How to Go Green and Save Money

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40 Ways that Going Green Can Help You Save Money as You Save the Earth

Going green isn’t only good for the planet, it can also be highly beneficial for your budget, too. And while some green energy home improvements take some significant cash upfront, there are others that you can start doing today for free.

How to go green and save money at homeHow to go green and save money at home

1. Switch to LED Lights

LED light bulbs last longer, are less likely to break because they’re plastic, and they use less energy. LED bulbs can use as little as 10 watts of energy to give you the same lighting power as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. So, while you may pay $0.50 more per bulb, you’ll save some serious cash in the long run. Your electric bill will be lower and you won’t need to replace lights as often.

2. Open windows and use ceiling fans in lieu of A/C

This tip may not work during the hottest months of the summer, depending on where you live. But you can use this tip in the spring and fall to cut your monthly electric bills and increase cash flow. Just make sure to turn off the A/C, so you’re not cooling the great outdoors!

3. Switch to energy efficient appliances

This tip obviously takes some cash for the upfront investment. But if you need to replace an appliance anyway, shop for an energy efficient model. Look for the ENERGY STAR logo to find appliances that will use less energy to do the same tasks. According to Fox Business, you can save $110 per year by replacing an old washer with a newer energy-efficient model.[1

4. Consider getting a natural gas stovetop

This one may seem counterintuitive, but according to TreeHugger.com, natural gas is actually greener than going with an electric stovetop.[2] The reason? Electricity in the U.S. is still largely powered by coal-burning power plants. So, natural gas is the greener choice. Unfortunately, it’s also usually more expensive.

So, if you do want to stick to electric stovetops to save money, TreeHugger recommends that you opt for ceramic or glass-surface versions. These models use halogen heating elements, which are more energy-efficient than coils.

5. Get solar panels

This is another tip that requires an upfront investment – a big one, at that. According to NerdWallet, the cost for an average residential home is around $15,000 to $25,000.[3] But the cost savings overall will quickly make up for what you pay upfront.  But, as EnergySage explains, the 20-year savings range from $10,000 all the way up to $30,000. So, the system will eventually pay for itself.[4]

TIP: Getting a home equity loan for a home renovation? Consider adding the funds for going solar. Also, check to see if your state offers any cost-saving programs or tax incentives for solar panel installation.

6. Use solar lights for outdoor lighting

Want to light up your yard without increasing your electric bill? Find outdoor solar lights that store up sunlight during the day and power themselves at night. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money up front for this one. In fact, it will be cheaper than calling an electrician and having them run wire for traditional lighting. You can shop for good solar lights at discount stores like Target.

7. Recycle as much as possible

No, this doesn’t refer to tossing all your trash in a blue bin, although that’s a great green thing that you should do as much as possible. Instead, we’re talking about actual recycling where you use disposable products more than once. Instead of getting a new Ziploc every time you make a sandwich for work, wash one out and keep reusing it. You can reuse foil, bottles, repurpose plastic bags. Find a new use for your “trash” and avoid purchasing more disposables month after month.

8. Start composting

Starting a compost pile will reduce the trash waste that you throw in the garbage to keep it out of landfills. It will also give you free fertilizer for your yard and garden. If you want to avoid an ugly pile (and smell) in your yard, you’ll need to buy a compost bin. But you can get a reasonably sized good bin for about $30.

9. Lose the paper products and opt for washable alternatives

Anything you can do with a paper towel, you can do with a good rag or the right dishtowel. Wiping countertops, cleaning up messes, even draining oil on fried foods. All of these things can be done with a reusable, washable rag. The same goes for cloth napkins versus paper napkins. Save the paper, shave a few bucks off your grocery bills each month and avoid the paper waste that fills up landfills.

TIP: Eco-conscious parents can also apply this to diapers. Buying washable cloth diapers cuts down on the landfill waste that your kids generate. And most experts say that regular machine washing is enough to keep them clean, so you don’t need to waste money on an expensive sterilizer.

10. Line dry your clothes

If you’re going to run your clothes dryer, always run it while full to save energy. But a better solution is to skip the dryer altogether and line dry your clothes, bedsheets, and towels as much as possible. If you’re worried about stiffness, use fabric softener in the washer instead of dryer sheets.

11. Get a smart thermostat

Smart Thermostats can be programmed to turn off at different times of the day to save a bunch of money on your electric bill. There’s little reason to keep the A/C on during the day when you’re not in the house. So, you can set your Smart Thermostat to cycle off when you’re away and turn on just before you get home. That way, you don’t have to arrive home to a muggy house.

