Saving money begins at home. From monitoring your energy use to shopping smart to eating right to comparing financial products, there are many ways to meet your savings goals. Here are some tips you might not have thought about.
Save your energy
If you haven’t switched your light bulbs to carbon fluorescent, do it now. You can save $30 to $80 over the life of just one bulb, according to Energy Star.
Do you leave your computers and cable boxes plugged in all the time? The energy used while you’re sleeping is called “vampire energy,” and it costs $100 a year in the average home. Plug the various cords into a power strip so you have to reach just one button to turn everything off.
Low-flow showerheads will save you money and are good for the environment. According to Energy Star, a 10-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead will use 25 gallons of water, 5 gallons less than a full bath. Energy Star estimates switching to a low-flow showerhead will save a typical household about $145 a year in energy costs.
Be a smart shopper
Planning your shopping, whether in stores or online, will help you save money. There are seasons for sales on specific categories of goods. For instance, “white sales” — linens — are held in January, mattresses are on sale in February, computers in March and so on. Anticipate when big-ticket items will be on sale and shop then.
When you’re shopping online, be sure to search for coupon codes before you buy any item. You might find a discount you didn’t know about.
Save on food
The National Resources Defense Council recently said American consumers waste 40% of the food they buy, which is about $28 to $43 per family each month. You can combat food waste by understanding sell-by dates on your food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture explains sell-by dates and how long food can be eaten beyond those dates.
Without a doubt you’ll save money if you plan your weekly meals and eat in rather than going out. And you can take leftovers to work for lunch the next day.
Comparison-shop for financial products
Most people think it’s a hassle to switch car and home insurance carriers, but comparing car insurance or homeowners insurance can save you a lot.
If you took your car loan from a bank, it’s worth checking to see whether you can save money by refinancing. According to data from the National Credit Union Administration, the average interest rate for new- and used-car loans at a credit union like United Financial Credit Union is more than 2 percentage points lower than the average rate at a bank. That can translate to real monthly savings if you have a high-interest bank car loan and refinance your vehicle at the lower credit union rate.
As long as you’re saving all this money, be sure to make the most of it by choosing the right type of savings account. Credit unions generally offer a variety of savings accounts tailored to a member’s needs.
This year, set a savings goal and use these tips to meet it — or exceed it.
Ellen Cannon, NerdWallet
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