What will your resolution be this New Year? The economy is still challenging and many of us are dealing with unemployment, upside-down loans, growing healthcare costs, and more. While you might have reduced some expenses since the start of the downturn, you also might have missed a few easy opportunities to save a few hundred dollars over the course of a year. The following seven ideas will help you keep more money in your wallet in 2011.
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1. Review Insurance Policies
If you haven't done this in a while, you should. Chances are your insurance rates have gone up and there are less expensive options out there. Taking the time to review your insurance policies and shop around for replacements can save you a large sum of money. This is also a good time to adjust your insurance coverage based on your current needs reflecting what you need now, not what you needed three years ago. Take a close look at the coverage you have for auto, homeowners, and life insurance. Get free insurance quotes from several places and ask your current insurer about discounts, then pick the best one for your situation.
2. Unplug Your Appliances
Your appliances and other electronic devices consume electricity even when they are off—especially, newer devices that just go into the standby mode as opposed to being off. One of the simplest ways to lower electricity bill is to unplug these devices when they’re not in use. Take a look around your home, and you’ll probably find at least a few things you can unplug. The usual culprits are chargers, computers, digital clocks, TVs, DVD players, cable boxes, microwaves, and stereo systems. To keep it simple, you can plug them into a power strip and turn the strip off when they are not in use.
3. Reassess Your Phone Setup
Do you still have a dedicated telephone line for your home and a cell phone for each family member? May be you could get rid of the home phone. If not you could consider alternative options such as a cable phone, or VoIP. Perhaps your cell phone contract expired and you could shop around for a more cost effective alternative, e.g., prepaid cell phones, a family plan, or a less expensive plan. Regardless of what you choose, consider all the extras carefully because they could add up to a sizable sum.
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4. Eat At Home and Pack Your Breakfast and Lunch
This one takes a bit of a discipline, but it could save you quite a bit of money. Eating out is expensive. I am not talking only about the occasional nice dinners, your routine breakfasts and lunches could easily add up to $10 or more per day—that's nearly $300 a month! To save money, my wife and I pack our lunches and breakfasts. For breakfast, we make toasts and coffee from home, and for lunch, we cook extra portions for dinner and pack the "left over" for the following day.
5. Tune Up Your Car and Check Your Tires
By keeping your car tuned up and your tires properly inflated, you can save quite a bit of money on gas. If you drive a lot, the saving could be substantial. Moreover, a well maintained car is safer and could save you from expensive emergency roadside assistant costs, and may be even medical expenses. But regardless of your car condition, always be prepared for car breakdown and deal with roadside emergencies.
6. Seal Windows and Doors
Winter is here. Even if you've been slacking off, it's not too late to do something about it now. Poorly sealed windows and doors can cost you a lot of money on heating and cooling costs. By simply sealing air leaks throughout your house, especially around your windows and doors, could reduce your heating bill significantly. In addition, you could leverage other techniques, such as lowering your temperature setting by a few degrees and/or replace your old thermostat with a programmable one that only warms up the house when you are around.
7. Pay Down Your Debt
Now that you saved a whole bunch of money using strategies outlined above, you could supercharge your saving by paying down your debt. If you have several debts to choose from, focus on the one with the highest interest rate first. Interest rates on credit cards usually run into the double digit. Even if you managed to pay off just a $1,000 extra, you'd be saving more than a hundred dollars over the course of the year. If you are serious about paying down your debt, check out the debt snowball debt payment method.
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance Blog, which covers a wide range of personal finance and investing topics, with features that include reviews, comparison guides, and Q&A sections.