This year, make a change that will help you keep more change in your own pocket with one of these money-saving resolutions. And we asked a few Living on the Cheap experts to share their best 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? A Living on the Cheap editor found a $900 Ethan Allen dining table and chairs on Craigslist for $65.
Secondhand toys and home decor items can save you a bundle. We recently discovered a $45 Pottery Barn bowl for $3 on a buy-and-sell site. 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. Freezer meals are also a quick and easy way to eat healthy hassle free at home. Check out our Freezer cooking 101 article for tips on how to get started.
Money-Saving Resolution #4: Walk more.
Trip Savvy reports that the three top New Year’s resolutions are to eat healthier, exercise more and spend less/save more. You can accomplish two of the three goals by replacing your car keys with walking shoes. Walking will help you get in shape, save you gas money and reduce 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 2019 mileage reimbursement rate, you’ll save 58 cents for each mile you walk rather than drive. And the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that physically active people save a significant amount of money 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.
Living on the Cheap experts resolve to…
.. to save tons of money by servicing our own pool. The local pool stores will test your chemical balance for free, so your only investment is chemicals that run about $20 a month and about 1 hr a week of time. The average pool service that comes weekly costs about $85 a month. That’s a nice $780 a year to spend elsewhere. Renee Martin, Phoenix Living on the Cheap.
… use the local library for all I can. I love to read and even the $8-$10 paperbacks start to add up after time. Plus, if I pick up a book I don’t like it’s no big deal. I’m not out any money. I’ve also started taking advantage of DVDs and audio books – really handy since we dumped cable TV, including movie channels, and I do a lot of driving. With online services and the after-hours drop box it’s easy to avoid even the minimal late fees. It’s also a great place to do some freelance work if I need to get out of the house but don’t want to feel obligated to spend money on beverages or snacks at a coffee shop. Amy Schiska-Lombard Kansas City on the Cheap
… to continue planning the month ahead for our household. We’ve only done this for a couple of months now, but it has already saved us a lot. We can anticipate those busy times and make sure we have quick meals planned (fewer trips through the drive-through for dinner), errands are mapped out (which saves gas AND time), have supplies on hand (so we can buy when things are cheap and not be forced to pay a premium because we have to have it now), and in general just have a more peaceful household. Another resolution I have, which is related to the above, is to plan some time to do things I enjoy. This helps me avoid burnout and stress, and doesn’t take a lot of money (especially since there’s an “on the Cheap” website in my city). Carolyn Erickson, Wichita on the Cheap.
…To never pass by the “manager’s special” section of the meat department at the grocery store without checking to see what bargains are available. Sometimes, excellent cuts of meat are on sale for as much as 50 percent off. How about $25 worth of lamb chops for just $12? Or even a $6 package of ground beef for $3? Can’t use them tonight? Freeze them for later. Linda DuVal, Pikes Peak On The Cheap.
…To never shop at Bed, Bath and Beyond without a handful of coupons. They have an expiration date on them, yes, but the store will honor them anyway. And they’ll let you use a coupon – usually good for 20 percent or more – on EACH ITEM you purchase. So if you buy six towels and you have six coupons, that’s 20 percent off on each one. Laura Daily, Mile High On The Cheap.
…To take my kids to all the FREE programs at the local libraries, museums and nature centers. There are so many free programs for kids these days, it’s a it’s a waste of money to buy another game for them or take them to see a 3-D movie just to entertain them. Onelia Collazo-Mendive, Miami On The Cheap.
…To shop at consignment stores. You not only support a local business, you can also find some amazing deals. You might find a beautiful winter coat with the original $200 price tag for a fraction of that cost. There’s a whole list of consignment stores in the Yellow Pages. Kids’ clothes are especially great deals. And there are furniture consignment stores, too. Teresa Mears, Miami On The Cheap.
…To attend more local festivals to get my concert fix. If I find a new-to-me local artist whose work I love, I can buy the CD and still come out paying less than what I’d spend on most concert tickets. Jenn Maciejewski, Atlanta On The Cheap.
… To simplify! Less stuff, less distraction, more intention. Val, Columbus on the Cheap
…To keep a money journal that tracks all expenditures to see where I might be spending too much. I hope to discover waste, uncover bad spending habits and improve on good ones for saving more. Sheri McGregor, San Diego On The Cheap.
…To be more thoughtful about how I spend my money. I’ll ask myself: Do I really need it, or just want it? Is there a cheaper way to acquire the item…can I rent or borrow instead of buy? Can I repurpose something I already have? Can I barter/trade for it with a friend, neighbor or family member? Carole Cancler, Greater Seattle On The Cheap.
…To make more handmade gifts throughout the year and, instead of trying to do them all in December, tackle one new project a month. Or, failing that, to shop for holiday gifts year-round, when things are on sale. Val McCauley, Columbus On The Cheap.
…To audit the utilities, phone/Internet service, etc. to find out where I could save money by switching plans or changing usage. Kim Kankiewicz, Minneapolis-St. Paul On The Cheap.
…To see if my local utility company does free energy audits, to find out if I could save money with some inexpensive fixes. Julie Sturgeon, Indianapolis On The Cheap.
Happy New Year!
What are your New Year’s resolutions for spending less money and enjoying life more?
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