One of the most important elements to paying off debt is saving money in various areas of your life in order to throw more money at your debt snowball. Here are seven easy ways you can save money today to add some more money to your debt payoff, contribute more to the savings account, or just free up a little wiggle room each month.
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1.) Try a TV alternative.
My husband and I have actually been cable free for about two years now, and we haven’t even missed it–until now that is. See, our favorite show is about to come back on air for the season, and we hated having to wait an entire year for it to come on Netflix last season. We had so many of the good parts spoiled for us before we even got the chance to watch it! We want to change that this year and are giving Sling a try. Sling is a service that runs about $20 a month (you can spend a few dollars more and add on other packages), and it allows you to watch your favorite TV shows live as they air. No more waiting a day for Hulu to update (if the show you watch is even on there) and no more waiting months to a year for the season to update on Netflix. If you are still hanging on to cable because you like to watch live TV, consider giving Sling a shot. With some folks paying over a hundred to two hundred dollars a month, this could easily save you a good chunk of money already. And with a free 7 day trial, you can see if it works for you before spending any money.
Another service I’ve enjoyed is Vudu through our SmartTV. We were able to buy a season pass of the show we are watching and as soon as a new episode airs we can go to the app and watch it when it updates! This is a good pay as you go option as you are only buying the shows or movies you want to watch.
2.) Switch up your lunch routine.
Food has always been my biggest struggle when it comes to the budget. I LOVE to eat out and I’ve found my biggest weakness is during my lunch break at work. I don’t struggle with eating out too much for dinners during the week because I’ve usually got my meals all planned out. The biggest thing that’s helped me is realizing that it’s a mindset issue. $5 to $10 here and there doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, until I see how much that adds up to over the course of a month. (By the way, have you tried highlighter budgeting?). Even $25 a week adds up to an extra $100 a month I could be putting towards one of my debts. Combine that with a spouse or another family member who occasionally eats out, and you could be easily blowing through a few hundred a month that could be going towards your financial goals. Once you understand that sheer truth, it will be easier to pack a lunch every day, I promise. A few other tips that have helped me are:
Eat last night’s dinner leftovers for today’s lunch. If you usually don’t have anything leftover, start increasing the recipe by one to two servings and this will take the headache out of figuring out what to eat for lunch the next day.
Make a big pot of soup or a casserole at the beginning of the week that will be specifically for your lunch meals.
If you have a big enough break room, store some lunchtime essentials there to make it easier to prepare fresh lunches. If you don’t usually have enough time in the mornings to prep a lunch, it could really help to have a loaf of bread and sandwich essentials in the fridge at work.
3.) Always use coupons when you shop online.
If you’ve ever made a purchase online without doing a quick search for a coupon code, it’s possible you’ve lost out on a chunk of change. Ebates even takes the work out of searching for those coupon codes for you when you download their extension on your browser (Google Chrome). With the Ebates button activated, it will automatically apply coupon codes to your cart when you are shopping at one of their participating stores. Pretty cool right?
Of course, always get cash back when shopping online too.
Another thing I love about Ebates is that you can earn cash back on your online purchases just for shopping through their website. This means, when you want to buy something from, say Macy’s for example, or you want to book a flight online through Orbitz, you can shop at those websites through your Ebates link and receive a percentage back on your purchase. And yes, they pay you in cash! Another great feature of having their button installed on your browser is if you go directly to the website you’re shopping at without remembering to go to Ebates first, all you have to do is click the button in the top corner of your screen, and Ebates will automatically apply your cash back! The best part of this program? It’s completely free! If you’re new to Ebates, sign up for free and get a $10 cash bonus!
4.) Find a free or low-cost alternative for your usual entertainment.
If you love to go to the movies every Friday night, see if you can get the same experience for a cheaper price. You could change up the day or time you go since many theaters offer discounts during the week and during earlier parts of the day. To save even more money, see if your local city has free movie nights in their downtown. I know many cities that offer a family-friendly movie outside for free and they even have free snacks and drinks. This way you’re still getting out of the house and seeing a movie on the big screen, without paying the hefty price tag you’ll be hit with at the box office.
If movies aren’t your thing, it’s amazing how much more free entertainment there is out there–you just have to search for it. “Like” your town’s Facebook page for information on free events happening in your area. And my favorite free entertainment is meeting up with friends for a board game night–we always make new memories and have a few inside joke to tell for a while.
5.) Pay cash and save the change.
Switching from a debit card (or worse, credit card) to paying with cash has multiple benefits. It’s proven that you spend less when you pay with cash than when you do plastic, it’s more convenient (quicker checkouts at restaurants for example), and my favorite benefit: getting back loose change. I love change because it’s money that I easily forget about–I just throw it in a jar when I get home and forget about it. This also keeps my purse from getting weighed down, so it’s a win-win. When you realize your jar is getting full, or maybe you’re really hurting for some cash, take it to the bank and cash it in. Even after spending cash for about a week or so, I had over $5 in loose change when I cashed it in (yes, that was one of those “really hurting” moments). If you can save up your change for long enough, you could pay a good chunk on your debt snowball, add some cash to the Christmas fund, or get a good head-start on your next vacation.
6.) Shop around and get second opinions.
Have you ever gone with the first car insurance quote you’ve received just because you didn’t want to enter in all your information again to a different company? Or maybe you’ve went ahead and bought the first dress that fit, just because your feet were tired and you didn’t want to try hunting for another one? Well you are definitely not alone in this. But think about how much money you could be saving on many of your everyday and bigger ticket purchases if you were willing to put in the effort to shop around a little bit. Going to different stores or even comparing prices online can save you lots of cash in the long run, especially if you do it with most of the items you purchase.
Another good way to save money is by getting second opinions on anything you can. One example especially is car repairs. What one mechanic claims is an immediate need that your car won’t survive without, another mechanic may realize there is a much simpler (and cheaper) fix to the problem that will get you up and running again. Don’t be afraid to hurt people’s feelings when it comes to your money. After all, these are companies and businesses that are doing whatever they can to make the most profit. Always get a second opinion before making any large purchases or repairs.
7.) Don’t get into a contract if you don’t have to.
Guys. The TV companies almost had me! I got an offer in the mail that seemed like a great deal–a low monthly rate, no equipment fees, and even a nice Visa gift card, just for signing up for their TV service. Thankfully I had my husband there to talk me out of picking up the phone. See, he pointed out that in order to get that awesome deal, I would have to sign a contract for a two year agreement, and if I had to break that contract for any reason before the two years was up, I would have to pay a hefty early-termination fee. What seemed like an awesome deal at first now seemed more like a trap–it gave me much of the same feeling being in debt does. I would be trapped in this contract for years, and if I needed to cancel the service for any reason (I mean who knows what the future looks like?) I wouldn’t be able to without coughing up some cash. I would highly encourage you to not sign a contract for anything, unless it is an absolute must!
Saving money is easy to do when you’re intentional about it. Trying out a new way to watch TV, taking a tasty lunch to work instead of eating out, using coupons and getting cash back when you shop online, paying cash, shopping around and getting second opinions, and not getting into contracts are all easy ways to save money every day.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite easy way to say money? Let us know in the comments below!