If you want to save money, you have two options: reduce expenses or earn more. Most people are already earning the maximum amount of money they can in the short term, so increasing income isn’t really a valid option. Besides that, with more income you’re fighting a headwind of payroll and income taxes that reduce your take-home pay. If you want to save $100, you can either spend $100 less or earn up to $150 more because of the amount you have to account for with taxes.
Put simply, it’s easier to save more by spending less. Here are some simple suggestions for quickly reducing your expenses to save money.
1. Review your mobile phone service
Look online, call or stop into your favorite wireless store to find out if there are lower cost plans available that meet your needs. Carriers come out with new plans frequently to entice customers to switch, and you might be able to save $10 to $15 a month just by taking advantage of a new special. Also, check your monthly data usage. If you’re using less data now than in the past because of increased Wi-Fi availability, you may be able to buy less data and reduce your monthly bill; some phone plans include a surcharge of $10 a month for data you aren’t even using. Researching and changing plans takes a few minutes; in just one year, it could save you around $180. And once you’re done saving money on your phone service, check in with your Internet service provider too.
2. Update your television plan—or switch to an online streaming service
Just like phone carriers, cable TV and satellite television companies offer new plans constantly, and they don’t let you know you’re now eligible for a cheaper option. You need to be proactive to capture these savings of up to hundreds of dollars per year. Another savings strategy: if you’re not watching premium channels on cable TV, consider dropping them from your monthly bill.
Also, ask yourself if you really need the service. The average cable bill is at an all-time high of $103 per month, or $1,236 per year. There are a growing number of cheaper services available like Netflix ($10.99 per month), YouTubeTV ($35 per month), and Amazon Prime ($99 per year and has a range of other benefits, like free two-day shipping). Switching from cable to Netflix could save around $1,104 per year.
3. Shop your car insurance
We all know gas and car repairs are expensive. Yet auto insurance can be one of the largest expenses in owning a car—and it’s one we rarely think about.
Auto insurance is another competitive market where a little shopping could potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year in a few minutes. Work with an independent insurance agent to shop your coverage against other auto insurance companies to find a lower rate. You may need to move your homeowner’s and umbrella liability coverage to the same carrier to get the largest discount. You can also shop and compare rates for companies that have their own in-house agents, such as State Farm.
4. Buy the cheapest gas (thank you, technology)
With insurance done, spend a few minutes finding cheaper gas using a phone app or website such as GasBuddy.com, GasGuru or AAAtrips.com. Or buy gas at Costco if there’s a store near you. Consistently buying less expensive gas can save around $0.30 per gallon, which equals roughly $200 annually if you drive about 15,000 miles per year. If your family owns two cars, that savings could double.
5. Cancel subscriptions you don’t need
Marketers are so good at getting us to sign up for things, we’ve all got subscriptions we don’t really use or need. If you’ve stopped listening to Pandora, for example, make sure to cancel your premium subscription. If you’ve got online or print subscriptions to the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, consider cutting the one you read the least. Paying for domain names for a project that’s never going to happen? Stop.
Check your credit card and bank statements for auto-payments you don’t remember setting up or trial subscriptions you forgot about. Cancelling them could easily save $10 to $30 per month, or up to $360 per year.
6. Reduce your food and drink expenses by eating in
Cutting one moderately priced restaurant dinner per month for a couple or family can save anywhere from hundreds of dollars to over $1,000 per year. Stopping your $5 coffee habit could save $25 a week or more—which is an astounding $1,200 a year on coffee. Instead, you can make your own gourmet pour-over coffee at home or work with a $4 drip cone, box of #2 filters, and bag of your favorite freshly ground coffee.
Another money waster? Wine. Multiple studies have shown wine ratings to be questionable with wine-tasting experts enjoying table wine as much as fine wine. For wine in the range of $10 to $20 per bottle, pricing reflects production cost. In the range from about $30 to $100 per bottle and up, you’re paying for perception. Stick with moderately priced wine to cut hundreds or thousands from your dining and entertainment budget.
7. Sell things you aren’t using
All of the above are forward looking suggestions. To recoup funds from past spending, try listing one item per day on an online auction or sale site like eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. Small, valuable items like jewelry are easiest to sell; on-trend clothing, name-brand technology, media, sporting goods, collectibles and toys sell well too.
Sure, you’ll only get about 10 to 50 cents on the dollar for most items, but that beats nothing. In the process of liquidating your unused stuff, you’ll also become aware of how little things are worth once purchased, which can help you think more carefully about purchases going forward.