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Household money management is a delicate balancing act, requiring budgeting skills and spending discipline. And though each family's financial resources and responsibilities are unique, most people share a desire to save money. Fortunately, nearly every aspect of consumerism harbors room for savings.
Whether shaping your family budget or seeking a one-time financial benefit, use economy and efficiency as your guides. By limiting waste and tightening spending, you'll trim costs on the road and at home.
When you think about saving money the first thing that comes to mind is squeezing a few dollars out of your paycheck to deposit into an account. That is certainly a good way to save, but there are many more subtle ways to save that add up just as quickly.
Domestic spending represents a substantial share of family income, so money saved at home provides considerable financial relief. From food to utilities, household spending presents room for savings, including the following cost-cutting strategies.
Eating out is a form of entertainment, allowing couples and families to catch-up over food prepared by professionals. Inventive cuisine and gastronomic adventures draw some, but for others it is the simplicity and hands-off approach that prompt meals out. Unfortunately, despite convenience and entertainment value, dining out is usually more expensive than eating at home. To save money on your food budget, balance restaurant visits with economical home-cooked meals.
In addition to limiting restaurant visits, frugal families save money on food by planning meals and shopping responsibly. Wasting food is like pouring money down the drain, so immediate savings result from tightening-up food waste. By plotting weekly menus and accounting for leftovers, cost-conscious families keep waste in check and maximize household food budgets.
Certain food purchases push grocery bills higher than others. Prepared foods, for example, typically cost more than other options, so shoppers pay a premium for the convenience of ready-made meals. To save on food, compare prices, and use the most economical means available for putting food on the table.
Everyone needs to eat, so if you aren't careful the grocery store can surely break the budget. Create a weekly menu before you shop and plan it around the weekly specials of your favorite grocery store. Some stores consider the week from Sunday to Saturday, while others are from Wednesday to Tuesday. Buy in bulk and cook in bulk. Next time you make your family's favorite casserole, make two or three and freeze the extras. One frazzled evening you'll be glad you did. And of course, never shop when you're hungry.
You can go coupon-lite and only clip here and there or you can go all out and spend an hour or two a week to pull in big savings. Free sites like couponmom.com remove the mystery and plan it all out for you. The site lists weekly specials for most major grocery and discount stores. If there is a coupon available for an item she will list how much it is and where to find it. Your only job is to keep all Sunday paper coupon inserts and clip as needed. Buy several Sunday papers to maximize your buying power. The idea is to buy items only when they are on sale AND you have a coupon. That's when you stock up.
Besides paper coupons, don't overlook sites with Internet coupons to print additional coupons for items you routinely buy. Most sites allow you to print two of each coupon.
Lastly, many major grocery chains now have digital coupons that you load directly to your loyalty card. No clipping required and the coupon is automatically deducted from your total at checkout.
Retailers are in business to make money, so you can't blame them for promoting their cause. What you can do is shop sensibly, for savings, and maintain spending discipline buying needed items. Whether shopping for groceries, clothing, or school supplies, these proven practices help make the most of family income.
Merchandising is about placing goods before consumers, in ways that make them buy things. And it works. Grocery checkout lane displays, for example, account for untold spending, as idle customers are induced to buy last-minute magazines, candy, and beverages. To keep spending in line, resist impulse purchases, which are often ill-advised. Instead of hastily throwing an item into your cart, take note and evaluate your needs later, when you have time to weigh benefits versus costs.
Retail stores operate on clearly defined schedules, offering seasonal merchandise on a regular rotation. To make room for incoming goods, stores typically slash prices on past-season merchandise. As a result, off-season shopping yields substantial savings. To increase buying power, for instance, cold-weather gear is best purchased during spring sales. And to save money on summer shoes and clothing, buy these items at the end of the season, as stores begin to roll out fall merchandise.
Competitive retailers extend generous discounts to their best customers. To save money at your favorite stores, participate in available customer loyalty programs. Some incentives are tied to sales, so the more you spend, the more you save. In fact, retailers sometimes endorse major credit cards, which accumulate cash-back or points toward purchases at their stores.
