7/13/2011 12:23 PM ET|
What would you do to save $500?
Readers responding to a poll say they'd first try cutting back on eating out. There was one thing, however, that almost nobody wanted to go without.
Following the fits and starts in the U.S. economy is all well and good, but when it comes right down to it, your own personal economy has its ups and downs, too. There are bound to be times when you realize: "Hey, this isn't gonna work. I'm gonna have to cut back somewhere!"
What would you cut back on first? A recent poll suggests we have some definite priorities when it comes to deciding what to keep in our budgets.
The unscientific poll, which ran on MSN Money in June, asked readers what they'd be willing to do (or do without) to save $500.
The poll's choices included eating out less, eliminating cable TV service, clipping coupons, taking a second job, holding a yard sale and canceling Internet access. Of the 10,191 responses, 38% chose "all of the above," suggesting that many of us see multiple opportunities to save money on our everyday expenses while bringing in additional funds.
For those who focused their savings strategy on a single item, dining out was the first on the chopping block. Nearly one-third of respondents said they would start bringing lunch to work or school each day or eating more dinners at home.
But we're not giving up our wired lifestyle. Only 1% would simply cut Internet service to save money.
Limiting dining out was the biggest single action respondents would take, but it wasn't the only one that got a reaction. Let's look at all the choices:
- Bring my lunch to work or school every day or eat at home more often: 32%.
- Cancel my cable TV: 12%.
- Clip coupons: 6%.
- Take a second job: 6%.
- Hold a yard sale: 5%.
- Cancel my Internet access: 1%.
- All of the above: 38%.
Looking to cut expenses, meet a goal or save for a rainy day? How much could you save? Take a look.
Save big bucks by brown-bagging
If you enjoy lunches out with your co-workers or taking your family out to eat every weekend, money is slipping through your fingers -- and out of your checking account. In 2010, the average lunch entree cost $8.07, and dinner entrees were $13.70, according to a report in the Nation's Restaurant News.
Even a somewhat-modest three lunches out per week, with four dinners out over the course of a month, will cost you more than $150 -- not counting drinks and tips.
Cut the cord: Go cable-free
Somewhere between "The Stepford Wives" and "Real Housewives," cable became a utility, as seemingly necessary as electricity, water and gas. With broadband service and easier access to shows online, though, some are willing to make the cut.
Just how much would cutting cable save you? It depends on your service, of course, but 2010 numbers from research firm Centris indicated that the average monthly cable bill ran about $70. If you can't live without "True Blood" or international rugby, you're probably paying even more than that.
Give up the Internet
The slim response to giving up Internet access -- a scant 1% selected that choice alone -- suggests that this wouldn't be your favorite strategy. (The fact that you're reading this article online is even better evidence!) In its same research, Centris found that Internet service bills averaged $40 a month.
One option to consider: If you already pay for wireless network access through a smartphone or tablet PC, you may be able to get by without the Web on your home computer.
Conserve cash by clipping coupons
Coupons have become a hot commodity in the past few years, with online coupon resources becoming more prevalent. There are innumerable online coupon sites to help you find deals, but no matter how great a deal you find, make sure it's for items you'd buy anyway. After all, it isn't a savings strategy if you use a 75-cents-off coupon as an excuse to try the latest flavor of Pepperidge Farm Milanos -- as tempting as it may be!
Some have turned "coupon" into its own verb, not to mention a life goal, with strategies that may save you money but will cost you a lot of time. Driving to three different grocery stores each week doesn't seem like an exercise in efficiency, does it? If you keep to your usual items and schedule, you're more likely to enjoy savings without stress.
Bring in more money
What about choices you could make to bring in money, rather than just hanging on to what you have?
Getting a second job is a surefire way to help pay bills and pad your savings account. You'll need to ask yourself a few key questions before you take that second job, but if you have the time and energy, it's a great strategy.
A garage sale not only brings in cash, it simplifies your life and gives you more space. Watch this video for some great tips for holding a successful sale.
Try a little bit of everything
Thirty-eight percent of your peers can't be wrong: Your best strategy may be all of the above, or at least working on multiple fronts. Increasing your income gives you more money to play with -- and tuck into savings accounts -- while cuts to your budget let you hang on to more cash. With both strategies, you'll meet your savings goals that much faster.
This article was reported by Jennifer Rose Hale for SavingsAccounts.com.
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