- When money is tight, it’s not always easy to know where and how to trim expenses.
- With reduced hours and incomes, it’s a particularly hard time for many people to save. Here are 20 commonsense ways to save money. While the first two may affect your lifestyle, you’ll hardly notice the rest.
When money is tight, it’s not always easy to know where to trim expenses, especially if you’ve already started to home brew your coffee or cut your own hair. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, consider which of the following commonsense savings suggestions could help reduce your monthly overhead. Most of them do not require too much additional belt-tightening:
Rent is typically your biggest expense. There are many ways to reduce rent, though they all come at a price. You can:
- Take find a roommate, if you have an extra bedroom
- Move to a smaller apartment
- Move to a bigger apartment that you can share with roommates
- Move to a lower rent district
- Move in with your parents, if that’s an option
While there may not be a perfect solution, it’s important to keep several things in mind:
You can move farther from the office without extending your commute. While it’s too early to know what the post-COVID world will look like, many companies have already given up office space with the idea of maintaining an at-home workforce, at least for part of the week.
- COVID has temporarily and in many cases permanently shut down the shopping, restaurant and entertainment venues that draw us to high-rent neighborhoods. Without the amenities, it may not be worth paying the higher rent.
- If you’re saving for a house, taking one step back to accelerate your savings will move you two steps closer to your goal.
A car is a depreciating asset. The minute you drive it off the showroom floor, it loses value. And it’s a huge expense. Do you even know how much it costs you every year? If you haven’t added up your car payments, insurance premiums, gas expense, repair and maintenance costs and parking fees, you could be in for a big surprise.
If you don’t need a car, consider selling it. If you need a car occasionally, it’s usually much cheaper to rent for a day or two every month than to own one.
If you do need a car, consider a demo model, used car, or less expensive model. Aside from the fact that most cars today look alike and offer similar features, you won’t reach your destination any sooner by paying more for a BMW than a Chevy.
If you live in a bike friendly location and climate, you’ll get a lot more exercise in addition to saving money.
Insurance premiums seem to go up every billing cycle. Be sure to review your renewal notices before paying. Call your agent with any questions and ask about lower cost options. I’ve lowered my home and auto premiums, sometimes substantially, just be asking.
Auto. You can consider switching to a lower premium higher deductible auto policy. You’ll pay less every month, but in the case of an accident, you’ll pay more out-of-pocket before the policy kicks in.
If you’re driving an old beater that isn’t worth the cost of repairs, you can buy the minimum liability coverage required by law.
Home. As with auto insurance, you can lower your premium in exchange for a higher deductible. If you have a mortgage, your lender will require that you insure your home for its full replacement cost. If you own your home outright, you can save money by lowering your coverage, let’s say, to 80% of replacement cost.
Rental. Unlike car and home insurance for a mortgaged property, which are required, rental insurance is usually optional, but keep in mind that it could cost several thousands of dollars or more to replace your bed, electronics, clothes, kitchen utensils and spice rack if your apartment burns down.
Medical. if you don’t have any health issues that require ongoing medical attention, you may consider switching to a lower premium higher deductible health plan; however, be sure to complete your homework before making any changes, because the savings may not be worth the risk of increased liability for unpredictable high-cost services.
Check rates with your cable, internet and/or phone providers at least once a year. You may qualify for a discount, new promotional offer or bundled rate plan that you wouldn’t know about without asking.
Phone: Consider joining a family plan for mobile services with you real or chosen family of friends. Speaking from experience, I know that T-Mobile offers very attractive unlimited 55+ senior plans.
Cable: While lots of people are cutting their cable in favor of streaming services, be careful about your choices. When I signed up for Netflix a number of years ago, it was the only game in town. Today there are more than a dozen live and on-demand streaming services, each with their own rate plan. How long will it be before you streaming subscriptions for Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max exceed your cable bill?
The internet has made it so easy for us to find and buy new services that we don’t even know what we’re paying for. How many times have you signed up for a 30-day free trial with the intention of cancelling before the first monthly bill? And how many times did you forgot to cancel?
Check your credit card statement to make sure you’re not paying for subscription services that you hardly ever use or can live without.
Without redoing your house, there are many small things you can do to reduce your overall energy and water consumption that add up over time.
Water. You can reduce your water consumption by taking shorter showers and turning off the water when you’re shaving or brushing your teeth. When I lived in California during a draught, we had a saying, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Furthermore, state officials encouraged us to flush our toilets by dumping gray water from the dishes into the toilet bowl. While, this may be too much to ask today, here are some product solutions that help conserve water:
Toilet Tank Water Conserving Bags. Instead of bricks, you can fill these bags with water and place them inside your toilet tank. Each bag will displace and save about 80 fluid oz per flush.
Low-Flow Shower Heads. There are a number of water conserving shower heads on the market today that provide great high-pressure spray.
Shower timer. If you tend to over-luxuriate in the shower, these timers can save hundreds of gallons of water by reminding you that five minutes is more than enough time to wash and rinse.
Conservation Faucet Aerators. The Niagara Conservation aerator for sink faucets increases spray velocity and reduces splash while saving water.
Sprinkler Controller. The Rachio Sprinkler Controller uses smart technology to cut back on unnecessary watering while keeping your lawn healthy and green.
Heating and Cooling. In the winter, you can always turn down the thermostat and wear a sweater. Likewise, in the summer, you can turn off the A/C and open the windows. Better yet, you can install a smart thermostat that learns the temperatures you like and programs itself to save energy while keeping you comfortable.
Low tech products that can keep you warm include:
Electric. The easiest way to cut down on electric consumption is to turn off and unplug appliances and devices that are no longer in use. Or you can use an auto shut-off safety outlet that automatically shuts off electricity to idle appliances.
The next easiest step is to switch to energy efficient LED light bulbs. You can save additional energy by using light or motion detecting fixtures and/or bulbs.
One of the best ways to save money is to develop new shopping habits.
- Avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You’ll buy lots of chips and dips.
- Shop with a goal in mind. Before setting foot in the supermarket or mall, have a clear objective in mind and a shopping list in hand.
- Borrow or rent things like camping gear, power tools, folding chairs and punch bowls that you won’t be using very often.
- Before you make any purchase, double check by asking yourself “do I really need this?” If your closets are bursting at the seams and your bathroom vanity is buried under products, the answer is “no.”