50 Ways to Spend Less & Save More in the New Year

Earlier this week I posted about the 50/20/30 budgeting method complete with free budgeting calculator. If you calculated your percentages and decided that your spending and savings numbers are not what you want them to be, don’t worry. You’re in the same boat as many other people, but you have the awareness and motivation to change that.

According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the personal saving rate of Americans in November 2016 was 5.5%. A twenty percent saving rate, as set forth in the 50/20/30 budgeting method, may seem like quite a stretch but would be a good goal for many Americans. Twenty percent saved would probably give people more peace of mind too. That’s not to say it’s easy to do. Everyone has different circumstances and reasons for being where they are. But if your goal is to spend less and save more, here are 50 big and small changes that you can implement to do just that.

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Living essentials

This includes housing, utilities, transportation, groceries, cell phone use, and out-of-pocket health care.

1)  Keep a budget – It’s easier to meet your financial goals when you track your income and expenses than when you don’t.

2)  Choose a smaller or less expensive home – Cut back on housing costs by living with a roommate or renting out a spare room. If you have more space than you need, consider moving to a smaller home. A smaller home could also mean cheaper property taxes, utilities, and maintenance costs.

3)  Stick with a basic cell phone and plan – Stick with your current phone a little longer rather than pay to upgrade to the latest model every year or two. Review your phone usage and pick the plan with the lowest cost that still fits your needs. You may even drop a major carrier for a smaller one with better deals.

4)  Turn down the thermostat – Lower your thermostat a few degrees and put on a sweater when it gets cold. Keep the thermostat set low when you leave the house. Nest and similar smart, programmable thermostats may be costly initially but can save you money in the long-run.

5)  Turn off the lights – I’m amazed how many people leave lights and other appliances on when they leave the house. Turn off lights and TV when you leave the room. If something is not being used, turn it off.

6)  Air dry laundry – Use a drying rack to air dry clothes. If you live in a fairly mild climate like San Francisco, clothes dry in a day or two. Keep the dryer use limited to essentials likes heavy towels, bedding, and blankets. If you want to use the dryer regularly, try using it for two loads of laundry at once. Some dryers are large enough to hold two loads of wash. Or air dry your clothes most of the way dry and fluff them for a few minutes in the dryer.

7)  Wash laundry and rinse dishes in cold water Save on heating water by using cold water as much as possible. Many people wash clothes in warm or hot water, especially whites, but cold water does the job just as well.

8)  Run full loads of laundry and full dishwashers.

9)  Wash clothes less often – If you’re not rolling in dust and dirt or sweating in your clothes, try washing sweaters, jeans, and other outerwear less frequently. By washing every few wears, you’ll use less water and prolong the life of your clothes.

10)  Walk, bike, or bus as much as possible – Try using other modes of transportation besides the car to get more exercise and save on gas and car maintenance costs.

11)  Take advantage of commuter benefits – See if your company offers commuter benefits. I knew someone who got a free bus pass through commuter benefits each month but chose to drive to work every day and pay $10-25 per day for parking. Even the occasional non-car commute equals savings.

12)  Save on groceries by meal planning – Meal planning can help you make meals in bulk for less. You’ll also feel more prepared for the week ahead, so you can cut back on eating out and eat in more often.

13)  Grocery shop with a list – Use a shopping list to ensure you get everything you need for planned meals and keep to your expected expenses. Unplanned extras such as a yummy dessert and snacks really do add up.

14)  Bring lunch and snacks to work – Bring planned lunches or leftovers from meal planning and save on eating out at work. Stock up on snacks too to avoid buying convenience food on a whim when hungry.

15)  Eat leftovers – Eating leftovers may not be fun but they definitely save on food cost and food waste. If you cook a recipe and find yourself with leftover ingredients (e.g., some garbanzo beans or half a tomato), try adding them to a pasta or rice to use them up.

16)  Clear out the pantry – Commit to cleaning out the pantry one weekend and eat everything that’s still eatable before buying any new products. This is great for reducing food waste and saving on groceries for the week.

17)  Buy generic brands – Often generic brands will have the same ingredients as brand name products but run a few dollars cheaper, especially when on sale. I love Up & Up from Target for soaps and shampoos. Studio 35 at Walgreens has some great beauty products too.

18)  Choose higher deductible health insurance – If you’re young, single, and healthy, it may be smart to choose a higher deductible health insurance for lower monthly premiums.

 

Savings

This includes emergency funds, rainy day savings, retirement savings from take-home funds, investments, and payments towards debt.

19)  Pay your debts – Explore student loan consolidation for lower interest rates. Pay the maximum towards credit card, student loans, and other debt that you can comfortably manage each month. Consider paying off the debts with highest interest rates first.

20)  Transfer credit card balances – Credit card companies often provide special deals for opening a new card and transferring your credit card balance. If you qualify, the right deal may save you money as you pay off debt.

21)  Sign up for automatic bill payment – Automatic payment ensures that you don’t miss a payment and incur late fees. Some companies also provide a lower interest rate (e.g., on student loan repayment) for using auto pay.

