Hopefully we’ll start to see some green grass and green buds this St. Patrick’s Day, in addition to those leprechauns and shamrocks. But with the new season right around the corner, we’re concerned with another kind of green — it’s time to look toward spring savings, so you can find a little extra green in your wallet.
With a little help from finance expert Lacey Langford, an Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC) and money coach, you might just find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow this St. Patrick’s Day. Here’s how to make your own luck.
Sometimes saving money is all about willpower! With the right approach, you might even be able to “trick” yourself into saving more than $700 every month!
1. Take advantage of longer days
With the days growing longer, you should be able to power down more often and use less energy, says Langford. “Try turning off lights when it’s sunny out, or turning off lights when you’re not in the room, and unplugging all unnecessary items such as cell phone chargers and guest room lamps to save money,” she explains. “Things plugged in that aren’t being used account for around 20 percent of your electricity usage.”
Savings: Langford says if your average bill is $200, you’ll save roughly $20 per month or $240 per year. “You can’t beat having an extra $240 a year to invest or pay down debt just unplugging extra stuff,” she says.
2. Plant a vegetable garden
Growing your own veggies saves major dough on each grocery bill, says Langford — a fun activity everyone in the family can participate in. “You can get free seeds from seed exchanges online,” she says. “There’s also the added health benefits of eating well, which saves you money on medical costs.”
Savings: Simply by planting your own produce, Langford says you can save on average $85 a month with a vegetable garden. “That’s only 10 percent of a low-cost food plan,” she explains. “The more you grow, the more you save.”
If you’re a tomato lover, it’s about time to get started growing these juicy red fruits! Check out our tomato growing guide for some simple tips on how best to water, plant, and care for your tomato plants.
3. Drive smarter to drive less
Even with gas prices dropping, you should expect an uptick as summer approaches and travel increases across the country. “Driving less means more money to save,” Langford says. “Make lists for errands and groceries to reduce unnecessary trips out.” That means hitting the bank, grocery store, and Goodwill all in one trip (not three).
Savings: Langford says saving on gas is totally dependent on what you’re willing to cut. “Becoming strategic about running errands and other trips out can reduce anywhere from 5-30 percent of your monthly gas budget, she says. “Think before you run back out for takeout!” It all adds up.
4. Spring clean your budget by getting organized
Believe it or not, says Langford, being disorganized can cost you major dough. “It’s easy for bills to get lost and then not get paid on time, or, even worse, not paid at all,” she explains. “With spring cleaning, it’s the perfect time to get your financial life organized to save money.”
Savings: By setting up a system to organize and pay bills, Langford says you can easily save $20 per month in late fees you never intended to rack up. “Try paying through an autopay to ensure bills are paid on time,” she insists.
If you need some help getting started with your financial organization, check out our top financial resolutions to keep you squared away and saving more this year!
5. Start couponing
Head online for the latest discounts. “Coupons are the easiest way to reduce food expenses,” says Langford. “Even if you eat out, there are coupons for that.” Langford says you can ask family and friends to save printed coupons they don’t use, as lots just toss them out. What a shame!
Savings: Couponing can save you loads of cash. “Coupons are like money, and can definitely save you depending on your spending,” says Langford. She estimates roughly $5-$20 a shopping trip, which adds up every month.
If you’re not sure where to start with coupons, check out our Couponing 101 guide. It shows you how to get the best deals on groceries, at your favorite retail stores, and more!
6. Check out free community events locally
Lots of families have an entertainment budget so they can go out to dinner or hit a movie every now and then. However, according to Langford, you can save even more money by taking advantage of free community events. “Spring is perfect for catching a free outdoor concert or town festival,” she says. Scour online; local papers, community centers, and nearby colleges often host and list events.
Savings: Depending on how much money you spend on fun every month, Langford guesses you could save in the neighborhood of $20-$50 per month. “By skipping paid entertainment such as concerts and movies for free entertainment, you’ll save the money you have budgeted for outings,” she says.
If your community isn’t hosting anything yet, why not check out what your state or nearby cities have to offer? We’ve found more than 52 free or low cost activities that are all family friendly!
7. Set a budget for entertaining
Every woman who’s played the happy hostess knows that entertaining costs a lot of money. Instead of racking up a major bill for that party, Langford says to plan each event on a budget to save money. “Instead of spending more on your groceries to have a BBQ for friends, have potlucks,” she says. “Ask everyone to bring food items to share.” That way, you’re appropriately divvying up the cost (and work).
Savings: By simply being smart about your entertaining setup, you can tuck a lot of money away each month. “Depending on how often you like to have get-togethers, this could save you $40-$75 a month,” says Langford. “It gets expensive to provide meals for others!” Give up control and enlist a little help. Most people are thrilled to be of service.
Another money-saving idea is to host a cooking party. Whether for the holidays or just because, a cooking party is lots of fun, cost-friendly, and oh-so tasty!
8. Shop seasonal foods at the grocery store
Even if you’re not growing every bit of food in that money-saving garden we talked about earlier, you can still save cash on produce this season. “Buying seasonal foods will save money,” says Langford. “Instead of purchasing something that isn’t in season locally, you’ll pay more to have it shipped from a state where it is in season — so try buying fresh veggies and meats at your local farmer’s market to save on the transportation expense.”
Savings: Langford says that choosing in-season food options could save you $10-$30 per month. Want to know what to buy now (and later)? Check out this list of seasonal selections.
Asparagus is in season this spring, so why not try one of these tasty and healthy asparagus dishes?