Wanda J. Hall's Blog
We live in a time when there are countless services from which to choose. From streaming video services, to grocery home delivery, there is no shortage of choices when it comes to finding entertainment and services.
In today’s post, we’re going to talk about some of the ways you can save money each month. Whether you’re saving up for a big purchase, or you just want to spend less on your monthly expenses, this article is for you.
If you’re a fan of movies, books, music, or video games, then you likely know how quickly these expenses can add up. New books and movies can cost up to $30. And video games much higher, at around $60 per game.
Monthly services have made these expenses easier to access and seemingly less expensive. However, if you’re paying for Netflix (TV and movies), Spotify (music), Audible (audiobooks), and Xbox Live (games), then you could be spending over $50 per month on entertainment alone. That adds up to around $600 per year.
To cut down on those entertainment expenses you have a few options.
Check to see if you qualify for discounts. Many times, customers offer introductory rates, student and senior discounts to encourage people to sign up. If you don’t meet those requirements, check for any coupons that might be available online. If you studied at college at some point in your life and still have access to your .edu email address, you might be able to take advantage of college discounts for a number of services.
Get a library card. There’s a lot more than books at your local library. Audiobooks, the latest video games, recently released movies, and even music can all be found amongst the stacks of your local library. Better yet, most libraries are connected regionally. So, if there’s a particular title you’re looking for but your library doesn’t have it, they will ship it *for free* to your library.
While you’re at the library… weekend entertainment for the family can be pricey as well. The library has you covered here as well. Libraries often offer free or discounted passes to local museums and attractions.
Slash your utility bills
Utilities can be a daunting bill to receive in the mail each month. You might not know what to expect each month due to fluctuations in usage and weather. That uncertainty is cause for stress for many homeowners.
There are, however, a few ways you can save on your monthly utility bills.
Go solar. Solar panels are more efficient and easier to access than ever. Better yet, leasing programs allow you to install rooftop solar without putting any money down. If panels on your roof aren’t your thing, you can look into off-site solar to power your home. It works just like rooftop solar without the eyesore.
Still paying for cable? It might be time to cut the cord. You can find most TV shows on Netflix or Hulu these days. And if you pay for cable for the news channels you might be surprised to find that many major stations stream their newscasts live on their websites.
Make your home energy efficient. For under $100, you can upgrade your light bulbs, insulate your windows (for the winter months), and purchase power strips that will allow you to turn off several devices at once that might otherwise be using electricity on standby.
For many of us, it can seem like our paychecks are gone before we even get a chance to see them. With seemingly endless bills and expenses, both recurring and unforeseen, saving up for a house is a daunting task.
Fortunately, there are ways you can prepare yourself for those intimidating down payments and many closing costs.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through how you can start saving for a home right this moment. After all, every day is another day you could be contributing to your savings and taking another step closer to owning your own home.
Use a Budgeting Tool
The first step to saving and determining how much you can save is to start budgeting. Many people hear the term “budget” and get nervous thinking they’ll have to start counting the number of coffees they buy. However, there are less anxiety-inducing ways to budget.
From your phone, tablet, or computer you have access to a large number of free budgeting tools. Mint, You Need a Budget (YNAB), and PocketGuard are three of the top budgeting tools that will get you started.
With apps that integrate with your bank accounts and loan balances, there is little work required on your part. Just set an amount to save each week or month, and direct the funds into your savings account.
Set up a dedicated savings account
Speaking of savings accounts--now is a great time to set up a new one. It’s almost always free to open a new account with your bank. What’s more, it’s a lot less tempting to pull from a savings account when it’s labeled something like “HOUSE SAVINGS - DO NOT TOUCH.”
Once you have your budgeting app and bank account set up, it’s time to dig into some of the ways you can save money without skipping meals.
Cutting Monthly Expenses
Rather than telling yourself you can’t buy any more fancy Starbucks drinks anymore until you have a house (don’t torture yourself), make a list of all your monthly expenses. That can include anything from Netflix and Spotify to haircuts and car washes.
A great way to make this list is to go through your credit and debit card transactions. If you have autopay set up, you might not even realize how many services are withdrawing directly from your accounts each month.
For each item on your list, determine if you can either eliminate the expense or spend less on it. Maybe you go for the deluxe car war rather than the basic. Or, you might pay for services you don’t use as much as you used to.
If you’re worried about having no entertainment if you drop Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, you could try out your local library system. Most of the time you can have books, movies, and music shipped for free from all around your state.
When it comes to cable, cell phone plans, car insurance, and other monthly bills give your provider a call and tell them you’re thinking about switching over to a cheaper competitor. They’ll likely offer you a discounted rate. If they don’t, follow through on your promise and call other providers to see if you can get better rates.
Whether you call it a "rainy day fund" or a "financial cushion", having some money set aside for emergencies or unexpected expenses can help keep life on an even keel.
Although health insurance and a homeowners' policy can provide a measure of protection, insurance deductibles can take a large bite out of your bank account.
In addition to all the predictable expenses that accompany home ownership, mechanical systems like furnaces, hot water heaters, and air conditioning units have a way of breaking down at the most inopportune times. Another crisis that many people aren't prepared for is the potential loss of a job. When families don't have money set aside to weather the storm of an unplanned income loss, then there's no "safety net" to cushion the fall.Strategies For Saving MoneyThe good news is that there are plenty of ways to build up financial reserves, but it often requires self discipline, a new set of habits, and the intention to make it happen. One of the first steps to putting some money aside for a rainy day is to open up a separate bank account. If you put extra money in your regular account -- or (even worse) keep it around the house -- chances are it will get spent pretty quickly. However, if it's deposited into a separate account that's designated for emergencies, unexpected household expenses, or even a college fund, then it'll stand a greater chance of being left alone until it's needed. Putting money aside does take some doing, but it can contribute to your family's financial security and ability to do things that are important to you.
If you have a tight budget, you're probably wondering where this extra money is going to come from! Sometimes, the very act of developing a written budget can provide you with clues and ideas for reducing your expenses. You'd also be amazed at how much the savings can add up when you comparison shop, buy in bulk, use coupons, negotiate lower interest charges on your credit cards, quit smoking, car pool to work, cut back on restaurant food, and make up your mind to live just a little more frugally.
Depending on how committed you are to creating a financial cushion, you could also make the fund grow faster by depositing a percentage of Christmas bonuses, tax refunds, manufacturer rebates, salary increases (raises), and other sources of extra income. Additional ways to beef up your financial safety net could include getting a part-time job, doing freelance work, holding a garage sale, or selling unwanted items through ads or flyers. When you pay off credit cards, car loans, or other debts, you could also redirect some or all of those monthly payments into your "future needs fund."
Whatever you decide to call it, it's nice to know that there's some extra money on hand for unexpected expenses, emergencies, potential job losses, college tuition, weddings, family vacations, home renovations, nursing home costs, or even retirement.