Money doesn’t buy happiness. But it sure helps. Knowing you have your expenses covered and a little extra to play with brings most of us considerable peace of mind.
However, for most of us, this feeling is elusive. Bills keep coming, and there are always new ways to spend your money. It’s easy to feel strapped.
When you feel this way, you have two options: 1) increase your income, or 2) reduce your expenses.
At first glance, you might think it makes the most sense to first try and increase your income. After all, if things feel tight with what you have, it makes sense to try and have more. But this is a dangerous approach because increasing your income usually means spending more time working. This then commits more of your time to work, and then you’ll have less of it to enjoy the extra cash with friends and family.
Plus, most of us aren’t great about saving additional income. Our paycheck increases and we go out and spend it on all those things we were denying ourselves or ignoring because we simply didn’t have the money.
As a result, the first thing you should do when trying to find some extra cash is to look and see where you can save on your current expenses. Even making some small changes to your expenses can have a huge impact, and approaching your finances in this way will make you more disciplined and more frugal. Then, when you do start making more money, you’ll be able to save that away for something bigger, such as a house, a new car, or a trip to the islands.
Sound like a plan? If so, then consider these 17 easy ways to save more of your money and get control of your finances:
One of the biggest expenses we all must incur is transportation, and for most of us, this comes in the form of a car. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the average cost per year to own and operate a vehicle is more than $9,500.
Cars are wonderful for the speed and convenience they offer, but they are going to eat up a lot of your money if you’re not careful. To save some money, consider doing one or more of the following:
#1 Get a More Fuel Efficient Car
At first, you might not think spending money on a new car is really saving money. But it can be, especially if you’re not too bothered about getting a brand new car. There are plenty of previously-owned vehicles out there that are excellent and that won’t cost you too much money.
Obviously, the thing to look out for when changing vehicles is miles per gallon (MPG). And don’t get bogged down in making a huge jump. Here’s why:
- If the average American drives 16,000 miles per year and the average price of a gallon of gas is approximately $3.41 that means a car/truck that gets 25 mpg costs you almost $2,000 per year in gas.
- With all things the same, a car that gets 30 mpg would cost $1,800, saving you nearly $200. A car that can do 35 mpg saves you even more! This is considerable money that should not be taken lightly.
Other things to consider are the types of driving you do each day. If you spend lots of time on the highway, any fuel-efficient car will do. But if you drive in cities or other congested areas, you may want to consider the hybrid route. Hybrids run on electricity at slow speeds and conserve gas while you’re sat at a traffic light idling.
Again, whether or not this is an option will depend on your budget, and how much you drive. Hybrid cars take a few years to pay back their higher price tag in fuel savings, but if you drive a lot or can find a good deal, this can happen sooner and it can really be worth it. Also, if you’re already driving a semi-new vehicle, you may be able to trade it in and not have to spend too much cash for a vehicle that will significantly reduce your monthly gas bill.
If you can’t swap out your current vehicle for something a bit more fuel-efficient, consider sharing it with others to save both the wear and tear on your car and gas. This situation is best when you live near some coworkers. You can coordinate to drive together using one car one week and the other the next.
Even if you have to drive five or ten minutes to meet one another, you’re still saving by carpooling. Plus, traveling with multiple people in the car allows you to ride in high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, which speeds up travel time and reduces the amount of idling you do on a busy highway.
#3 Use Public Transportation
Another way to save money on your car is to simply not use it as much, or at all. Public transportation does not have a great reputation in the United States, but if you live in or near a big city, it’s probably a lot better than you think.
Maybe you won’t be able to use public transportation to get you from door to door, but you can use it for part of your trip. For example, you may need to drive to the local train or bus station and leave your car, but then taking public transportation saves you the time and hassle of having to do the rest of the route yourself.
A lot of people shy away from public transportation because they consider it less convenient and/or comfortable. But this isn’t always the case. In fact, taking public transportation can dramatically improve your life as it allows you to use the time you spend traveling to and from your destinations. You can read, write, work, sleep, etc., all of which are better than slamming your head into the steering wheel because of the stop-and-go traffic around you.
Plus, using public transportation helps to reduce your carbon footprint, and we’re at the point now where everyone needs to be doing their part to reduce emissions from transportation and slow down the rapid rate of climate change.
#4 Ride Your Bike
If you live close enough to work to ride your bike, take things one step further and start enjoying life on two wheels. You can purchase a decent, second-hand bike for as little as $100, and if you use it enough, it can definitely cut the amount you need to spend on transportation. And it’s great for your health and well-being, making it a true win-win.
