The following is a guest post by Holly Miller.
Finding ways to save more money—or any money—each month can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. And it’s raining. Hard. Fortunately, if you dig deeply enough into your expenses, you can probably find some “wiggle room” to pay yourself each month.
Lists are great tools. You not only know what your expenses are, you see them in front of you. Include the creditor, minimum payment amount and date due. Note whether it’s a recurring payment or a one-off amount. If a single payment will clear the expense, highlight that amount. You can use it later.
Note which expenses are “survival” level and which are “convenience” level expenses. Mark the convenience ones for further review.
In the Survival category, like food, utility bills and rent or mortgage entries, how can you further reduce those? Can you turn lights off more often? Use lower wattage bulbs? How about adjusting the room temperature a few degrees—up for summer and down for winter? That, alone, can save a few hundred per year. What about your water heater? Whether you have the familiar water tank or the newer on-demand heater, turn down the thermostat on that as well. Most people use hotter water than necessary to get clean. On special occasions, you can increase the water temperature for, say, a bubble bath in which you soak for an hour while reading a good book, but remember to adjust the temperature as soon as the tub is filled. First, however, use less cold water to make your bath warmer. If that doesn’t work, then adjust up and let it heat, then turn the temperature down before you fill the tub.
The food category often has the most room to maneuver. “Standard” suggestions include buying in bulk; buying generic brands of equal nutritional value and collect coupons and sales notices. Don’t fall for the “price guarantee” pitch, though. It’s a marketing gimmick based on product coding.
Can you use alternate transportation for work and running errands? Any gallon not used is several dollars saved, even allowing for monthly transit passes.
Also consider the space in which you live. Do you need all that space? Usually, smaller living spaces cost less per month in rent or mortgage payments, and they often incur lower utility bills—less space to light, heat or cool. Look at your windows. Are the windows covered during the day to reduce heating/cooling costs? Can you seal or line windows to reduce heat or cooling loss?
Once you find every possible reduction in your Survival entries, it’s time to really look at your other expenses.
Okay, look hard. Remember what your goal is: You want to pay yourself instead of others. Do you:
…really need that cable or satellite plan? What amount are you paying for it? Is there a less expensive version? For example, if you watch cable for the movies, and you won’t part with your home Internet service, consider canceling the cable and sign up for streaming movies that you download and watch. If you like the cable-only shows, check the network’s website. Many provide free viewing of older episodes. You may not see the same episode as your friends, but bolster yourself with the knowledge that you paid yourself that fee difference—and they didn’t.
…really need that land line AND your cell phone? Because most cell phone plans allow free local and long distance calls, a land line might be needed if family members without cell phones are at home. However, if you live alone or are on a family plan, a land line is redundant. Cancel the service and pay yourself that amount instead. Even if you have DSL through your now-old phone provider, you know longer need the phone service for Internet access.
Ditto that cable service up there.
Review your home owners, renters and car insurance. Can you combine coverage for a discounted rate? Can you change policy conditions and coverages, including increasing your deductible, for a lower total price? If so, pay yourself that difference.
And lastly, check your credit card spending. Keep a bit of cash on hand, but use your bank card and reduce your impulse buying.
Pay yourself all that money you are no longer spending. Feels good, doesn’t it?
This article was contributed by Holly Miller of Coupon Croc. It’s easy to set aside for your savings when you cut back on expenses, for example, you can use Virgin Media discount codes to save on your television service packages.