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Eight Lifestyle Changes to Save Money

May 03, 2018
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Retirement CalculatorWe would all love to earn more money, but if your boss passed you over for the raise or the promotion didn’t come through, you’re not completely out of luck. Here are eight lifestyle changes you can make right now to give yourself that additional income.

  1. How do I spend less money at the grocery store?

Food is a necessary but often poorly planned expense. Take the time to make a menu every week, then shop only for those ingredients. It helps to factor in all the meals your family will eat at home, including breakfasts, after-school snacks and dinners together. Having a menu will help ensure you buy only the things you need and avoid those impulse purchases.

You might also try growing your own vegetables in a small garden. Urban farming has become increasingly popular, and you can buy a small plant or seed packet for a fraction of what fresh produce costs in the store.

  1. How can I avoid a car payment?

A home and a car are often the biggest purchases we make. So it makes sense that these two areas also offer the biggest potential savings. When it comes to vehicles, it’s easy to be enticed by the new-car smell, smooth leather interior, shiny wheels and latest technology. But drivers are increasingly turning to the used-car market because they can save thousands of dollars over buying new. Experian reports that in the last quarter of 2017, the average monthly new-car loan payment was $515. Americans are also opting for longer terms, with the average loan agreement now at 69 months. That’s a lot of money to commit to paying every month for more than 5 1/2 years! Edmunds reports that auto-leasing still makes up about 30% of the market, so when these vehicles are turned in after two or three years, it adds to the supply of preowned vehicles to choose from. Edmunds analysts say on average, the buyer of a three-year-old car can pay around $14,000 less than buying the same car new. Americans shopping for a car may find it’s more economical to save up and buy a well-equipped used vehicle for thousands of dollars less.

  1. How can I cut my monthly expenses?

Take a look at where you are you spending money every month. Are you wasting money on a gym membership that you intended to use but never do? Do you subscribe to a magazine you never really have the time to read? Taking an honest look at subscriptions and services that you don’t really use or need is a good way to save.

You may also follow the lead of millions of other Americans and cut cable. There are so many TV streaming options right now — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue just to name a few. The new YouTube TV streaming service is hot, offering cable-free live TV, with a cloud DVR for $40/month. The Leichtman Research Group says the average cable subscriber pays about $85 a month, while the average satellite customer pays more than $100 a month. Assess what you watch, and consider if a streaming service will work for your family.

It also pays to shop around. Are you getting the best car insurance rate? Is your cell phone plan really the best one for your family? Just picking up the phone and asking the question could save you a lot of money every month. Ask the company if they can give you a better deal. It just might work!

  1. How can I avoid impulse purchases?

It’s so easy to see something you want, pull out the credit card and buy it. These impulse purchases can add up, and before you know it, you’ve overspent. One solution is to only carry cash. Research shows people spend less when they pay with cash because they feel the “pain of paying.” An MIT study found that credit cards “disconnect the consumption transaction, which is pleasant, from the payment transaction, which is painful.” In other words, using a credit card delays the amount of time between the purchase and the payment, also delaying the pain. The MIT researchers say their study suggests the psychological cost of spending a dollar on a credit card is only fifty cents! So the premise here is pretty simple: Determine how much money you can spend over a certain amount of time, withdraw that amount and leave the cards at home. When you buy things, only use cash. If you run out of cash, no purchases until time’s up.

  1. How can I spend less on entertainment?

Spending less doesn’t have to mean sacrificing fun! Seek out free activities for your family to enjoy — a trip to a new park, attending a local festival, or taking a bike ride together.

Instead of going to the movie theater and spending money on tickets and snacks, head to your local library and check out a DVD for free! Used bookstores can also offer substantial savings on your favorite fiction and music.

And maybe this is the year you don’t plan a big summer vacation with plane rides, hotels and expensive amusement parks. Families may choose to do a staycation instead, finding something fun to do together closer to home. Local tourism offices have lots of options for places to go and things to see. The point is to have fun and enjoy the time with your family without worrying about breaking the bank.

  1. How can I still get my caffeine fix?

Hitting the Starbucks drive-through on the way to work is a little luxury we’ve gotten accustomed to. The author of “The Automatic Millionaire” wrote that if Americans ditched their $4-a-day latte, they’d save about $120 a month, or $1,440 over the course of one year. Investing in a good home coffeemaker or espresso machine will save you money over the long run.

  1. How can I save money on clothes?

Buying secondhand has become the first option for millions of shoppers. The website ThredUp says the resale retail market is on pace to reach $41 billion by 2022, and 49% of that business is in apparel. ThredUp allows you to sell the clothes you no longer want and buy like-new items from others. eBay continues to do big business with its online auctions, and Facebook Marketplace has become a quick way to connect with buyers and shoppers in your area.

Sewing is also seeing a resurgence, with people visiting local fabric stores for patterns and fabric to sew their own clothes.

  1. How can I cut my electric bill?

The Energy Information Administration says the average household pays about $112 a month on energy bills. The Energy Department says many homes have “energy vampires,” items that draw energy even if they’re not being used. These things include phone chargers, computers, coffeemakers and toasters. Energy-saving experts suggest plugging them into power strips that automatically cut power to devices that are in standby mode. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reports this small change can cut your standby power consumption by 30%, saving you several dollars per month.

Picking even one lifestyle change can boost your income every month, enabling you to use that money for saving or investing. What do you think? Have you tried any of these lifestyle changes? Let us know what worked for you!