Spending less on the things your family needs.
These days, flashy living is out, and careful spending is in. Many people are discovering that, once they get used to living within their means, they’re less stressed out by the economy. Here are 10 tips for saving money that can help you tackle the average family’s biggest expenses: housing, transportation and food.1
1. Refinance your mortgage.
Take advantage of lower interest rates. You could free up several hundred dollars for your family’s budget every month.
2. Live green.
The average family spends about $1,900 a year on energy bills.2 Save money by doing a home energy audit using the free calculator developed by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program (energystar.gov). Or use its referral service to find a professional home energy auditor.
3. Renegotiate your lease.
If you live in an apartment in a city where rental prices are dropping, your landlord may be willing to give you a better deal so you’ll renew your lease.
4. Switch to public transportation.
Commuters who take buses and trains save an average of $8,498 per year over drivers.3 The new economic stimulus package increased the transit benefit that employers can offer to workers from $120 to $230 a month. If your company offers this benefit, you can have this pre-tax money deducted from your pay to apply to commuting costs.
Sharing a ride with just one person can cut your driving costs dramatically, by shrinking your fuel bill and cutting wear-and-tear on your car. To calculate exactly how much you’ll save, use the free calculator at RideSearch.com.4
Savings Tip #6
If money is tight, hold off on all non-essential purchases for seven days. You may find that you lose interest in some of them.
For every day you work from home, you’ll save on transportation costs, so this option is worth exploring if your employer offers it. Recent research on telecommuting showed that it can increase employees’ disposable income by $2,500 to $11,000 a year. Some families save from $1,500 to $4,000 on day care by cutting down their commuting time.5
7. Plan your meals before you shop for groceries.
It’s easy to waste money on food you’ll never use if you shop without a list and if you buy food that goes bad before you have a chance to use it. Be sure to look for coupons for products you use in your newspaper and online. Also, sign up for your supermarket’s customer loyalty program, which may entitle you to extra savings.
8. Switch to store-brand groceries.
Private label foods are often 25 percent cheaper than name brands.6
9. Plant a garden.
On average, families can get up to a $500 return on their investment in gardening, after seeds and equipment are subtracted, says the National Gardening Association.7Don’t have a backyard? Try a container or window box garden.
10. Dust off your cookbooks.
The average family spends close to half of its food budget on meals away from home.8Cooking at home can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Put one of these tips into action each week for the next 10 weeks and you will be surprised at how much you can save.
What's next? Living on a budget: The envelope system