22)  Use credit card reward programs – Take advantage of credit cards perks such as cash back on purchases or earning airline miles.

23)  Fund your Roth IRA - If you qualify to make Roth IRA contributions and have the money to fund it, this is a good way to boost your retirement savings.

24)  Pick up a side job – Pick up a side job in your free time to earn extra income. Examples include thrifting for profit, freelance writing, walking dogs, selling handmade goods on Etsy, being a virtual assistance, doing social media marketing, and starting a blog.

25)  Sell your stuff – Post listings to websites like eBay, Craigslist, or Nextdoor to make a few bucks on unused things lying around the house.

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26)  Use Swagbucks and Ebates – At Swagbucks, you earn points for completing surveys, watching videos, and buying items through the website. Those points can then be cashed out for gift cards. Ebates is an affiliate marketing company where you earn cash back for purchases made through the website. 

You can sign up for Swagbucks here through this referral link and earn a small bonus upon signing up. You may earn more if Swagbucks has a special promotion running. 

27)  Ask for a raise – One of the best and easiest ways to increase your saving rate is to increase your income. Negotiate for a raise or consider switching jobs to one that pays more.

 

Personal Spending

This includes all non-essentials including entertainment, meals out at restaurants, clothes and shoes, gifts, and personal travel expenses.

28)  Cancel the cable – Cut out the cable in favor of Netflix or even free entertainment (e.g., reading and exercising). If you want to take it a step further, cancel as many unnecessary entertainment subscriptions as possible.

29)  Cancel the gym membership - Work out at home or in the outdoors. 

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30)  Develop a free hobby – Explore hobbies that are free or even ones that pay. Some examples of hobbies that can be done for free are learning a language, running, and learning to cook better.

31)  See matinee movies – If you want to check out the latest movies, go to earlier showings for matinee pricing. Some theaters offer senior or student discounts on certain days and times.

32)  Use the local library – Borrow books and stream movies from your local library versus buying them.

33)  Shop at thrift stores – Thrift stores and second-hand stores are great places to find used clothing and household items at low prices. Sometimes items will still be new with tags on them. Check out eBay, Goodwill, Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange, and similar places for deals.

34)  Learn sewing basics – Learn sewing basics in order to stitch holes, sew on buttons, or hem your own pants. This will save on the cost of a tailor and help clothes last longer.

35)  Use deal websites – Check out Goldstar, Groupon, LivingSocial, and similar deal websites for discounted tickets to shows and coupons for restaurants.

36)  Take advantage of free museum days – Museums can be fun but pricey, especially for a family of multiple people. Check out the websites to your favorite museums, aquariums, science centers, etc. to find out their free admission days.

37)  Drink water – When eating out, pass on the coffee and alcohol and opt to drink water instead. It’s healthier and cheaper.

38)  Stop buying bottled water – Opt to filter tap water and carry a water bottle with you when out instead of buying bottled water. This will save on plastic waste as well.

39)  Skip appetizers and dessert – Better for the waistline and the wallet. Eat dessert at home if you crave an after-dinner sweet.

40)  Go out for brunch or lunch – Going out for brunch or lunch can save you money, as dinner tends to be the most expensive meal when eating out.

41)  DIY furnishing and decorating – Try furnishing and decorating a place with DIY or borrowed items. Ask family and friends what they have that they’re not using. Often people settled in their homes for a long time will have unused furniture and decorations that they’re happy to pass off to others.

42)  Visit student salons – Beauty schools or training salons offer haircuts, makeup application, massages, and more at deeply discounted prices. Students provide the services but are supervised by licensed instructors.

43)  Cut back on beauty products – I love beauty products but they really do add up! Choose the budget option versus the splurge version of your favorite products as long as they get the job done. Save the splurge-level beauty products for occasional treats.

44)  DIY manicures – Do your own nails as much as possible to save on the cost of manicures and pedicures.

45)  Use less of household and beauty products – When the shampoo bottle says to lather, rinse, and repeat, you only have to do it once to get clean hair. Often household products come with recommendations to use generous amounts in order to encourage you to use more.

46)  Dry clean clothes at home – Save on dry cleaning costs by using home kits like Dryel.

47)  Comparison shop – It pays to comparison shop for the lowest price, especially when it comes to big purchases. It turns out that Amazon isn’t always cheapest place to buy things. And many stores like Target will price match if you find a competitor offering the same item for less.

48)  Keep an inventory of household items – Keep an inventory of household items that you have or are running out of so that you can shop for items as they go on sale, not when you absolutely need them.

49)  Commit to a no-spend weekend – This is an easy way to save, especially if done on occasion like once a month. Try eating food already in the fridge, freezer, or pantry. Then choose free activities like a bike ride or free concert.

50)  Commit to a challenge – Decide on an area in which you would like to reduce spending. Then make it into a time-based challenge. Challenges might include bringing lunch to work every day, no shopping for clothes, or saving $5 a day for a month.

 

I plan on using a few of these tips more often so that I can cut back on the excess and get back to more frugal living. Let me know what you think of them. What else would you recommend?

 

50 Ways to Spend Less & Save More in the New Year