Amazingly, 2019 is nearly upon us. As you scramble to finish your holiday shopping and eventually stop to ponder your New Year’s Resolutions, there’s a good chance money will be on your mind a lot over the next few weeks. Moreover, you may be wondering how you can save money not just in 2019 but well beyond.
Luckily, after another year of writing about personal finance and exploring different tips and tools for myself, I’ve assembled several practical ways you can trim your spending. So, here are 19 ways you can conceivably save money in 2019:
Pay down your debt
First things first: if you’re holding onto credit card debt, you’re wasting money off the bat. As difficult as it might be, your top priority should be to pay down your debt and free yourself from those high interest rates. With that, hopefully the some of the other items on this list will help you retain more of your cash that you can then apply toward conquering your debts.
While there are items on this list that might save you a few dollars here and a couple bucks there, relocating to an area with a lower cost of living or downsizing your home could potentially put hundreds to thousands of dollars in your pocket each month. That said, there are obviously some roadblocks that might prevent you from just up and moving, such as a job, family, inability to sell your home, etc — not the mention the costs that come with moving. But, if you can conceivably relocate, it may be worth considering.
Just to add my personal tale to this one, it was January 0f 2015 that my wife and I decided to move from Glendale, California to Springfield, Missouri. In doing so, we took our monthly rent down from $1,475 a month to just $625. This has made a huge difference in our financial lives and made it possible for us to achieve goals we might not have otherwise reached. The moral of the story is that it’s always worth at least thinking about changes you can make, even if they may sound a bit scary at first.
Change how you grocery shop
For many people, the act of grocery shopping is simple: you head to the local market, pick up what you need, and call it a day. However, there may be some changes you can make to this routine that can help save you money. First, consider where you shop. Prices can vary from store to store by quite a bit based on a number of factors, including service, amenities, and more. If you’re looking for quality items without the frills, you might try discount stores like Aldi. This might mean leaving behind some name brands, doing your own bagging, and bringing along a quarter in order to get a cart (it’s kind of a long story), but the potential savings speak for themselves.
Beyond reconsidering the stores you frequent, you might also want to assess how you assemble your shopping list. For example, one often-cited way to save money on groceries is to plan out your meals in advance. This way you can not only ensure you’re picking up everything you need for the week (or longer) without necessitating additional trips but you can also make the most out of your fresh items and prevent spoilage. These changes along with other good rules like “don’t shop while you’re hungry” can go a long way toward saving you money on grocery essentials.
Let yourself run out of non-essential items
While we’re on the topic of groceries, I wanted to share a tip I learned just a few months ago. See, I always enjoyed having a Coke with dinner and, thus, would always keep a cold 12 pack in my fridge. However, a few months ago, I ran a little experiment where I let myself run out of Coke and didn’t bother restocking. Instead, I learned that drinking water or seltzer with my evening meals wasn’t so awful and many of those dishes I long swore needed the assistance of that biting cola were still great on their own. This made me realize that there may be certain things you continually pick up out of habit without really considering them. With this in mind, see if you can think of any such items you could likely live without and see what happens when you just stop buying them.
Download cash back apps
One of my favorite ways to save money as of late is using cash back apps like Dosh and Ebates (which I actually just put head to head in a review). Both of these tools as well as several others make it easy to get rewarded for purchases you were going to make anyway. Of course that last note is important as you should never buy items you don’t need just to earn a few percent back. However, if you are planning on buying something online or in-store, these apps can definitely come in handy.
Take the time to comparison shop
The retail industry thrives on impulse, luring you with so-called sales that urge the immediacy of your purchase. Although there are some doorbuster deals that may actually be worth it, more often than not you’re better off taking your time and comparing prices with other retailers. Among the many things you should consider are not only the base price of an item but also any shipping costs, coupon codes, and other offers. As an added bonus, during the course of your comparison shopping, you may even realize you don’t actually need the item you’re looking to buy. Splurge averted!
Set price targets
Another aspect that comes with comparison shopping is doing your research on whether the current price is actually a good deal as even sale items might not really reflect what most people pay. To do this, you’ll want to look for historical price data. A great tool for doing this is called CamelCamelCamel.com. Here you not only view past pricing for items on Amazon but also set price alerts to be notified when the item you want reaches your target. Personally, I like to think of this as negotiating with retailers without them knowing it. That way, it feels even more satisfying when you win out and score an awesome deal.
Join free loyalty programs
My wife and I seem to have differing opinions when it comes to store reward programs. While she’s quick to dismiss the cashiers’ offers to join, my typical reply is, “is it free? Then sure!” Ok, there are some exceptions to this if I really don’t expect to visit that store again but, if I do have any plans to go back, loyalty programs can actually pay off. As I’ve previously shared, some of my favorite rewards programs come from Chili’s, Qdoba, Starbucks, and Red Robin. Although those are all restaurants, I’ve also done well with programs from Sears (hang in there, buddy!), Expedia, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Delta, and others. Besides, while I should care more about giving out my information so freely, I have to assume it’s already out there anyway. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Buy discounted gift cards
In the event that you, like me, find yourself frequenting the same set of establishments repeatedly, it may be a good idea to take advantage of discounted gift card offers. Moreover, the holiday season is a great time to find these deals, as many retailers and restaurants are offering extra perks when you purchase a certain amount of gift cards from them. This is another somewhat tricky one as it could encourage you to splurge, but I’d argue this practice actually make it easier to budget for your splurges and allows you to enjoy a guilt-free treat later on.
