Youve survived the big spending season known as the holidays and may be dismayed at the state of your finances – credit card bills due, depleted funds in your savings account and a general feeling of being broke. Welcome to January.
If youre like many people who make New Years resolutions, you may be dreaming about ending the cycle of spending too much with a firm resolve to increase your savings. Take courage – its not as hard as you may think. Here are some practical tips on how to live on less and save more in 2018:
Sign up for Free Customer Rewards Programs
Plenty of retailers, online as well as actual stores, offer rewards for shopping at their business. These are discounts, rebates and special sales just for members of the club. The down side is having your inbox filled with offers, sometimes several times a week or even daily, from a single retailer. Theres a way to control the influx of messages, however, if you create a special email address on Google or Yahoo just for these offers.
Then when you need to purchase items, open your designated mailbox and look for deals. Resist browsing for sales when you dont actually need to buy some random item offered at a great price. Impulse buying defeats the goal, which is purposeful saving.
Pause for 24 Hours
When you do come across something you think you have to buy this very minute, resist the temptation to engage in retail therapy to give yourself an emotional boost. The lure of the merchandise – an electronic gadget, an article of clothing, a new CD – will produce only momentary joy. All you really buy is something you most likely dont need and that will chip away at your cash or add to your credit card bill.
Instead, wait for a day and think it over. If you still believe you need the item, instant gratification is probably not driving your decision. On day two, shop for the very best deal you can find on the item and go ahead and buy it.
Control Your Grocery Shopping
Strongly consider using cash only when shopping for groceries. Its a well-known retail fact that youll spend about 30 percent more when youre in a store with a credit or debit card. Instead, do a little research on what youve spent over the past few months for groceries and set a weekly grocery budget. Then get that much cash and plan a weekly shopping trip.
Check the ads for items on sale, plan your meals accordingly and make a list, following the layout of your grocery store. Then when filling up your basket, keep a mental tally – or use a calculator – to stay within your cash means. Stick to your list. Plan your grocery trips carefully to avoid times when youre rushed and desperate for groceries – or worse, hungry –when the impulse purchases kick in. Use any leftover cash each week to roll over to the next weeks grocery shopping. If you still have a surplus at the end of the month, reward yourself with lunch or dinner out.
Use the Library
If youve been a stranger to your local library in recent years, reacquaint yourself with all it offers. LIbraries have more than books – music CDs, movies and TV series on DVD, audiobooks, games, puzzles, computer games, toys, special interest clubs and even free classes. All paid for with your tax dollars, but at no cost when you walk in the door.
You dont even have to actually visit some libraries to take advantage of conveniences such as electronic books delivered right to your tablet or computer, or streaming music and movies. Stop in your local library, sign up for a card and discover all it has to offer, which is plenty of free entertainment and education.
Carry Your Lunch
Spending $10 a couple of times a week on lunch doesnt seem like much, but it does add up to a big chunk of money. Buying a $10 lunch once a week costs you about $490 a year, while a daily $10 lunch habit will add up to $2,450 per year, based on an average work year of 49 weeks. Add 50 percent more if you work in a metro area where lunch out averages $15. That equals $735 a year for a once-a-week lunch or $3,675 a year for a daily restaurant habit.
You can carry your lunch from home for a fraction of the cost, generally about $3 a day. Pack it the night before and vary the menu to avoid the same old, same old boredom. Rotate sandwiches with salads, soups and leftovers to keep your lunchbox more interesting and check cooking websites for brown-bag inspiration.
Recommit to a Savings Plan
Maybe youve always had good intentions of saving X percent of your paycheck, but real life got in the way and it doesnt happen on a regular basis. Start the New Year right by paying yourself first, which is classic sound financial advice. Automate a monthly transfer of funds from your checking account to a savings or investment account.
If youre saving for a specific purpose – a vacation, new furniture, a car – determine exactly how much you need to save each week to meet your goal. If you do get a pay raise this year, discipline yourself to increase your weekly savings to include half of your raise. Enjoy the rest of your pay hike, as you earned it, but keep focused on your goal and enjoy watching the results of your ongoing savings habit.
Try a few of these tips and enjoy the benefits of spending less and saving more, without really feeling any pain. How many more ways can you discover to boost your bottom line?
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