Small Ways to Save Big Money
Often, the biggest budget-busters aren’t things like your mortgage. They’re the smaller expenditures that add up at month’s end, and required expenses such as insurance premiums that seem carved in stone. Both can usually be reduced if you’re determined to save a lot of money, but it may not happen overnight. Your savings might have to accumulate over time.
Know What You Spend
If you want to save money, you're in good company. Only about two-thirds of Americans know where all their money goes, according to Bankrate.com. To keep track of your money, start collecting your receipts to figure out what you’re spending on small, impulse expenditures. At the end of the month, add them up, identify your biggest out-of-pocket cash drain and try eliminating it. If you spend $10 for lunch five days a week, consider packing a sandwich instead -- you could easily cut this expense by half and tuck the savings away.
The Cost of Credit
Consider paying off the credit cards that charge the highest interest, but don't cancel them -- this could actually hurt your credit. "U.S. News & World Report" estimates that consumers spend many tens of thousands of dollars on interest charges over the course of their lifetimes, so try to save a portion of this money instead. As an added savings advantage, your credit card provider might offer you cash-back rewards, a benefit typically reserved for those with really good credit scores. You'll earn cash payments for simply using your cards. The key is to charge must-pay bills and expenses instead of consumer goods.
Steer Clear of Prohibitive Premiums
Insurance premiums can be a big cash-drain on the average household budget. Luckily, a few tricks can help soften the financial blow of maintaining policies. "Some companies offer discounts if you bundle your auto and homeowners policies together," says Nancy Conover, president of Shore Agency in Absecon, New Jersey. Some minor home improvements can go a long way, too. "Discounts are available on homeowners policies if you install central station burglar and fire alarms," Conover says. "And ask your insurer to perform a replacement cost estimate to make sure that you're insuring your home for the correct amount, not more than it's worth." Increasing your deductible can be risky if you don't already have savings because you'll have to come up with cash in the event of an emergency. Check your policies to see if you really need all the coverage you're paying for. For example, maintaining collision coverage on an older car that's not worth all that much may be counterproductive - eventually the premiums will add up to more than the vehicle is worth.
Nickels and Dimes
Packing your lunch instead of buying it each workday saves you money, but you don't want to feel deprived and miserable, so try striking a balance. You might pack your lunch four days a week but go for that $10 burger on Fridays. If you're not a heavy cellphone user, you might be able to get by with a prepaid phone rather than a contract plan with all its extra fees. Look into bundling up your Internet, landline and cable services with one provider. Many offer reduced rates if you give them your business for all three.
Then there's that real budget-buster, particularly if you have a large family -- the grocery bill. Convenience foods cost more than fresh foods and they're not as healthy. You might spend a little more time in the kitchen, but it would be worth it if you're serious about saving. "Kiplinger" points out that your grocer wants you to spend more and will typically put higher-priced brand name items at eye level. Look around a little to locate the store brands. They often get a bum rap for not being as good, but this isn't always the case.