Does this sound familiar? Every month you set a goal to save a small portion of your income, only to realize at month’s end that there’s nothing left to save.
Where does it go? Well, there are the necessities like the rent or house payment, utilities and food. But most of us manage to fritter away money on lots of little things, treats, small luxuries, inefficient use of resources.
The good news about that is that if you can identify a lot of these little leaks in your finances, you can quickly save some money. The other good news is that while many of these expenditures bring a little joy or comfort, they’re also totally unnecessary.
Once you have scraped together some savings, you can get it to earn more money for you. Check out: “How to Get Started Investing When You Don’t Have Much Money.”
You can turn it into a game by going through this list of 18 ways to save, and seeing how many of them you can cut in a week. Most of us could easily save a hundred bucks by employing these tricks. You may be able save much more.
If you’re in a bind or just want to stash a little extra cash, here’s how to make your savings grow.
1. Keep the change
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Retain the change from each of your transactions for an entire week and store it in a Mason jar, Ziploc bag or piggy bank. At the end of the week, count the coins to see how you did. Depending on how much you spend, you may reach your goal by following this one simple tactic.
2. Reduce transportation costs
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Download the GasBuddy or GasPriceWatch.com application onto your smartphone to locate the best deals in the local area on gasoline. You can also try carpooling with others from your job, or using public transportation for a week.
3. Avoid restaurants, coffee shops for 1 week
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Brew your own coffee to start the day and use the leftovers from the prior night’s meal for lunch. Also, decline invitations from colleagues to eat at restaurants at lunch this week. Pack your lunch instead, and invite them to join you in the park or plaza.
4. Skip costly entertainment
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Don’t plan on going to a play or the movies. An alternative is to find free entertainment at local community events. There’s also the library, which is jam-packed with books and DVDs that you can borrow for free.
Be sure to check out: “More Fun, Less Money: How to Save on Entertainment Costs.”
5. Find free workouts
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Try finding fitness programs on television or the internet, or at the library. I prefer SparkPeople because it’s a fitness hub with a variety of workout plans, many of which can be customized. It also offers meal plans for those looking to get fit.
Consider canceling your gym membership and instead embracing the great outdoors or group workouts. Check the local recreation or community center for free exercise classes.
6. Carry cash only
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Force yourself to save by setting a cash-only budget for the week. Take out a set amount of cash from the ATM at the beginning of the week — then leave debit and credit cards at home — and stretch your cash throughout the week. It will keep you focused on spending for essentials only.
7. Sell some stuff
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Head to a local consignment shop or a retailer, such as a Plato’s Closet, that will pay you on the spot for gently used goods. Can’t find one in your area? Try hosting a garage sale, or set up shop at the local flea market.
8. Get to work
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Pick up a temporary side gig to quickly accumulate funds. Or, let your creative juices flow and sell your products and services to others.
Check out “20 Odd Ways to Make Extra Money.”
9. Clip coupons
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No newspapers lying around? No problem. Head on over to a website like The Krazy Coupon Lady or Coupon Mom, where you will find printable coupons and corresponding instructions for putting the coupons to use. In some cases, a coupon can actually qualify you for cash back from the store.
10. Call your car insurance company
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Inquire about any discounts that may be available. Also, raising the deductibles on your auto and homeowners insurance will drop your premiums. Just be sure you have money in savings to cover your increased out-of-pocket expense in case you have to file a claim.
11. Decrease your energy consumption
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Reach out to your utility company to schedule a free energy audit of your home. Also, unplug any chargers or appliances that are not in use.
Set the thermostat a little higher to cut your air conditioning bill. Lower the temperature in winter and layer up on clothing. Also, consider hanging your clothes out on the clothesline to give the dryer a break.
12. Don’t use your credit card
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A high interest rate can greatly increase the cost of things you buy with your credit card if you don’t pay off the balance in full each month. Hide the magic plastic, and don’t increase the amount you owe on the card.
13. Disconnect the cable
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Freaked out by this suggestion? At least shave off the extras and try online television instead. Also, inquire about any discounts on bundles for which you may be eligible.
14. Skip the spa
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It’s always great to pamper yourself, but it can also add up quickly. My last spa visit, which consisted of a manicure, pedicure and massage, cost well over $100.
15. Iron your own clothes
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You can iron shirts and blouses, can’t you? No need to pay a professional unless an article of clothing truly requires professional handling by a dry cleaner.
16. Call your cellphone provider
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If the provider isn’t willing to reduce your monthly bill, switch providers or get a prepaid plan. Also, check out the free or steeply reduced price options. They do the job just as well as the big boys. I know from experience.
17. Track your expenses
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The simple act of paying attention to all of your daily expenses may be motivation enough to spend less. Join a free expense-tracking service like PowerWallet, then check in daily to see where your money’s going. PowerWallet will automatically send you money-saving coupons based on what you’re buying.
For some additional inspiration for getting expenses under control, check out: “How to Reach Your Goals Without Making a Budget.”
18. Pick up some free cash
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Does your employer match retirement contributions? Add another $100 to your 401(k) contribution and get a free $100 from the boss.
Here’s some guidance on how much you should put into your 401 (k) or other retirement plan for the maximum benefit.
What costs could you cut or leaks in your finances could you plug? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Kari Huus contributed to this post.