With the coming of a new year, many people decide that it is time to spend less and save more. But, we all know that this is often easier said than done, mostly due to unexpected expenses that come our way. Last year alone, more than 30% of American households had to deal with am emergency that cost them, at least, $2,500. Unfortunately, Bankrate’s most recent Financial Security Index Survey showed that only a mere 39% of Americans have enough money to cover a $1,000 setback. The good news is that it is not too late to start saving. Below are some useful tips to help you trim the fat from your budget and end up with more money in your bank account by the end of this year.

  1. Pare Down Expenses

Besides building an emergency fund and going through your tax withholdings, another good idea to save money is to pause before you check out at the grocery store or an online store. The idea is to try to find 3-5 items that you don’t really need. You may think that saving $10 every time you go to the supermarket will not make a huge difference. Nevertheless, this strategy has helped many couples, like Cherie and Brian Lowe, pay off a tremendous amount of debt within a few years. For example, the Lowes managed to shave down their bills by $127,000 in 48 months!

  1. Treat 3rd Paychecks as Bonus Money

If you are getting paid bi weekly, then you are in luck because you receive an additional two paychecks every year compared to those that are paid twice a month. Think about it. If you are getting paid 2 times a month, you receive 24 checks (12 months X 2) while those paid every other week receive a total of 26 checks (54 weeks/2).

When you create your 2018 budget, estimate your monthly income based on receiving 2 paychecks every month (not 3), and treat the 3rd paycheck as bonus money. You may use that extra money to pay off debt, grow an emergency fund, add to your retirement account, save for home renovation, pay an insurance policy or whatever savings goal you may have.

  1. Lower Your Cellphone Bills

If you are paying over $50 a month in your cell phone plan, you are probably paying too much for wireless service. Time to save around $400 annually with a better cell phone plan this year. There are some great deals ranging between $15 and $20 per month worth noting. For example:

  • Consumer Cellular is a senior-focused, easy-to-use system that runs on the AT&T network, with superb customer service and a low-cost plan that offers unlimited texts, 250 minutes, and 250MG of data every month for $20.
  • MintSIM is another money-saving option as it sells you 3-12 months of service for significant discounts (i.e. their 3-month pack comes with unlimited talk and text, plus 2GB of data for $15/month). It runs on T-Mobile’s network.
  • Public Wireless has a $20 plan that gives you unlimited talk and text, as well as 1GB of data on either the T-Mobile or Sprint network. That aside, you may also choose different amounts of data per your needs.
  • Twigby is every texter’s dream carrier as it gives them unlimited texts, 200 minutes, and 1GB of data for less than $20 on Sprint’s network. Talkers find a great offer at US Mobile which gives them 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 300Mb of data for $19 on Verizon’s network. Both carriers allow you to fit together various amounts of text, talk, and data.

Important Notes:

  • When to Change Cell Phone Provider

The cell phone provider you are leaving will most likely charge you through the end of your billing cycle, even if you activate a new service with another provider a couple of days after the billing cycle with the current carrier resets. For that reason, it is recommended to sign up for a new cell phone service a few days before the end of your billing cycle with the carrier you are firing. Here are the customer agreements for the four major US cell phone companies (1) Verizon, (2) Sprint, (3) AT&T, and (4) T-Mobile.

  • How to Unfreeze Your Credit to Switch Cell Phone Providers

If, after the recent Equifax data breach, you decided to freeze your credit to protect your personal information against fraud, you will need to thaw your credit (temporarily) so creditors can see your credit report and allow you to switch cell phone providers. Click on the following links to see how you can unfreeze your credit with TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Depending on which state you live in, you will also need to pay a fee to remove the security freeze.

  1. Reduce your Internet & Cable Bill with Trim Chatbot!

The traditional way to negotiate a lower rate is to call your internet and cable provider. However, as technology advances, people have more tools to get the job done effortlessly and efficiently. One such tool is Trim. No, it is not an application that you can download to your smartphone. Instead, you communicate with your Trim personal assistant (chatbot) via Facebook Messenger or text message and simply ask it to help you lower your bills! It says it can lower your internet and cable bills with AT&T, Comcast, RCN, and Time Warner, among other providers. In many cases, Trim may get credits that your internet/cable provider owes you due to service interruptions. And, no, it is not a one-off credit you can receive!

  1. Cut Down on Takeout Food

The modern fast-paced lifestyle does not leave much room for cooking. However, you can use kitchen gadgets (i.e. pressure cookers) to speed things up and not only enjoy healthy home-made food but also reduce your food spending. Think about how much money you save by simply preparing your own meals and cutting down on takeout food, especially when you are alone and just want to grab a bite in front of the TV.

  1. Separate Your Saving Money From Your Spending Money

Based on research conducted by Richard Thaler, a Nobel Prize-awarded economist from the University of Chicago, there is a method that can make saving and spending quite easy. The financial concept is called mental accounting and calls people to put aside their saving money as soon as they get paid. The idea is to assign your money a particular job. That way, you increase your chances of successfully meeting your financial goals, says Thaler. Therefore, isolate your saving money and try to put your spending money in cash or on a separate debit card so you force yourself to think twice before spending your money. As for online purchases you may make, ensure you put the amount you spent into your spending account from the cash.

Tip: To help build your savings, you can use a personal finance app on your smartphone. Some of the best budgeting and personal finance apps of 2018 are PocketGuard (AndroidiOS), Home Budget with Sync (AndroidiOS), Wally, Dollarbird (AndroidiOS),  Clarity Money (AndroidiOS), Wela,  Unsplurge, Digit (Android, iOS), and Fudget (AndroidiOS).

  1. Shop Around Before Getting Prescription Drugs

Sadly, studies have found that 31% of all first-time drug prescriptions are not filled because patients cannot afford them. With prescription drug prices over the roof, it is crucial to shop around before you get them. Again, the answer lies at the end of your fingertips. Use your smartphone to download free apps like LowestMed and GoodRx, to search nearby drugstore for coupons and discounts. Bear in mind that prescription medication prices vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, especially with generics. So, don’t be surprised if the apps give you different prices for the same medication at the same drugstore!

  1. Stay Motivated Using Tricks

Two of the most important factors to ensure the success of your money-saving efforts this year is how determined and motivated you are to reach your goals. A good trick to stay “alert” is to challenge yourself with a different challenge every week, which will help improve your financial situation. For example, one week could be all about not eating out while another week could be focused on lowering or eliminating a bill. You get to decide what weekly goal you want to go after, depending on your needs and particular lifestyle. In the end, you will be able to save thousands over a year, for sure.

Living below your means is not as horrible or impossible as it may sound. There are many different ways to save more money on a yearly basis and living the life you have always dreamed of but never seemed to enjoy, whether that includes having the capital to start your own company, retiring early, or any other. Start by tracking your budget and being mindful about how you are spending your hard-earned dollars. Even a few dollars saved here and there can make the difference you seek. After all, you know what people say “A penny saved is a penny earned”!