Was your New Year’s resolution to save more and spend less? Even though we're well into the new year now, it's not to late to get back on track if you kind of fell off the savings train. Here are three dozen, (yes, 36!) no-nonsense ways to help you keep more in your pocket throughout the year.
36 Practical Ways to Kick-start Your Savings …
1. Use Mint to create a realistic budget and set savings goals.
2. Switch to an online bank like Ally to save money on fees and get better interest rates.
3. Set up an automatic transfer that moves a small amount of money from your checking to your savings account every day — and watch your nest egg grow!
4. Replace the five most frequently used light fixtures in your home with Energy Star models, and you could save about $75 every year.
5. If you've been using the pre-rinse and/or heat dry settings on your dishwasher now is a good time to stop. Also, wash your clothes in cold water instead of hot.
6. Ditch cable and stream your shows or watch them online.
7. Unplug your TV, computer, and other appliances when you’re not using them to save money on your electric bill.
8. Turn down your home’s thermostat 10 to 15 degrees. Doing so could reduce your winter utility bills by up to 15 percent.
9. Lower your water heater thermostat to 122 degrees and you could save about $60 annually.
10. Find out if you’re paying for more Internet speed than you really need and adjust your plan if possible.
11. Raise your auto insurance deductible to save money on your annual premium. You can also lower your auto insurance cost by reducing the number of miles you drive each year, so use public transportation, carpool, or pedal your way around town.
12. Save money at the grocery store by buying generic whenever possible, and shopping the “day-old” bakery products rack.
13. Pay attention during store checkouts. It’s not uncommon for cashiers to mistakenly scan the same item twice, or for sale items to ring up at full price.
14. Grow your own vegetables and save big-time on produce. With a little ingenuity, even apartment dwellers can grow their own greens.
15. Challenge yourself to make at least one meal a day that costs less than $5. Blueberry pancakes, quesadillas, and stuffed shells are a few easy recipes.
16. Make meals with your leftovers and stop throwing food (and your money) away!
17. Shop at your local farmers market. The prices and quality are often better than what you get at the grocery store, and you’ll support farmers in your community — that’s a win-win.
18. Unsubscribe from retailer email lists so that you’re not tempted by “deals of the day.”
19. Call your credit card company and ask for lower rates or switch to a cash back credit card.
20. Earn cash-back rebates by shopping on sites like Ebates.
21. Cancel your gym membership and keep in shape for free with the classes on BeFiT.
22. Invest in a refillable water bottle with a filter and never spend a cent on pricey bottled water again!
23. Enjoy a trip to the movie theater on the cheap. Skip opening night and wait until the movie is showing at a second-run theater. Your ticket will cost less and the snacks might, too.
24. Dating can be a drag when you’re trying to save money, but not if you try some of these creative cheap date idea. Play a game of Frisbee, enjoy an art show, or go bowling.
25. Don’t meet pals for dinner. Instead, gather at happy hour and eat an appetizer that’s on special.
26. Trade (or sell) your clothes online using SwapStyle and build a new wardrobe without breaking the bank.
27. Use Groupon to get a steal of a deal on a weekend getaway.
28. Fill up your tank on the weekend, when gas tends to be the cheapest. Or search GasBuddy for the best deal on fuel in your neighborhood.
29. Keep your car tires properly inflated to maximize gas mileage.
30. Buy everyday essentials like paper towels, laundry detergent, and hygiene products at a dollar store.
31. Take a break from high-end salons and get your hair cut at a local beauty school.
32. Make your own products when possible. Toothpaste, shampoo, and bath soap are a few necessities
that are easy (and affordable) to make DIY style.
33. Purchase items at the right time of year. January is a great month to buy furniture and electronics, and July is an ideal time to purchase tools and jewelry.
34. Pay with cash and you’ll probably spend less when shopping.
35. Use public Wi-Fi more often and lower your cellphone data plan.
36. Shop at secondhand stores near affluent neighborhoods to find designer bargains.
Use these clever tips to tweak your spending habits and start saving money ASAP. For more ideas, check out 56 Things to Do Instead of Spending Money.
Have a cash-saving trick to share? We’d love to hear it.
Sarah is a freelancer and adjunct professor. When she's not writing or teaching, she's probably reading personal finance or travel blogs. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find her on Twitter.