Sometimes all it takes is one small step -- a seemingly innocent decision not to spend money on something that is frivolous or wasteful -- to change your financial situation and start on a better path. The confidence boost from being able to control your urge to spend can become a wheel of positive re-enforcement, ultimately helping you achieve your financial goals.
While none of the nine money saving tips below are life-changing on their own and some may not even apply to you, the important takeaway is that there are hundreds of easy ways to save money. Just choose a few, apply them to your life on a regular basis, and see the difference they make.
1. Review Your Bank Accounts
Are you paying a monthly fee for your checking or savings account? Does your credit card have an annual fee? With as many banking and credit card options available in the marketplace, you don't need to settle for a company who is going to charge you for these services.
Instead, take advantage of sign-up bonuses with a new credit card and make the switch before the new annual fee becomes due. Then open a bank account with a low minimum balance requirement or get the fee waived altogether by setting up a direct deposit.
2. Delay Your Purchases
Impulse buying and the need for instant gratification are weaknesses most people must fix before achieving financial stability. Instead of purchasing the latest gadget, partaking in consumer fads, or indulging every urge to spend on your "wants", wait 30 days before reconsidering the buy.
During this time, rethink and evaluate your purchase. Is it something you need? Does the product or service justify the expense? Will you use it enough? Does the expenditure trump your other priorities? Waiting a month will give you more of a perspective.
3. Negotiate Lower Rates Where You Can
You'll be surprised by the number of fees and charges you can negotiate away just by asking. From gym memberships to cell phone plans to high-speed internet contracts to your money manager, it doesn't hurt to mention you're a loyal customer, frugal and would appreciate a discount.
For example, I call my internet company once a year to extend my contract and lock-in a lower rate. By investing 15 minutes of my time chatting up a representative, I save nearly $300 a year.
4. Complete a Balance Transfer
If you have credit card debt and the interest payments are crushing your ability to pay off any principal, try to negotiate a lower interest rate with your credit card company. If your card issuer refuses to help you, transfer your balance to another credit card company entirely.
There are a number of balance transfer credit cards offering an introductory 0 percent APR for 12 months. Use that time to pay down as much of your high-interest debt as possible.
5. Spend Time with Your Kids
You don't need to spend a lot to entertain your kids. Shoot hoops or play catch in the backyard. Take them to the beach. Teach them to ride a bicycle. Go to a free museum and only visit the fun sections (e.g. dinosaur exhibit) you know they'll love.
Remember, no parent ever lay on their death bed and wished they'd bought their kids more stuff. Spending quality time and creating great childhood memories is one of the best things you can do for your children.
The same concept also applies to romantic anniversary ideas.
6. Be Energy Efficient
Your local energy utility might not be happy with you, but your bank account will. It's simple - turn off the lights when you leave a room, use LEDs or energy-efficient lights in high-traffic rooms, install a programmable thermostat, take advantage of times your electricity usage is free, stop washing your car every weekend, and apply as many energy saving tips.
7. Buy Quality
"Cheap" doesn't equal "value". Buying something with the cheapest price doesn't mean you're getting a good deal. Always compare quality versus price to get the best value.
The best example I can provide is buying technology. Many consumers buy laptops in the $300 to $700 range because they think "why bother paying more when I'm going to need to upgrade in two years anyway?"
Unfortunately, sometimes you just need to break through a certain price point to get significantly more for your money. The last laptop I purchased cost me $1,100, lasted seven years, and consistently delivered great performance.
Spending more upfront can sometimes mean spending less often.
8. Term Life Insurance
Life insurance is a big purchase, requires a long-term commitment and comes with huge financial implications for your family's future. Sadly, not all financial advisors, agents or brokers are looking out for your best interests.
According to the definition of life insurance, unless you are wealthy and looking for tax-advantaged, estate planning strategies, you only need to buy term life insurance, which is the most affordable type of policy, and not whole life insurance, a high-cost policy where agents can receive thousands in commissions by convincing consumers it is a good long-term investment.
9. Buy High-Quality Food Instead of Going Out
Eating well doesn't have to be expensive. Buying a pound (16 oz.) of Ribeye at the grocery store costs about $10 to $12, while the average steakhouse charges anywhere between $20 and $30 for a 12 ounce piece. Instead of going out to enjoy a nice steak, why not grill at home twice a week?
Similarly, when you can get fresh fruits in season, chicken, or fish at affordable prices, why eat fast food or frozen dinners? The price difference is almost negligible and the healthier food options will save you thousands in healthcare bills down the line.