If asked, most people could name a million and one ways to spend their money – a new car, a week long family vacation, investing in a new business, paying off debt, or pursuing a degree. However most people would probably struggle if asked to name ways to save money. But, the truth is, there are just as many ways to save (or make) money as there are ways to spend it. Creating a savings plan for your family can free up cash to put towards other wants and needs. Challenge yourself to slash 20%, 30%, or more from your family’s budget this year. After all who doesn’t love having “extra” money?! Start with these 8 practical tips to get your savings plan off on the right track.
1) Review Monthly Bill Statements – It is wise to regularly review your monthly bill statements from all of your service providers. Billing statement errors are common and can cause you many additional dollars per year in payments that may not be refunded. Check each statement thoroughly and review each product or service line carefully. Cancel any unused services or products and consolidate accounts when possible. Be sure to question any fees that you do not understand or recognize. Never assume that a particular fee is necessary.
When canceling services that are still under contract be sure to weigh any cancellation fees against the contract cost. If early enough in the contract, it is typically better to pay the cancellation fee. Do the math!
2) Customer Rewards Programs – Take advantage of any customer rewards program that you can. These programs have many great benefits including providing you with access to special VIP rates or sale prices and steep discounts on everyday items such as gasoline, clothing, or groceries. For example, I have a family member that typically fills her car with gasoline for under $1 (yes, that is correct!) just using gas rewards from Weis grocery store. Almost every chain store has some type of rewards program and signing up is as easy as completing a quick application. Grocery and retail stores are known for their rewards programs, but even specialty stores such as Toys R Us and Starbucks have them as well.
3) No “Convenient” Foods – I know it’s tempting. It’s a Wednesday night and you are exhausted from a long work day and carting the kids to and from practices and various social events. So you decide to stop at the closest fast food chain for dinner. It might be fast…but it sure won’t be cheap, especially if you’re feeding a large family. Not to mention that it’s also not the best for your health. Strive to become an excellent meal planner and take advantage of the weekly sales at the local grocery store.
4) Consider “Other” Accounts – So you’re ready to save some money. What’s the first thing you have to do?! Get a savings account right? Well, maybe. Savings accounts are a good way to store your money so that it accumulates but there could be better options depending upon your situation. Accounts such as money markets and CDs (certificate of deposit) may be a great alternative since they typically yield a higher interest rate than a standard savings account. Or invest in a tax free savings plans such as a 529 or a 401K or 403B These accounts help individuals with things like college tuition and retirement planning.
5) Buy in Bulk – This strategy won’t work for every family but buying in bulk could save hundreds from your annual budget. The idea is simple, purchase a higher volume of product and you pay a lower per unit price. In other words instead of 4 Macaroni N Cheese Cups for $1, purchase 8 cups and pay $1.50 saving $.50 cents off your items. Buying in bulk also requires less grocery store trips; although you will need to have more storage space for products in your home.
Families have been a driving force in the exponential growth of warehouse superstores such as Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club. And even stores like Walmart and Target are jumping in on the act opening super centers with grocery markets in numerous locations.
6) Price Shop – The practice of price shopping is powerful and can essentially lower your cost of living without sacrificing your quality of life. Price shopping is not accepting any price at first look. This does not mean to spend a week researching every $5 purchase but large purchases should be researched as thoroughly as possible. Whenever making new large purchases such as cars and homes be sure to research the item to be sure you are getting a good deal. Be open to negotiating and know your budget. Price shopping also works well with services such as phones, insurance, cable TV, and internet.
7) Attend Free Events – Why spend hundreds of dollars for a day out with the family when it’s not necessary? Ditch the pricey amusement park passes or memberships that rarely get used and instead look for free or low cost events that are family friendly. Locally, there are tons of options. Your family may enjoy listening to music and spending time with friends at an outdoor concert event when the weather is nice or try signing your child up for one of the neat children’s building workshops at Home Depot.
8) Maintain Your Home/Apartment – Maintaining your home properly is one of the best ways to protect your investment and save money down the line. Make sure your home is properly insulated and your windows are sealed tightly to save on electric. Change filters regularly and have appliances serviced when recommended. A bit of preventative maintenance now can help to avoid potential disasters such as fires or floods and save you tons in repair costs in the future.
There are opportunities to save money all around you if you encourage yourself to think out of the box. What tips would you add to this list?