Simple Ways to Save $1000 a Month

We often think we need big dramatic changes in our finances to make a difference but actually making small changes in our habits and actions can afford real improvement in our financial situation.

NOTE: You have probably heard about most of these ideas but are you actually USING the ideas on a regular basis? If you are, congratulations! You really know how to save!

Save on Food and Beverages

Skip the soda. Drink water instead of a fizzy beverage and improve your health as well as your savings account. Savings: $10 – $20.

Take your lunch to work. Pack your lunch every night with leftovers from dinner and avoid restaurants. Savings: $15 – $200.

Make coffee at home. You can find recipes online for every coffee shop concoction available. Spend a few minutes and save big. Savings: $20 – $50.

Make a meal plan and grocery list. Save money by purchasing food for specific meals. Knowing what’s for dinner also prevents you from ordering pizza because you have no idea what to cook. Savings: $100 – $300.

Eat at home. Once you have a meal plan it will be much easier to stay away from restaurant meals which can take a huge bite out of the budget. Savings: $30 – $200.

Eat cheaply for a week. To save even more on groceries institute a “cheap week” once a month. Savings $50 – $100.

Limit alcohol consumption. One beer or glass of wine a day can quickly inflate your budget. Limit drinks to once a week or less and save the money you would have spent. Savings $20-$75.

Save on Household Needs

Use less. By using smaller amounts of every day toiletries and household products you can save money by having to purchase them less often. Savings: $10 – $30.

Institute a “no spending” month. For the next 30 days make do with what you have and purchase absolute necessities only. Savings: $30 – $200.

Save on Services

Put a hold on dry cleaning. Wear only wash-and-wear items this month to skip the dry cleaning costs. Savings $20-$50.

Drop the gym. Buy a set of used weights or use free online workouts and stop paying for your gym membership. Savings $50-$100.

Lower your cable bill. Lower your channels based on usage or drop cable all together. Savings $50 – $300.

Compare cell phone plans. We found a family plan that cut our bill in half. Savings $20-$100.

DIY your pest control. You can purchase chemicals at your local home improvement store. Savings $35 – $100.

Save on Utilities

Hang your laundry. Purchase a drying rack for $10 – $15 and slash your power bill by air drying your clothes. Savings $50 – $100.

Adjust the temperature. Turn the thermostat up a couple of degrees in the summer and down in the winter. Savings $30 – $100.

Take shorter showers. Save money on your water bill by timing your showers. Savings: $10 – $30.

Unplug. Turn off all electronics at night to save electricity. Savings $5 – $10.

Lose your landline. If you rarely use your home phone consider dropping the service and using your cell phone only. Savings: $10 – $40.

Save on Insurance

Compare rates. You may be surprised at the difference in rates between insurance companies. Check for discounts like military, safe driver, etc. Savings: $30 – $100.

Raise deductibles. If you have an emergency fund of at least $1000 you can raise your auto and home insurance deductibles and save on your monthly insurance rates. Savings $30 – $100.

Drive older vehicles. Insuring older vehicles is much cheaper than insuring newer models. Savings $50 – $100.

Save on Entertainment

Find free events. Check your local newspaper or online sources to find free festivals, concerts and other events to attend for free. Savings: $20-$100.

Watch a movie at home. Borrow a DVD from the library or watch Netflix. Is seeing a movie in the theater really worth a $12 – $15 ticket? Savings: $20-$50.

Host dinner. Invite friends over for dinner instead of going to a restaurant. Make it even cheaper by having them bring a side dish or dessert. Savings: $30-$300.

Start a hobby. Spend your free time to create a side income by painting and refinishing furniture or creating other products to sell. Earnings: unlimited.

Other Ways to Save

Reduce fees. Move to free checking accounts, avoid ATM fees and late fees on credit cards.

Plan your errands. Save gas and time by planning errands on the way home from work to avoid an extra trip. Plan your route on errand day to avoid back-tracking.

Track your spending. Record all of your spending for a month to find budget leaks. Knowing that you have to write down everything you spend can help you to prevent impulse buys.

Consider downsizing. If you need significant savings consider selling your car and buying a cheaper, paid for vehicle or find a way to live with only one vehicle.

Plan a staycation.  Save on travel and hotel expenses by planning your summer vacation in your own hometown.

Make DIY gifts for upcoming events. Check out my DIY Gifts on a Budget Pinboard here for ideas.

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Want To Save $1,050 This Year ?

Want a simple way to save an extra $1,050 this year ? We have all seen the Money Savings Challenges posted all over the internet where you start low and the amounts slowly start to increase as the year goes on but we found those were a bit more difficult because at the time when you have Back To School, Christmas and other Holiday events the amounts were highest. This challenge helps with that by starting low, getting to your highest point in the middle of the year and then slowly decreasing toward that busy and expensive time of year.

