Here are five tips that can help you maximize your savings while also being frugal with your time.
1. Review your budget. A budget can be a great way to keep your spending in check, but it’s only effective if it’s aligned with your current needs and priorities.
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Once a month, set aside a little time (just 15 minutes can help) to make sure your budget categories and real-life spending are where they should be. Look for areas you can trim and ask yourself if any new expenses have cropped up that need to be factored in.
If you notice you regularly overspend in a certain category, ask yourself if you can change your habits or if you can trim another budget category to free up some extra money. Re-evaluating and readjusting your budget on a regular basis helps you make sure your money is working for you.
Programs like Mint.com can help track your spending for you and alert you when you’re getting close to exceeding your monthly spending goals.
Want to make things super easy? Try the “anti-budget” — yank your savings from the top first, and force yourself to live on the rest.
2. Grocery shop smarter. A little preparation ahead of time can save you plenty at the grocery store – and help make cooking easier throughout the week. (And who doesn’t want that?)
Sit down over the weekend and come up with a meal plan for the week ahead. Create a list with only the items you’ll need for those meals (plus any staples you’re running low on, like milk or bread). Keep your shopping trips quick and to the point; make a beeline for the items on your list and don’t get distracted by flashy displays or sale signs. Get in, get what you need and then get out.
Want to make things even easier? Cook a large batch of something in a slow cooker on the weekends and then divide it up into meals for the week to come.
3. Cancel unused memberships and services. If it’s been several months and you still haven’t used that gym membership you keep swearing you’re going to use, it’s time to face reality. All it’s doing is sucking money out of your bank account each month. There are plenty of other ways you can work out, like running, biking or finding free exercise videos on YouTube.
Look for other recurring expenses you’re not utilizing, such as magazines you rarely read, pricey cable packages when you only watch a handful of shows and that land line you still have even though the only calls you ever receive on it are from solicitors.
These things are all drains on your budget. Cancel them, and voila! Extra money appears each month.
4. Think ahead. Establish several savings goals for short- and long-term expenses you can expect to face down the road. An emergency savings fund will give you a cushion to help you deal with things like home and car repairs, illness and accidents without blowing your regular budget.
Review your calendar for other expenses coming up in the year ahead: birthdays, weddings, vacations, holidays. Create a budget for these costs and start putting aside a little each month so you won’t have to find the cash for them in one fell swoop. When it comes to travel, booking things like flights and hotels far in advance can help you net some great deals you won’t find if you wait till the last minute.
5. Sign up for daily deals sites. Sites like Groupon, Amazon Local and Seize the Deal offer great daily bargains on everything from restaurants to entertainment to travel. Sign up for their mailing lists and set up a rule in your inbox so that any messages you receive from them go straight into a separate “deals” subfolder. This way, you can skim all your daily deals at once and they won’t clog your regular inbox.
Paula Pant is the founder of Afford Anything, a website that helps you build wealth and maximize life. Afford Anything is an online movement against tired old financial advice that says you should skip lattes and chain yourself to a desk for 40 years. Paula Pant launched the site after she quit her 9-to-5 job, traveled to 32 countries and became a successful entrepreneur and real estate investor.