A foolproof way to keep debt in check is to live on less than you make and set a little bit aside each month. This conventional wisdom makes sense, yet most people are unable or unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary for success. Here are some simple ways to save a lot of money each month.
Essentially there are two ways to save money. You must either spend less or make more, or some combination of the two. Adopting even a few strategies will help you save $1,000 or even $2,000 within a few short months. Then you can look for long term strategies that can become good financial habits for increasing your savings.
Income can be increased through many creative avenues. You can get a part time job, use your skills to create an income. When you are looking for a short term jump in income, to get your savings account established try one of these ideas:
- Go through your belongings and sell what you are not using. This can be done through eBay, Craigslist, a pawn shop or consignment shop. Things like collections can be trimmed down. Clothes and furniture you no longer use can be sold at consignment shops.
- Work online. There are sites for micro-gigs, taking online surveys, even watching web videos that will pay for a few minutes of your time. Most don’t take special skills and are completed quickly.
- Take a seasonal job. Summer jobs can include theme parks, water parks, and other entertainment. You will have flexible hours and other perks.
- Work at a local events venue. Most venues like convention centers and sports arenas need extra help when the team or an event is in town. This is a great way to earn money without taking much of a time commitment.
There are always ways to legitimately earn extra money. Get creative and you might be surprised at what ideas come to mind after brainstorming.
Implement just a few of these ideas and then take all of the savings, or extra income, and set it aside for your emergency fund. You will be amazed at how quickly it will all add up.
Look through your budget and determine where your money is leaking. Then take a critical look at where your money is going and find ways to cut back. This could be simple things like lowering or raising your thermostat by a few degrees or changing to energy efficient lights. It might mean cutting back on cable or cell phone plans and eliminating unnecessary expenses.
One of the biggest places we spend is food. Here are a few ways to save on your food bill:
- Set a specific food budget and buy within that budget.
- Set an eating out budget and DO NOT go over.
- Shop with a list one day a week.
- Use coupon websites that send coupons to your grocery card. Then the savings will be automatic when an item is purchased. (Only use coupons for what you already buy.)
- Establish a weekly menu based on the weekly sales and shop based on those sales.
- Cook ahead and freeze dinners so you are not tempted to eat out when you’ve had a long day.
- Bring your lunch, drinks and snacks to work and skip the store bought coffee, snacks or drinks.
- When eating out use a coupon and order water to drink. Sites like Living Social and Groupon have half price offers. There are also coupon books like Entertainment.com and Restaurant.com, which offer discounts.
- Shop at discount grocery stores for staples. Stores like Aldi, Save a Lot, Sam’s or Costco.
Using these strategies can save you hundreds every month. If you spend $7 for lunch 5 days a week, you can save $35 a week and $175 a month. For a couple, that adds up to $350 in savings with one strategy. Food costs are variable and you can manage that budget at very low levels when needed.
Household bills is another area where expenses can be reduced significantly. Turning the hot water heater down by a few degrees. Turning the thermostat a few degrees up or down depending on the season. Buying a programmable thermostat and adjusting the temperature by 10 degrees or so when no one is home, can significantly reduce your electric bill. Other household savings can be found with the following:
- Check with your power company and see if they offer a free home energy evaluation.
- Change to fluorescent or LED light bulbs.
- Use energy efficient toilets, shower heads and sink aerators.
- Have your HVAC system cleaned twice a year.
- Seal cracks around doors and windows.
- Keep blinds closed during the day when no one is home.
- Turnoff lights when you leave the room.
- Have a surge protector to shut off and reduce phantom power to appliances that are off.
- Review each monthly bill and look for savings. Cut back on premium cable channels or go to basic cable and use Hulu Plus for TV shows and Netflix for movies. Phone bills often have monthly app fees or insurance charges that can be found cheaper elsewhere.
Many home saving solutions take a few minutes and will save money every month. This can provide long term savings on your home expenses.
Many of us live in cities where a car is a necessity. Yet this can involve a budget of several hundred dollars in expenses beyond the car payment and insurance. Here are some ways to save on your vehicle.
- Combine trips to save gas.
- Take public transportation or carpool as often as possible.
- Keep the oil changed and tires inflated for better gas mileage.
- Once you have a savings built, consider raising the deductible on your insurance.
- Look over the insurance bill. If you have health insurance do you need medical payments? If you have two cars do you need rental insurance? If you have a roadside service do you need towing? You might be able to reduce this bill significantly by only paying for what you actually need.
- Drive the car well beyond its payoff. While it might give you a sense of success to frequently upgrade your car. You will save thousands a year by keeping your car for several more years.
Remember, building an emergency fund represents an important saftey net for you and your family. It is worth examining every facet of your financial life to determine the best way to build yours.