January is a time when we all take a look at our finances and decide "I need to do something different". Whether it's the bills coming in from Christmas or the looming doom of paying your taxes, we could all use a little extra for something.
I'll admit that I am terrible at some of these items and pretty good on others. So I have challenged myself to become better at watching every penny and track my savings.
Get a library card
Many libraries check out DVD's and CD for no cost. Of course there are books there too. A large percentage of an entertainment budget is spent on these items so there are some significant savings possible. By watching DVD's over going to the movies, you also have the option of enjoying cheap snacks. Invite people over and have a movie party. Everyone saves!
One word of caution, be sure to return what you have borrowed on time to avoid late fees.
Don't pay full price at restaurants
I have an AARP card and my husband and I like to eat out on Sunday mornings. I never fail to use the card for 15% off. But there are many other coupons, and rewards programs at different restaurants. Find ones at your favorite place to eat and reap the savings.
If you have children, check out the days and times where kids can eat free. Before you go check to see what the rules and conditions are. Some limit the number of free meals per adult and some limit the menu choices.
My last tip is to drink water with your meals. I was shocked the other day to see that two soft drinks added 25% to our total bill!
Keep up the maintenance on your vehicles
Newer cars are made to run longer with less maintenance. But it is important to keep to its suggested schedule. Get oil changes on time, rotate your tires as the manufacturer recommends and watch the air pressure on your tires. In addition to helping prevent more costly breakdowns, you can use less gas which saves money also.
Check on your auto insurance
A recent blog post talked about comparing different companies for better rates. Read that post here. Another option is to look at raising your deductible to lower your costs as well. I did that last year and saved enough money to put the extra money away in a savings account so that I would have that deductible in ready cash if I ever need it. Plus, I am still reaping the benefits of savings on my premiums for years to come.
Pay on time
While late fees for bills are well known, people often forget about other items that also carry late fees. Pay parking tickets and fines right away. Return items borrowed from the library right away. All these small fines can add up quickly. I recently received a $5 parking ticket from a class I taught and forgot to pay it. When I found the ticket when cleaning out my car, I discovered the amount I owed ballooned to $25! I paid five times the fine!
Now more than ever it is important to watch unit prices on food items. Stable prices but shrinking package sizes and weights actually add up to higher costs. And package size reductions may not be readily apparent. I recently purchased a box of cereal that looked the same size as usual but wasn't a deep causing a decrease in the amount of food inside and jars of peanut butter have stayed the same size but have a bigger dimple or indentation on the bottom causing less product inside. The trick is to use the label information on the shelf to calculate the cost per ounce between choices. Dividing the cost of the item by the number of ounces in the container equals the cost per ounce. Do the math-don't always assume that bigger equals savings. I found a sale on potato chips with three bags for $5 and another for $1.99 each. On face value, the 3/$5 was the better deal at $1.66 per pack vs $1.99. But when I calculated the cost per ounce, the difference was more than three cents per ounce with the $1.99 bag being less expensive. Since I didn't want three bags of chips, I saved significantly!
Look for sales and coupons for things you need
Frequently, coupons are for items that are new or brands we don't use as an inducement to change. Rather than purchase something just because there is a coupon, I am selective on what coupons I clip and use. I don't clip coupons for anything that isn't part of my regular food inventory. I also chop different stores for different items. My prescriptions are all at one store that gives me points for money off gasoline. I drive a lot for work and use the generous discount wisely. I shop at a different store that tracks what I purchase through my "saver "card and send me coupons monthly for things I actually buy including money off produce, meat and store brand frozen items. Some of them are actually free!
Coupons are not limited to food items. You can find them for restaurants, craft stores and department stores. Just be sure you are using them wisely for needed not wanted items!
Hopefully, using some or all of these tips will help you save money in the coming year. Have a money saving tip you'd like to share? Add it in the comments section for everyone to see.