10 Money-Saving Tips
Jul 30, 2013 01:18AM ● Published by Erin Frisch
No one likes to waste money, and some habits we all have can drain more cash than we’d like to admit. Saving money is hard work, but there are plenty of small ways to save that add up over the course of a year. Everyone could benefit from saving some extra money, whether you use it to pay down debt, treat yourself to something you’ve been eyeing, or put it toward a vacation. If you’re looking to shave your monthly budget, there are numerous ways to do it. Check out 10 money-saving tips below.
1. Watch ATM fees. When you’re out of town or just not near your bank but need to pull out cash, it’s easy to go to an ATM in a convenience store or at another bank where you don’t have an account. But most often you end up paying at least a $2.50 fee to the ATM and another fee to your bank (the amount varies depending on bank). If you use an alternative ATM once a week, it can cost you $20 a month or more! Instead, head to a grocery store, gas station, or drugstore where you can make a small purchase of items you can use (snacks or toiletries, for example) and get cash back. Most stores allow up to $50 cash back, but some allow up to $100 or more.
2. Use employee discounts. Take advantage of discounts and incentive programs offered by your employer. For example, employers often partner with phone companies to offer their employees a percentage off monthly cell phone bills. Others offer discounted tickets to movie theaters, theme parks, and shows. If you’re taking your family out for the day, such discounts can add up to big savings. Some employers even reimburse their employees for a percentage of technology purchases (computer, tablet, etc.) each year. Check your company’s intranet or ask your HR representative for details.
3. Shop online. Shop for books, vitamins, electronics, and more online. Searching for your items online lets you do a quick price comparison among sites. Often, online orders from sites like Amazon.com qualify for free shipping when you spend a certain amount, like $25. Other sites offer free shipping all the time, or will ship items to their stores for you to pick up with no shipping fee. Once you’ve found the best price, do a Google search for coupons for the website to look for discount codes. These range from free shipping codes to percentages off your purchases and even “buy one, get one” deals.
4. Use retailmenot.com. This online coupon site even has an app you can download to your smartphone. Whether you’re shopping online or in stores, you can find both coupon codes and printed coupons for your purchases. If you’re planning a shopping trip for a big-ticket item, look up the store on this site before you head out. A friend of mine did this and saved $600 on two new suits for her husband. That’s a huge savings, and all it took was a few minutes on the Internet.
5. Grocery shop with a list. Plan weekly meals and snacks before you head to the grocery store. Sit down with the circular for your supermarket and plan meals for the week around sale items and produce that’s in season. Then check to see which ingredients you already have. Make your list and stick to it at the store. Studies have shown that people who go to supermarkets with lists in hand spend less than those who “wing it.” And, of course, never go food shopping on an empty tummy.
6. Buy nonperishables in bulk. If you have room to store them, buying these items in bulk saves you a lot of money over the course of a year. Making bulk purchases for items like toilet paper, paper towels, and garbage bags at the supermarket or other stores like Target or Wal-Mart you can save you up to 10%. Other items to buy in bulk are laundry detergent, soaps (save your empty dispensers and refill them), shampoo and other personal care products, and cleaning supplies.
7. Re-evaluate your gym membership. If you belong to a gym, step back and evaluate whether you’re using it enough to warrant the continuing monthly expense. Most gym memberships these days cost around $40 a month, though some lower-end chains run closer to $20. Either way, it adds up over a year and may not be worth it if you get there only once or twice a week. Consider canceling your membership and investing that money in a set of dumbbells you can use at home (some brands like Bowflex feature easily changeable weights, for example, by turning a knob). In addition, give your health insurance provider a call, as some offer yearly reimbursements for percentages of gym memberships, since they like their customers to be healthy.
8. Use the one-month rule for unnecessary purchases. Whenever you are considering buying an expensive item that is not a necessity, think about it first. When something catches our eye and the impulse to buy is strong, we may end up with an item that’s satisfying for a short time but ultimately ends up collecting dust. Rather than making that impulsive purchase, make a mental note of the item and re-evaluate that purchase one month later. By the end of the month, you may have forgotten about the item altogether or decided you’d rather have the cash. And if you still have a hankering for it, you know you’re avoiding an impulse purchase, and the item is more likely to be used long term.
9. Clean out the garage/basement/attic. Look through stuff you’ve stored for items in good, usable condition. If you have enough, consider having a yard sale. If not, consider selling items online at eBay or Craigslist; both make it easy to post items for sale. If you don’t have the time it might take to find a buyer, look at the Trade-Ins section of Amazon.com. There you can find out what, if anything, your item is worth to them and even get a prepaid shipping label to use. You get whatever your item was worth in Amazon.com credit.
10. Pay yourself first. Although we’ve listed this last, it’s really important when it comes to saving money. Everyone should have money put aside in case of emergencies. To build an emergency fund, open an online savings account or get a “piggy bank” (save money and make one from a liter plastic jug!) if you prefer to stash some cash. Empty your pockets or purse of loose change that accumulates every day, or commit to saving a certain amount of money each week. If you save as little as $5 a week (the equivalent of a gourmet coffee drink), by the end of the year you’ll have $260 saved up. If you can afford to put away $10 a week, that’s $520 in your emergency fund at year’s end.
What do you do to save money daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly? Share your tips and ideas in the comments below!