You might remember your parents teaching you about the need for a rainy day fund, but many of us haven’t quite put it into practice just yet. Sure, the unemployment rate is lower than ever, and even wages are showing signs of growth, but unfortunately, consumer debt is once again on the rise. That means that savings often takes a back seat when it comes to financial planning.
Compounding this (pun intended) is that while interest rates have inched up ever-so-slightly, you’re still not going to make a lot of money on your savings account or certificate of deposit. That said, there are simple ways to cut costs and save if you’re determined. Here are 16 tips to get you started.
1. Find a Bank with a Better Deal
As interest rates climb banks need to work harder to compete, making this a good time to start shopping around for better interest rates on your savings accounts and better terms and conditions on your checking. Whenever possible, find a bank that will eliminate fees and stop requiring you to pay for checks.
2. Consolidate Credit Cards
Move all credit card debt to a low interest card and then pay it off before the teaser rate expires. Just don’t this more than once or you’ll end up deeper in debt and unable to catch up.
3. Negotiate Rates
Your credit card company doesn’t want to lose you as a client, so they may be willing to work with you to adjust the interest rate on your card. Do your research and tell the company you want to remain a longtime customer, but don’t be afraid to mention that other cards are offering better rates that interest you.
4. Call Your Cable Company
Next time you hear that your cable company is offering a deal to new customers, call them and make them match if for you. If they can’t, have them walk you through your bill to see where you might curtail costs. With so many “cord cutters” who are opting for less expensive streaming services, cable companies have never been more vulnerable or more willing to work to keep a customer happy.
5. Read the Fine Print
Don’t just click accept. Cell phones, credit cards, loan contracts, and internet providers may have hidden fees baked into their contracts. The same goes for closely reviewing your monthly bills. Companies don’t always trumpet rate increases, but even human error in the billing department could cost you money.
6. Buy Generic
Don’t be afraid to try less expensive generic products in the grocery store. They’re often made by the same name brand companies you’ve been buying for years, so what you’re really paying for is the brand’s marketing.
7. Compare Prices
A little bit of homework and a thorough grocery list can save you money on a weekly basis. Use coupons, take advantage of sales, or join a discount club and start tracking your savings.
8. Make Your Home Energy Efficient
Though most upgrades or updates require an investment up front, the savings will add up and may even add to your home’s value if you find small ways to save around the house: Switch to LED lights to save on your electric bill. Fix drafty windows. Buy a programmable thermostat. Switch to EnergyStar appliances. Install a low flow toilet and fix leaky faucets to save on water.
9. Sell Stuff
You can make bank hosting a garage sale, but even if you don’t have the time or energy, there are so many places to sell unwanted. eBay is great for selling clothes and smaller items when shipping costs aren’t prohibitive, while Craigslist is great for bigger items that can be advertised and picked up locally. If you’ve got a few antiques that you don’t want, consider finding a consignment shop and haggling the value. Just be sure to do your research so you know what your things are worth first.
10. Break a Habit
We’re not doctors, but it’s no mystery that smoking, drinking, and snacking can impair your health over time, but they can also cost a pretty penny. Even cutting back on your consumption can go a long way.
11. Give Up Fast Food
Drive-thru value meals may seem cheap and convenient, but eating out on a regular basis is bound to add up. When you do make your weekly trip to the grocery store, try to avoid the overpriced prepared meals and opt to make your own at home instead. And unless you really need to, never buy staples or food sold in convenience stores.
12. Cancel Subscriptions
From Netflix to Spotify, gym memberships to magazines, there are so many subscriptions services offered these days. Take a close look at just how much use you’re getting out of each of these and trim the fat where it’s not needed.
13. Carpool or Take Public Transportation
If you’re commuting to work by car every day, look into options for other ways to get to work. Even if it doesn’t make sense to looking into a bike route, it might make sense to organize a carpool rotation with others who live nearby. If public transportation is available, find out if there are deals for buying a monthly pass over a single ride. You don’t have ditch your car all week long, but do the math to see how much it’s costing you now compared with other modes of transport, and then stick to a set schedule (bus on Monday, carpool on Tuesday and Thursday…). You’ll save on gas, cut down on the wear and tear on your vehicle, and feel better about doing your part for the environment.
14. Get a Better Deal on Home and Car Insurance
Much like subscriptions, we tend to forget about the cost of insurance until we’re faced with the bill. Shop online for the best deals on car and homeowners insurance and then ask about multi-policy discounts. Talk with your agent about increasing deductibles, getting rewarded for being a good driver, etc. Bring up what competitors are offering so they know you’ve considered switching.
15. Bring Your Lunch to Work
Not going out to lunch every day is a great way to save money. Keep healthy snacks in your drawer so hunger doesn’t lure you to a drive-thru window, and whenever possible bring your lunch in and save splurging on coffee or subs for special occasions.
16. Eat Your Leftovers
Americans waste a LOT of food, but with a little preparation it’s easy to save tonight’s dinner in tupperware for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. It’s easy to forget about leftovers, so keep them in the front of your fridge where you’d usually reach for a snack, rather than tucked in a drawer or behind the beverages. When you get home at the end of the day, do a quick scan of your fridge to see if there’s a need to cook tonight or if you can reheat one or two meals you made this week. Find creative recipes to re-purpose cooked chicken in a salad or soup, and invest in a quality lunch pail that’ll keep it fresh so you can prepare it the night before and grab it on your way out the door.
You might be surprised at how easy it is to save money when you cut back here and there. Take a close look at what you’re spending and keep track of your expenses over the course of a month. You’re likely to uncover additional ways to boost your savings if you’re paying close attention.