One of the most dangerous personal finance myths is that saving money is hard. It's not, at least if done the right way. The problem is that many people see cutting back as requiring significant sacrifice in lifestyle. Much like dieting, people quickly lose the willpower to stay the course and end up in more debt (or heavier) than when they started.
There is a better way. Instead of looking for ways to change your lifestyle look at ways to save money without sacrifice. At first it may seem impossible, like losing weight while still eating anything you want. But with a little thought and imagination, you can find many ways to save without sacrifice.
Here are seven ideas to get you started:
1. Call your insurance agent: My wife and I just saved $243 every six months with one simple telephone call to our car insurance agent. The reason is that our daughter just started college more than 100 miles from home. Many parents do not realize they can get a discount when their child goes to college, and there are many more discounts available. With a quick call to your agent, you may find other discounts to lower your insurance premium.
2. Rethink cable: With services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, traditional cable and satellite service is becoming obsolete. If you are a TV junkie you may still want cable service, but for many, ditching cable in favor of streaming TV is an easy way to save money.
3. Examine your cellphone bill: With the growth of smartphones and data plans, today's cellphone bill is starting to look a lot like a car payment. At a minimum, make sure you have the lowest-cost plan available for your cellphone usage. Beyond this, consider prepaid plans. You pay for the full cost of the phone, but over the long run, you can save a bundle.
4. Slow down your Internet: Many people do not realize that Internet service providers offer different Internet speeds. The faster the Internet, the more you pay. For most consumers, even the slowest speed is more than adequate. So check your speed and how much you'll save if you slow it down. The Internet speed can always be increased if the slower speed does not work out.
5. Audit your investments: Perhaps the most insidious of all monthly expenses is the cost of mutual funds, particularly in 401(k) plans. If an investor is paying more than 0.50 percent in expenses for all your investments, he or she is paying too much. And with index funds, a savvy investor can bring down expenses to 0.15 percent or less. For those who are not sure how much their mutual funds cost, Personal Capital is one popular free tool to check expenses.
6. Refinance all your debt: Refinancing a mortgage can significantly reduce monthly expenses. A mortgage, however, is not the only debt that can be refinanced. Refinancing car loans and student debt also offers significant savings. You can also refinance credit card debt with 0 percent balance transfer cards.
7. Take the freebies: There are tons of free ways to save money. From cashback credit cards to rewards programs at grocery stores, a family of four can easily pocket hundreds of dollars each month. Check out ebates.com, which offers discounts up to 6 percent off on everyday purchases made online.
Rob Berger is the founder of the personal finance blog the Dough Roller. He is also the editor of a free weekly newsletter that offers tips on saving money, investing, and retirement.