The hope of a good financial forecast is far from promising. With inflation so high and no relief in sight, many people need and hope they’ll be able to save money. Here are ten frugal tips to help you save money, cut costs, and spend less.
Put Your Family on a Reasonable Budget
The first step in any money saving plan is to figure out how much money comes in and goes out of your household every month.
Review all income sources, including Social Security, pensions, investments, and income from part-time jobs or businesses. Subtract expenses such as food, shelter, and transportation to come up with your total monthly expenditures.
If there’s money left over at the end of the month after paying all your bills, congratulations! You have extra money to save or invest. If not, consider ways to cut back your spending to make up the difference.
Cut your spending on everything but essential items. No matter how careful you are with your money, there probably are a few areas where you can trim your budget. Everyone in the household needs to be on board with being on a budget to save money.
Start an Emergency Savings Account
An emergency fund is an account set aside for unexpected expenses that crop up from time to time. It doesn’t have to be a big account. It just has to be one that you regularly add to so that it’s big enough to meet some of your unexpected needs, such as car repairs or a furnace repair in the middle of winter when your home’s heating costs go through the roof.
It’s a good idea to set some goals for your emergency fund so that you don’t spend it frivolously . For example, you might set a goal to have three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved up in case of an emergency. Then you can put an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account every payday to build it up more quickly.
If you don’t save anything now for emergencies, start today! An emergency can happen at any time. You just never know when you might need it. If you can’t put aside any money now, think about cutting back on expenses in other areas until you’re able to contribute something to your emergency fund.
Cancel and Negotiate Your Services
Do you really need that premium cable package? Probably not. Most people watch less than 20 percent of the channels on their cable bill anyway. For just a few dollars more per month you could cancel some of the channels and end up with enough savings from your bill to put into a savings account each month instead.
Or if you’re really serious about saving money on your cable bill, consider switching to basic cable if that’s an option in your area and getting rid of the cable box altogether in favor of streaming your TV online.
Consider switching your cell phone plan to a cheaper plan with fewer minutes and fewer features if you only use your phone occasionally or for making local calls. Also check to see if you can get the same coverage at a cheaper price from another company, especially if you live in a rural area where there may be only one provider available.
Some people aren’t even aware that they can get cheaper cell phone service by switching companies! And make sure you do all your comparison shopping when it’s time to renew your contract.
Call customer service and ask them to match the lowest advertised rate you’ve found elsewhere before you renew to avoid getting locked into a more expensive plan. And don’t neglect to negotiate lower rates for services you use on a regular basis, such as utilities like electricity, gas, and water, phone service, or insurance on your home and car.
Sometimes you can save as much as $100 or more per year just by negotiating a lower rate with your provider!
Address the Interest You’re Paying
Inflation has caused interest rates to skyrocket. Even those with a good credit rating are paying higher interest, and interest rates continue to rise. If you use credit cards or have any line of credit, it’s likely you’re already hit, and will be hit more, with high interest rates. This, of course, is costing you your hard earned money.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet every month, there’s a good chance that you’re also struggling to pay off your debts too. Try paying off debts with the highest interest rates first. These are the ones that cost you the most in interest charges over time.
Then tackle those with the lowest interest rates last, so you don’t end up paying more in interest charges than you need to! If you get behind on your payments on any debt, call the company right away to see if they can lower your interest rate or offer another solution to help you get caught up on your payments. It never hurts to ask!
Find New Ways of Indulging and Having Fun
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you cut back on entertainment spending you’ll miss out on all the fun in life! There are plenty of cheap and free ways to have fun and enjoy yourself that don’t cost a lot of money at all.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
– Take up a new hobby like scrapbooking
– Attend free events at your local library
– Go to free concerts in the park
– Go to the movies on discount days
– Watch TV shows online instead of paying for premium cable
– Join a gym that offers a free day pass every once in a while
– Go on hikes with family and friends
– Take a free walking tour of your local city
– Go bowling with friends
– Go fishing
– Visit a local museum
– Volunteer for a cause you care about
– Play board games with your family
– Have a game night with friends
– Plan a picnic at the park
– Make meals at home instead of eating out
– Enjoy a good book
– Host a potluck dinner with your friends
– Check out a local nature preserve for free
– Join a community group or organization
– Watch a video rental from the library
– Download free ebooks to read on your computer
– Try your hand at gardening
– Get outside and explore your community on foot or by bike
– Make new friends by joining a class or taking an exercise class at your local gym
– Visit the dollar store for some inexpensive craft supplies
Shop Smart and Save Money on Food
Food prices are just horrible right now. Prices have doubled, tripled, and then some. Shopping for food can be one of the most expensive activities we do now. But it doesn’t have to break the bank! Shop around to find the best prices for the things you need. Here are a few tips to help you save money on food.
Buy in bulk when you can. One of the best ways to save money on food is to buy in bulk.You can save a lot of money by buying certain items in bulk and storing them at home until you need them again. For example, you can stock up on canned goods when they’re on sale and freeze them until you’re ready to use them.
