If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to improve your finances, here’s a plan for you. Following these seven simple steps can help you save up to $5,000 – and maybe more -- by the time you’re ready to ring in 2018.
1. Take lunch to work at least twice per week.
If you’re used to buying lunch every day, switch to homemade meals at least twice a week. That could save you $10 to $20 per work week, which will really add up by the end of the year. An added bonus: You’ll probably end up eating healthier food.
Savings over the year: $500 - $1,000
2. Adjust your thermostat a few degrees.
Heating and cooling accounts for almost half of your home’s energy use. You can save up to 10 percent of those costs by adjusting your thermostat seven to 10 degrees while you’re at work. When you’re at home in the winter, set your thermostat lower for the hours when you’re asleep. If you have ceiling fans, you can use them year-round. In summer, set the ceiling fan to spin counterclockwise to create a cool flow of air. In winter, switch the rotation to clockwise at a low speed to push warmer air down.
Savings over the year: $200 - $300
Related: The Two Things Investors Must Worry About Heading into 2017
3. Lower your car insurance premium.
Just a glance at CarInsurance.com shows that the difference between the highest premium in an area and the lowest can be as much as $1,000. So shop around before recommitting to your car insurer this year. Ask all insurers about possible discounts that can reduce your premium — the national average is $1,224 — by up to 40 percent.
Savings over the year: $500
4. Cut the cable cord.
The average cable bill this year is $103.10 per month, and many people pay much more. You can save some major cash by cutting the cord and switching to Netflix (up to $11.99 a month) or signing up for Amazon Prime ($99 a year). Use a flat antenna (about $50) to get local channels. Even with those costs, you’ll still save money.
Savings over the year: $1,000
5. Reduce your grocery bill.
Making small changes in how you shop for groceries can reap big savings over the course of a year. Use these strategies to lower your weekly grocery bill by 10 percent: Swap branded food for store brands. Skip pre-cut veggies and fruits and cut them at home. Instead of microwaveable meals like mac and cheese, go for the make-it-yourself kind. Always sign up for the store’s loyalty program to get discounts. Buy meat in bulk and freeze for later. And never shop when you’re hungry.
Savings over the year: $500
Related: 8 Changes Coming to Your Taxes in 2017
6. Skip the gym.
Two-thirds of Americans have a gym membership they never use. At an average cost of $58 a month, that’s a lot of wasted money. If you don’t use your membership despite your best intentions, dump it. Consider other workout options including running and biking outside, free weights at home or a cheaper gym option such as the YMCA or your old college, if it’s nearby.
Savings over the year: $700
7. Sign up for a new credit card.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it can work if you’re disciplined with money. Many credit cards offer a sign-up bonus between $150 and $500 if you spend a certain amount in the first three months. Find a bonus that has a spending threshold well within your normal spending range and sign up for it. You can safely do this twice a year without killing your credit score.
Savings over the year: $300 - $1,000