Before you run to the nearest drugstore to spend money on health and beauty products, reach for the vinegar in your cupboard.
Before you run to the nearest drugstore to spend money on health and beauty products, reach for the vinegar in your cupboard.
Moving from one side of town to the other is tough enough, but cross-country moves are downright daunting. There are many decisions associated with the planning of your move, not to mention costs. However, if you take it one step at a time, you’ll be surprised by how simple the process can be.
cross country movers. Don’t put it off! The farther in advance that you book your moving dates, the more money you can potentially save on your move. Additionally, make sure you conduct thorough research and choose a moving company with a great reputation for quality service and communication.
If you’re overwhelmed with quotes from multiple companies vying for your business, or you’re worried about falling victim to a moving scam, then you have the option of using a brokering service like Moving APT, which has already verified the best in the business.
Even if you don’t plan to downsize when you move across the country, it’s generally in your best interest to move only what you absolutely need. The more weight you load into a moving truck, the more you will have to pay your movers. Do a detailed walkthrough of your home and identify items or furniture you can sell, donate or take to the dump in order to scale down your household goods.
Decluttering can be overwhelming, but a good rule of thumb is to throw out anything you haven’t worn or used in the last year. You can use your savings from your cross-country move to upgrade and replace anything you need.
If you opt for a full-service move, your packers will label each box with the name of the room they’re packing so they’ll know where to put the boxes on the other end of the move. It can be tempting to move items from room to room during the organizing process, but unless you’re willing to go searching for your bathroom towels all over your new home, you’ll likely benefit from leaving everything in its place.
Ahead of your pack-out date, use a moving checklist to keep up with your preparation to-dos. This way, you’ll be able to answer any questions the movers have about your household goods, and you’ll be prepared for a smooth and simple process.
As your pack out progresses, you and the movers will create a written inventory of your items. Once you reach your destination, you’ll use this list to verify you’ve received everything they moved from your home. If any items are missing or damaged, you may be able to file an insurance claim for reimbursement.
If your relocation is time-sensitive, then you may not have as much flexibility in your moving schedule. Moving companies are busiest in the summer because families often wait until kids are out of school before making huge transitions. Therefore, prices are higher in peak seasons due to demand. However, if you’re able to take your time and plan out each detail of your move, then you may be able to save money by booking movers during the non-peak season from late fall to early spring.
You’ll also want to have a contingency plan in case of severe weather or other situations that can negatively impact your move. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time for packing, loading and traveling.
The cost of boxes, packing paper, moving blankets and tape add up quickly, making even a DIY more costly than you originally planned. Therefore, it’s important to look for deals where you can find them. Check Facebook Marketplace for free or cheap recycled boxes, and start saving your Amazon shipping boxes. Use towels, clothes, and linens to wrap, pad and protect breakables instead of buying bubble wrap. Additionally, if you foresee several major moves in your future, you can invest in large totes and storage containers, and avoid buying cardboard boxes altogether.
A cross-country move doesn’t have to break your spirit or your bank. By following these steps and giving yourself the time and space to plan, your interstate relocation will seem like the best decision you ever made.
If you own a car but feel like you’re wasting money on it, you should consider car sharing. Read on to learn about the tips and tricks of this money-saving automobile hack.
share my car and save money?” Here is how.
Car sharing is when people jointly use the vehicle as a part of a co-ownership program. The people involved don’t claim possession of their vehicles, but instead just use them when they need to. Car sharing works with a single vehicle or a fleet of vehicles in a group of people. There is always an agreement between the members in addition to a fee for the mileage usage. With car sharing, you only have to look for the closest vehicle near you and make a reservation for the day or a week. There are no restrictions on how far you can go by using a car, but there are rules and regulations to follow, especially if it belongs in a group.
Friends, family members, and colleagues can participate in car sharing. You can start car sharing by asking or talking to such parties and reaching an agreement. Car sharing works best in towns and cities when using a car is among the key needs.
