Its natural to view the dawning of a new year as an opportunity to improve personal finances. Most of us resolve to accomplish this by boosting our savings. But saving money – much like trying to lose weight – is easier said than done. Without goals and practical steps to follow, many will become discouraged and quickly fall off the wagon. Saving money successfully requires changing old habits and rethinking and doing things differently. Here are six smart ways to save some cash in the year to come – some of which may surprise you:
Become a Single-Car Family
Along with housing and food, transportation costs are what we spend the majority of our money on. Owning a car can be expensive. Aside from the sticker price of the car itself, you have to pay for gas, auto insurance, maintenance, repairs and, depending on where you live, parking and tolls. AAA reported that the average cost of owning a car in 2016 came to $8,558 a year. While most of us take for granted that we each need to have our own car, a growing number of families today are realizing that they can live quite comfortably with just one set of wheels – especially given the increasing popularity of affordable rideshare apps like UBER. Not only will becoming a single-car family save you money each year, it can help save the planet!
Its easy to fall into a pattern of eating out or ordering in – especially when youre a working parent. But if youre spending more on restaurants than you are on groceries, then youre spending too much on food. Numbeo reports that dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant averages at around $50, which is roughly half of what most two-person households spend on a weeks worth of groceries. Dont have enough time to grocery shop? Grocery delivery sites like FreshDirect can be an easy and affordable solution. Dont worry – you dont have to go cold turkey. If youre used to going out or ordering in four nights a week, try cutting that number in half for a month. The savings will add up quickly.
Not great at saving? Make arrangements with your bank to allocate a portion of every paycheck to your savings account before you see it to keep it out of sight and out of mind. And while youre at it, automate any bill payments that are the same every month – like your rent or insurance premiums. Not only will you save yourself time, but youll be sure to avoid any late fees. If you arent currently participating in a 401(k) or other payroll savings program through your employer, do yourself (and your family) a big favor and enroll immediately. Most employers contribute proportionately, and you wont miss money you don’t ever see. If you are enrolled, be sure to make your maximum contributions for the year.
Reconsider Your Banking Relationship
Review your banking records, and add up all the fees you’ve had to pay over the past year (most banks allow you to access these online). If the total seems like a lot, you may want to research cheaper alternatives. Remember, credit unions and online banks like Ally offer free checking accounts to their customers.
Avoid impulse buys you might later regret by waiting 30 days to make big purchases like personal electronics, cars or fine jewelry. If youre shopping online, always see if you can qualify for free shipping and other discounts by signing up for promotional emails and loyalty programs. With the increasing frequency of online sales, you should rarely (if ever) have to pay full price for anything. That said, not all sales are created equal. Just because something is advertised as being on sale doesnt necessarily mean you cant find it elsewhere for much less. Thats why its so important to comparison shop and check at least three retailers to make sure youre getting a competitive price. Finally, dont become a victim of daily specials on TV or online. Saving 70% on a gift you never would have bought in the first place – and probably wont ever use – only adds up to a waste of money.
Rethink Your Recreation
With cable TV packages averaging over $100 a month, you may want to ask yourself how much TV you and your family actually watch. Perhaps a cheaper alternative – like Netflix, Hulu or the eBook hub Scribd would serve your home entertainment purposes just as well. Given the growing number of sites like Groupon and Goldstar, reduced prices for live entertainment, sporting events and theme parks have never been easier to come by. And remember, there are still plenty of ways to relax with your family for free! From hiking to visiting public museums to surfing YouTube, a little creativity and imagination are all it takes to come up with recreational activities that are completely free of charge.
If youre serious about saving money and increasing your savings in 2017, give these suggestions a try. While some may be a little out of your comfort zone, theyre sure to put money in your pocket!