October 23, 2014

16 Small Ways to Save Money

Want to save money? Everyone does.

Small steps over the course of the year add up to big savings when you look back on them. Much like the anti-smoking line “Imagine how much you’d save in a year if you quit smoking.” And if you do smoke, quit now, please. If not for you health, then for your finances :)

Here are 16 ways to pinch that add up to big savings over the course of a year.

1. Compare store prices for the basics in your pantry. This will help you decide which store offers the most competitive price for those products. Stock up in bulk, when larger saving opportunities present themselves.

2. Never shop when you are hungry. Everything looks good.

3. Make a list before you go and stick to it. Impulse purchases are budget killers.

4. When you buy meat or packages of poultry buy the family sized cuts. You can repackage them to the size your family needs on your meals before putting them in the fridge or freezer.

5. Know your vehicle’s fuel preferences. Ethanol gasoline is usually cheeper than regular 87 octane, but the higher combustion point usually shaves a couple miles off each gallon. Run a couple tanks of each and track your mileage per tank to determine the best option for your vehicle.

6. Going shopping? Shop with cash rather than your debit card. You are more likely to overspend with plastic – even if it is a debit card – than you will with cash in your pocket.

7. Have magazine subscriptions? Cancel them. Most pubs are running the same articles for free on their websites a couple weeks after the print issue comes out.

8. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle. Used clothes can be reused into washing sponge or cleaning clothes. Some garbage companies are also partnering up with recycling reward programs.

9. Shop off-season. Sure, your kids may feel the social pressure to be up to date with their stylings, but you don’t.

10. Gardening. Not only can you save money on produce in the late summer, but you are also taking a step toward self-sustainability which is also a hip skill in this day and age. So forego your style and be a hipster.

11. Buying items in packages costs less than purchasing individual wraps.

12. Breast milk is still best for babies so feed them with your own milk instead of milk formula.

13. Set up a babysitting coop with other parents in your neighborhood. Returning the favors with neighbors sure beats the $20-$50 that usually goes in to a babysitter’s hand after a night out.

14. Homemade products such as pastries and cookies are good gifts to give on occasions. Try doing some for gifts rather than buying from stores.

15. Be an usher to concerts or plays in order to get free special pass on these events, not to mention a nice part-time job.

16. How old is your vehicle and are you still carrying comprehensive insurance? Generally speaking, as your vehicle’s value drops to around the $2-3000 range it doesn’t make financial sense to carry anything other than liability. Take that difference and stick it in the bank in case your vehicle does meet with an accident (that is your fault).

Avoiding Fees & Saving Money

Over at Lifehacker, they have an article on Avoiding Fees and Getting Free Money.

In my book, it should be only 8 tips they have there, but numbers are just numbers. But there list is as follows:

10. Find the Right Bank
9. Switch to a Credit Union
8. Skip the Fee-Ridden Perks
7. Use Jenny’s Number for Grocery Store Discounts
6. Combine Your Cash Back Credit Card and Checking Account
5. Try a High Interest Savings Account
4. Apply Student Discounts to Everything You Can (Even If You Aren’t a Student)
3. Find Unclaimed Money in Your Name
2. Use a Debit Card Without Getting Screwed
1. Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

It isn’t too hard to guess that I’m against #1 and #6, but I also think you should just forego #10 and jump feet first into #9 and open a credit union account.

Using Jenny’s number (867-5309) was a new one to me. But in this age of reward card discounts it makes sense and goes hand-in-hand with the early days of paywalls on the web and using the username cypherpunk with the password cypherpunk.

Using Student Discounts should be a given, but I’d also recommend checking to see if your employer has discount programs available as well. Many large companies have discounts negotiated with cell phone providers, gyms and other fitness programs, and even some discounts on retail purchases. If you are a government employee, you may not realize the wealth of discounts available to you with your government employee ID card. My wife is a government employee and we receive discounts from the Apple Store (the website, not sure about physical Apple stores), hotels & rental cars, our gym membership, and our cell plan (even with iPhones).

Also in line with Jenny’s Number, if you are doing any online shopping, make sure you take a run through RetailMeNot.com to find out if there are discount or promo codes available for the site you are shopping on.

Investing in your dinner – an interesting dilemma

One of my employees, who is on the path to debt free, found himself with an unexpected $500. It spawned the question, outside of paying down existing debt, where would be the best place to put it. You might be surprised with what we came up with.

First, gas prices are through the roof and it is going to be a miserable problem for months/years to come. Second, he has a family of 6 with 2 kids in high school, one in middle school, and one in grade school. Third, inflation is here; like it or not.

Now, speaking from an investment side, this is what he is doing: stocking up on bulk dry goods (beans and rice), canned vegetables and canned soup. Why? He has a family to feed and with the increased costs of transportation and the general affect of inflation, that $500 investment in long-shelf-life food could end up being significant – especially when compared to the expected interest he could get on that money over the time of consumption of the food.

It is a strange thought, but lets say the cost of food jumps by 10% over the next 3-6 months. That is technically a solid gain over the 2% APR you’ll get on a savings account right now…just something to think about and take a lesson from our forefathers who stored as much as they could from fall harvests.

Secret to wealth

A wise man once told me “The secret to becoming wealthy isn’t how much you make, but rather, how much you save.” You can save not only cash but time as well when you efile your taxes.

