Frugal New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

Photo Credit: Toni Girl via Flickr

Photo Credit: Toni Girl via Flickr

Will 2014 be your most frugal year yet? Most people who make a list of New Year’s resolutions will include at least one item related to spending, saving or sharing their money. Whether you are preparing to take on a daunting list or you haven’t even given a thought to New Year’s resolutions, why not make a frugal goal for the coming year. Here are twelve ideas to get you off to a good start in 2014:

  1. Cut a Bad Spending Habit: We all have bad spending habits and they can really add up. Whether you buy clearance clothes because they are a bargain but you never actually wear them or you over-indulge in pre-packaged foods, this is a good time to identify and begin cutting your bad habit. Learn a little more about yourself by tracking your spending for a few months. This will help you see your spending habits, both the good and the bad, and help you set goals for this year.
  2. Organize Your Financial Life: Take some time this year to organize your financial life. Whether you decide to create and maintain a budget, download a finance app to help you stay on track or begin logging all of your expenditures into a spreadsheet, keeping your finances organized and up-to-date can save you a lot of stress and anxiety.
  3. Increase Your Charitable Giving: Often times charitable giving ends up being the last thing on the list when money comes in. Why not begin making it a priority? If you are more of a spontaneous giver, why not begin making your giving more consistent? Need help choosing a charity? Check out this article.
  4. Build a Savings Plan: If you don’t have a savings account, you might start saving money (even $20/month) for an emergency fund. If you already save, you might consider creating a plan that involves short-, mid- and long-range saving goals including retirement and emergency savings.
  5. Live Within Your Means: Challenge yourself to actually live within your means this year by being intentional about only spending what you are earning.
  6. Borrow Less: Do you struggle with credit card debt? This year you could create a plan to eliminate your credit card debt and begin paying your credit card bills on time. Do you have a lot of student loans? Make a plan so can borrow less this year by reducing your expenses or finding other sources of financial aid.
  7. Declutter Your Home: Begin 2013 by decluttering your home, especially your closet and your pantry. Keep an eye out for items that you can reuse or give away. Make a commitment to use up what you have.
  8. Reduce Your Monthly Expenses: Are you using all of your cable package? Could you cut your grocery expenses by eating frugally and using coupons? Could you lower the temperature in your apartment or turn off a few more lights? Reducing your expenses, even by a few dollars a month, can save you a lot of money.
  9. Start Saving for Pleasure: Have you been dreaming about buying a new car, computer, decor item or even going on vacation? Start saving for this item now by setting aside a little money each month. Make a do-able plan to help you reach your goal, so you can decrease or even eliminate having to buy on credit.
  10. Be A Patient Spender: We all know how easy it is to buy things on impulse whether it is a candy bar, clothing or electronics. Big or small, those impulse buys can add up. Try to curb your addiction to impulse spending by waiting 24 hours for items under $50 and 30 days for items over $50. If possible, wait for sales.
  11. Align your sharing, saving, and spending with your values: Take some time in this new year to consider your values. Then analyze your saving, spending and sharing of money to be sure it aligns with your values. Make goals for 2014 to increase this alignment.
  12. Be More Thankful: Living on a student’s budget, it can be easy to think more about what you don’t have than what you do have. Take time this year to be thankful for all of the things that you do have–tangible and intangible.

Join the Conversation: What’s your frugal New Year’s Resolution for 2014?

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Easy Ways To Reduce Your Monthly Bills

This week I am continuing my New Year’s Resolutions series, with an article on reducing your monthly bills.

