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Imagine your current budget. Now add an extra hundred dollars per month. It’s nice, right?
And while it is easy to imagine how to spend the money, sometimes it can be a challenge to dream up ways to make it happen. So let’s take a look at a few ways that you create some extra wiggle room in your monthly budget.
Tighten Your Belt
One of the most effective ways to save is to examine your current spending. Variable monthly expenses — think electric, utility, grocery bills — can be a great place to start the hunt for savings.
For your electric bill, adjusting your thermostat a few degrees can save you some cash each month. Similarly, if you have any electronics that do not need to be plugged in all the time — unplug them. Some of them still draw power even when they are not in use — costing you money.
For utilities, routine maintenance is your best friend. Have a leaky faucet? Fix it. Drafty living room? Add some sealant or weather stripping. Regular tune-ups before summer and winter months will keep your air conditioner and furnace running their best. Proper insulation will keep the hot or cold air you’re paying for in your home. Not only will these actions improve your living conditions, but they will also save you money.
When planning your grocery shopping, build a list before you go. Examine it and see if there’s anything that can be dropped. If not, are there cheaper brands available? Also, be sure to check your mail for coupons or download a grocery coupon app like Ibotta.
Cancel Unused Memberships
Remember when you signed up for the free trial of that new streaming service seven months ago? Well, if you had forgotten you even had the subscription, now might be time to cancel it.
Nowadays, many memberships are month-to-month affairs. So use that to your advantage. If you are not frequently using a particular service, be sure to cancel it. You can always join again at a later date. Scan a recent bank or credit card statement to see if there are any services that you’ve forgotten about but are still costing you money each month. Just one or two of these can yield decent monthly savings.
And don’t just limit yourself to online subscriptions — memberships to physical locations such as gyms, spas or fitness centers can be expensive. If you signed up for the gym at the start of the year, intending to go, but it hasn’t happened all that often, cancel the membership. In the meantime, see if there are ways to exercise for free — running in your neighborhood or watching fitness videos on YouTube.
Of course, savings don’t always have to come from cutting things out. One way to boost your cash reserve is to make more money. If you already work at a job where you can take on additional hours for extra pay, adjust your hours accordingly. If this isn’t an option, consider a side gig.
Ridesharing, food delivery, and freelancing are all options to help you get a few extra bucks in your pocket each month. Just a few hours each week can add up if you commit to it regularly.
Downsize Your Bills
Typically, fixed monthly bills are a person’s most significant monthly expense. Their mortgage, rent, insurance premiums, etc. all eat up a considerable amount of their take-home pay.
But these notable expenses do present an opportunity for savings as well. Think about insurance premiums. It’s never been easier to compare premiums, deductibles, and benefits than it is today. Use the internet to your advantage. Compare options and switch providers if they won’t match the best offer you can find. Bundle your different policies to get the best price.
The same goes for phone and internet plans. Carriers are eager for new customers, so the best plans are often only available to those who are willing to switch. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask your current provider to match offers from competitors. You can also investigate whether downgrading your current plan can save you money.
Bring Your Lunch and Eat Dinner At Home
Restaurant dining can be the downfall of any well-prepared budget. While your $10 lunch may not seem like it’s breaking the bank, remember, over a month, that amounts to $200 or more — assuming your spending that much each workday. If you bring your lunch just half of the time, that will save you perhaps $50 right off the top. Are you buying coffee on-the-go too? Replace it with a coffee maker and thermos, and maybe you can double your savings to $100 month.
How about dinner? How many nights do you eat out rather than cook at home? If you can reduce the number of trips to restaurants — even by one — you will see the savings drop to your bottom line. A recent report showed that the average family of four typically spends nearly $300/month on restaurants and takeout alone.
Use Coupons and Gift Cards
Over $3 billion in gift cards go unused. It’s hard to believe, but true. So if you’re looking for a way to save a few bucks, dig through your wallet and see if you can put some of that money to use.
In addition to the old gift card you got for your birthday but haven’t cashed in yet, see if there are coupons you can use. Direct mail coupons are still everywhere, but many apps help you get the best deal too.
Here are just a few to consider:
Grocery iQ: Household Sharing
SnipSnap: Digitizing Paper Coupons
Groupon: Dining and Experiences
Coupon Sherpa: Printable Coupons
RetailMeNot: Online Promo Codes
YipIt: Aggregator by City
Spent: Cash Back