Before venturing on ways to save money over the course of the next 30 days, identify what the goal is for the month. Is it to save $50? 100? 250? Once you have this established, the work you do each day will have more meaning.
The only thing you truly have complete control over is how you spend your money. The choices are yours to make:
Take the time to write up a grocery list and review the local grocery stores circulars. Start this month by being prepared with enough food to make quick meals at home. Take a full hour to walk through the grocery store to compare brands and prices. You can easily save $20 or more each week by shopping the sales at the stores.
Instead of going to the arts and craft store every time your child has a project due, use this time to teach your son or daughter creative ways to use things already in your home.
Skip the vending machine today. This daily habit might be costing you $1.00 or more for something you can buy in the grocery store for a fraction of the price.
Avoid late fees - pay your bills on time! Give yourself a weekly allowance in cash to pay for incidentals and stick to it. When the money is gone - it's gone.
Stretch out the time between haircuts. If you normally get your haircut once very six weeks, try stretching it to once every eight and save yourself the cost of at least two haircuts and tip a year.
Don't skimp on getting oil changes; just find a coupon before you go. Coupons for oil changes can be for as much as $10 off!
Use 1/3 less of dishwashing soap and laundry detergent. The portion size of the scoops in laundry detergents is simply too much - you'll be amazed just how far 2/3 of the suggested amount will go.
Meet a friend for breakfast or lunch instead of dinner. Dinner is always the most expensive meal if you're eating out.
Partner with your neighbor to have a yard sale this month. This puts a new twist on spring cleaning while you get to know your neighbors. Get your house clean and pocket some cash from your efforts.
Instead of throwing away a pump bottle of hand soap, transfer your shampoo to the empty bottle. Manufacturers do an excellent job of making shampoo bottles spill out more than you really can use in one washing. One pump of shampoo per use will do just as good a scalp cleaning as two pumps.
Ask for a discount even if you don't have a coupon at a local merchant. If you are a regular customer of a dry cleaner's, a shoe repair store, or even with a mechanic, ask “is this the best price you can give me?" The first time a shop keeper gives you a 20% discount just because you asked, you won't be shy anymore.
Plan a potluck this month with your friends instead of going out to eat. Have each person bring something. Voila! Dinner is served.
Buying a book or CD as a gift? Check out eBay's Half.com - you can typically find the title you are seeking for at least 25% cheaper than in stores. Plus the flat rate shipping keeps costs down.
If you are making a major purchase of any kind, be sure to ask the sales person if the store has any last year models on sale. Stores are constantly trying to move inventory, take advantage of the savings!
Increase your automobile insurance deductible from $200 to $500 and save 15-25% per year. The money you save each month on premiums can then be put aside to ensure that you have a deductible amount on hand.
Dust off your crockpot and plan a soup or chili dinner. Make twice as much and freeze the leftovers for an easy dinner night later this month.
When the cable bill arrives this month, determine whether you really use all of the channels that your plan offers. You can add channels back in later if you are feeling deprived.
Want to do something special for your co-workers? Bake some blueberry or corn muffins or banana bread - the homemade effort is really appreciated.
Stop drinking soda.
If you are paying for a storage unit to house your “stuff" - make a commitment to end the madness. You don't need to be holding on to junk you don't use.
Quit smoking - this $1500 annual habit has just got to stop. If you're still smoking, even if you're a die-hard 20 year smoker two packs a day smoker, you can do it. And, deep inside, you know this is true.
Stay at home one night this weekend. Pull out a puzzle, a board game, a book, or a DVD and some popcorn.
Spend less than you earn - Earn more than you spend. It's genuinely that simple and that difficult.
For every coin you find, place it in a jar. At the end of the year, donate it to your favorite charity and write off the donation on your taxes!
Cancel your long-distance package on your home phone if you don't use long distance often. By purchasing a phone card, you can have the convenience of using the phone in your home without paying needless $5.00 monthly charges for the privilege to have a long distance company connected to your home phone.
Wait until the dishwasher is completely full before running it - save your money and the earth's resources
If you own 20% or more of your home and you are still paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), call your mortgage company to cancel it. This can be a savings of $40 per month!
Budget your money. By tracking what you spend you will easily save 10% or more per month because you are aware of the money that is going out and coming in.
Refinance your auto payment. If a year or more has passed since financing a vehicle, researching refinancing the loan. You may find that you can get a loan for at least .5% less than what you have now.
Depending on where you live, figure out a way to cut your commuting cost. Once a week, try taking a bus, bicycling, or joining a carpool. It's just one day a week - it won't cramp your lifestyle the other 6 days in the week.
The author, Kimberly A. Griffiths, has been through the vicious cycle of debt herself, and provides a no-nonsense system to managing your money paycheck to paycheck. Visit the One Paycheck at a Time Web site for articles and tools to budget your household: http://www.OnePaycheckataTime.com