15 Ways to Save Money in the New Year
Americans rang in the New Year with increased optimism about what the future holds, but many are still treading cautiously when it comes to their finances. Given the ongoing recession facing the nation, it’s no surprise that the third most popular New Year’s resolution, according to a survey by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York, was to save more money.
Cooking meals at home with your family saves money and can be fun too! Plus, you’ll stay healthier in the New Year.
Many have already begun to scale back, with 55 percent of respondents to a USA TODAY/Gallup poll saying they’ve cut household spending because of lower prices in the stock market and fears about the economy. Already:
- 63 percent said they cut back on travel for the holidays
- 81 percent have cut back on eating out at restaurants
- 72 percent have cut back on entertainment such as going to the movies
- 37 percent have cut back on household services such as housekeeping or lawn service
Still, families are still looking for creative ways to save even more money, without feeling like they’re sacrificing their standard of living. Here we’ve compiled 15 such tips that can help you to save money and feel more financially secure in the New Year.
- Prepare More Food at Home. WSL Strategic Retail found that cutting back on dining out is the number one or two money-saving move for Americans, and it’s a smart one. You’d be amazed at how quickly your workday eat-out lunches add up. Add to that take-out dinners and you’d stand to save easily $100 or more a month by preparing your meals at home instead.
- Be Savvy When You do Eat Out. Cut back on the expenses of eating out by sharing an entrée or having the waiter box half of it up for you. This way you get two meals for the price of one (and you save yourself from overeating as well).
- Make Your Money Work for You. Rather than putting your savings into a regular bank savings account (which typically pay yields of 0.2 to 0.5 percent), put a portion of it in a money market account with .75% to 1.65% yields. (If you want to make potentially more than that, consider stocks, mutual funds or other forms of investments also.)
- Sell Your Stuff. EBay CEO John Donahoe estimates that the average American has $3,200 worth of “stuff” at home that they could sell to get some extra cash. Whether you use eBay, another online auction site or a good old-fashioned garage sale, selling your “stuff” will also help you to stay organized around the home.
- Know What You Already Have. Take an inventory of your closets, kitchen cabinets and pantry. Avoid buying new items that you already have and resolve to make do with what you have around the house. Knowing what’s in your pantry also makes it easier to plan a meal-at-home, fast.
- Entertain Your Family on a Budget. Renting movies and making popcorn at home is infinitely cheaper than going out to the movies. Likewise, with a bit of creativity you can discover free or low-cost entertainment options in your area (such as free concerts or movies in a local park, free days for museums, nature preserves, beaches and festivals) that are just as much fun as more expensive options. And remember to take advantage of your local library as well. Libraries offer a wealth of entertainment that’s available to you at no cost (other than your tax dollars, of course).
- Know What to Buy Used. Often, you can save a pretty penny by being savvy about used items. Cars are almost always a better deal when they’re used (they depreciate in value about 15-20 percent each year), as are items for kids, CDs, DVDs, office furniture, and jewelry.
- Reassess Your Fixed Monthly Bills. They may not be as “fixed” as you think. Phone, cable and insurance companies are always changing their rates to stay competitive. Every six months or so, shop around to see if a lower rate is available, or at least call the phone/cable company you currently use and tell them you want the same introductory special that they’re giving to new customers.
- Resist Impulse Buys at the Grocery Store. Grocery stores purposely set up enticing displays of expensive cookies, crackers and other packaged foods hoping to coax you into buying something on a whim. Making a list and sticking to it will help you to avoid such impulse buys. And always remember grocery shopping tip #1: Don’t shop hungry!
- Keep Your Veggies Fresher, Longer. How much money do you waste by throwing away produce that has gone bad? Only you know for sure, but there is a way to stock your fridge with healthy fresh produce while minimizing the waste: The MiniMate Refrigerator Unitt. The MiniMate is an evolution of that old box of baking soda you probably have in your refrigerator. Using FDA-approved activated oxygen technology, the Minimate can eliminate most of the germs or mold that may be living on your foods without harming the food or leaving behind any residue.
This is important as these molds and bacteria can make you and your family sick, and they can also spoil food before you have a chance to eat it. This is especially true with organic foods, since there are no preservatives to help ward off the germs.
So the MiniMate not only keeps your food safer and healthier, it also saves you money by cutting down on the amount of food you have to throw out and replace. It easily extends the freshness and life of many foods by three to four times.
The MiniMate even helps to break down pesticides and chemicals on your produce, leaving no residue except clean, fresh oxygen!
You can save a hefty amount of money just by renting a movie — as opposed to going out to one — over the weekend.
- Ask for the Best Price. When it comes to booking a hotel room, renting a car or even renewing a magazine subscription, always ask for a better price. You’ll be surprised that a better price will usually be offered.
- Watch Your Medical Bills Closely for Errors. Bills from hospitals, physicians and other medical services are rife with errors, and they are usually not in your favor. Watching them closely is the only way to protect yourself from the erroneous charges.
- Use Coupons & Certificates, Especially for Larger Purchases. After 15 years of decline, coupon use is increasing, according to the Promotion Marketing Association’s Coupon Council. If you are in the market for home services such as having your air ducts cleaned, getting new siding, or major repairs to your car, coupons from reputable businesses who want to earn your long-term business are a surefire way to save big money. Check the following sources for such coupons:
- Local phonebook, which will likely have coupons for the services
- Online, as there are often special deals posted online that are not available elsewhere
- Home coupon mailer packets
- Entertainment fundraising books (you pay a fee for the book, which is filled with coupons … make sure you’ll use the offers before buying!)
- Lower Your Credit Card Percentage Rate. This one may surprise many people: if you want to save a significant amount of money over time on credit card interest, you can simply call your credit card company and demand a lower interest rate.
That is a step in the right direction, but that still doesn’t guarantee that you are getting the lowest rate around. Here’s how to be sure you do:
- Call various credit companies and see what rates they are offering. Even if your credit rating is not great, chances are very high you can find a better rate. Collecting interest on your purchases is easy money for the banks, so trust us, they WANT your business.
- Then, contact your existing credit card banks and tell them what the competing banks are offering you. Often they are very willing to lower their rates to equal or even slightly better rates to retain your business.
- You can also roll your balances over to credit cards offering special low introductory rates until you pay off your balance (but be careful to read the fine print and watch for rate increases after the introductory period has expired).
- Get Back to the Basics on Home Cleaning Products. Commercial cleaning supplies are expensive (not to mention almost always toxic). This year, opt for natural, and inexpensive, natural cleaning supplies like lemons, baking soda and vinegar.