When you consider car sharing, you save money because you only use the car when you need one and for a specific reason.
Owning a car also means being obligated to handle the repair and maintenance costs. There is a high chance of digging deep into your pocket to handle such expenses. With car sharing, however, repair and maintenance costs are a collective responsibility and everyone involved must contribute. This becomes effective because you save money in the long run.
Instead of your car sitting in the parking lot the whole day when you’re not using it, you can make more money through car sharing. Whenever you are not using a car, you can rent it for other private business reasons. In the long run, you can make and save money that can be used for other household expenses. Some businesses that might rent your car are delivery, taxi, and transportation businesses.
If you belong to a car-sharing group, you won’t have to worry about being late for work or spending money on bus fares if your car breaks down. You only have to call or email to inquire about an available car near you. This means that you can make it to work on time or handle emergencies in your home without struggling like you would if your sole car broke down.
There is no worry about missing the morning bus or train as you can get a car when you need it with a car-sharing group.
Compared to owning or renting a car, it costs so little to car share. Most car-sharing groups only require a one-time membership fee for you to use and enjoy the available cars. You won’t have to cater for the fuel or repair needs as they arise once you pay the membership fee. This is cost-effective and helps you save money in the long run.
Car sharing is a fast-growing trend that many people find better suited for their lifestyle. This is because of the flexibility and the fact that you drive on demand. Unlike car rentals, you don’t have to wait in line to car share as there is always one ready for you to use. It is also beneficial as you can save and make money with the car, unlike owning or renting a car where you have to incur fuel and repair costs.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Kids grow fast, and opportunities to bond and connect slip through your fingers before you know it. These four playful family challenges will help your family spend some together time while you work toward goals as a team.
New York Post. The destination marketing organization for the city of Anaheim, California surveyed 2,000 parents with school-aged children across the U.S. and found that American families get just 37 minutes of quality time together per day. According to the New York Post article:
The top things to blame are, inevitably, long hours at work (67 percent), weekends spent doing chores, and the kids’ school schedule.
Wow, I definitely related! We spent the majority of our family time in the car driving back and forth to school and afterschool activities. But we were usually distracted by thoughts of our upcoming work or school day, sports practice, or other things we needed to accomplish. That meant we weren’t in the right mindset to soak up some good conversation. Our drive counted as together time, sure … but there wasn’t anything quality about it.
When I was raising my eight kids, it felt like they’d be little forever and I had all the time in the world. But when people tell young parents that the years fly by so quickly, they aren’t kidding! It seems like my kids graduated from high school in the blink of an eye. Then, they were off to college for the next phase of their lives.
Once my kids started kindergarten, I feel as though I spent nearly half the time with them that I had before they reached school age. And that time got even shorter as they got older and more involved with friends and outside activities.
That’s why, when I read that article in the Post several years back, it really resonated. Before long, our kids are grown and living lives of their own. Family together time is the best time to connect with your kids, engage with their daily lives, and learn more about the passions that drive and motivate them. It’s a time to teach life lessons and help them build the foundation for successful adult life.
Although our busy 21st Century lives seem like they’re custom-made to interfere with family connection, there are still creative ways to sneak in a little quality time. One of my favorites is family challenges. I love the idea of family challenges because they not only give us a structured way to work together toward a goal, but they also give us purpose.
Here are four fun challenges to encourage your family to come together. Not only is participating in these challenges as a family rewarding, but their outcomes are, too!
When my kids were younger, I loved to create games and challenges with myself for ways to save money. My favorite one was the coupon challenge.
As the mom of eight, I had to become very savvy at clipping coupons for my weekly grocery haul. (Keep in mind, this was about 20 years ago before we had digital coupons and savings apps like Fetch and Rakuten.) Each month I set a goal to save money for things like treating us to a couple of dinners out or for a new piece of playground equipment for our backyard. I took the money I saved with coupons and put it into a special savings account each week. Through the years, I saved thousands of dollars. My coupon habit even paid for a summer vacation to Disney!
