A few weeks ago, I was having coffee with a colleague while we talked about our recent annual raises. We were complaining (more or less) that our raises were basically non-existent when we factored in other changes to our work-related benefits. Our health care premiums are sure to increase this cycle as well as one of our primary reimbursable expenses, cell phone reimbursement, was decreasing by about 50%. We were both trying to figure out how to increase our emergency savings and create more of a cushion in our personal finances. I couldn’t help but remember some of the very basic things that I’d learned from a personal financial advisor several years back when I first graduated from college.
When I finished college I had an extremely difficult time establishing an emergency savings account, whenever I got paid I would pay my bills and use the remainder for fun money- like all of it! I just couldn’t get into the habit of saving money and leaving it alone. With the help of a financial advisor and her tough love, I managed to save about $4,500 over the course of the next year. The tips she shared with me were not necessarily easy, but they were goal oriented and, over time, seeing the results made it easier to make the day-to-day sacrifices necessary to save.
- Start saving something!
Start saving at $50 a month by cutting your non-essential expenses. These expenses are the daily things like Starbucks coffee, takeout lunch, and weekly manicures/pedicures. Now notice that I didn’t suggest cutting all non-essentials. Sometimes we find it hard to stick to a savings plan because the cold turkey approach can be overwhelming and discouraging.
A tall latte at Starbucks is currently about $5, coming in at $100 for the month. If you cut back to just 3 lattes for the week you can easily save $40 a month. Over the course of a year you will be able to add $480 to your savings account.
We all know that the cost of eating out daily can quickly add up. You can easily spend $50 in one week on lunch. Takeout lunch is one of those non-essentials that I, personally, would eliminate cold turkey (but that’s because I’ve found that I’m usually in a rush for lunch so leaving the building to find a decent lunch takes a good amount of time.) But if you’re a takeout junkie, at $10per lunch you will spend $200 in a month. (Yes, that much!) This is about the cost of a ½ salad, ½ sandwich deal at Panera with a beverage.
So what should you do? Again, this article isn’t about totally cutting yourself off from things you enjoy. You could allow yourself 1 takeout lunch per week and pocket the savings. That will result in saving $160 in a month, and in a year you will have added $1,920 to your savings account.
Ladies, we love our manicures and pedicures. But let’s be real, an average salon charges $50 for a mani/pedi combo and, if you are doing that weekly, you’re spending $200 a month. This is an area where I would be extremely miserable if I could not indulge myself in this therapeutic service on occasion, but I would limit my mani/pedis to every 2 weeks OR get a nail kit and make it a DIY project. This will result in savings of $100/month and $1,200 for a year. Either way, I’m not suggesting that you walk around with busted feet! J
Other non-essential expense areas that could save you a few dollars are hair salon appointments, concessions at the movies, and happy hours.
Key takeaway: start somewhere!
- Review your bills
Once you’ve gotten into the habit of reviewing your non-essentials for savings opportunities, go through your recurring bills (cable, cell phone, utilities, auto insurance, auto-renewing membership plans) to find more savings opportunities. Many of us are so accustomed to the auto pay feature that our service providers have so “graciously” put in place that we forget to actually review these bills. LOL. Well, this month when your bills come in take 20 minutes and review the details of each of them. I am quite certain you will find some areas where you are spending unnecessarily.
A big one for me was my cable bill, with five televisions in the home and a channel package with more than 300 channels, I knew there had to be a way to save some money. I decided to get rid of two cable boxes (savings of $12/month) and reduce my channel package from the Extreme HD to an Essentials package, this will save me $30 a month, for a monthly total of $42. Over the course of a year that’s a total savings of $504. Since I’m not a huge television watcher anyway, this was a painless change for me, but I know that for some this is a big deal.
What I suggest for those with children or sports fanatics in the home is cutting back to an essentials or basic package and then add on the sports or family pack for $8. Besides, by now, everyone knows that Amazon prime includes the added benefit of free streaming of movies and television shows, so if you already have Prime, consider buying the FireTV stick and fire it up.
This past summer was super hot and it seemed it was excruciatingly long. My electric bill averaged $150 from May to July, and then suddenly in August it spiked to $196. I was less than thrilled. So I immediately reviewed the settings on my automatic thermostat and increased the hold temperature by several degrees for the daytime hours when the house is empty. That resulted in a September bill that I could live with. On October 1st I turned the A/C off for the season, at that point we were still getting days where the temperature hits 80 degrees, but most days I could get by with opening a window for cooler air. Over the course of the year, my savings averages out to be about $20 a month or $240.
Reviewing your auto insurance is another area where you may be able to find savings. I’m not suggesting you decrease your coverage terms across the board, but I am suggesting you consider your package and determine what makes sense for your situation. Review your deductible and increase them to the highest amount you can tolerate, if your deductible is $250, look into increasing it to $500. Additionally, if you have extra coverages such as mechanical breakdown coverage, really challenge yourself and ask if this is necessary. If you have an extended warranty on your vehicle, more than likely than not, you don’t need this duplicate coverage from your auto insurer. This review of your insurance can result in savings between $20-40/month or up to $480 for the year. Additionally, once your car has reached a certain age, weigh the value of full coverage insurance versus liability coverage. This can result in savings of another $100 for the year. Please review your coverage carefully and do what is best for your situation, I am not suggesting that you have bare bones insurance coverage that leaves you exposed to other financial issues.
Key takeaway: Review your recurring bills and look for saving opportunities, make sure you are not overpaying for services that you are not using.
- Saving in space to make extra cash
The last suggestion on how to save money lies in an area where you can find some significant savings cushion.
All of us ladies have accumulated clothes, shoes, and handbags that we no longer love. I know several people who swear by eBay but, personally, I’ve never had the patience to be a seller on eBay, so that wasn’t a real option for me. However, there are several high-end consignment shops in my city and I’ve had great success gathering up my gently used items and selling them at the consignment shop. I had a pair of Frye boots that I paid about $300 for and wore just one season. When I took them in for consignment I got $100 for them. I’m sure they were going to polish them up, maybe do some light work on the heel, and put them back on the shelf for about $175. I also sold a hot pink leather Coach wallet for about $40. The bonus here is that you’re decluttering and making money!
Key takeaway: you will not get anything close to what you paid for these items, but in lots of cases you will make a few dollars and it’s better than letting these goods wither away in the closet or just throwing them away.
Share your tips for finding extra savings !