- Personal Finance
20 Ways to Save Some Money from Money Magazine, with a Modern Twist
I had recently dug up an old book by Money Magazine where its editors shared 20 tips to save money. As the book is quite old, I thought I'd update the tips somewhat to make sure they apply to modern times.
On the other hand, if you need some more modern tips, here's a Money editor's trip through one day in life that saved her almost $100...
Any way, on with the tips...
Can I Eat Out Less Often?
A restaurant meal usually cost $10-$20, but $10-$20 of material at a supermarket will feed you for several days if you shop carefully. The catch is, of course, you have to cook something yourself.
Cooking is actually not hard. Stir-fry stuff is easy to make, just cut up some veggies, some meat, and pretty much mix them together. And you can cut up a couple day's worth and cook them to order. Mix up some canned stuff with some fresh ingredients and have a good meal. Look for sales and you can get even more food.
You can even invite your significant other to eat at your place, candle lit dinner for two, and you're cooking. The Raychel Ray magazines always have recipes that are pretty easy to make.
You can search the Internet, like allrecipe.com, foodnetwork.com, or America's Test Kitchen. They all have tried and true recipes.
Can I Spend Less When I Do Eat Out?
Instead of the fancy restaurants $20-$40 per person, try to pick something more of a bargain restaurant ($10-15 range), order something less expensive, and so on and so forth. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants, restaurants in places you don't usually go... Get special combinations, for even more savings. Chinese food is usually pretty cheap.
By searching on the Internet, you can find average tab or average entree price of most restaurants, and thus use that to determine how much will you spend.
If you have to go for a specific place, see if you can get gift cards. Often purchases comes with discounts.
You don't need to spend a lot to have a good time.
How Can I Cut Down My Vacation Costs?
Go somewhere closer, drive instead of fly. Take red-eye flights instead of regular flights. Shop way ahead of time. Book Motel 6 instead of Holiday Inn.
Use Kayak, Orbitz, Travelocity, and so on to shop for best times and best deals, Hotwire for cheap flights and car rental and whatnot. Use Hotel.com and such to search for best hotel deals. Call the hotels and such to see if they can beat the online deals.
Bring brown bag food instead of buying airport or airline food (if allowed)
How Can I Reduce Entertainment Expenses But Still Have Fun?
Get Netflix streaming or DVD mailed to you instead of going to Cinema.
Get Hulu Plus subscription instead of cable TV (maybe).
Rent console games instead of buying them, or trade with friends. Pay for Gamefly membership instead of buying games (it's like Netflix for console games, games mailed to you)
Borrow books from the library instead of buying them. Get a Kindle or other eBook reader and join an ebook borrowing club.
Visit regular park instead of amusement park.
Look for special deal days (a lot of museums have at least one free day per month). See if any of your friends joined the "museum club" that entitles them to free tickets and can you have some.
How Can I Make My Boss Pay for More of My Business Expenses?
List your business expenses and see which ones the boss *should* be paying for, and see if you can get reimbursements or submit expense reports. Some ideas include: work miles driven, food and hotel while on the road, office supplies used at home for work, use of your personal computer at home for work, and so on
Make a list. If you don't list, you will never know. Your computer or smartphone should allow you to put in all the expenses. You can even take a picture of the receipt to tabulate later.
Tabulate all later in a personal finance manager like Quicken. There are free alternatives, like Mint.com, or AceMoney Lite.
Can I Cut Child Care Costs Without Harming the Child?
This is a tough one, and usually there isn't much that can be done about this, but look into other schools, tutors, tax credits, child care supplements (if your company offers such a thing), etc..
You can use the Internet to find all sorts of alternatives, and ratings on those alternatives.
Can I Cut Family Health Expenses Without Harming Their Health?
Can you change your health insurance plan to a cheaper carrier?
Can you raise the deductible to decrease the monthly premiums? Cancel some extra coverage for stuff you never use like chiropractic care, or acupuncture?
What is your company's policy on the other coveages, such as Worker's Comp?
Does your city have low-cost insurance plans you can join?
Use the Internet to find and compare insurance plans, deductibles, co-payments, and such.
Use the Internet to find ratings on doctors, specialists, and perhaps, even do a little research on what sort of questions to ask your doctor to make the most of your office visits.
If you must buy your own insurance, forming a corporation may allow you to get small business health insurance, which may be cheaper than buying an individual policy.
Can I Spend Less Shopping?
Shop more at discount or liquidation stores, maybe even warehouse stores like Costco, Big Lots!, and such stores.
Visit thrift stores and vintage clothing stores for clothing needs.
Look for local bargain clearances. Some areas have special clearance shops by major manufacturers that sells for a lot less, often as part of charity benefit.
Consider dollar stores instead of regular stores for your needs.
Shop more online. You can buy almost anything on Amazon.com nowadays, from cosmetics to auto parts.
Go to mall only very occasionally, and always set a budget before you go. Consider NOT taking kids to the mall, as the constant nagging may force you to spend more than you should.
Note your needs on a "need list", and use that to plan your shopping trips, along with online searches and Sunday ads. Do NOT yield to impulse buys. You can keep a list in most phones nowadays. Maybe even text it to yourself.
Use coupon websites to find coupons for items you actually want.
How Can I Lower My Commute Costs?
Public transportation is probably cheaper, but also takes quite a bit longer, and the problem gets worse the further out you go. However, it is also relatively low-stress.
Can you move closer to work? Can switching to a more efficient car help save money on the commute? There are online calculators that will help you determine which is more cost-effective.
Can you join a vanpool or carpool group? Maybe your HR department can help, or perhaps check online for commute groups. In San Francisco Bay Area there is 511.org which provide vanpool and carpool matches, in addition to public transit matching, traffic map, incident alerts, commute times, and more.
