If you’ve vowed to save more money in the new year, you’re not alone—46% of Americans resolved the same. But, if you’re like many out there, you’re probably looking at your already-tight budget and wondering where, exactly, you’ll be able to cut back.
But don’t resign yourself to eating Ramen and clipping coupons just yet. Consider these easy ways to trim your expenses, and you’ll be on your way to saving more money and bulking up your bank account in no time.
1. Less Clipping, More Clicking
Coupon-clipping is a tedious task, which is why I prefer to go digital in my pursuit of savings. Download the Coupon Sherpa app and find mobile coupons for everything from groceries to clothing to take-out. You can even use the app to load up your supermarket loyalty cards with grocery coupons—you’ll get all of the savings, with none of the paper cuts.
2. Sell Stuff
If your closet contains clothes, accessories, or home furnishings that you haven’t used or worn in years (and who’s doesn’t?), now’s the time to get them out of there—the market for second-hand fashion and home goods is more popular than ever. Local consignment shops are a fine place to start, but they often take a large cut (up to 60%). Instead, try starting with websites like Craigslist, eBay, or Smashion first.
3. Start Swapping
The next time you “need” something, consider swapping for it. Sites like Swap.com, Bookmooch, and ThredUp connect people interested in trading used books, DVDs, CDs, clothes, sporting equipment, and more. You’ll not only get what you need without increasing the balance on your credit card, you’ll also get rid of the stuff you don’t want.
4. Trade Plastic for Cash
Speaking of credit cards, consider leaving yours at home and using cash for your purchases instead. Credit cards tempt us to spend more, and if you don’t pay off your bill each month, the interest leads to even heftier bills. See if you can withdraw enough funds in cash for the week to suit your budget—and stop spending when it’s gone.
5. Find Discounts with Gift Cards
Buying discount gift cards for places you already shop—like grocery stores, gas stations, and Target—can help you easily trim your everyday costs. Sites like GiftCardGranny.com sell gift cards for thousands of stores, brands, and service providers for up to 35% off the face value. The site also recently launched an app for finding discounted mobile gift cards, which you can use for instant savings while you’re out shopping.
6. Redeem Rewards
According to a recent study, Americans accumulate $48 billion worth of miles and points on their credit cards annually. That’s the good news. The bad is that one-third of these rewards—approximately $16 billion—go unredeemed! Don’t let your hard-earned points go to waste: Figure out how many points you have and where, then redeem them for gift cards to use toward your next purchase, or as a statement credit to pay down your balance.
7. Kill Energy Vampires
Many electrical appliances—DVD players, televisions, cable boxes, stereos, and computers, for example—continue to draw a small amount of power even when switched off, which adds to your bill. Kill these energy vampires by unplugging your appliances when you’re not using them (or using a power strip to cut their power all at once).
8. Turn Down the Thermostat
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners can save up to 10% off their energy bills by adjusting the thermostat just 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours a day—say, while you’re asleep, or out of the house. You can do this automatically with a programmable thermostat, or manually by adjusting the temperature up or down before you leave in the morning and before you go to sleep at night.
9. Cut the Cord on Cable
Consider breaking up with your cable provider and switching to sites like Hulu, which provide you access to thousands of movies, TV series, news programs, and sporting events that can be streamed to your TV for free. Can’t imagine life without cable? Call your provider and ask about lowering your monthly bill. Often times, the customer service rep may be able to apply your account to a new price promotion. And if that doesn’t work, threaten to leave for a cheaper rate elsewhere—you’d be amazed at the offers you’ll get!
10. Text for Free
Text messaging packages can add up to $15 on your monthly cell phone bill—and even more if you go over your limit. Cut the text plan and opt for free text messaging instead, via apps like ChompSMS for Android or TextFree for iPhone or iPod Touch.
With gas prices on the rise again, now is a better time than ever to start carpooling. Whether you’re headed to work, school, or a weekend ski trip, try to find local community members who are willing to share rides on Zimride. (Or, if that’s too creepy, just solicit your friends on Facebook.)
12. Pay Down Debt
So, what should you do with all your newfound savings? If you’re carrying steep balances on one or several credit cards, it’s time to pay down the debt. Budget your payments to be double or triple the minimum amount due, and you’ll not only reduce the amount of interest you pay in the long run, but you’ll expedite your path to financial freedom.