Try this challenge in any amount you like, depending on the amount of money you want to have saved at the end of the year.

Need a savings account to put this all into each month? We can help with that …. Come in to any branch or contact us today at (403) 320-4600 for details.

Happy Saving !!!!

Money Challenge

No-Spend Month

Thinking about a spending freeze to save money? Check out these tips on how to survive a No-Spend Month.

What is a No-Spend Month?

It’s a period of time where you avoid spending money on anything besides the essentials.  Essentials include bills such as your mortgage, gasoline, and essential groceries (like produce, bread, milk).  Typically, you would avoid eating out, buying clothes, etc.

Set up the No-Spend Ground Rules

Each family probably has different ideas about what constitutes essentials.

Will you have a pantry and freezer challenge at the same time so you avoid even spending money at the grocery store (except on produce and milk)?  It’s a great way to clear out the pantry and freezer at the same time as lowering your spending.  Or will you still shop at the grocery store for essentials if you don’t have a stockpile?

The only rules to the No-Spend Challenge are the ones that you agree on and work for your family.

What are you Saving for?

If you have a concrete reason for the no-spend month, it’s going to be a lot easier to deprive yourself for a month.  Are you saving for a vacation?  Are you going to use the money to pay off debt more quickly?

Be sure everyone involved knows the reason for the no-spend month, and you might be more successful if you make a sign for motivation so you can remember.  Challenge yourself to save a certain amount.

Have a Plan

Know what your largest spending temptation will be during the month and prepare ahead for it.  For example, if you like to stop and pick up coffee from a shop each morning, set up a station at home to make your own coffee.

If your rules include no eating out for a month, you need to have a meal plan  in place so you know exactly what you’re eating to avoid the temptation to run through the drive through when it’s late and there’s no dinner plan.  You’ll probably want to also organize your pantry and freezer so you know what’s available.

One obvious idea is to stay out of the stores.  It’s a lot easier to not spend money when you’re not even in a place to buy anything!  If you need to go to the grocery store, be sure to have a list and stick to it if possible.

Don’t Spend Excessively when the Month is Done

Now that you’ve gone a month without spending money, hopefully you’ve changed your mindset about spending.  You don’t want to go crazy with the spending now or you’ll erase all your savings.  Decide what you need to buy when you’re done with the month and stick to the plan.

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Five Tips for Easter on a Budget

1. Reuse your Easter baskets year after year this will let eliminate the cost of buying new baskets every year. Your children will also get used to what basket belongs to them making it easier for them to find it on Easter morning.

2. Remember to fill the bottom of the basket fully with filler to give the look of a full basket even when there is only a few items in it. Here are some great alternatives to using grass in the basket that takes up more space. 

3. If you remembered to freeze some of your Halloween candy because let’s face it the children get so much of it at Halloween, now it the time to take it out and add it to the Easter basket.

4. There is no reason to buy the Easter dye kits in the store, just reach into your cupboard and grab some of your food coloring and just mix 1 tablespoon of food coloring with 2 teaspoons of vinegar in a cup and then fill it to the halfway point with water and you are ready to begin coloring your Easter eggs.

5. My biggest tip for doing Easter on a budget will not help you this year, but will help you next year remember to check the sales after Easter to pick up decorations and baskets that would be appropriate for your children saving a ton on the price and helping you stay on budget for next year.

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Spring Clean Your Budget and Finances

With all of This warm Spring Weather we have Been Having it Might Be Time to Spring Clean Your Budget and Finances and Here are Some Steps To Take To Make That Possible ….

  1. Forgive and let go – I’ve said this before. You have to forgive yourself for the debt that was created. You are did the best you knew how to do at that time and now you know better and can make better choices. You are starting fresh and now have a clean slate.
  2. Declutter your wallet – Remove all of those credit cards from your wallet that you are not using and store them in a safe place. By removing this credit cards you are removing the risk to use them and create more debt for yourself.
  3. Evaluate your debt – Gather all of your bill and statements and take a look at them. Look for places that you can lower interest rates and reduce your bill amounts by changing plans. What may have worked for you 6 months ago may not be what you and your family needs now. Also be on the look out for subscriptions that you can cancel.
  4. Create  or update your budget plan – If you don’t have a budget now is the time to create one for yourself. If you do have one take a look at it and see if their is room for improvement. You may have been saving for something that you no longer need to save for or some of your bills may have change. By updating your budget you will be able to see what areas need improving and if you have extra money that you could be saving in other areas
  5. Automate your bills – This is a time saver and a money saver. Paying your bills late can effect your credit score, so having your bills on automatic payment will help you avoid paying your bills late and inquiring any late fees.
  6. Pay down debt – Paying down debt can reduce the amount of money you pay in interest and will save you thousands of dollars. They are many ways you can go about paying off your debt. The key is to find a way that will work for you and your Families financial situation.
  7. Get organized – get all of your financial papers in order. Create a filing system that you can use to keep track of your bills and when they are due.
  8. Taking the necessary steps now to get your finances in shape will allow you the chance to enjoy the many other things in your life.

