While the economy has improved over the last few years, the job market is still shaky and money has been tight for almost everyone. Effective budgeting and some money saving tricks can make all the difference to someone looking to get by in tough times. Here we will explore some conventional and some not-so-conventional ways to save a little extra cash in the New Year.
Cancel that cable or satellite subscription :
Cable and satellite subscriptions can be one of the most costly monthly bills many people pay. Even basic packages can cost between $50-$100 per month.
What to do?
If you want to watch in a timelier manner, sites like Hulu allow you to watch a limited number of current episodes for free, or as many as you want for $8 a month as well.
Potential savings: $40-$90 per month
Drop that phone bill :
Another expensive monthly subscription that many people pay dearly for is their phone service. Services can cost between $50 and $100 depending on the number of minutes and data you want. Prepaid phone cards make phone services incredibly inexpensive. Let's look at it this way:
Say you talk on the phone for two hours per week. With a traditional plan, you could pay $100 a month for this. With prepaid cards at a rate of four cents per minute, this would cost less than $20 a month. Those numbers speak for themselves.
Potential savings: $40-$80 per month
Carpooling or Public Transportation :
Gasoline prices have risen sharply in the past few years and were not particularly low to begin with. The average American pays $1800 a year for gas alone, or around $150 a month. Carpooling can cut this number in half, and public transportation can cut it by a fifth.
Potential savings: $75-$120 per month
Energy Efficient Homes :
Electric and gas bills can jump dramatically during the summer and winter months. By adding insulation, keeping the thermostat at a moderate level, and keeping your water heater a little lower, you can trim your bill considerably depending on the size of your house and many other factors.
Potential savings: $20-$100 per month
Switch From a Bank to a Credit Union :
This is one area that many people never think about, but many large banks charge fees for everything you do. You are charged to withdraw your money from an ATM, charged for online services, charged every month for having a checking account in the first place.
Many credit unions have zero charges. In fact, some will reimburse you for ATM withdraw fees. Depending on how much you are dinged each month, this can add up to quite a bit of cash.
Potential savings: $10-$30 per month
Shop at Thrift Stores :
Clothing can be a major expense. A wardrobe full of clothes can cost several hundred dollars. Even less expensive jeans cost around $40 a pair. Stores like Goodwill or other thrift stores can offer good clothing at a fraction of the price.
Potential savings: $100+ per shopping trip
Save Up and Use Cash :
Going into debt is always a budget killer. Monthly payments and interest drain paychecks more than any single item, so always save cash for new purchases and put those credit cards away.
Potential savings: Virtually unlimited
Shop Online :
Sites like eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist can yield the same products for much cheaper than retail, often with no sales tax and free shipping.
Potential savings: 10%-50% off of retail prices
Research tax credits
With the economy in a rough patch, the government has made available many new tax credits and incentives that you may qualify for. Make use of good tax software or even a professional to help glean a higher tax rebate.
Potential savings: Depends; Can be up to several thousand dollars
Buy in Bulk and Cook at Home
Eating out is always more costly. Cooking at home can be fun for the family and lighter on the wallet. Most importantly, it is much healthier!
Potential savings: Depends, but eating out for four can cost up to $50 a meal; $50 of groceries can usually last a four person family at least three days.
In summary, it is easy to see that with a little preparation and work, a money-savvy individual can shave thousands off of his or her expenses every year with virtually no sacrifice in quality of life.
Author Mary Stewart works in the telecommunications industry and writes for NobelCom, the pioneer of online prepaid phone cards and a variety of other services such as international phone cards.