Tuesday, 27 June 2017

You want to get the most from your hard-earned money.

But it seems like daily expenses just eat away at your checking account balance. How can you build your savings? With a few lifestyle changes, a little planning, and some research, you can put aside more money than you think. Here are 87 money-saving tips.

Food

Here are a few ways to take a bite out of your monthly food bill.

1. Eat at home. If you spend $7 a day on lunch, that's $35 a week, $140 a month, and a whopping $1,680 a year. And that's just lunch.

2. Plan, plan, & plan. Have a weekly meal plan, a grocery list, and stick to it.

3. Avoid convenience foods. Individually wrapped, single-serving foods cost much more than a large container. You know those single-serve coffee brewers that are all the rage? According to the New York Times, if you use those, you're paying about $50 a pound for coffee, compared to $12-14 a pound for high-end coffee.

4. Beware of sales. Don't be lured into buying items you won't use. Even if you can buy one raspberry soda and get one free, if you don't drink raspberry soda, it's not a good deal.

5. Buy wine by the case. Many stores offer a 10 to 15% discount when you purchase a case of wine.

6. Don't buy more fresh fruit and vegetables than you'll eat in a week. Make sure you will use the food before it goes bad. The USDA estimates 30 to 40% of the food supply in America goes to waste. Smart shopping can keep you from contributing to that number.

7. Go frozen or dried. Replace fresh ingredients with the less-expensive frozen, canned, or dried version. You'll be less likely to waste them.

8. Use what you have. Check out your pantry, and make a meal with what you already have.

9. Buy milk at the pharmacy. You can save up to 20% on milk at your local CVS, Walgreens, or RiteAid compared to the supermarket, according to Lifehacker.

10. Eat leftovers. Wasting food is wasting money. Plus leftovers can make great lunches.

11. Share restaurant meals. Most restaurant meals are too much for one person anyway, so split it and save.

12. There's an app for that. Grocery Pal will help you find sale items, Coupon Sherpa lets you download coupons, and Apples2Oranges helps you comparison shop.

13. Shop without the kids. They may ask you for high-priced items with the cool-looking package, and when you're busy shopping, there's a good chance you'll buy it for them.

14. Try store brands. Consumer Reports says that buying store brands can save you up to 25%, and their tests have shown most store brands are as good as brand-name items.

Energy

Your home consumes a lot of energy each year, and that can cost you a lot of money. Let's see if you can save some, too.

15. Use a thermostat. An inexpensive digital thermostat from a home improvement store can save you up to 15% on your heating and cooling bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

16. Wash in cold water. According to The Christian Science Monitor, hot wash-warm rinse load costs an average of 68¢, while cold wash-cold rinse costs about 4¢ a load.

17. Recycle water. Keep a bucket in the shower and use it to water indoor and outdoor plants. You can do the same with kitchen rinse water, too.

18. Turn down your water heater. You don't need scalding hot water. Instead of 140° F, turn it down to 120°. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates you could save $12 to $30 annually for every 10° (Fahrenheit) reduction.

19. Change light bulbs. LED and CFL bulbs might cost more up front, but they last longer and use less power. According to Consumer Reports estimates, replacing one incandescent bulb with an equivalent CFL could save you more than $57 over the life of the bulb.

20. Service your HVAC unit. It'll run more efficiently, and last longer, too. Even if you just change the air filter annually, you can reduce your air conditioner's energy consumption by as much as 15%, according to The Alliance to Save Energy.

21. Turn off the lights when you're not in a room. It really does make a difference.

22. Use a smart power strip. It'll automatically power down electronics when you're not using them. The U.S. Department of Energy says the power consumed by electronics when they're not in use costs the average American household $100 a year.

Financial services

A few small changes can save you money on your financial services.

23. Review your insurance policies. According to Nerdwallet, the average American overpays for car insurance to the tune of $368 dollars a year. Take the time review your policies. Also, see if you can get a discount for having your auto and home insurance with the same company.

24. Fact check your credit report. A study by the Federal Trade Commission found 5 percent of consumers had errors in their credit report that could result in them paying more for credit and insurance.

25. Contribute to your 401(k). It's one of the best ways to save for retirement, plus it lowers your tax bill. If your employer offers any matching funds, it's basically free money. Do not pass it up.

Health and wellness

Being informed and careful can help you keep the high cost of being healthy in check.

26. Study your health insurance coverage. Make sure you understand the details about providers, networks, deductibles, copays, prescription drug plans, and more. Not only will you save on routine healthcare, but you could also avoid very costly missteps. Free assistance is available at HealthCare.gov, a federal site.

27. Use HRSA clinics. Approximately 44 million Americans have no or inadequate health. Run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration clinics offer medical, dental, and mental health care services even if you don't have health insurance. Fees are based on what you can afford to pay.

28. Join membership and loyalty programs at chain pharmacies. They can offer discounts and savings on prescription drugs and other purchases. According to Valuepenguin loyalty programs can save seniors up to 15% on prescriptions.

