A dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. With food and gas prices rising, instability in the job market, and national debt looming like a dark cloud, many Americans have been wracking their brains to make every dollar count.
Your own home is a great place to start. I’m not talking about making drastic changes or contemplating unusual alternatives for powering your home. Rather, just take a closer look at your home spending habits and it can go a long way toward cutting overall costs and bringing some peace of mind. If you dread opening your monthly bank statement, try implementing some of these easy steps to financial frugality.
Technology is Your Friend
Computers are supposed to make our lives easier, right? Sure, you can fall into the black hole of Facebook and stumble out hours later, wondering what happened. But exert a little willpower and close that chat browser, and you’ll find numerous ways your laptop can save you money.
A number of sites like Groupon offer a variety of deals and coupons to help out your budget. The website caters to your location to offer local coupons, frequently with 2-for-1 deals. Most of the deals are for consumer products, but if you’re a foodie unwilling to cut back on dining out, Groupon can help stretch your budget.
Your computer is also a great tool to avoid late fees. Most banks make it easy to set up auto payments through their web sites, and this is a service you should definitely use. Some sources put the average credit card late fee over $30. Once you factor in rent, utilities, and loan payments, you could easily be throwing away hundreds of dollars, just by letting the mail sit too long on the kitchen table. Take a half hour to set up automatic deductions, either through your bank’s web site or through the service you’re purchasing, and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches.
Learn to Haggle
I learned from my dad long ago that most price tags are negotiable. You might not start off with the savvy of the guys on “American Pickers,” but practice makes perfect. Take a deep breath, pick up the phone, and call your cable or Internet provider. Tell them you’re thinking about cancelling your service. Odds are they’ll offer you a discount to keep your business, or at least throw a few freebies your way. If not, call up the competition and see what they’ll do for your business. Either way, it’s not going to cost you anything, and could save you hundreds a year.
You can carry this strategy into other areas of your home – from cars to living room furniture. Craigslist is the ultimate online yard sale. And unlike the salesman in your typical big-box retail store, haggling for a price through sites like Craigslist is often expected. In fact, you may even want to consider letting others haggle with you. Take the time to go through all that stuff you don’t even remember owning. Sell it off, get a few dollars back, and reduce the expense of storing things you no longer want or need by having your own, real yard sale.
Keep a Stiff Upper Lip
There are tons of tricks to save a buck around the house, but if your head’s not in the right place, none of them will matter. Don’t let the weight of bills and obligations beat you down. You can do this. The fact that you’re reading this article in the first place is proof of that.
Depression makes you hide from your problems, instead of tackling them head on. In the constant battle to make ends meet, don’t lose track of what makes you happy, be that through religion, good friends, or even your favorite sports team.
Focus on the things that you have, rather than what you want. I have a bookshelf in my house that covers an entire wall; whenever I see an advertisement for that new video game that everyone is playing, I take something down off the shelf instead of running to the store.
It’s not a cliché that the best things in life are free. Keep this in mind. Keep your chin up, and go after your savings with a clear mind and fire in your belly.
These are just a few tips for saving a buck around your home – keep hunting for more. Pretty soon these steps will be common nature for you, and you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes to your bank account. Now get to it!
Lin Rice is a freelance writer and guest blogger for Movoto Real Estate. Keep track of his work on Twitter.