Spending money is a fact of life. You need to spend money to pay for the essentials, like food, clothing, and a roof over your head. So it’s good to know that a budget can help you manage those expenses and keep your spending in check.
To avoid impulse purchases and other temptations, try to focus on healthy spending habits that help you manage debt. Here are easy ways to save money.
1. Pay with cash, not credit cards
If you’re not buying with cash, try to limit your credit card purchases to the amount of cash you have on hand. Credit cards that give you cash back or other rewards aren’t a bad thing, but to avoid paying interest on the balance, you’ll want to limit your purchases to what you can pay for at the end of the month.
2. Don’t rush major purchases
When it comes to managing debt, impulse buying can be your worst enemy. It’s only human nature to get caught up in the excitement of buying something new, but that feeling of joy is often followed by buyer’s remorse. Instead of buying on the spot, try to put larger purchases on hold for 24 hours. There’s a good chance you’ll feel different about it the next day.
3. Stick to your budget
Healthy spending is tied to careful planning. And careful planning begins with a personal budget. Setting spending limits helps you decide what’s important in life and can help you stay focused on bigger goals. Stay realistic and watch out for triggers that may lead to impulse buying, like online shopping late at night or driving by your favorite bakery before work.
4. Compare prices
It helps to wait for sales and good deals, but try to resist the temptation to buy something for that reason only. Remember that it’s only a good deal if it’s something you really need. With that in mind, consider shopping for clothes off-season, and take advantage of coupons or promo codes online. If you need to purchase a big-ticket item, do some comparison shopping and online consumer research beforehand.
If you’re serious about spending less and saving money, there’s no shortage of resources available to help you reach your goals. Coupon sites like RetailMeNot, Coupons.com, and Savings.com offer everything from discounted gift cards to cash-back offers and online coupons or coupon codes.
5. Watch out for small expenses
Even small expenses add up. Daily expenses often go unnoticed, but over time they can take a bite out of your budget. Look for creative ways to trim those costs, like packing your lunch, shopping for a better rate on car insurance, or cutting back on monthly subscriptions. The same is true of unnecessary fees like late payments and ATM charges. You can avoid some of these simply by planning ahead
6. Check your tax withholdings
“My very favorite tip, particularly at this time of the year, is to adjust your W-4 so you don’t receive a federal income tax refund,” says Gail Cunningham, vice president of public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Sure it’s nice to get a lump sum check around tax time, and the average refund in the U.S. is around $3,000. But if you strive instead to get no refund you would have $250 more to spend each month. “People are giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan each month, and they jump for joy when he returns their own money to them once per year,” says Cunningham. “These are often the very people who could have used an extra $250 in their pocket each month during the year to either save, pay bills or invest.”
7. Unfriend the deals sites
Sites like Living Social, Groupon and others can offer great prices on a variety of interesting products and services, but they are rarely necessities. Is it really a deal to cut the cost of something you would not otherwise buy? Delete these sites from your daily feed, and you will may be surprised by how little you miss those “can’t miss” deals.
8. Adjust your driving habits
Fitting the rising cost of gas into your budget is a challenge for most drivers. If you can find cheaper fuel, great, but in the meantime there are other things you can do to cut down on the cost of driving. Simply driving less aggressively can help improve fuel economy. Curb your expensive driving habits by sticking to the speed limit, getting regular oil changes and maintenance, and keeping your tire pressure in check. Keeping these factors in mind can also help you control the costs of your auto insurance premium.
9. Reconsider your cable options
No one is asking you to give up cable, which, for some of us, is far more difficult to part with than that daily latte. But these days there are plenty of entertainment sources to take the place of cable. Rob Berger, who runs the blog Doughroller.net, found that by cutting a monthly cable package at an average $80 per month, he could save about $48,000 over 50 years.
Research the impact on your life and budget if you were to switch to Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Netflix or a combination of these or other inexpensive or free entertainment options. If you are determined to stick with cable, call your provider and try to renegotiate your monthly price. Cable providers often have money-saving packages available to customers who ask. You may have to lock into a contract to get a great deal. Compare this to your current package to determine the best move.
10. Make an extra mortgage payment
It may seem counterintuitive, but spending more on your house payment can actually save you money. With only one extra payment per year—or about $100 per month if you owe $200,000 on a 30-year mortgage at 6%—and over time you can save thousands and shave years off your total mortgage cost. Do it painlessly by signing up for bi-weekly payments through your mortgage company. You know those months when you get three paychecks instead of two? Biweekly mortgage payments will help you leverage those extra weeks and pay off a bigger chunk each year.
Now that you know how to spend less and save money. Consider using these additional tips to save money and add to your savings account.