"New Year's resolutions" -- is that a phrase that makes you roll your eyes, because sitting down and making a plan for doing better in the year ahead just sounds like a big ol' waste of time?
Well, the only thing worse than wasting time is wasting money. And if you're doing that, the start of a brand new year is the perfect time to do something about it.
You don't have to call it a resolution. Just think of it as part of your personal evolution. Here's a five-step plan to save $2,019 in 2019.
1. Adopt a savings strategy
A saving strategy is as simple as making an automatic deposit from your checking to your savings account every payday.
It could be as little as $10 or even as much as $100, but the main thing is: Do it!
If you were to put away $20 from each biweekly paycheck, you'd be setting aside $520 a year that would not be spent on pricey mochas or other trivial stuff but instead could go toward your future.
Savings for 2019: $520
2. Cut your bank fees
If your checking account charges monthly fees, you're paying an average $13 per month, according to a report from the CO-OP Credit Unions, which also says the average out-of-network ATM fee is $2.71 and the average overdraft charge is $32.44.
Let's suppose you use other banks' ATMs twice a month and overdraw your account four times a year. The fees for your checking account — including the basic, monthly ones — would add up to a painful $350.80 a year.
So, avoid overdrafts by setting up an alert for when you have a low balance; switch to a free checking account; and make a small purchase with your debit card to get cash back at the register the next time you're tempted to use an ATM that's not in your network.
Savings for 2019: $350.80
3. Start planning out your meals
When you head to the grocery store without a plan, you end up overbuying. Do you need all four of those peppers or the extra pound of ground beef? Probably not, but without a plan how would you know?
Planning out your meals before the start of each week — and before you go to the supermarket — allows you to see the big food-spending picture, create a shopping list that works and buy only what you need.
As you avoid throwing money away along with food that's gone bad, you might easily shave at least $15.75 a week off your family food bill.
Savings for 2019: $819
4. Just call and ask for savings
Take a close look at all of your routine bills — including your insurance, your gas bill and your cellphone plan — because you might easily be paying too much.
Sometimes, all you need to do to cut those costs is pick up your phone. It can be that easy.
A call to your insurance agent might bring new discounts that cut your car insurance rate by $120 a year, a call to your gas company could reveal hidden rebates saving $5 a month, and a call to your cellphone provider could result in a cheaper plan costing $10 less per month.
Savings for 2019: $300
5. Get a cash-back credit card
Credit card debt is something you'll want to avoid, but a credit card can make you money on day-to-day purchases.
Let's say you use a 1% cash-back credit card on $2,920 in basic monthly expenses throughout the year. That means $29.20 in cash will go back into your pocket just for using the card. And note that cash-back cards often have better returns on certain categories of spending.
We're assuming you'll pay off your balance in full every month and before the bill is due — because you won't want to lose any of that cash to interest or late fees.
Savings for 2019: At least $29.20
Total savings possible in 2019: $2,019!
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