Are you making a financial New Year’s resolution in 2018? If not, you should – and saving more money should probably be a top financial goal.
Unfortunately most Americans do a pretty poor job of stashing away cash, whether it’s creating an emergency fund for unexpected expenses or setting money aside for a more secure retirement.
Some 57 percent of all adults in the United States have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, according to a 2017 study from GoBankingRates.com.
Furthermore, data from the Economic Policy Institute show that the typical American couple has saved just $5,000 for retirement, and nearly half of U.S. families have saved nothing at all for their Golden Years.
Despite those dire statistics, you don’t have to live paycheck-to-paycheck and feel like you’re unable to save more money.
I know, because I’ve been there. Back in 2001, I had $100,000 in credit card bills alone! Needless to say, being in debt crimped my ability to save money.
Fortunately, I was able to get out of debt in 3 years and turn my financial life around. In the years since then, I’ve learned that saving one’s hard-earned dollars doesn’t have to be hard – nor does it require you to change your whole lifestyle.
Here are four easy ways to save more money in 2018 — and in years to come:
Tip #1: Dump unwanted subscriptions
You can easily save $50 a month, or $600 annually, just by dumping unwanted subscriptions and cancelling recurring charges for stuff you’re now paying for – but you no longer want, need or use.
From subscription box services, cosmetics and magazine subscriptions, to DVD rental services, clothes and dating apps (hello Tinder Plus!), those weekly and monthly fees from various subscriptions can eat into your budget – and make it harder to save money.
One or two subscriptions for $10 or $20 might not seem like much. But check your credit card statements and bank accounts. When you start adding up all these charges – for things like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, magazine subscriptions or a gym membership – you’ll see it’s actually a lot of money. Eliminate a few and save cash.
To save money on subscriptions, use an app like TrueBill or Trim. Basically, what they do is: analyze all your credit card transactions, show you all your subscriptions, and then cancel things you don’t want to keep. Best of all, these apps are free.
Tip #2: Clean up Your Credit
Remember that Missy Elliott song where she sang: “Beep, beep! Who got the keys to the Jeep?” Well, if you plan to make a big-ticket purchase – like buying a car or home this year or next year – now is the time to clean up your credit.
Good credit is your master key to getting approved and scoring a low interest rate too.
In fact, improving your credit score can save you many thousands of dollars over the life of a car loan or a mortgage.
So here’s what to do: Pull your credit reports, check them for mistakes and dispute any errors.
Unfortunately, 70% of all credit reports do have mistakes; so beware of that!
Also, log onto a site called CreditSesame.com or use their free app. They give you your credit score 100% free every month – and they give you tips on how to improve your credit, so bad credit won’t hold you back or cost you money in 2018.
Tip #3: Plan for Household Emergencies
It’s estimated that 70% of Americans experience some kind of financial shock or emergency each year, including major household breakdowns that can ruin your budget and sap savings.
And for some groups of people, not having cash on hand can lead to other problems. For instance, African-Americans who face unexpected financial crises are twice as likely as other groups to have to tap into retirement savings to deal with emergencies.
Since your home is your fortress and your castle, you want to protect it in every way possible. One simple way to do this is to get a basic home warranty. A home warranty is a service contract that covers your home’s appliances and systems.
So let’s say your refrigerator, dishwasher or dryer breaks down – or your electrical or plumbing system goes haywire – a home warranty would repair or replace those faulty items.
And let’s face it: there may be some things around the house you can fix yourself. But for more complicated things, it’s best to let the pros handle the job.
You can hop online at AHS.com to get an affordable home warranty from American Home Shield. They’re the largest home warranty company in the U.S. and they offer home warranties for all budgets. Having that warranty will save you hundreds or thousands in unexpected, and inevitable, home repair costs.
Tip #4: Go Generic
If anyone in your household takes medicines, pills, injections or prescription drugs of any kind, only use generics – not brand-name drugs. By law, generics are required to have the identical chemical makeup and active ingredients as brand-name meds.
You’ll save a ton of money with this simple strategy because the average brand-name medicine costs $100, while the typical generic is only $30 – which is 70% less!
If you hit the pharmacy once a month, over a full year that’s a savings of $840.
As you can see, saving money isn’t rocket science. But it does require awareness of where your money is going, and a commitment to using the resources you do have wisely.
So for 2018, why not commit to saving more money as your #1 economic goal? It’s a financial New Year’s resolution that can pay big dividends for many years to come.
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach®, is a personal finance expert, television and radio personality, and the author of 12 books, including the New York Times bestseller Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom. Lynnette is a former financial news journalist, who now teaches individuals nationwide how to better manage their finances. She has appeared on hundreds of TV programs, including Oprah, The Talk, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, The Steve Harvey Show, The Today Show and more.