June 19, 2013 -- intro: We all want to save more money. After all, none of us like the feeling of looking at our bank account (or under our mattress) and realizing that we have no money left and our next paycheck is still a week away. By saving a few dollars here and there, we can get some breathing room in our monthly budgets and hopefully start saving up for future expenses, as well.
This article is for anyone who feels stretched financially. It will give you some ideas on how to save more money each month. Oh, and if you're actually keeping your money under your mattress please go sign up for a bank account! Keeping your money in a federally insured bank account is a whole lot safer than keeping it under your mattress. (You should also have a savings account set up, where you can earn interest as you save.)
Here are the first places you can look to shave some money off your monthly expenses.
quicklist: title: Your Phone Billtext:
For most of us, a phone bill is a non-negotiable expense. We need a phone in order to communicate with the outside world -- friends, parents, coworkers, service providers, etc. But a lot of people these days are paying more than they need to for phone service. If you have both a cellphone and a landline, it may be worth canceling the landline and directing all phone traffic to your cellphone. And speaking of the cellphone, ask the company if you can switch over to a less expensive plan. In particular, look into prepaid plans -- these do not require a contract and are sometimes cheaper than the regular plans. Do an Internet search for cheap prepaid plans and you'll get a lot of different options to compare.
quicklist: title: Insurance Policiestext:The vast majority of Americans have several different types of insurance. Car insurance, health insurance, renters insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance -- the list goes on! But are you getting a good deal on your insurance policies? Sometimes people don't realize that they may be paying for more insurance than they need. When you sign up for an insurance policy, you generally tell the provider information that can be used to get you a discount or lower rate. But sometimes this information goes ignored or misplaced. And sometimes your circumstances change.
Call your providers and see if there are lower rates available. For example, I recently talked to my auto insurance provider and realized that I had been paying more than necessary because the amount of miles I drive each year has decreased since I originally signed up for the policy.
quicklist: title: TV and Entertainmenttext:
Are you paying an exorbitant amount for cable television? I've had cable service in a few different cities and it almost always comes out to more than $80 per month -- sometimes much more than that. But if you're trying to save money, why not cut the cable? These days, you can get plenty of entertainment options online and with a Netflix account (around $8 per month) you can still watch quite a few TV shows and movies.
If you do decide to keep your cable, at least try to negotiate with the company to make sure you're getting the best rate. Often, they'll get you started on a discount rate and after a few months they'll raise it up, so you have to be vigilant.
quicklist: title: Debt Paymentstext:
At first glance, it may seem strange to list debt payments as one of your major budget items, but for many people today that is the case. With student loan debt increasing and credit card debt remaining high, the minimum monthly payments can be a big expense. To escape the debt trap, you will need to be resourceful and make a plan to pay off those debts. Start by focusing on the debt with the highest interest rate and pay as much as you can toward it each month.
If you have really high interest rates on your debt, look into doing a balance transfer or getting a debt consolidation loan to lock in a lower interest rate. For those with student loans, be sure to check out some of the many federal programs that can help you pay off student loan debt faster.
quicklist:title: Food Budgettext:
A little over a year ago, I looked at my budget and realized that food and groceries made up a big percentage of my monthly spending. So I began to find ways to reduce that number. The obvious first step is to refrain from buying meals at restaurants -- whether it is eating out at lunch every day or going out for dinner on the weekends. Those bills add up quickly.
Instead, make meal plans for the week ahead, buy the necessary ingredients at the grocery store, and get comfortable with some easy recipes that you can turn into two meals (dinner and the leftovers for lunch). Once you get in the habit of doing this, you'll find it gets easier and more fun. Plus, you'll be joining many others who are part of the "brown bag lunch" club.
One thing that all of these tips have in common is that they require you to prioritize saving money over other things in your life. This can be really hard to grapple with, especially when you feel like you have to give up something that you want. However, there are a few ways you can change your perspective to overcome the psychological challenge of saving money.
The most important is to confide in those close to you (your family and friends) that you are working to save money. They'll be able to help you and give you encouragement. Another thing that can help is to spend time focusing on all the things in your life you're grateful for. Sometimes appreciating the simplest things can help make it easier to make a few sacrifices for your budget.
Hopefully these ideas for saving money can help you gain more control of your finances and find ways to save more money. If you have additional tips, share them in the comments below.