Saving money sounds easy enough – simply spend less. Yet, finding areas to actually save can be a challenge. If you’re looking for ways to make the most of your hard-earned dollars, these eight ideas are a good place to start:
1. Review your federal income tax withholding. Make sure that your federal withholding is appropriate for your income and family size. If you’re paying in too little throughout the year, you may owe money at tax time. On the flip side, having too much money withheld from every paycheck means that Uncle Sam gets to put your money to work throughout the year instead of you. Regardless, it’s important to make sure you’re saving throughout the year to manage this expense.
2. Lower your insurance rates. The next time your auto and home insurance policies are up for renewal, shop around to see if you can replace your coverage for less. The savings could be substantial.
3. Refinance your mortgage. Typically, it makes sense to refinance if you can lower your interest rate by at least two percentage points and plan to stay in your home long enough to realize a savings after you factor in closing costs. Keep in mind a large percentage of the payment in the early years pays off the interest on the loan, not the principal. So, if you’ve had the mortgage for a while, refinancing may not be your best bet. An online calculator or a reputable mortgage professional can help you decide.
4. Take the bus or carpool. The cost of gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, tolls and paid parking can add up quickly. If you usually make the daily commute in your vehicle alone, price out the public transportation options in your area. Typically, it’s significantly less expensive than driving. Or consider starting a carpool so that you can share expenses.
5. Consider signing up for a health savings account (HSA) next time open enrollment comes around. If you don’t need a higher level of coverage, an HSA may be a good option for you. An HSA is a tax-advantaged medical savings account that you can use to pay for qualified medical expenses if you are enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP). You – or your employer – can deposit pretax dollars in your HSA. Regardless of who deposits it, all the money in the account is immediately yours. Even better? Your unused HSA balance rolls over from one year to the next. So, if you don’t use it, you don’t lose it.
6. Conduct an energy audit of your home. It can help you determine which improvements will save you the most money and energy. For more information about professional audits – or tips on how to do it yourself if you’re handy – visit energy.gov.
7. Request a credit card rate reduction. If you’re carrying a substantial balance, call your credit card company and request a rate reduction. If they won’t honor your request, get a zero percent balance transfer to another card you already have, but make sure your rate won’t go higher when it resets. Also, remember that opening a new card could have a negative effect on your credit score. It also may be a good idea limit purchases on your credit card until you’re in better financial health.
8. Give something up. Do you pick up a daily coffee or soda from a specialty shop or convenience store on your way to or from work? If so, consider giving it up. Think quitting a $3.50 a day habit won’t make a difference? It will. If you work 250 days a year, you could save $875 in that given year.
When you’re exploring ways to save money, consider consulting with a financial advisor. An advisor can help you create a financial strategy to put your dollars to work more efficiently and keep you on track to achieve your financial goals.