No matter what mistakes you made last year, you get a do-over in the new year. The beginning of the year is a great time to make changes that will boost your bottom line going forward. But before you can make a plan to save money, you have to find out where your money’s going. If you use an online budget tool or computer program to track your spending, run some reports and evaluate where your money went. If you don’t have any records, write down every penny you spend for a month.
Once you’ve got a record, do some analysis. The first question is whether your outgoing funds exceed your income. If you’ve got a mountain of credit card debt, and every month you spend more than you take in, you need to make some changes. Even if your expenses don’t exceed your income, drilling down into your spending may reveal places you can painlessly cut costs to have more money for retirement, a home down payment or an exotic vacation.
The best spending plan for you may not be the best plan for your neighbor. It’s more than just cutting out the morning latte, because that isn’t going to work for everyone, especially those who never buy lattes. For some people, cutting out the morning latte won’t make a dent. They may have to look at more painful cuts, such as moving to cheaper housing or choosing public rather than private schools for their children.
Here are 14 ways to slash expenses in the new year:
- Cook more at home. Anyone who can read can cook, and the Internet is full of websites with easy, healthy recipes – check out Pinterest, where you can make your own “virtual cookbook” amongst many other things. And, to see Penny Smart’s favorite recipes and budgeting tips, follow First Financial on Pinterest at Pinterest.com/1stfinancialnj.
- Save on groceries by shopping store sales and using coupons. It’s true that a lot of coupons are for junk food, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save with coupons, particularly on personal care and cleaning products. Store sales can provide even bigger savings. Many products go on sale every two, three or six months. Watch the sale cycles on products you use, and stock up when prices are lowest.
- Look for happy hours and restaurant deals. For many people, drinks and dinner with friends are a big part of socializing. If you don’t want to give that up but you want to spend less, find restaurants with 2-for-1 drinks and free or inexpensive appetizers and make those your dinner. Join restaurant email clubs to get coupons you can use to cut the price of restaurant meals.
- Call your cable TV and Internet provider and ask for a better deal. As more users abandon cable and more competitors get into the market, companies want to hang on to customers. That means they’re ready to make a deal. You’ll get the best deals from the customer retention department, which is where you’ll call to cancel. You could potentially save up to $50 a month!
- Investigate better cell phone plans. Many carriers are offering new no-contract and pay-as-you-go plans. If you find a plan you like, and your contract is up, ask your existing carrier if they will match the price or give you a better deal.
- Cancel your land line phone. Many people find they rarely make calls on their home phone. If you’re not using it, why are you paying for it? Ask about bundling your phone with your cable and Internet service –- but be warned that a cable phone won’t work in a power failure.
- Review your insurance costs. Call your insurance agent and make sure you’re getting all the discounts to which you’re entitled. Make sure your coverage fits your current circumstances. If your teenage driver moved out and got his or her own car, take them off your policy. You might also want to get quotes from other companies on auto or home insurance. That being said, this is an opportunity to take advantage of our partnership with Liberty Mutual Insurance where First Financial members can receive exclusive group savings on TruStage Home and Auto insurance.*
- Call your credit card companies and ask for lower rates. Or do balance transfers. If you get a good offer, call your existing company and see if it will match the new offer. If your credit is good and you make all your payments on time, you’re in a good position to negotiate. First Financial’s VISA Credit Cards come fully loaded with low rates, no balance transfer fees, no annual fees, rewards points more!**
- If you are in debt, make a plan to pay it off. Paying $200 a month in interest charges is a waste of money that would be better used toward retirement savings, your kids’ braces or a trip around the world. Some experts advise paying off the smallest balances first, although it is recommended to target those with the highest interest rates. Either way, start paying off those cards, one at a time. Make the minimum payments on all cards, but target one card at a time and make bigger payments so you can pay it off. When you’ve paid off one card, go to the next.
- Look for a less expensive health club. Are you paying $75 a month for a gym membership you never use? Maybe you should cancel and take up walking, biking or hiking. Perhaps you can get a gym membership that’s equally good for half the price at a YMCA or community center. Shop around.
- Look at the fees associated with your bank account. If you don’t have free checking, ask your financial institution what you can do to get it. If your institution doesn’t offer free checking, find one that does. At First Financial, we offer an absolutely FREE Checking Account – no hidden charges and no minimum balances. You’ll also receive a free box of checks, unlimited check writing, a free instant issued Debit Card, free Online Banking and more!***
- Don’t shop for recreation. If you’re not in the stores, you won’t be tempted to buy. That goes for yard sales and thrift shops, too.
- Be careful of online purchases. It’s easy to shop online in the wee hours of the morning, but that spending can add up. Unsubscribe from email alerts that urge you to spend. Get yourself off stores’ online mailing lists and restrict your online shopping to things you really need, when you need them.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Give yourself a realistic allowance for discretionary spending and don’t spend any more than that.
Article by Teresa Mears of Daily Finance. Click here to view the original article.*Discounts and savings are available where state laws and regulations allow, and may vary by state. Certain discounts apply to specific coverages only. To the extent permitted by law, applicants are individually underwritten; not all applicants may qualify.The descriptions of coverages are necessarily brief and are subject to policy provisions, limitations and exclusions that can only be expressed in the policy itself. Discounts and coverages vary by state and are not available in all states. For a complete explanation of coverages, please consult a sales representative.**APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.***A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.