Saving money together is fun! (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
So we've talked about how to set up financial goals, and how to set up a budget. But no matter how tight your budget is, you'll reach your financial goals more quickly if you save money on everyday things!
So, as the first in a series of "How to save money on...", we'll be looking at the cost of getting around and creative ways to leave more money in your pocket (or whatever form savings account you choose...)
So now that we've set up the "why", what follows are some tips on "how". Most of these assume that you own a car (though mass transportation options are on the rise here in Charlotte), but some tips work no matter what mode of transportation you use! Here we go, from the small things we can do to some bigger choices:
- Keep your car well maintained. Several easy steps can stretch the distance each mile of gas will carry you: keeping your air and fuel filters clean and/or changed (10-12% more miles per gallon, or $175/year on average), keeping your tires properly inflated (4% more MPG, or $63/year), and keeping heavy things out of your trunk or backseat (every 100 pounds of extra weight you carry in your car can cost you between $60-$200 a year. This, however, is not an excuse to kick people who need a ride out of your car.) Other tips are available at www.fueleconomy.gov.
- When you're thinking about commuting, carpooling is the magic word. Carpooling with one other person can cut your commuting costs in half, inviting two other people to join cuts it by two-thirds, etc! This is one of the biggest ways to make an impact on your costs. Find out those whom you work with who live near you, and make it happen! While it may not be practical every day, even carpooling once a week will save significantly! Remember that it's not just the cost of gas you're saving, but wear and tear on your car which eventually cost you in terms of car repairs!
- If you find yourself caught in traffic when commuting, try to stagger the time you leave for / from work. Sitting in traffic wastes gas as well as your time!
- Plan ahead and try to combine errands. Starting and stopping the car with a warm engine takes much less of a toll on your car and on your gas mileage. With the right combination of friends, you can also carpool when running errands. Plus, it's (usually) more fun to run errands with others!
- Try to find a local auto repair school or occupational center who will do repairs for free or at a reduced cost. The repair work is done by students under supervision from an expert mechanic.
- Shop for gas! There is typically a .20/gallon difference between local gas stations. Attempting to find the cheaper gas station will save $146/year on average. Websites like www.gasbuddy.com will help you with this.
- Shop your car insurance. Use web sites like www.insweb.com to compare prices and make sure you're getting the insurance you need at the best price. Drop the collision & comprehensive portion of your car insurance if you drive a car worth less than $2,500 (because likely the amount you get for the car in a collision won't be worth the cost of the insurance). Also, a great way to save money on car insurance is to raise your deductible to $1,000 - just make sure you have this much set aside in case you need it (like in an emergency fund.)
- Evaluate the number of vehicles you really need at your house. Less cars equals less insurance, less maintenance, and less gas. If you can handle life with one less car, do it! You may even use it as an excuse to spend more time together.
- Consider owning a used or smaller vehicle than you have now. Only you can tell if a trade is worth it, but often the fuel, maintenance, and insurance of a smaller vehicle is less than a larger one.
- Do vehicle maintenance and some repairs yourself (oil changes, tire rotations, lubrication, etc.)
- Keep your car longer. Many people "get tired" of their cars or feel they should get rid of them when they've gone 50,000 miles or so. What's true is that the cheapest car you can buy is usually the one you already own. Try to keep it for at least 7-10 years or until it becomes too expensive to repair.
- If possible, use public transportation. It is usually less expensive than owning, maintaining, insuring, and repairing a vehicle. You'll be surprised at all the places you can go. This is becoming espeically true to those who live and work uptown and who now have access to the light rail.
Good luck, and look for more "How to save money on..." articles. If you'd like to see other topics on how to save money on various things, feel free to e-mail suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!