[Editor's Note: The following is guest post from Sara Masterson. Sara is a tech-fanatic and a freelance writer for TechBreach.net. Sarah likes spending time on Pinterest and learning about new technologies and money saving deals. She also enjoys reading a good book or watching an interesting documentary. I thought these were some good reminders on how to save money in a tough economy. For more tips see my save money page, which looks a bit like Pinterest (while on the topic).]
In today's economy many people are trying to save money in any way that they can. There have been many stories about extreme couponing to where the store end up owing you money or people signing up for deal programs like Amazon Local or Living Social. While these things can save you money on immediate purchases, there are some easy things you can do on a daily basis that will save you money in the long run.
Eat at home more.
Eating out seems to be one of people's biggest expenses throughout the week. By eating at home, you can save a lot of money for something that is actually better for you. A lot of times you can make the same thing at home that you would have gotten at a restaurant and you can stretch out the food throughout the week. Left overs of something you had Monday night for dinner, you could take as lunch on Wednesday. If you want to eat at home more, but don't think you will have time to make it every night, make some meals a head of time. This lets you have time to plan out your menu for the week and even save money at the grocery store by taking advantage of the buy one get one (or two) free deals. Once you pre-make your meals for that week, it is easy for you to come home after a long day and simply heat it up in the oven.
Make your own coffee.
Whether you consider your morning coffee as eating out or not, it still costs you money; your daily $5 Latte from your favorite coffee shop adds up quick. If you got coffee every morning from the same place 5 days a week for a month, that's $100 you spent just on coffee that month. Instead, buy some drip coffee and make your coffee at home. If you prefer the flavored coffee, you can buy different flavored creamers and syrups that will give you the same taste as the fancy coffee shop's coffee.
Buy generic brands.
It seems a lot of us have become Brand Snobs lately by only wanting to buy name brand products. Buying the generic versions of these items is cheaper and is actually the same thing. Most stores have their own generic versions of headache medicine and antacids that have the same types and amounts of medicine as the name brands. The same thing goes for chips, bread, even soap, makeup and shampoo. By getting the generic brands you can save a lot of money each month. However, there are a few things that you don't want to buy the generic version of, such as baby diapers, toilet paper or paper towels, garbage bags, and condiments. Generic paper products normally have fewer fibers in them causing them to break easily, and the same goes for garbage bags and diapers. There are some generic products that although they are probably OK to buy, you could make your own easily. Things like dish soap or laundry detergent can be made at home with no harsh chemicals and you can add in your favorite scent if you want.
Turn off your lights and change the bulbs.
There are things you can do around the house that will save you money on your monthly bills. One of the easiest things you can do is to turn lights out when you leave the room. While this alone can have a big impact on your energy bill, you could also change out your regular light bulbs with energy efficient ones. These take less energy to light and put off less heat than normal bulbs.
Get a programmable thermostat.
To also help with your energy bill, you can program your A/C or heater to change temperatures throughout the day. Having a programmable thermostat lets you program the temperature to change when you aren't in the house. This can save you lots of money since your A/C unit is what has the largest effect on your electric bill.
Reduce your water usage.
When it comes to saving money, every bit helps, including savings on your water bill. A great tip is to turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth. You can also use less water in the shower by turning it off while you are lathering your hair or body and only using the water to rinse off. Another thing you can do is set up a timer for your sprinklers. If you already have a sprinkler system then you know that this helps keep your yard looking great with little effort on your part. By having a timer for your sprinkler system, you will not only use less water, but you won't over water in one place and over water in another place, keeping your yard looking great, and saving you money.
Create and stick to a budget.
In order to save money, you need to watch your money. By creating a budget you will be able to see what you spend your money on the most and where you may be able to cut costs. You can track your finances with different QuickBooks accounting software programs, or even an Excel spreadsheet. Tracking your money will let you decide what you can afford to keep in as part of your daily habits. If you simply can't live without your $5 Latte every morning but see that you are buying bottled water when you could drink filtered tap water, you can then use the money you were using for bottled water for your morning Latte. Along with watching your money is creating a savings plan. This could be anything from getting a savings account with cash back to pulling out an amount of money each month and putting it in a safe place. Part of this plan may also be a long term goal. A long term goal may be saving enough money for a down payment on a car or house, or even wanting to have at least $100 per family member to spend on holiday gifts. Having a goal for your savings plan lets you take control of your finances and gives you motivation to keep the money you saved up.
Saving money doesn't have to be a difficult task or require you to get two jobs. These are just a few simple ways you can save money. You can do some research to see what other things you can do to save money without having to clip coupons or sign up for deal sites.
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