Budgeting Tips: Easy Ways to Save Money

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With the economy in the tank, almost everyone is feeling the pinch. Both gas and milk have found their way up to four dollars a gallon. When money is tight, finding ways to stretch your money may seem straining, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Without needing to put forth a big effort, there are several ways to save a few bucks on electricity, gas, food, and the cell phone bill.

Energy:

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With energy costs rising, it is becoming more important to find ways to save money on electricity. For some simple savings, unplug appliances when you’re not using them. TVs, DVD players, video games, and most home appliances continue to draw power even when they are turned off. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, leaving idle appliances plugged in can use as much as four times more energy than if they were only plugged in while in use.

Lower the power settings on your computer. If you are using a desktop computer, shut off the monitor when you get up or alter your computer’s settings to go into standby mode after a few minutes of inactivity. Laptops already use substantially less energy than desktops, but you can still save a bit of power by switching a few settings. Laptop users can reduce screen brightness, set the screen to turn off after a certain amount of time, and close the lid to activate standby mode when it is not in use.

Transportation:

Driving the speed limit can save you as much as thirty percent more gas and money than speeding (or, when rationalizing, “keeping up with the traffic”). Patricia Monahan of the Union of Concerned Scientists claims that the ideal fuel-efficiency speed for most cars is between 45 and 55 miles per hour. When it comes to rolling down the windows versus putting on the air conditioner, the breaking point is about 45 miles per hour. Below 45, roll down the windows; above 45, the drag created by opening the windows winds up using more energy than simply turning on the AC.

Going to even the next step, now that gas prices are averaging more than four dollars per gallon, public transportation has become a far cheaper option than driving your own car. This is especially true for drivers with a long commute to work. If it is available in your area, taking the bus to work can drastically lower your gas expenditures; plus, you will be relieved from having to deal with rush hour traffic.

Food:

To save money on groceries, the best thing to do is avoid shopping while hungry. When you’re surrounded by food and on an empty stomach, your sales resistance is at its weakest level. If you go grocery shopping shortly after eating, you should be able to avoid most of the regretful impulse purchases you would have made while hungry.

Because of its perceived convenience, fast food can be the biggest waste of money in your food budget. Beyond the veritable health nightmare that is a grease-based burger and fries combo, fast food can strain your pockets too. Fast food lunches can run twenty to forty dollars per week, depending on where you live, where you eat, and what you order. Try making your own lunch. A loaf of bread and some sandwich meat will run you far less than a week at the fast food joint. Making your own lunch for even a day or two a week can cause a dip in your expenditures.

Lifestyle: The next time you feel the urge to send a text message, stop, count to ten, and look around you for a computer which can just as easily send an email that doesn’t add to your cell phone bill. Most major carriers have taken advantage of consumer love for text messaging by hiking rates. Picture messages, which have similarly gained popularity, are also more expensive than regular text messages. Also, remember that you are charged for both sent and received messages, making the costs add up quicker than you may realize. Save yourself the nuisance of an inflated cell phone bill and keep the messaging to a minimum.

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