12/28/2012 6:30 PM ET|
Save big bucks, one month at a time
Get the new year started right. Here's a month-by-month guide to making the most of your money in 2013.
Some money-saving advice requires substantial work for not much savings.
Take, for example, hanging your clothes out to dry. Yes, it makes clothes smell great and is better for the environment than using the dryer. But, no, you're not going to save a ton of money. (Trent Hamm over at Simple Dollar figured that he saved about a buck a load.)
I like my dollar-stretching advice to do a lot more stretching than that -- even if it requires a little more effort. Use the following 12 suggestions (one for each month) as a guide to stretching your bucks. Plus, I've included some of the best things to buy each month based on typical sales cycles, courtesy of Consumer Reports.
Ditch your bank. Monthly service fees are rising, and it's getting harder to avoid them. The average minimum balance needed to avoid fees soared $856 in 2012 to a whopping $4,447, according to a survey of 100 banks by MoneyRates.com. Only 25% of big banks examined by the U.S. Public Interest Group still offered free checking.
If you can't ditch the fees, ditch the bank. USPIRG found that 60% of smaller banks still offered free checking. Online banks such as ING Direct, FNBO, Ally and others don't have monthly fees or minimum-balance requirements. Most large credit unions still offer free checking without minimum-balance requirements, as well.
- What to buy now: A month-by-month guide to finding bargains
Try a "no spending" month. Need to pay off debt, boost your savings or just take a break from consumerism? Vow to spend money only on essentials for one month. (February makes a good choice, since it's short.) MSN Money readers who tried this experiment several years ago saved $200 to $400 by eating in, finding free entertainment and staying away from retail stores and sites.
Take advantage of your flexible spending account. Most large employers offer these accounts, which allow you to put aside pretax money to pay medical or child-care expenses. Unfortunately, most workers fail to take advantage of FSAs because they fear the "use it or lose it" requirement -- you lose any cash you fail to spend by the end of the FSA plan year. However, that actually happens to only 4% of participants, so quell your fears and put at least a few hundred bucks in your FSA.
Get the full match. Tax time can make you painfully aware of the need to shelter more of your income from Uncle Sam, and there are few better ways to do that than by contributing to a workplace retirement plan. If your company offers a match -- and most large-company plans do -- you should be contributing enough to get the entirety of that free money. If you're worried about missing the money from your paycheck, start by increasing your contribution by just 1% or 2%. Ratchet it up in a few months or the next time you get a raise.
Get a better credit card. If you're carrying a balance, look for a low-rate balance-transfer offer that can help you get that debt paid off. If you pay in full every month, make sure your rewards program is still rewarding, since many get watered down as time passes. Your rewards should be worth at least 1% of your spending; many of the best cards today offer twice that, plus they tend to offer generous sign-up bonuses. NerdWallet offers regular reviews of the best rewards cards in various categories (travel, cash back, etc.).
Audit your energy use. The average U.S. household spends $2,500 a year on utilities, including natural gas, electricity, fuel oil and water, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You might spend a lot more if you live in a location that gets really cold or really hot. A do-it-yourself home energy audit can help you identify some upgrades that could slash your bills by up to 30%, according to the Department of Energy. (Find energy-saving tips on the Energy.gov website.)
Shop for office supplies. If you don't have school-age kids, you may not realize how deeply office supplies are discounted during back-to-school sales -- or how early those sales begin. You can get copy paper, pens, tape, markers and other supplies for a fraction of what they would cost the rest of the year.
Review automatic purchases. Automatic bill payments are a convenient, secure way to ensure you never incur a late fee or damage your credit scores. But no spending should be entirely automatic. You could be wasting a small fortune on a gym membership you're not using, subscriptions you're not reading or games you're not playing. Internet, television and phone bills may have crept upward without your noticing. Take a few minutes to sit down with your bank and credit card statements to make sure you're getting enough value for your money.
More from Liz Weston:
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
One of the best pieces of philosophy I ever read goes as follows: "The best way to handle the future is to be efficient in the now." You have to constantly be present to efficiency when it comes to economics (this doesn't apply to lovemaking). Another good piece of philosophy: "There are no immortality schemes." In other words you are not going to avoid death no matter how much debt you get into or how many material things you have or aspire to have. Finally, "Accept what comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny for what else can more aptly fulfill your needs." One more, "Want what you have instead of having what you want." Just one more: Gibrand: "The difference between the richest man in the world and the poorest man in the world is an hour of thirst and a day of hunger."
This isn't meant to be interpreted as sit back and do nothing. One aspect of these philosophies is to develop a genuine appreciation for what is available to all of us. Read Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now and Tony Bennett's, Life is a Gift."
Please don't forget the idea about making an extra payment each year on your mortgage. You know most of us could get some stuff out of the attic and basement and sell it and then put it towards this payment!
It will save you quite a lot of money in the long run and it is guaranteed to work. If you don't have a mortgage put it for retirement, it will still be guaranteed!
Most of the retailers and Manufacturers are charging 100's of percentage in profits by having the stuff made in China so it is best to wait as the prices will go way down like sugar did when it was boycotted back decades ago.
It's time to send a message since the wages are being pused downwards by CEO's here in America. Hell even the CEO's of American Manufacturers are pushing to destroy good wage jobs which os the primary people who use the products that are produced by that greddy CEO!
It simply shows just how stupid those people truly are. They are trying to get rid of their customers and eventually they will be out of a job but of course with a golden parachute reward for their clear stupidity! Time to wake up and smell the coffee.
Get rid of the greed and watch the economy grow! The only Company that gets it is COSTCO and they are a very successful Company for that matter!!!! Hang on until they get desperate for your dollar then get a real big bang for your buck!
If your really having money woes try this, sell all things that are of value & replace with cheaper faux
items !! I did this with Jewelry / Dishes/ paintings/ furniture/ made 4,000 dollars & replaced it all for
250 dollars paid off most of my c cards sleep better & don't miss the fluff !!
I have been using FFL lights for several years now. They still cost more than incandescents, but they have come down in price. I dropped my power bill by a good $40 a month.
Why wait for each month for the savings, I would do all of them in Jan.
The companies 401K option alone would save you at least an additional $250 of company match. Starting savings now means you don't have to save as much later in the year. Start saving earlier only makes since, and ususally dollars, in your pocket.
Seriously, young people struggling to stay afloat, and especially people with kids, need to talk to a parent or grandparent who went through the great depression. Those people were forced to be frugal and even when things got relatively better, they still stayed frugal for the next financial drop. A great rule is if you buy it pay cash (if you need it). Put the plastic away. Educate yourself 12 months a year on good financial discipline, not 1 a month. Don't replace things that are still working, resist fads. The very best thing you can give your children is your time. A trip to the park or playground or a walk in the woods etc. is far more memorable than having them sit on a couch playing with electronic toys.
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
RECENT ARTICLES ON PERSONAL FINANCE
Banks often use sign-up bonuses as a way to get new customers to apply for one of their cards. But are you guaranteed to earn the bonus?