February is a great month to take a look at your finances and figure out ways you can make strides to save. As you fill out your tax return, negotiate a salary increase, or collect your bonus, money is sure to be on your mind this month. Here are 10 tips to make your life a little greener.
1. Take advantage of employer benefits that help you save money.
If you’re employed full-time, these include pre-tax contributions to retirement savings plans, i.e. 401(k); pre-tax commuter benefits for transit; and contributions to healthcare-related spending accounts, i.e. FSA. Check and see what retirement contribution matching your employer offers and max out on your own portion of contribution that is matched. Even though you might not quite be able to imagine being in your sixties or seventies now, your older self will thank you for being financially smart when you were young.
2. Get a splurge jar.
Put all of your loose change in a jar (yes, all those coins at the bottom of your purse). Additionally, you can designate a set amount to contribute every week, i.e. $20. Either save up for a splurge purchase, or at the end of the month, take a look at how much you were able to save and treat yourself. (Nothing like a well-earned facial or massage.)
3. Institute a weekly no-spend day.
Pick a day in the week where you decide to not spend anything. Choosing a day early in the week like Monday or Tuesday when motivation for the week is still fresh is best. Challenge yourself: refrain from all the small expenses that quickly add up (think: work lunch and afternoon coffee). What is really great about this tip is that you really have to plan your day in advance in order not to spend anything. You have to plan out breakfast, lunch, and dinner and make your own coffee at home. If you’re tempted to make an impulse purchase by picking up some nail polish or candy on your way home, you can remember that you are choosing not to spend any money all day and willpower your way home without spending anything.
4. Buy a reusable glass water bottle.
There are very few occasions where you should need to buy bottled water. For everyday usage, invest in a glass water bottle that you can refill. Not only will this save you money, but reduced plastic consumption will help the planet, too.
5. Create and keep a budget.
This seems like a basic money must-do, but many people actually don’t have a budget nor do they monitor their spending relative to their budget. There are great mobile apps out there that help you with this, such as Mint. These are great because they let you set targets according to spending categories and help you monitor progress throughout the month.
6. Set aside savings first.
Designate what your savings goals are. Rule of thumb is you want about sixth months’ rent and necessary costs (i.e. groceries, utilities, etc.) put away. When you get your paycheck, put away your designated savings amount into your savings account first. Think of that money as money you can’t touch, because you are saving it for a rainy day. Start off small and build your way up over time. This way you won’t be spending money you don’t have.
7. Remember that little purchases add up (like coffee).
You probably have small repeat purchase items that are quickly adding up. If you spend $4 a day on your favorite coffee drink five times a week, then by the end of the month you’ll spend $80 on coffee. Think about what you could be doing with $80. Maybe treating yourself to a facial or massage, or going to see a concert, or even seeing four different movies at the movie theater. Just make sure that you understand the larger spending patterns that emerge from smaller repeat purchasers. For coffee drinkers, check out the Cups app to save.
8. Keep receipts in an organized fashion.
This will make your life so much easier when you are filing your tax return next year. This is particularly true for medical expenses, self-employment expenses, un-reimbursed work-related expenses, and charitable donations. For a more comprehensive list, check out Turbo Tax’s guide.
9. Share subscription services.
To save money on things like your Netflix account and phone bill, share your accounts with family and friends. Spotify’s family plan allows you and up to 5 family members to share a plan for $15/month. Not bad when the individual premium plan costs $9.99/month.
10. Be more self-reliant.
This means if there is an alternative to do something yourself, do it: cooking rather than eating out, Netflix and chilling rather than going out to the movies, making coffee at home rather than stopping by the coffee shop. This doesn’t mean you always have to choose the DIY version, but think about ways that you could save money by eliminating low-value purchases. This is especially true during the weekdays. Save your big spending for the weekend.