People often think a huge difference in your financial situation can only come from making major changes. But lifestyle overhauls aren’t the only way to reset your financial picture.
It’s true that selling your home or working an extra job can yield huge results, but there are several other ways to give your finances a positive jolt in the new year. You might not even notice these small changes, but you likely will notice the additional budget savings.
1. Cell Phone Plan
A monthly cell phone plan for a family of four can easily end up costing as much as a car payment. We’ve all grown accustomed to phone calls, texts, email, and social media being part of our everyday lives, so we often overlook this growing expense.
One way to trim this cost and add to your budget savings is to take a look at how much data you’re paying for each month versus how much you actually use. It might be worth it to cut back. On the other hand, are you and your family facing overage fees too often? You might consider increasing your data plan.
2. Digital Subscriptions
More people are “cutting the cord” (canceling their cable tv subscriptions) than ever before, all in the name of budget savings.
But many of those smaller online services like Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify, can add up to, and even surpass, a typical cable bill.
Marketwatch estimates that the common digital services the average person subscribes to—including dating sites, e-books, music services, gaming sites and online newspaper subscriptions—can add up to about $156, about $40 more than the average cable bill of $112 a month.
These smaller fees, often the equivalent of buying lunch or some other tiny purchase, are easy to overlook. A useful practice is to take each of your digital subscriptions and calculate how much you’re spending yearly. Then ask yourself if it’s really worth it. It may still be worth keeping if it allows you to get rid of another cost entirely and adds up to budget savings.
3. Unlimited Memberships
Whether it’s going to the gym, getting your car washed, or going to the movies, there’s often an “unlimited” option available. It does seem to make sense at first: why should you pay à la carte when, for a little bit more, you can have as much as you want?
The problem, as one study found among gym-goers, is that too many people opt for a flat-rate membership with the goal of eventually taking advantage of the savings it would provide. Then life gets busy, they don’t get around to going, and their budget savings plan takes a hit.
It’s understandably tempting to hang onto these “deals.” But once you do the math for the past few months, calculating how many times you’d need to take advantage of the membership in order for the fee to pay off, it will become clear whether you’re actually saving money over. It’s most important to determine whether these unlimited memberships are right for you right now—you can always return to them later.
4. Coffee Shop Runs
Half of the American workforce spends $1,000 or more every year on coffee – are you among them? That $6 latte you grab each day might not seem like much, but it can quickly add up to $30 per week.
Simply making your coffee at home or at work and buying “good” coffee, you could save $1,500 or more over the course of a year.
5. Food and Drink Waste
Most Americans overspend on food, both at restaurants and the grocery store. And that’s not even taking into account the food we purchase that simply goes to waste. A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found Americans 40% of food purchases get thrown away — which equates to an average of $2,000 per year, per household.
To prevent this money leak in your own home, take the time to plan your meals and resist the urge to buy in bulk.
6. Price Creep
“Price creep” happens when new customer pricing expires and sometimes fees get tacked on incorrectly. Cable and internet providers are frequent offenders. If you aren’t paying attention, you could be paying far beyond what you should be paying, so make sure you keep an eye on your bills.
7. Energy Costs
For most of us, energy costs rise and fall throughout the year. But the weather isn’t always to blame. It can also reflect the energy-saving efforts you haven’t taken within your home or apartment.
If your heat or air conditioning is overworking overtime, you could be wasting hundreds of dollars each year. Programmable thermostats create a comfortable environment when you’re actually at home. During the winter, thermal curtains or use draft stoppers can keep the hot air inside. In the summer months, close your shades to keep things cool.
Other energy hogs that could be major money leaks include outdated appliances and incandescent light bulbs. Just a few small changes can help you spend less all year long.
8. Shipping Fees
Companies often use shipping fees as a strategy for getting you to fill your virtual shopping cart. And the minimum amount many online retailers require for you to get free shipping keeps climbing. But what can you do besides buy more stuff or pay for shipping?
For companies that charge for shipping, look for free shipping codes at sites like CouponSherpa.com and FreeShipping.org. Another option is calling or opening a live chat with a customer service rep to ask what offers may be available—they might just offer you free shipping, rather than lose your business.
Many times, you can also arrange for free in-store pickup—you may even get your items faster this way.
When you add up all of those daily, weekly and monthly impulse purchases, you’ll find a huge money leak.
9. Bank Fees
Banks continue to find ways to cash in on fees, including things like overdraft protection.
A 2014 study conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that customers who opted in to receive overdraft protection, for instance, paid seven times more in overdraft and nonsufficient funds fees than customers who hadn’t opted in.
When it comes to banking fees, it’s important to know what you’re paying for. You may find you’re paying a monthly fee simply to access your funds, or for services you don’t use. In the name of budget savings, it may be time to consider changing banks altogether.
Huge Budget Savings Don’t Call for Huge Sacrifices
When it comes to finding more money in your budget, a few small tweaks you might never miss could mean new financial possibilities for you and your family in the new year.