It’s a new year, which means you should be thinking about your new year’s resolutions and the things you’d like to accomplish. With a shaky economy and wages continuing to stagnate, many people’s resolution is to save money and stretch their budget.
Thankfully, there are some relatively simple things you can do to keep a considerable amount of money in your pocket. Below, we’ll look at five frugal tips that you can use to potentially save $500 or more this year.
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1. Plan Your Meals
If you are purchasing pre-prepared food – whether it be food from a restaurant or food such as TV dinners – you’re spending quite a bit more than you would if you prepared your meals yourself.
The economics is simple – when you purchase ingredients and prepare your own meal, you’re cutting out the middleman. Food prepared for you is obviously more expensive for a company to make, and those costs are transferred to the buyer.
If you want a quick and simple way to start saving more money, cut down on restaurant trips and pre-prepared food. Eating at home rather than eating at a restaurant is an especially effective way to stretch your budget further this year, as even fast-food restaurants can be quite expensive.
Every week, make a list of everything you’re going to eat for dinner–4 or 5 meal nights and 2 or 3 leftover nights–then buy all the ingredients on your weekly shopping list.
To get maximum savings, check out this guide on how to make a money-saving meal plan.
2. Cut Down on Gas
Lately, gas hasn’t been especially expensive, which is great news for frequent travelers. However, even at “low” prices, fuel costs can still carve away a significant portion of your budget. Should gas prices swing back toward the high end again, cutting back on your fuel consumption will be especially important.
Unfortunately, gas is one of the most necessary expenses for the average person since not going where you need to go isn’t exactly an option. And unless you live somewhere with a great public transport system, driving yourself is going to be the most affordable and convenient way to get there. The good news is there are still things you can do to cut back on how much gas you have to buy.
For example, consider carpooling to work with some of your coworkers. If they’re interested in saving money as well, chances are they’ll be on-board with the idea. You’ll also want to make sure you run as many errands as you can in a single trip so you don’t have to make multiple trips back and forth. Lastly, good driving habits such as keeping a steady speed can help you save gas as well.
Also, be sure you’re getting the lowest gas prices possible (as long as you don’t have to drive too far out of the way) with apps such as Gas Buddy.
3. Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
If the electric bill is eating away at your budget, you may want to consider making your home more energy efficient to drive this cost down. There is a wide range of things that you can do to make your home more energy efficient, including blocking light from your windows in the summer with blackout curtains, and letting the sun in during the winter, installing energy-efficient LED bulbs, unplugging electronic items when you are not using them, and more.
With a little effort and attention to detail, you might be surprised how much you can save in energy costs. While some homes have higher energy costs than others due to the way they are built as well as where they are located, it’s still possible for most everyone to reduce their energy costs to some degree if they follow the right steps. Especially in the winter.
4. Start Using Coupons
If you’ve heard stories of people who were able to walk out of the supermarket with a basket full of items having paid next to nothing, then you know just how effective collecting coupons can be. Of course, getting this much of a discount from coupons requires quite a bit of effort – to the point that couponing itself becomes something of a hobby.
Couponing may or may not be something that you want to dedicate that much time to. Either way, though, saving coupons when you come across them can still cut down your expenses by a considerable amount.
According to one 2014 study, the average value of a single coupon is $1.56. When you think about all of the coupons that are available if you spend just a little time looking for them, that’s a noteworthy amount.
You can collect coupons from newspapers, or you can download a number of different coupon apps. Just be sure to only collect coupons for things that you already intend on purchasing. Remember, just because you get a discount on something doesn’t mean you’re saving money by purchasing it if it isn’t something that you really need.
If you’re new to couponing, I highly recommend The Krazy Coupon Lady’s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Couponing.
5. Change Your Shopping Habits
Oftentimes, where you shop is even more important than what you shop for in terms of saving money. For example, furniture, electronics, and much more can be found for very low prices on Craigslist. Checking out eBay auctions is another way to potentially find what you’re looking for at a cheap price.
There are several other sites where you can find good deals. Use price comparison sites and apps to find them.
If you visit a thrift store such as Goodwill or Plato’s Closet, you may be able to find some very nice clothing that costs next to nothing. It isn’t all that uncommon to find shirts, suits, dresses, and more in these stores that would otherwise cost you hundreds of dollars. Of course, there’s a wide range of other products in these stores as well, and you never know what you might find.
And remember, just because you’re in a store like Walmart that claims to always have the lowest price, don’t believe it. Oftentimes, dollar stores have way lower prices than Walmart.