Are you a New Year’s resolutions type of gal or guy? Personally, I like making resolutions. We’re all imperfect creatures, and I think setting intentions for positive change is a worthy undertaking. Working toward improving financial security is a common resolution (more than a third of Americans want to improve their finances in 2024).
In an economic climate that has many of us holding our breath, having a healthy emergency fund is increasingly more important. Cutting your costs and tucking away the savings could make all the difference if you encounter financial challenges in the future.
Feeling the pinch of inflation and not sure where to find financial breathing room? I have a few ideas for simple and painless ways to trim your spending this year.
- Cancel memberships. While January is typically the time to go out and get a gym membership, I suggest you cancel the one you already have that you don’t use. If you’ve been paying a monthly fee for a gym that you visit quarterly, it’s not doing your wallet or your health any favors. Explore free exercise options instead, like walking, running, or no-equipment-workout videos on YouTube.
Take an inventory of all the memberships and subscriptions hitting your bank account. Do you get the doodad-of-the-month box? Do monthly restocks of stuff you don’t need arrive via Amazon’s Subscribe & Save? Have seven different streaming services? Hit cancel on the things you don’t need or use to save money in the new year.
- Negotiate your rates. Sometimes a phone call is all it takes to save yourself money. Have you changed your TV and Internet provider within the last year? If not, do a price comparison then call your current provider and see if you can negotiate a better rate. They’ll likely offer you a price reduction to stay, and if not, no worries, switch to the other guys for their introductory offer. Energy providers are another vendor you should regularly shop around for a better deal.
Did you move recently and find yourself with a mortgage around 7%? Consider refinancing your mortgage as a home equity loan. Home equity loan rates are generally lower than traditional mortgage rates, leading to potential long-term savings. Additionally, closing costs associated with home equity loans are lower compared to the cost of traditional mortgages contributing to overall cost savings. Does it look like refinancing could save you money? Give our lending team a call (484-223-4216) to find out if this could be a good fit for you.
- Cut back on little extras. Most of us are pretty careful about big purchases; it’s the little things that can quickly add up before you notice how much you’ve spent. I won’t tell you to give up your fancy lattes or date night dinners out but do pay attention to how often and how much you spend then set yourself limits. Whatever your guilty pleasure or little luxury is, moderation is key to financial freedom.
- Check for savings before you check out. Never pay full price if you don’t have to. When you shop online, do a quick search for merchant coupon codes to see if there’s a discount to be had. And shopping around is easier than ever online. A search through Google Shopping can help you quickly find pricing across multiple stores.
In a physical store, be aware of the business’s price match policy and bring proof of the better price with you. Did you know Target prices some merchandise differently in-store versus online? Just show your cashier the online price at checkout to get your in-store price adjusted. Many stores match competitor prices too.
For bigger purchases, be willing to wait for the right time to buy. You can get better than average prices on older inventory cars when a new model rolls out or at year-end when dealers push to hit their numbers. The best deals for home improvements are usually found at the end of summer.
Most products go on sale eventually if you wait, and even a small percentage discount can be a worthwhile savings on big ticket items.
- Grocery shop with a plan. We’ve all seen how inflation has ticked up totals at the grocery store checkout. The best way to tighten your spending on food is to buy what you need and avoid food waste. Meal planning is the key ingredient to make that happen.
Grocery shopping without a plan leads to impulse buying, and it’s even worse if you’re hungry while you walk the aisles. If you’ve never meal planned before, start small with a focus on weeknight dinners. Decide what you’ll eat, write a grocery list, and do your shopping for the week all in one shot. And meal planning doesn’t mean you can’t eat out or order takeout, just put it in the plan (and your budget) from the start.
Pretty doable, right? Here’s a closing word of advice for resolutions of any kind. If you set resolutions, or intentions, or any other kind of plan for self-improvement this year, remember that it’s not pass or fail. You can make a positive impact on your budget and life and still fall short of your goal. Any amount of progress you make is worth it. If you only save a few hundred bucks all year, it’s not a waste.
Dramatic change very rarely happens overnight. Small steps are the path to big change if you keep moving and get back up when you fall down.