Five Creative Ways to Save Money in the New Year
Being frugal gets a bad rap these days, and while clutching one’s money like a paranoid miser is certainly off-putting it couldn’t hurt for any of us to be a little more careful with our finances in 2016. New Year’s resolutions are inevitable after all, and while you’re dusting off your Stairmaster or reconnecting with acquaintances from your trip to Denmark, now is also the perfect time to start saving your money.
The simple fact is, when it comes to personal finance advise like, “ask yourself, do I really need that?” usually fails, so I would like to share some more creative and effective ways to hold on to one’s dough in 2016.
5. Purchase Goods Anywhere but a Drug Store
Stores like CVS, Walgreens feel like the epitome of convenience. You can get all your basic household goods without having to wait in endless grocery store lines. Yet what you’re saving in time you’re paying in cash, for drug stores are infamous for hiking up their prices in the name of convenience. While there are certain things you shouldn’t skimp on, (which I’ll get into later) basic products like paper towels and Windex should always be bought cheaply.
If you’re interested in buying in bulk and don’t fancy online purchases, a Costco membership can save a bundle from month to month. Otherwise, try buying your basic supplies at sites like Amazon. Purchase a good amount, cheaply, and see you can get free shipping. It will save you money, you don’t have to leave the couch and the only real detriment is that you can’t have the products immediately. Although, if you’ve run out of dish soap and can’t wait a day, just turn the bottle over and go make yourself a snack. Now you have enough.
4. Manage/Cancel Subscriptions
We’re living in the golden age of awareness in many ways. Thanks to the internet we know every kind of event minutes after they occur, whether they are natural disasters or debates about an ugly dress that may or may not have been blue and black, and with online banking we can stay up to date on our daily finances. Yet there’s still that moment, you know the one, when we check our online balance and our jaws drop. How did I spend that much? you ask. I cut back on everything this month. I even cut back on beer without the word “Light” in the title. What happened?
Subscriptions happened. Netflix, DirecTV, a cornucopia of packages and extra features inch away your bank account like HD waves against a cliff side. Canceling or revising your subscriptions can save a great deal of money, especially when they may be services you don’t really need or use. Mulling through transactions can be a pain, and there wouldn’t be infinite “Do It Yourself” finance books if managing one’s transactions wasn’t a general issue with people. For an easy way to manage this, try using Truebill.com to view and cancel subscriptions on one organized interface in a hands-on manner. Also, if you threaten to leave a cable service they may spot you a month or so for free. Not that I’ve ever used such a tactic.
3. Eat Out Less
This is the “Duh” item on this list, but it’s worth reiterating just how much you can save by not frittering away money on restaurants, take-out and delivery. Cooking can be a pain, but that depends entirely on what you’re cooking and unless it’s Thanksgiving or you’re creating an edible Rube Goldberg machine the process probably won’t take up your entire evening. To be fair, there is nothing wrong dining out. Family dinners, romantic dates and happy hours with friends are all enjoyable experiences, but those aside you’re better off cooking your meal. The fixings for sandwiches, stir-fry dinners and basically any other meal can come to about the same (if not less) than the meal you were going to order by phone, and they can provide enough for a week. It’s basic math; eating at home saves money.
Plus, it can’t hurt for any of us to learn how to cook a little better. Save the dining out for special occasions, and you’ll be surprised how much extra cash you’ll have on hand.
2. Invest in Your Clothing
“You have to spend money to make money” is the go-to mantra any entrepreneur, but here I’d like to offer a variation. You have to spend money to save money. With most purchases this may seem like a paradox, but with certain clothing it makes perfect sense.
Clothing isn’t invincible. It fades, tears and straight-up dissolves, but the pace at which it does depends on the quality of the manufacturer. Therefore, if you have good clothes, you buy them less. You have fewer excuses to go to the mall and empty your wallet on six items unrelated to the one you were trying to replace. Now, there’s an argument for buying certain clothing for cheap like socks or under shirts, but for other items, especially multi-purpose ones, it works better in the long term to take time and invest. If you need a rain jacket, do some quick research on good rain jackets and buy one that not only works well but will last for some time. Even if it costs more, you have a long-term rain jacket and don’t have to keep buying cheap ones that tear like tissue paper.
The same goes for boots, workout gloves and formalwear. These items are not just garments but investments. You don’t buy them just because you like them. You need them, for weather conditions and certain occasions, and you should do the research and spend the money required to make sure you get the right ones. The last thing you want is to buy a jacket every year since, as I mentioned above, you don’t want to be in a mall unless you have to. They are the Sarlacc Pits of wallets.
1. Latte Sunday
This is the most personal tip I can offer, since Latte Sundays were ongoing tradition in my household when I was growing up. The idea is simple; only drink lattes once a week. The one consistency with cafes in America is that the lattes are overpriced, and although they can give a nice jolt to one’s day they’re simply too expensive to buy regularly. In addition, to this humble coffee-drinker’s opinion, there’s little chance the latte will be mind-blowingly delicious enough to warrant the price.
Resist the urge for that daily espresso drink. There are cheaper, and more health-conscious ways to get that morning boost (even coffee would save money) and save the latte for Sunday. That way, it stops acting as a pricy, mildly-addictive routine and instead becomes a distinct, pleasing ritual. It’s the trophy to cap off another week. Simply buying one instead of several a week saves quite a lot of money, but to save even more and relish that end-of-the-week-reward feeling you may want to invest in an espresso machine. Knowing how to cook, make cocktails and tastefully decorate are all useful and fashionable skills, and brewing a good latte for guests is an equally desirable trait for any host.
But you can’t buy an extra-large latte and then pour them into little cups for people. That’s cheating.
Clay Conger is a Truebill contributor from Orange County, CA. In his free time he writes fiction, composes music, critiques films and is always looking for collaborators/beer buddies.