Budgeting Tips: Easy Ways to Save Money

With the economy in the tank, almost everyone is feeling the pinch. Both gas and milk have found their way up to four dollars a gallon. When money is tight, finding ways to stretch your money may seem straining, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Without needing to put forth a big effort, there are several ways to save a few bucks on electricity, gas, food, and the cell phone bill.

Energy:

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With energy costs rising, it is becoming more important to find ways to save money on electricity. For some simple savings, unplug appliances when you’re not using them. TVs, DVD players, video games, and most home appliances continue to draw power even when they are turned off. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, leaving idle appliances plugged in can use as much as four times more energy than if they were only plugged in while in use.

Lower the power settings on your computer. If you are using a desktop computer, shut off the monitor when you get up or alter your computer’s settings to go into standby mode after a few minutes of inactivity. Laptops already use substantially less energy than desktops, but you can still save a bit of power by switching a few settings. Laptop users can reduce screen brightness, set the screen to turn off after a certain amount of time, and close the lid to activate standby mode when it is not in use.

Transportation:

Driving the speed limit can save you as much as thirty percent more gas and money than speeding (or, when rationalizing, “keeping up with the traffic”). Patricia Monahan of the Union of Concerned Scientists claims that the ideal fuel-efficiency speed for most cars is between 45 and 55 miles per hour. When it comes to rolling down the windows versus putting on the air conditioner, the breaking point is about 45 miles per hour. Below 45, roll down the windows; above 45, the drag created by opening the windows winds up using more energy than simply turning on the AC.

Going to even the next step, now that gas prices are averaging more than four dollars per gallon, public transportation has become a far cheaper option than driving your own car. This is especially true for drivers with a long commute to work. If it is available in your area, taking the bus to work can drastically lower your gas expenditures; plus, you will be relieved from having to deal with rush hour traffic.

Food:

To save money on groceries, the best thing to do is avoid shopping while hungry. When you’re surrounded by food and on an empty stomach, your sales resistance is at its weakest level. If you go grocery shopping shortly after eating, you should be able to avoid most of the regretful impulse purchases you would have made while hungry.

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Because of its perceived convenience, fast food can be the biggest waste of money in your food budget. Beyond the veritable health nightmare that is a grease-based burger and fries combo, fast food can strain your pockets too. Fast food lunches can run twenty to forty dollars per week, depending on where you live, where you eat, and what you order. Try making your own lunch. A loaf of bread and some sandwich meat will run you far less than a week at the fast food joint. Making your own lunch for even a day or two a week can cause a dip in your expenditures.

Lifestyle: The next time you feel the urge to send a text message, stop, count to ten, and look around you for a computer which can just as easily send an email that doesn’t add to your cell phone bill. Most major carriers have taken advantage of consumer love for text messaging by hiking rates. Picture messages, which have similarly gained popularity, are also more expensive than regular text messages. Also, remember that you are charged for both sent and received messages, making the costs add up quicker than you may realize. Save yourself the nuisance of an inflated cell phone bill and keep the messaging to a minimum.

5 Ways to Stay Cool and Save Money

  • First you want to make sure that any holes or leaks are sealed off in your home. Most people don’t realize just how much hot air is coming in there home making there air conditioner work over time. Take the time to do a thorough inspection of the inside and outside of your house to try and find any leaks where cool air might be escaping.
  • Secondly make sure that all of your cooling equipment has new filters and has been serviced so that it is running correctly. Having an air conditioner unit that hasn’t been serviced can cause it to work more than it is supposed too. Also if you have a dirty air filter this will cause the air conditioner to kick on more often leading to higher cost.
  • Thirdly make sure that any windows in your home are covered. Most people doesn’t realize that a lot of heat comes in there home via the windows that are left uncovered. If you cover your windows it will reflect the heat of the sun back outside thus making your air conditioner work much less.
  • Another great thing you can do is to set your thermostats between 72 and 74 degrees. If you keep the thermostats at these temperatures you will use much less power and still be very comfortable in your home.
  • Finally, make sure that anything in your home that is not being used is either turned off or unplugged. Many people doesn’t realize that most appliances use electricity even when they are turned off. This is especially true for televisions in your home. It may also cut cost if you change light bulbs in your home to a lower wattage.
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Deciding Whether to Save Money or Pay Off Debt

Exploring Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

One of the most frequently asked questions I get about money is: “Should I pay off X debt or save my money?” Before I give advice, there are a few questions I’ll ask.

