After the holiday season comes the annual spare-change scramble. Having spent so much on gifts and travel, you may be looking at your bank account with a bit of alarm and hysteria. Don't get too stressed, though — you don't have to make drastic lifestyle changes to survive. It's surprisingly easy to save a few dollars here and there; and those dollars quickly add up.
Food and groceries
1. Bring lunch to work
If you spend around $5 every day for lunch, that adds up to nearly $100 per month for a small convenience. It's healthier and costs a lot less to make your own food and bring it with you. Fight the food truck urge and use that extra cash for something better.
It's no wonder extreme couponers have huge food storage; it's often much cheaper to buy in bulk than it is to buy pre-packaged foods, especially if you keep an eye on sales and promotions. As an added bonus, bulk foods have less packaging, making this an eco-friendly effort as well.
3. Stick to a shopping list
Grocery stores are built to promote impulse buying. And you probably don't need those extra snacks after the holidays anyway. If you keep a shopping list and stick to it, you can avoid overspending on unnecessary items.
4. Drink water
If you've made a New Year's resolution to eat healthier, then swapping expensive drinks for water is a good move. You'll lose weight and save money, too — sodas and energy drinks take from your wallet and add to your thighs.
5. Change phone plans
You'll never get rid of your phone, but why should you pay more than someone else? While the big telecommunications companies offer name-brand recognition, there are plenty of smaller service providers that offer cheaper plan options. Find an alternative plan and save big without sacrificing service.
From work to fueling your Netflix addiction, Internet is a necessity. Satellite Internet has all the benefits of cable with a lower cost . You can save money every month by switching to a cheaper satellite plan or bundling your satellite Internet plan with your TV service.
While it can be fun to have the newest device, it's not always the most cost effective. But you don't have to give up technology to save money. Electronics are significantly cheaper when purchased used or refurbished, and they usually work just as well as their newer counterparts.
Finance and investing
8. Budget, budget, budget!
Staying organized will help you cut back on unnecessary expenses. A budget can provide you with a bird's-eye view of where your money is going, making it easier for you to pinpoint any excessive spending habits. If you're not confident in your budgeting abilities, try a nifty budget app to keep your finances in order.
9. Switch to a high-yield savings account
Change may not be your favorite word when it comes to banking; but not all banks offer great savings rates — sometimes they don't even match the rate of inflation. Pay attention to savings account interest rates, and switch to a higher yield savings account if possible — even if it means switching to a smaller bank.
10. Automate savings and investments
It can be hard to commit to saving regularly. You can make it a little easier by setting your paycheck to automatically deposit a small portion of your earnings into savings. Automating the process helps ensure you won't forget or fritter away your investment.
11. Commute with public transit
If you switch to public transportation for your daily commute, you can save a lot of money on gas and parking. When the weather warms up, biking is a great alternative to driving as well. This change will do a lot of environmental good, too. Plus it's more enjoyable to sit and read or listen to podcasts on a train than it is to languish in traffic.
Heating and air conditioning is one of those expenses we accidentally ignore when it gets too hot or cold, especially if you live in a more extreme climate. Setting your home's temperature a few degrees above where you'd normally put it in the summer or below where you'd put it in the winter won't drastically affect your comfort level, and you'll definitely notice the savings in your power bills.
13. Shop sales
Why would you pay full price for anything when sales are inevitable? You can stay money savvy while still staying stocked with everything you want and need. Most retailers offer major sales throughout the year, so plan your purchases accordingly.
Saving money doesn't have to be hard. These changes are small and can happen a little at a time. Remember — unconscious spending leads to overspending. So make a plan and stick to it, and you'll have less stress and more money in no time.