Saving money for a big family reward is a perfect way to encourage cooperation and connection.
Technology has evolved since my couponing days, but saving money for a big family reward is still a perfect way to encourage cooperation and connection. Start a family money-saving challenge of your own! First, gather everyone together to brainstorm an item or experience you’d like to save for together. Once you’ve decided on something everyone’s excited about, talk about different ways you can all work together to meet the challenge.
Pinterest has dozens of creative money-saving challenges to fit any family’s needs. I love this article I found on MoneyProdigy.com: 14 Money Challenges for Kids. It encourages your children to think outside the box and tap into their inner-entrepreneurial skills. Everyone can work together to realize your common savings goal. And when you reach it, the entire family can enjoy the fruits of their money-saving labors.
When saving money is your goal, my Quick and Dirty Tips colleague Laura Adams has plenty of fantastic advice to offer on the Money Girl podcast! Check out the Money Girl archives for inspiration.
One of my family’s favorite challenges is to tackle something physical, so we just started a springtime fitness challenge. Each family member set a specific health-related goal. I decided I wanted to increase my steps from 10,000 to 12,000 each day. My daughters enjoy biking and have challenged each other to visit five new bike paths during April and May. And two of my sons are following in their father’s footsteps—they’re taking up golf. They’ll be enjoying some friendly competition with their dad when they hit the links for the next two months.
We’ll all be tracking our goals each week, and the family member who comes closest to staying on task will win a $100 gift card (everyone donated $20 for the prize) to our favorite retailer.
There are also plenty of family fitness challenges to choose from on YouTube. The 7 Minute Fitness Challenge is one of my kids’ favorites because we can work out together in the family room. Mostly without laughing too much!
For more fitness inspiration, follow my QDT colleague, Brock Armstrong, the Get-Fit Guy!
My eight kids and I have been practicing family challenges for several years, and my hands-down favorite is delivering random acts of kindness. Bringing happiness to someone by doing something nice and unexpected is personally rewarding, of course. But engaging your kids in brainstorming creative ways to help and boost others is even better.
You can find age-appropriate ideas to inspire all kinds of fun and unique ways to brighten someone’s day unexpectedly. Once again, Pinterest has dozens of suggestions, from simple to outrageous. You create a Pinterest board as a starting point and then let your kids fill it in with tons more ideas that will put your family’s personal spin on the project.
Not only do we all feel great when we participate, but we also get to spend time together making the plans.
Keep track of the feedback your family notices throughout the month as you all take turns practicing your random acts of kindness. My kids and I write a month’s worth of ideas on slips of paper and place them in a jar. We then take turns drawing from the jar and make notes on the back of the slips of paper about our experience. Not only do we all feel great when we participate, but we also get to spend time together making the plans.
Our most gratifying experience was at the beginning of the pandemic last year. My kids volunteered to do grocery shopping for some of our elderly neighbors. Two of my kids teamed up and shopped for several seniors. Over the past year, they’ve formed close friendships with them. Pretty cool!
If your family’s meals are getting a bit boring, a cooking challenge is just what you need to spice things up. Literally! Your family can also add some thrill and excitement to a ho-hum menu by having a friendly cookoff.
I’m a die-hard meal planner. The idea of having a cooking challenge appealed to me because the entire family can get involved! I found a helpful article full of great ideas and inspiration on hosting your own family cooking competition on the Tom’s of Maine website. One of the suggestions is to have a surprise dip ingredient contest. Whipping up an interesting dip for veggies, fruits, or crackers is an ideal project for younger kids who aren’t ready to use the stove. But it’s also fun for tweens and teens who want to kick things up a notch.
We’re planning on having Saturday night cookoffs this spring using themes such as a 5-course menu from the grill, a raw foods menu, finger foods, and anything else that tickles our fancy. One of my kids works for a caterer who will do the judging. Fun!
Not only do we get kitchen experience, good food, and family together time for collaborating on this challenge, but the winner doesn’t have to do dishes for the entire summer. Now, that’s a goal to look forward to!
