What if you could have a brighter financial future by spending every dollar you earned? There's a name for this approach: Zero-sum budgeting.
Looking for painless ways to spend less so you can save more?
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of taking a closer look at where exactly your dollars are going—which can help you uncover hidden leaks along the way.
Don’t feel pressured to review everything at once. Prioritize and tackle one task at a time. And hopefully you’ll discover that you don’t have to sacrifice the things you love to save more going forward.
|1| Reevaluate your subscriptions.
It’s easy to become complacent with those recurring subscription and membership charges—especially ones you aren’t even using.
Look at your subscriptions and memberships—magazines, beauty boxes, gym memberships and more—and be honest with yourself about how much you use each one.
“The biggest one I come across with people is the large amount they pay for cable or internet,” said Erin Engler, assistant vice president, Community Outreach and Education at Dupaco Community Credit Union. “We complain about it, but we don’t want to take the time to do anything about it.”
Engler recently followed her own advice and reevaluated her family’s satellite service. She replaced the satellite with livestreaming, which is saving her about $900 a year.
“I had to sacrifice a few channels I watched, but I don’t even miss them,” she said. “I gained other shows and the local news, which I didn’t have before.”
|2| Review your insurance.
Much like those memberships, insurance coverage often gets started and, eventually, forgotten about. When it’s about a month before your next premium is due, connect with your insurance agent to review your coverage to make sure it still fits your needs and is the best option available.
When Engler switched carriers for her homeowner’s and auto insurance, she saved $1,100 in annual premiums. The most difficult part, she said, was simply deciding to make it a priority.
|3| Avoid paying unnecessary fees.
Take note of the fees you might be getting charged to simply access your money.
“There are some banks out there that charge people a monthly service fee on a checking account, and people get used to it and they pay it,” Engler said. “I talk to people every day about that.”
Many credit cards also come with hidden fees, so review your credit card terms and statements to make sure yours is not among them. With Dupaco’s Visa credit cards, there are no annual fees and no-cost fraud monitoring.
|4| Be in tune with your loan payments.
When’s the last time you looked closely at your debt and the interest rates you’re paying on it?
Maybe your credit score has improved, which might help you qualify for a lower interest rate. If you have multiple loans, you might be able to consolidate them into one lower-interest monthly payment.
“I think a lot of times people are afraid to ask or assume they won’t qualify for a better rate,” Engler said.
A free Dupaco Money Makeover can help you review your monthly obligations and determine whether there are ways you can pay less on your loans and—ultimately—save more.
|5| Monitor your spending habits.
Tools within Dupaco’s Shine Online and Mobile Banking can help you become more in tune with your spending habits. Dupaco’s eNotifiers can alert you, for instance, every time your Dupaco Visa credit card or debit card is used—shedding more light on where and when your money gets spent.
There was a time when Engler’s “coffee addiction” had her running to her favorite coffee shop three to four times a week, spending about $5 every trip. It didn’t take long for the charges to add up.
“I literally looked at my online account and started breaking down where my money was going. I had been clueless to how much I was spending on coffee, because I wasn’t thinking about it,” she said.
Engler bought herself an espresso machine and started making her beverages at home.
“Now it’s part of my routine. I have it down to a science, and I can do it in two minutes,” she said. “Now I like my own better than the coffee shop’s.”
A zero-sum budget can help you plan for your expenses and hold you accountable to your spending plan.
“If you’re not an expert in budgeting, take advantage of the services Dupaco offers and come in and get some help,” Engler said. “We’re not here to judge you. We’re here to help you.”
|6| Plan your meals.
As you review your spending, you might uncover more restaurant charges than you expected. This can be remedied by making it a priority to plan your meals—and the ingredients needed for them—each week.
“Americans are always in a hurry, and we don’t always plan and prepare,” Engler said. “But it’s better for our diet and our money management when we’re not going out to eat all of the time.”
The good news is there are apps available to make the meal-planning process a little easier.
|7| Avoid making late payments.
Late payments often come with extra fees. Accrue enough of them, and they can bring down your credit score—which might mean higher interest rates on loans down the road.
Pay your bills on time by automating your payments. Many utilities and service providers will allow you to set up automatic recurring payments. You also can use Dupaco’s Picture Pay to set up recurring payments if the payment is the same each time.
|8| Automate your savings.
Once you’ve uncovered ways to pay less, take full advantage of your efforts by putting your savings goals on autopilot.
With Dupaco’s You-Name-It-Savings accounts, you can automatically set aside money from every paycheck to save for your goals—and make sure your funds are where they need to be when payments are due.
And with Dupaco’s newest savings tool, ChangeUp Savings, you can have your “loose change” from debited transactions automatically deposited into your savings.
The change adds up. In 2018, Dupaco members saved a combined $330,599.19 through these automatic ChangeUp transfers!