The economy has been in less than stellar shape (understatement of the decade, I know) and with people focusing more on their emergency funds and less on whether they drive a nicer car, you might be wondering how you could save a little extra money this year. It’s actually not as hard as you might think because many of the things we pay for have free alternatives. The easiest way to save money on the things you spend on is by finding these free options, which in many cases are not as obvious as you might think. You may not get the same level of service but in many cases you can get something so close that you’d rather have the savings. Let’s take a look at a few ideas that can help you save some cash this year.
Stop Buying Books
Did you know that every time you buy a book off Amazon or from your local bookstore, you’ve actually purchased your second copy? If that sounds confusing, consider that there’s a cool building near your house that is just full of books you can borrow for weeks at a time. It’s called a library and it’s filled with books. Books you pay for with your taxes. It even has magazines and movies (and CDs and free internet access). It’s a magical place… and best of all, membership is free (technically you’ve already paid for it with your taxes).
Stop buying books and start going to the library!
Skip the Gym
Let’s be honest, gym memberships are usually a waste of money. For a diligent few, it’s a great deal because you can use expensive equipment at the fraction of the price. For many, it’s just a monthly fixed cost for something you don’t use. I have to admit, I have a gym membership. I don’t go as often as I should, but I go a lot more often than most people. If you saw all the misery on their faces when they’re running the treadmill or elliptical machine, it’s amazing gyms can even charge for a membership.
Why not cancel the membership and exercise outside? Instead of paying for a gym membership, buy the gear you’d need to hike some trails or bike on the streets. A mountain bike sounds expensive until you count how many monthly gym membership payments it really is.
Skip the Accountant
For some people, hiring an accountant makes sense. If you run a business and are terrible with your books, paying for an accountant can save you headaches and hassles when it comes time to prepare your taxes. If you pay an accountant to fill out a 1040-EZ, then you’re getting ripped off. In fact, if you even pay to efile a 1040-40 EZ, you’re getting ripped off. You should be able to do it for free.
In fact, TurboTax Freedom Edition includes a litany of other forms and schedules. Chances are you can benefit from free tax filing if you meet some basic requirements, so why pay an accountant? If you don’t meet basic requirements, TurboTax Online Free Edition could also be for you and includes free Federal e-filing and tax preparation.
Skip Credit Monitoring Services
We all know how important our credit score is and that’s why credit score monitoring services have become so popular. The problem is that you can do a lot of it yourself by taking advantage of a variety of absolutely free services. Do it yourself identity theft protection includes reviewing your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, using OptOutPrescreen.com to get your name off mailing lists, and using Credit Karma to monitor your score. Everything is free, so why are you paying $30 a month for nothing?
Do you drive to school or work every single day? How many miles do you go each way? If you drive 20 miles to work or school, that’s over ten thousand miles a week. If your car gets 25 miles to the gallon, you’ll need to fuel up 416 gallons just on your commute. If you pay $3 a gallon (which is considered a steal where I’m from!), that’s a cool twelve hundred dollars just to get you to and from work. That’s just on the fuel, we haven’t even considered regular maintenance to keep your car running.
Why not find a carpool? If you were to cut just one day of driving, you could save hundreds of dollars a year. It’s a bit of a hassle coordinating when you need to leave and to marry up your schedules but you don’t need to carpool every single day, just carpool once and pocket the savings.
Ditch Cable Television
If you have an internet connection, you don’t need cable service. Between the various network websites and Hulu.com, you can get streaming video of almost any show you want. You won’t be able to watch them live but when you’re cutting out a hundred dollars of fees each month, you probably won’t care whether or not you’re watching that sitcom live (do you even watch them live? Or do you rely on your DVR?). You can also buy an HD antenna and watch HD content for free if you point your antenna the right way (AntennaWeb has a handy map to help you). If you can’t help cutting the cable, at least shop around and take advantage of promotions. When I changed to Verizon, I made sure to use a Verizon FiOS promotion to get the best deal.
So consider some of these free alternatives to the things you already pay for and put that money to something you can fully enjoy!