by Jodi Furman
Most of us make a New Year’s resolution to spend better but we rarely stick to them, mainly because we don’t know where to start. Here are savvy shopping guru Jodi Furman’s twelve ‘quick and dirty’ ways to kick start living a more fabuLESS 2012, with an emphasis on ease and fun and without any of the anticipated drudgery or hard work. For 2012, make this your mantra:
- Let the sales dictate when you’re buying, but not what you’re buying.
If you do nothing but simply allow the sales cycle to dictate when you buy the items that you regularly buy, you’ll be saving upwards of 30-40%. Rather than buying a box of pasta each week, if you buy when your favorite brand is buy one get one free, you’ll still be buying the same amount over the course of a year and spend half as much. If you do that for everything you regularly buy, you’ll not only save money but will rarely have to run to the store. However, only buy a reasonable, rational amount and never buy an item simply because it’s on sale. Only buy the items that you’d normally buy when they’re on sale.
Go paperless and receive rewards
You shouldn’t be spending hours each week filing and organizing paperwork and bills. Opt for paperless billing and most companies will reward you in the form of a lower interest rate or other savings. Additionally, by opting for paperless billing, it’s far easier to find bills when they’re available electronically than when they’re somewhere buried in a mountain of paperwork.
Track your expenses automatically with FREE online services.
See your financial life on ONE page and track all of your investments, recurring bills, savings, credit cards, etc using a free and secure site like Mint.com. Rather than guessing at how much you spent last year on any one category (i.e. groceries) or at any single store (i.e. Bloomingdales)– Mint will show you with just one click. Set goals and track your progress or set up a budget and see how you’re doing. It does take a little while to set up your accounts, but once you’ve set them up, it’s all tracked and added up automatically. As an added bonus, it’s not only free but can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection or a smart phone.
Stop assuming you can’t afford items at expensive stores.
Don’t avoid “expensive” stores because you assume that you could never afford to shop there. If you limit yourself to the sale and clearance racks, you just might find higher-quality goods for far less that you can find lesser-quality items at a ‘discount’ store. Plus you’ll likely get far better customer service, too.
Plan a weekly menu
Have a list of what proteins and veggies you have on hand listed on your fridge, along with their ‘use by’ date so you are sure to use or freeze items before they spoil. Then, if you don’t have a recipe ready to go, go online and “Google Cook”– type in the ingredients plus the word recipe (i.e. chicken breast garlic spinach recipe) and you’ll find recipes galore. Find one that’s a favorite? Be sure to bookmark it or print it out and store it in your recipe binder.
Make some easy phone calls that will save you thousands.
Cancel any services that you aren’t using, even if there’s a cancellation fee. Better to pay once rather than each and every month. Call up all of your service providers– cable, phone, internet, etc. and ask (nicely) if there are any discounts available. Call your mortgage company, auto loan provider and credit card companies and ask for a better rate. A few minutes on the phone can have some BIG returns that pay off each and every month.
Return your undesired gifts.
Having buyers’ remorse? Any items hanging around that you haven’t yet used and really don’t need? Got a holiday gift that isn’t your taste? Return it to the store now and get your money back or a store credit, much better than having it take up space and collecting dust in your home.
Sell unused items around your home on eBay, Craigslist, etc..
Have items that are useful but not being used? Sell them– use eBay, Craigslist or have an old-fashioned garage sale. Don’t want to deal with the hassle of selling by yourself? Consignment stores or eBay sellers are happy to take on the task for you for a small fee. Don’t concern yourself with the ‘loss’ you’re taking by selling items or by the fees you’re paying to sell them; you lost the money when you bought the items, now you’re just getting some of that lost money back.
Donate unused items to do good as well as get write-offs.
Give to charity, start your tax planning for 2012 and de-clutter, all at the same time. Donating is fast, simple and it can be just as ‘profitable’ as selling when you consider the tax deduction and the time-savings. There are a number of charities that will even come to your house and pick up from your front doorstep, making the process completely hassle free.
Make a new tax plan with your accountant.
If you want to keep more of your own money your pocket, start tax planning for 2012 now. Adjust your withholding so you get more of your money in your paycheck rather than giving Uncle Sam a tax-free loan until 2013. Even though ‘forced’ savings in the form of a large tax refund are nice, if you’re running up debt (and paying interest) on it, you’re hurting yourself financially by withholding too much. Consult your tax professional now to get a jump-start on 2012 before they are swamped with tax returns.
Get off the perfection train.
Many people are so concerned with perfection that they don’t even bother to get started. This applies to savings, decorating, eating better, and almost every aspect of your life, financial and otherwise. Done is better than good. And small savings really do add up. Even if you just save $10 a week by only doing one small thing, such as making your first coffee of the day at home instead of buying it or buying and using a reusable water bottle, that’s $520 a year– nothing to sneeze at!
Remember to reward yourself!
YOU are in charge of your money, not the other way around. Believe in the power of personal choice, not pre-set, one sized fits all budgets. As long as you live within your means, YOU get to choose how to spend YOUR money. Save where you can so you can still splurge where you want. It’s your life and your money- you choose to live it and spend it however YOU see fit. Willing to wear clothing until it’s threadbare so you can take a luxurious vacation for 2 weeks each year? Go for it!
Jodi Furman is a spending-savvy diva and the editor of LiveFabuLESS.com. Visit LiveFabuLESS.com for more money-saving advice for the New Year!