Have you ever wondered if you are paying a little too much on your cable bill, insurance, cell phone or electric bill, but you decide not to look into it because you don’t think that it is worth the hassle? Paying a little bit too much each month can add up really quickly over the course of a year. If you can reduce these regular expenses, even by a little bit each month, that can make a huge difference. Here are a few small things that you can do to stop overpaying and reduce your monthly bills:

  • Car Expenses: Cars are very expensive, any way that you can reduce your monthly auto payments will significantly help your budget. If you are in a family with two cars, consider consolidating the one. Save money on gas by taking public transportation or car-pooling. If you are driving an old vehicle that is costing you a lot of money in maintenance, know when to stop putting money into it and invest in a new vehicle.
  • Cell Phone: Cell phones plans can be very costly. Shop around. If you can, try to get on a “pay as you go” or family plan. You don’t necessarily have to be family to be on a plan like this, you can just be a group of friends. Track your usage and make sure that you find a plan that best suits your needs. You shouldn’t pay for anything that you aren’t using.
  • Cable Packages: First, ask yourself if you really use your cable. If you don’t, getting rid of it can save you a lot of money. There are many cheaper options outside of cable such as Netflix or Hulu that still allow you to see the shows that you love. If you do decide to keep the cable, be sure to look out for deals and consider negotiating and re-negotiating your package on a frequent basis. For other ways to save money on cable check out this article .
  • Energy Bill: Be conscious about turning off lights and unplugging devices when they are not in use. Invest in energy efficient bulbs and smart power strips that eliminate phantom charges (electricity used by devices that are off or on stand-by mode). You can also use regular power strips for your electronics and simply turn off the strip when your electronics are not in use. Lower the temperature in your apartment when you are away, adjusting the temperature in your apartment by just a few degrees can make a big difference.
  • Water Bill: Take shorter showers, use an egg timer to help you keep your showers down to just a few minutes. Only use water when you need to. Don’t keep the water running while you are brushing your teeth or while you are scrubbing dishes. Do laundry only as often as necessary.
  • Insurance Bills: Make sure that you have the minimum coverage that you need. Don’t purchase more than you need. If you can, raise your deductible. Also, shop around to look at various companies, get a few quotes and see if your insurance can match those rates. If they can’t, switch!
  • Credit Card Bill: If you have a large credit card bill that you are paying off ask your credit card company if they can lower your interest rate. Often, all it takes is you asking. If they can’t, you should consider switching your balance to another credit card with a lower rate.
  • Membership Fees: Do you actually use the memberships that you are paying for? For instance, if you belong to a gym, are you actually using it enough to make it worth it? Why not consider working out at home?

I realize that this list can be overwhelming, choose one or two suggestions to focus on for this month and see if you can see a difference. You can save a lot of money on bills if you are willing to invest a little bit of time into the process. Don’t let yourself over-pay every month without looking into possible deductions that may be out there.

Join the Conversation: What are your ideas for saving money on bills?

New Year’s Resolutions for 2013: 6 Reasons Why You Should Increase Your Charitable Giving

Are you hoping to increase your charitable giving in 2013? Do you want to give but you aren’t sure if you even have enough money to pay your rent this month? I have good news for you: you can give. Giving can be challenging, it takes some risk for us to give of our time and our money, particularly when those are scarce resources. However, the reward of helping our neighbors, whether near or far, far outweighs the risk. Whether you are giving for the first time or just challenging yourself to do a little bit more, here are some great reasons why you should increase your charitable giving this year:

  • Purpose: Giving, whether of time or money, reminds us that we have a greater purpose  than just satisfying our own needs. Giving brings us outside of ourselves and teaches us that we each have the capacity to help our neighbor and to be helped by them.
  • Community: Giving connects us with the greater community, both local and global. Giving keeps us attuned to the world outside of ourselves and provides us with the opportunity to form new relationships.
  • Multiplication: When we give, what we have is multiplied to meet the needs of others. One of my favorite organizations, Feed My Starving Children, which feeds starving children around the world, can provide someone with a meal for 22 cents. I can’t even think of something that I can buy for 22 cents! Even a small donation can meet a lot of needs. A gift of $10 can provide 45 meals to starving children. For help, choosing a charity that will be able to multiply your gift check out this article.
  • Habit: Even if you can only give a small amount of time or money, this small step will help you begin a habit that will last a life time. Start by giving $10 and 1 hour/month to an organization of your choice and challenge yourself by doubling the amount next year.
  • Creativity: There are some many Creative Ways to Give Back through social media, click giving, recycling and much more, so even if you can’t give money you can still give. There are also many creative ways to volunteer that are both fun and helpful!
  • Two for One: In addition, you can give by giving gifts that give back. These are not only great gifts to give to a friend or relative, but they are also a way to give back to neighbors in your community or across the world. Great examples of this would be TOMs Shoes, The Giving Keys, and Oxfam America.

