During a time when finances are tight for all of us, it is important to get back to the basics of spending. Focusing on the essentials has become more important when gas prices are so high, the economy bad, high paying jobs are scarce, and relief does not seem so eminent. So when changing your habits, sometimes extreme isn’t always the best way, but small steps will lead to big rewards. Here are ten small steps towards saving $100 extra a month.
1. Cut out Watching On-Demand or Rented Movies: We often find that convenience overrides planning. Many will defend that renting movies is cheaper than going to the theatre, and this is true; however, patience can mean you can still have entertainment without breaking the bank. If you are an avid movie renter, On-Demand movies, which is just a fancy way of saying Pay Per View, can cost up to $5.99 for HD film quality. Some of the same movies on HD can be viewed on free services such as www.hulu.com or a subscription to an online movie rental service, such as www.Netflix.com. Some may say that Netflix is an unneccessary expense, but at the cost of one monthly subscription, plus one month free trial, there are hundreds of movies available “On-Demand” plus mail in movies. Just be sure you don’t upgrade to the higher cost subscription. This takes longer than going to the store rental location, or getting on demand movies, but in the long run, it is cheaper. Just one night of On-demand movie watching can add up to $15.00 to your already ridiculous cable bill, and one trip to the movie store can cost just as much. If you do this twice a month, your cable bill just went up over $30 with tax. When you figure in gas and how easy it is to order a pizza when the movie store is next door to a pizza place, one night of “cheaper than the movies” can actually cost you just as much. You may also consider a DVD swapping club with your friends. You can swap movies they have at home for movies you have at home.
2. Don’t Supersize: How many times do you go to a restaurant or a fast food joint and they ask you what size you want? What about the fast food place with the fountain drink, how many of you order a small cup and then refill when it is low, paying less for the same amount of drink? When you go to a restaurant, consider ordering from the ala carte menu, the sides menu, or just an appetizer. There is plenty of food and you will save on your bill. Also if you are a convenience eater, and eat out every meal because you “can’t cook” consider that sometimes a sandwich or a salad made at home is still inexpensive, portable, and does not require any “cooking”. Try brown bagging it at least two to three days a week, save yourself up to $30.00. Also, when going to your local fast food joint, pay attention to your bill, often times they will “Supersize” your ticket and not your food, stating they automatically do that unless you tell them otherwise. That’s right! They do!
3. Check your Utilities: Go over your utilities and check the specials of your local providers. Often times, even existing customers will get great price reduction rates just by bundling services and letting another provider go. Before I was a budgeting goddess, I was paying $56.00 for a landline phone through AT&T, and $133.00 through my cable provider for Basic Extended Cable plus Internet. When I bundled the two together and fired the other, I saved $125.00 al-together, that is $1500 for the whole year! I now pay $65 for all three services, without sacrificing quality. That rate is for the next two years, saving me $3,000 in total if I do nothing for the next two years. In two years, or before I’ll see who has the better deal and may swap again. Loyalty is overrated! How many companies do you know whose loyalty specials outweigh new client specials? Pretty much none!
4. Swear off Restaurants or only eat at ones with coupons: I know this seems extreme, but one meal at a high-end restaurant can run you over $100. Consider eating at home instead, once you accept the fact that sometimes, you just gotta eat hamburger helper, you get use to it and you don’t get hungry and start flipping through the phone book, you get hungry and start digging through the freezer. If you just simply MUST go out to eat, consider only eating at restaurants with a coupon or gift card. Often you can ask the manager if they have any “free appetizer” or “Kid’s eat free” cards. If they want your business again, they’ll give them to you. Also, depending on the type of work you have, often they will give special promotions to your field, such as 20% off to public service or loyal customer rewards. Check the circulars that come in the mail, you can often get coupons for fast food places and pizza there. You can also check their websites for promotions they have going on or call them before you go and ask them if they have any specials available. This can save you up to $15 a dinner, $25 if you have a gift card.
5. Coupons, Coupons, Coupons! Another thing you can do is don’t go anywhere without coupons! Everyone has them, oil change places, grocery stores, restaurants, and clothing stores. If you have to pay full price for something, go somewhere else! Some “Extreme” couponers can manage to get $600 worth of groceries for $6.00, but more realistic, you can save anywhere from $35-100 on your grocery bill alone. Always ask if there are specials going on, never be afraid to ask for a bargain, if they want your business, they will find something.
Footnote, Save the money you save on coupons Get a notebook, write down the actual price you would spend on something without your coupons, then write down what you actually paid. Now take the difference and put it away in an interest bearing account. Not only will you see the difference, but you’ll make interest on it as well! I suggest www.ingdirect.com, they have many options for sub-accounts and different ways to save, including the “Electric Orange” checking account.
6. Save all your change Even if you are a debit card user, you can still save your change. If you break a dollar, save your silver and copper and count it up at the end of the month, if you use your debit card, round-up your check register to the nearest dollar and see how much you saved in your checking account at the end of the month. Consider how many transactions you go through in a month. Some people can have up to 3-4 transactions in a day during the week, more on the weekend or on a shopping trip or vacation. That is well over 90-100 transactions in a month, adding up your change could save a super spender $50-$100 a month in change, at least $20-$50 for a conservative spender.
7. Get a part-time job Getting a second part-time job always comes in handy and doesn’t have to be so extreme that you would need to be a pizza delivery driver, or a waitress. Consider cleaning once or twice a week for someone, or offer to do their laundry once a week. Babysit! Trust me when I say a mom would rather entrust their child to an adult than a 16 year old any day, and believe it or not, babysitting pays pretty well. Consider cleaning offices once a week around town, doctors clinics are often looking for someone to come in and sanitize a few times a week, just be sure you are up to speed on the latest OSHA regulations.
8. Pay with cash I have always said that paying with cash is the way to go. When you have to see your money dwindle down, you don’t want to spend it. Just paying with cash will make you want to at least keep a $20 in your wallet until next payday.
9. Avoid “Starbucks” with a vengeance! I know that this is what every financial blog tells you, but it is true. Spending money on a tall skinny white chocolate peppermint mocha is a sure-fire way to waste money of frivolous behavior. Buy a self-timer coffee pot, set it at night, buy the same creamers in the dairy section of the grocery store and pour a cup when you are walking out the door, squirt some whip cream on top if it makes you feel more fancy. $6.00 every morning for a croissant or oatmeal and coffee adds up, that is $180 a month in coffee.
10. Cut down on your subscriptions Review your internet subscriptions, such as ancestry.com, netflix.com, weightwatchers.com, etc. All of these are great websites, but sometimes when you begin to add up all of your monthly subscriptions, they take a bite out of your budget. If you simply cannot live without them, or if they save you money in the long run (like the advid movie renter on #1), consider using the lower cost subscription, instead of upgrading to the deluxe versions. If it is something you haven’t looked at in over a month, get rid of it.
The simple fact is there is always room in your budget. You don’t have to be so extreme that you cut cable, telephone, internet, ride bicycles, eat rice and beans, and never drink coffee again, but cutting down on excessive expenses, shopping less and always with coupons, and delving into all of our luxuries in moderation, you can easily save $100 or more from your budget. What could you do with an extra $1200 a year? If you add all of these things together, and do all at once, you could save an average of $600-$800 for one month! Can you believe that? Now, drinking coffee made from your house and that hamburger helper just doesn’t seem that bad does it?