Find frugal fun
No one wants to just sit at home every weekend, but going out is expensive, right? Not necessarily. Between free events, affordable hobbies, and reasonable alternatives to higher-priced offerings (e.g. minor league baseball games), there’s plenty of fun you can have on a budget — you just need to know where to look.
Cut the cord
Cord cutting has been the big trend for the past several years now, but there’s good reason for that. It seems many consumers have woken up to the many ways that cable and satellite overcharge you by continually raising rates, making you pay for content you don’t care about, and more. Thus, we’ve seen an influx in direct-to-consumer streaming services emerge to lure customers away. The downside to this is that now every company and channel is launching their own platform, tempting TV and film fans into spending even more than they did in the first place! So, with this one, just be sure to do your research on the various streaming options out there and limit your subscriptions to, say, two or three to ensure that cutting the cord saves you cash.
Learn to love your local library
Speaking of streaming services, did you know that there are several free options for enjoying television and movie content? As it turns out, your local library might have more to offer than you likely realize. This is especially true thanks to services like Hoopla that allow library cardholders to borrow ebooks, audiobooks, movies, TV seasons, albums, and more for free. Granted, there are some limitations, such as borrowing limits, but hitting up your library could prove to be a great way to supplement your entertainment needs without costing you a dime (unless you return that book a day late, of course).
Slim down your list of subscriptions
Between mystery boxes, Patreon donations, and the aforementioned streaming subscriptions, your monthly budget could be ballooning as you tack on a few dollars here and there. That’s why 2019 is a great time to look through all of your subscriptions, total up what they’re costing you, and look at making some cuts. Bonus tip: even if you don’t choose to let anything go now, make sure to keep a master list of everything just in case you forget about one of these services down the road.
Prepay your bills
When most people think about recurring services, they typically tend to think in terms of monthly costs. That’s not surprising since many companies offer monthly plans for everything from subscriptions services to auto insurance. But did you know that you might be able to get a discount by paying on an annual basis instead? This might not be the case for every one of your monthly bills, but it’s worth looking at which of your services offer discounts when you pay upfront. Moreover, in some cases where a “convenience fee” is tacked on to each of your payments, you can save that fee by only make a single payment a year instead of 12.
Ditch the bank charging you fees
Remember when you were a kid and heard that the bank would give you money for keeping your cash with them? These days it seems like quite the opposite, as many institutions assess customers minimum balance fees, account maintenance fees, and more. If your bank is nickel and diming you, it’s time to look elsewhere. In fact, you may even consider moving to an online bank that will pay you 1% APY or better on your savings without a minimum balance requirement or other fees. Admittedly, I still maintain a checking account with Wells Fargo (although I’ve somehow avoided monthly fees so far) but I’ve been trying to move everything over to my Discover Bank account in preparation for the day that the Wells Fargo fee wagon is a-comin’ down the street.
Get a new credit card
Wait — didn’t I start this article by saying how bad credit card debt was? Yes, I did and it is. That said, if you are debt free and can trust yourself to pay off your card balance monthly, credit cards can actually be used to save you money. This year, my wife and I have managed to accrue nearly $750 in credit card cash back without paying a cent of interest. So, while there should definitely be an asterisk on this one, perhaps it’s time you start considering credit cards as a money-saving tool instead of just an evil trap (that means you too, Mr. Ramsey).
Go on a road trip vacation
Even with discount airlines like Allegiant and the numerous third-party sites that can help you find affordable airfare, sometimes flying can still cost an arm and a leg. Never fear, because sometimes taking a good old fashioned road trip is not only thrifty but could open the door to extra fun. Plus, by packing a cooler, bringing along coupons, and using tools like GasBuddy, you can really keep the costs of your driving adventure down.
Try taking a “Workation”
Are you self-employed or able to work from anywhere? Then you might just be able to take advantage of what I call a “workation” (ok, I actually stole that from one of my favorite podcasts, but still). Workationing can save you money by not halting your income while you travel. In some cases, you may even be able to turn your regular trip into a business trip — although you’ll want to refer to the rules on that. Yes, at some point, you’ll want to get away from it all and, ya know, not work. But, if you want to travel on a budget, this can be a good option.
Skip the souvenirs
Last but not least, if there’s one type of purchase that can get us to let down our thrifty guard more than any other, it’s souvenirs. After all, where else are you going to be able to get these one-of-a-kind keepsakes? That may be true… but are those trinkets really that cool? And will you not be able to remember your trip without them? In my opinion, I’d rather collect fewer souvenirs and use the money saved toward making more travel memories.
Saving money might not be as hard as you think. As you’ll notice, nowhere on this list do I suggest you clip and stack coupons, make your own detergent, or keep your HVAC turned off. The truth is that you can save a significant amount of cash just by making small changes, from learning to be a thriftier consumer to taking back control of your money. Here’s wishing you a financially happy and healthy 2019!