If your New Year’s resolution is to have a more financially secure future, you can start out on the right foot today with this $5 savings challenge.
Introducing the $5 a week savings challenge
‘C’mon, it’s just $5…what’s the big deal?’
How many times have you said that to yourself and then blown $5 on something that added little, if any, long-term value to your life?
If you’re like most people, the answer is plenty of times! But imagine if you could say ‘no’ to yourself just once a week and redirect that money in your life.
That’s all it takes to begin the $5 savings challenge.
This plan, which you see above, eases you into the idea of progressive saving where you’re raising your savings amount by $5 each week.
But the nice thing about this plan is that it happens at a pace slow enough that it’s actually doable.
So just by increasing your savings rate by just $5 more each week, you’ll have nearly $7,000 by the end of the year if you follow along with this 52-week money challenge!
Of course, the devil is in the details. While it might be easy to stash away a few bucks early in the year, how about when you get toward the middle and end of the year? You’ll have to come up with anywhere from $100 to almost $300 on a weekly basis under this plan.
But don’t despair…it is possible!
Below you’ll find a ton of ways to reduce your bills — broken down by category — so you can successfully complete the $5 savings challenge in 2019!
And when you’re saving all that money, you’ll want to keep close tabs on it with this worksheet that shows you the CLARK Method to creating a monthly budget!
Know how to maximize your coupons
Sites like CouponMom.com break down the weekly sales by state and explain which coupons to use where and when for maximum savings.
Shop with the right app
Coupons have moved so far beyond the physical kinds these days. Today you can get deals and coupons right on your smart phone at the click of a button. Try playing around with these free apps to get started:
- Checkout51 – Get new offers weekly, buy from any store, snap a photo of the receipt and earn cash back.
- Ibotta – Earn cash every time you go shopping.
- SavingStar – Get grocery and food coupons, which convert into store savings or actual cash back.
Know your prices
Track the prices of your top 10 items for a month and a half or so. If you know the regular prices of your 10 most common purchases at local stores, then you’ll really know when to stock up on something when it goes on sale.
If you have a coupon at that point, so much the better!
Brand loyalty will cost you money. If you have a coupon for a brand you’re not familiar with, why not give it a try to see if you like it? You may be surprised.
Sign up for loyalty programs
You can get greats savings through gas reward programs like the one Kroger offers and other similar plans at other grocers.
Shop salvage stores
Want deeply discounted groceries? Salvage stores that offer unsellables like canned food that’s past expiration date can be a great source of savings. Find the nearest salvage store in this directory.
Scour the clearance rack
Talk to your store’s manager and find out where they keep the clearance items. Many stores will have a dedicated rack or shelf. It’s also helpful to know when new stock is added to the clearance rack or aisle. If you’re first to find it, you can score some real deals!
Change where you shop
Aldi claims to save shoppers 50% off traditional supermarket prices. Walmart, meanwhile, is generally 20% to 30% cheaper than comparable supermarkets.
Lidl is another money-saver in some parts of the country, too. Here are 15 things to know before your first trip to Lidl.
Shop with the right card
Want to get really rewarded for grocery shopping? You might consider getting this card: The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card offers 6% cash back on groceries, up to a max of $6,000 annually.
Just be sure to pay your bill in full each and every month — or you’ll wind up paying more in interest than you could ever get in cash-back!
Try Upromise at checkout
Upromise lets you register your grocery and drug store loyalty cards, and then activate the service’s eCoupons. Use one of those coupons at checkout and you’ll get money for qualifying grocery store purchases. That money can be used to pay down your student loan, save for a child’s college and more.
Consider a virtual visit
Though telemedicine has been around for about 15 years, it is just now starting to gain some traction. Here’s what you need to know about CVS MinuteClinic virtual visits and Walgreens virtual doctor visits.
Hire a medical billing specialist
According to some estimates, roughly eight in 10 hospital bills have multiple errors. Hiring a medical billing specialist can save you the money and headache of fighting with the health care provider over something that you believe has been incorrectly billed.
Choose a nurse-in-a-box clinic instead of an ER
One of the most expensive places to get medical care is in the hospital emergency room.
There’s a much better alternative if you need medical care when your doctor’s office isn’t open: Those retail clinics typically located in drug stores, discount stores or supermarkets. See how much money they can save you vs. the ER.
Consider a faith-based program
You would have to be a member of a particular religious group to qualify for this, but you can read about some of the most popular options here.
