This year, make a change that will help you keep more change in your own pocket with one of these money-saving resolutions.
Money-Saving Resolution #1: Learn a new skill.
Learning keeps your mind agile and enriches your life. It can also save you money. Community colleges, continuing education programs, parks and recreation programs and even some retail establishments offer short-term courses where you can learn skills you might otherwise outsource to a paid professional — such as auto repair and maintenance, sewing, dog grooming, couples massage, web and graphic design, home improvement, income tax preparation or lawn and garden care.
Class enrollment fees are generally modest and are offset many times over when you apply your new skills instead of paying an outside provider. An auto shop class, for example, can save you $25 to $75 or more every time you change your own oil, replace a headlight or change your spark plugs, not to mention the hundreds of dollars you can save by maintaining your automobile to avoid costly repairs. Grooming your dog at home will save you $30 to $75 or more on each grooming.
You can save thousands of dollars by completing your own home improvement projects. Sanding our own hardwood floors cost us $400 (plus about a gallon of my husband’s sweat), while our local flooring company wanted $4,000 for the same job. If you can’t find a nearby class in your area of interest, search online for e-courses or tutorials.
Money-Saving Resolution #2: Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Reducing your resource consumption is not just good for the environment, it’s good for your wallet. Think about the most recent non-food items you purchased. How much could you have saved by shopping secondhand first? Surveying my own home, I find: a $900 Ethan Allen dining table and chairs we found on Craigslist for $65; a $2,000 Thomasville master bedroom set we bought at a garage sale for $200; and a $400 kid’s bedroom set we bought from a neighbor for $100.
We have secondhand toys (a $75 train table for $15, a $40 Bat Cave for $4); clothes ($70 Calvin Klein jeans for $8, a $90 Columbia jacket for $12, a wedding dress for $25); and home decor items (a $45 Pottery Barn bowl for $3, a $50 solid wood quilt rack for $5). Challenge yourself to buy everything secondhand, and you’ll quickly discover that secondhand does not mean second best.
Hand-me-downs don’t deserve their lowly status. My daughter and I are gleefully grateful for every bag of clothes she receives from our friends with older daughters. In addition to buying and receiving secondhand items, resolve to resell, donate or pass along your belongings when you no longer need them. This means taking good care of those belongings so someone else can enjoy them later.
Money-Saving Resolution #3: Eat more meals at home.
If you have kids, you’ve no doubt read about the significance of family meal times. Sitting down to a home-cooked meal gives family members an opportunity to pause from their busy schedules and connect with one another. Eating at home is generally healthier than dining out as well. And while it’s a challenge to feed a family of four for less than $20 at a restaurant (even a fast-food restaurant, if you include drinks), you can prepare a meal that serves four to six people for less than $10.
If you’re among the 53% of people who dine out at least once a week, consider replacing one or two restaurant meals a month with a home-cooked meal. Designate a weekly or monthly time for planning low-cost meals. Allrecipes.com, FamilyEducation.com and the Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners provide budget-friendly recipes to get you started.
Money-Saving Resolution #4: Walk more.
Psychology Today reports that the three most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, exercise more and quit smoking. You can accomplish two of those three goals by replacing your car keys with walking shoes. What’s more, walking instead of driving saves you gas money and reduces wear and tear on your car.
Consider an average week and make a list of all the places you routinely drive less than a mile to reach. At a moderate speed of 3 miles per hour, you could walk to any of those places in 20 minutes. And at the Internal Revenue Service’s 2017 mileage reimbursement rate, you’ll save 53.5 cents for each mile you walk rather than drive. And the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that physically active people save $500 a year on health care costs. Walking just 30 minutes a day, according to the AHA, provides health benefits with no start-up costs or gym membership required.
Money-Saving Resolution #5: Turn off your TV.
Multiple studies have linked excessive television viewing to increased obesity, sleep problems, inactivity and unhealthy snacking. Other studies indicate that television can be as bad for mental health as it is for physical health, increasing viewers’ depression and anxiety levels. Despite the adverse effects, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Time Use Survey found that American adults spend more than half their leisure time watching TV.
Reducing your television consumption isn’t just good for your health, it can pay off financially as well. Cable and satellite television packages start at around $30 a month and can rise to $100 a month or more. In addition, television viewing is linked to increased spending. A study by economist Juliet Schor, author of The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need, found that each additional hour of TV viewing per week increases consumer spending by about $200 a year. Schor attributes this effect to television advertising and its promotion of affluent lifestyles.
What are your resolutions to save money and improve your life in the New Year?