The first month of the year everyone is passionate about two things – weight loss and saving money. You can find hundreds of amazing ideas online to save a thousand dollars before Christmas or even help your child become a millionaire before they graduate from high school. All these plans are wonderful, but the key is that they only work if you actually use them. So what are some realistic ways to save money in 2016? I’ve got a few painless ideas to help real people like you and me live our lives and still save money.
Real Ways to Save Money in 2016
But first, we need to determine our goals. What is the purpose for saving money? If you don’t know the “why” for saving money, you will never stick to the plan. Are you trying to get out of debt? Do you want to fund a vacation? Are you planning for the kid’s college education? Do you have a life change coming that you need to prepare for?
Find out where the money is going:
When is the last time you have really looked at your monthly bills and income? Do you know where your money is actually going? It’s not a fun task, but if you don’t know where your money is going, you can’t move forward toward your financial goals. A simple spreadsheet with 5 columns is all you need. Just make a column for each of the questions: Who do you pay? How much? When? Is this necessary? Can you trim the fat?
Evaluate each bill:
Look at that spreadsheet you made. On each row, evaluate if the bill is necessary or fluff? Are you paying more than you realized on eating out? Do you have cable, a movie streaming service and use the $1.00 box at the grocery? Is there anything you can combine or delete from your regular bills that you don’t really need?
Dig before you shop:
Recently we needed to buy a new hair trimmer for the family. We thought we had one but couldn’t find it, so we bought a new one. Guess what I found when I cleaned out the bathroom cabinet? The brand new trimmer. We could have saved money if I had been organized. So before you go shopping for something new, do a little house cleaning first. You might find something in your closet that will save you some money.
Eat out of your cabinets first:
Before you go grocery shopping this week, take some time to look through your freezer and your cabinets. Is there frozen meat that needs to be thawed and eaten? You can shave off a good portion of your grocery bill by just eating what you have stored back first.
Check for rewards points:
If you have credit cards, you may have unused rewards points. Take a few minutes to log in or call each of your accounts and look for reward points. Some utilities and cell phones also have rewards programs that automatically earn points with every payment. See if you have enough points built up to cash out for a gift card or perk.
Don’t spend your change:
I often end up with piles of loose change in my purse. When I clean out my purse, I toss all the change in a jar and then forget about it. I’m curious how much I will end up saving before Christmas. This is a painless way to save some petty cash and get ready for the next holiday season.
Donate or Sell:
Most people have tons of stuff in totes or boxes just taking up space in attics, basements and their garage. Take an hour each week to pull out a box and either donate or list on ebay. Then use any money you make to pay off a bill. You can sell unwanted books for cash at Half Price Books or list them online.
Bonus: You will possibly free up another tote to actually help you organize the things you actually want to keep.
There are so many ways to save money that don’t really involve drastic measures. How are you planning to make financial progress this year? I’d love to hear your tips!
Excerpts of this article appeared in the print edition of the Advocate Messenger, Danville Kentucky.