I just shared four family-friendly challenge ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t stop there! Join forces with your own family and see what other fun contests and challenges you can contrive. Don’t forget to share your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page!
Most of us know the importance of keeping a budget. These tips can help you stick to one.
Budget: It’s the word we love to hate. Most of us understand the importance of keeping a budget, but for a variety of reasons still haven’t found the time or energy to actually implement one. The purpose of a budget isn’t to create a complex and lengthy document, it’s to help control spending and maximize savings to ensure financial security. Keep in mind, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all budget; each individual and family is unique, and their budgets should be equally unique.
Get started on your budget by following these four guidelines.
It doesn’t matter if you’re new to budgeting because all budgets start with knowing how much money you earn as opposed to how much money you spend. All budgets are designed for the same reason: so you can live within your means on a month-to-month basis. Think of budgeting this way – if you spend more than you earn, you may end up in debt, or have to dip into your savings. Spend less than your income and you get to save money. Put a few months of savings together as a result of your budgeting efforts, and you may end up with a little extra cash.
Once you have a better understanding of how your income stacks up to your expenses, it’s time to establish your budget. One simple method is called “zero-based budgeting” in which every dollar earned and spent is tracked for an entire month. Add up all your expenses including your rent or mortgage, food, cell phone bill, cable and internet, and compare them with your income for the month. The goal of the “zero-based budget” is to have zero dollars left over. Keep in mind that the purpose of creating any budget is to help you reach your financial goals.
At first, making savings a priority may be the most difficult part of budgeting. However, it will also make the biggest difference down the road. A simple habit of putting away money before spending ensures you won’t spend more than you earn, and allows you to contribute to retirement funds, rainy day funds, future vacations, car purchases and a variety of other things. When you are ready to start saving, you should consider an online bank such as Discover Bank. Online banks may allow you to save more with competitive rates because their overhead expenses are much lower. It’s also a good idea to consider a bank that offers a variety of products including savings, certificates of deposit (CDs), and money market accounts so you spend less time managing your money because it’s all in one place.
Your budget isn’t going to be perfect. Unexpected expenses and emergencies happen to all of us, more frequently than we’d like. So don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. Understand that changes in your budget will happen, and they’ll happen frequently. The important thing is that you remain flexible and maintain your “zero-based budget”. For example, let’s say your car is having problems and you need to take it to the mechanic; you may need to cut back on your recreational expenses in order to cover the repairs.
This isn’t an exhaustive budgeting list, but it’s a good starting point. Remember that your budget is unique to you, so do what works best for you and your family. The most important thing is that you implement the budget; you won’t regret it.
Ready for April 15th? Here are some tips to get all the deductions you deserve.
It’s tax season and April 15th is fast approaching, which usually means you’re thinking a lot about your tax return. Preparing your taxes isn’t easy, but half the fun is figuring out what deductions you need to itemize to maximize the money you get back. We want you to get the most out of your tax return, so in case you missed these deductions, here are some tax write-offs that may apply to you.
Download the Tax Breaks & Benefits PDF.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
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Ballooning expenses in cities across the country are making headlines, causing many people to wonder how to cope with the high cost of living in their areas.
In some cases the high cost of living is due to economic growth. In others, it’s due more specifically to an increase in home prices. Take Nashville, Tennessee, for example.
According to a study by GOBankingRates, from 2016 to 2017, the Music City experienced a “live comfortably amount increase” of $9,135 per household, topping the list of cities with cost of living increases for this time period. In 2017 it took a salary of $70,150 per household to live comfortably in Nashville.
“Although our unemployment rate was below 4 percent in 2017, our wage increases haven’t kept up with our cost of living increases,” says Kate Dore about Tennessee’s capital. Dore is the founder of personal finance blog Cashville Skyline and a Nashville resident who moved to the area in 2006.
Dore has seen firsthand how the high cost of living has affected people in her city.
