If you’ve ever listened to stories from the elderly, you’ve likely heard them speak of how they lived on pennies during the great depression. More than likely, your parents have bombarded you with similar stories about how they “came to America with only $50 dollars,” or the popular, “in India we wore the same 3 outfits over and over again for 5 years.”
Fortunately, their stories made for great lessons on appreciating the wealth we grew up with. Not so fortunately, we are now faced with a similar situation ourselves, with the economy tanking faster than you can say the word… well, economy. Although our stories to our children are more likely to be along the lines of, “I had to sell my SUV and take the Metro to work instead,” or, “I had to quit eating out to afford my monthly iPhone bill,” the differences in our generation doesn’t underscore the massive need many of us are feeling cut corners until better days or save money in fear of worse days.
Taking the first step towards a lifestyle change involving money can be daunting, but in today’s economic free fall, it’s a step the majority of us are being forced to take. When faced with the need to cut back on expenses or prevent a dwindling bank account, it is difficult to know where to start. With the help of readers and Dawn Doebler, a Senior Wealth Manager at Ferguson Asset Management, SAPNA magazine has put together several money saving tips targeted toward you, SAPNA readers. From the working women paying a mortgage, to the college girls with jobs on the side, we’ve got tips you can apply to any lifestyle!
MONEY SAVING TIPS
1. Establish a budget based on what you earn. This may seem obvious, but it literally pays to write out a monthly budget, especially if you need to save. Your budget should include expected expenses for rent, food, clothes, entertainment and other activities. â€œ[Be sure to] monitor your actual spending against the budget. Recognize this is an ongoing process and that changing spending habits wonâ€™t happen overnight,â€ remarks Doebler.
2. Shop around for insurance. Insurance includes health, car and homes. Prices for the same exact coverage vary, and people rarely bother to take the time to compare prices. By comparing prices, individuals can save on average $50-$75. In addition, when you finally select your insurance, make sure to also raise your deductible. By raising this deductible from, for instance, $250 to $500, you lower costs and save money. Cost savings can range between 10-20%.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $480 (auto insurance)
3. Bring cash only when you go out. â€œI always spend more than I want to whenever I’m with my friends,â€ says Ahmad Zakaria. â€œThe best way to counter this is to budget how much you want to spend. Take into account cabs, dinner, and other things. This will force you to just use the amount of money you have. If you have a credit card, youâ€™ll just succumb to the needs of the situation.â€
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: Calculate based on budget.
4. Pack your lunch. Packing lunch saves more than $100 a month on average (US News). â€œI save a lot of money by cooking two meals during the weekend, and then bringing the leftovers to work [for lunch] during the week,â€ says Rishi Das.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $1200
5. Get cash back rewards credit cards. If you pay your credit cards bills on time, companies with cash back rewards credit cards will often deduct 3-5% of your existing bill. For instance, a $327 bill may become $317 thanks to a $10 cash back reward.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $180 – $300 (with a $500 bill each month)
6. Be aware of your financial situation. This tip is especially relevant for women, especially if they are married or share finances with a significant other. Too often, women leave the financial planning to their husbands or significant others, losing out on critical wealth in the event of a divorce or a break up. Jessica Rekhi recommends using mint.com as a way to track your assets. â€œBy using mint.com, I can my checking account, savings, credit card, bills, and investments in one place. I’ve ended up watching my expenses since they have graphs and trends and become more conscious of how I spend my money.â€ Doebler adds: â€œKeep title assets that are yours in your name. [Also] keep a thorough accounting of the spending of assets.â€
7. Take advantage of tax deferred savings plans. â€œIf you have a decent income, taxes can reduce your asset base by ~30%,â€ says Doebler. â€œTo reduce the tax bite, maximize your 401k contributions, and also consider additional contributions to an IRA or ROTH IRA. You will pay taxes on the earnings at that time, but any future gains will be tax free.â€
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR:30% OF ANNUAL INCOME
8. Purchase clothes at the end of the season. You can save between 15-20% by shopping near to the end of the season. Major department stores will discount heavily to get rid of existing inventory to make way for the new seasonâ€™s items. It also helps if you buy clothes that are â€œmix and match.â€ You can wear these clothes several times and have multiple outfits. For example, now would be a great time to buy a winter coat for next year at a discount of about 70%.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $270 â€“ $360
9. Use compact fluorescent lights. These lights serve as an alternative to incandescent light bulbs. Although they cost more, they last longer and may save several hundred dollars over your lifetime.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $90
10. Donâ€™t turn your car air conditioner to the max. By turning up your air conditioner to the maximum, a carâ€™s miles per gallon (mpg) is reduced between 5-20%. Try to roll the windows down instead or keep the air conditioner on mid way.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $160
