New Year’s resolutions are fun to make, but can be very hard to keep. Changing your habits and daily routines is not something that happens overnight, so it goes without saying that a New Year’s resolution will take time to achieve. The point should not be to reach a goal and be done, but rather to readjust to a way of living that will accomplish your goal for the long run.
One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to spend less money. It is a great goal to strive for, but many people don’t know where to begin. Saving money takes practice and discipline, so start this year off slowly with steps you can actually make and stick to. As the year progresses, feel free to step up your efforts and spend even less money. Here are a few ways to start spending less:
Before you start clipping coupons or canceling your salon appointments, sit down and create a budget. You can’t accurately track your savings if you don’t have a budget established beforehand. If you’re new to budgeting or just need help with it, try some of the websites listed in this article.
These seven steps don’t require much time or effort and can really add up to some significant savings:
1. Pack your lunch – Add up the amount of money you spend in one week on lunch and you’ll see how quickly you’ll save by making your lunch at home. Make dinner in large enough quantities so you always have leftovers for a quick easy lunch.
2. Meatless nights – Try having a meat-free dinner one or two times a week. Not only will it reduce your grocery bill, but it may also improve your health.
3. Make lists – Only go shopping when you have made a list beforehand. If you stick to the list of items you actually need, you won’t fill the shopping cart with impulse buys and your bill will be far less.
4. Buy generic – Unless there is a need for a name brand, always look for the generic brands which can save you hundreds of dollars in a year.
5. Eat out less – Eating out is one of the most common ways Americans spend money. This year cut back on this pricey luxury. Set a goal that is doable. My husband and I allow ourselves one meal out a week (and this includes fast-food). If that seems too restrictive for you, allow yourself 2-3 meals a week. You can further reduce it later in the year when you’ve gotten adjusted to cooking at home more.
6. Use your library – The library is a great source of free materials. You can save hundreds of dollars by simply renting your books, movies and CDs from your local library. Not good at returning materials on time? Late fees generally range from $0.05 - $0.20 per item each day they are late, so chances are even if you’re a week late turning them in, it’s still cheaper paying late fines than if you had bought the materials.
7. Ditch or downgrade cable – Many households across America spend between $100 - $200 a month on cable packages. This year downgrade to a lower costing package or get rid of it all together. A subscription to a service like Netflix is can cost as little as $8 a month and is a great substitute. You can also stream many shows from the networks’ websites now too.
These seven steps are a bit more time consuming, but if you’re up to the challenge check them out:
1. Buy in bulk – Individually packaged foods can be twice as expensive as the same food bought in bulk. Buy snack items (chips, vegetables, crackers, etc.) in bulk and then spend 10-20 minutes at home dividing them into individual baggies.
2. Brew coffee – Buying coffee several times a week can really add up quickly. This year begin brewing your own coffee at home to save money. A bonus: You can sleep in an extra 15 or 20 minutes since you won’t have to stop anywhere before getting to work.
3. Use coupons – Coupons are a great way to shave money off your bills, but they do take time and patience. It’s generally easiest to set an hour or so a week aside to clip coupons and sort them. I keep my small coupon file in my purse so I always have them with me.
4. Visit the farmers’ market – Eating seasonal and local foods is generally cheaper than buying items that are shipped across the world so your local farmers’ market is a great place to shop. This may take some rearranging of your schedule since most farmers’ markets are only open on specific days for short hours, but it is well worth it. You’ll save money and get better quality food.
5. Start a garden – Growing your own vegetables and herbs is a great way to save money. Of course you will have to be able to dedicate both space and time to a project like this, but if you can manage it, your pocketbook will be rewarded.
6. Make your own cleaning supplies – Most commercial cleaning products are not only expensive, but contain harsh chemicals you don’t really need in your home. Simple solutions of white vinegar and water can meet most cleaning needs and making your own laundry detergents isn’t hard either.
7. Skype – Save tons of money on long distance by using Skype to connect with family and friends. Skype is available as a free download on your computer. It is simple to use, but will require both you and your family members to learn how to use it before you can take advantage of the savings.