Whether your last credit card bill was over the budget, you’re preparing for the financial upheaval that is a new child, or simply want to save up for a beach vacation that, by mid-winter, feels like more of a necessity than a splurge, we’ve got you covered with 13 simple strategies to save some coin each month. By planning for a few Meatless Mondays, watching less television and setting clear financial goals, you just might earn yourself that seaside view. Keep reading to learn more.
1. Make a Budget—No Really, YNAB.
Mark Avallone, Certified Financial Planner, is Founder of Potomac Wealth Advisors, LLC and a proponent of honing in on a family budget so that you can better understand your monthly cash flow and your discretionary income. He advises using simple, accessible online tools to get started—try YNAB, BudgetTracker, or Mint.
Estimated savings: On average, budgeters save more than $6000 the first year.
2. Don't "Do" Lunch.
It’s so tempting to tag along with your coworkers to get that $10 pasta bar special every day—but remind yourself of how much you'll put back into your savings account by packing your lunch during the workweek. And don’t think you’re destined to glumly chew PB&Js Monday through Friday! Box up leftovers from one of these delicious dinner ideas or make some of these easy lunch ideas.
Estimated savings: upwards of $200 per month.
3. Make Your Own Coffee.
It's almost everyone’s Achilles Heel—the daily latte. But, it is possible to make one at home yourself that will work or taste just as good (or better) than its store-bought counterpart. We've even found the perfect French Toast Latte recipe to help you break that Starbucks addiction.
Estimated savings: almost $80 a month.
4. Never Pay Retail.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2017 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average American spent just over $1800 annually on clothing. Depending on the size of your family, that figure can grow exponentially—so why not take advantage of every opportunity to avoid paying full price for something? Download an app like Honey or sign up for Ebates to save without even trying at common retailers, host a swap party or shop consignment, or enjoy the thrill of the hunt by shopping off-season or digging through the racks (or online search results) at discount retailers.
Estimated savings: varies
5. Plan a Budget Birthday.
Bounce house. Color-themed candy bar. Unique party favors that won’t end up in the trash. Throwing your kid’s dream birthday party can get really expensive (and really stressful) really fast. Take a look at these tips for planning your child’s birthday party on a budget (spoiler alert: ask for help, DIY, and KISS) and put that $200 bounce house fee into your birthday kiddo’s college savings account—and spend your precious time practicing “Happy Birthday” on the ukulele.
Estimated savings: $200 per birthday
6. Control Your Impulses.
Whether you start meal planning and buying in bulk (read: fewer trips to the store) or opt-in for “subscribe and save” programs like the popular one offered by Amazon, one of the key strategies for saving money is avoiding impulse buys. Many families find that, by using online grocery delivery programs, they avoid those last-minute detours down the candy and cookie aisle and don’t even have the chance to be tempted by the two-for-one deal on Lucky Charms.
Estimated savings: 15% on items when using a subscribe and save program.
7. Make a List and Check It Twice.
Another way to avoid impulse buys is to think ahead and put everything in a list—from the milk you’re pretty sure you won’t forget to the aged Balsamic vinegar you need for that new meal planning pasta sauce recipe. Treat your trip to the grocery store like a time-sensitive Mission: Impossible and confine your purchases to the necessities on your list, and you’ll walk out with a shorter receipt and a few extra Hamiltons in your wallet.
Estimated savings: Over $100 a month.
8. Get Your Kids In on the Action.
Kids receive over $30 billion worth of gifts each year—and a former Nickelodeon executive and mom of four created Goalsetter as the alternative to that duplicative LEGO set or that gift card that you don’t really need. How does it work? With the help of a parent, kids 13 and under can create an account to track their savings and progress towards their goals (older kids can register on their own). When it’s the season for gifts, friends and family members can purchase a digital Goal Card that allows kids to save for the future, share with others, or spend on things that really matter to them (think: that bike they’ve been dreaming about for over a year).
Estimated savings: varies
9. Cut the (Cable) Cord.
Families spend about $720 annually on cable costs. Cut the cord and you’ve just put a hefty sum back in your bank account. And with quality programming perks becoming readily available through other sources (Amazon Prime is a great one-two punch example), you don’t have to say goodbye forever to the occasional miniseries binge. Added bonuses of cutting cable: you’ll read more, you’ll spend more time with your family, you’ll reduce unhealthy eating habits, and you’ll avoid those commercials that get you thinking about the Joneses.
Estimated savings: over $100 a month.
10. Try Vegetarian
An easy (and delicious) way to save is to go vegetarian—at least a few times per week, at least. Meatless meals are far from boring: most families find that vegetarian recipes get them out of their comfort zone with new ingredients and flavors, and are fun for even the smallest hands to help prepare. We’re especially partial to the Broccoli Cheddar Risotto and Black Bean Wraps in this list.
Estimated savings: an average of $100 per month.
11. Travel Smart
Travel can get expensive, but if you remember a few tricks, you'll save money while on the road. Going on a cool adventure to a new city? This money-saving app will help you find parking that won’t break the bank and be sure to use this money-saving app to find the cheapest gas closest to you. If it's cheap flights you seek, consider opening a travel credit card. Many of them (especially airline cards) offer extra points and incentives if you spend a certain amount within the first few months of opening an account. Some even offer double points for travel-related expenses, so take advantage of this perk and charge away.
Estimated savings: varies
12. Buy Stuff in Advance
Whether you bring all that Disney gear with you to avoid resort price tags, or you buy school, holiday or birthday supplies in the off-season, you'll be saving money in the long run if you buy stuff ahead of time.
Estimated savings: up to 50% on supplies
13. Go Coupon Crazy
From Groupon to SnipSnap, the ultimate place to store all of your printed coupons right on your phone, coupons are still a great way to save. And, don't forget about Amazon Local, which helps you save on local happenings.
—Katie Brown with Natasha Davis
Feature photo courtesy Unsplash