Live Small To Live Large

There’s a live simple movement underway in America and there are as many expressions of this ideal as their are individuals living the dream. Peter King in Vermont, for instance. He doesn’t pay rent and he doesn’t pay a mortgage.

I like this man’s spirit and his way of thinking. The country needs more citizens cut from Thoreau’s cloth.

[via Tiny House Blog]

Make Saving Money Part of Your Travel Adventure

romania_spring_beer

According to Matt Gross, the Frugal Traveler:

Three hundred years ago, wealthy young Englishmen began taking a post-Oxbridge trek through France and Italy in search of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization. With nearly unlimited funds, aristocratic connections and months (or years) to roam, they commissioned paintings, perfected their language skills and mingled with the upper crust of the Continent. No one knows who came up with it, but their adventures soon had a perfectly appropriate name: the Grand Tour.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But how can a normal person afford such things? Gross walks his readers through his journey last summer and emphasizes ways to save like hitchhiking and getting invited to family meals.

He’s also big on visiting Eastern Europe:

Everything you can find in Old Europe is also available elsewhere on the Continent for much less, particularly in post-Communist countries like Romania. In Bucharest, I found clever art projects, new museums and La Metoc, a century-old house that serves beer made from tea. Get to the New Europe soon, before it gets old, well known and far, far from frugal.

Of course, one needs to get over there first. I found round trip flights from New York to Bucharest from $700 and up just now, but I didn’t scour the Web for deals (S.O.P. for a frugal traveler).

Finding Ways To Keep Money In Your Pocket

According to The New York Times, a subset of Americans—the seriously frugal—are enjoying the current recession because it validates their beliefs and lifestyle choices.

The paper profiles a real estate investor in Cincinnati who borrows movies from the library instead of renting them, and grows her own fruits and vegetables, and avoids the cash advance. Another person profiled by the Times canceled the family’s subscription to Netflix, his premium cable package and a wine club membership.

Here’s the important news in all this:

Americans’ spending is down and their personal savings are up — sharply. The savings rate in the United States, which had fallen steadily since the early 1980s, dropped to less than 1 percent in August of 2008. It has since spiked to 5 percent.

“It’s huge,” said Martha Olney, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in the Great Depression, consumerism and indebtedness. The rapid reversal is even more remarkable, she said, because in recessions consumers usually save less money. Not this time. “It implies a re-emergence of thrift as a value,” she said.

The Times notes that there are dozens of Web sites and blogs devoted to celebrating conspicuous cutting, like Dollar Stretcher (www.stretcher.com), All Things Frugal (allthingsfrugal.com), Frugal Mom (www.frugalmom.net), and on and on. Yes, it’s a topic for our time. No doubt about that.

How To Be Much Much Cheaper

Many people fighting to be debt free focus on getting more for less. But there’s another side of the story, and Jeff Yeager is the man telling it to America.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Yeager, who is the author of the insanely popular blog Wise Bread and the new book, The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches believes happiness comes not from getting good deals, but from having less in the first place.

Fresh off his appearance on the NBC Today Show, Yeager hit the road on the Tour de Cheapskate. Traveling by bicycle, Yeager he stayed with fellow cheapskates along the way and donating his expense savings to local libraries. That’s putting your money where your book and blog is.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to Yeager Up and ditch your cell phone (among other things) to reduce expenses? It’s a common sense idea, although radical for our time. Personally, I wouldn’t miss the phone much, but the camera and hand held computing device would be a deprivation of sorts.

A Music Store Where The Songs Are Free

Music fans—like everyone else—are feeling the pinch. But thanks to page after page of free MP3s from Amazon.com, it’s easy to stay current with new releases without paying a single cent to Steve Jobs, or anyone else for that matter.

free_amazon

There are currently 744 free tracks on Amazon. That’s hours and hours of free listening care of the Seattle online retailer. And the songs are not from obscure artists far down the long tail. Take a quick glance at Amazon’s free MP3 pages and you’ll find new music from Neko Case, Iron & Wine, Great Lake Swimmers, Fleet Foxes, Bob Mould, Beirut, Michael Franti and many others.

April is Financial Literacy Month – Read Up!

Money Management International has created a step-by-step plan to help improve your financial life. It is a simple, well-done, 30-day plan complete with expert advice, tips, worksheets, and even budget webinars to help you achieve your goals. It covers the gamut from setting goals, to paying off debt to building your emergency fund.

Here is step 22, showing us once again that small changes can help big time.

Identify ways to reduce spending

To create a balanced budget or increase savings, most people will have to find a way to earn more or spend less. If the idea of spending less sounds challenging, try starting small.

It’s important to understand that every purchase we make—excluding such absolute necessities as food, rent, and gas for the car—is a choice. The America Saves coalition offers the following examples of how making some small changes can save you an impressive $150 per month.

Tip Monthly Saving
Save $.50 in loose change $18
Cut soda consumption by one liter a week $6
Bring lunch to work $60
Send one free eCard per month instead of buying a card $4
Buy generic grocery store brands $10
Use fewer phone features $10
Eliminate premium cable channels $20
Borrow, rather than buy, one book per month $15
Hand wash, rather than dry clean, one shirt per month $15
Comparison shop for gas (saving an estimated $.25/gallon) $4
Total Savings $150

That’s an extra $1800 in your pocket every year!

Click here to make the commitment to spend a little time each day this month improving your financial future. Remember, no one plans to fail, they simply fail to plan.