- Personal Finance
Money Saving Tips and Ideas
Create a Monthly Budget
The past two years have been financially difficult for most Americans due the worst economy this nation has seen since the Great Depression. Now, with the threat of a so-called "double-dip" recession looming and unemployment still hovering around 10%, people continue to tighten their belts and make (sometimes difficult) decisions about where and how to spend their hard earned money.
One of the first things a person should do, if he does not already done so, is to create monthly budget... and, stick to it. It's almost impossible to save money if one does not how much is coming in and going out every month.
There are two places online, that have already created templates for a monthly budget using Microsoft's Excel. They are:
These two places are a good place to start to get your monthly finances under control, and they are free.
Now, that you know how much money you have coming in and going out every month, and where it is going, you can start to take a closer look at your what your expenses really are. Some of them are probably pretty surprising. When I first started budgeting, I couldn't believe how wasteful I really was... vending machines, lottery tickets, impulse buys, magazines, snack foods, etc. You get the idea. Those things got cut immediately.
After I got rid of the wasteful spending, I took a look at necessary expenses and how I could trim them down. Of course, everyone is different and has different priorities. It's up to you to decide where and how you can make these adjustments. However, here a few of the things I did as an example:
- I shopped around and raised my deductibles for my car insurance, plus, I made sure I was not "over-insured". Most insurance companies have online quote tools... your company probably does too... check it out. Keep in mind, not all insurance companies use the same rating system when determining an individual's premium.
- I also shopped around for health insurance. I did so because, even though my employer offers it, I still pay the majority of the premium through payroll deduction, and quite frankly, it really is not that good of coverage. Additionally, I decided that if I were ever to leave my job, I would be stuck paying for over-inflated COBRA anyway if I wanted to continue my plan. Plus, most new employers have a 90 day probationary period before health insurance is available through them. I took an assessment of what I needed, and what I spent out-of-pocket including co-pays and deductibles. I then went to ehealthinsurance.com and catered a policy that was perfect for me... saving me over $1,500 a year in the process.
- I enjoy watching movies at home. I had all the premium cable channels... HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, etc. The only problem, they repeat a lot of the same movies... over and over. It didn't matter what day of the week it was, or what time of day, if I turned on HBO, the same program was playing that was on the last time I watched. Needless to say, I cancelled every premium channel I had and subscribed to Netflix for $8.99 a month. Not only do I get the latest films I want to watch mailed to me every month, but, I can also watch many older titles through streaming video on my tv whenever I want. Another $40 a month that stays in my pocket.
- The next thing I did was cancel my home phone service. I very rarely ever used it since I have a cell phone. This was a "no-brainer". Sprint has a couple a plans that are all inclusive when it comes to voice, text, picture mail, web access and so on. A savings of $30 a month!
- This one is obvious and takes a little planning and time, but is well worth the effort... clip coupons. Most local Sunday newspapers offer grocery coupons on many products. Addtionally, websites like coupons.com and coolsavings.com are a good place to look also. Time the usage of your grocery coupons with sales for more savings. If possible, shop at grocery stores that offer double-coupons (doubling of the manufacturer coupon).
- I also decided to eat out less. However, for the occasions I did like to visit my favorite restaurants around town, I used my Entertainment Book and took advantage of 50% savings or two-for-one deals. These books normally cost about $25 and become available every November. They can be found at many large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, or can be ordered at www.entertainment.com. One night on the town can easily pay for itself. If you use it, you will save hundreds of dollars a year.
- Another practice which will save money every month is to conserve energy. Turn off lights when no one is in a room. Buy a thermostat with a timer on it, so it stays comfortable only when you need it. Take shorter showers. Turn the water off when brushing your teeth. Hang laundry outside to dry. You get the idea here.
Again, the above examples are suggestions. You can take other steps that may be used for your particular circumstances. Good luck!