We’ve all heard this advice before: If you want to save money, you need to cut back on spending, save your receipts, and balance your budget on a regular basis. While this is sound and practical advice, it’s not as easy as it seems.
But don’t fret. Whether you are saving to buy a new home, saving for a great vacation, or just trying to add to your “emergency fund,” these little changes can help you to curb senseless spending that quickly adds up:
- Save with DIY landscaping. Do your research, and landscape with plants that require little maintenance. Use a barrel to collect rainwater, and use it when watering your lawn.
- Create visual reminders. Do this for things such as debt or the cost of something you’re saving for. Seeing these numbers on a regular basis will help you commit to cutting back.
- Make lists. You may have heard that making a list before heading out to the grocery store can cut down on impulse purchases. But did you know that you can use this same strategy when buying clothing to decrease spending and ensure you buy what you need, rather than what looks good in the store?
- Eliminate paper. Instead of buying paper towels and napkins, opt for dish towels and cloth napkins, which can be used again and again.
- Lower utility bills. Close closet doors so you don’t heat or cool unnecessary spaces. Challenge yourself to only one month of air conditioning use in the summer, or use your fireplace during colder months so you can lower your heat. Install things like ceiling fans and light dimmers for an economical and environmental impact. Eliminate your landline; bundle your home, phone, and internet for a cheaper price; or consider cutting your cable. There are many alternatives that will allow you to continue watching your favorite TV shows and movies for a lower monthly bill.
- Plan out everything. Planning your weekly meals will help you eliminate dining out. Plan for and balance your monthly entertainment activities as well to avoid overspending.
- Avoid bank fees. Total the amount of fees (including ATM fees) you’ve incurred over the past six to twelve months, and consider changing accounts or even banks to eliminate unnecessary costs.
- Shop smarter. Making a grocery list is a no-brainer, but many grocery store websites now allow you to create a list online and will give you a total for all of your purchases. This method allows you to make substitutions when necessary and stick to the sales, as well as your budget. And, when you’re trying to cut down your grocery bill, cut out the meat. Even if you do so only one day per week, it will have an effect on your overall spending.
- Balance entertainment spending. Everyone needs to blow off steam, but there are many savings websites out there that offer deals or coupons. Do a quick search to help keep expenses down.
- Cut back on transportation costs. Carpooling to and from work, even if only for one or two days a week, can save a lot on gas and car maintenance. Pick a mutual location, and invite as many coworkers as you can.
- Do the math. Everyone knows that it’s far cheaper to bring your own coffee rather than stop for a cup on the way to the office. But don’t believe that single-cup, at-home coffee machines are more economical. To really save, stick to a good old-fashioned pot of coffee.
- Break your piggy bank. This may sound more like advice for college students, but the effects will surprise you: Save your loose change! Clean out your car, gather change from the bottom of your purse, and check your pockets. Designate a jar, and don’t cash it until it’s full.
- Reconsider your necessities. If you are accustomed to getting your hair trimmed every six weeks, push it out for eight or ten weeks at a time, or trim it yourself. The same applies to pet grooming. Ask yourself, “Is this a want or a need?”
Whether you’re saving up for your first home or a home renovation, budgeting doesn’t have to be a burden. Start right in your home with these 13 small savings suggestions, and audit your energy costs as an easy way to start saving for any project, large or small. When saving for a home, there are certain steps to follow that we’ve outlined in our Road Map to Home Ownership printable that can make the process easier for any first-time home buyer.