29. Say yes to generic drugs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, generic drugs have the same active ingredients and are just as effective the name brand version, but can cost from 30 to 80% less.

30. Skip optical stores. You can save up to 40% on eyewear at Costco, WalMart, and Sam's Club, according to Consumer Reports.

31. Save on screenings. Health fairs, YMCAs, and community centers provide many opportunities to get free or low-cost screenings and tests.

32. Check out clinics. Walk-in clinics, and now some chain pharmacies, offer a wide range of medical and wellness services. According to Parade's CommunityTable.com, these services can be 50 to 80% less than a physician's office or hospital. Many accept most major insurance, too.

33. Consider Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). Offered through some employer-sponsored plans, these allow you to use pre-tax funds to pay for medical expenses. They can save you money; just make sure you know how your plan works.

34. Challenge your insurance company. If they refuse to pay for a service, don't give up. Persistence can pay off. You can get step-by-step instructions for appealing a claim denial at HealthCare.gov.

35. Do not visit the emergency room of a hospital unless it's a real emergency. Even if your insurance covers some of it, you could end up with a big bill.

36. Take advantage of free pet vaccination days. These are regularly offered at pet supply stores and community facilities.

Shopping

Do a little homework, and you might never pay full retail price again.

37. Comparison shop online. Handy apps for comparison shopping include RedLaser, ShopSavvy, and Smoopa can help.

38. Read reviews. If the vacuum cleaner you're considering got two stars, consider another one. Unless you want to repair or replace it soon.

39. Be wary of protection plans or extended warranties. They cost a lot, the coverage can be inadequate, and if you're buying a quality product, you shouldn't need one.

40. Learn about sales cycles. Retailers offer deep discounts at different times of the year. For example, furniture is marked down in February. Check out Consumer Reports for a complete list.

41. Shop with cash. You'll spend less. A commonly cited study performed by Dunn & Bradstreet found consumers spent 12 to 18% more when using credit cards.

42. Look for online coupons and promo codes. Coupons.com and Saving Star are just two of the recommended apps. Make sure you take advantage of free shipping whenever possible. But…

43. Don't fall for the "free shipping" trick. Don't buy extra stuff just to get free shipping. That's silly.

Clothing

Here are a few ways you can still look like a million bucks without actually spending a million bucks.

44. Buy the basics at discount, big-box stores. Gym socks, underwear and t-shirts will cost less at the big-box retailers.

45. Don't spend a fortune buying things on sale. Retailers know how to lure you into buying items you don't want or need. Before you grab that "bargain," ask yourself if you will wear it regularly. If the answer is no, walk away.

46. Consider buying second-hand items. A used $400 handbag can be bought for $50. Why not? Finding these deals can be easier than you think.

47. Stock up. If you know you will use a product – running shoes, jeans, t-shirts – and you find it on sale, buy as much as you have room to store.

48. Buy off-season. Coats are cheap in the summer and pricey in the colder months. Bathing suits go on sale after Labor Day. Use this to your advantage.

49. Borrow special occasion clothing. How many times is your daughter going to wear that $300 prom dress? Probably only once. Check with friends and neighbors to see if you can borrow a dress instead.

Holidays and gift giving

The holiday spirit can bring out the reckless spender in all of us. Here are a few tips for enjoying the season without blowing your budget.

50. If you are hosting a holiday meal, ask people to bring breads, sides, wine, and deserts. You shouldn't have to foot the entire bill.

51. Shop for the holiday after the holiday, and store them until next year. Stores basically give away Halloween decorations on November 1. The same is true for other holidays.

52. Buy gifts all year. Don't wait until mid-December, or just before a birthday. You'll end up spending more. Pick up items throughout the year – especially if you find something on sale.

53. Make gifts instead of buying. Bake cookies and bread, make jelly or jam. Homemade gifts can be much more personal than store-bought ones.

54. Set a budget and stick to it. Your kids don't need everything, and not everyone you know is expecting a gift. Instead of making a list of people you need to buy for, determine how much you can afford to spend and work backward.

55. Shop online. During the holidays you'll find your email filled with discount offers from retailers. Taking advantage of these will save you money (if you're careful about what you buy), but also keep you out of the stores, where you have a greater tendency to purchase items not on your list.

56. Enjoy inexpensive holiday activities. Mint.com suggests a family driving tour of neighborhood lights, free holiday concerts, and seasonal festival and celebrations.

57. Make your own decorations, cards, and wrapping paper. Pretty paper chains, homemade cards, pine cones, and greenery from the yard make beautiful, original decorations. Let the kids color butcher paper and use it to wrap. Get creative. You'll have fun and save.

Entertainment, electronics, & communication

All these amazing devices we've grown to love can come with hefty price tags. But there are ways to stay entertained and connected for less.

58. Scrutinize your cell plan. CNET cited a study that found Americans overpay for their wireless service by about $366 a year. Carefully reviewing your plan – and getting the right plan for your usage – can translate into big savings.

