Ever since I became aware of how easy it is to overlook savings opportunities (which is a more positive way of saying “money drains”) I've constantly found myself running to my desk to scribble down new side income ideas or money-saving tips.
Saving isn't just the action of earmarking a percentage of one's paycheck for a retirement investment. It's about finding and sealing up the “gaps” into which our money falls when we're not paying attention.
And yes, while it's always fun to find the spare change between the sofa cushions, that's not quite where I'm going… though I think I will have a look later today.
Whether it's behavior or savings, the change adds up and if you put any of the following frugal living tips into action, you'll be surprised by how quickly you can turn things around.
1. Get Rid Of Credit Card Debt
Debt can be a major financial burden, and it can be difficult to save money when trying to make ends meet. However, there are some things you can do to get rid of your debt and start saving money.
One option is to consolidate your debt into one monthly payment. This can help you save money on interest and simplify your finances.
Another option is negotiating with your creditors to lower your interest rates or waive late fees. If you're struggling to make ends meet, you may also be able to negotiate a payment plan that fits your budget.
Whatever option you choose, getting rid of your debt can help you save money in the long run.
2. Look For A Cheaper Cell Phone Plan
Looking to save some money on your cell phone bill? You can do a few things to keep more money in your pocket each month.
First, look at your current plan and see if there are any features you're not using. If you're paying for a data package that you never go over or for unlimited minutes when you typically only use a fraction of that, then downgrading your plan can lead to big savings.
Another option is to switch to a prepaid or no-contract plan, which can be much cheaper than traditional plans from the major carriers.
And finally, be sure to shop around and compare prices from different providers before committing to anything – you may be surprised at how much you can save by simply doing a little research.
3. Close Unnecessary Autopay Accounts
We're always staring at numbers when we're trying to figure out how to save money every month. Here's an easy way to make bank statement reviews pay off fast.
It's one thing to have utilities, insurance, and cell phone plans automatically deducted from your bank, but sometimes we forget about recurring charges that we'd forgotten to cancel… or for services we just don't need.
We don't think about them until they show up on our statements, or—when things are really tight—cause us to become overdrawn.
Look back at your bank records from the prior year, and identify those wasteful automatic deductions. While you're at it, double-check the charges on your utilities and insurance to make sure there haven't been any errors or upcharges.
Some companies, especially mobile phone carriers and car insurance, offer a discount when you sign up for their autopay programs so you might want to check with an account representative.
4. Ways To Save Money On Vehicle Expenses
Not everyone can take on a new car payment and buy a shiny new hybrid or electric Tesla. We can, however, increase our existing vehicles' fuel efficiency.
The Union of Concerned Scientists published a fantastic list, and I've boiled it down to my favorite tips… with a few of my own thoughts.
Give your a/c a break.
Park in the shade or use window reflectors, and consider investing about $30 in a solar-powered window vent.
Maintain your tires.
Rotate and balance your tires on a regular basis to improve mileage. Keep a tire gauge on hand and make sure they're inflated to the PSI indicated on the tire's sidewall.
Empty your car.
Not only is a car full of stuff a safety hazard and invitation for a car prowl, but it also decreases your fuel efficiency. Keep an emergency kit in the trunk, but leave gym bags, toys, and work tools at home.
Keep your car healthy.
Your investment in regular tune-ups can extend your car's life and reduce your fill-up costs. Replace air and fuel filters, change the oil, and check spark plugs according to your vehicle's manual.
Learn how to perform these tasks yourself—it's easy!—and purchase your supplies from anywhere but a service station convenience store; their markup is huge.
Keep maintenance records.
When it comes time to sell your vehicle, potential buyers will have more confidence in a car that comes with proof of regular maintenance.
Even if you're the grease monkey, you can take copious notes and include receipts for new parts and supplies.
5. Save Money On Car Insurance
Many car-buyers, especially the inexperienced, base their car purchases around models that they like rather than one that fits their budget. Many don’t take the main factors that determine their premiums into consideration, including:
- the type of car
- the average amount you drive
- your driving record
- your demographic information
- where you live
- your credit score
Insurance premiums are also largely based on the type and cost of repairing or replacing your car. If you’re looking for a way to lower your monthly payments and are okay with not landing with the car of your dreams, look for a car that is common enough to find replacement parts easily, and ones that are easy to repair.