Obviously, if you live in an area with a harsh winter, this might not be possible but even biking half the year can save you a lot of money over the long run. However, the people of Amsterdam and other cold, European cities ride their bikes all year round. Just keep that in mind when you think about locking the bike up for the winter!
Next to transportation, energy is a huge expense for most of us. This refers to the cost of heating and cooling your home, as well as powering it with electricity.
Energy is obviously a necessity, so there’s no way to eliminate this expense. But there are steps you can take to reduce your monthly bills and save some money. Here are some to consider:
#5 Smart Power Strips and Lights
As we enter the world of “smart things,” you should know there are several products out there that can really save you some money.
One of these is smart power strips. All they do is monitor power usage and turn things off when they’re not being used to reduce consumption.
For example, you can use one in your home entertainment system and program it so that nothing gets power when the TV is off. DVD players, sound systems, lighting, etc., all draw power even when they’re off, but you don’t need them to if you’re not in the room.
Another good thing to get is smart lights. They save you power, and money, by turning off when you’ve set them to or when they sense there is natural light coming into the room, and they can also monitor usage and recommend actions to reduce how much energy you use.
If you don’t want to go the smart route, then just switch all your light bulbs to LEDs. This might not have the same effect, but it will help you save some money.
Heating and cooling suck up energy, which means they suck up money, too. But it’s something we need. Installing an automatic thermostat is a super-easy way to save money.
This is because it requires considerably more energy to heat a cold room or to cool a hot one than it does to keep the room at a certain temperature. A thermostat will turn your heating or cooling system on when the temperature dips below or above your desired level. Then it will turn off once the temp is back to where you want it.
Thermostats are also great because they allow you to monitor the temperature of your home when no one is there. For example, you can set the heat to go down when you’re away during the day and then set it to gradually go up throughout the afternoon so that it’s warm when you get back. This is much better for energy consumption than walking into a hothouse in the evening and blasting the air conditioning.
You can also get smart thermostats that will adjust settings based on what’s going on in the environment around you. For example, if it’s set for a certain temperature but there’s no humidity, it might not turn on right away since that warmer temperature will still feel OK. Or if there’s sun or shade in the room, the thermostat will respond accordingly. It will also keep track of your usage, stats which you can use to adjust your habits and spend even more money.
#7 Change Your Water Heater Settings
Having hot water is important, but water heaters use a ton of energy. This is because it takes a considerable amount of energy to raise the temperature of water (something we all know from trying to watch pots boil). Dropping the temperature setting on your water heater down a few degrees can have a huge impact on your bill.
Of course, in the beginning, you might need to get used to slightly cooler showers, but chances are you don’t bath in scalding hot water anyway. Experiment with lowering the settings and enjoy the savings.
#8 Change Your Energy Source
If possible, look into changing your energy source. Traditional oil is quite expensive and not very good for the environment, whereas natural gas, although still a carbon-emitting fossil fuel, burns cleaner and is considerably less expensive.
This will only make sense, though, in areas where the gas supply is already set up. If you need to do a major construction job to get gas to your home, chances are you won’t save much.
You could also explore solar energy. If you live in a sunny place, you can use solar panels to power your home and then sell the excess back to the electric company, something that could reduce your bill to zero. Obviously, to do this you will need to invest in the installation, but it could be well worth it if your area produces enough energy.
If neither of these work, then consider looking at alternative power companies. In many areas, new laws have increased competition, which has brought prices down. Speak with some of these competitors to see if you can’t find a better rate and save some money.
Another reason we spend so much on energy is that hot and cold air escapes our homes naturally. Some of this you can’t prevent, but some of it you can. The best thing to do would be to make sure you have super energy-efficient windows, as this is where most air is lost. But this is a huge expense. It will pay itself off eventually, but maybe not fast enough for most of us.
Instead, there are a few things you can do to make things better. Put blockers under doors to prevent air escaping through the cracks, and you can get plastic to seal over your windows. This is especially useful during the winter months when you’re not too worried about opening the windows.
Another thing you can do is to use curtains and drapes to seal off the rooms you spend the most time in. Block windows to prevent warm sunlight from coming in and close off doorways. This will allow you to raise or lower the temperature in one room without having to pay to do so in the entire house.