Shoppers generally have options when buying groceries and other consumer goods. Comparison shopping is among the easiest money-saving methods, calling on cost-conscious patrons to find stores with the lowest prices on needed items. When paying the lowest available prices, repeat savings add-up, especially on items bought frequently. Use online comparisons and other forms of advertising to make the most of your resources.
Consumerism operates on a regular, revolving cycle, which often prompts people to replace items before they are worn out. As long as you don't mind being one step behind the cutting-edge, buying used goods can save you money. Electronics, in particular, are frequently updated with new features and capabilities. While you'll pay top-dollar for the newest releases, yesterday's versions are available at a fraction of the cost - often without sacrificing form or function. The same principle can be applied to clothing, furniture, cars and countless other consumer goods.
Cleaning products can be expensive and toxic. Making your own cleaning products saves money, the environment and your health.
Now that you know how to economically keep your house clean, how about keeping it warm or cool? First, buy a programmable thermostat. It will regulate the temperature in your house when you are home and turns it off when you are away or asleep. In winter if you set it to be 5 degrees colder at night you will use 5% less energy. Insulate your attic and crawlspace, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows and install insulated curtains. Close the damper on your fireplace when not in use and don't forget to change furnace filters once a month. All of these will help conserve energy and lower your heating and cooling bills. You may also want to do a DIY home assessment to evaluate your home's efficiency.
Energy costs move up and down based on market conditions, resource availability and other influences. Beyond your control, these costs must be paid to keep your home comfortable. What you can do, however, is manage energy use at home, to reflect greater economy and savings. Lower thermostat settings during cold-weather months, for example, lead to reduced heating costs - even when adjusting by only one or two degrees. Managing settings is even more precise when using a programmable thermostat, which enables users to enter daily functions controlling heat and A/C. By limiting the call for energy while occupants are away, for instance, users eliminate heating and cooling costs wasted conditioning an empty home.
In some cases, upgrading infrastructure is a fast-track to savings, especially if furnaces and A/C units are more than ten years old. Highly-efficient modern models significantly outperform older units, trimming costs for owners who upgrade. Though new units require capital investment up-front, energy savings quickly pay for heating and cooling updates.
When replacing home appliances research which is most reliable by visiting consumerreports.com and even some Amazon.com reviews if the reviewer has owned the product for a long time. Check efficiency by looking for the energy guide label which compares it to similar models.
A little thing such as a light bulb can save you more than you think in the long run. Consider replacing your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) which can save you $6 per bulb per year. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are much more expensive but prices are coming down. They are supposed to last 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs and they contain no mercury like the CFLs. A federal law passed in 2007 requires that screw in light bulbs have to use 27% less energy which is why incandescent bulbs are slowly being phased out.
Energy costs run high for homes lacking weatherization. Gaps and voids around windows and doors, for instance, allow outside air to infiltrate your home and create paths for conditioned interior air to escape to the outside. In most cases, do-it-yourself latex caulking jobs are all that's required to zip thing up, but wider gaps may require filling with expanding foam.
Insulation in wall cavities is another key weatherizing feature. Unfortunately, many older homes lack adequate insulation, or are entirely without it. Retrofitting insulation is accomplished by blowing fiber material into wall cavities or adding layers of rolled insulation between wall studs.
Domestic water waste has two components. Wasting water itself leads to higher utility bills, but there is also the matter of squandered heating energy and inefficient use of hot water. To save money on water and utility bills, adopt conservation on both fronts. Shorter showers, leaky faucet repairs and catching rainwater to quench exterior plants are all water-saving measures that lead to lower bills. Plumbing updates like low-flow toilets also help trim costs, using as little as a gallon of water for each flush.
It's easy to take mobility for granted, until the high cost of staying on the road challenges your financial flow. Frugal motorists use the following tips to keep costs down, without sacrificing convenience.
