The holiday season may be your favorite time of the year. It may also leave you tapped out and staring at hefty credit card bills. Instead of letting this stress you out, moving into a new year is the perfect time to find alternative ways to curb your spending. To help you get a jumpstart, here are seven affordable tips to help you save money in 2017:
Get rid of your gym membership
If you’re like many people, you bought a membership to a fitness club, used it for a while and then stopped going to the gym altogether. You had all good intentions, but life got in the way. By canceling your membership, which averages $58 per month, you could be saving a huge portion of your budget. You can still commit to getting fit in 2017. Do it for free by trying out fitness training apps by Nike or Reebok. Try joining a local running club or invest in an inexpensive used treadmill. You can find loads of them on Facebook yard sale sites.
Sell your stuff
Speaking of apps for buying and selling, a new year is new opportunity to clear out your unwanted items and rake in some extra dough. Last winter, I used , buying and selling apps like Close5 and OfferUp to sell an old dining room sideboard, a wine rack, two end tables, two ottomans, and loads of other stuff. Collectively I raked in about $1,000 by selling things I didn’t want or use anymore and it was easier than I expected to connect with the right buyer.
Sign up for Netflix
If you love going to the movies, you already know that this gets expensive. For less than $10 a month, however, you can watch limitless Netflix movies plus some of the best television programming available. You can also share your account with your family and friends. Our family has one Netflix account which we all use. This works out to be less costly than renting movies via Comcast On Demand or on iTunes. I have to admit that we do still use On Demand from time to time, but not regularly. If Netflix doesn’t carry any programming to your liking, don’t settle; other programmers, like Hulu, Amazon Prime, and SlingTV offer subscriptions at similar price points. (At about $20 per month, SlingTV is just a bit more expensive than Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, each of which averages under $10 a month.)
Switch or cancel your cable service
If you have Netflix, do you also need cable? Honestly, the answer should be "no" so take a deep breath and cancel your cable service altogether. If you do use cable or network programming, you can still save money by switching to another provider. I recently took advantage of a new customer triple-play deal through Comcast for cable, wireless and phone service. When the contract is up, I plan to negotiate a better deal for cable and wireless through Verizon’s Fios fiber-optic service, which just entered my neighborhood. By switching to a competing provider, you can often get a lower-priced deal. You might even get some cash perks too. In my neighborhood, Verizon is offering a $200 Visa prepaid card for new customers.
Curtail your daily coffee habit
Well, sort of. If you’re like me, you run on that first cup of coffee in the morning. I used to go to Starbucks daily but then I invested in a Keurig and I use that instead for my daily fix. Prices range widely for different types of coffee machines, but you can generally buy a decent Keurig or other brand for around $50 to $100 on Amazon. If even that’s too much coin for your caffeine, using a regular coffee machine to make your own coffee can save you more than $500 a year, according to consumer expert Clark Howard, with basic coffee machines or French press makers costing under $20 at most retail outlets like Target or Walmart. If your daily venti soy latte is a must, downloading apps from Starbucks or CUPS can save you money when you use rewards points built up with purchases -- or, to find local cafes and coffee shops with lower menu prices and offering discounts.
Cook at home instead of eating out
Dining out is costly, especially if you eat at restaurants several times a week. To save money, you can try bringing bag lunches to work instead of going out to lunch. Americans eat lunch out an average two times a week and spend $10 each time. That’s $20 per week, and nearly $1,000 a year! If you bring lunch from home plus cook more meals, you’ll save even more money. We get it: Going out to dinner is a great way to socialize and connect with friends. If this is important to you, why not start a dinner club? This way you and your friends can take turns hosting dinners. You’ll get to be with friends with a big benefit -- you’ll save money. Many recipe subscription boxes, like Blue Apron, HelloFresh and Plated sometimes offer free and discounted trial periods for their ready-to-cook fresh ingredients you can cook at home.
Shop for deals
If you really love going out to dinner, attending the theater and shopping in general, you can still do this while saving money. You just have to know where and how to shop. If you prefer to shop online, you can find great deals on online discount sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Gilt City. I just bought tickets to a touring Broadway show for 50% off and snagged a free meal at my favorite restaurant through Groupon. If you prefer to shop at brick and mortar stores, consider purchasing a membership to a wholesale club like Costco or Sam’s Club. For about $55 a year, a membership can end up saving you oodles of money on items you buy anyway, like toilet paper, food, vitamins, and even eyeglasses and prescriptions. I just purchased window blinds for four rooms in my house through Costco. Not only did I save hundreds of dollars, but Costco gave me a $300 gift card as a reward for purchasing the window treatments. This should buy our toilet paper for the next several years.
Regardless of how you decide to save money, make sure you first create a budget - and stick to it. With a budget in place and a plan to curb your spending, you’ll be ahead of the game as you ring in the new year.