Looking for more ideas to help you save money and really make a dent in your spending each month? Consider these 10 ways to save money -- most families will save thousands of dollars a year with the following strategies:
Number 1 - Negotiate lower interest rates on revolving debt, or transfer high-interest debt to lower-interest loans through a credit union or even a home equity loan. The goal is to spend as little as possible in interest as you work to pay off your principal balances. One phone call to my credit card company reduced the interest rate by half, likely because I mentioned I wanted to transfer the balance to a no-interest card and shut down my account with them. If this approach fails, look into a personal loan or line of credit through your bank or credit union to pay off high-interest balances.
Number 2 - Ask for better plans from your cell phone, home phone, Internet and cable companies. Every time my cable Internet bill nearly doubles from the introductory rate to a regular rate that's $60/month, I call the company and let them know I plan to switch to their competitor, unless they have any incentive rates to offer. Without fail, I get a deal – this strategy is always in my list of the best 10 ways to save money.
Number 3 - Spend less on food by cooking at home and eating out less frequently, or only dining out for special occasions. Cook with whole foods, purchased in bulk through a co-op, to increase savings. Consider buying beef by the side (quarter or half steer) and keeping a stocked freezer, which also helps discourage last-minute grocery store runs filled with impulse purchases.
Number 4 - Drive fewer miles by grouping errands into the minimum number of trips a week. Carpool to work and arrange ride sharing for kids' activities and transportation to private school. Speaking of transportation, be consistent with regular vehicle maintenance to avoid expensive repairs.
Number 5 - Use a cash-envelope budget system, allotting cold hard cash to envelopes inscribed with category names such as food, clothing, household, entertainment and gifts. When a month's funds are gone, spending stops – no cheating with the debit or credit card.
Number 6 - Evaluate intended purchases (needs vs. wants) before buying and save receipts to return what you really didn't need, or items that broke or failed to deliver as expected. Taking the time to return unused or unusable items is potentially a huge money saver in many households.
Number 7 - Plan large purchases in advance and comparison shop for the best deal, watching for sales and rebate offers to lower your expenditure on everything from cars to appliances to furniture.
Number 8 - Buy second hand, aka pre-owned or gently used, whenever feasible. Craigslist, local classifieds, online auctions, flea markets, yard sales, thrift stores and other sources of used consumer goods, are excellent sources for everything from vehicles to clothing, tools to toys. Of all the 10 ways to save money listed here, this could save you the most cash over time.
Number 9 - Look for frugal entertainment rather than expensive outings and events. While the county fair can cost a family upwards of $150 for an evening of rides, food and games, a visit to a local farm or petting zoo, with a a packed picnic and swimming in the lake, amounts to less than $50 expended. Consider hiking, camping, canoeing and other relatively inexpensive excursions over water parks, amusement parks and expensive tourist attractions. Movie night at home, rather than a theater, is another huge money-saver.
Number 10 - Share bulk purchases to realize better cost savings. I didn't need 50 pounds of natural sugar from the co-op, but it was far cheaper per pound to buy in quantity, so I split the 50-lb. sack with a sister and a neighbor so we could all get the lower price. This can be a great strategy for everything from groceries (produce from Costco, anyone?) to books (Dover offers free shipping on orders over $50, for example) to chickens (my sister and I split an order of 25 laying hens to get a much better per-chick cost).