Small, routine expenses and paying too much for major monthly bills can add up quickly over time. A few extra dollars misspent here and there can easily turn into a few thousand dollars each year and quickly derail the family budget. Resolve to adopt at least one of these attainable money-saving strategies, and your bank account will thank you.
CREATE (AND STICK TO) A BUDGET
Take a few moments to track and analyze how much you're spending every month and identify areas where you may be overspending. Try allotting a certain amount of money to entertainment and other fun purchases only after you've accounted for rent and bills. If you're able to shave just $100 from your monthly budget, you'll pocket $1,200 by the end of the year.
If you're throwing out spoiled food every week, you're basically tossing money into the garbage, not to mention contributing to the country's food-waste problem. Here's a simple fix: Look at grocery store circulars to see what's on sale, plan weekly meals ahead of time, make a grocery list, and stick to it. Trimming the weekly food budget by just $20 will net savings of $1,040 a year.
Making certain purchases, especially major ones, at the right time of year can save big money. January is a good time to look for deals on furniture and many electronics. Get in the habit of shopping for clothes and shoes, as well as seasonal items such as a snowblower or lawn mower, at the end of the season, when they're on deep discount. For instance, a patio set regularly listed for $1,500 is going for the off-season clearance price of $600, a savings of $900.
TRANSFER MONEY INTO SAVINGS REGULARLY
This might sound too easy, but it really works: Every week, move $10 to $20 into a savings account. Even better, set up an automated transfer. You likely won't miss the small dollar amounts, and at the end of the year you'll have squirreled away almost $1,000.
INCREASE YOUR RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTION
Sign up for a small, but impactful, annual contribution increase of at least 2 percent to your employee 401(k) plan. For someone earning a salary of $50,000, that's an extra $1,000 a year (or more if your employer has a company match plan) that will go toward your golden years.
SWAP A VACATION FOR A STAYCATION
Skip the pricey flight and accommodations to explore nearby areas that are easily accessible by car or train. You'll be surprised at how much fun you can have in the next town over — and how much money you'll save.
There's no better time than the new year to kick this expensive habit. Obvious health benefits aside, quitting could save an estimated $2,321.40 if you smoke a pack a day, based on an average price of $6.36 (including state but not local taxes) according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Plus, becoming a non-smoker can lower your insurance rates.
SHOP AROUND FOR BETTER INSURANCE RATES
It's a smart idea to look around for better insurance rates every few years. Oftentimes, bundling auto, home, health, and life policies can lead to big savings, too. There are plenty of online tools to get you started, and many companies offer free quotes.
DITCH THE CAR
With a monthly car payment, insurance, and trips to the gas station, the average car owner is spending about $8,800 a year to drive 15,000 miles. Instead, ride a bike, take the bus, or join a carpool to get where you need to go. If you aren't ready to go completely car-free, consider selling one vehicle if you live in a two-car household. While it's unrealistic to be without a car in many places, in some cities it's easy to be car-free.
CONSIDER REFINANCING YOUR HOME
Check in periodically with a mortgage broker to find out if refinancing your home makes financial sense. The amount you could save on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage varies depending on the terms and current interest rates, of course. Although rates are higher now, they're still relatively low. Many people end up saving an average of $100 or more on their monthly payments.