Let’s face it: We all waste money. Sometimes it’s that pair of jeans we don’t really need or that brand-name cereal that tastes just like the generic label that’s $2 cheaper. But with a small amount of effort and discipline, you can generate additional retirement savings without putting a dent in your lifestyle. Here are five rules to follow to help you get thrifty, get a good deal, and get rich quicker.
Photo by Tax Credits via Flickr
When it comes to buying paper towels, toilet paper, and even breakfast cereal, forget about the grocery store (and don’t bother with a warehouse club, either). There’s an easier, and cheaper, way to keep your house stocked. Amazon.com’s “Subscribe and Save” program allows you to set a regular schedule (1 month, 3 months, etc.) for delivery of products ranging from diapers and paper towels to pet food and motor oil. In return, you’ll get free shipping and an additional discount off regular prices. Best of all, there’s never an obligation to continue, and you can shift the delivery schedule at any time. Similarly, Wal Mart’s “Home Free” program currently includes free shipping on $45 or more in purchases of select household goods.
It’s the rare person who doesn’t complain about the astronomical cost of cable and satellite television. But there is a cheaper alternative — ditch the cable in favor of a digital antenna, a streaming or mail-in DVD service, and Internet television and video. It takes a bit of time to assemble the right setup for your viewing habits, but the payoff can be considerable, particularly if you pay for premium channels. Be warned, however: if you live far from a broadcast signal (check antennaweb.org); must watch TV series from places like HBO as they air; or are a real sports nut, “cutting the cord” may not meet your needs.
Every one or two years should do it. We have outline a few websites and tools that can help you find the best insurance price. Getting quotes from several providers of life, homeowner’s and car insurance is incredibly quick and painless. And it could pay off, either in lower monthly premiums or greater benefits for the same premium. Insurance providers take into account a range of information — age, credit scores, previous claims — to arrive at a premium. Since things like a credit score can improve over time (age, sadly, does not), and premium-raising previous claims usually “drop off” your record after several years, you could be leaving hundreds on the table every year.
We all know that creating and sticking to a monthly budget is among the best ways to build savings for retirement and life’s unforeseen expenses. But as recently as a decade ago, the record-keeping was a huge hassle. Internet sites like Personal Capital have changed that, and have made it much easier to track spending, set financial goals, and achieve them. It takes a bit of work up front to set up budget categories, label individual expenses, and link the site to your bank and credit card accounts. After that, however, it’s incredibly easy monitor your spending.
And not just cars (though that’s always a great idea!). Given our obsessions with places like Home Depot and Lowe’s, we waste plenty of money on shiny new tools, lawnmowers, stoves and other pricey toys. But if we put our vanity aside, there’s a bundle to be saved. With a little cleaning, a few new parts and some elbow grease, you can have something as-good-new–at more than half the price. Yard sales, eBay, craigslist and your local newspaper are great places to hunt down you’re next great find.