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Consumer Savings Tips

I recently read a post on Barbara Friedberg’s personal finance blog listing 58 habits for increasing wealth, and it inspired me to share a few of my own positive money-saving behaviors. And, since today kicks off America Saves Week, what better time to find new ways to reduce spending?!

First, let’s take a look at what a habit is. A habit is a routine behavior or regular practice that is consistently repeated and occurs unconsciously. Many behavioral experts say that forming a new habit takes anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. However, according to a recent UK study by University College London, new results show that establishing a new behavior may take up to 66 days or 9.5 weeks. Regardless of the timeline, the process is the same: repeat the same action at the same time and the same place until you do it automatically. These don’t have to be elaborate behaviors either. Simple actions like comparing prices between stores before you buy anything, preparing your lunch every night before you go to bed or setting the coffee machine to automatically brew a fresh cup in the morning so you aren’t tempted to buy Starbucks on your way to work are all considered smart habits that can help you save money.

Here are 8 of my own simple money-saving habits.

1. I review my bank and credit card accounts on a daily basis.

Whether swiping a card to make a purchase or depositing money through the ATM, most people rely on the bank and credit card company to get it right.  Watch out though because mistakes happen and you could lose money if you don’t review your accounts regularly . Recently, I deposited two checks including one for $300 which never made it into my checking account. After 30 days, my bank finally found it. It’s not just machines making errors either–store sales associates and cashiers do too. In fact, I returned a blazer to Anthropologie that I decided was not a good fit. Upon reviewing my credit card account the next day, I realized the store associate actually charged me for the garment instead of refunding the money. If I hadn’t checked the statement so soon, I may have missed this error or it could’ve turned into a bigger headache to reverse. Reviewing bank and credit card accounts regularly will also guard you against potential fraud. Since most fraudulent charges are made in small amounts anywhere from $1 to $10, they often go undetected. Find a quiet time to review your statements like in the morning with your coffee or at lunch time.

2. I check bills for errors.

When it comes to household bills, many people don’t want to deal with the headache of writing a check every month or worrying about paying on time so they opt for auto pay. While this is a convenient option and helps avoid potential late fees, I prefer to write the check or make an online payment because it forces me to review each bill in detail. Just the other day I realized my cable and Internet bill went up by $30 so I called my provider to inquire about the price hike and negotiate a lower rate. After asking about any available and new promotions, the customer service rep was able add one to my account which lowered my monthly plan by $26.50. If I wasn’t paying attention to my monthly bills, I may have overlooked this price increase and paid an unnecessary $318 in extra fees this year. I also always check grocery receipts, restaurant slips and healthcare bills for potential errors, too. Actually, I read a recent survey that said 8 in 10 medical bills have errors. So make sure you check these before you pay!

3. I always look for a coupon before buying anything.

Whether I am running to Target for cleaning supplies, buying a new pair of running shoes or picking up food for my pup, I always look for a coupon before I buy anything.  I check Target’s Cartwheel app or Coupon Sherpa’s mobile coupon app. If I can’t find a coupon, I ask the store associate if he or she has any available. Then I evaluate if the purchase is necessary or if it can wait until a deal becomes available. Obviously, I could hold off on buying sneakers until there’s a sale or until I can search online for a better offer. When it comes to dog food on the other hand, I can’t really wait if I’m out of it. That’s why it’s best to look for deals before you run out on such necessities. I also always compare prices using apps like Red Laser and PriceGrabber to make sure I always get the best price.

4. I shop with a list.

There’s nothing more irritating than coming home with bags full of groceries and realizing you forgot one of the most important items you went shopping for in the first place. Shopping with a list not only ensures you don’t have to make a second trip, but it’s keep you focused from buying goods you don’t need. If I’m tempted to buy something that’s not on my list, even if it’s my favorite snack on sale, I don’t buy it. Likewise, lists help me stay focused at stores where sales and clearance racks tempt me to buy on impulse like big box stores and warehouse clubs. Another trick, I always reach for the hand basket instead of a large shopping cart. This prevents me from unconsciously filling it up with items I don’t need because the capacity is less.

5. I plan weekly meals on Sundays.

My husband and I were raised differently. My family only went out to eat for special occasions while his viewed take out and restaurant meals as simple solutions for lunch and dinner. After trying for months to reign in my hubby’s eating-out habits, I learned that if I stock the fridge with the types of foods he likes and the ingredients he prefers to cook with (yes, he is the chef in the relationship!), he will be less tempted to grab take out. Plus, I do some prep work earlier in the day to eliminate the time it takes to cook after work which was always one of the reasons for wanting to eat out. Today, cooking at home after work has become a regular routine and we plan meals for the week every Sunday.

6. I turn power strips off & unplug chargers.

I use power strips for all the gadgets in my home and turn them off when I am not using the device it’s hooked up to. Household and speciality gadgets like small kitchen appliances including coffee makers and toasters, cable set-top boxes, TVs, computers, monitors, printers and even smartphone chargers continue to draw electricity even in the off mode. Switching a power strip off completely kills the power consumption while saving money on the electricity bill. Check out my recent segment on PIX 11 Morning News in New York on the biggest home energy hogs to learn how to reduce your monthly utility bill.

7. I  go to the movies on Tuesdays.

There’s nothing like watching a new flick on the big screen with a bucket of buttery popcorn. However, it can get really expensive if you make it your regular weekend outing.  Prices of movie tickets are more expensive than ever at an average of $8.13 and concessions are marked up by as much as 700%. Since I don’t want to entirely sacrifice my lifestyle, I found an alternative option–I only go to the movies on Tuesdays. Near me, this happens to be the discount day at Regal Cinemas which offers adult passes for just $5 instead of $10 plus deals on concessions like a $2 small popcorn instead of $4 (I’m good with a small because I’ll eat the entire bucket if I go any larger!).  Most movie theaters offer a deal midweek as well as senior discount days and they may even have offers for families, so check your local theaters and get in the habit of going when it’s cheaper.

8. I fill up my reusable water bottle.

I travel a lot for work and I quickly realized that buying water bottles whether at a gas station or airport was getting expensive, especially considering this basic need is free! I fill up a reusable water bottle before I hit the road and won’t leave home without it. Even at the airport, you can find water stations in the main terminal to fill up after passing through the security check or during layovers. Overtime, bringing your own water or ordering water at a restaurant instead of a $3 soda or tea can help you trim a little excess spending from your budget. Plus, it’s a healthier option!

What are some of your daily, weekly or monthly habits that help you and your family save money?

  1. Hi Andrea, Nice article and thank you for mentioning my post. Habits are so important for saving aren’t they? Makes life richer and easier.

    • Forming positive habits is important for every aspect of your life! From health to relationships and especially finances. Thanks always for all the great tips and information you share through the Web.

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