So you want to save money. When it comes to money-saving advice, everyone and their grandma have advice to give. With so much information floating around, I thought a helpful list of the most effective strategies would help to clear the air about what works, and what doesn't.
Let's start out with a simple one that I'm sure we've all heard:
1. Skip your morning coffee
This one is a classic, so classic in fact, it's more of a cliche. Here's the old adage, in case you've forgotten:
Skipping your morning coffee can save you about $40 per month ($2 per coffee times 20 work days per month). If this money is invested at 7% interest per year, you're looking at $100,000 in 40 years - it's foolproof!
Here's the catch to this one - most people use coffee's potent stimulant properties to improve their daily effectiveness; remove the coffee, and their daily performance drops. This change is difficult to put into dollar terms, but it is something to consider.
2. Rent a home, don't buy
I know what you're thinking; "but renting is like throwing money away!". That notion simply isn't true; you're not throwing the money away, you're exchanging it for space. At the end of the rental term, you simply don't have anything tangible. A very good YouTube video by Money School can be found here explaining the idea: Is Renting Always A Waste Of Money?. If you don't have time, here's a quick summary of their argument:
- In many cities, renting a house costs less than owning the equivalent property
- Renters aren't responsible for a slew of hidden fees like homeowners insurance, upkeep, or property tax
- The housing market appreciates more slowly than does the stock market: 3.5% yearly versus 7% (on average), so you may be better off investing your extra cash in the stock markets instead of in home ownership
- Every time a house is sold, there are substantial transaction fees which can eat into profits; not so for selling stocks
3. Lower Your Credit Score
One of the easiest and long-lasting ways to save money is to improve your credit score. Here a few tricks that you can do with your current providers. Contact every company that you owe on a monthly basis and set up auto withdrawals for your payment. This can include your mortgage or landlord, your utilities and especially your credit card provider. With your credit card company, set it up that they take the minimum payment so that you are never late. This ensures that you will never get a strike against your credit for a late payment, it is a safety net for forgetfulness. Car loans are the next item that is very easy to set up. Once you have this done, your credit score will start to improve and your interest costs will become lower over time as your credit score moves upward. If you are just starting out and struggling to build your credit, apply for a secured credit card. You will deposit cash on the credit card and use the card until the cash is gone then refill it again. This shows creditors history, consistency, and responsibility.
4. Cellular - Cable/Satellite - Internet
This one you can have some fun with. There is a war out there with the Cellular, Internet and Cable/Satellite TV providers. AT&T has just recently made a bid to purchase Time Warner. This will be a powerhouse of a company that can offer every household a bundled service and reduces operating cost internally to provide it. Many homes have already disposed on the house phone. This was a $30.00-$40.00 / month expense that has become easy to get rid of. About 40% of Americans still have a house phone. When you contact a new service provider, ask them about free nationwide long distance so you are comfortable with removing your house phone. Tell them that you want to get rid of your house phone and ask what plans they are offering to do so. Your current provider will not be as excited to offer this information. You are still paying them for this service. Make sure you mention that you are talking to ALL of the providers. Once you have canceled your house phone and negotiated a better deal, you should expect to save roughly $50-$75.00/month.
5. Shop Online
There is a major difference if you live in suburbs where there is a retail area within a mile compared to downtown in any major city, where shopping for deals can be very difficult. If you have not already started this, it is time to do some research. Amazon is kicking retailers on pricing and delivery. If you setup Amazon prime and start comparing the differences in online shopping to the old traditional method of driving around and searching, it is incredible how much you can save. If you compare Walmart and their operational costs of being on every street corner to Amazon with warehouses of products and shipping costs, the retail world over the next 10 years is going to change like it never has before. We all remember Block Busters. Ever wonder why Block Busters didn't create Netflix themselves? Why Sears is still set on doing it the same way that they did so many years ago. In 2015 and 2016, big-box retailers and scheduled to close over 2,500 stores and this is only the beginning. Unlike Block Busters, we hope that Walmart, Sears and other big box stores fight Amazon with pricing, delivery, and great return policies, this will benefit every consumer.
6. Your New Automobile
We all love our cars. Most of us look at our cars almost as an extension of ourselves. We could not imagine not having our car to walk outside and jump in at any moment. They are our freedom. Now a little reality. The people that sell you a car want you to think or even better not think about what you're doing with your vehicle and blindly follow their advice. Here is an example for you. I just purchased a new truck and the manufacturer is suggesting that I change the oil every 3,000 miles. The motor requires synthetic oil so I went to the local quick lube place around the corner and they suggested every 5,000 miles was more than enough with synthetic oil. I went searching and found of the type of oil so what do we believe in the market when the people giving us advice are selling us the products and services. These oil changes are over $100.00 now for this type of oil. The dealer is also wanting us to come in for service at set times to follow the suggested manufacturer recommendations for service. For so many consumers today, they just do what they are told and automotive dealers build newer and larger buildings and get richer every day. Ask your dealer if your powertrain warranty is voided if you do not follow every recommendation that they have in the book before you buy the car. Calculate the true cost of the vehicle with all of the suggested maintenance programs the dealer is asking you to complete. Make them do this for you.
