One of the biggest resolutions people often make is to save more money this year. And often, we fall short of that goal because of many things–unexpected repairs and expenses in the home or car, special occasions that arise, and sometimes sales just pull us in with deals that are too good to pass up. Retailers count on these things and are more than prepared to take our hard-earned pay checks. Here are a few ways to save a little money in 2015.
- FOOD: Cook at home as often as possible. Plan a menu that includes every meal for the week and stick to your grocery list. Allow yourself to eat restaurant food only once per week—better yet, once per month. I have actually found that food cooked at home tastes fresher and is much healthier for your body because YOU control the sodium, sugar, and fat.Have a meal prep day. Cut your vegetables and prepare sides ahead of time—perhaps on a Saturday or Sunday (for the entire week).Go ahead and set the meat out for that morning and let it be marinating for dinner that night. Then all you have to do is throw it on the grill or in the oven and cook when you are ready. Don’t plan your meal for that week based on Buy-One-Get-One-Free specials at your local grocery store. Instead, plan it with whatever meals you’d like. Then, go purchase the Buy-One-Get-One-Free items to use in stocking your freezer or pantry—basically … overstock. You’d be surprised how quickly your stockpile grows. After a couple of months of doing this. You will realize that your grocery bill will shrink because you will have an ample supply of some items each week. And NEVER shop when you are hungry!
- PLAN AHEAD FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS: You know these things are going to come up every year–birthdays, anniversaries, and the big one … Christmas! Try to either set aside a ‘discretionary fund’ for these expenses and add a little to it each month, or buy these items when you see them on sale and save them for the upcoming occasions. For instance, shopping for Christmas decorations, cards, and presents, immediately after Christmas can save you a significant amount of money. The same goes with Halloween costumes. The stores need to get rid of the merchandise quickly to avoid returns and restocking.
- UTILITIES: In winter, wash and dry clothes during the day to help warm the house. It will keep your thermostat at a steady temperature, which prevents the unit from having to work as hard. During summer, try to only do laundry after the sun goes down, and try to limit it to one to two loads per night. Ask your utility company to come do an ‘energy conservation’ check in your home. They will check for any area that allows ‘leaks’ of energy—such as windows, doors, etc. which can save you a significant amount of money in the long run on your utilities.
- INDULGENCES: Love that special gourmet coffee from Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, etc.? Now it is sold in retail stores like Kroger and Publix. If you are a huge coffee drinker and just have to have that “treat” every morning to function, make it at home—add whatever flavored creamer or whipped cream you like.
- FUEL: Fill your car up on gas as often as possible, rather than putting $10-$20 at a time in here and there. Kroger has a great incentive plan where you earn fuel points for spending a certain amount of money in their store. It’s best to wait until the end of the month to fill up your tank because you get the biggest discount. Instead of $0.10 per gallon savings, it can be a significant as $0.60 or $0.70 savings per gallon!
- SHOPPING: Shopping online for clothing, shoes, etc. can save you a significant amount of time—and fuel. Instead of standing in line at retailers, not to mention the stop-and-go effect on your fuel usage, and wear-and-tear on your car, you can buy many things with the touch of a button these days. And many companies give you added discounts and free shipping!
- CLOTHES: Sell some things you no longer wear or need on e-Bay or Amazon. My rule is, if you haven’t used it or worn it in two seasons, you probably aren’t going to. Give someone else a chance to benefit from it.
- PAY YOURSELF: Every time you don’t dine out at a restaurant, forego that gourmet coffee in a store, resist the new shoes you saw in the mall, or didn’t buy that ‘gorgeous bracelet’ from HSN; reward yourself by putting the money you would have spent on that item in a jar, or better yet, in an interest-earning account.
BONUS: Saving money is not a big thing—it’s a lot of little things that add up. It’s choices we make every moment of the day. To eat out or not, to use the stove or the grill, remembering to leave the water running just a little during the winter to keep the pipes from freezing up or not, to allow our kids to play several sports or just focus on one at a time. These spending habits boil down to—individual needs, personal preferences, and will power. When we choose NOT to go over budget, we are not depriving ourselves of things—we are empowering ourselves with financial security and peace of mind.
How do YOU save money or plan to save money this year? Leave comments below!