Shop around and save.
That phrase may seem like a cliche, but it’s true.
If you apply that simple principle to every purchase and expense you encounter, you could net thousands in savings each year.
It’s all too easy to automatically mail checks for insurance coverage or monthly power bills, assuming you can’t save big bucks by shopping for better rates or trying to trim home energy use.
There’s no time like the New Year to resolve to save more.
Here are my 10 tips to help you save more in 2015:
Save $1,378 with the 52 Week Money Challenge
Pay yourself first. Increase retirement contributions next year and lower your tax rate. The Internal Revenue Service upped the contribution limit in 2015 by $500, to $18,000. If your company offers a match, contribute at least that much. Don’t leave that free money on the table. Payroll deductions make this a cinch. See what you’ll need in the Golden Years with calculators at the American Institute of CPAs website, FeedthePig.org.
Increase contributions to 401(k) plans in 2015.
Just say no to banking fees. Join a credit union and leave expensive fees in the past. Credit unions, which are nonprofit financial cooperatives, aren’t in it for the money, so to speak. The member-only institutions, typically sponsored by employers, don’t pay dividends to stockholders, so you save with lower loan rates, higher savings rates and lower fees. See how to join at Credit Union National Association website at CUNA.org, or the National Credit Union Administration website at MyCreditUnion.gov.
Save on energy bills. Your air-conditioning unit might be taking a well-deserved break right now, but it won’t be long before it’s generating thousands of dollars in bills. Take Florida Power and Light’s Online Home Energy Survey (FPL.com/residential/energy_saving) to get a personalized savings plan. The tool lets you see how much it costs to cool or heat your house and run appliances, and it offers rebates and tips to help lower power bills.
Shop for better insurance rates. Homeowner and automobile insurance premiums take massive bites out of budgets. If you haven’t checked lately, shop around for better rates. Also, consider raising deductibles to lower your rate. Our auto insurer wanted more than $7,000 annually to insure my husband and I, along with our new teen driver. We shopped around and got a quote for comparable coverage that cut our yearly bill by almost $3,000.
Track monthly spending. Starting Jan. 1, take my low-tech approach to keeping tabs on expenses: Put EVERY receipt for purchases in a manila envelope labeled by month. At the end of each month, tally them up and review to see where your hard-earned money goes. Decide what was necessary and what was frivolous. This comes in handy at tax time, too.
Track monthly savings. As you track monthly spending, write down what you saved (usually listed on receipts) on the outside of the monthly envelope. Tally the savings each month and earmark savings to fund increased retirement contributions.
Take a sales tax deduction. Now that you’re saving receipts, easily keep track of how much you spend on sales tax and claim that as an itemized deduction on your federal income tax. You can do that in Florida, which doesn’t collect a state income tax. Use the calculator tool at IRS.gov/Individuals/Sales-Tax-Deduction-Calculator.
Use more coupons. Save at stores by clipping coupons found in the Sun Sentinel. Other good sources include: “Enjoy the City” coupon books ($20 at EnjoytheCity.com) for Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties and 2015 Entertainment books with $15,000 in savings good at local establishments ($35 at Entertainment.com). The coupon-book websites frequently offer deep discounts.
Take the 52 Week Money Challenge. Painlessly save $1,300 next year with a fun savings plan making the rounds on Facebook. Starting the first week of the year, deposit into a savings account $1 on Week 1, $2 on Week 2…$26 on Week 26, etc. By the end of the year, you’ll have $1,378. Or, reverse the chart and start with a $52 contribution. Double the amount each week and you’ll have nearly $3,000. Click here to see the savings chart.
Sign up for a rewards credit card. Get something for nothing. If you travel, sign up for a major credit card that pays you back in airline or hotel miles. Or, get paid back for buying everyday goods. Target’s REDcard gets you 5 percent off all purchases and free shipping on Target.com. Costco’s TrueEarnings Card from American Express has no annual fee and gives you 2 percent cash back on purchases.
Try just one or two of these savings tips and you’ll toast the close of 2016 with champagne instead of beer.
SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL