5 Easy Ways to Save in 2010
If there's one thing we've all got on our list of New Year's resolutions, it's to save money. But we all know that's often easier said than done.
After all, it's hard to save when money is tight to begin with...and after this year, "tight" is putting it pretty generously. But even if you're living payday to payday, even if you think you've squeezed all the blood out of the proverbial turnip, there are a few ways to save that don't require any major lifestyle changes. Want to know what they are? Here's five easy ways to save some dough in 2010.
1. Reduce paper, save dollars.
In addition to killing the trees and cluttering up the planet, paper costs money. Maybe not large sums per purchase, but over time, it all adds up. The solution? Cut down your paper usage and keep that extra cash instead. For starters, try saving your online receipts and confirmations to your hard drive or a CD instead of printing them off. And while you're at it, use an online recipe service to store your favorite concotions instead of printing those off as well. Your recipes will be easier to find, and not only will you save on printer paper but you'll also save on printer cartridges too. And let's be honest...you'll reduce your clutter in the process. Another paper reduction tip — use cloth hand towels instead of the paper kind and rinse them out after each use to keep them fresher longer.
2. Change your thermostat setting.
In the winter, turn it down five degrees — in the summer, increase by 5. It may not seem like a big difference but you'll save a decent amount on your heating and cooling costs over the year. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests that you pay an additional 2% to 3% for every degree of heat and air conditioning you use.
3. Clip coupons.
No one wants to be the person who holds up the grocery line while they rummage through a wallet full of coupons, but a little smart clipping can go a long way. Start by making your list before your go shopping and then take only the coupons you'll need — not your entire stash. Here's another tip: be sure to compare the savings you get from the coupon with the price of the lesser, no-name brand to be sure you're really getting the most for your grocery bucks.
4. Eat out.
Yes, eat out. Not every night of course and certainly not at the pricier places, but there are some instances when it's cheaper to eat out than to make your own. For example, pizza can be a relatively cheap meal for a family of four with the right coupons, while making your own pizzas at home can get quite costly. Burgers on the dollar menu are another good example of eating out with your budget in mind. Yes, I know these aren't the healthiest choices but if you're planning on burgers or pizza anyway, then why not save a few bucks in the process? Other dishes such as spaghetti and steak are typically cheaper to cook at home so just do the math when you're planning your menu.
5. Enroll in the tax-advantaged plans at work.
If you've been putting off joining your company's Healthcare Savings Account, now is the time to reconsider. Tax-advantaged plans such as this offer immense savings for you and since it doesn't cost your employer anything, even the smallest companies can offer it. Depending on your company, these plans can cover everything from health care costs to child care expenses, education and even transportation. To enroll, you'll have to designate a portion of your income to be withheld each month but this money is taken out "pre-tax," meaning you won't pay taxes on the income and if you're right at the threshold of higher tax bracket, the deduction could be just what you needed to lower your bracket and reduce the amount of taxes you have to pay.
No, these five frugal tips won't make you a millionaire, but they will put a few extra dollar in your pocket and give back some control over your financial picture. And that, as the commercial says, is priceless.
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