Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Simple Ways to Save Money

All middle-class families find ways to save money, and all families should be on a constant lookout for new ways to save.  So I’ve provided you with several money-saving options that could save you thousands of dollars each year; money that could be going to mandatory expenses, college savings, or retirement.

Plan and prepare your meals –  Preparing your own meals and planning them out each week is a great way to save some cash.   Each Sunday my wife will sit down with the weekly grocery ad and think through the dinners we’ll have that week and make our shopping list accordingly.   And she’ll prepare meals so that the leftovers from dinner will be the next day’s lunch.  Yes, we may eat out a couple times on the weekends, and occasionally mid-week, but most of the time we prepare our own meals.  And in doing so we’re not paying restaurants to make food for us.  Families that order out several meals a week are spending more money than they really need, and quite possibly eating meals that aren’t as healthy either.  I would encourage everyone who eats out frequently to give it a shot.  Look at your expenses for a previous month in which you ate out frequently.  Then, spend 1 month of planning out meals and making everything.   Then compare the months to see your savings.  It will add up quickly.

Take public transportation to work – I know it may not be an option for everyone, but many folks here in the Louisville area certainly have the option to take the bus to work. (Wish we had a subway, or something like that, but that’s a long way off).  Several local employers even have a deal with the Transit Authority that allows their employees to ride for free.  So if there’s no cost of getting to the bus stop, your commute to work will cost you nothing.  Whereas a round-trip with your car will take a gallon of gas (or more), depending on your distance from work, and cost about $4/gallon.  So if you drive to work every day for the year, you could have saved $1,000 by simply taking the bus.  Or perhaps alternate weeks of driving and bus riding, and still save $500 a year.   And you can also use that time on the bus to read, surf the web on your smart phone, get some work done, or rest a little before getting to work.   

Set a budget – This will take a little effort initially, but will probably be the best way to save money.  A resource my wife and I have used to determine our budget is  It’s a free tool that takes a look at your bank transactions, including checking, savings, and credit card accounts.  You have the ability to enter all sorts of info on the types of assets and debts you have, as well as set a budget.  Based on that budget, the tool will track your progress on meeting that budget, and even warn you if you’re nearing that budgeted monthly limits.  When a budget is not set, it will be easier for you to spend money on things you may not really need or pay more for items than you should.  When you have a set limit for the month and keep track of it, you can know when to save some of your discretionary income for better purposes.

Clip Coupons -  I’m not talking about the extreme coupon shows you see on TV where someone spends 20 hours a week to save $300 on a grocery bill full of items they may never even need.  That isn’t true saving in my mind, as these items are not things some of those people ever use.  Not to mention the time spent tracking the coupons is a type of “money” as that time could be spent working a job that may bring in income that offsets the money “saved” on groceries.  (Enough of my rant).  I’m talking about using coupons that may come to your house in the paper or available online with a small amount of time invested.  Our local grocer sends us coupons about every other week on items we regularly purchase, saving us money the next time we need it.  You may also get coupons after checking out that can be used on your next purchase.   My advice is to clip coupons while keeping in mind the value of your time.  If you can spend an hour a week to save $40 on your groceries, then do it.  That’s a great return on the time you’ve invested.  If your return is less than your hourly pay or effective hourly rate (salaried), then reconsider how much time you spend working on coupon-clipping.

Take advantage of Online Promo Codes – The use of promo codes online has saved my wife and I hundreds of dollars on items we were planning on purchasing.  One time, after moving to our new home, we needed a desk for our computer.  We found a great one at Office Depot for $300.  Rather than purchase in the store, though, we searched online and found a promo code for Office Depot that would give us 15% of an online purchase, and purchases above $100 qualified for free delivery.  So rather than spend time buying in the store and having to haul it home ourselves, Office Depot gave us $45 off and delivered it to our home.  So next time you have a planned purchase, see if you can find it online, and see if there are any promo codes you can take advantage of.  Several website are devoted to providing promo codes for all sorts of businesses, and if the promo code they offer was posted fairly recently, there’s a good chance you can use it.

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