#10 Fans and Heater
Another thing to consider is moving away from heating or cooling your whole house. When the weather is warm, just get a few fans and blow them on you when you’re in the room. Even when it’s quite warm, you’d be surprised how much a fan can cool you down.
In the winter months, think about getting a space heater and using that instead of your central heating system. This way you can heat the living room while you’re watching TV or the bedroom while you’re sleeping without having to burn oil or gas to heat the whole house.
These devices do use electricity, so be mindful of how much you use them but smart usage can help you save on your overall energy bill.
There’s more to life than just work and bills, and you should, by all means, spend money on yourself. However, as you have probably realized, spending money on entertainment can cut into your monthly budget.
#11 Cut the Cord
For many of us, television is an important source of entertainment but as you’ve probably noticed, cable TV is expensive. And it’s not like it’s getting more expensive gradually – the price of cable TV has significantly outpaced that of inflation in the last 15 years.
As a result, many people, to save money and also to stick it to the cable companies, are cutting the cord. When you do this, you have two options:
- Buy an Antenna. You can get a digital TV antenna for anywhere from $30 to $200 that will give you access to all your local channels and more for free. So, yes, you will need to spend some money upfront, but getting TV for free will quickly pay for itself. Of course, you’ll lose things such as the ability to record onto a DVR, but if you’re okay with that, this is a great way to save.
- Only Use Streaming. Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are considerably cheaper than cable and they give you access to great television. If possible, get together with some friends and share subscriptions. This way you can get all the best TV for as little as $15 per month, not $115.
#12 Cut Back on Nights Out
Going out for dinner and drinks is a lot of fun, but it’s expensive. Cutting back on this part of your social life can really save you money. But you also don’t want to deny yourself some fun. So, look for alternatives.
For example, instead of going out for dinner and a movie, rent one and cook up a special meal. Consider looking for some new recipes and unique ingredients and get creative at home. If you regularly go out with friends, consider setting up a game night or something similar so that you can all still get together but without having to spend so much money.
This might be hard at first if you’re used to being out a lot. But over time you’ll find it easier and easier to say “no” to a night out, especially when you start to experience the savings.
We’ve covered two of the major bills (transportation and energy), but we all know there are more. Here are some tips to help you save on some of your other responsibilities:
#13 Bundle Insurance
Insurance is a necessary expense. You need it for your home, car, life, health, etc. To save, though, try to get as many of these policies as you can from the same company, especially home and auto. Bundling can often save you a good bit of cash. Also, if you’ve been a customer for a while, you may be able to negotiate a lower rate because of your loyalty.
#14 Seek Out Discounts
Another way to save on your insurance is to seek out special discounts. Car insurance companies often give you deals for safe driving records, driver’s ed classes, loyalty, etc., and homeowners insurance companies will give deals for security systems and renovations that lower the risk of your home being damaged by a storm.
However, the trick with these is you need to ask for them. Most insurance companies don’t put up big signs telling you how to save money with them. But when you inquire, they will tell you. Meet with your agent or representative and see what’s available to you.
#15 Consolidate Loans
If you have debt, especially student debt, a good thing you can do to save money is to consolidate your loans. This process takes all of your loans and combines them into one, which usually lowers your interest rate and hopefully your monthly payment.
#16 Refinance Your Mortgage
If you’re paying down a mortgage and have been doing so for a while, consider refinancing. Your payment history and improved credit score could make you eligible for a better interest rate, which will allow you to pay less per month without increasing the total length of your loan. Another option, if you can’t refinance with your current lender, is to look at the competition. Starting up with another lender could encourage your previous one to improve their offer, or, if you end up changing, you can enjoy a lower rate.
For those who rent and want to save money, consider downsizing to a smaller place. We often rent out more space than we need, and while it’s great to have it, most of us can do with less. Even just a $100 savings each month translates to more than $1,000 a year. Obviously, moving is a big deal, but if you can put up with the hassle, you can save a lot of money and really make a change to your financial situation.
Budget and Save
If you can use these tips in your life, you will save money. However, as you’re implementing these, you should start experimenting with making a budget. Take a look at your income and expenses and figure out where you’re spending the most money. Then, think about how you can cut back in that area.
In instances where you’re spending money on leisure, consider setting yourself a monthly limit. This will help you be smarter about your decisions and leave more money for the savings account or other bills.
In the end, saving money is a lifestyle. You have to be mindful of every penny without obsessing. But if you can master that, then you’ll find it much easier to manage your finances and experience the peace of mind that comes with having your money situation under control.