It’s almost time to start counting down to 2011 – and what better way to ring in the new year than a resolution that helps you make positive changes in your life and your wallet? Looking for inspiration? I’ve made a list of 11 things you can do in 2011 to save money all year long:
1. Quit smoking. This one’s a no-brainer. It’s bad for you, and it’s expensive: Depending on where you live, you could be shelling out as much as $10 per pack. Say you’re a pack-a-day smoker — you’re looking at a savings of up to $3,650 a year.
2. Pledge to brown bag it. At around five bucks, a workday fast food lunch doesn’t seem like a big luxury. But multiply that by five days a week all year long, and it adds up quickly. For around the price of one super value combo, you can hit the grocery store and stock up on healthier (and more budget-friendly) options like low fat deli meat and whole wheat bread.
3. Go generic. Speaking of groceries, you can save a bundle if you opt for the generic or store-brand versions of your favorite products. You can save anywhere from a few cents to several dollars if you forego the big names. And in most cases, you won’t even notice the difference. And don’t be fooled by coupons for brand-name items: In many cases, you’ll still save more on the store brand.
4. Set a budget. And once you set it, stick to it. It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. If you need a place to start, check out the 50/30/20 budget. And remember, the key to sticking to a budget is keeping it realistic: Make sure you’ve got enough to cover the have-tos like insurance, food, and mortgage payments – but don’t forget to budget for fun things like a nice dinner every now and then.
5. Use public transportation. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a city with safe, reliable public transportation – use it! Take the bus or the train to work and leave your gas guzzler in the garage. For suburbanites who live too far away to take advantage of city bus services, look into park-and-ride services or talk to your coworkers about starting a carpool.
6. Pay yourself first. This year, make a resolution to put a small portion of your paycheck into a savings account. If you think you’ll have trouble sticking to this resolution, set up an automatic bank transfer that moves a set amount from your checking to savings every month. And while we’re on the subject of saving money . . .
7. Start an emergency fund. If you don’t already have one, that is. Most experts agree that you should have enough in your emergency fund to cover a few months’ worth of living expenses like rent or mortgage payments, car payments, utilities, and food.
8. Stop using your credit card(s). This year, concentrate on paying off any of your existing debt – without adding to it. If you think you’ll have trouble sticking to this resolution, take all of your credit cards out of your wallet and put them in a safe place. It’s much easier to avoid impulse purchases that way.
9. Spend more time in the kitchen. Make a resolution to cut down on pricy restaurant dinners and takeout food. Cooking at home is usually cheaper than ordering out, and it can be fun – especially if you get the whole family involved in planning menus and preparing meals.
10. Trim your monthly expenses. Sit down with your monthly bills or bank statement and look for ways to save: cancel your unused gym membership, stop subscribing to a few magazines, or cut down on your cable TV channels and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the savings add up.
Turn off the lights. And your TV. And your computer. Make it a habit to turn off or unplug unused lights, appliances, and other gadgets when you’re not using them. Encourage your family to follow your lead. If you want to cut costs even more, consider switching to some of those extra long lasting, high-efficiency light bulbs. You can cut your energy bill down, conserve energy, and save money all at once!
Happy New Year!