11. Determine your ideal tire pressure. Many carsâ€™ tires are actually below ideal air pressure. By ensuring that the air in your tires matches the ideal pressure, a carâ€™s mpg will improve by 5% on average.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $70
12. Get a phone, TV, and internet package bundle. Instead of paying for each a la carte, bundles are usually the better way to go. Packages can merit a 20% savings at least, rather than purchasing each service individually. Companies are battling over which can provide the cheapest package to the average customer. If bundles are offered in your area, compare them and pick the best one for you.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $500 (~$40/month)
13. Avoid dry clean only clothes. Making multiple trips to the dry cleaner can increase your expenditures significantly. Therefore, try to buy clothes that donâ€™t require â€œdry clean only.â€ If they do need to be dry cleaned, use Dryel to keep your clothes fresh. A box of Dryel costs around $6, while each item you dry clean can range from $3-$10 dollars at a professionals.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $150
14. Refuse to pay checking account fees. Some banks will try to persuade you to pay fees with your checking account. Do not fall for it. There are several banks in the area that offer checking accounts without fees. If you donâ€™t want to switch banks, look at banks in the area and find those without checking account fees. Then go to your bank and ask for a no fee checking account, while pointing out what other competitive banks do. Your bank will generally cave in.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $75
15. Car Maintenance Savings: Because maintaining your car doesn’t cost money every month, people often overlook the costs involved. Getting your oil changed every 3 or 4 months can run at $40 each time, but did you know that car mechanics actually say you DON’T need to change your oil every 3000 miles? The newer synthetic oils can actually keep your car running smoothly for 5000 miles. In addition, changing your cars air filter every year can help make your car more gas efficient, saving you money on fueling up each month.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR:$100-$200 (depending on how much fuel your vehicle consumes and how frequently you drive)
16. Switch to drug store make up brands. If you love your make up, you probably have enough expensive eye shadows and blushes to last you the next 12-18 months. For the next few months, switch from your expensive $20 Sephora mascara to $7 drugstore mascara (which looks just as great). While your favorite daily foundation is something you should stick to, finishing powder from a drugstore can save you about $20. Over the counter facial moisturizers are also economical and the good ones will give you the same results as the pricey department store brands.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $20 a month
17. Something borrowed, something blue: While many girls tend to be a bit possessive of their clothes, these days many of us are struggling to afford a nice new dress. So switch with a friend in a different town! If you invest in one nice dress each season, you can make arrangements to mail each other your investments, that way no one you go out with has seen the dress and you’ve saved $50-$200.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $100 per season, $400 a year.
18. Stock up your car: Keep bottles of water, granola bars, peanuts, soda, etc, stocked up in the trunk of your car. The amount of money consumers spend when really hungry or thirsty is completely unnecessary. If you’re a busy person, rushing from errand to errand, this is especially useful so you don’t have to pay $2 for a bottle of water or $3 for a pretzel on the street. Even if you only buy 1 drink a day during lunch or a protein bar from the cafeteria, pulling it out from your stock can save you $1.20 a day, adding up to $6 a week and $24 a month.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: $288 – $320
19. Buy Generic: Ask your doctor which of your medications can be switched to generic forms. Doctors are more than willing to help you save money every month and will look into the best bang for your buck, but will also tell you when generic is probably not a good idea. Be sure to ask your doctor, not the insurance company, for this advice. Also ask your doctor for free samples, sometimes they forget to offer. This goes for your over the counter pain killers, antacids, etc, as well. There is no need to purchase brand name Tylenol or Advil to get rid of your headaches or muscle aches, over the counter will do just fine, and for 1/3 the cost.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR: Varies
20. Utilize your friends vacation homes: Let’s face it, everyone needs to go on vacation once a year. If you really need to get away, but have a strict budget, ask around! Many of your friends parents or relatives may have vacation homes that are not being used during most months of the year. Try to coordinate around their schedule, you can even offer to pay a little, but generally people are just happy if their friends are making use of the vacation home. Whether its skiing in Colorado or lounging in Florida, using a friends vacation home can give you an amazing vacation at half the cost.
AVERAGE SAVINGS PER YEAR:For a one week vacation, ~$500-$700
Average savings per year are based on rough estimates, but all of these little tips really add up! If you have any other money saving tips, be sure to comment on this article, and provide them to us below. SAPNA would love to hear from you!
– Sharmeen Noor