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Create a Personal Finance Budget:

Here’s how to set up a personal finance budget you can live with in just a few easy steps:

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1. Figure out what you spend.

You can’t create a budget if you don’t know what you spend. To get started, look at your transaction history. Here is a list of general categories that should cover most of your recurring costs:

  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • Utilities – internet, electric, gas, water, and more
  • Auto – insurance, gas, and maintenance
  • Medical – insurance, copays, and prescriptions
  • Education – tuition, books, or student loan payments
  • Credit card payments and fees
  • Everyday basics – groceries and personal care items
  • Leisure and “extras” – hobbies, gifts, and vacations

To get a realistic picture of your spending, look at three months’ worth of transactions. Your spending likely isn’t as consistent as you think – it will fluctuate from month to month due to holidays, birthdays, vacations, and other inconsistent expenses.

Also, don’t forget to include every bank account and credit card that you use. If you’re only reviewing your checking account transactions but several of your utilities auto-bill to your credit card, you’ll miss a substantial portion of your spending.

We recommend designating one card, preferably the debit card associated with your checking account as your primary payment method. This will make it easier to track what you spend, as well as help you avoid accruing interest or fees like you might with credit card purchases.

2. Create a budget you can live with.

When creating a budget, it’s tempting to want to put your best foot forward and pinch every penny. But setting unrealistic expectations will only leave you disappointed when you balance your budget.

It’s better to be firm but reasonable. Give yourself wiggle room and build a cushion into your budget that allows for a few meals out or a spring break road trip with your friends. This way, you’ll be able to stick to your budget without kissing your hobbies or social life goodbye.

On the flipside, hold yourself accountable and keep your financial future in mind when you create your budget. If all your money is going toward leisure activities and you’re not paying off debts or putting cash into your savings, you’ll regret it later.

Note that your budget will evolve with your lifestyle and income. Each time you take a new job, get a pay increase, finance an appliance, or make another life change, it’s time to reevaluate your budget and adjust it if needed.

3. Expect the unexpected.

Rainy days happen, and typically when they’re least convenient. Make sure you’re prepared for them by stashing some extra cash in an easily accessible savings account. When you do find yourself with a blown tire, sprained ankle, or broken window, you’ll be able to focus on the problem at hand rather than stressing out over how you’re going to pay for it. And you’ll be able to do so without maxing out a credit card, taking out a loan, or borrowing money from Family or Friends.

It is also a good Idea to look into different types of insurance to cover your Families if you are unable to work. Contact 1st Choice Savings today to speak to one of our Insurance specialists.

4. Pay yourself first.

This is a tried-and-true proverb in the personal finance world for good reason. If you don’t prioritize your savings, you’ll always find somewhere else to put that money – only to later realize that you don’t have any financial cushion or long-term security.

To avoid being financially sidelined by the kinds of surprises we just talked about, consider putting some of your money into high-interest savings accounts in addition to your traditional savings account.

5. Use credit cards to build credit, not to bridge your finances.

If you’re using a credit card to make ends meet each month, it’s time to switch up your routine. As we mentioned earlier, it’s best to use your checking account as your primary source of funds.

Your credit card should be used regularly, yes, but you should be able to pay off the full balance each month. If you’re racking up debt on your credit card without paying it in full, you’ll pay substantially more interest over time.  A healthy credit rating will open the door to better options for car, home, and business loans so use your credit card responsibly.

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6. Motivate yourself by setting goals.

You’re more inclined to build financial security if you set goals for yourself. Like any target, you must have it in sight if you want to hit it.

Start off by setting small goals for yourself and incorporating them into your budget. You could aim to increase your savings by $1,500 this year or pay an extra $30 on that new washer and dryer set this month. Once you’re comfortable setting and reaching smaller goals, think long-term. Open an extra savings account and start working toward a down payment for your first house, or calculate how much it would cost to launch a small business and start making that great idea a reality.

The more comfortable you get with creating and sticking to your budgets, the more you’ll be able to reap the rewards of a financially secure lifestyle. And, yes, you’ll even have some cash leftover to splurge next year.