Guilt makes you want to slow your spending. Anxiety makes you want to save towards a nest egg. But the process of alleviating these feelings takes so long to show progress, we often feel used and abused before we ever experience relief from our guilt and anxiety. In the beginning of any savings plan, you are likely to feel the same guilt and anxiety that overspending brought you, with the added negative feelings brought on by restricting your spending. So until you can get some positive reinforcement going, it's smart to practice some simple saving tricks that leave you feeling less deprived. Here are 5 painless ways to save that may help you get the ball rolling:
Drop Your Cable Provider
This might even be a fun exercise for you. Did you know that almost everything you watch on cable or satellite can be seen online or on Netflix? And those shoes that are exclusive to premier channels end up on Netflix a little later anyway. Save yourself $100 a month and turn in your cable box for an old PC. All you need is an operating system, a Web browser and a Netflix account. You'll pay as little as $5 per month for one movie at a time, plus thousands of movies to watch instantly. You can run the video cable from the PC to your television. If you have an older model, an AV adapter is worth the investment. Consider setting up for Internet TV a little home improvement project. It will feel like you are upgrading to better technology and the best part is, you will save about 95% on your TV entertainment expenses. This is a big pay off with little sacrifice that can help you feel good about saving money right away.
Reduce Energy Consumption
Saving money on energy is super easy. At the very least, make sure the AC is off when you are not home. Get into the habit of taking a quick walkthrough before you leave the house to make sure everything is off. If you only do laundry on weekends, then unplug the machines the rest of the week. Unplug the coffee maker, toaster, TV, VCR and anything else that doesn't need to be on while you are gone. You could even just shut off the circuit breaker to the living room and bedrooms on your way out the door when the outside temperature is mild. You really only need the fridge running when you are away.
Lower Your Interest Rates
It shouldn't take long, but could saving you hundreds of dollars a year. If you have a decent credit score, or if you are recovering from bad credit and have paid on time for the last 24 months, you should ask about getting a lower rate. If you carry a $5,000 balance, reducing your rate from 20% to 10% could save you over $40 per month in interest. To completely rid yourself of having to pay credit card interest, you should work to pay off your credit card balances with the money you saved on your cable bill.
Credit Card Rewards
Assuming you have a card with rewards that does not charge annual fees, you can use the credit card to your advantage. This is only smart if you can pay the bill in full every month because reward cards often carry higher interest rates. A credit card rewards program will reward you with cash back on certain expenditures you make. In some situations, the rewards program will give up to 3% cash back on all purchases. Some credit cards even have shopping sites that offer discounts on items you buy every day. When redeeming your reward, you will often have the choice of receiving a check, which you can deposit into your savings account.
Eat Better, Exercise More
Now you might be thinking, "I thought she said these were going to be painless!" but stick with me a minute. Eating healthier isn't hard. You just need to eat a little less of the same foods you have always enjoyed. I'm not saying go hungry...I'm saying buy a smaller cut of meat, replace one or two meals a week with vegetarian options (think pasta) and drink more water instead of soft drinks. These habits will make you healthier and leave you with around $50 or so more in your pocket every week. Eating better also tends to keep you from having to go to the doctor as often. It also makes you less likely to come down with a serious and costly illness.
Exercise can be a way to have fun on the cheap. It does not have to be boring. Take a hike with a friend, walk the block, or just play around the yard with the kids. These enjoyable activities help reduce the stress and anxiety that come from being short on money while also putting you in better health.
There are many other ways to get your savings moving more quickly to help you feel better about making sacrifices to save money. After a while, the positive effects of saving will make it fun. You'll start adding up in your head how much you saved this week and thinking of ways to save even more next week.