Use an app to shop for the best prescription prices
The start of a new year is a great time to shake the dust off your budget and look for some areas where you can save big bucks.
Car insurance is one of those things where you could be paying more than $1,000 annually than you need to — just because you haven’t shopped the marketplace in a few years. Getting a better policy is easy. Here’s how to start…
Start with the best auto insurance companies
Clark has long talked about the merits of Amica Mutual and USAA. But those aren’t the only two companies you should look at.
You can check out other options in our guide to the best and worst auto insurance companies of 2019.
Gather your quotes
Once you have a list of candidates, you’ll want to start getting quotes. This typically takes around 15 minutes on the phone. Have your most recent policy in front of you in case any questions come up about the make and model of your vehicle(s).
Working with an insurance broker is another option. He or she will get multiple quotes for you and you’ll have access to all the insurers they do business with. It’s an easy one-stop shop that lets you still have the flexibility of comparison pricing.
Once you get the quotes back, it’s time to compare them. Each quote should be based on the same amount of coverage so you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.
What if a poorly ranked company offers you a great quote? Clark says to avoid them! While the premium might be tempting, you want to be sure your insurer is there for you when the chips are down.
Comprehensive and collision coverage: Follow the 10% drop rule
The general rule is when the cost of comp and collision exceeds 10% of your old vehicle’s value, that’s the time to dump it and just have liability coverage. You can determine your vehicle’s value at Edmunds.com, KBB.com or NADA.com.
So let’s take a simple example. Say your vehicle is worth $4,000. If you’re paying anything more than $400 annually (that’s 10% of $4,000) for comp and collision, it no longer makes any financial sense. One notable exception to this rule: If there’s no way you could financially cover the loss of your vehicle, forget the math and keep paying for comp and collision.
A higher deductible will lower your premium
You should always opt for a $1,000 deductible for the best savings on your policy. At that level, you’ll pay a lower premium and won’t be tempted to file any small piddling claims.
Know the discounts you should be asking for
The Insurance Information Institute reminds you that there are a ton of different discounts out there. Here are some you can ask about:
- Anti-theft devices
- Multiple policies with the same company
- College students living away from home
- Defensive driving courses
- Drivers ed courses
- Low annual mileage
- Long-time customer
- More than one car
- No accidents in three years
- No moving violations in three years
- Student drivers with good grades
Home energy savings
Change your light bulbs
Changing out your bulbs is like minting money. If you take a single 40-watt incandescent traditional bulb and replace it with a comparable LED bulb, you will save $4.10 annually (based on three hours of daily use.) It’s easy to find an LED for around that price, so payback time is just one year. After that, it’s all profit back in your pocket! Play around with Cree’s savings calculator to customize a scenario for your home.
Use a programmable thermostat
Programmable thermostats can reduce heating and cooling costs in your home by 25% or 30%. The Nest thermostat is one of the most popular ones.
Get rid of your second fridge
Nearly one in three of us have a second refrigerator in our homes, according to The Washington Post. That’s because when we buy a new fridge, we often take the old one and put it in the garage or the basement instead of ditching the thing.
A lot of us think, “Hey, now we can buy more frozen foods when on sale.” But the reality is older fridges consume massive amounts of electricity. The cost of running a new fridge is next to nothing; older ones, though, can be hundreds of bucks a year to run.
So that money you think you’re saving buying food on sale, you’re actually spending on your electric bill. Dump it and your finances will thank you!
Use the microwave instead of the oven
Opt for the microwave when you just want to reheat something small like a soup or piece of pizza. You’ll save up to 80% of the energy you would use if you went with the oven method, according to the federal government’s Energy Star program.
Additional quick tips to save money on energy:
- Seal drafts around doors and windows using weather-stripping or caulking.
- Make sure your attic is well insulated.
- Get a water heater blanket if your unit is over five years old.
- Use natural sunlight for heating when available.
- Make sure your vents are not blocked by furniture.
- Try zoned heating and cooling. Close off rooms and vents in rooms that are not in use.
- Close off your fireplace and the flue on your chimney.
- Consider warming your bed with an electric blanket on chilly nights.
These are just a few of the possible ways to reduce your overhead so you can save more money. The key is finding the right ways that will work for you!
But don’t neglect the other side of the equation — and that’s making more money. Here are some two dozen easy ways to make extra money in the new year.
More money stories on Clark.com
- Free budget worksheet: The CLARK Method to create a monthly budget
- 11 of the biggest money mistakes to avoid in 2019
- Budgeting with cash: How to make the envelope method work