This is another one that takes an upfront investment. But according to the Nest, the right model can save you 10-12% on heating costs and up to 15% on air conditioning.[5]

12. Get electric-powered lawn equipment

Unlike gas-powered lawn equipment, electric-powered equipment has no emissions. Even better, many brands work by buying own battery for all your lawn equipment. So, you simply buy attachments for the lawn mower, weed eater, blower and trimmer. This means you can save money and go green by opting for a single battery to power all your equipment needs.

13. Be smart with your water heater

If your water heater ever breaks, get an energy efficient model – a tankless water heater will heat water as needed, which is more efficient.

In the meantime, there are some cheap (and free) things you can do to save money and energy. First, unless your dishwasher requires a higher temperature, turn your water heater is turned down to 120 degrees. Then wrap the unit and the pipes in insulation blankets to help it retain heat. You can also install a timer to turn your water heater off when you don’t need it if you use hot water at regular times of the day.

14. Get smart power strips and turn off your gadgets

Regular power strips don’t save energy, but smart power strips do. They detect when plugged in devices go into standby, then turn off to save energy. If you don’t want to invest in more expensive power strips, just turn off your gadgets (and the regular power strip) when your devices are not in use. Be aware that power save modes still suck up energy. So, you have to power down if you want to save.

TIP: Leaving some devices plugged in will actually decrease the efficiency of the battery, so you’ll be forced to replace your devices more often. As soon as you hit 100%, unplug!

15. Use rechargeable batteries

Batteries in landfills are bad for the environment for any number of reasons. Getting rechargeable batteries will significantly reduce the number of batteries that you throw away each year. A good rechargeable battery can be charged and reused hundreds of times.

16. Go paperless

With the prevalence of smartphones and online accounts, there’s really little reason to get paper bills delivered to your house every month. They can also get easily lost amongst your junk mail. Instead, go to each account you have that sends you a paper bill and request to go paperless. You’ll receive email notifications when your monthly statement is ready for review.

17. Shop second-hand

Shopping second-hand reuses items that have already been manufactured. You find a new purpose for old items, keeping them out of landfills. You can shop second hand for clothing, furniture, and even electronics if you’re willing to forgo the latest models.

18. Buy products that are built to last

Durability and the lifespan of the products you purchase are important for going green while saving money. The longer you can keep products without replacing them, the less you contribute to filling up landfills with broken items. If you can keep a small appliance for ten years instead of just five, you reduce the waste and expense by half.

19. Get a home energy audit to find energy vampires

The tips above can help you reduce your carbon footprint in a general sense. But a home energy audit can help you root out the specific energy vampires that have invaded your home. Energy vampires refer to any device or location in your home where energy consumption spikes unnecessarily. You may have energy inefficiencies in your home that drain power, increasing your consumption and costing you more money.

Save money with water conservationSave money with water conservation

20. Get low-flow showerheads and take shorter showers

Showerheads that blast you like a carwash may feel good, but they waste water. Instead, you should opt for low-flow showerheads that are specifically designed to conserve water. They’ll cut down your water bill if you pay for water in a single-unit residence. They’ll also help you use less water, so you’re not wasting resources.

You should also be aware of exactly how long you take in the shower. Again, soaking up the hot water in the shower may feel great, but it’s not doing our planet or your utility bills any favors.

21. Only run your dishwasher/clothes washer when they’re full

Running your appliances when they’re full saves water because you run the appliances less often. If you run your dishwasher with just one meal’s worth of dishes in the machine, you’re wasting water. You can’t tell your dishwasher to use less water because the machine isn’t full.

The same is true of your clothes washer. New models of clothes washers use less than half the water that older models do.[6] But even if you have a newer energy efficient model, you should only run it when you have a full load. That will help you conserve water. Then if you use cold-water detergent, you can save money on your electric bill, too.

22. Plant drought-resistant landscaping

Watering your lawn enough in summer to keep your plants from dying can take a significant amount of water. In most parts of the country, you may need to water every day to keep your landscaping green. That’s a big drain on our water resources and on your income with higher water bills in the summer.

Planting drought-resistant landscaping means you will need to water less often. Look for native grasses and ornamental plants that have evolved to be ideal for the environment in which you live. This will allow you to skip watering a few days a week without coming home to a dead lawn.

23. Don’t cut your grass short, because it needs more water to survive

Long blades of grass develop a deeper root system, so it can seek out water underground. Long grass also shades the soil, which aids with water retention.[7]  This means that if you keep your grass longer, you’ll need to water less often to keep your lawn green.

Adjust your mower to a higher wheel setting, which will move the blades up from your grass. Then you can avoid scalping your grass and being forced to water more often just to keep it green.

