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If you’re trying to save up something extra this year, there’s a fun way of going about it – taking up the 365-day money challenge.
In today’s world, it can be rather mind-boggling to stay focused on your financial goals.
If you’re prone to splurging on luxurious items and engaging in expensive pass-time activities, you may want to cut back on that a notch. Finding the right ways to steer clear of anything with a huge price tag may be complicated at first.
Saving money is never an easy task. It is, however, a matter of priorities rather than just considering it as just some ordinary numbers game.
The following are a couple of super easy everyday tasks you can try out to stash away a substantial amount by the end of the year.
1. Save Money When Shopping
Saving money at the store can be achieved by doing more than just clipping coupons or signing up for an e-mail list from a retailer. That’s far from the case. Did you know that there are tons of coupon apps you can use to save money on almost every purchase you make at the store?
Coupon apps are a big help when it comes to saving huge amounts of cash when shopping. The following are some of the most widely used coupon apps to use each time you head out for a (usually expensive) shopping adventure:
Ibotta is considered by most as one of the best money-saving coupon apps for in-person shopping and groceries.
Before stepping into a store, search for a particular item in the Ibotta app to activate all the digital coupons as well as check out the available deals.
Though Ibotta is known as a grocery-only app, that’s not the case. It also has coupons for restaurant food, clothing, gas, and other non-grocery items.
Once you’ve earned $20 in rewards, you can be compensated with gift store cards or receive cash via PayPal.
If you’ve not yet created a free account, earn yourself a free $10 bonus by signing up here.
Ebates allows its users to get back a small percentage (3% – 10%) for each of their purchases. The exact amount you can get back will depend on your individual retailer.
This coupon app mostly favors shoppers who do their purchases online. The more you shop online, the more you get to save cash with Ebates.
Ebates has over 2,000 participating retailers including Macy’s, JC Penney, Lowe’s, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.
On the Website, you’ll be provided with a discount code section where you can visit upon checkout to trim down your average sales amount. Once you get $5 worth of cash back, you’ll start receiving rewards via checks.
Read through the full Ebates review to find out more about the sign-up process and other stuff you need to know.
Shopkick is slightly different from most other coupon apps. How so? With every purchase you visit, you earn a point for each. To use the Shopkick app, you’ll need a smartphone (of course) and activate your Bluetooth location services.
Each time you shop, you’ll be awarded points referred to as ‘kicks’ that you earn by achieving certain tasks such as making purchases, scanning bar codes or even visiting a grocery or retail store.
For instance, you can earn 100 kicks by simply walking into your favorite shopping mall or electronics store. The points you accumulate will be exchanged for store gift cards.
Other coupon apps worth trying out include SnipSnap, Groupon, RetailMeNot, and SmartSource. Clipping coupons from the mail and newspaper can still save you some cash. Using coupon apps, however, makes saving a lot quicker and easier. As an added bonus, they’re all free to use.
2. Save Money On Everyday Coffee
We all love coffee. Missing out on a cup of coffee every morning more often leads to a disastrous day ahead.
Studies have shown that working-class Americans consume approximately ten pounds of coffee beans annually; that’s equivalent to $10 billion every year. By spending money on a Starbucks coffee every morning, you’re draining yourself of thousands of dollars without even noticing it.
Lucky for you, there are a couple of things you can do to cut down on your beverage consumption. First off, opt to go for quality rather than costliness.
Dunkin Donuts is a lesser known brand of coffee that retails at $1.79. It’s popular counterpart, Starbucks, goes for $2.11.
You’d be surprised to find out that the former tastes better compared to the latter. This finding is based on a blind test by food critic Adam Platt from NYMag. Opting for a cheaper option, in this case, Dunkin Donuts can save you up to $230 each year.
If you’re willing to brew your own coffee at home, the cost can be dramatically lower. Purchase a good pod coffee maker along with a month’s worth of coffee beans.
Even though you won’t do it every single day of the week, at least three times is more than enough to keep you from parting with $2 or more each morning.
Doing so will cut the cost of having to buy coffee every day on your way to work. If your morning taste buds are inclined to Starbucks coffee alone, try carrying a reusable travel mug. Depending on your location, you can receive a 10-cent discount on a beverage of your choosing.
3. Get There By Public Means
If possible, try to split your commute to half public transit and half driving. Driving every single day to work or your desired destination can weigh down on your finances significantly.
Why should you strike a balance between public transit and driving? Aside from saving the planet from reaching toxic levels of greenhouse gas emissions, you’ll also be saving money on gas – a lot of it.
Public transportation is a good option if you feel that you can’t tame your driving habits. Doing the little things such as going easy on your acceleration, slowing down or quit taking sharp stops can be very effective towards your savings goals.
These rules apply especially if your cruise speeds are anywhere between 75-85 mph.
