Saving more money is among the top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2013, but sometimes we make it harder than it has to be. Taking small steps now to reduce spending can pay off big by next New Year’s Eve. Here are seven not-so-obvious ways to help you start:
Avoid ATMs: You need cash in a hurry so you rush to the nearest ATM. Stop! Don’t ever pay $5 to access your cash, says Josh Elledge, founder of SavingsAngel.com. Use ATM finder apps, Foursquare or bank-specific apps to locate your bank’s nearest ATM. Or go to a drugstore, buy a pack of gum with a debit card and get the cash you need.
Stop auto-spending, start auto-saving: Magazine subscriptions that automatically renew. Free promotions that auto-debit fees if you don’t cancel. Forgetting about automatic debits can cost hundreds of dollars each year. I know, I’ve done it. Opt out from the start or cancel before charges kick in. The only thing you want to automate is saving. Sign up for direct deposit and auto-save programs with your bank. Both will help you build savings over time.
Don’t let sleeping savings lie: If you’ve saved more than the requisite three to six months worth of after-tax, readily accessible income for emergencies, consider moving some of the excess to investments that yield a higher return.
Trim your TV habit: Some people can’t live without cable. Fine. But do you also need Netflix, Hulu Plus and the other stuff? Try canceling all but one and see how it goes, Elledge says. If you miss it, you can still get it back — sometimes at a discount.
Don’t overpay for your phone — any phone: Dump your landline, says Elledge, for services like Ooma, for which you pay $99 and get free phone service for life. Even your cellphone bill may be bloated if your plan’s a year or two old. Get a checkup at BillShrink.com to find the best deal based on your usage.
Shop the right stuff at the right time: Get low prices on anything by buying it at the right time. This practice works for months, days of the week and even time of day. For instance, buying prepared foods at the grocery store one hour before store closing could mean a 50 percent discount, says Mark Di Vincenzo, author of “Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4:00” (William Morrow, $13.99).
Try not to pay full price: There are too many coupon sites, deal sites, group buying sites, reward clubs and smartphone apps to pay full price for almost anything. You don’t have to be extreme to take advantage of the deals, you just have to look for them when you need them.
Monitor your spending: Sites such as Mint.com have revolutionized the way we manage our personal finances, with tools for tracking spending and budgeting. And many are free.
What are you doing to improve your savings this year?
– Nedra Rhone, for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog