Save $2,015 in 2015
With incomes remaining pretty much flat and basics expenses from health care to cell phones on the rise, saving money is a TOP New Year’s resolution. I’ve calculated simple ways to give your budget more breathing room – in many cases by just tapping into your smart phone. And in the spirit of the New Year, the total savings add up to the tune of $2,015. Huzzah!
DINING OUT: USE DISCOUNTED GIFT CARDS
Discounted gift cards have been around for a while but there’s a new app called Raise that lets you purchase discounted gift cards and apply them at point of sale.
The Math: Raise buyers use the site and app almost every day on anything from practical purchases like groceries and gas on up to clothing, home furnishings or a night out at their favorite restaurant. The average discount on the Raise marketplace is 16 percent off. If you use this app say, JUST for eating out expenses (which total roughly $2,600 on average), you could save about $400.
GAS: WATCH PRICES DROP
The US government predicts the average price of gasoline will be below $3 a gallon in 2015 ($2.60 to be exact). That’s 77 cents per gallon lower than in 2014. For the average driver, The Energy Information Institute estimates that a savings of about $540 for the year. Free apps like GasBuddy and GasGuru can help you find the lowest prices.
PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: SHOP DISCOUNT PROGRAMS AT CHAIN STORES
Thanks to drug discount programs at chain retailers like Target, Walmart, etc. you can find hundreds of common generic drugs for pennies per pill, according to Consumer Reports.
The Math: Chain retailers like Walmart and Target have a selection of generics for just $4 for a 30-day supply, or $10 for a 90-day supply.
The average American spends about $25 per month for one generic drug (according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, citing a most recent 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a government report).
If you can locate your generic prescription drug at Walmart or another store that offers the $4 per month plan, on average you could save about $21 per month, or about $250 per year.
ATM FEES: SKIP THE SURCHARGE
The average ATM withdrawal fee jumped in 2014 by 5%. This includes the fee our bank charges us for using an out-of-network ATM and the ATM’s own fee.
THE MATH: Avoid at least the surcharge – which averages $2.77 these days – by using an app called AllPoint. The app helps you find the nearest surcharge free ATM using your phone’s GPS. And there are over 50,000 of these types of ATMs nationwide. Figure you go to the ATM each week, if you stay in network, you could save about $145 per year.
AUTO INSURANCE: USE A COST COMPARISON APP
There’s a new app called Go which estimates its saves users $300 a year on average. Most of Go’s insurers offer a 5% discount just for signing up. Just download the app for free. Tell it how many miles per month you drive, your zip code, make and model of your car and how much you currently pay and it will show you competing rates.
GROCERIES: GET CASH BACK
Say goodbye to clipping coupons in 2015. Instead, use cash-back mobile apps like Ibotta, Saving Star and Snap by Groupon that give you cash back when you buy everyday grocery items – milk, bread, diapers – from chain grocers and sometimes drugstores and big box retailers.
HOW THEY WORK: Go grocery shopping and then you hop onto any one of these cash back grocery apps to see what the offers are. Then scan the barcode on the grocery item or take a snapshot of your receipt to redeem your earnings. You get cash back – a dollar here, 50 cents there – deposited into your bank account or sometimes on a gift card. The Snap By Groupon App estimates you can save about $200 a year on groceries with its app.
ENERGY BILL: USE A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT
With a programmable thermostat you can schedule the temperature in your home to go down when you’re out of the house or asleep in the winter and up when you’re out of the house or asleep in the summer to reduce the use of energy. The Energy Department figures you can save an average $180 on your energy bill annually with a programmable thermostat.
DINING OUT: $400
PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: $250
ATM FEES: $145
AUTO INSURANCE: $300