There’s no doubt that personal finances are on top of everyone’s list of concerns these days, more importantly the topic of how to save money. With uncertainty in the job market, ramped pay cuts, and devalued investment assets people are looking for new ways to save money on everything from bills to entertainment expenses in order to stay afloat and still live a somewhat sane life.
Despite the doom and gloom broadcasts the good news is that there are many traditional and new methods for saving money available at your discretion. All you have to do is conduct a simple analysis of your expenses and look for the opportunities where you can cut corners, save money, or find no cost alternatives.
Below is a list of some of the best ways to save money for the rest of 2011 and beyond, using new technologies and time tested personal finance strategies.
Before we get into specific ways to save on specific things it’s important to go over some basic rules for saving money, while mostly common sense they’re definitely not common practice in many households.
The first thing you should do is have a budget planned and a list of all your expenses so you know what you’re working with, this’ll also help you identify the trouble spots in your financial life, i.e. you’ll clearly see some disparities like uncommon cell phone charges or an outrageous heating bill.
You should also get an understanding of what your monthly bills should be opposed to what they are. For instance you can be incurring many late fees or overcharge charges each month for various utilities and think it’s normal simply because you’ve gotten used to paying that much. So make a list of all your bills and what they should be costing you and this will give you a starting point for where to focus your attention for saving money. Now on to the savings methods.
How to Save Money on Food
How to Save Money on Groceries…
The super market is one place where everyone can definitely cut costs so here are some tips on how to save money at the grocery store.
- Probably the most important rule is to only go shopping with a specific list of what you need. This’ll help you avoid unnecessary impulse buys and keep you organized so that you don’t come home with stuff that you already have, or worse forget things that you need.
- On a personal note I always find that I spend more when I go to the grocery store hungry so consider grabbing a snack before you head out.
- Set a time limit at the Grocery store. If you’re on a schedule you’ll be less likely to hang around and spend more money on stuff you don’t need. Get what’s on your list and get out.
- Coupons, Coupons, Coupons. In addition to traditional coupons that come in your mail you can do some active digging and find good coupons online for specific items or brands that you enjoy. Also keep an eye out for coupons that come on the packages of your products save those for your next trip.
- If you’re not buying organic food then there’s no need to spend more on brand names, buy generic whenever you can.
- Buy non-perishable items in bulk the added volume should save you more per item and save you more shopping trips throughout the year.
- Depending on your shopping habits a membership to a discount club like Sam’s or Costco might be of benefit.
How to Save Money Eating Out…
In general if you’re trying to save money you should avoid eating out as it’s one of the easiest expenses to cut. However, everyone likes to go out, have a good time, and take a night off from cooking so when you do make sure to do it smart.
- Get the Entertainment Book and save money on top of the line restaurants, daily eateries, and hundreds of activities. The entertainment book is available for most major cities and has over $18,000 in geographically targeted discounts. A typical discount at a good restaurant will be for one entrée free with the purchase of a regular priced entrée. If you don’t want to cut restaurants out of your life this discount book will help you save money.
- On the other hand one place where you can cut eating out more easily is at lunch time. Get in the habit of bringing a lunch to work and you’ll not only save money but lose weight too. Work place cafeterias and typical lunch spots don’t offer the healthy selections that a homemade lunch can.
- On a similar note cut out vending machines from your life and you’ll also save money and eat healthier. Everyone knows that items in a vending machine are grossly overpriced so bring your own snacks to work. If you don’t want to swap chips and chocolate for carrots and celery buy your unhealthy snacks in bulk and save by bringing them with you.
How to Save Money on Beverages…
- The bottled water craze is the cause of so much wasted money and resources that it’s mind boggling. It’s insane to pay over a dollar for a bottle of water and this is something that you want to cut out of your life ASAP. Save whatever plastic water bottles you may have or invest in a good Nalgene water bottle then fill it up every day with filtered water. Most modern refrigerators come with a water filter which you can use or invest in a Brita water filter.
- Coffee has also become a popular boutique expense that’s hard to understand. An average cup of coffee from Starbucks or other popular chains can run you anywhere from $2-$7, factor in a week’s worth of coffee and you’re talking a serious waste of money. Stop buying overpriced coffee and brew your own. This can be a hard switch for die hard coffee drinkers but consider that your choices aren’t just between your favorite brand and bland instant coffee. If you turn online you can find gourmet coffee for much more reasonable prices. If you’re a regular coffee drinker you’re looking at some serious savings by brewing at home.
How to Save Money on Monthly Bills
How to Save Money on Your Phone Bill…
- First thing you need to do is decide if your household needs both traditional and cellular phones. Many modern households have done away with landlines and have gone strictly mobile, unless you absolutely have to ditch the land line.
- Monitor your cell phone usage to fit your needs, for instance as much as I tried I could not limit my text messages so instead of consistently paying overage fees I opted for a larger plan. Yes it was more money but at the same time I now don’t pay any fees so overall I’m still saving.
How to Save Money on Cable Bills…
- If you don’t mind losing your premium channels you can get rid of your cable provider and watch almost everything you need online for free. Hulu.com lets you watch lots of primetime shows for free, and you can always go straight to the network’s websites to find shows that they don’t have.
