- Personal Finance
Easily Save Some Money
Motivation: Beer and Tacos
I never met a dollar bill that I didn't like. The problem is, lately I haven't been meeting that many (well, I did make almost $3.00 on Hubpages this month. Can you say "goldmine"?). With that in mind, I decided to look at the money I already have and figure out a few ways to slow down the outgoing flow. I thought the five people or so who read my hubs might benefit from this information as well. Nothing too novel or original here; just a few strategies that are tried and true. Please feel free to chime in with comments if you have a favorite money saving technique that I've neglected to mention. Perhaps together, even in hard economic times such as these, we can save enough money to reach our common, ultimate goal: better beer and more tacos. Go forth and conquer, my penny-pinching fellow Americans. It's either this or we start another war.
Save Some Money!
Go Over The Bills
I know it can be hard to face the bills, but it has to be done. Take a good look at each one, and consider the best course of action. Can you get a better interest rate on your credit card? Does your cell provider offer a discount to employees of your company? Maybe your car insurance company offers a better rate if you take an online safety course. A well placed threat of switching to a competitor's service may convince one of your providers to offer a discount. If not, maybe actually switching is the thing to do; every time a contract runs out you have the chance to jump ship and grab a promotional deal (I'm thinking about my personal decision to switch from Verizon to Comcast. I hate Comcast with a passion, but my priority was to save money. When I can't take it anymore, I'll switch back and grab another promo rate).
Be clear with the rep on the other end of the phone. Don't be afraid to actually say the words, "This is too expensive for me. How can I save money here?". Spread this out over a couple of days. When you're done, at the very least you'll know where you stand. I wouldn't be surprised if you shave off at least a hundred dollars. Consider sending me a small gift with your newly saved money.
10 Money Saving, Tree Hugging Tips
This is an easy one: if you haven't figured it out yet, "green" isn't just for hippies anymore. You can save quite a bit of money while you do your part to save the planet. Here are ten energy and money saving tips:
- When it's hot, close the blinds to reflect heat from the sun. When it's cold, open them.
- Avoid using the oven when the AC is on.
- Use CFC bulbs instead of incandescents.
- Use insulating film on windows that are leaky.
- If you have radiator heat, put some foil behind any that are on cold, outside walls.
- Replace or clean your AC/furnace filters regularly.
- Install an insulating blanket around your water heater.
- Wash full loads of clothes and dishes.
- Install a low-flow shower head and check all your plumbing for leaks.
- Get a modern, programable thermostat.
Individually, these ideas might not amount to much. Together they can really add up to a lot of saved cash. And tacos.
No Car, No Problem!
The Mobile Money Pit
America has a love affair with cars. We seem to be insatiable consumers of these overpriced enviro-stompers. Even beyond the price of the vehicle itself, an owner still has to deal with fees, fuel, insurance and maintenance costs. If you can break away from the tradition of using your car as a status symbol, you can get the upper hand in this shell game and keep some money in your pocket.
If you don't have a car already, carefully consider your actual need for one. If you live in a city or just happen to be close to public transportation, you may be able to go without. Cars come in handy for most people at one time or another, but these days short term car rental companies like Zipcar and Hertz On Demand are present in most major metro areas. Renting two or even three times a month will still be cheaper than buying your own, which can mean a sizable amount of money saved. Beer. Tacos.
Even if you really need a full time vehicle, there are ways to save money on the deal. If you own a vehicle that is larger than you need, unload it and downgrade to a smaller one. As long as the vehicle has been reasonably maintained, you will see an immediate savings, especially on fuel. Once you have narrowed down to a few choices, give your insurance company a call and get estimates for each.
While we're on the topic of the insurance company, it might be worth shopping around for rates with the competition. I personally have USAA, and nobody I know can beat my rates or the service I get (they have membership guidelines that exclude a lot of people, but consider looking into this company, especially if you have been in the military or have a family member who served).If you decide to stay with your current company, talk to an agent about your situation; they may be able to offer discounts. For instance, if you have one car that is covered but not on the road currently, they may be able to change its status to "storage", resulting in a significant reduction in your premium (just don't start driving it again without telling your agent!).
When it comes to the car itself, a little elbow grease can go a long way. I was a mechanic for twelve years, and a fleet administrator for about three; I can assure you that at some point you have been ripped off on a car repair. Skip the Jiffy Lube appointment and do your own oil and filter changes. These jobs are fairly straight-forward, and once you get comfortable with this sort of task, it may actually save you time as well as money. Pick up a manual or get a mechanically inclined friend to walk you though this. With half a brain and very simple tools, you just knocked one more money grubber out of your life. Cha-ching. If all of this still sounds beyond your abilities, at a bare minimum maintain the air pressure in your tires. Properly inflated tires will give you better performance, better gas mileage, and last longer. A set of four bargain tires could easily cost you $400, so $.75 worth of air is probably a good investment. [Don't get the inflation info from the side of the tire; check your owner's manual for the car instead]
Other Money Saving Ideas
The ideas I mentioned above are what I consider to be my "heavy hitters", as far as their effectiveness as money savers. This list is less focused and smaller scale, but once again, if you employ enough of these you should see some reasonable savings.
At the grocery store:
- Pick one store that has most of your needs at the best prices.
- Make use of price matching policies.
- Buy the store brand when you can.
- Sign up for coupon mailings from companies like P&G.
- Check out local farmer's markets for dirt cheap produce.
At the bank:
- Opt out of the "overdraft protection" program; when the money runs out, stop spending!
- Make sure you have the right type of account for the balance you maintain.
- Avoid ATM fees by using your bank's locations; use the debit function of your bank card and sidestep this completely. Ever notice that once you break a twenty it just disappears? Stop carrying unnecessary money!
- Cook at home and make your own coffee. Even if you buy decent stuff (I occasionally buy awesome steaks, asparagus, and potatoes at Wegman's; it costs less than half what I would spend at Outback or some other crappy chain joint, and it's way better), you'll still save over a restaurant or Starbuck's.
- Use grocery store bags for trash bags whenever possible.
- Use a dishpan instead of running water constantly.
- Need a small appliance? Buy used and local. Check out thrift stores and Craigslist.
- Go to the public library for books and DVDs, or get a Netflix account. Try Gamefly for video games instead of spending $65 a pop on the newest Modern Warfare. If you're really dedicated, dump your cable company and get a Boxee, Roku, or Apple TV.
- If you must buy fast food (I try to avoid it, but let's be real. It McHappens), check out the dollar menu. I can feed a family of three people pretty well for about $10 at McDonald's including drinks, burgers, and fries. Not every meal needs to be a feast, either.