Penny pinching: Save money in the new year
Start the new year off … tight. Yes, you read that right! The presents have been opened, the cookies have been eaten and the credit card bills are arriving. I suspect many of us have a New Year’s resolution or two that include dieting — for both food and finances.
If you are like me, your post-holiday to-do list includes exercising, eating less and cleaning out that basement storage room, not coming up with ways to save money. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m uninterested in saving money. I must be passionate about frugality since I am married to the cheapest man in North America. With assistance from my husband, the natural-born bargain hunter, outlined below are five tips to get your new year started off right and tight.
Tip No. 1: PLAN AHEAD
Some of us are better at this than others (as written by a self-proclaimed procrastinator). It may seem crazy to start planning now for Christmas 2012 but establishing a savings account in January will allow you to slowly accumulate several hundred dollars by December. By setting aside as little as $50 a month, you’ll have more than $500 to use next holiday season. Planning ahead also will make you more accountable to your checkbook when you begin your holiday shopping next year.
Tip No. 2: CHECK OUT ONLINE RESOURCES
Today’s world of smart phones, apps and social media make sharing money-saving tips simple. Not only has online shopping reached a new level of ease and simplicity, but bloggers providing helpful tips are abundant. This advice is free and they have done the research for you. For example, www.savingmoneyinmissouri.com has more than 22,000 followers. This blogger provides multiple daily updates with information on the latest deals, coupons, rebates and more. A Kansas City resident writes www.pennypinchinmom.com and has more than 45,000 followers on Facebook. Sign up for her daily e-newsletter and you could win a $100 gift card each month.
Online resources are not limited to extreme couponers and bloggers. A number of free money management resources may be at your fingertips: mint.com is an easy way to track your finances online; wesabe.com has online software that provides customized tips based on your spending habits; and smartypig.com offers a hands-free savings account to help you reach your goals. These resources and more may be found on a great website called wisebread.com, which is all about living large on a small budget.
Tip No. 3: USE COUPONS AND COUPON CODES
Coupon clipping isn’t for everyone, however amazing deals may be found by combining store coupons with manufacturer coupons. Target offers store coupons on their website. Coupling these with manufacturer coupons can provide significant savings at the cash register. Signing up for email alerts allows stores to “push” savings directly to your inbox. Many retailers offer free or reduced shipping and other incentives throughout the year. Utilize these coupon codes and enjoy shopping from the comfort of your home. We would be amiss to not mention the newest trend, QR codes, which are becoming more common in retail print ads. You simply scan the codes with your smart phone to receive discounts.
Tip No. 4: COMPARISON SHOP
Don’t assume the first price is the lowest price. Comparison shop as much as you can, in stores and online. Google shopping and Deal
Time.com offer price comparisons for online shopping. Many large retailers like Walmart and Target also price match if you locate a product at a lower price than what they offer. Check the policies on their websites for reference.
Tip No. 5: LIVE THE LIFESTYLE
It seems living frugally is the thing to do these days. However, don’t expect things to change overnight. If you are accustomed to a certain spending lifestyle, making too many radical changes at once could result in failure. For example, coupons are great but be cautious of budget busters. In an attempt to stock your shelves, you may be making unnecessary purchases. Buy what you need and try to find the best price. Turning your life upside down in the name of frugality may be a recipe for disaster. You want to ease into your new habits because deprivation does not equal being frugal. Staying motivated to stick to your resolutions and meet your goals will help you adjust to your new lifestyle, and by this time next year your piggy bank will be a little fatter and your waist a little smaller.