How to Save Money on Energy Costs…
Even though winter is coming to an end there are many things that you can do to save money on energy costs year round.
- Whenever buying new appliances look for the energy star rating for low electricity using items.
- When running Air Conditioning or Heat make sure your windows and doors aren’t seeping air.
- Save money by unplugging your most energy consuming appliances when not in use. Not sure what each appliance takes up even when not plugged in, find out what each appliance uses and at least unplug the worst offenders.
A great overall tip when it comes to saving money on bills is to not be scared or ashamed and simply ask for deals from each service provider. For instance if you hear about a new promotion only available to new customers, no problem, call customer service and have them apply it to your account under threat of switching services.
How to Save Money on Entertainment
How to Save Money at the Movies…
- This is another situation where the entertainment book can help you save. The average theater charges around $10.00 per adult ticket, the entertainment book contains 12 coupons which let you purchase 2 adult tickets at $7.00 a piece. That’s a 30% savings and comes out to $6 saved per movie trip.
- The other option is to see movies in matinee show times, which around here will save you $2 of the ticket price. This is a good strategy but difficult to pull off on date nights and weekends.
How to Save Money on Movie and Game Rentals…
- If you’re an avid movie renter you should definitely consider joining a membership club like Netflix or Blockbuster online. They deliver up to 3 DVDs at a time to your home for a low monthly fee. This is only recommended as a savings tips for avid movie renters, if you’re renting more than twice a month you should definitely consider this. Netflix is cheaper of the two but blockbuster offers the convenience of in store exchanges so the choice is up to you.
- Just like these service there are the same programs for video game rentals. Unlike movies video games cost more to rent so if you or your children are frequent game renters you should check out GameFly, which offers you up to 2 game rentals per month which you can keep for as long as you want. Again do this only if you’re renting more than twice a month as that’s about the cost of the membership.
How to Save Money on Your Finances
- Payoff your debts as fast as possible, consolidate your debt into one low interest payment and pay it off as soon as possible. Interest payments are killer and a complete waste of money.
- Set your bills on an auto pay schedule through your bank or credit card. This will help keep you organized and avoid any late fees.
- Unless you have overdraft protection, always be aware of how much money you have in your accounts before making payments or withdrawing cash.
- Avoid ATM fees, know where your bank’s ATMs are and plan your withdrawals ahead of time so you don’t waste money on fees.
- Set up a hard to access high interest savings account, set aside money for monthly bills and expenses in a separate checking account.
- Use credit cards with rewards programs if you can pay off your monthly bill in full every month. Something like a Discover credit card for the cash back rewards. This way, you can earn 1% cash back and buy gift cards for presents. Plus there are some added bonuses a cardholder receives.
- Don’t use credit cards with annual fees, there are plenty of free cards with great gift or cash back bonuses.
How to Save Money on Your Automobile
- Do not drive like a maniac. Aggressive driving adds unnecessary wear and tear on your car.
- Keep up with basic maintenance to avoid more costly expenses down the road.
- Check tire pressure regularly to help save on fuel costs.
- If you’re in need of a new car consider a used alternative instead. Pre-owned cars with low miles are reliable and will save you thousands in markup costs.
- If it’s possible ride your bike to work or carpool with coworkers.
- If applicable consider switching to synthetic motor oil.
- Shop around for the best car insurance, if you have a good driving record you can be unnecessarily over paying.
How to Save Money Shopping
- When shopping for clothes consider thrift stores, you’ll be amazed at what kind of great deals you can find on name brand and good quality clothes.
- Use Craigslist for stuff, tons of local deals on pretty much anything you can imagine. In a recession people are quick to get rid of non-essentials which means there’s great deals to be found, just remember to use common sense and be smart about your transactions.
- Shop for things after the season. This works amazingly well with clothes and sports equipment, for instance ski/snowboard equipment is drastically cut in cost past March.
- Try to find your desired books at the library and if you’re set on buying a book check online for a used version which should save you a lot of money.
- Do an online price check before buying big ticket items. Before you go out and spend a lot of money, make sure you’re getting the absolute best price.
- Try using the 3 day rule, whenever an impulse to buy an item occurs take 3 days to think about whether you really need/want the item. This process will help you limit needless spending as the urge to spend will wane over time.
- Don’t go to stores where you know you’ll spend more than you want. Everyone has that one store where doing serious credit card damage is inevitable so simply avoid those stores when trying to save money.
- Avoid shopping trips with wealthy or budget-less friends.
How to Save Money on Travel
- Vacations are a necessary part of a balanced and sane life but they can be expensive. You can cut the cost of a vacation significantly by planning and booking ahead of time. Bookmark travel sites for finding inexpensive airfare, hotels, rentals and so on. If you know your schedule try to book months in advance to save money.
- Look online for sales and discounts before making a purchase. For example, use travel deal sites like Priceline, Expedia, and Hotels.com before booking so that you can make some comparisons.
- One unique way to save money on travel is to stay in hostels instead of hotels, they offer much cheaper rooms and a more lively experience. This is a great solution for younger people, families with children should check ahead to see if private rooms are available.
If you enjoyed this list of ways to save money please share it with others and I know that saving money is a vast topic with tons of info so feel free to add any of your own additional methods in the comments below.