You may think you’ve done it all: You’re careful with a buck, don’t over indulge, and stash away as much as you can for future goals. But while it may not seem as if there’s any more you can comfortably squeeze from your budget, there are ways to save more–painless ways, in fact–to save $50,000 or more in almost every aspect of your life.
The strategies that follow will get you to that goal in two to 10 years, without impinging on your quality of life. Some need only one or two moves; others, several steps. A couple require making big changes, but most don’t. What they all have in common: They’ll put a lot more cash in your pocket — money you can, no doubt, put to very good use. The strategy? Cut the cost of the stuff you need to buy. Years to save $50,000? Seven. How to do it? Focus on easy-to-execute economies in key areas that won’t impinge on your quality of life.
1. Groceries. Buy store brands when possible; many private labels offer quality without the premium price. Upload virtual coupons from the store site to your Smartphone for register discounts. Estimated savings: 25%.
2. Dining out. Snag discounts online (check out groupon.com and restaurant.com, which often run sales offering $25 coupons at local restaurants for $2 to $3). And turn your freezer into a takeout alternative by cooking double batches of stir-frys and stews to thaw as needed, says Gary Foreman of the Dollar Stretcher. Savings: 45% of your monthly prepared food and restaurant bills.
3. Insurance. Kick up the deductible on your homeowners policy to $1,000 for a 25% savings; ditto for auto, and mention your clean driving record and good credit to lower car premiums by about 30%, says the Insurance Information Institute. Bundling auto and home coverage may save you up to 15%.
4. Energy. Pop in a programmable thermostat (about $55) to save up to 15% on heating and cooling, the Department of Energy says. Unplug “vampire” electronics, like TVs and computers, which suck up power even when on standby. You’ll shave nearly 10% off your bill, says Lawrence Berkeley, National Laboratory.
5. Cars. Drive less aggressively (accelerate slowly, ease up on brakes), stick to the speed limit, avoid unnecessary idling, and rely on cruise control to keep a steady pace. Savings: $600 a year on gas bills, saysEdmunds.com.
6. Vacations. Rather than a hotel, opt for a home swap (homesforexchange.com) or rental (airbnb.com); you’ll save on lodging and food. Drive instead of flying. But if you must fly, price fares at itasoftware.com and kayak.com. Then search bing.com/travel to find out whether to buy now or wait. Savings: 25% off your travel costs, estimates Kayt Sukel of Travelsavvymom.com.
7. Gas. Those who use their car frequently for work are looking for ways to get as much as they can out of every gallon. Here are some tips for getting better mileage:
•Slow down: Most cars get the best gas mileage at 45-55 miles per hour. Driving faster than 60 mph actually can cut gas mileage anywhere from 7 to 23%.
•Don’t idle: If you need to wait longer than 20 seconds, you’re better off turning off your engine than keeping your car running. Restarting the car requires less gas than leaving it idling.
•Lose the heavy load: Make sure you’re not carrying in your car more than what you need. An extra 100 pounds sitting in the trunk or back seat can reduce fuel economy as much as 2%.
•Tighten the gas cap: Fuel can evaporate through gas caps with broken or weak seals. Loose or broken gas caps can cost you a loss of about 2% in your mileage.
•Close the windows and turn off the AC: Driving with the windows open or the air conditioner turned on can be big gas wasters. Instead, the most efficient way to keep the car cool is by using the air that comes in through your flow-through ventilator.
•Get an oil change: Improve your gas mileage by as much as 2% by using energy-conserving or synthetic motor oil, which can reduce engine friction.
The tradeoffs: It’s tough to implement so many little steps; since each yields minor savings and it’s also hard to see the cumulative effect. To avoid losing sight of the goal, “save your savings,” says Harvard professor Peter Tufano: Estimate your total monthly cutbacks and have that automatically transferred to a savings account.