It's April and, after paying our tax bills, some of us are looking for smarter ways to save so we can keep our personal finances on an even keel. Here are some tips I've already used -- or should use -- this year. See if they don't work for you.
Consider refinancing your mortgage. You can save about $140 a month if you bring an eight- percent mortgage down to six percent
Set thermostats no higher than 68 degrees in winter and no lower than 78 degrees in summer. Could save up to $500 per year
Bring your lunch to work instead of buying out. Est. savings – $150-$300 per month.
Contribute old clothes to charity. A taxpayer in the 27 percent bracket who donates $1,000 can earn $270 annually in tax savings.
Install flow-restricting showerheads (cost?). By saving an estimated 8,000 gallons of water annually, you can save up to $400 on water and hot water heating costs
Keep phone service to the minimum. Extras like call waiting and call forwarding really add up. Est. Savings = $170 annually.
Paying off a student loan? Call your lender and negotiate the loan’s interest rates. Many banks will drop the rate a point or so if you agree, for example, to pay your bills online (it’s cheaper for lenders that way). Est. Savings on a $10,000 loan could be $100-$200 annually.
Don’t let an insurance pro sweet talk you into buying life insurance for your baby. Life insurance is for those whose demise would cause you financial hardship. Est. Savings: $370 annually.
Start a College 529 Savings Plan. The plans allow you to save for your child’s college tax-free. A $25 monthly investment now could save you tens of thousands of dollars in tuition costs 18 years from now.
Max out on your company 401(k) plan. By contributing the maximum legal amount you can to your 401(k) plan you can win big. A 25-year-old who invests $200 a month for 40 years can earn $1,542,254.00 (assuming 11 percent average annual growth rate). But if you wait to your 45 to do the same thing, you’ll only earn $170,000 over the same period.
Bundle your insurance policies. Try to insure your car and home, for example, with one insurers. By giving one insurer your business, you can lower your rates. Est. savings = $150 annually.
Stifle the Latte’s. A $3.50 latte at Starbucks every day will cost you $750 over the course of a year. Even if you cut the habit in half you’ll save $375 annually.
Put your pets on austerity. Indulging Fido and Boots in gourmet vittles, homeopathic medical treatments and expensive grooming can put you in the poorhouse. Say you spent $530 a month on pet expenses. Saving $50 is a easy; just cut a couple of the dog's acupuncture treatments.
Pay your bills on time to save on fees and penalties -- Credit card companies charge errant customers hefty fees for minor infractions. Pay your bill a day late and you could get slapped with a much as a $39 fee. If the fee pushes you over your credit limit, bang, another $29 can hit your account. That's $68, for nada.
If you carry a balance on your credit card, and you’re only able to afford paying the minimum monthly amount, pay weekly installments instead of one monthly payment. For example, if you owe $100 per month, pay $25 per week. Because credit card companies accrue interest daily on your balance, paying only once a month is a huge detriment to your fiscal health. Savings: $10 - $100 per month (or more!)
Spend a day cooking meals that can be frozen for later use for your family. Once a Month Cooking, a book by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson, features grocery lists and recipes to prepare and freeze a month’s worth of food for you and your family. Not only are you able to purchase the food in bulk, this method prevents having to throw away any spoiled food. Savings: $50+ per month.
If you are a regular monthly book buyer, stop the habit and visit your library instead! If you insist on buying books, buy it used at your local store or online at merchants such as www.half.com or www.amazon.com. Even a better idea, how about selling the books you have that you don’t need! Savings: $5 - 15 per month
Utilities - Call your utility companies to be put on a monthly average billing plan to prevent seasonal fluctuations. Find lower long distance rates.
Movie Channels - Cancel the premium channels that usually come in the cable bundle if you really don’t watch them that much, and save $120 a year.
Buy recycled printer cartridges. Check Google or your Yellow Pages for a local recycled printer cartridge supplier. Or if you want to mix your charitable instincts with your printing needs, visit www.lasermonks.com, a remanufactured printing supply company run by a group of monks in Wisconsin who, after business expenses are paid, donate their profits.
Spend less on water -- I bought a water cooler for $100. I know that's steep, but water is only 25 cents per gallon at the local water store. Thus, the five-gallon jug that goes on the cooler only costs $1.25! Five gallons usually lasts us about two weeks. Since most 16-ounce bottles of water are at least a dollar, the savings are pretty substantial.
See? It's easy to cut corners in our everyday life. Half the battle is just looking for places to save.