Cars can be a major expense especially if you require new wheels every few years. Most Americans think having a car payment is normal. But did you ever want to be abnormal and own a car free and clear? Just think how much you can save without that monthly payment. You can do it especially if you buy a used car. There are many reliable used cars out there especially with the large number of lease vehicles that need to be recirculated. Consumer Reports, again, is the top authority in this product area and has been so for decades. Use their information to search for the most reliable used cars and choose the shortest loan you can handle – 3 to 4 years max. With a little sacrifice now, you will soon be zooming by debt free before you know it.
Though its price fluctuates, gas is never cheap. As a result, increasing fuel efficiency and economy are direct money saving measures everyone can use to trim costs. Obviously, the vehicle you drive sets the stage for fuel use, so serious savers lean toward small, fuel-efficient cars. Hybrids and electric vehicles are also available, but require larger investments up-front.
The way you drive also impacts fuel efficiency, so excessive speed and dramatic acceleration lead to higher costs. Distances covered have a direct impact on the cost of gas too, so precisely planning routes and carpooling lead to immediate savings.
Believe it or not a little thing like the correct amount of air in your tires can save you money. According to the Dept. of Energy, you can improve your gas mileage by 3.3% by keeping them properly inflated.
Since gas prices seem to fluctuate daily shop around for the best price. There are apps like Gasbuddy which will compare prices in your immediate area. Also some grocery chains have their own gas stations or have relationships with local stations. You build points by buying groceries and then redeem them at the gas station for substantial savings.
Like other machines, cars require ongoing care and maintenance, designed to enhance performance and extend vehicle life. Keeping up with regular service leads to savings, because cars function more efficiently and stay on the road longer when properly tuned. To make the most of your automotive budget, follow manufacturer recommendations for upkeep and establish a relationship with a mechanic you trust.
Not every car owner is prepared to roll-up his or her sleeves for a look under the hood, but there are money saving opportunities available for drivers with mechanical aptitude. Checking fluids, changing oil, and keeping tires inflated to proper pressures, for example, not only keep costs down for DIY drivers, but also contribute to enhanced safety and performance. Auto parts retailers contribute to savings too, offering free services like battery exchanges and windshield wiper blade replacement.
Staying cool while driving is accomplished in two ways - by rolling down windows or turning on air-conditioning. While it is widely known running an A/C condenser takes a bite out of fuel efficiency, some studies highlight when air-conditioning is actually a better bet. At interstate speeds, for example, rolling down windows makes cars less aerodynamic, so at speeds over 55 mph; leaving them up in favor of A/C ultimately leads to greater fuel efficiency.
Insurance represents ongoing spending that doesn't go away. For those paying too much for coverage, each renewal and premium payment sends money down the drain. To keep costs in line, conduct periodic reviews and take advantage of company discounts. Bundling home and auto policies, for example, leads to discounts from some carriers. And dialing-in correct coverage can also trim premiums.
Save money on your car insurance by comparing rates annually. Raise your deductible and if your car is older consider if you really need collision insurance. Coverage should receive a periodic check up, as most car insurance companies do not reward loyalty & charge long-term clients higher rates to maximize their revenues.
Vacation expenses range from lodging and meals to the cost of air travel and other forms of transportation. Shrewd travelers use these and other strategies to keep spending in line while on holiday.
Savvy travelers bank savings on hotel rooms, airfare, and meals on the road. Travel saving starts with research and advanced planning, which uncover special offers and other incentives offered by hospitality providers.
Online resources furnish up-to-the-minute information about travel schedules and rates. Sites like Orbitz, Expedia and Kayak enable visitors to compare available offers and book discounted travel online.
Travel and hospitality are competitive industries, so providers aggressively promote goods and service. Customer reward programs, in the form of points systems and other travel offers furnish money saving opportunities for frequent travelers. Companion fares, for example, furnish two-for-one travel. And frequent flyer programs accrue points, which can be cashed-in for travel discounts and complimentary services.
Baggage fees have skyrocketed in recent years, totaling fifty-dollars or more for a single round-trip bag. To eliminate baggage costs, fly with airlines offering free passage for your luggage, or simply use carry-on bags to get the job done. Pack as a family, sharing bags as needed, which helps maximize available space. If checking bags is unavoidable, use a single, collective bag to handle the entire family's carry-on overflow.