“To make matters worse, home values increased by almost 40 percent” from 2013 to 2017, she says. “This means higher property tax bills, and consequently, an increase in rent.” Many of Dore’s friends who were renters have actually left Nashville because they didn’t know how to cope with the high cost of living.
Nashville isn’t the only city feeling the squeeze. Cities like New Orleans; Jacksonville, Florida; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Louisville, Kentucky also saw a significant increase in cost of living from 2016 to 2017.
So how do you save money when your cost of living is high, especially if you have debt or haven’t seen a raise in ages? Consider the following tips for dealing with the high cost of living in your area:
Kimberly Studdard, founder of The Entrepremomer—where she works as a blogger, consultant and virtual assistant—is dealing with the high cost of living in Overland Park, located in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Studdard, a mother of one, had been struggling to cover basic expenses while working full time as an accounting assistant for a plumbing company. Together, she and her husband brought in $2,800 a month. They realized they needed help dealing with the high cost of living and managing their money.
“We started really cracking down on our finances and started focusing on personal finance blogs that would help us,” she says.
One strategy she learned from her personal finance research, and continued for several months, was to raise the temperature of her air conditioning by a degree or two every few days. Because her family was using less and less AC, without sacrificing comfort, their monthly energy bill started to decrease. After two months of implementing cost-cutting measures learned from her research—the air conditioning hack included—she was averaging savings of $100 per month.
“It may not sound like much, but I was making minimum wage, so a $100 difference was a huge deal. That was food on the table for two weeks,” she says.
If you are trying to save money when your cost of living is high, spending less can be one of the fastest ways to make a difference.
When Studdard was determining how to cope with the high cost of living and how to cut back in her own life, she got creative. She lowered her utility bills by showering at her job and scheduling regular maintenance on her air conditioning and furnace to keep them running efficiently. Eventually she was able to save between $150 to $250 each month on utilities.
Implementing such cost-saving measures, and sticking to them, can be a challenge for many people. Dore, the personal finance blogger from Nashville, says budgeting and cutting back often fail because people return to bad habits. If you’re not sure how to stay on track, or the thought of trimming your spending makes you queasy, Dore suggests starting with what she calls ‘mindful budgeting.’
She recommends creating a mindful spending journal by logging how and, crucially, why you spend money for at least 30 days. Note in particular if you overspent in the company of certain family or friends or if feeling stressed prompted your overspending. Monitoring which purchases make you feel fulfilled, versus those that trigger guilt, can also be valuable. Tracking your behavior can clarify how much money you are spending on things that aren’t necessarily important to you, which can then help you figure out where to trim. Once you know what you can cut from your budget, the answer to how to cope with the high cost of living becomes clearer.
Since monitoring your spending can also reveal what you value most, it can help you start funneling money toward your financial goals. In Dore’s case, she found that purchases like clothing and food delivery weren’t that important to her. What she truly craved was the feeling of security that came from increased savings.
“When experimenting with my mindful spending journal, I uncovered a lot of frivolous spending on food and drinks—especially delivery apps like Postmates and Uber Eats,” she says. “The pattern was pretty obvious because I rarely shop or buy anything else I don’t need.”
After uncovering where her money was going, Dore was able to cut back by better planning her groceries. “By setting a couple of hours aside for weekly Trader Joe’s or Aldi hauls, I’m more likely to have food around. This means fewer impulsive food purchases,” she says.
By spending her money more consciously, dealing with the high cost of living became easier.
Tracking your behavior can clarify how much money you are spending on things that aren’t necessarily important to you, which can then help you figure out where to trim.
If you’re wondering how to cope with the high cost of living, and cutting back isn’t enough, you could find ways to increase your earning potential. Consider negotiating a raise or looking for a new job with more opportunity and better pay.
Dore and Studdard advocate having a side hustle, which is a gig outside of your day job. Both have side hustles of their own, and they recommend side hustles as a way to save money when your cost of living is high.
