12 Tips to Help You Save Money in 2017
Saving money is an admirable New Year's Resolution to take on, but it's such a multi-faceted proposition that it demands far more strategy than something straightforward like "Call Grandma more" or "Stop eating ice cream."
Rather than blindly trying to save money at every possible juncture, break the resolution down into component parts that you can tackle individually. There are an infinite number of distinct money-saving possibilities out there. Here are some good ones that will help make the vague idea of "saving money" a little more concrete.
1) Set a goal
Speaking of going from vague to concrete, you should absolutely set a money-saving goal for yourself. Think about it. Do runners just set out every time with the intention of going for as long as they can? Unless we're talking about Forrest Gump, the answer to that is an unequivocal NO! Trying to accomplish things indefinitely is a prime recipe for burnout.
Instead, come up with a firm goal that you can work towards. Maybe that entails saving $4,000 over the course of 2017. Or putting away $5 every day of the year. Or keeping your utility bill under a certain amount every month.
Having that endpoint in mind will bring much-needed clarity to a daunting task.
2) Or better yet, a quest!
What makes a quest so appealing is that it brings meaning to the act of saving. After all, the reason many of us save in the first place is so we can have enough money to do the things that really matter in our lives. Well, if you can use that desire to fuel a quest that involves saving, then you'll be all the better for it!
If the notion of a "quest" seems kind of unclear, consider these examples: seeing an NFL game in every single stadium, visiting the Seven Wonders of the World, biking across a country, etc. These are all incredible, life-defining experiences and they all require some degree of money to accomplish. This isn't to say that everyone should save up for some kind of expensive quest, it's just that quests are a great way to channel savings, and are often more enriching than saving for the sake of saving—or buying things like clothes and gadgets.
Plus, with many quests, you can make gradual progress, which allows you to experience some of the satisfaction you get from saving as you go along, instead of saving it up for an ultimate reward.
3) App tracking
If you want to ensure accountability with your saving habits, then app tracking is the way to go. There are numerous apps out there—many of which are free—that will store spending information and allow you to examine your habits and progress towards a goal throughout the month. Whereas people saving the old-fashioned way can sometimes let their guard down and look the other way when something entices them to go over budget, an app will at least provide a more tangible reminder and sense of disproval towards such activity.
Lots of these types of apps belong to various niches that will suit certain savers more than others. Perhaps you want to have all of your accounts linked; or you want something that categorizes your spending very specifically; or you like communicative, personalized apps. Do a bit of homework and find the one that's right for you.
4) Have a transportation strategy
It's common to read about savings advice and see tips like "Walk more" or "Bike to work sometimes." While those are highly beneficial tactics, they're not quite the same as having a transportation strategy for saving.
That is something which requires a greater degree of forethought and planning than just blindly vowing to do something more. If you buy a public transit monthly pass that you use every day for work, but then find yourself cabbing or Ubering all the time on weekends, that takes away from the value of the pass. You could say the same about owning a car and constantly blowing money on gas and parking when there's perfectly good transit or a bike option available.
Try to identify the most cost-effective way(s) possible to get around and plan your life accordingly. Biking and walking are ideal, but if things like cars or public transit are essential, then make sure you're spending smartly and not needlessly. If you invest too heavily in multiple transit methods when you could be getting by on one, then that's a problem.
5) Join (or mooch) loyalty programs
Loyalty programs can be a fantastic asset. Notice the use of the words "can be." For a lot of loyalty programs to bring in any type of return, they require a significant amount of spending. A lot of people will sign up for a program, make a few purchases in hopes of working towards that reward, and then not continue doing so. Even though those people might have needed whatever goods they did buy, it's likely that they spent unnecessarily and then never even cashed in.
That's why, especially when joining a loyalty program requires money, it's important to spend strategically and not just because there's a glimmer of promise for continuous spending.
Another really useful option is to pool loyalty accounts with your friends. For example, if you're paying for a 15 per cent discount at a bookstore and someone else has a 15 per cent discount at a clothing boutique, borrow each other's cards whenever you have to make a purchase.
6) Bulk buys
This is a classic tip, but it still holds true in 2017. Responsible bulk buyers save a lot of money.
As long as you think you can store the things you buy—and put them to good use, of course—consider joining a bulk wholesaler like Costco. People in a solo domestic situation might be better off shying away from a membership, but it's still a good idea for those who fit that profile to stock up at any outlet on bulk quantities of certain non-perishable foods and household items.
7) Have snacks handy
We've all been in situations where we're hungrier than expected or delayed in getting home and we spring for a snack at a cafe or convenience store. We shell out the $1.50 for a bag of chips or $2.25 for a muffin and don't think twice about it because it's such a small sum.
Well, it's not as small as you might think. Those little snack buys add up. Thankfully, they're also very preventable. All it takes is the foresight to keep a few snacks on you wherever you go. While this is a good practice in general, it's a highly underrated moneysaver.
8) Free trials
For most, free trials are just a nice perk to stumble upon—rarely do you find people actively seeking them out. But why not? There are so many businesses out there that are eager to give you a taste of what they offer. Might as well take them up on it!
Whether it's for a month of Netflix or a week of Yoga classes, a free trial is a great way to spice up your life without shelling out money. Just don't forget to discontinue the trial at the end!
9) Get gifts early
There's a good chance that any gift you're planning to get someone for the holidays will be available at an off-peak time of the retail calendar for far less than it would be during it. It's always a good idea to at least have holiday, birthday, and special occasion gifts (graduations, Mother's Day, retirement, etc.) on your radar. That way, you can plan to purchase those gifts as the most cost-effective time. Or, if you happen to come across something great at an equally great price, then you'll feel comfortable pouncing immediately.
Unless you're a renter whose landlord charges a flat rate for utilities or includes them in the rent, it's essential to be mindful of how much you use. We all want to feel comfortable in our homes, but sometimes there are ways around sky-high utility bills that sacrifice the slightest bit of comfort for financial prudence.
For example, it might be nice to have a hot-enough home that you can walk around half-naked during a cold winter; but it also might cost you an inordinate amount to do so. So instead, sweater up and stay warm the old fashioned way.
11) Automated savings
Did you know that you can arrange it so that your bank account automatically deposits money into your savings account? Just as surely as the sun will rise every day, you can make it so that hard-earned dollars from your chequing account will find their way into savings without the slightest bit of hassle and start earning interest. Huzzah!
Of course, you should only do this if you're in a position to do this every month or few weeks. But even for those who can't spare too much additional income, saving small amounts will still make a nice difference over time.
12) Save time (which = money)
Yes, it's true what they say: time = money. And saving one will surely help to save on the other, even if it happens to be a bit indirect.
Take this scenario for example: You're a person who absolutely needs to have a certain amount of TV intake your life everyday. It's all you want to do when you get home from work at the end of the day. But by watching TV at night, you end up being too tired and apathetic to handle some other productive tasks, like making meals or working on your investment portfolio. Instead of saving that valued hobby solely for the end of the day, look for ways to integrate it earlier so that you don't find yourself misusing valuable minutes and hours. Perhaps during a transit ride, or during breakfast/lunch.
When you actually break it down, you might be surprised by how many ways in which you can save yourself money—or earn it—by cutting down on unnecessary uses of your time. That's not to say that you shouldn't allow yourself to chill; that's important too. Just do your best to maximize the hours where you could be more productive.