We all love our cars. Most of us look at our cars almost as an extension of ourselves. We could not imagine not having our car to walk outside and jump in at any moment. They are our freedom. Now a little reality. The people that sell you a car want you to think or even better not think about what you're doing with your vehicle and blindly follow their advice. Here is an example for you. I just purchased a new truck and the manufacturer is suggesting that I change the oil every 3,000 miles. The motor requires synthetic oil so I went to the local quick lube place around the corner and they suggested every 5,000 miles was more than enough with synthetic oil. I went searching and found Mobil 1 Extended Performance synthetic oil is recommended for oil change intervals up to 15,000 miles or one year, whichever occurs first. That's roughly FIVE TIMES longer than conventional oil change wisdom recommends.
Toyota on the flip side of this says that you still require an oil change every 5,000 miles regardless of the type of oil so what do we believe in the market when the people giving us advice are selling us the products and services. These oil changes are over $100.00 now for this type of oil. The dealer is also wanting us to come in for service at set times to follow the suggested manufacturer recommendations for service. For so many consumers today, they just do what they are told and automotive dealers build newer and larger buildings and get richer every day. Ask your dealer if your powertrain warranty is voided if you do not follow every recommendation that they have in the book before you buy the car. Calculate the true cost of the vehicle with all of the suggested maintenance programs the dealer is asking you to complete. Make them do this for you.
7. Your Used Automobile
When you buy a used car, even a one-year-old vehicle, you are not following any suggestions from the automobile manufacturer and you go in a few times every year for an oil change at the local shop. How can this vehicle possibly operate without all of these suggested repairs your dealer thinks we need so badly? In this writer's opinion, it is a big money grab by the dealers and automotive companies getting all of us to do a lot of unnecessary repairs and maintenance. When you purchase a used car, it may still have a powertrain warranty on the car. Check with the vehicle provider to find out when the warranties expire, they are usually set based on mileage. I would suggest doing any repairs that would void your power train warranty and maintain your oil changes.
8. Cancel Your Cable Services
The new Millennial generation has no issue with cutting cable services. They are very comfortable to go find the program they want to watch on the Internet. The program they stream to their computer will be without commercials and available when they want to watch it. If you do not want to go to this level of service cuts, consider going through your current cable channels and canceling all of the channels that you never use. A few more benefits of dropping your T.V. cable service:
You save time, money, may lose weight, your relationship with your family might improve, you will excercise more and your quality of life may increase
9. Start Making Meals to Take to Work
A few simple tricks that we have started doing: Whatever you are making for supper on Sunday, choose something that can be spread out over the following week. Chili is one of the best foods to take to work. Beans are very filling and will keep you full throughout the day. When you make your batch of chili on Sunday, double the size of your meal preparation then freeze the leftovers into individual containers. By simply doubling your batch size with meals you are already making will saves time and money. Some types of food freeze better than others. Check out this link for freezer friendly meals
10. Shop Right After Any Holiday
We all see the products go on sale right after every holiday. My attitude has been, "do not make me look at the stuff again for a very very long time!" Christmas wrapping paper is $1.00 a roll right after the holiday instead of $10.00 when we want it. How about Halloween decorations? Really cheap if you buy them on November 2nd. This will save you a pile of money and make you look like a rock star next October/November when you're trying to find decorations for Halloween or wrapping paper for Christmas.
I've struggled with the idea of coupons. I know it's weird, but to makes me feel cheap. I tried it with price matching and realized that I was the fool and was really missing out. If you're already out shopping and find something you want to buy, jump onto Amazon and find the product. (Amazon seems to have everything.) Show the price to the cashier on the Amazon website and in most cases, they will match that price. We have also done this grocery shopping and have saved a lot of money. Most grocery chains have a weekly flyer. Grab your phone and take a look at a chain that usually has great prices to start with. We have included Albertsons as an example for you. Take a quick look before you head out shopping, you will be pleasantly surprised how much you can save.
12. Property Maintenance
There are many areas within our homes where money is leaking out. If you are operating an A/C unit, check to make sure it's clear of all obstructions. Vacuum out any dirt from the filters monthly if you are using it a lot. Have the A/C unit inspected annually if you live in parts of the country where the unit runs every day. Sealing up the house is required for A/C and for heating your home. Weather stripping is a great product and very easy to install around your doors. If you have wood windows, check the caulking around the windows to see if it's breaking apart. This site with energy.gov offers a complete breakdown on tips for sealing your home. Well worth your time to maintain your property every year.
13. Student loan Refinancing
There are some good options in the market today for refinancing student loans and we are hoping that many more options with come with the new President on November 8th. We heard many promises of a renewed program for student loans that are now over a Trillion dollars.
With most student loan refinancing lenders, you are going to need a minimum of a 620 credit score and earning $2,000.00/month. The interest rate offered will get better with a higher credit score.
So many students have not had time to build a good to great credit rating. Most student loan refinancing will require a co-signer. Your co-signer credit score will be used instead of the students and the co-signer in on the hook for the loan. We have heard as high as 80% of students applying require a co-signer. Some of the lenders will allow the cosigner of the loan after a few years of paying and consistent payments.