If you can tone down your ‘Fast and Furious’ driving habits and settle for speeds of 65 mph or lower, you will greatly improve your fuel economy by 30-35 percent.
Smartphone apps such as FuelFrog can help in logging your vehicle’s mileage in between fill-ups. Alternatively, GasBuddy.com will notify you of the cheapest and nearest gas stations.
While it may not be entirely necessary to drive out of your way in search of a gas station, the savings add up on most occasions.
Better still, if you have a bicycle lying around in your garage, why not use it instead? Bicycles are a great way to keep your body in shape aside from curbing high fuel costs.
4. Carry Packed Lunch To Work
Have you ever stopped to consider how much you spend on lunch at work every single day? It doesn’t take a degree in finance and accounting to come to the realization that you spend a fortune on lunch alone.
Depending on what you treat your tummy to, you may find yourself spending more than what you initially planned for.
If you’re not much of a planner, you’ll need to be if you wish to save daily. While it’s relatively easy for lunch to be a mere afterthought, don’t overlook the benefits of carrying lunch from home.
While at that, don’t confine yourself to your desk as you munch it away. Mingle with your workmates and introduce them to the 365-day money challenge. Sharing your new-found financial insights not only promotes social cohesion but can also go a long way in impacting someone else’s life for the better.
Carrying packed lunch to work enables you to gain control of your personal food choices. The fact that you’re choosing your own meals isn’t reason enough to be reckless with your diet. Obesity isn’t something you want to struggle with throughout your work life.
Whatever you choose to have for your lunch, ensure it has little or no forms of junk and has more fruits and vegetables.
Spend approximately $7.50 each working day on 3 servings of vegetables/salad, 2 pieces of fruit, a tub of cheese/yogurt and some dip with vegetable sticks for snacks. Of course, you can interchange these ingredients every day to steer clear from monotony.
In the course of a year, you’d be shocked to find out that your total savings may range from $600 all the way to a whopping $1,800.
5. Always Go For Quality Over Quantity
This rule of thumb applies to anything from food, electronics, clothes, and so much more. Though it may be tempting at times to opt for the budget-friendly form of a certain item, going for quality always leads to more savings.
For pricey clothes and shoes, pay attention to the cost-per-wear philosophy before making a purchase. Rather than spending all your money on items that are unlikely to last for short periods, save up for something more beneficial.
Food is no exception when it comes to quality. Purchasing quality organic good nourishes you and your family as compared to processed or prepackaged foods. Organic food is known to be less costly, thus making saving a possibility.
Without realizing it, you’ll be saving yourself dollars upon dollars of medical bills as a result of poor food choices. Strike the right balance that determines what’s right for you and whenever you can, choose quality.
6. Don’t Step Into A Grocery Store Clueless
Have you ever noticed that you spend more on groceries than anything else? Well, that could be owed mainly to the fact that you don’t prepare a comprehensive list prior to your visit.
Grocery shopping involves more than just walking through the aisles with a shopping cart while picking out whatever item that catches your eye. Shopping smart is more important (and money saving) than shopping for the sake of it.
Most shoppers (excluding you, hopefully) don’t bat an eye at a $70 or $120 price tag – even though they’re only buying goods for one or two people.
Even if there are kids in the house, that’s no reason to go over the roof on grocery goods. By doing this, they tend to spend heftily on grocery shopping three times a week.
Grocery lists are like mini-budgets – they keep you from straying beyond your allocated amount. They separate your needs from your wants in such a way that will save you some cash by the end of your trip to the grocery store.
Relying on the price tag of each of the items may be problematic in more ways than one. Before anything else, it’s worth noting that you should prepare a meal plan for the entire week in advance.
That will make sure that you won’t need to frequent your local grocery store each day. With a well-prepared list on your smartphone, tablet or piece of paper, chances of you dropping anything else into your cart will be significantly low.
Bonus tip: try not to stare at the shelves for too long. Why? Companies use product packaging as a means to lure you into purchasing their products. No matter how comprehensive your list may be, the urge to buy the product may outweigh your self-control.
7. Make Sure To Unplug All ‘Phantom Appliances’ When You Leave Home
According to a report from the New York Times, approximately one-fourth of energy consumed at home is used on devices that are either switched off or on standby.
Common appliances that you may tend to leave unplugged include modems, TVs, coffee pots, or cable boxes.
If you don’t spend most of your time at home, then you most likely have phantom power lurking through your home. There are multiple ways to curb idle power consumption from any room in your humble aboard.
One of the most common ways to do that is to install a power strip or any other effective intermediary. Your strip should have a switch that will cut off power to a host of appliances.
Most power strips give you the option of designating a ‘master’ device like a PC which will turn off power to speakers, scanner, printer or any other peripheral device.