You can also buy meat when it goes on sale and freeze it for later, or buy larger quantities of certain items when they’re on sale and then split them up into smaller portions and freeze them to use later. Buying food in bulk can help save you as much as 50 percent over buying smaller quantities at the store!
Before you go grocery shopping, make a list so that you don’t end up buying things you don’t need. Check it twice so you don’t forget anything. Eat less meat and more beans, vegetables, and other foods that you can buy in large quantities and store for a long time.
If you have a garden, grow your own produce to save money on fruits and vegetables. If you don’t have the space to grow your own produce, join a community garden so you can grow your own vegetables at a fraction of the cost you’d pay at the grocery store!
Don’t shop when you’re hungry! A hungry shopper will spend more money at the grocery store than one who isn’t hungry at all. You’ll be tempted to buy snacks that aren’t on your list when you’re hungry, and you’ll spend more money than you would otherwise.
Stop Draining Your Bank Account with Poor Use of Energy
Use electricity wisely to reduce your monthly bills. If you’re not careful, you can waste a lot of money each month using too much energy. Here are some easy ways to keep your energy costs down:
– Set your thermostat to a lower temperature in the winter and higher in the summer
– Unplug appliances that aren’t in use, especially TVs, computers, and other electronics that draw a lot of power even when they’re not turned on
– Install a programmable thermostat to help you set temperatures when you’re home and away – Turn off lights when you leave a room
– Clean or replace air filters regularly to keep them working efficiently
– Turn off unnecessary lights around the house when you go to bed at night
– Use CFL light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs to reduce energy consumption and save money on your electric bills
– Use the microwave instead of the stove for cooking whenever possible
– Wash clothes in cold water instead of hot
– Only wash full loads of laundry
– Open windows to let in fresh air instead of using an air conditioner or heater
– Put shades on windows to keep out the sun during the summer
– Keep blinds closed during the day when the sun is shining so you can keep your house cool without using your air conditioner as much
– Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are full before running them to avoid wasting energy by letting cold air escape each time the door is opened
– Keep your water heater set to 120 degrees or less to avoid wasting energy and money by using hot water unnecessarily
– Don’t use your dishwasher or washing machine when you only need to do a small load
– Consider installing solar panels on your home for renewable energy that won’t add to your monthly energy bills
Get More Money Back (or Pay Less) at the End of the Year
The amount of money you get back each year in your tax refund depends on how much money you earned during the year, and how much taxes you paid throughout the year. So it stands to reason that the more you earn, the more in taxes you pay, and the more you’ll get back in your tax refund.
Unfortunately, the government doesn’t always make it easy for people to calculate how much they will be getting back in their tax refunds. Here are some things you can do to get a bigger refund.
If you’re married, file your taxes jointly so that you can maximize your return. You can usually increase your refund each year just by filing jointly!
Maximize your income tax deductions. Keep track of your charitable donations, medical expenses, and any unreimbursed business expenses during the year. Write them off on your tax return to reduce your taxable income and increase your refund. Make sure you keep receipts for any deductions you take.
If you claimed dependents on your last tax return, the IRS requires that you keep records proving that you actually provided support to that dependent throughout the year. A letter is not enough proof! If you claimed a dependent but didn’t provide support, you’ll owe taxes on the difference.
Keep good records of your expenditures through the year in case the IRS ever questions the deductions you’ve taken.
If you use tax preparation software, make sure you print a copy of your completed tax return for your records in case there’s a question later about your tax return. When you efile your tax return, keep a copy of the confirmation page for your records as well. Never send original documents in the mail! Keep your tax documents in a safe place so that if the IRS ever requests them, you’ll have them on hand.
Get Competitive Pricing on Insurance
Save money on your car insurance by shopping around for the best deal. If you have auto insurance through your employer, it might be a good idea to see if you can get a better deal through a different company. Call several insurance companies and ask for quotes. Also check the Internet for competitive rates and compare rates from different insurance companies before you decide which one to go with.
You can also save money by making sure you have a good driving record with no moving violations or accidents on your record. Many insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who have a clean driving record and no tickets or accidents on their record.
Ask your insurance agent about any special discounts that might be available such as discounts for being a student, having a clean driving record, or having multiple policies with the same insurance company.
You can also get discounts if you insure your car and home with the same insurance company. Ask about other types of insurance that might save you money such as life insurance, homeowners insurance, health insurance, or disability insurance.
Cut Down on the Cost of Your Commute
Most people spend at least some time commuting to and from work each day. If the cost of your commute is adding up quickly, here are some ways to cut costs:
– If your job allows you to telecommute part of the time, do it! Telecommuting can save you as much as $8,000 a year compared to having to drive to work every day!
– If you live close enough to work to walk there, walk! It’s a great way to save money on gas and also get some exercise into your daily routine.
– If public transportation is available in your area, use it! Public transportation is usually much cheaper than driving your own car to work every day.
– Carpool with a friend or two if you can share a ride to work. You can save quite a bit of money on gas this way!
– Plan ahead! If you know you have to take a long trip somewhere, avoid making other trips that week to save gas.
– Fill up your car with gas early in the morning when it’s cooler outside and you’ll save on fuel costs because your engine won’t need to work as hard to warm up the car during rush hour traffic.
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