The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money
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The New Year is quickly approaching, and one thing that everyone tends to resolve is saving money or just spending less than normal. This isn’t always an easy task; however, it’s possible that this might finally be your year to do just that. How? Simple. This is your ultimate guide to saving money and becoming a little more confident in your financial situation for the upcoming year.
Now, I’m not trying to predict the future, but these tips and tricks are topics that are trending right now and helping people save money today that can be utilized by you in the future to make you more financially secure.
You may be at a good place right now; however, these tips and tricks will make things even easier for you and may not be things you’re considering. There are hundreds of options to save money, and you may be utilizing some of them right now, but looking things over, there are likely options that you haven’t really considered fully. On top of that, if you didn’t consider them, you may not even know that they exist.
To help, let’s dive in to the top 7 ideas below and start working on our finances for the future today!
Budgeting is pretty much self-explanatory, but it’s also something that I believe most people don’t utilize enough. By planning out your budget year by year or month by month, this will allow you to know what you’re working with and how much money you can allocate to different things.
First, you need to plan your expenses. Now, some expenses are fixed while others are not; however, you can estimate these costs to plan. I suggest high-balling these expenses just to make sure you’re not surprised at any time. If you plan for certain amounts and then it unexpectedly becomes more than you had budgeted for, this takes more a toll than if you over-estimate and then end up saving money.
After you plan your expenses, you’ll need to look at your income-debt ratio. Does your income outweigh your debt? In other words, are you spending more than you’re making? This is super important to consider because you don’t want to be in the red. Once you take a look at this ratio, you’ll have a better idea of your situation.
After you check your income-debt ratio, you may need to look at your expenses. What, of those expenses, are necessities? What are things you just simply want? This is an easy way to adjust your spending and make sure you stay out of the red. On top of those expenses, you can move along to the next step.
2. Cutting Costs
Once you do your budgeting, you can see if there’s anywhere in there that you can cut costs. Thinking off hand, there are most definitely a few simple ways to cut costs, one being simply don’t spend as much, but this is easier said than done. Each person is going to have different ways to cut these costs based on their lifestyle, but in my opinion, the top three ways to cut costs are as follows:
Do you actually watch cable television, or do you just have it to have it? Odds are that you don’t really watch it enough to spend as much on it as you are. There are a multitude of new apps or options to watch live TV and not pay as much as you are for cable. A few options for this are Sling TV, and Hulu to name a few. You don’t get as many channels as cable with these options; however, they’re a good substitute and likely have most of what you watch. On top of these options, the amount of streaming stations is growing rapidly. With Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube TV and the newly released Disney+, you will have plenty of options to watch shows or movies, but maybe just not as early as you could with live TV.
Cars are expensive, without a doubt, but depending on where you live, sometimes it’s the only option for transportation. You need to get to work in order to make money to save, but gas prices continue to fluctuate, and car maintenance won’t stop increasing. Sure, you can get an electric or hybrid car and save a little there; however, there’s another option. Do you live near any coworkers? Or, maybe, a coworker drives by your place on their way to work. Either way, consider a carpool. The people in your carpool can alternate driving so that no one person is putting too much wear and tear on his or her vehicle. Everyone can pitch in for gas and cut their typical gas price in half, if not more, and this helps saving money as well. Not only will you be saving on gas, but you’ll be saving on maintenance by putting less wear and tear on your vehicle.
- Home Cooking/Meal Prepping
Everyone enjoys going out to eat because no one really enjoys cooking all the time; however, this can really add up in expenses. While it’s nice to treat yourself every now and then, if you take matters into your own hands and cook at home or even meal prep for the week, you can save big. You might be thinking, “don’t I have to still buy the food to cook at home” and the answer is yes; however, there’s something you may be forgetting to think about. If you cook at home, chances are, there will be leftovers. The number of leftovers you have will depend on the number of mouths you’re feeding, but either way, this saves you in the long run. By cooking 2-3 or even more meals per week, you’ll have enough leftovers to eat for both lunches and dinners to last you all week.
3. Cashback cards
Once you’ve assessed your budgeting and expenses and cut costs where you can, you’ll obviously still have some expenses to think about. How are you going to pay for these? You can use a checking account, cash or a credit card. You can spread these expenses out across methods and whatever is most convenient for you. Credit cards can be dangerous; however, there’s a way to make the most out of these and help you save even more money. Weird, right? If you use a credit card a lot, my suggestion to you would be to get a cashback card.
Discover is one of the major cards that offers cashback, and it is well worth it. How does this card work? It’s simple: you shop. I’m not familiar with all the cashback cards, but with Discover, you get 1% cashback on all purchases, and then each quarter there are a few locations that offer 5% cashback. It doesn’t seem like much, but honestly, it all adds up over time and you’ll be surprised to learn how much cashback you can earn.
Other cashback cards run similarly, to my knowledge, but differ in the amount of cashback you can receive. Some cards offer a general percentage for all purchases, but others offer different amount depending on the type of purchase. Either way, there’s a good chance for building your offers.
Once you decide that you’ve reached a decent amount of rewards, you can redeem them in a multitude of ways. So, by shopping, you are rewarding yourself in some way. Once you claim your cashback offer, there are different options on how you would like to do so. Some cards offer gift cards at a discounted rate. This is great, it helps you do more shopping, but also, you are most likely able to use those rewards to pay off some, or all, of your credit card bill, all dependent on the amount of rewards you’ve racked up over time. Who would’ve thought you can save money by spending money? It’s definitely not the norm, but I’ll take it!