Some of the lenders are looking at your degree, current employment and also your credit score. This is a better fit for a student just starting out.
A few Ideas other than Financing Student Loans
You've found out you need a co-signer. 90% of students require a co-signer. If your parent, grandparent or friend trusts you enough to co-sign a loan, why not borrow the money directly from them and skip the co-sign with a bank? Maybe pay them a minimal interest rate of 4-5% and set up pre-authorized payments 6 months after school is done and you have your first job.
Cut even more cost!
Living at home will save you a lot of money and stop the student loan debt trend. Work in the summer and do not start your life with a bunch of debt. We know that a big part of the experience is to live away from home but you have to weigh the long-term cost and what your degree will allow you to earn. Check the salary trends for the career your starting and compare to the debt you will accumulate. Make sure your new career can support the debt.
14. Night a the Movies
A new movie release. If you see it when it comes out, it will cost around $40.00 to $50.00 for a couple including popcorn and drinks. Here are a few ideas for cutting that cost. Costco and the entertainment book may have movie tickets and some of them come including popcorn and a drink. This can cut your cost in half for a movie. To cut this cost, even more, wait till the movie moves over to the cheap theater or when it is released on DVD. This happens at different stages and is based on the success of the movie in the theater.
15. I Want It Now!!
Instant gratification is one of the most expensive items that all of us purchase throughout the year. The marketing experts are telling us that we "will be cool" if we are the first to have it. Have you seen the lineups at the Apple store when the newest iPhone is released? Remember when Harry Potter books were coming out and people stood in line for hours to get the first release. Want to drive the first car in the city when it hits the streets? With all of these items, we pay top price for all of these items. If you wait 3-6 months, that phone will drop by 50% or could even be free with a contract. The Harry Potter book will come out in paperback for 1/2 price and that car will have incentives to move it off the lot. I want it Now can be very expensive.
16. Have A Party
If you are planning an evening with friends, you can save a lot of money by having the party at home. If your guests bring something like a bottle of wine, a case of beer, a bottle of Jack, an appetizer or even a few steaks, the cost of going out can be outrageous in comparison to having friends at home. We recently had a get together with all things homemade like bread, buns, sushi, and chili. Even the beer was made from hops. This can be very intimate and a great way to get to know everyone in a different way when they see you in your element.
If it's your goal to save money, this one is a no-brainer. Stop smoking. Yes, I know it's hard. I've done it myself. There are lots of ways on the market today to help you quit. It is one of the most difficult things I've ever done and the non-smokers would not have clue just how hard it is to get past this addiction. So easy to start, just like heroin or crack. The method that really worked for me was that I worked on being discussed with myself. The smell of my clothes was discussing, my breath was horrible after coming back inside, being forced outdoors while others were inside watching me and feeling like a second-class citizen because I smoked. Normally, I thought they, the non-smoker were all a bunch of judgemental jerks so I changed my thinking and started thinking of myself in this way. It took over a year doing this, but it finally worked. I also used Chantix for two weeks which was a crazy drug for me, but it also really helped.
18. LED Lighting
We switched our home over to LED lighting and it makes a big difference on the power bill. We have a three bedroom home and our bill dropped $40.00 / month. As the price of the lights continues to drop and light bulbs burn out all the time, it is easy to change over to LED as the lights need replacing. You will save roughly $50-60.00 of the life of a bulb.
19. Fix it Yourself
You will be amazed how much you can save by doing projects like painting your own home. The actual act of painting is very small once you get into it. The majority of the work is prepping the room. Once you get the walls washed, holes filled with putty and sanded, casings taped off and floors covered with plastic, the painting part is a breeze. There are so many great videos on youtube now for doing almost any project yourself. Don't be afraid to give it a try.
20. Home and Auto Insurance
21. Prescription Drugs, Buy Generic
23. Disconnect the House Phone
24. Don't Throw it Away, Sell It
25. Money Saving Discount Sites
Check out Groupon.com, couponcabin.com, ebates.com, retailmenot.com, and livingsocial.com. These sites could save you your next credit card payment. Another notable is slickdeals.com
26. Stop Spending Big Money on Your Kids
27. Contact Your Credit Card Provider and Ask for Better Rates
28. Buy Large Cuts of Meat at Costco
29. Fill the Cracks Throughout Your Home
One of the most inexpensive ways of saving money is caulking your windows and doors in your home to keep the heat in or out. Regardless if you are fighting the hot or cold weather, caulking helps.
A caulking gun is about $7.00 and silicon is usually around $5.00 a tube. Go to the outside edge of the windows and run a bead of silicon. If you're worried about messing up, get clear silicon, that way you will not see it and by the time you're done, you will be a pro.
If you are worried about getting it right, go to youtube and type in window caulking, there are lots of examples to follow.
Exercise improves stress levels, overall attitude, how we feel about ourselves, keeps us sharp and I've never left the gym saying I wish I didn't do that. Regardless of how you get your exercise, give yourself a gift.