Saving money isn't just for poor people anymore. Taking a good, hard, look at your budget is probably necessary in this economic climate. Even when you think you make good money, there's always an easy way for you to blow it by spending too much money on things you don't really value. By cutting out the real waste, you put money back into your pocket, and you won't miss a thing about your old spending habits.
1. Make a budget. It might seem obvious, but the simple act of writing down your income and expenses makes it easier to see where you're spending money. If you know where your money is going, you can easily control your cash flow.
2. Take advantage of cash back rewards programs. Some credit cards offer a cash back rewards program. Some people will tell you not to use credit cards. However, if you're paying them off every month, then you can use the card to rack up points and get cash back. It's a roundabout way of getting a discount on everything you buy.
3. Buy at outlet stores. If you need a new coat, or a new wardrobe, an outlet store can save you a ton of money. These stores often carry overstocked items from the retail store or items that have minor flaws. If you're willing to make sift through racks of clothes, you could save a ridiculous amount of money over retail.
4. Take advantage of sales. Coupons, store sales, and seasonal discounts all add up. Don't go crazy and buy things you wouldn't otherwise buy, but do take advantage of sales when they come around. Be patient and hold off on buying something at full price unless you really need it.
5. Use sites like Ebates or MrRebates. These sites offer you cash back when you shop through their site. They're a huge affiliate of many popular sites like Amazon.com and Buy.com. When you shop on their site, they are basically sharing some of the commission they earn. It's free money. Take it.
6. Eat at home. Many people eat out because it's convenient. However, there's a dark side to eating out: the cost. You're paying for service at most restaurants, not the food. Most of the food you get from a restaurant can be made at home. Most of the time, it can be made better and cheaper at home. When you go out to eat, do it because you want the service and you want someone to wait on you hand and foot - not because you want the food.
7. Lower your insurance costs. Lowing insurance costs is something most people overlook. By raising your insurance deductible, you will lower your premium payment on your car insurance, homeowners insurance,or health insurance. Sometimes, this makes a lot of sense. If you rarely use an insurance policy, consider this as an option to raise money quickly.
8. Increase your take-home pay. Most people avoid messing with their W-2 allowances. They're afraid of messing up their taxes. However, you can safely change your allowances and decrease the amount of money being withheld from your paycheck thus increasing your take-home pay. Finding the right withholding amount is easy. Just follow the IRS's instructions: irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96196,00.html
9. Make your own coffee. Starbucks is a favorite morning ritual for many people. However, it's also an expensive one. By buying a good coffeepot, or manual pour over equipment, you can avoid the high price of designer coffee without sacrificing quality. It doesn't take any longer for you to make it at home, though you do have to be willing to make it yourself.
10. Make a list before grocery shopping. Make a list of all of the foods you like to eat. Everything. It doesn't matter if you are currently well-stocked in the house or not. Then, before you go shopping, check to see what's low. Shop from your pre-made list. No more impulse buying at the grocery store.
11. Buy in bulk when it makes sense. If you eat a lot of vegetables, consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group in your area. If you eat a lot of meat, consider buying directly from a farmer. Most farmers will butcher a pig, cow, or whole chickens for you and offer you an excellent deal for buying the entire animal. If that's not an option, join a warehouse club like Sams or Costco.
12. Disconnect your land line and TV. Try picking up a book, or use free services like Hulu.com to satisfy your need for sitcoms. If you are desperate for movies, Netflix is a much cheaper option than a monthly cable bill. Finally, some news sites broadcast major events right on their site so you won't miss important news like the State of the Union. For everyday news, try reading it online or watching posted news clips.
13. Buy used clothes and get them tailored. Designer clothes from DKNY, Banana Republic, and even high-end stuff from Armani often end up in a Goodwill somewhere. For the nice clothes, shop the Goodwill stores in really nice neighborhoods. Then, take the item to a tailor for a perfect fit. It's much cheaper than buying it retail.
14. Fill your closet with "workhorse" outfits that are suitable for many different occasions This will save you money by the sheer fact that you won't need to have an expansive wardrobe.
15. Hang your clothes out to dry. We've become so accustomed to using dryers that the old-fashioned way of drying clothes is lost on most of us. Save yourself some money by air-drying. Bonus: your clothes will smell fresher.
16. Recycle. No, don't throw things in the recycling bin. Try to reuse items around the house like empty hand-soap pumps. You can refill these with shampoo or soap (that you buy in bulk quantities). No need for a new pump when you have one that already works.
17. Quit your gym and go outside for a walk. If all you use the gym for is running on a treadmill, save yourself some money by quitting your expensive gym and just go outside. If it's cold outside, buy protective clothing made for winter jogging. If you use weights, consider building a workout station in your basement or a spare room in your home. A power rack and simple weight set doesn't take up much room and will give you a great workout.
18. Get free checked bags when you fly. Some airlines charge a little more for plane tickets but offer free checked bags. Take a minute to compare the cost for checked bags. You may find that you save money overall with an airline that charges a few dollars more, but offers free checked luggage.
19. Stock up on sample perfumes and colognes. Smelling good costs money. If you're almost out of your favorite perfume, and you want to try something new, visit a few department stores and collect samples of a wide-range of perfumes or colognes. The samples are free, and you can try out a variety of different smells to see which ones you like best. If you visit enough department stores, you could end up with a year's worth of samples.
20. Check out the matinee. You don't have to stop going to the movies, but if you want to save money then going during the daytime can save you some money.
21. Drink more water. Sugary and caffeinated drinks are all the rage, but they aren't as good as plain old water when it comes to your health. Water is cheap, too. Don't bother with store-bought bottled water unless drinking tap water in your area is unsafe.
22. Do your own car maintenance. Fortunately, simple maintenance can be done yourself. Checking and changing your oil, transmission fluid, checking your tire pressure, and even changing your brakes are all tasks that can be done at home with a basic service manual available at most auto parts stores.
23. Ditch unused cellphone services. Do you need that unlimited text messaging plan? If you don't text many people, consider dropping it. How many minutes do you actually use? Really comb through your plan and be honest with yourself. Don't make your bill more expensive than it has to be.
24. Buy a late model car. New cars depreciate and most cars under 75,000 miles are an excellent buy.
25. Shave with a real razor. Men have lost the art of shaving. Electric razors are expensive and might only work for three or four years, max, before going dull. Compare this to the cost of buying a simple safety razor and changing the heads every few weeks. Learn to shave in the shower and you'll extend the blade's life. Wet-shaving will save you time (since you're doing two things at once) and money.
Regardless of how you decide to save money, keep one thing in mind: don't sacrifice your values. The minute you do, you won't be motivated to stick with any kind of money-saving strategy. You'll feel deprived like a crash dieter. Eventually, you'll want to "cheat." When you do, you might find yourself in worse financial shape than before.