Shop Around For The Cheapest Insurance
Comparing prices is a big factor when it comes to figuring out how to get cheap car insurance. Prices vary from company to company.
Some companies charge more for younger drivers or cars being driven more than the average commuter. These rates are based on the idea that there’s a higher risk of accidents.
Also, remember to shop for bundles. If you’ve seen any of the Flo Progressive commercials, you should know that many companies offer discounts for bundling auto insurance with other types like homeowners and life insurance. If you can, try to take advantage of these types of discounts.
If you’re coming to the end of your current insurance coverage or are looking to buy a new car, make sure to find a couple of different price quotes to guarantee the cheapest car insurance.
Have A Good Driving Record
Having a good driving record is like having a good credit score. If you’ve caused a lot of crashes, you will probably have to pay a lot more for auto insurance than those who have been crash-free for a while.
Why? Insurance companies are more hesitant to provide coverage for those they anticipate will be getting into frequent accidents.
If you have multiple speeding tickets, accident tickets, or even tickets for running a stop sign, your driving record will accumulate points with both insurance companies and the local DMV that will affect your standing.
But if you do have a bad driving record, there are ways of saving on your auto insurance. Most points go away after a certain number of years, and there are driving school options in most states that will allow you to combat some of your driving violations.
Look for Higher Deductibles
A deductible is a price an insured driver is expected to pay in scenarios that are covered by a policy before the insurance company takes over.
For example, if you get into an accident that costs $5,000 in repairs and you have a $2,000 deductible, your insurance company will only cover $3,000 of the total cost.
Higher deductibles will help lower the overall total of your insurance policy – meaning smaller monthly payments. However, it is important to remember that if something does happen on the road, the driver will be forced to pay more out of pocket.
Avoid Making Insurance Claims
In addition to your driving record, insurance companies keep track of the number of times policyholders file claims or request assistance from their insurers.
Every time an insurance company is forced to cover costs, a strike is held against you that will cause your policy to increase in the next policy period.
To avoid making claims, drive safely. Obeying all traffic laws and becoming a defensive driver will lower your chances of getting into an accident.
However, if an accident does occur, consider covering the price of repairs yourself before filing a claim with your insurer.
Look For Discounts
Just like the bundle-and-save policy offered at Progressive, there are tons of different discount programs offered by insurance companies. Some of the more unique discounts include:
- Insuring multiple cars
- Safety features
- Loyalty programs
- Driving school completions
Paying for insurance can feel overwhelming, but as long as you make an informed decision, you can definitely save some money. Find what is right for you and always remember to shop around, bundle where you can, and drive safely.
6. Save Warranties and User Manuals
That last piece of advice made me think of another important way to save money:
Every time you purchase a vehicle, valuable tool, appliance, or piece of equipment, fill out and mail any necessary warranty registration cards and file away the product's documents, receipt, and manual.
First, things do break. If it's under warranty, politely demand a replacement. If it's out-of-warranty, throw a Hail Mary pass and try to get the manufacturer or retailer to work with you.
Second, with a manual, you'll not only know how to avoid failure, but you might learn how to troubleshoot or fix the problem.
7. Ask Your Vet For Tips
Pet care expenses can add up, but there are some great ways we can save money while keeping our dogs and cats healthy.
Colorado Pet Pantry helps families and individuals in financial crisis keep their pets while reducing the burden on the state's animal shelters. Here are their saving tips for balancing pet care when funds are tight:
First, keep up with annual health exams. Undiscovered illnesses can cause expensive emergencies. Be honest with your financial situation if you're having trouble, and your vet is likely to help you come up with a wellness program suited to your budget.
Ask him or her to recommend a high-quality food at a reasonable (not necessarily cheap) price.
If you don't have an affordable vet, look for a well-reviewed rural vet. Urban veterinarians have more overhead, and rural vets typically charge what the market allows… and that's often not very much.
Once you know your pet is healthy, consider purchasing a vaccination kit from a nearby agricultural supply store. They're easy to administer and come packaged with instructions and everything you need.
Note, you can't purchase the rabies vaccine (have your vet do that) and it's very important you find out if combination vaccination products will “overload” a small dog. Be sure to keep the packaging with your dated purchase receipt.