For more good reasons to give to charity check out this article. Still wondering where you are going to find an extra $10 to give? Start tracking your spending, especially the money you spend on food and drinks, more than likely you will find a few expenses that you could forgo each month in order to give like 2 lattes or one dinner out per month.

Join the Conversation: How are you increasing your charitable giving this year?

New Year’s Resolutions for 2013: Declutter Your Home

Thank you to all of you who participated in last week’s poll about New Year’s Resolutions. If you didn’t, you can still fill out the poll and make your opinion heard. While the votes were pretty spread out, the most popular New Year’s resolution was “declutter your home” with 15% of the vote. Over the next few weeks, you will hear about some of the other winners.

While decluttering your home is certainly a good thing, many of you may be wondering what this has to do with frugality. First and foremost, decluttering helps you to simplify your life. A frugal life is a simple life. Decluttering can help us realize how little stuff we really need. Decluttering can help you save money on storage fees by freeing up new storage space in your home, eliminate buying duplicates as well as decrease heating and cooling expenses by increasing the air flow in your home. Decluttering can also help you make some money by selling some of the items that are in good condition that you no longer need. Additionally, decluttering is good for your physical and mental health, saving you money on health care costs.

Ready to start decluttering? Here are a few good tips:

  • Slow Down: Decluttering can be an emotional process, so before you start tearing your house apart slow down. More than likely, your clutter cannot be eliminated in just one day you are going to have to work slowly one room and problem at a time.
  • Make a plan: Schedule some dates with your clutter by setting aside some time on the calendar. For some people, it might be helpful to just schedule a few hours at a time, for others you might block off an entire week. Then, visualize what you want your space to look like and make a plan to help you get there.
  • First Things First: Don’t know where to begin? Start with the place that aggravates you the most. Still not sure? Start with storage spaces so that you will have more space to organize and put things away.
  • Avoid Distractions: Once you decide on the space that you want to tackle don’t leave that room! Create a “goes elsewhere in the house” box and take the last few minutes of decluttering to put these things away all at one time. The second you leave the space you are liable to get distracted or begin other projects.
  • Organize: Remember how you visualized your space? Organize with that visualization in mind. Don’t be afraid to use your space creatively. Keep items where you use them, with the most used items out and visible. Group like things together and examine your groups. This will help you to discard unwanted items as well as visualize the correct space for this group. When you are finished organizing, be sure to label everything.
  • Discard: Create four piles: sell, give, recycle and garbage.
    • Sell: More than likely, you have lightly used items like books, clothes, or furniture that you could sell in a yard sale or online on eBay or Craigslist.
    • Give: Are there things that you could give away to charity? These gently used items can be taken to your nearest Good Will or given away on the Free Cycle Network.
    • Recycle: Be conscious of the things, such as plastics and paper, that can be recycled before you chuck them in the garbage.
    • Garbage: The unusable, un-giftable, and un-recyclable stuff that is left.
  • Shop the Leftovers: Did you find some clothes that you forgot you had in your closet? Mix and match them to create new outfits. Did you find some food in your pantry that is still good? Use it in your meal plan for the next few weeks until it is gone.
  • Keeping the Clutter at Bay: Put up a laundry bag in your closet so that you can toss in clothes and donate little by little rather than in a massive overhaul. Create a 30-day list to buy anything outside of necessities. Write the item down on the list with the date, if you still want the item 30 days later then you can buy it. This will save you a lot of money on items that quickly lose their luster.