Is the debt “good debt” or “bad debt”?

“Good debt” would be classified as home loans, student loans, 0% credit cards, etc. Either a loan that has a tax deductibility or no interest. “Bad debt” would be considered car loans, unsecured loans, and credit card debt that has a high interest rate.

What type of emergency fund do you have set up?

If you have a $0 emergency fund, of course I’m going to tell you to save it!

How is the economy at this moment?

Personally I feel that if the economy is bad, I’d rather save my money and have that cash available to pay for living expenses. If you pay off the debt instead, you may find yourself strapped for cash.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me for some advice. She said that she and her husband took out a car loan and they were going to try to pay it off as soon as possible. Now, I asked her what kind of emergency fund they had. I also suggested that they think about the current state of the economy right now, and how horrible it is. She told me their current financial situation; her husband is employed, she’s a full time student with no income, they have two young children, and small savings. I asked her what the interest rate on the loan was. 6.25%, not too bad.

I then made the suggestion that instead of paying off that debt as soon as possible, that they put any money aside that they were going to put towards that loan and put it in a high yield online savings account. That way, if they ever became desperate for money, they’d have it there as their emergency fund. If they’d used that money and paid on the loan they wouldn’t have anything. Of course at the same time, they need to not scrimp on retirement, especially if the husband’s employer does a matching contribution. I know that a lot of financial advisers recommend paying off debt first, but I think it’s very important to have that emergency fund as well. Of course, if the debt that you have bothers you, and it’s better for your peace of mind to pay off that debt as fast as you can, then by all means throw your money towards that loan. It’s all about what makes you comfortable. Some people are comfortable with having $1,000 in savings, whereas others have to have $10,000 in savings, even if they have debt. It’s all about a comfort level. Do what you feel is right.

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Ways to Save Money when Using Gas

Every day the price of gas seems to rise, thus making it a big concern for a family on a tight budget. The following are a few common tips to help you and your family save money on gas. By using a carpool system where everyone is going to the same place helps to cut down on the number of times you need to drive, especially if the drives are divided amongst the riders. If you have kids, develop a carpool system with other parents where you can trade days on driving the kids to school or other activities.

The use of public transportation is often times less expensive than using private transportation. Using public transportation to get to the office and back is a great way to relax after a hard day at work while saving money on gas at the same time.

Take the time to look around and check the gas prices of gas stations around the neighborhood. You can also check for gas prices for your area online so you do not need to physically look around for the best price. But, make sure to remember that every few cents you save per a gallon adds up over time. You may also want to look into special reward programs for using a specific gas station franchise as your primary choice for filling up your car.

What better way to save money on gas and improve your health than to walk or ride a bike to the places you need to go? It can also save time since you do not need to look for a parking spot. Also, there are no chances of getting stuck in a traffic jam.

Keep up with your car’s maintenance. Proper car maintenance such as keeping the engine in good running order will help to cut down on the consumption of gas. Also when planning to run errands, try to make all the trips you need in one drive so that you can minimize the trips you need to make.

Having properly inflated tires with the right tire pressure is an easy way to ensure you are getting better gas efficiency. Also, refraining from fast acceleration will help increase your car’s gas efficiency resulting in less gas being used. As there exists many other ways to save, the above steps are common ways to save money on gas. Since gas is not a renewable energy resource, we must consider using it wisely and not taking advantage of its limited supply.

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