Published April 02, 2012
Can You Use an Extra $2,000?
Could you use an extra $2,000? Save up to that amount -- or even more -- by making some small financial changes this year.
When you make minor modifications, you barely notice them, but by the end of the year, you could have more cash on hand because of the savings, says Andrea Woroch, a consumer adviser based in Santa Barbara, Calif.
She advises consumers to take a look at small expenses that tend to drain the budget and then determine how to reduce or eliminate them. "It makes you a smarter shopper," Woroch says.
Here are seven ways money experts say you can save money, give yourself a $2,000 raise and boost your cash cushion.
Get Free Texting
Let free text-messaging applications, such as textPlus (available on iPhone and Android devices), take the place of the text-messaging plan on your smartphone, says Andrea Woroch, a consumer adviser based in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Other free alternatives include Google Voice and Kik, which have apps that run on multiple smartphone platforms. Just make sure you read the terms carefully, she says. For example, you may need to change phone numbers to take advantage of free texting.
Making the switch can save about $15 per month, or $180 per year, on a messaging plan, she says. "It can help you downsize your phone bill," Woroch says.
Potential savings: $15 per month or $180 per year.
Sell Unused Gift Cards
If you received a lot of retailer gift cards over the holidays, there's a chance you've collected some you won't use, especially if they're for stores you don't normally visit.
Instead of letting them go to waste, visit a gift card exchange website, where you can sell the cards to other buyers, says Andrea Woroch, a consumer adviser based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You would have to sell them for slightly less than face value, but if you wouldn't use them anyway, the cash could be considered found money, she says.
If you sell five cards at $20 each over the course of a year, that's an extra $100, she says.
Potential savings: $100 per year, depending on the number of gift cards and the value received for them.
In addition to selling gift cards, you also could buy them at a discount on the website. This can come in handy if you're planning to make a large purchase, Woroch says. "Even if you're looking at a savings of only 4%, it could really save you a bundle for a big-ticket item," Woroch says.
Pay Attention to Grocery Sales
Another way to save money is to cut your grocery bill. This can be accomplished with good planning, and that begins with knowing when to purchase certain products, says Teri Gault, CEO and founder of TheGroceryGame.com.
"The No. 1 thing to do is buy your groceries when they are on sale," she says.
Most major supermarket categories will have sales in roughly 12-week cycles, Gault says. If customers stock up on items when they're priced their lowest, they can drastically cut the amount of money spent on groceries throughout the year, she says.
Gault says TheGroceryGame.com shoppers save even more by using coupons from stores and manufacturers for additional discounts. "Usually the total savings is about 67%," she says.
However, you don't need to reach that percentage of savings to pocket extra cash. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average family of four can spend up to more than $1,000 per month on food.
So if you're able to shave just 10% off of your grocery bill by buying products when they're on sale, you could pocket an extra $100 per month or $1,200 annually, Gault says.
Potential savings: up to $1,200 per year or more.
Freeze Your Gym Membership
Many people will be joining gyms this year as they try to jump-start their New Year's resolutions to lose weight or exercise more, says Andrea Woroch, a consumer adviser based in Santa Barbara, Calif. When summer arrives and the weather warms up, many will abandon their gyms for the opportunity to exercise outside, but they'll still be paying for membership, she says.
Instead of throwing money away on a gym plan that you're not using, ask the fitness center to pause your status during the summer, Woroch says. "Many gyms let you pay a minimal $10 to $15 every month to freeze membership," she says.
Members would still be paying something to keep their account at the gym, but if they didn't have to pay the full cost, they could save up to a hundred dollars or more off of the full-service annual gym fees during that time, she says.
Potential savings: up to $100.
Increase Your Insurance Deductible
"Take a new look at your deductibles for car and homeowners insurance," says Julie Murphy Casserly, CFP and author of "The Emotion Behind Money."
"See if you've built up enough savings so that you don't need a $250 deductible but can go up to $1,500 deductible and decrease what you're paying to your insurance company every month in premiums," she says.
Increasing your deductible to $1,000 could reduce your premium by up to 25% and save money, she says. On a $500 premium, that could mean pocketing more than $100 in savings this year.
Potential savings: more than $100.
Switch to Internet Streaming for Movies
Get rid of costly premium cable TV channels that you're not watching, and view can't-miss movies on streaming Internet movie services offered by companies such as Netflix, says Julie Murphy Casserly, CFP and author of "The Emotion Behind Money."
Cable TV subscribers who don't want to end their cable relationship can choose to use the on-demand movie option with their provider or pay for movies only as they watch them.
Many on-demand movies are offered for just a few dollars per viewing, so viewers who order movies only a few times per month could watch them without the need to sign up for a more expensive channel package, she says.
"I had one client who saved $110 per month because she cut off her premium movie channels. She now just views her movies on pay-per-view or on demand," Casserly says.
Potential savings: up to $1,320 per year.
Ask for Promotional Rates
Get into a regular routine of shopping around for cable TV, telephone and Internet service, and ask providers for discounted rates, says Julie Murphy Casserly, CFP and author of "The Emotion Behind Money." Some cable TV companies will offer new customers monthly packages that are $20 less per month than their standard rates, she says.
You also can save money with your existing company by letting someone there know that you're willing to shop around, she says.
"If you call your cable provider and ask about what certain promotions are going on right now for new customers, they may be able to switch you over to the promotional price instead of charging you the full rate," says Andrea Woroch, a consumer adviser based in Santa Barbara, Calif . "And sometimes threatening to cancel will secure that next promotion."
Potential savings: $20 per month, or $240 per year.