Everyone could use a little extra change in their pocket. If you look back at my posts on building a better budget or striking out on your own, you’ll know you need to trim down your expenses so you can fit them into the big buckets.
The first thing you should look at doing whenever you’re building a budget and trying to save money is figuring out how to spend less. Regardless of how much money you make, if you are spending too much, you will continue to struggle with financial solvency. You can begin to more appropriately control your finances when you have control over your spending.
So let’s take a look at some actions you can take today to start trimming down your budget!
1. Stop Paying Late Fees
This one is really the easiest one on the list. Stop paying for anything later than it’s due! It may not seem like a lot, but those $3.50 late fees on a utility bill or $35 credit card late fees add up to significant savings in the long run. Let’s put a conservative estimate around $10/month of savings. Setting up autopay will take care of these issues for you.
2. Stop Paying Transaction Fees on Bills
Just like the first option, paying transaction fees on bills is a small but significant addition. Using a credit card to pay for your electric bill typically costs an additional $3-$4, and the same goes for gas, water, and car payments. Set up bill pay with direct payments from a bank account to save money. For your electric bill, see if you’re eligible for Arcadia Power or a similar service, that allows you to pay with a credit card without the transaction fee. Estimated savings: $10/month.
3. Pay Off Your Credit Card
This one may be difficult if you have a large amount on the card. However, if you have enough available cash, you can pay it down so that the card sits at a zero dollar balance whenever interest is charged. This way, you won’t be charged interest on your purchases. Minimum estimated savings: $35/month.
4. Do a Budget Cleanse
No, this does not mean do a cheap version of the Atkins diet or something. Cleanse your budget of parasites. Go through your bank account and look to see if there are any random charges that you’re not using. For instance, I’ve looked through my bank account and found a weekly recurring charge for $2.99 to iTunes, and a monthly charge of $39.95 to a subscription box site that I never use. Estimated savings for you: $25/month.
5. Cut the Cord
Get rid of cable. Or switch to a different provider. The various cable cutting options are still somewhat costly, but you have a lot more variability and can select whatever you truly want to watch. Try for something like Sling, Hulu, or Youtube TV. With the appropriate package, you’ll save significantly over your cable provider, and you can cancel them with much more flexibility. Estimated savings: $20/month.
6. Stop Overpaying on Gas
Gas prices fluctuate so wildly, it’s hard to tell if you’re getting the best deal. Get an app like GasBuddy or GetUpside to let you know the price of gas near you. I’ll take a look and see the stations along my route to or from work and plan accordingly. As long as you’re not going too far out of your way, it helps you find cheaper options. You can save up to $.10 a gallon sometimes. Estimated savings: $10/month.
7. Switch Cell Phone Providers
I get that there’s a lot of hassle involved with this process sometimes, but man is it a great option. As long as you know the service will be as good as you need it, this is one of the most appealing options. Because these providers are trying so hard to gain and control market shares, they will offer you some great discounts over your current provider and typically will buy out your previous phone plan. A great bonus is that you have a good shot at getting a brand new phone for free. Estimated savings: $15/month.
8. Lower Your Hot Water Heater’s Temperature
If you stuck your hand in a bucket of water, would you be able to tell me if it was 150 degrees or 155 degrees? I’m going to guess not (although scientifically speaking, it has been proven that humans can detect temperature shifts of roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit, but that’s beside the point). It’s just going to feel hot. Now, each degree is extra energy you’re paying for. If you lower the temperature of your hot water heater a few degrees, you’ll be saving passively without knowing it. Estimated savings: $5/month.
9. Get Rid of Phantom Power Suckers
This is especially great if you’re also trying to go green and save energy. Every device that you leave plugged in consumes a minute amount of energy. Not much, mind you, but enough to make a difference over time. Think about all the devices you currently have plugged in at home, even though they’re turned off. Coffee machine, multiple televisions, power strips, phone chargers, etc. If you install power strips that make it easy to cut power to multiple devices, you’ll save some money. Estimated savings: $2/month.
10. Go Outside
Going outside offers so many benefits, even though they’re hard to quantify financially. First of all, it’s healthy for you. Second of all, it gives you free activities (going for a walk, playing sports, sightseeing, etc). You won’t even be watching television during these times, which saves your electricity. Finally, it allows you to set your air conditioning to a more natural temperature while you’re away. It’s hard to get a range on what you might save with this action, but it’s substantial.
11. Move the Thermostat
Ideally, your thermostat should be set above 78 degrees in the summer and below 72 degrees in the winter. Realistically, we all have our preferences. If you prefer it at 72 year round, that’s your prerogative. However, just a degree or two in the direction of the temperature outside, and you will still see noticeable savings. Estimated savings: $10/month.
12. Install a Smart Thermostat
Even better would be installing a Smart Thermostat in your house. With a little upfront investment, you can put a piece in place that will automatically adjust the temperature in your house day and night. You can adjust it from your phone to turn the air down when you’re away, and let it rise naturally back up to your preferred temperature right before you get home. Estimated savings: $25/month.
13. Use Coupons
Clipping coupons is the new trend sweeping the nation. Except that people have been doing it for as long as there have been coupons. Coupons are great, because you can find so many that will give you discounts on things you’re already planning on buying. Depending on how diligent you are, you can amass some pretty substantial savings. Estimated savings: $50/month.
14. Buy Ugly Food
Did you know that a large percentage of food that is healthy to eat is thrown out because it looks abnormal? Potatoes, apples, bananas, bread, and much more go to waste due to discolorations, deformities, and similar issues. There are services that will ship you your own selection of ugly food for a substantial discount. Estimated savings: $50/month.
15. Buy in Bulk
If you know you’re going to use something and it doesn’t go bad, it always makes more financial sense to buy it in bulk for the volume discount. Now, this can be difficult for people on very limited budgets, but if you can afford it, it will save you money the next time you go shopping. Be warned, though, some retailers price their bulk items even higher per unit to trick the savvy shopper, so always read price labels. Estimated savings: $25/month.
16. Meal Plan
Plan out your meals for your week. That way, you can buy only the things you need. If you combine this effort with buying in bulk and buying ugly food, you can get some amazingly discounted meals. But don’t waste money on food you don’t end up eating. Estimated savings: $40/month.
17. Don’t Be Shy
This one involves a bit more effort on your part. Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price or call a customer service agent to get a refund on something. There are large sums of money that people never get returned to them because they failed to report a faulty product or an item that they didn’t like. Another example of this is when people fail to ask for a refund for services they haven’t used in a period of time. Estimated savings: $25/month.
18. Get a Hobby
Having a hobby serves a two-fold purpose. It gives you an activity to do without spending too much money, and it also gives you a way to gift others. If you take up a hobby in woodworking or baking or something similar, you can make personalized gifts for holidays to save yourself money. Estimated savings: $25/month.
19. Swap Your Car
You can trade in a car on which you’re paying an expensive lease or payment and get one that has no payment. Additionally, you can trade in for a vehicle with significantly better gas mileage. Estimated savings: $30/month – potentially significantly more.
20. Consolidate Your Debt
This last one is one of the more involved items on the list. You can find a loan or zero interest balance transfer card to put all of your debt in one place and pay it off at a lower rate. This saves you money and gets you out of debt faster. Estimated savings: $50/month.
With these action items, you have a potential to save over $450 a month from your budget, all without changing your lifestyle or giving up items that you care about. Depending on where you’re at financially, you could save significantly more than that. That alone could get you into proper balance with the 50/30/20 rule. Don’t waste anymore time, make these money moves and start saving today!