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6 Smart Ways to Save Money in 2017

It’s natural to view the dawning of a new year as an opportunity to improve personal finances. Most of us resolve to accomplish this by boosting our savings. But saving money – much like trying to lose weight – is easier said than done. Without goals and practical steps to follow, many will become discouraged and quickly fall off the wagon. Saving money successfully requires changing old habits and rethinking and doing things differently. Here are six smart ways to save some cash in the year to come – some of which may surprise you:

Become a Single-Car Family

Along with housing and food, transportation costs are what we spend the majority of our money on. Owning a car can be expensive. Aside from the sticker price of the car itself, you have to pay for gas, auto insurance, maintenance, repairs and, depending on where you live, parking and tolls. AAA reported that the average cost of owning a car in 2016 came to $8,558 a year. While most of us take for granted that we each need to have our own car, a growing number of families today are realizing that they can live quite comfortably with just one set of wheels – especially given the increasing popularity of affordable rideshare apps like UBER. Not only will becoming a single-car family save you money each year, it can help save the planet!

Cook More

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of eating out or ordering in – especially when you’re a working parent. But if you’re spending more on restaurants than you are on groceries, then you’re spending too much on food. Numbeo reports that dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant averages at around $50, which is roughly half of what most two-person households spend on a week’s worth of groceries. Don’t have enough time to grocery shop? Grocery delivery sites like FreshDirect can be an easy and affordable solution. Don’t worry – you don’t have to go cold turkey. If you’re used to going out or ordering in four nights a week, try cutting that number in half for a month. The savings will add up quickly.

Go Automatic

Not great at saving? Make arrangements with your bank to allocate a portion of every paycheck to your savings account before you see it to keep it out of sight and out of mind. And while you’re at it, automate any bill payments that are the same every month – like your rent or insurance premiums. Not only will you save yourself time, but you’ll be sure to avoid any late fees. If you aren’t currently participating in a 401(k) or other payroll savings program through your employer, do yourself (and your family) a big favor and enroll immediately. Most employers contribute proportionately, and you won’t miss money you don’t ever see. If you are enrolled, be sure to make your maximum contributions for the year.

Reconsider Your Banking Relationship

Review your banking records, and add up all the fees you’ve had to pay over the past year (most banks allow you to access these online). If the total seems like a lot, you may want to research cheaper alternatives. Remember, credit unions and online banks like Ally offer free checking accounts to their customers.

Shop Smarter

Avoid impulse buys you might later regret by waiting 30 days to make big purchases like personal electronics, cars or fine jewelry. If you’re shopping online, always see if you can qualify for free shipping and other discounts by signing up for promotional emails and loyalty programs. With the increasing frequency of online sales, you should rarely (if ever) have to pay full price for anything. That said, not all sales are created equal. Just because something is advertised as being on sale doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t find it elsewhere for much less. That’s why it’s so important to comparison shop and check at least three retailers to make sure you’re getting a competitive price. Finally, don’t become a victim of daily specials on TV or online. Saving 70% on a gift you never would have bought in the first place – and probably won’t ever use – only adds up to a waste of money.

Rethink Your Recreation

With cable TV packages averaging over $100 a month, you may want to ask yourself how much TV you and your family actually watch. Perhaps a cheaper alternative – like Netflix, Hulu or the eBook hub Scribd would serve your home entertainment purposes just as well. Given the growing number of sites like Groupon and Goldstar, reduced prices for live entertainment, sporting events and theme parks have never been easier to come by. And remember, there are still plenty of ways to relax with your family for free! From hiking to visiting public museums to surfing YouTube, a little creativity and imagination are all it takes to come up with recreational activities that are completely free of charge.
If you’re serious about saving money and increasing your savings in 2017, give these suggestions a try. While some may be a little out of your comfort zone, they’re sure to put money in your pocket!
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  1. Great article. In 2016, my husband and I incorporated many of these strategies.
    1. Eating out less. We pick out one “Boutique” Restaurant per week, and have dinner out with friends every other week.
    2. TV Cable. Completely eliminated tv cable, except for computer services. We signed up for a couple of low cost streaming services. Saving $80.00/month!
    3. Savings. We increased our savings allowance by our total payroll increase for 2016.

    • Nathan Bieck

      Hi Joanne. Great examples and things to think about for 2017. Budgeting is such a cornerstone of personal finance management. Knowing how to track expenses and budget based on income and goals is imperative for achieving long-term financial success. Both veteran budgeters and people new to the game can always benefit from evaluating where their money is going and making changes based off that knowledge. In the last 6 months, my wife did a financial audit and it was a bit scary what we uncovered. We had 5 magazine subscriptions, and although each was only 8 to 10 bucks a year, if you have five magazines coming in the mail each month, that is $50 per year. I know, $50 per year doesn’t sound like a lot, but it sure doesn’t take long to add up to $100, $150, and perhaps more over the years. Eating out can be another KILLER and a huge cost for many folks…but… cutting back on eating out once or twice a week or month can quickly add up to big $$$. We saved over $2100 a year by not eating out one additional time a week. Huge. What’s also fun is by doing this with my family, our overall eating habits have changed as well…there’s not as much hurry up and eat. Today, we cook together, enjoy time together and then eat together. Thanks again for your feedback. Here’s wishing you the happiest of holidays.

    • That’s awesome stuff Joanne! It looks like you and your husband are doing things right! I cut my cable in 2011 and have since saved about $4,500. That savings adds up fast! And capturing 100% of your pay increase in savings is the best way to avoid lifestyle inflation. You are a great personal finance role model!

  2. Great insights Joanne and Nathan. Doesn’t it feel great to save? I cut my gym membership several years ago to focus on hiking in the outdoors for free. It’s worked out well because I love being outdoors and has been a great savings. I also use automated payments and savings for many of my accounts. I decided to automate extra principal payments on my mortgage recently and feel great paying down a little bit of extra debt each month.

    • You’re a rock star Rebekah! Your experience with cutting your gym membership is similar to when I cut cable. Not only did I start saving $70 per month, I also started going outside and being with real people much more. I felt better overall and was saving money!

  3. Thanks to the help of Uber and Lyft, having a second or third car is no longer necessary. I’ll still always want to own one car, at least for the next 10 years b/c of my desire to go to Lake Tahoe for snowboarding or random places last second.
    But with Getaround and other true ridesharing companies, it’s become easier!
    Thanks to the bull market in the stock market, I’m thinking consumers are actually going to be spending MORE in 2017. Consumer confidence has spiked post election!
    Happy Holidays