Coupons are huge. They’re becoming more and more prominent in shopping and for good reason. There are so many coupon sites out there that will help you save money on your purchase. Once you find a site that you like, one like ChameleonJohn, where you can find all your favorite stores, then you shop, apply coupons and save!
Once you find coupons, you’ll need to apply them; however, it’s possible that some coupons only apply to certain items. If you’re looking for a specific item, make sure the coupon you are applying is applicable to said product. During the holidays and depending on the store, it really could go either way.
Even better, some stores may allow you to stack coupons. It doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes, you get lucky. If you’re not familiar with coupon stacking, it’s when you can apply multiple coupons to the same item and get an even bigger discount. Again, some stores may allow this, others may not. If the coupons aren’t stackable, it’s possible that certain items on sale can also have coupons added to them. This is similar because it’s a discount on top of a discount, so definitely give it a shot!
As I mentioned before, discounts are huge. If you don’t have coupons, that’s okay; stores offer other ways to save and that’s in-store discounts. Some people, like me, try to find these bargains and save money no matter what.
Shop clearance – there’s no shame in it! Clearance items are always just as good as full-priced items. Why are they on clearance then? Sometimes there are too many of one item, so in order to make room for new inventory, stores heavily discount items in hopes of getting them out of there much quicker than when they were full-priced.
Now, sure, stores try to make room for new inventory, and sometimes that pushes “Last Season’s” trends to clearance, but who cares?! You can shop last season’s trends and still find items that are in line with the newer styles but save money while doing it. Or, at the end of a season, stock up for when it rolls around again next year! Trust me, people won’t even realize what you’re wearing is considered “old” in the fashion world.
You’ve shopped clearance, but still can’t find the newest items for a more affordable price, no problem, there’s another solution: PROCRASTINATE. Never thought I would be giving this as a piece of advice, but it’s true! Why? That’s simple – holiday sales.
There are always holiday sales popping up here and there. In the summer, you have Memorial Day Sales and 4th of July Sales, and then quite possibly some other miscellaneous, obscure holidays that pop up and offer retail sites an opportunity to attract more attention. Not looking in the summer? No problem – keep waiting. Labor Day rolls around in September, followed by Columbus Day in October and then Veteran’s Day in November. There really isn’t a time that goes by that there isn’t a good sale that comes up. In February, you’ll find President’s Day deals and then before you know it you’re back to May and everything else will soon follow. Start planning those big spends but wait and see if you can find a good deal with any of the aforementioned holiday sales!
Now, creating a holiday of their own is Amazon. Each July, Amazon offers “Prime Day Deals,” where you can find amazing deals on some top-notch products. This goes against the last piece of advice, so pay attention: DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! This is contradictory to the previous sales, but it’s necessary for this one. Some of the best deals are only available during Prime Day for a limited time, so if you see something and you absolutely need to have it, get the cashback credit card out and checkout immediately! Not only do some of these deals only last a limited time, but there are also some deals that are only available for a certain number of products. You can follow along because Amazon provides a scale and shows you what percentage of the deal has been claimed, and if it’s a hot item, it definitely won’t be around for long!
Now, if none of those work for you, fear not. Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be along before you know it and allow you to find some great deals just in time for the holidays. If you don’t like crowds, I have two pieces of advice:
- Stay home and shop online: most stores offer the same Black Friday Deals online before Cyber Monday even begins
- Wait until about 10AM to hit the stores. All the doorbusters are still available, and while it’s possible certain products are already sold out, you’ll still inevitably find great deals and, bonus, the crowds will be thinned out! People are always itching to get there as soon as doors open, but it’s not necessary when all deals tend to last until 11-12! Use this to your advantage to get the deals while still saving money.
7. Thrift/Bargain Shopping
Finally, the last thing you can do, which is extremely easy to do, is to utilize thrift/bargain shopping stores. They typically have a negative connotation, but once you get familiar with it yourself, you’ll look at things differently. How do I know? This was me. I didn’t know anything about “bargain stores” up until just a few years ago; however, now that I do, it makes a world of difference and I rarely shop anywhere else.
The first option here is discount shops. Now, people don’t typically think of these shops as a good place to go, but really they’re fantastic! Stores like Marshalls, TJ Maxx and HomeGoods are top-notch for discounted shopping. They carry all name brands that you know and love but get a great discount on. Marshalls and TJ Maxx are home to clothing, accessories, toys and more whereas HomeGoods offers everything you need for your home. There are plenty of other stores like this, but these three are some of the top choices for discount shoppers everywhere.
Secondly, you have resell shops. Not only can you find these in brick and mortar locations, but you can also find them online and through apps. There is always a resell shop right around the corner from where you are, and you can most definitely find something worth having there. From clothes and shoes to home products and toys, resell shops are a good, physical store to look at to save money. Find apps like Poshmark or The RealReal and, again, find name brand products for discounted prices. Now, not all items you find need to be name brand, but these apps are most known for accepting only those products.
A third option to saving money is to shop small business. Most small businesses don’t add a ridiculous upcharge to products, and they’re always good quality. Small businesses are a great way to shop local and find unique items while doing so. Instead of big box stores, support your local businesses and save money by doing so.
The things you’ve just read are some of the best ways to save money for you and your life in the upcoming year. Some may work better than others, but they’re all good ideas and are things you’re just going to have to try and see for yourself. There are likely other options, but the ones compiled above are some of the best options I’ve found that I know work. Are they absolutely perfect? Probably not. Are they viable options? For certain.
So what tips are your favorite and what are you going to apply first?
How about budgeting or cutting costs? I believe these are two of the most effective ways to get started with saving money in the new year, so which one are you going to try? Think about it and leave a comment below!