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So, it's a new year (Happy 2015, btw!!!), and like many of you one of my resolutions is to try to save money. I know from experience it can seem overwhelming at first. Like you need to move to a cheaper apartment, sell your car, stop going out, and basically never have fun again. But really, there are lots of little (painless) changes you can make that really add up to save you lots more money than you might expect.
1. Cancel your cable. Seriously. You don't need it. Replace it with a streaming service instead (Netflix and Hulu Plus are my favorites). I did this more than a year ago because I was tired of overpaying for TV. At first I freaked out a little because suddenly I didn't have access to every single show on the air, and it felt strange to use a different format to watch TV (you'll need to get a device which plays the streaming video - I have a Roku player). Plus it made my TiVo useless so that was a bummer. But soon enough I got used to navigating the Roku, and I found a bunch of shows that I never would have had access to on regular cable (Orange is the New Black, Arrested Development....anyone?). Plus my favorites are still available to watch - Walking Dead, The League, Project Runway. I'm so glad I made the switch; my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner.
2. Stop buying college textbooks and rent them instead! Renting is the new buying, don't you know. This is probably one of the simplest switches to make, and one that I really wish I had a time machine for so I could go back and make this exist when I was in school. It would have saved me hundreds of dollars. As I've talked about before, CampusBookRentals.com is a great resource, saving you up to 90% off bookstore prices. And while you're at it, take advantage of their RentBack program, where they rent out textbooks you own to other students for as long as the book is in demand. And you get paid for each rental, which is, like, a million times better than returning it to the bookstore for a whopping $3.85.
3. Make a list before hitting the grocery store, and for the love of god don't shop hungry! When you're hungry everything will seem like a good idea, when in reality you probably didn't need to spend an extra $10 on 3 bags of Cheetos and $8.50 for frozen hors d'oeuvres. Stick to the list and don't tempt yourself to waste money and calories by showing up famished.
4. And speaking of food, cook meals at home as often as possible. Sure, it's easier to swing by Taco Bell on your way home from work or school, but wouldn't making your own burritos from scratch filled with black beans, corn, brown rice, tomatoes, cilantro, salsa, and homemade guacamole be so much more satisfying and delicious? If saving money isn't enough incentive to cook at home, just check out your favorite fast food chain's nutritional information. Enough said.
5. Take advantage of the ease of direct deposit. Most companies nowadays require their employees to participate (and if yours doesn't, I hope you're using it anyway because it is crazy convenient), so make it work for you. Set it up so that a portion of your check automatically gets deposited into a (separate) high-yield savings account (preferably one with a decent interest rate - American Express and Capital One 360 are good choices). You can choose to deposit a set amount, like $100 from each pay period for instance, or a percentage of your earnings if that's more your style. Having it automatically taken away before you even see it is the secret here - when you don't see it in your check or have access to it on your debit card, chances are you won't really miss it.
6. Get rid of your gym membership. I know. This one's a toughie. But giving up your membership doesn't mean you have to stop exercising. There are plenty of ways to exercise for little to no money at all - go for a run in the park, ride your bike around the neighborhood, download a free yoga podcast and do it in your backyard, swim laps at your town pool or local rec center, run up and down some bleachers, lift weights in your living room, take a walk with a dog or a friend, follow along with these hardcore videos from dailyhiit.com (my newest obsession, btw), or play Just Dance on Wii for a half hour. I cancelled my gym membership over 6 years ago and I haven't regretted it once since.
What are some of your tips for saving money (as painlessly as possible)? Please feel free to share below; I'd really love to hear them!