What about those devices that you can’t keep unplugging every single day? A refrigerator is one major appliance that needs to be plugged in 24/7. In such cases, do a quick comparison of standby power Energy Star ratings before buying a new fridge.
Making a daily habit of unplugging your devices may not completely do away with the fact of having to pay utility bills every month. It will, however, lower your energy costs every month and reduce your carbon footprint.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the $12 billion that’s wasted on idle power was cut down by approximately five to ten percent? Rather than wait for others to adopt the phantom power reduction plan, be in the front line of making wise energy decisions to save more than you spend.
8. Switch To Using Reusable Water Bottles
Up to this point, you may have noticed that most of these 365-day money challenge tasks revolve around switching to a greener lifestyle.
Making the switch from purchasing water every day to reusing a single water bottle, in particular, is one such environmentally-friendly way that can save you a fortune.
It makes a lot of sense that opting for a reusable water bottle over a disposable one will save you cash. The question is, how much can you really save? If you start today, believe it or not, you can save a whopping $1,400 annually.
Putting that point into perspective, you’re likely to spend $1,400 (or more) on disposable water bottles if you’re one to drink eight cups of water daily. Sourcing the same water from a tap will cost you a mere forty-nine cents or less.
Even if you were to buy a reusable bottle of the highest quality, you’ll still be able to stash away $1,380 per year. A huge majority of us are privileged enough to live in areas where water happens to be the most abundant of resources.
As a result, you have access to faucets or filtration systems in either your home or office. With resources such as these in place, what’s the point of spending $1.45 or more each day on disposable water bottles?
If you’re a seltzer fan, you could as well look into purchasing a soda maker. Using that, your simple tap water can be transformed into a more enjoyable drink. All you need is a handy reusable water bottle to keep you refreshed at any time, at no cost.
It’s worth mentioning that by doing so, you’re doing the ecosystem a huge favor. Most unused plastic bottles end up in landfills. Unfortunately, a small percentage of these bottles are recycled.
9. Deposit At Least $1 Every Day Into Your Savings Account
It’s true that $1 won’t buy you much these days. However, a simple move like saving a dollar a day can have lasting and worthwhile results in the future. Saving little cash amounts can really add up over time.
There are three ways you can use to approach your savings endeavor:
- By depositing your desired cash amount into either a money market or savings account that offers an interest rate of 1%.
- Opening and saving in an account with zero percent interest.
- Invest in an exchange-traded fund. Once you’ve settled for the perfect one, ensure it keeps track of the S&P (Standard and Poor’s) 500 index.
For the first option, you may not be able to save much with a mere one percent interest rate. Additionally, you may or may not be able to get interest as most interest-bearing accounts will require you to have a minimum deposit account.
If there’s a rise in interest rates, there’s a better a chance of your money grow exponentially.
The second option will leave you with $18,250 after fifty years of saving. If you’ve paid off your mortgage in full, have sustainable health costs and you lead a frugal lifestyle, then the specified amount is enough to cover a year’s worth of retirement.
Saving a dollar a day in an ETF (exchange-traded fund) is basically taking a risk. You don’t know how much you’ll reap in terms of benefits, but you’re assured of greater returns.
ETFs trade in a similar way to stocks. Each time you either buy or sell one, you’ll be required to pay a commission. Investment and brokerage agencies such as Vanguard, Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and E-Trade offer zero commission on their ETFs.
10. Steer Clear of Impulse Purchases
Ninety percent of shoppers are guilty of buying goods on impulse. No matter your level of frugality, you’ll still be prone to pick up anything that catches your eye online or at a brick-and-motor store.
Overspending has been known to be a common barrier to achieving major financial goals, including saving a fair portion of your income for retirement.
Looking to steer clear of making impulse purchases on your daily (or weekly) shopping adventures? Here are a few tips to keep your spending in check:
- Log in to your online shopping account or enter your favorite store with a list of what you need.
- Calculate the total cost of what you’re about to buy to engage the logical side of your brain.
- Take time to reevaluate items that you already own. You may be wasting money on items that are gathering dust in your garage.
- Allow yourself to make reasonable splurges once in a while. Do this only if you’re prone to make impulse purchases more than usual.
- Challenge yourself not to spend anything for the next month or so. In the course of your no-shopping game of sorts, you’ll be able to identify your individual spending triggers.
- Cancel all retail newsletter subscriptions. To avoid buying something new every day, it’s best not to tempt yourself by opening promotional emails.
To be financially fit, all you need to do is trim your expenses and always be on top of your spending habits. While most people opt to go with the 52-week challenge, weigh your options and find out if it’s just right for you.
One thing you need to keep in mind is that you won’t always be financially stable (especially towards the end of the year). By taking up the 365-day money challenge, you’ll not only be steering clear from unwanted stress at the end of the year, but you’ll also be saving a few extra bucks in the process.