59. Use mobile apps to monitor data usage. Onavo Count, My Data Manager, and DataMan are just a few of the options.

60. Negotiate mobile phone contracts. Rates aren't set in stone. If you're a good customer, see what they'll do for you.

61. Take advantage of Wi-Fi. Always. It's the easiest way to conserve your valuable data.

62. Find out if you're eligible for an employee discount. Many companies offer discounts on cellular service plans.

63. Get rid of premium cable channels and other subscriptions you don't use. If you don't use it, you don't need to pay for it.

64. Use streaming services. Turn off cable and watch your favorite shows on your computer. Netflix and Hulu Plus are two of the best-known streaming services.

65. Visit your local library. Many have DVDs and video games you can check out just like books.

66. Check out your city's Parks & Recreation Department. Some offer gym memberships, dance classes, yoga, and other programs for less than private clubs charge.

67. Review your gym membership. First of all, make sure you use it. If you do, make sure you're not paying for things you aren't using, like access to multiple facilities.

Transportation

Americans don't like to stay put. Here are some ways to save on your daily drive or next vacation.

68. Use mobile apps to find best gas prices. Gasbuddy, Fuel Finder, and SmartFuel are just a few of the ones available. But don't drive extra miles for cheaper gas. That just doesn't make sense.

69. Skip the dealership. You'll pay more for repairs there. Try your local express oil service location. Many offer professional repair services for much less. Research performed by Cartalk found repairs at dealerships cost an average of 15% more than at independent shops.

70. Maintain your vehicle. Keeping your car maintained can increase fuel efficiency, reduce repair costs, and extend the life of your vehicle. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, keeping your tires properly inflated can increase your gas mileage by up to 3% and save you up to 9¢ a gallon.

71. Be careful when leasing. It can end up costing you much more than you think. If you do lease, read the fine print.

72. Consider buying used. CNN Money reports that buying a three-year-old model could save you 30 to 40% over buying the current year model.

73. Carpool. Sharing the ride or carpooling kids to practice and school – just makes sense. Again, there are apps for finding and organizing carpools. Carpool School Edition, KaPooler, and Cozi can help moms organize group rides, while ZimRide uses social networks to connect carpool groups.

74. Get gas rewards. Again, make sure you understand the details of the rewards program so you can maximize the benefits and savings.

75. Wash it the old-fashioned way. Get out the old bucket and a sponge instead of dropping $10 on an automated wash.

76. Comparison shop for travel deals. Sites like Hotwire, Orbitz, and Kayak make this relatively easy.

77. Travel during off-peak times. You'll save if you take the red-eye, and even more if you plan your vacation off-season.

78. Enroll in loyalty programs. If you're a frequent traveler, they can earn you some outstanding benefits.

79. Try a travel package. Travel sites claim buying packages – bundling flight and hotel – can save you up to $500. Booking travel is a moving target, though, with prices changing almost by the minute. Do your research, be flexible, and you can probably save a couple of hundred dollars when you purchase a travel bundle from one of the top travel sites.

80. Cancel quickly. Try to cancel airline tickets within 24 hours of booking to avoid paying penalties.

81. Take the road less traveled. Skip the most popular destinations and try something different. You'll probably save, and be pleasantly surprised. Start by exploring our amazing National Parks. 

82. Using your memberships. AARP, AAA, and other memberships can translate into big savings on travel.

Housing

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, American's spend 34% of their income on housing, making it their greatest annual expenditure. But there are many ways you can save.

83. Do it yourself. Skip the pricey pro. Check out the This Old House web site for videos about everything from caulking a tub to building a bookshelf.

84. Don't make mortgage mistakes. If you decide to refinance, run the numbers carefully to make sure the fees won't cancel out your savings. Also, when getting a mortgage, try to avoid private mortgage insurance. It can cost you hundreds of dollars a month.

85. Go small. Does a family of four really need five bedrooms, four baths, a playroom, finished basement, and a "bonus" room? Don't buy more house than you need. Remember, even if you can afford to purchase it, you still have to clean it, heat it, cool it, and furnish it. And that can really add up.

86. Get a roommate. If you find your housing costs are simply not manageable, consider sharing them.

87. Get a home inspected. When buying, make sure you hire a professional inspector to check out the property before you purchase. This could save you hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars in repairs down the road.

88. Shop around for homeowner's insurance. Compare prices and see if you can save.

89. Make sure your remodeling projects are worth it. Some projects increase the value of your home, while others not so much. Before you call your contractor, check out Remodeling Magazine's interactive list of which home projects offer the best return on your investment.

The content provided is for informational purposes only. Neither BBVA Compass, nor any of its affiliates, is providing legal, tax, or investment advice. You should consult your legal, tax, or financial advisor about your personal situation. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BBVA Compass or any of its affiliates.

Links to third party sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement. BBVA Compass does not provide, is not responsible for, and does not guarantee the products, services or overall content available at third party sites. These sites may not have the same privacy, security or accessibility standards.