It’s always at the top of the New Year’s resolutions list: saving money! And as we approach the end of January, it’s time to reinforce the steps we are taking to reach our goals. Here are 10 easy ways to cut costs and save a little extra in 2014. Remember, saving a lot of pennies adds up to a lot of dollars!
The Environmental Protection Agency has a Home Energy Yardstick, which compares your home’s energy usage with similar homes. Enter your zip code, square footage, number of occupants, fuel used, and your last 12 months of utility bills. You’ll get a score from 1 to 10 and tips for lowering utility bills. If you’re paying a lot more than your neighbors, chances are there’s plenty of places you can cut costs.
Paperless billing not only saves trees, it save money. Postage stamps aren’t typically something we factor into the household budget, but it adds up. At the end of this month, stamps increase to 49¢. That means if you pay 10 bills a month, you are spending $58.80 a year on postage. Some mailing is unavoidable, so now’s a good time to stock up on Forever stamps at the 46¢ rate before they increase on January 26.
Yes, meal planning and eating at home will save money, but everyone deserves a night out on the town once in awhile. With a little research, you can always find a restaurant offering a promotion. Look for discount gift cards from sites like restaurant.com, eat on Tuesdays, a popular night for kids eats free promotions, or sign up for email lists to score freebies like a free mini pizookie from BJ’s.
Use (at least) three coupons a week.
Incorporating coupons into your grocery shopping is one of the easiest ways to start saving a little cash. Think about it, if you use just three $1-off coupons a week, that’s an extra $156 at the end of the year. You can also clip some coupons like lunchmeat, pasta, and cereal straight to your store loyalty card. Now you don’t have to worry about forgetting your coupons at home.
Price compare gas and use cash.
A gas price comparison app is one of the handiest apps to have on your phone. When I used it recently rather than going automatic pilot to my regular station, I was able to save 32¢ a gallon and it was only 0.2 miles further away. If you fill up a 16 gallon tank once a week, that’s an annual savings of $266.24! Also, many stations will give you a discount (often 5¢ per gallon) when you pay with cash. Which calculates to an additional savings of $41.60 a year for that 16-gallon tank.
Brown bag it.
How much is that deli sandwich really costing you? We did a brown bagging experiment and found that we could pack a lunch consisting of a turkey sandwich with cheese, cookies, chips and iced tea for $2.53. That same lunch cost around $11.50 at nearby delis. That’s a $9 savings! Even if you just give up take-out two times a week, that’s $936 a year.
Cancel subscriptions you don’t use.
Are you a victim of automatic renewal? Many of us have a stack of unread magazines that just keep coming but the thing is, you don’t have to wait to cancel. Most subscriptions refund your remaining balance when you cancel. So not only are you no longer paying that $16.99 a year, but if you had 6 months left on your current subscription, then they’ll mail you a check for $8.50.
Sign up for focus groups.
Another way to save more is to make more. Focus groups and taste tests are a fun way to do just that. Sign up for market research databases and they will match you to studies. It’s not steady money, but you could make anywhere from $30 for 15 minutes to a couple hundred dollars for longer studies. So even if you only do one or two a year, that’s a good chunk of change you wouldn’t have otherwise. Plus, it’s fun! I’ve taste tested ice cream, protein smoothies, coffee, and soda.
Stash your spare change.
This year don’t spend change. Empty your pockets at the end of the day, stash it in a jar, and by the end of the year, you’ll accumulate quite the savings. Coin counting machines like Coinstar typically charge a fee around 10% for cash. Instead, avoid the fee and exchange it for a gift certificate. Choose a retailer that you would need to shop at anyways like Home Depot to tackle a home improvement project or Staples for school supplies to make it a true savings.
Increase direct deposit to your savings.
If you have a portion of each paycheck deposited directly into your savings, fantastic. That’s a great habit to have. This year, up the amount by 1%. It’s little enough that you probably won’t notice it, but big enough to make a real difference. If you make $50,000 a year, that’s an extra $500!