
- Host a potluck: Invite people over for dinner and have each person bring a separate dish. It’s fun and much cheaper than going out.
Credit cards are not free money. They can become a black hole for your finances in the blink of an eye. Use them responsibly. Remember: at some point, you’ll have to pay them back.
- Pay off the balance: As soon as you get your statement, pay off the balance. Minimum payments don’t cover much more than the interest charge.
- Get a low interest rate: Zero percent interest doesn’t last forever. Many credit cards offer this as an introductory rate, but before you jump at this opportunity, find out how long it lasts and what your rate will be when it expires.
- Look for hidden fees: Look closely at your statement and take note of what kind of fees you are paying out. Programs like credit life insurance, credit disability insurance, involuntary unemployment credit insurance and credit property insurance are generally unnecessary. Make sure you don’t have to pay for them.
- Pay on time: Late payments are messy. They incur fees and allow the credit card company to raise your interest rates. Make a note on your calendar and pay ahead of time.
THIS AND THAT
Consider these extra tricks when trying to save a few bucks.
- Take your lunch to work: Instead of paying five or six dollars for a “value” meal at lunch every day, bring a sandwich, apple and drink from home.
- Quit smoking: It’s much easier said than done, but smokers, you’re burning up a gold mine. Smoking a pack a day costs about $1,460 a year.
- Keep charity receipts: Any kind of donations that you make throughout the year can be used as a tax write off.
- Keep less money available: Leave your credit cards at home and take only the cash you’ll need. If you run short, put something back.
I have to thank one of our readers, Rich M., who referred me to 101 Ways to Save One Dollar a Week. I highlighted some of the 101 ways to save that I found especially helpful. These tips are especially helpful for those that are running low on their “rainy day” accounts. The harder it becomes to pay your bills on time, the harder you should work at following some of these suggestions.
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