“I started with freelance writing, social media consulting and event planning,” Dore says. She recommends focusing on projects you enjoy to ease the sting of working extra hours in addition to your regular job.
Studdard started as a freelance writer on top of her primary career, then transitioned to working as a virtual assistant. In September 2016, she shifted her side hustle to full-time employment and now earns triple what she and her husband used to bring in together. Her husband is now able to stay home with their daughter, and their family is more easily dealing with the high cost of living.
From one year to the next, increases in the cost of living around the country are common and often inevitable. If how to cope with the high cost of living is top-of-mind, considering your options to cut back and earn more can make your finances more manageable. It may take extra work, extra patience and some careful thought, but it can be done.
Budgeting can give people the jitters. Big time. Everyone knows setting a budget is important, but it’s no fun to think about.
To find ways to make your budget simple sans the headache, we asked several experts in the personal finance community to weigh in. Here’s what they had to say:
Lauren Greutman, frugal living expert and author of The Recovering Spender, suggests budgeting according to your values.
“To set a budget you can stick to, write down everything in your life that’s important to you,” Greutman says. “Next, write down all of the things you currently spend money on: your daily expenses.”
When you set those two lists side-by-side, look for the things that aren’t as meaningful to you, and cut those—or trim back on them—right away. Exhibit A: You’re buying lunch every day simply out of habit (you can really take or leave dining out), and choose to pack your own instead. Take that lunch money and put it toward one of your priorities, like paying off debt.
If you tend to overspend with the plastic in your wallet, financial advisor Benjamin Brandt suggests simplifying your budget by breaking out some envelopes for a cash-only budget.
To get the ball rolling, create a list of your regular expenses, then set aside a certain amount of cash to cover each category.
Take your groceries, for example. “Withdraw the exact amount you want to spend on groceries next month and fill your ‘groceries’ envelope,” Brandt says.
If you tend to overspend with the plastic in your wallet, financial advisor Benjamin Brandt suggests simplifying your budget by breaking out some envelopes for a cash-only budget.
Use the cash from this envelope when you hit the store, but be prepared to stop buying when the money runs out, Brandt says. This may mean you’ll have to learn to make your money stretch further, or come up with some creative, cost-saving meals at the end of the month.
The same budgeting strategy can be applied to your expenses across the board, Brandt says. “Using cash instead of swiping your card will make you feel more connected to your money and might cause you to actually spend less.”
Good Financial Cents suggests a way to simplify your budget that should also save you time: set designated shopping dates. Pick one day a week for groceries—say, Sundays. For other types of shopping, set aside another day to get the job done. The rest of the time, try not to spend a cent.
“By not hitting the store every time you drive by, you’ll save money by default,” Rose says. “Plus, setting aside a special day for shopping might make you more intentional with what you buy, leading to more savings.”
An allowance isn’t just a way to reward kids for taking out the trash. It can help keep your spending on track.
“Set aside a certain amount of money you can spend on whatever you want, then stick with that amount month after month,” Rose says. This money can be used for a fun splurge or as regular spending money—whatever you want. Outside of your allowance, try to spend only on regular and recurring bills.
“You’re not depriving yourself completely this way,” Rose says. “You’re just cutting your extra spending to reach your goals.”
When it comes to simplifying your budget, make technology your friend. With a website like Mint.com, for example, you can create a budget and track all of your spending in one fell swoop. With You Need a Budget, you’ll learn to live on last month’s income and cut the waste from your budget.
Nobody likes the idea of budgeting at first, but those who succeed love the results (no joke). With the right approach, simplifying your budgeting process can be much more of a help than a hindrance.
Consider your material and emotional values to decide which expenses belong in your budget.
It’s a universal truth: For most people, budgets only have room for so much. Juggling the cost of that summer vacation you’ve been taking for 10 years with the pressing need to help pay your child’s college tuition, actually use your pricey gym membership or fix your faulty water heater is no easy feat. Sometimes, something’s got to give. But how do you decide which expenditures are worth making and which ones you should cut?