Meals account for a significant share of vacation spending, so trimming food costs is a priority - especially for families with several hungry mouths to feed. Eating out adds up: transportation, meal cost, service charges/tipping and sales tax. What started as convenient weekday breakfast service for business travelers has become a regular fixture on the hospitality landscape. Complimentary continental breakfast offered by many hotels includes cereal, pastries, juice, coffee and sometimes eggs and other hot food. Whenever possible, book lodging that includes breakfast or other food incentives. Once the cost of meals is multiplied by the number of family members and vacation mornings, eliminating breakfast expense logs substantial savings.
Lodging is a big expense, so it pays to explore various vacation options - including less conventional accommodations. If your home is situated in a desirable location, it may be possible for you to trade lodging with another family. Home swaps are a form of bartering, which enable families to stay in one another's homes while on vacation - without exchanging cash. Flexibility and coordination are required to carry-off swaps, as each family must be available to travel at the same time. But savings are profound - easily topping several-hundred dollars for a standard weeklong outing.
Saving money trims the fat from family budgets, but cash flow also benefits from additional income. Opportunities to earn extra cash are widespread, ranging from investments to employment. When you need a financial boost beyond your day job, consider the following options for increasing household income.
Most homes are littered with unneeded items, so neighborhood sales provide substantial financial windfalls for those who take the time to sell-off unwanted possessions. Spring and fall are prime selling seasons for holding second-hand events, which can be carried off independently, or as group projects, with multiple sellers.
Supplemental paychecks provide immediate financial relief for those seeking increased cash flow. Some people find additional work in their fields, while others take-on unrelated projects for cash. Online resources, like Craigslist and other advertising venues are good places to find part-time work. For added income without long-term commitments, seasonal positions present opportunities for short-term holiday work and summer employment.
Not everyone has a spare room to rent or a desire to open their homes to roommates. As a last resort, however, sharing your living space and collecting rent bolsters your bank account and offsets living expenses. Utilities and other shared expenses are also divided among roommates, so taking-in a boarder leads to savings in several areas.
EBay revolutionized the way people connect to exchange second-hand items, and it is not the only venue available for making online sales. The site skims a percentage of each sale, but it is a small price to pay for the marketing support sellers receive. For local pickup and selling items too bulky to ship, Craigslist provides regional venues for listing items in your area. Collectibles, spare parts, and electronics are typically strong sellers, as well as clothing and entertainment.
Saving money improves cash flow and helps families make the most of their household income. By trimming costs and limiting waste, committed savers maximize their resources at home and on the road. Transportation, food, energy, and other consumer spending presents opportunities to save, which frugal families convert to money in the bank. If your financial flow shows room for improvement, use these tips to get started saving money today.
One of the best ways to save money is to eliminate the drain of credit card interest. Stop making minimum payments and eliminate the debt. Have you ever looked at the section of your credit card statement that states how long it will take to pay off by making only minimum payments? It's shocking! Track your spending for a month and see where your money is actually going. You will be surprised. Bite the bullet; make a budget and stick to it.
A home mortgage accounts for the largest single share of a typical family budget. Depending upon your mortgage terms, refinancing to a lower rate may reduce your monthly housing expenses. There are closing fees associated with each new loan, so costs should be considered before making the move. Because minor savings multiply with each payment made, even incremental gains add-up to significant sums over time.
Cut back where you can, create a comfortable emergency fund, and put any extra directly towards the debt in your life. Paying off debt provides great investment yield because the recurring interest expense savings act as a tax-free raise for the rest of your working life. If you struggle with spending extra savings you could store them in a safety deposit box or create some other barrier which makes it harder to access.
Reading an article of how a couple eliminated $136,000 of debt in 21 months is quite encouraging. The more debt you eliminate the more you can save for other things. You can do it!
You can have your money work for you and compound your savings by investing in bonds, equities, CDs, and/or a money market savings account. The table below highlights current savings account yields.