Looking for more practical decluttering tools? Check out: TLC How Stuff Works, The Daily Green, Zen Habits, or ivillage.

Join the Conversation: What is your best decluttering tip?

Take this Poll about Frugal New Years Resolutions!

This week I am beginning a new blog series based on 13 frugal new year’s resolutions article that I posted a few weeks ago. If you missed this article, check it out! In this series I will be highlighting some of the frugal new year’s resolutions. But, before I can begin this series, I need some input from you! Which of the frugal resolutions are you trying to take on this year? I want to make sure to highlight the most popular resolutions. Take this quick poll:

Thank you for participating!

13 Frugal New Year’s Resolutions for 2013

Will 2013 be your most frugal year yet? Most people who make a list of New Year’s resolutions will include at least one item related to spending, saving or sharing their money. Whether you are preparing to take on a daunting list or you haven’t even given a thought to New Year’s resolutions, why not make a frugal goal for the coming year. Here are thirteen ideas to get you off to a good start in 2013:

  1. Track Your Spending: Learn a little more about yourself by tracking your spending for a few months. This will help you see your spending habits, both the good and the bad, and help you set goals for this year.
  2. Cut a Bad Spending Habit: We all have bad spending habits and they can really add up. Whether you buy clearance clothes because they are a bargain but you never actually wear them or you over-indulge in pre-packaged foods, this is a good time to identify and begin cutting your bad habit.
  3. Create and Maintain a Budget: If you haven’t done this already, this is a great habit to form. Check out these articles on creating and maintaining a budget for some helpful steps to get you started.
  4. Increase Your Charitable Giving: Often times charitable giving ends up being the last thing on the list when money comes in. Why not begin making it a priority? If you are more of a spontaneous giver, why not begin making your giving more consistent? Need help choosing a charity? Check out this article.
  5. Begin Saving Money: Savings really do add up even if it is just $20 per month. It is good to have an emergency fund available for those unexpected expenses, even if it is just $100-200. If you can take it out of your checking account by automatic withdrawal that’s even better.
  6. Live Within Your Means: Challenge yourself to actually live within your means this year by being intentional about only spending what you are earning.
  7. Eliminate Your Credit Card Debt: Do you struggle with credit card debt? This year you could create a plan to eliminate your credit card debt and begin paying your credit card bills on time. Don’t know where to start? Check out this article on paying off credit card debt. If you accrued more debt during the holidays, start the year off right by getting that paid off first.
  8. Pay Off The Interest On Your Student Loans: This is immensely important because it can save you a lot of money, but many students don’t take advantage of it. Paying a little each month can make a big difference in the long run.
  9. Declutter Your Home: Begin 2013 by decluttering your home, especially your closet and your pantry. Keep an eye out for items that you can reuse or give away.
  10. Use it Up: Make a commitment to use up what you have. This is especially important in the kitchen, don’t let something go bad in your refrigerator. If you have a little bit of peanut butter left in your pantry, use it before you buy another jar. No one wants to spend money on something that is just going to go to waste.
  11. Reduce Your Monthly Bills: Are you using all of your cable package? Do you really need internet in your home? Could you lower the temperature in your apartment or turn off a few more lights? Reducing your bills, even by a few dollars a month, can save you a lot of money.
  12. Pay Your Bills on Time: Paying bills late can become very expensive very quickly. Make a New Year’s resolution to pay all of your bills on time, use auto pay to make this even easier.
  13. Find at Least One New Form of Financial Aid: Even a small scholarship can make a big difference in how much you have to pay back later. Talk to a Financial Aid representative at your school or take a look at fastweb.com to get some ideas of where you might find some other scholarship opportunities.

