While the news is beginning to tentatively say that the economy is in recovery, most of us are still feeling the pinch here on Main Street, and could use a few extra bucks just to cover the bills. If you’re in the same position as many people are, here are a few tricks to try that can save you enough to pay down a couple of debts, or just start a long-overdue savings account!
- If you still smoke, quit. The average smoker spends at least a hundred dollars a month on their habit, and that cost keeps rising all the time. Don’t bother with using expensive “stop smoking aides,” though; if you can’t quit cold turkey, the cost of quitting aides are often higher than the cost of cigarettes! (Not that you shouldn’t quit, but if you’re trying to save money, cold turkey is the way to go.)
- Practice portion control! A standard eight ounce steak can make two meals instead of just one; that plate full of pasta you had for lunch could have made three meals! Learn what a real portion size is, and plan your meals (and shopping) accordingly. Not only will you spend less on food, you’ll probably lose a few pounds, too!
- Get rid of your overdraft protection. While it might feel good to know your bank will cover your back if you overdraw your account, you’ll pay the price later, when you realize you just spent thirty dollars for a two-dollar cheeseburger by over-spending on one tiny purchase. If you overdraw your account multiple times, those charges really add up to a major expense.
- Learn to use this phrase: “I can’t afford it.” Say it loud, say it proudly, and say it often. Don’t force yourself to spend money you don’t have to keep up with the lifestyle you had before, and don’t feel bad about it. Everybody is struggling to get by; no one worth your time will look down on you for accepting your financial situation.
- Whatever you can, do by hand. It sounds simple enough, and it really is, but the savings can be enormous. Instead of using your dryer, hang your clothes to dry; instead of using the food processor, try your hand with a knife or manual chopper. There are hundreds of ways to so things by hand, and most will save you money.
- Use cross ventilation to cool your home whenever possible. Air conditioning is expensive! While we’re at it, use natural light during the day, unplug unused appliances, and try to live without constant background noise from the TV and stereo. You’ll see a difference in your next electric bill.
- If you have to take prescription medications, ask your doctor if they have any samples of your meds lying around their office. Most doctors will be happy to give you samples of your medications if you ask, especially if you let them know the cost of your prescription is too high for you to fill any other way.
- Buy used clothing-especially jeans and tee shirts. If you have kids, buying their jeans used will save you an average of ten dollars per pair versus new, and if you shop carefully, no one will even notice they aren’t brand new.
- If you absolutely must buy furniture or housewares, hit thrift shops and consignment stores first. A $200 pressboard dinette won’t be worth anything in five years, but an antique or “almost antique” at the same price will retain its value and last longer than a laminated piece of junk. Flea markets and junk shops often have real treasures hidden among the junk, too; you just have to look for it.
- If you live in an apartment, and have a little spare time, apply for a part time job at your apartment complex. Many property owners will be glad to let you take a few dollars off the rent in exchange for cleaning empty apartments, painting, lawn work, or volunteering as a lifeguard at the pool. Make sure you apply for a job you’ll actually enjoy, and negotiate with the owner about whether you’ll take money off your rent or just get paid for your work. Whatever you agree to, get it in writing.
Of course, not everyone can use these tips to save money, but if you think about them, you’re certain to come up with your own ways to save. If you don’t smoke, for example, but have a coffee habit, giving up coffee might make a difference in your budget. If you own your home instead of renting, but hire someone to handle your yard work for you, doing it yourself may work for you. Whatever your situation, though, you can find plenty of ways to save at least an extra hundred or two every month, and that little amount can make a huge difference in your long term security.
Remember to call us at 1 800 296 4950 to request specific advice from a credit counselor.