Does your employer have contributions for a commute fund? Some areas have special programs for employers, where their contributions are tax deductible.
Does your employer offer telecommuting? Even one day a week helps.
And for the ultimate leap of faith... Can you quit your job and start a business at home?
How Can I Save Money I Spent on My Car?
There is always oil change and car wash, but they may not be worth that much savings though. Oil change can be done in 15 minutes and $20-25. If you do it yourself, you need equipment, the oil and filter (together, about $10), and probably an hour of your time. Not that much of a bargain. As for car wash... Running it through one of those gas station tunnels is what? $10? How much material and time and equipment do you need to wash your own car? What's the breakeven point?
Never skimp on maintenance. In the long run, they delay or prevent costly repairs. Periodic inspection at a mechanic who will tell you what needs to be fixed when. Check oil and water every week or two.
Good tire inflation, good driving habits, no extra load in the trunk... those are fuel savers as well. Don't believe those gas pills or fuel saver devices.
What will actually save money is you finding the cheapest gas prices around using websites like GasBuddy.com
Extended Warranty are NOT savers though. In general, those are just a way to make money for the seller, almost pure profit.
If you live in the city... have you considered selling your car and join one of those car share programs such as City Car Share or ZIp Car?
How Can I Reduce My Home Upkeep Costs?
Study your records of major expenditures on your home. Are there consistent expenses like periodic maintenance on the central air, roof or sidings, etc.? Would it make sense to replace the item? Any rebates? Special offers?
If electricity or heating costs are a problem, are there any free insulation or rebates from local utilities? Such a rebate or such will be on their website.
Are there any incentive for going solar from local governments? What about water conservation? If you have a lawn and yard and plants, can you use more drought resistant plants? Utilities will often have tips or special offers on their website.
Do you need work done on your home? Always use the Internet to check out any contractors you think about hiring. The state or local regulatory agency would have information on all licensed contractors. You also need to be aware of your rights. In many states it is actually illegal for the contractor to collect full payment before completion of the job.
It is best to pick at least three candidates, and ask each of them come out to inspect your place and submit a bid, and pick the one that you are most comfortable with.
How Can I Pay Less In Debt?
Get on Lendingtree.com, shop for better credit cards.
Refinance your card if possible. Search on the Internet for true low-cost cards. Call up your card and see if they will reduce your interest rate.
Talk to a not-for-profit financial counseling service agency. They can tell you what to work on, and may even help you get on a payment plan to reduce your monthly payments. Find those on the Internet (just beware of the for-profit kind).
Can I Lower My Home Bills?
Combining bills, like the Comcast Triple Play (VOIP phone service, cable TV, and Internet), is one possibility. AT&T can do the same, and throw in wireless service in the bundle.
VOIP can lower the phone bill. Vonage, Oomo, even MagicJack will do the job.
Verizon, AT&T, and MetroPCS offers UNLIMITED wireless service for one fixed price a month.
With Internet service, a lot of people are forgoing cable altogether, and instead wiring their computer or a media box into their TV for a video network.
Heating and cooling can be helped by a better heater / AC and better insulation.
And there is always LowerMyBIlls.com
How Can I Pay Less Income Taxes Legally?
Forming a Corporation may help in some aspects, if you can prove a lot of expenses are a part of doing that business.
If you expect a lot of refund every year you are probably putting in too much every year as well, and thus you should lower your monthly withholdings.
If you keep better records throughout the year you may be able to claim more itemized deductions. Modern technology such as computer scanners means much easier record keeping. Items like NeatReceipts scanner will even scan and tally receipts for you.
A personal finance package like AceMoney Lite or even paid Quicken will help you track your money better. You can also use an online service like Mint.com
There are plenty of other things you can do to lower tax bill. A lot requires you to learn about the various tax credits and deductions. Please consult a tax professional.
How Can I Pay Less in Property Tax Legally?
Do your research first. If the prices in your area has dropped, and you are sure the prices on your home has dropped as well, you can petition your local county tax office for a reassessment. It is free.
Websites like Zillow will easily allow you to find house values near you.
How Can I Reduce My Cloths Cleaning Bill?
Using outside laundry service may be expensive. Spending a little time to iron / starch your own collars would be a good idea.
Woolite can take care of a lot of stuff you thought should go to a laundry. There are also "home dry cleaning" kits that you can use in the dryer.
A laundromat visit is much cheaper than using a wash-and-fold service.
Can I Cut Fees I Pay for Financial Service?
Look for no load mutual funds, flat-fee or discount brokers, and no-fee or minimal fee banks or credit unions.
There are sites that review banks and their different accounts and offers. Find them and use them.
Your existing bank or credit union may have better deals such as extra incentives, or better account packages, but you have to ask for them. If other banks have supposedly better offers, your bank probably has a matching offer as well.
Can I Lower My Mortgage Payment?
Refinancing, loan modification, trade-down to smaller house, whatever it takes.
Can I Lower My Insurance Payments?
Ask your insurance agent for more discounts. Multi-policy discount can be significant, (also called loyalty discount), but do shop around a bit. Multi-car policy would get a discount too. There are all sorts of discounts offered nowadays, like car alarm, Lojack (tm), hybrid vehicle, and more.
Websites like insweb.com and more compare and contrast insurance policies across multiple companies.
Can I Give Less Expensive Gift Without Being Stingy?
How's your sense of style? Look for stuff on sale, or even hand-make some stuff. Combine the two would be even better. Buy something cheap, use a bit of cheap material to customize and make it look much better.
Add a hand-made card would be even better.
eHow.com and similar websites detail how to do a lot of things yourself. Many are surprisingly easy.
Here are twenty tips from Money Magazine's Editor's, updated for modern times. I hope you save money and enjoy life.