Figuring out when to spend and when to cut—and how to avoid unnecessary expenses—depends on your personal priorities. But the following four questions will help you weigh each spending decision and choose the best option for you:
During a recent family budget meeting at Rosemarie Groner’s house, the hot topic was … wait for it … paper towels. Every week the personal finance blogger’s family sits down to review how they can reduce unnecessary expenses. When their giant pile of paper towels came under scrutiny, Groner, whose blog is called The Busy Budgeter, admits they were skeptical of the wisdom and sanitation of reducing their use of paper towels. They worried about the risk of spreading salmonella and other germs, for one thing.
cut back in other areas to reduce unnecessary expenses. Travel provides the opportunity to explore different places and cultures, experience personal growth and reflection and create long-lasting memories with loved ones—all worthy outcomes.
Let’s say it’s not travel you’re pondering in your quest to avoid unnecessary expenses, but the generous line item in your budget for events like concerts, plays or museum visits. Can these things get expensive? Sure. But you may decide that the enrichment of the arts is valuable enough to continue this spending.
Likewise, an investment in your education—earning a degree or taking a few classes to boost your credentials and increase your earning potential—might also be a worthwhile expenditure. In 2016, for example, the median weekly earnings for workers with a master’s degree were $1,380, compared to $1,156 for those whose education topped out with a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—a difference of more than 19 percent. Professional degree earners had a nearly 51 percent pay advantage over those at the bachelor’s level.
While some experiences are special enough that you wouldn’t want to miss out on them, there might be others you rarely use even though you’re continuing to pay for them. When eliminating unnecessary expenses, watch out for automatically renewable charges on gym memberships, magazine subscriptions and retail subscription services (including for fashion, cosmetics and food preparation kits) that continue even when you no longer want them.
That’s a favorite hack for eliminating unnecessary expenses from Sami Cone, a Nashville-based speaker, author and finance blogger. Cone, who discusses money-saving tips on her website and hosts a radio show called Family Money Minute, recommends putting a reminder on your calendar at either the beginning or end of each month to check your statements for expendable services and subscriptions.
Similar to those subscriptions you haven’t used in ages, are there items you purchase by habit that you or your family no longer want or need? A useful way to avoid unnecessary expenses is to take your spending off autopilot. Possible signs you need to do this stat include: You’re paying for music and dance lessons your children skip more often than they attend; you buy extra phone and data services you never use or premium cable channels you never watch; you’re frequently replacing dietary supplements and cooking spices that have lingered on the shelves past their expiration dates.
Sometimes the best way to reduce unnecessary expenses in the long run is to invest in what seems like a big expenditure now. Upgrading your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to a more energy-efficient model, for example, might be a smart way to splurge because it can save you money on your utility bills. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program, replacing a central AC unit that is more than 12 years old with an Energy Star-certified AC unit could trim your cooling bill by 30 percent.
Another example of a major expenditure that can pay off later is investing in quality home furnishings instead of choosing bargain goods. The higher-end products may save you more in the long run because they are often more durable so you won’t have to replace them as soon. Making healthier, if more expensive, food choices now can also potentially help you avoid medical costs related to illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Having a specific financial goal in mind when you set your spending priorities is an important source of motivation when you’re trying to avoid unnecessary expenses. Groner says her family is now out of debt after paying off more than $30,000 from credit cards and car loans with the help of their frugal spending habits.
“In the beginning, when we were first trying to reduce our expenses, the reward was the relief to sleep at night without worrying about living paycheck to paycheck,” Groner says. “We kept going even after we left the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle because then budgeting became fun. It wasn’t about deprivation anymore. It was about laying out a path to get whatever we want in life.”
Cone, whose family used plans for a Disney vacation as an incentive to reduce unnecessary expenses, says it’s important to choose an objective that everyone in the family can get excited about. That way, when eliminating unnecessary expenses starts to pinch, you can remind them: “We’re saying ‘no’ now, so we can say ‘yes’ later,” she says.