What's the most popular resolution for 2014? Anyone? That's right, it's spending less and saving more. When you look back on your spending in 2013, do you feel queasy? Are there thousands of transactions that needlessly went into oblivion, gone forever without a trace? Don't feel bad. There's a reason why it's the third most popular resolution.
The first step before going into the new year is figuring out where you stand financially—where your money has been going and where you can start saving. The second step is organization, which means writing down your goals and jotting notes while reading these real budgeting tips for the new year:
Pay auto insurance annually. Many providers give big discounts to customers who pay car insurance policy premiums all at once, rather than monthly. In addition, it’ll help you avoid monthly fees, such as installment fees, and frees up the entire year of having to remember to make the payment. Rather than worrying about that one more thing on your budget, take it out in one shot.
Alter your current wardrobe, as opposed to paying for a new one. Alterations can save you money. The default response to not fitting into your wardrobe anymore is to go right out and buy new clothes. Extend the life of your clothing by having a tailor accommodate your new bulk or slim. This info can come of use when you implement your most dire resolution—to lose weight, or eat like a maniac.
Analyze your spending from 2013. Go through your monthly bills and see which ones aren’t worth it. You are essentially putting plugs in your money leaks. From there, track your spending in the first few months of 2014. You might become aware of spending habits that absolutely kill your budget.
Negotiate lower rates for the essentials. Fixed expenses—your cable, your auto insurance, your cell phone plan—are often negotiable. Dedicate one week to each bill and try to shrink them. You might be surprised to learn how much you’ve been neglecting the health of your budget all along, as lowering your monthly expenses by $100 can add up to $1,200 over the course of the year.
Lose weight and spend less, simultaneously. The most effective way to lose weight is to eat less. The most effective way to trim unnecessary fat from your budget is to spend less on food. It’s a win-win for those with financial resolutions as well as health resolutions. Every time you skimp on proportions remember that you’re knocking out two birds with one stone. Also, being healthy in general saves you money, as it’s less likely you’ll make visits to the doctor and spend money on medications.
Brew your own coffee. You spend $4 a day on coffee. There are 365 days in a year. That means you spend $1,460 a year buying from your favorite barista. It’s time to reconsider that relationship.
Visit the library. The library is a “save” haven. I go to the library at least twice a week to scour the shelves for free books, DVDs and CDs. If you live in a major city, odds are there is more than one. This means there is infinite variety. Well, not infinite. But close. The library is like a soup kitchen for media hounds. Treat it as such.
Buy quality instead of quantity. For products that call for it. I bought a pair of new shoes recently that went for a mere $20. The trouble is they’re already weathered and beaten. Frugality doesn’t mean spending less, although often it does. It means getting the best value for your money. Sometimes paying more will save you in the long run.
Pack a lunch. Obviously, this takes time. And some of us simply don’t have the time. Start small: Packing your lunch once or twice a week can save you big over the course of the year. These could count as leftovers, of which you’ll have a lot due to adhering to the fifth tip. After tracking your decreased spending during the first month, you’ll see a big drop in spending, which you can use as motivation to continue on.
Splurge cheaply. Deal sites, such as promocodes.com, come as a serious boon for consumers. It’s the only way to get the lowest price when spending discretionary income. Sites that cater to the local like Groupon and Living Social deliver fantastically cheaper prices on haircuts, vacations, dinners and many other high-priced excursions. There is always a coupon or deal available—a decidedly sweet alternative to paying full price.
Go generic. Cereal. Soda. Pantry staples. Medication. The word generic just has a negative connotation to it. And that’s exactly the plan. Stores don’t want you to know generics are often made with the exact same ingredients as their branded counterparts. Cereal, for instance, is 25 to 50 percent cheaper, and often comes in a bigger package. The Food and Drug Administration requires generics to have the same active ingredients as patented medications, so you can save substantially by going for generic over-the-counter medications every time. The same applies to baby formula, batteries, makeup, electronic cables, and even gasoline.