After the hustle and bustle of the holiday, January marks a time to step back, and to re-evaluate. That might mean a new diet, a new workout plan, or a resolution to adopt a new hobby. But for many, your resolution might be to rein in your spending. Perhaps you’re saving for a house, a vacation, or just want to put more in savings. No matter your reason, we’re here to help, rounding up five simple ideas for cutting costs and finding savings in 2017.
1. Start Your Taxes
A new year is the perfect time to tally up your 2016 income and set a new budget for 2017. But it is also a great time to see where you can save money, and that means getting an early start on your taxes. You’ll likely have to wait for your W-2 or 1099 to arrive in the mail to file your taxes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use this year’s pay stubs and earnings to tally up what you made.
Use a program like Quicken (or even an Excel spreadsheet) to tally your earnings, as well as any applicable deductions, like charitable contributions, mileage on your car, or even a qualifying home office. The faster you get organized, the faster you can file—and the faster you can get that tax refund! (Note: filing early is also a great way to avoid tax scams.)
2. Rid Yourself of Fees & Unnecessary Recurring Charges
Use your year-end statements on your bank accounts, credit and debit cards as a chance to comb through your purchases and note both fees and recurring charges. If you see bank overdrafts, call and switch to an account with overdraft protection. Cancel credit cards you don’t use with high fees, and check to make sure you’re really taking advantage of all of those recurring charges. After all, do you really need LinkedIn Premium if you’re not job searching, and did you truly take advantage of that extra storage on Google? If you aren’t using it, pause it or cancel it, and you could save hundreds of dollars each month.
3. Streamline Your Largest Expenses
If you’re like me, your largest expenditures, beyond living and gas, are in food. Are you utilizing loyalty memberships, coupons, and bulk purchases? Are you over-using takeout, or eating out more than you should? By tackling your largest expenses first, you’ll find the potentially greatest savings. This is also a great time to call utility companies and ask if you are eligible for new specials or packages that can reduce your monthly bill rates.
4. Contribute More Money to Tax-Advantaged Accounts
If your employer offers a 401(k) with a match, or an HSA, you may want to take advantage. While it seems counterintuitive to take more out of your paycheck, programs such as these offer a tax-advantaged way to save. With a 401(k), you’ll contribute pre-tax dollars towards retirement, thus saving and lowering your taxable income at the same time. With a health savings account (also known as an HSA), you’ll also enjoy pre-tax contributions that can be used for healthcare, and can also be used from employer to employer if you switch jobs.
5. Practice Abstinence
Just like many people diet in January, you can also try a #SpendFree month. Outside of critical bills and expenditures, cut down or eliminate eating out, frivolous shopping, and extra Starbucks runs. Each time you pass on a purchase, make a mental (or physical) note. At the end of the month, add up what you would have spent, and treat yourself to something meaningful as a reward!