Is saving money a fruitless task in today’s economy? Absolutely not. It is possible to save hundreds of dollars a month without pain or stress. The starting point is to rethink your spending habits. To help you develop a new way of thinking, here are five key steps with which you can begin:
Step One- Make a Budget
Except for your fixed monthly expenses such as your home/rent and car payment, you probably do not know precisely where most of your money goes. This is where a budget comes in. This is the only way to get a grip on your spending habits and begin to answer the question, " how do you save money".
For two consecutive months, track every expense you incur. You will want to keep a small notebook handy to record even the smallest expense or discretionary purchase. This will include the $3 Starbucks coffee, the occasional $2 candy bar, the $15 car wash, etc. Every week, summarize these expenses into a spreadsheet or use the free printable budget worksheets on this website. The next step is to record on the same budget forms your major expenses for which you have written checks such as mortgage/rent, car, utility, credit card payments, etc. Now that you have a good, realistic record of where your money is going, begin to look for categories that you can cut back on. Once again, saving money is rethinking how you spend your money.
Step Two- Put Your computer To Work
By investing five to ten minutes of your time, you can save tons of money and make saving money an easy task. By using some of the major search engines such as Google or Bing, you can find websites that present the most current, up-to-the -minute deals on everything from apparel to electronics. In addition to the best deals, there are websites that will assist you in comparison shopping. To help you get started in your saving money journey, check out the following websites:
EBay.com and Craigslist.com
These two websites should form the backbone of your online research because of their immense size. Craigslist, for example, serves over 20 billion page views per month, translating into 49.9 million visitors per month. These visitors are looking to either save money or make money by placing classified ads. When you have a particular product or service you need, just enter into Google the product name and put eBay or Craigslist at the end of your search description.
With one or two clicks of your mouse, you will be able to comparison shop for over 30 million products from 100,000 merchants. This website is a great resource for helping you save money by providing daily deals, coupons, coupon codes and bargain sales. You will most likely be able to find something that will help you in saving money.
This website is updated 200 times a day for the latest deals from over 2000 online retailers covering a million products. The website uses a team of deal hunters who are in constant contact with merchants and tips from online visitors. The deal hunters primary objective is saving money for their customers.
This website allows shoppers to locate and compare millions of products and services such as electronics, books, clothing, furniture, etc. The website connects its shoppers to all sizes and types of merchants from major retailers such as Best Buy, Office Depot and Walmart to smaller merchants and individuals through its PriceGrabber store front. One of the features that I like best about PriceGrabber is the ability to sign up for email alerts when your favorite or desired product goes on sale.
This website is made up of individual networks centered around specific areas such as Style, Home, Tech, Kids and Baby. Pronto.com offers comparison shopping for over 70 million products from 25,000 online merchants, including eBay. You will have access to product reviews, deal news and the latest fashion and home décor trends.
Step Three- Learn To Cook (or do more of it)
According to the Department of Labor, the average family of four spends $8,513 per year or $709 per month on groceries. Add in money spent on fast food and higher end restaurants and our expenditures in this area can go well beyond $800-$900 per month. By buying foods for recipes that you can prepare from scratch, you will avoid the prepackaged, convenience foods which are more expensive.You will not only be saving money, but you will be providing your family with healthy meals. Also by cooking more of your meals, this will help reduce the amount of money spent on eating out or buying take out food. If a particular dish at your favorite restaurant keeps you going back time after time, try creating the recipe at home. In other words, reverse engineering a recipe. To get more information on how to reproduce restaurant recipes, try www.copycatcookbook.com.
Step Four- Just Ask
Many bills we pay have a fixed amount that we realistically can’t do a lot about such as our monthly mortgage/rent, car and other fixed payments we have obligated ourselves to make. However, there are other bills we pay automatically but never think to question. There are hidden savings in many of the bills you are now paying. A good example is my mobile phone bill. I use my mobile phone for emergencies or quick convenience calls. For several years, I was paying $70 for the cheapest plan my service provider had. This plan gave me around 400 minutes. I only use maybe 50 minutes a month. I inquired several times via the phone about how to reduce the monthly cost only to be told I was on the cheapest plan they had. I finally visited the vendor’s store and discovered that I could buy for $100, 20 hours of prepaid phone time that was good for a year. My savings will average over $500 per year.This opened my eyes and made saving money my life long quest. You have to be persistent and call and talk with different customer service personnel. Other expenses to question are your utility, cable, car and home insurance bills. Take the time to call these companies and ask how you can lower your bill. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you can save.
Step Five- Walk Around Your House
Just by taking a walk around your house, both inside and outside, you can find areas or things that are wasting you money. Also by walking around, you will begin to generate ideas of where future money saving ideas can come from. Some examples are:
(1) Are your windows and doors leaking air causing a draft? By replacing insulation materials, you will save money in both winter and summer.(2) Are you running your washer and dryer on less than a full load? You will save on your monthly utility bills by only using these appliances on a full load. In warmer months, where possible, stop using your dryer altogether. Air dry your clothes outside or on a drying rack on a back porch. Your dryer is one of the biggest users of electricity in the house. It makes sense to look closely at this area for saving money.
(3) Is there money in your closets? Walk through your closets and see if there are clothing and accessory items that you are no longer wearing or using that could be sent to a consignment store. Also look at posting these items on eBay or Craigslist.
(4) Are your household electronics running? According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average American household has 24 consumer electronics products. Many of these appliances will continue to use electricity in small amounts when the unit is turned off. In industry terms, this continual leakage of electricity is known as a “ phantom load ”. It is estimated that in the average home, 65% of the electricity that power our home electronics is consumed while the appliances are turned off. To avoid this problem and save on your electricity bill, use a power strip in which many of the electronic units can be plugged. When you are through using your electronic appliances, simply cut the switch off on the power strip and thereby cutting power to all of the plugged in devices.
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