When you’re already trying to balance work and home, time for the checkbook may come last. But don’t let procrastination take a bite out of your wallet. Stashing cash and cutting expenses are things that are often put off until tomorrow, but why wait to save money?
Instead of taking 5 minutes to check Facebook or read up on celebrity gossip, you could be boosting your bottom line. With these 5-minute tips from smart, frugal bloggers and authors, you’ll save money in no time.
Compile a “best of” list of Internet moneymakers and money-savers in your inbox, says Nicole Wiseberg of the money-saving blog Nicole’s Nickels. Use a Web-based, free email account. Then, when you sign up for frugal newsletters, printable in-store coupons, online coupon codes, daily deals and other special savings, use this email address and save money.
“Your personal email inbox won’t be clogged, but you’ll still reap the benefits of membership,” Wiseberg says. Best of all, you’ll find all the deals you’re looking for in 5 minutes or less.
Next step: Spend 5 minutes per day responding to the best offer in your inbox, whether you’re taking a survey or printing a coupon. Erin Edwards, who formerly blogged at Fun With Freebies, signs up for free samples several times per week via online sources.
“Freebies are great for using around your house, trying out a new item before you buy it, putting together a gift basket for a present or donating to local shelters,” Edwards says.
Take 5 minutes to save money by asking to borrow or rent household items from neighbors. Ask your local neighborhood association whether it has a “tool-lending library,” like that of the Phinney Neighborhood Association in Seattle. Or, rent expensive equipment for a project rather than buy it, says Susan Palmquist, who writes The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to the Universe.
“When we first moved into our house, the deck was in bad shape and we couldn’t afford a new one or pay someone to resand and paint it,” Palmquist says. So they rented a sander for the morning, which only cost them $20. “It got the job done and saved us money by not having to purchase something we’d probably only use once in a blue moon.”
Next step: Send a quick 5-minute email to contact your social networks — mom clubs, neighborhood association, friends — to sell a no-longer-needed item, says Gina Lincicum, blogger at MoneywiseMoms.com.
Log on to your credit card statement or a monthly bill for 5 minutes to find 1 expense you can cut, reduce or negotiate away. Whether there’s a monthly gym membership you’ve been meaning to drop or another regular monthly expense that looks a little oversized, there’s bound to be a way to save money.
Leah Ingram, author of “Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less,” combined her phone bill with her TV provider. “When we did this, we cut our phone bill by $50 a month, or, $600 a year,” Ingram says.
Next step: Remove your credit cards from your wallet and keep them at home in a safe place, says Brandi Savitt, co-founder of the Fabulous & Frugal blog. It’s important to pull that credit card out before you go out with friends.
“It’s very easy to spend too much or end up putting it on your card and not getting paid back,” Savitt says. “Credit cards should be used for emergencies, not for a night out with friends.”
Create a chart of 10 items that you buy at least once per month at the grocery store — whether it’s crackers, laundry detergent or cat litter. On Sunday, when the newspaper arrives, check out the sales flier for at least 2 grocery stores and look for those items on sale. You’ll find patterns to pricing changes and you’ll learn how to recognize a real sale, says Carrie Rocha, who blogs at Pocket Your Dollars.
“Armed with this knowledge, you can change up your shopping habits to buy enough of the items you need to get through to the next sale,” she says.
Next step: Before you go to the store, take 5 minutes to put reusable shopping bags in your car to take advantage of bring-your-own-bag deals at grocery stores, Ingram says. Of course, “This is only worth it if you shop at a store that gives you a bag credit for bringing your own,” Ingram says, such as Target, Stop and Shop or SuperFresh.
Before leaving the house, turn off and unplug items not in use. Turn off the water heater after your morning shower and avoid heating water all day, says Sarah Eve Fulghum, an editor and social media manager at A Full Cup. Unplug charging appliances, turn off lights, turn down the heat or air conditioning, close vents in unoccupied rooms and make sure water is turned off to the garden hose.
“My husband and I actually leave our microwave unplugged all of the time and only plug it in when we need it,” Fulghum says. “No need to power the microwave clock we don’t use.” She also keeps the TV unplugged when not in use to save money.
Next step: Compare bills and see how much money you saved after a month of unplugging. Are those bills still high? Fulghum suggests looking into an energy meter (and following tip No. 2, ask to buy a used one from friends first). The meters measure electricity used by various appliances. Advanced systems pinpoint major appliances (electric water heater, stove, dryer) draining your dollars.