Saturday, 3 January 2015

15 Money-Saving Tips for 2015

Have an emergency fund. This might not look like a money-saving tip, but it is one. If you don't have an emergency fund (three to six months' worth of living expenses, easily accessible), if disaster strikes, you may be forced to take some unadvisable financial actions such as cashing out a retirement account or charging a lot on a high-interest credit card. Some of the tips below can help you stock this fund with needed dollars.

Pay off debt. Speaking of high-interest credit card debt, you need to rid yourself of it. Owing $10,000 and being charged 30% (which isn't unusual) can cost you $3,000 annually and can have you spiraling deeper into debt. Make it a priority to pay such debt off.

Use rewards cards. If you're not deep in credit card debt and use cards responsibly, look for cards that reward you in ways that fit your lifestyle. If you travel a lot, seek travel-related rewards cards. If you have a big family and spend a lot at supermarkets, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card will give you 6% back on purchases there.

Call your credit card company. Believe it or not, you may very well get your steep interest rate lowered on your credit card -- just by calling and asking. It will help if you've been a good, longtime customer and if you're ready to move to another card via a balance transfer. You can get lots of discounts just for asking -- such as from a retailer if you're buying a big appliance or from your cable company. It doesn't always work, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

Quit an expensive habit -- or cut back. You've surely heard it before, but if you don't want to quit smoking, maybe you'll consider quitting drinking? Or at least cutting back? This can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars annually. This applies to other activities, too, such as travel, collecting, golfing, and so on.

Buy a programmable thermostat. It can save you from heating or cooling your home when you're not there and the Government estimates that it can shave 5% to 15% off your energy bill. That's easily $200 for some folks. Each year.

Quit your gym if you're not using it. Many of us are paying $20-$40 per month for gym privileges but aren't going. That's $240-$480 a year. You might save that money instead and just walk, run, or use weights at home. Think about other services you might be paying for and not using.

Stay healthy. Wash your hands frequently to reduce your chances of catching something, exercise regularly, and eat well. Staying healthy can keep you from having to pay for doctor visits and medications, and might keep you from missing work, too.

Cook more meals at home. Cooking at home can help you stay healthy as you control what goes into your food, including how much salt and fat -- and veggies and whole grains. It can save you money, too. With a big crock-pot, you can easily make a big batch of something tasty that can serve as several meals.

Unplug things you're not using. It's estimated that electronic devices that are plugged in but not in use cost the average household $100 or more per year -- and that number is rising as we add gadgets and their chargers. The Government estimates that a single cable box with DVR capabilities costs $44 per year.

Get a home energy audit. Your utility company may offer a free home energy audit and can point out where inefficiencies are costing you. It might be worth it to upgrade some windows or your heating system or to add insulation to your home. Energy-efficient replacement windows can save you more than $400 annually. Even small improvements you make yourself can add up. A low-flow showerhead might save you more than $200 per year, while an Energy Star refrigerator can shave $150 per year from your electric bill.

Change a few bad habits. Do you frequently get money from out-of-network ATMs? If so, you're losing a lot of money needlessly. The average fee for such a transaction recently hit $4.35. Twice a month, such a cost totals $104.40. Are your bank's ATMs really that inconvenient? Think about any other costly habits you might change relatively easily.

Cash in loose change. This might seem silly, but if you pool all the jars and piles of coins around your house, it can easily total more than $100. Machines at supermarkets and elsewhere will give you cash for them -- or gift cards to retailers you frequent.

Quit bottled water. Get a water filter at home and use refillable bottles. If you stop spending, say, $10 per week on bottles of water, you'll sock away more than $500.

Get (and use) money-saving apps. There are many apps out there that can help you compare prices at different retailers, offer you coupons when you're shopping, help you budget and keep track of bills, manage loyalty and reward cards, and alert you to good deals -- among many other things.

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