Join the Conversation: What’s your frugal New Year’s Resolution for 2013?

Frugal New Year’s Resolutions: How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Last week I discussed a few different frugal New Year’s Resolutions. It is one thing to make a New Year’s Resolution, but it is a completely different thing to keep a New Year’s Resolution. So how do you make your New Year’s Resolution stick? Here are a few tips to help you keep your resolutions:

  • Just Pick One: It is exhilarating to make a long list of resolutions and imagine your new life, but if you want to make it past February you should probably just focus on one, maybe two, resolutions. This will allow you to focus all of your energy in one specific direction.
  • Be Realistic: Make sure that you create a resolution that you can actually keep. If you have $10,000 in debt, you probably don’t want to try and pay all of that off this year. But maybe make a plan to pay it back over the next five years. Aim low, so you can surprise yourself by exceeding your goal!
  • Make A Plan: I am a big planner, so this one is probably the most important for me. Make a plan that fits your lifestyle and modify it as you go.
  • Find Resources: Look for resources about your resolution. Search the internet for articles and books, has someone else kept this resolution? If son, how did they do it?
  • Talk About It: Tell everyone, all of your family and friends, about your resolution so that they can support you and keep you accountable.
  • Buddy Up: If you can find another person who has the same resolution, you can buddy up, challenge one another and keep each other accountable. If you don’t have any buddies among your friends or families, you might be able to find a support community online.
  • Change is A Process: Remember that change is a process. Killing old habits and developing new habits takes time, so be patient with yourself.
  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: If you make a couple of small mistakes at the beginning, don’t sweat them. Keep trying! If you need to modify your resolution, do that. One small success is better than no success at all.
  • Reward Yourself: Keep yourself motivated by rewarding yourself for your small achievements. If your resolution is to live within your means, put away 5 or 10 dollars every week so after a month of living within your means you can reward yourself by going out to a nice dinner.

How are you keeping your New Year’s Resolutions? I invite you to post your frugal New Year’s Resolution in the comments so we can keep each other accountable.

Frugal New Year’s Resolutions: Will 2012 Be Your Year?

Will 2012 be your year to become more frugal? Most people who make a list of New Year’s Resolutions will include at least one item related to spending, saving or sharing their money. Whether you are preparing to take on a daunting list or you haven’t even given a thought to New Year’s Resolutions, why not make a frugal goal for the coming year. Here are a few ideas:

  • Managing Your Credit Card Debt: Do you struggle with credit card debt? This year you could create a plan to eliminate your credit card debt and begin paying your credit card bills on time.
  • Increasing Your Charitable Giving: Often times charitable giving ends up being the last thing on the list when money comes in. Why not begin making it a priority? If you are more of a spontaneous giver, why not begin making your giving more consistent?
  • Paying Off The Interest On Your Student Loans: This is immensely important because it can save you a lot of money in the long run, but many students don’t take advantage of it.
  • Cutting A Bad Spending Habit: We all have bad spending habits, those little (or not so little) impulse buys that really add up. Whether you buy clearance clothes because they are a bargain but you never actually wear them or you over-indulge in pre-packaged foods, this is a good time to identify and begin cutting your bad habit.
  • Creating and Maintaining a Budget: If you haven’t done this already, this is a great habit to form. For more information check out these blog posts on creating and maintaining a budget.
  • Begin Saving Money: Savings really do add up even if it is just $20 per month. If you can take it out of your checking account by automatic withdrawal that’s even better, you won’t even miss it.
  • Living Within Your Means: Challenge yourself to actually live within your means this year by being intentional about only spending what you are earning.
  • Form Your Own Frugal Community: Get a group of friends together for a frugal party every month. Start a group that tries to find the best happy hour deals. Gather some people together to make homemade frugal gifts that you can use for any occasion.

I’m still trying to decide on my frugal New Year’s Resolution. What is your New Year’s Resolution for 2012?