If you're not comfortable vaccinating your pet yourself, that's okay. Find out if any of your local pet supply stores host low-cost vaccination or teeth cleaning clinics.
8. Slash Your Electric Bill
I've already mentioned how certain appliances can draw power, even when they're off. This is called an idle load, phantom drain, or vampire drain and, according to the most recent data from the National Resource Defense Council, makes up about a quarter of the average American household's electric bill.
I want to expand on the topic with some new, easy-to-implement ideas: Put your entertainment center equipment on a power strip, and turn the whole strip off with a single button when you're not actively watching TV, recording a show, or playing the Xbox.
Do the same with computers, printers, routers, and scanners when you won't be using them, and use timers on outlets where you typically charge up phones and tablets.
Find out if your power company is compatible with the Unplug Stuff app, which helps you figure out your home's “idle load”.
If not, your utility company might have special monitoring suggestions, or they can send a technician over to help show you how to save money every month by plugging power leaks.
9. Adjust Freezer and Refrigerator Settings
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that you keep a thermometer in your refrigerator to make sure it stays steady at 40° F (4° C). Your freezer should stay at 0° F (-18° C).
If your freezer isn't stuffed with bulk, frozen, healthy foods, fill the extra space with water bottles. When they freeze, they reduce the amount of power your freezer requires to maintain optimal temperatures.
If you keep extra freezers, it might be worth your while to upgrade them to an energy-saving model.
All too often, we rotate aged freezers into the garage or basement, only to fill them partway. Chest models, by the way, are more efficient than standing units.
10. Ditch the Storage Unit
If you've downsized, or you've had trouble letting things go, you might be paying for an expensive storage unit. Take a look at the accumulated cost and ask yourself if you'd spend that much to buy it all back if it were at a thrift shop.
If you're just not quite ready to let go of everything, downsize the unit.
If you feel guilty about getting rid of family heirlooms that just don't hold much sentimental value to you, give them away to family members or friends who will appreciate them.
You might have intended to hold a garage sale or put some of your stored items on Craigslist or eBay, but if you keep putting it off, you'll still be in the hole.
Look online for local estate auction companies who are prepared to sort through and cart away unwanted but potentially saleable stuff.
By the way… don't rent or purchase a home based on its ability to store or display all your current belongings.
Place more value on amenities, community, and quality than you would on floor space. You'll save on square footage if you downsize before your move!
11. Save Money On Laundry
Doing laundry can be a costly endeavor, particularly if you have a large family. However, there are several ways to save money on laundry costs.
One way is to hang-dry your clothes instead of using the dryer. This can save you money on your energy bill, and it's also better for your clothes.
Another way to save money is to wash your clothes in cold water. This uses less energy than washing in hot water, and it's just as effective.
Finally, make sure to run full loads of laundry instead of partial loads. This will save you money on water and energy costs. By following these simple tips, you can save yourself a lot of money on your laundry bills.
12. Saving Money On Food
For many, the grocery bill is one of the largest living expenses. Fortunately, there are several ways to cut down on your grocery budget without sacrificing the quality of your food.
One way to save money is to plan your meals in advance and make a shopping list before you go to the store. This will help you buy only the items you need and avoid impulse purchases.
Another way to save money is to purchase generic brands rather than name brands. Generic brands are often just as good as name brands but cost a lot less.
Finally, don't be afraid to take advantage of sales and coupons. If you plan your purchases around sales, you can save a significant amount of money on your groceries each month.
How to Start Saving Money
Saving money can seem daunting, especially if you're living paycheck to paycheck. However, you can take some simple steps to start saving money each month.
First, look at your budget and see where you can cut back on expenses. Do you need that Netflix subscription? Are you eating out more than you should be? Once you've identified areas where you can cut back, put that money into a savings account or invest it in something that will grow over time, like a stock or mutual fund.
Another option is to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account. This way, you'll never even see the money, and you'll be less likely to spend it.
Finally, make saving money a priority. If you know you need to save $500 for a rainy day fund, don't spend that money on unnecessary things. Put it into savings and watch your balance grow.
By following these simple steps, you'll be well on your way to saving money each month.
Thanks for following our money-saving tips! We hope you’ve been able to put some of these ideas into practice and seen a decrease in your monthly expenses.
If you have any other great tips to share, please leave them in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you!