In fact, statistics indicate that a majority of Americans are spending a higher percentage of their monthly incomes on necessities like food and shelter than they were just a decade ago. No wonder so many people are looking for practical, easy-to-implement money saving ideas.
Decreasing your “output” is one of the best ways to address your own personal financial needs. You probably can’t increase your monthly income, and you can’t stop paying your mortgage. But you CAN spend less. These ten money saving ideas are principles that anyone can use, whether you’re single, a couple or have children, and whether you make a five or six-figure (or higher) income:
1) Learn to cook, and then do it more often. Eating out costs, on average, anywhere from thirty to sixty percent more than the equivalent meal that you cook yourself, from scratch. Even a fast food meal can’t compare to one that’s home-cooked when it comes to cost. So cook at home as much as you can. This includes packing your own lunch for work/school instead of eating in the cafeteria or a restaurant.
2) Plan your meals in advance and make an itemized grocery list before you shop. This means thinking through your entire week’s menu at once, but doing so will help you stick to a grocery list. You’ll be more likely to buy only what you need and avoid impulse purchases and expensive pre-packaged foods and meals, thus saving money.
3) Buy in bulk when possible. This is often easier when you have a family, but even singles and couples can buy many things in bulk. Buying in bulk can save you from ten to fifty percent on the things you would normally buy at the grocery store. The best things that you can buy in bulk are non-perishables (like household cleaning supplies) and those with a very long shelf-life (like canned foods) that you use often.
4) Buy generic products. Did you know that many of the generic products in your grocery or department store are actually made by the same manufacturers as their name-brand equivalents? You’re really not sacrificing quality, in many cases, to buy generic instead of brand name. You can, however, save about twenty to forty percent annually if you buy generic.
5) Pay cash for everything. It’s easy to overspend when you make your day-to-day purchases using a credit or debit card. Instead, take out cash for your entire grocery, gas and other daily spending needs each week, month or pay period. Keep it in an envelope in a safe place at home, and take out and use only what you need. Seeing exactly how much money you have at a glance will help you change your spending habits and keep you from overspending.
6) Consolidate your debt. Are you a couple paying two student loans, making two car payments and also making a monthly mortgage payment? Do you have a large credit card debt?
Consolidating your debts (rolling them all into one single monthly payment) can save you, on average, between twenty and thirty percent on interest payments. Check with your bank or mortgage holder to find out if you qualify for debt consolidation.
7) Re-use whenever possible. You already know that it’s good for the planet to find new uses for old things. Did you know it can actually save you money, even up to thirty or forty percent on your annual spending? Here are some things you may not have realized you could re-use:
* Plastic grocery bags: Use them as garbage can liners, lunch bags, for picking up dog waste or to store household items like linens or out-of-season clothing.
* Aluminum foil: Yes, you can wash and re-use it!
* Zipper/locking bags: Sandwich and freezer bags that are re-sealable can be washed and re-used several times.
* Birthday candles: Just wash them in warm water and they’ll probably last for five or six birthday celebrations at least.
If you think hard enough, you might surprise yourself at all of the things you find around the house that you can re-use.
8) Drink tap water, and lots of it: Bottled water costs more than soda and gasoline for your car in many places, and it’s no cleaner than the water that comes from the tap in 99 percent of American households. Plus, it’s free! So skip pre-bottled water and carry around a re-usable bottle with tap water instead. Cut out soda and other drinks and drink water instead to save even more.
9) Drive less: Walk whenever it’s feasible. Take public transit to work/school, or organize a car pool. When walking or taking the bus isn’t practical, make sure that you combine tasks when you drive somewhere. For instance, if you’re picking up your child from soccer practice, do your grocery shopping at the same time to avoid an extra trip out.
10) Find cheaper ways to entertain yourself: Do you like seeing movies? Go to a matinee, which is usually thirty to forty percent cheaper. Sign up for a free membership with a coupon Website that services your area. You’ll be able to find discounts on all kinds of local attractions this way. If you’re paying for full cable service, but you find yourself only watching a small handful of channels regularly, cut back to a smaller package. Or, simply go for a coffee and a walk instead of dinner and dancing to save money on entertainment.