Okay, it's almost never easy to save money. But if you approach it the right way there are things you can do to reduce your expenses and have more left over for the important things like getting out of debt, creating an emergency fund, switching careers, paying for college, or whatever other long-term goals you have.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you save money as easily as possible:
1. Boost your willpower
Why start with this? Because its crucial to all the other steps. Researchers have studied how the human mind works, and they've identified some key insights that can help you make the behavior changes you want to make. For one thing, humans are very dependent on routine, which means if you can successfully add or subtract something from your daily routine then you can change your behavior. For another thing, humans respond well to having goals.
These two insights apply in so many ways to saving money. Here's an example: many of us use a credit card or a debit card to pay for purchases, but we are more likely to spend less if we instead use cash. Why? Because spending real dollar bills feels more tangible. So consider changing your daily routine to incorporate cash instead of plastic.
And give yourself a goal of spending less than XX amount per month. Write down your goal and put it somewhere you will see it every day in order to keep you motivated!
2. Look at food spending
This is another area where changing your routine can lead to savings. Do you eat out a lot? Do you buy lunch most days? If so, there's a golden opportunity to create a new habit. It may be hard at first, but plan out some meals (either lunch or dinner) that you can make quickly at home and then write out a grocery list that includes the ingredients you'll need. Once you get in the habit of making all your meals instead of eating out, you'll enjoy it just as much and you'll get to keep that cash in your pocket!
When you go to the grocery store it can be easy to lose your focus and buy whatever looks good at the moment. That's why it's so important to have a plan when you go in, and keep your eyes on your list so you don't end up buying a lot of other stuff that you might not eat. By thinking in terms of cost-per-meal you can really keep your food costs low.
3. Compare prices for service providers
Have you ever noticed how much of our monthly income goes to paying service providers? In this context, when I say "service provider" I'm referring to people like your cable TV company, cell phone company, car insurance (and home insurance) company, landscaping company, etc.
All these monthly service bills can add up, which means it can be worth your time to do a little price-comparing. And at the same time, make sure you're not paying for more coverage than you need. Especially when it comes to things like homeowner's insurance, you can end up saving $20, $50, or even $100 per month.
And one fantastic way to save money is switch off your paid entertainment and shift to free (or very low cost) forms of entertainment. That means canceling the cable TV service and instead watching free streaming video online through sites like Hulu.com, reading a good book, playing a board game, hosting a potluck dinner party, or many other free activities.
4. Reduce interest rates
Finally, this may not be obvious at first, but one of the crucial things you must do to save money is reduce and eliminate your interest charges! If you have several thousand dollars of credit card debt - or any other type of debt - you are probably paying hundreds of dollars per year or per month in interest. Even reducing your interest rate by 5% could make a huge different in your monthly payments and save you a ton of money!
There are a couple of things you can do to reduce your interest rates. The first is to call your credit card company and tell them that since you have been a loyal customer you would like them to give you a lower rate. That will be more likely to work if you have made all your payments on time.
Another option is to look into getting a debt consolidation loan. If you have good credit, you may be able to get a low-interest debt consolidation loan. Just stay away from the shady debt consolidation companies and use a local bank, a credit union, or a peer-to-peer lender. You can take a look at this debt consolidation resource for more information on this.
Hopefully these tips will give you some easy ways to save money. And once you start saving money, remember to keep your focus on your long-term goals!