12 ways to Save Money by the End of the Year

11 05 2010

1.     Toss that Gym Membership

Staying healthy is important but it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. The average gym membership fee can cost $400 per year, which averages $33 per month. The monthly fee may sound affordable, but when you factor in the other monthly expenses (mortgage/rent, food, childcare, car insurance, cable), it could be something you CAN do without. There are plenty of exercises that can be done at home without ever stepping foot in the gym. Your neighborhood park is a great place to walk/jog. Some parks even have fitness areas for free(!) Our neighborhood park has a track and pool – both are free(!)  Different websites offer weight-free workouts like the “Crossfit”. In addition, do not dismiss using the stairs over an elevator. This one switch will give you a workout. Be sure to include your spouse and children for a bike ride/walk after dinner. Start a walking group at work and hit the pavement during your lunch break. The possibilities are endless because you’ll keep yourself in shape physically while nurturing relationships as you spend time together. Think of that $400 savings at the end of the year as your emergency fund. Every year you ditch that gym membership adds valuble money to your rainy day fund.

2.     Make your Coffee at Home

The average person will spend $1.70 on their morning coffee. That ends up costing Americans $612 (or $50 per month) at the end of the year. The money spent on coffee can fund your Roth IRA, 401(k) or even pay down debt! What if, instead, you sock the money you would normally spend on coffee into a jar?  You’ll have a nice little vacation fund by the 13th month paid for in cash!

3.     DIY – . . . Nails and Toes

How much is the average manicure and pedicure? A typical manicure can run $10 and $20 for both manicure and pedicure. Depending on how often you visit the salon will determine your total monthly expense. For calculating purposes, let’s assume you have a manicure and pedicure bi-weekly. That’s $40 per month (not including a tip)! This expense can definitely be scaled down to a once-a-month visit OR spend $2 for a bottle of polish and host a “Girls Night” and paint away!

4.     Pack Your Lunch!

This may sound easy enough to do but surprisingly many buy lunch each day. I believe it has a lot to do with the actual prepping and packing of the lunch. It can be tedious, but if you can save $8 per day you can keep $480 per year in your savings account!  I’d rather make my own sandwich, thank you!

5.     Time to Make the Donuts: Carpool/Public Transportation.

Thank heavens for the Transit/Flex Spending Account (TSA/FSA). What is a TSA/FSA? You have the option of electing to deduct a specified amount from your paycheck each pay-period on a pre-tax basis to pay for your parking and/or transportation costs. Resulting in a tax savings of $230 a month in transit and parking expenses. The savings would not stop there if you choose to carpool. Your gas money and car mileage (additionally, minimizing any wear and tear to your car) would cut in half.

6.     Take Out Less and Eat In More.

Really, how is that Friday night Chinese food? You probably spent $13.95 on a dinner combo, which included an eggroll, entree, rice and if your choice of restaurant is generous, they included a free(!) can of soda. If you do the math, you’re spending $669.60 per year on Chinese food (assuming you’re ordering each Friday). Take Out isn’t looking so fabulous is it?

7.     Shop around for Cable Plans.

Cable companies dominate American households with their bundle packages. Let’s be honest though, these “packages” aren’t necessarily “worth” it. Compare cable packages by the channels offered. If you can live without certain channels you should drop that cable plan. Also, investigate their phone service. We operate a cellphone only household, saving us $20 per month which would have been spent on landline phone service or $220 per year. Most importantly, take advantage of their promotion deals. At one point we were paying $75 per month on basic cable and internet service. That promotion ended and our bill raised up to $92 per month. The cable company would not lock me into another promotion so I dropped them. A competitor gave us the same service for $62 per month! Not only are we saving that new found $30 per month, but this company will renew our promotional rate each year – hassle free(!)

8.     Can You Hear Me? Comparison Shop Cellphone Plans.

Everyone wants more bang for their buck. In this case, we want more minutes/messages. Ask around what others are paying for their cellphone service. Decide which services are used most frequent and shop from there.  For us the anytime minutes were not as important as the unlimited nights and weekends were.  Ask the service provider if they offer discounts for military members. Your own employer may offer a discount as well (which I just found out!). We currently pay $75 per month while a friend, with a similar plan, pays $93 per month with another carrier.

9.     Use Coupons.

I love using coupons. Love love love them. I have two rules though. (1) Use coupons on items you will use or (2) use coupons towards items that will become free(!) or close to free(!) with that coupon (I always donate these purchases). On average, I save $15 (or 12%) each shopping trip with coupons. Coupon cutting and sorting can be time consuming but it’s worth it to me to save that $15 (the coupon savings vary depending on what I’m purchasing). Ask yourself this: Why pay full price when you can use a coupon? Many grocery stores even DOUBLE manufacturer coupons. So be on the lookout for coupons in the mail and online. Also, coupons aren’t just limited to the grocery store (or Commissary). There are coupons for theme parks, automotive stores, outlet malls, fast food chains and restaurants.

Red White Blue Tip – commissaries overseas accept expired coupons up to 6 months!

10.     Be content with what you have

Shopping less often will lead you to your savings goal. I promise. When you live with less tangible items you notice just how much you already have. I do not miss the Saturday shopping-sprees at the mall. When you think of it, how many jeans does one person need? Or kitchen gadgets?  Willpower to have financial independence has prevented any wreckless spending on our part. I’m content with the things I have because I know where it’s taking us – to financial independence.

11.     Broke-Book Mountain – Use Your Library.

If the last time you have stepped foot in a library was in grade school, you’re not taking advantage of what it has to offer! The shelves are always stocked with new releases and the latest magazines. I have even seen free(!) computer learning classes at one New York city branch. The average book at the major bookstores will cost $18. If you’re an avid reader like myself, you can spend a ton of money buying books. For simplification, let’s assume you buy a book once a month, that equals $216 that can be saved by Year-End.

12.     Use Cash, It Hurts.

Would you say it is easy to fork over a $50 bill? Probably not. Or even the last $10 bill that sits pretty in your wallet? Also, probably not. Using cash hurts because once you hand it to the cashier, it’s gone. Bye-bye money. It is easy to be emotionally detached from your money when you use credit. That “fantastic plastic” doesn’t tug on your heart strings the way cash does because you do not initially see what you have spent. With cash, if you had five $20 bills and spent three, you’re left with two $20s. Instant realization. It is easy to rack up items with one quick swipe of your card, but I suggest you use cash. Set a certain amount and only spend that much. If you have not spent the allotted amount, perfect! That remainder should go back into savings!

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