BOSTON (CBS) – I Googled “Ways to Save” and found 364 million articles. More than I could possibly read or want to read. All of the major money websites had articles. AARP and even Triple A. So I started to plow through them.
I found an intriguing website, Dumb Little Man: Tips For Life with an article, “30 Easy Ways to Save Money.” I thought they were all good. So here they are with some embellishments from me:
Cook at home often: May be difficult if there are just two of you but plan to cook over the weekend and just reheat during the week
Make your own coffee: Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts now come in K-cups. No excuse for not drinking more home brewed coffee.
Brown bag lunch, at least a few days a week: Lunch times are great opportunities to network and make connections that could improve your career growth.
Make a list before going shopping: They call it impulse buying for a reason. Humans simply have a very tough time resisting the temptation to purchase extras while shopping. Without a list you will buy items that you simply do not need. Even worse is when you forget to purchase the actual item you came to the store for in the first place. If you plan on cooking at home, pre-plan a rough menu and make a list before you go grocery shopping. Getting all that you need in one trip can help avoid another unnecessary trip and temptation.
Go grocery shopping while you are in a hurry: Maybe you need to go out in a couple of hours. Or your favorite show is going to be on TV after a couple of hours. Try to squeeze in the grocery trip in that intermediate time. Armed with your grocery list, you should be in-and-out very quickly with little time for meandering and getting tempted to buy things you don’t need.
Watch out for expiration dates on perishable goods: This one seems intuitive when you read it, but I am surprised at how many people do not pay attention to expiry dates. No point getting a gallon of milk if it is going to turn sour with a couple of days. Same goes for meat, eggs, yogurt, spreads, frozen items, deli/bakery items etc. Some people say you can use a few items a few days after expiry – but I personally value my health more than money and would rather avoid buying such items in the first place.
Buy in bulk whenever possible: When it comes to non-perishable items, buy in bulk whenever you find something on sale. The items I usually stock up on are, cereals, canned goods, rice, beans, pasta, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, toilet paper, etc.
Buy generic products whenever possible: Does it really matter whether your cereal is made by Kellogg’s or is the store brand?
Consolidate and pay off debt as soon as possible: If you carry any debt, focus on consolidating it to a lower interest and paying it off as soon as possible. Money paid in interest is money thrown away! Why spend your hard-earned cash to make the financial institutions rich?
Pay your bills on time and avoid late fees: Get organized about your regular bills. If possible, automate the payments. Most utilities and other recurring bills can be set to be charged to a credit card or deducted from a checking account these days. Also, many banks offer free bill pay programs. So there really is no excuse for forgetting to pay a bill on time and forking out the late fees. Say, by chance you do forget a bill, if you are a first time offender, call the company and request politely to waive the late fees, and more likely than not, they will oblige.
Be aware of your bank balance and avoid over draft fees: If you use your checking account often or have some bills that are paid automatically from your checking account, be aware of the balance and avoid overdraft fees.
Avoid ATM fees: Be aware of the ATM withdrawal fees charged by your bank. While some banks waive fees for all ATM transactions on any ATM machine, most don’t. So be sure to use only those ATM machines where your bank will not charge the fees, or withdraw directly at your bank.
Avoid credit cards with annual fee: Credit cards with their cash back bonuses and reward points are a great way to save some money. Just make sure that the card does not charge you any annual fees! There is no dearth of cards that offer fee-free reward plans, so there really is no reason to pay the annual fees.
Disconnect land line if possible: Unless you have small kids in the house or older people to take care of, it is more than likely that you will be able to survive with only the mobile phones and can get rid of the land line. We have survived without any problems for over 4 years now without a land line. Our Internet comes via cable.
Instead of buying books, borrow books from the library: Whenever possible, borrow your books instead of buying them. The card to your public library is free and the libraries are generally well stocked. In my city, the chain of public libraries is connected and the available books can be checked online. If there is some book that I cannot find in my local branch, I can make a request online for it to be brought in from one of the other branches to mine which is very convenient.
If you have to buy books, check if you can buy it used: Used books do not quite give the same feeling as leafing through the crisp pages of a brand new book. But considering that you can get used books for almost as much as half the price of a new book, it is a small price to pay.
Price check before buying anything expensive: For other items that are expensive, do a price check before buying the item. If you can wait for a while you can track the prices and grab a great deal when it comes along. Frequently available online coupons make it even easier to save some money. This is especially true while purchasing any electronics.
Avoid impulse buying: Make it a habit to avoid impulse buying. Many of the things you want to buy do not seem all that necessary if you only you wait for a day or two. Also, waiting means you will be able to check prices and make an informed decision to buy it at the best possible price.
Bottle your own water: Drinking water is good for your health. Bottled water is the most convenient since it can provide protection against accidental spills. That said, buy bottled water only once in a while, and then reuse that bottle to fill your own water. If you are not happy with tap water, invest in a Brita Filter – in the long run it can save a lot of money.
Avoid vending machines: Almost everything that is dispensed via vending machines has a huge markup (and is rarely healthy). However, if you suffer from snack attacks at work, consider creating a secret stash of snacks. If you like drinking soda and have a fridge at the workplace use it.
Keep your car as long as possible: When possible, try to keep your car as long as possible. Find the balance between the money spent on repairs versus the monthly installment on another vehicle and choose to run your old car as long as the repair costs are low.
Do regular scheduled maintenance on your vehicles: Do not skimp on or forget to do regular oil changes. Remember to check the air in your tires often. And use the grade of fuel that the owner’s manual recommends. These small acts can significantly lengthen the life of your car giving you years of use.
Avoid buying a new car: When you eventually buy a car, see if you can make do with a pre-owned vehicle. A new car depreciates significantly the moment you drive it out the dealership. Is the new car smell really worth thousands of dollars? Pre-owned cars that are only a few years old with low mileage are the best bargains. Regardless of the purchase, learn to negotiate with car dealers.
Ride your bike or carpool whenever possible: In many of the cities in the U.S. it is hard to get by without a car. That said, just because you have a car does not mean you have to use it every day. Whenever possible, ride your bike or share a ride with a colleague or spouse and save both on gas and reduce the environmental footprint.
If you watch a lot of DVDs, get an online DVD store membership: Membership to online movie stores like Netflix or Blockbuster Online can save you a lot of money compared to buying DVDs or renting it from a local store. You need to wait once you order the movie, but if you watch a lot of movies at home then you can easily get into the habit of ordering ahead of time so you always have something available. If you are patient and your library has the resources, check to see if they have a movie section. You won’t get anything very new, but they are free.
If you like watching movies at the theater go to a matinee: It’s cheaper, or ask for a senior discount.
Regulate your electric use: When not in use, unplug electric appliances. Apparently, unplugging the TV instead of just switching it off can save a lot of electricity! When not in a room, switch off the lights and the fan. Use a programmable thermostat to control your A/C and heater usage.
Plan vacations ahead of time: Vacations are a necessary part of saving our sanity in the busy lives that we lead, but vacations are also a huge drain on the family finances. You can cut the cost of a vacation significantly by planning and booking ahead of time. Bookmark travel sites for finding inexpensive airfare, hotel etc., and book at least two weeks in advance.
Finally, keep distance from lavish, high-roller friends: If you have lavish friends who buy a new car every other year (or worse still, lease it), have large screen TVs and every other conceivable electronic gadget, eat out at fancy restaurants every other night and just live way beyond their means, keep the distance. They may be nice people and mean you no harm, but hanging out with such people often can lead to a lot of unnecessary desires and discontent.