24. Put a brick in your toilet tank for a cheap way to make a low-flow toilet

If you can’t afford to replace all the toilets in your home with low-flow models, a brick may be the solution you need. If you put a brick or any other object that takes up space in your toilet tank, there’s less volume for the water to fill up. Less volume means less water used each time your toilet fills. The tank will still flush normally, but you’ll conserve water.

25. Get a rain barrel to collect water at your downspouts

The amount of rainwater that passes through the gutters on your house can go a long way to offsetting how much water you use from outdoor taps. Simply put a rain barrel (or any big vessel) under the downspout that runs off your gutters.

You can use stored rainwater to water plants, wash your car and fill your pool. Most barrels have a spigot on the bottom so you can attach a hose and use the water just like you would from a hose attached to your indoor piping.

Money-saving ways to go green when grocery shoppingMoney-saving ways to go green when grocery shopping

26. Get reusable shopping bags

Even if you shop at one of the few stores that offer paper shopping bags instead of plastic, it’s still not good for the environment. Rather than recycling disposable bags with every grocery trip you take, get reusable bags that you can carry with you each time. Just make sure you remember to put them back in your car after you offload your groceries. Keeping the reusable bags in your vehicle will ensure you have them anytime you decide to make a quick shopping trip.

27. Stop buying bottled water

Plastic water bottles are a leading source of the plastics taking up space in landfills and the microplastics in our ocean. Buying a good filter for your kitchen tap, so you can fill up reusable water bottles from the tap can go a long way to reducing the waste that you toss each week.

TIP: If you live in a hurricane zone, make sure to add a few big plastic pitchers or jugs to your hurricane supplies. That way, you can fill them up before a potential storm hit and avoid the lines to buy plastic bottles and gallon-jugs at the store!

28. Shop local farmer’s markets

Buying meats, produce and even dairy through your local farmer’s markets supports local businesses, helps you stop contributing to the emissions caused by manufacturing and shipping food long cross-country. You can also usually get food that’s locally grown for much cheaper, even if you want to buy organic to avoid harsh chemicals and pesticides that damage ecosystems.

29. Take up gardening

Even better than buying produce locally, you can grow it on your own. If you live in an apartment or condo, you can have a balcony garden or an indoor herb garden. If you have the luxury of a yard, you can go even bigger to grow produce and even fruit trees in your yard. This will reduce the number of herbs, fruits, and vegetables that you purchase. You can even use pickling and canning to ensure that peak season growth doesn’t go to waste and can sustain you throughout the year.

TIP: If you want to support urban foraging plant vegetables and fruit trees in your front yard and invite urban foragers to share in your bounty!

30. Stop using straws

Plastic straws are another leading source of microplastics, so cutting them out of your life is definitely good for the environment. However, paper straws are notably more expensive, so if you’re on a budget it may not be an option to make the switch. Instead, just stop using straws altogether and take up sipping.

31. Don’t buy disposable razors

Approximately 2 billion disposable razors end up in landfills each year, totaling up to 1 million points of plastic waste.[8] Metal safety razors allow you to only replace the blades in your razors, and even that you do less often. Even better, the blades are recyclable, so you can avoid landfill waste entirely.

32. Get reusable chopsticks

Roughly 3.8 million trees get cut down each year to make all the wooden chopsticks that the world uses. And while most of those get used throughout Asia, the U.S. still accounts for 2% of the wooden chopstick use in the world.[9]

To stop using wooden chopsticks, hit up an Asian market to get a lacquered pair of chopsticks. You can even get a chopstick holder, so you can take your reusable chopsticks with you when you go out to eat.

33. Make your own cleaning products

Harsh chemical cleansers aren’t good for you, your kids or the environment and the plastic bottles that they come in usually end up in landfills. Luckily, there are plenty of do-it-yourself cleansers that you can make from everyday items that you probably already have around your house, such as lemon, baking soda, and white vinegar.

34. Buy recycled products, like paper

When you need to buy paper products, opt for recycled versions. This includes everything from towels and napkins to printer paper. If you buy recycled products, you stop contributing to deforestation. Just be aware that these products can be more expensive, so take our advice from Tip 9 and try using cloth alternatives instead.

35. Buy raw ingredients to cook instead of packaged food

Packaged food always costs more than if you buy the raw ingredients and make things from scratch in your kitchen.  Packaged food also has the big carbon footprint of the raw ingredients getting shipped, then going through a manufacturing process, then getting shipped to stores. If you grow food at home, shop local farmer’s markets and then cook meals at home, you avoid contributing to the environmental cost of America’s huge food and grocery industry.

36. Find the best way to grill green without going over budget

Charcoal grilling is the worst for the environment, by far. And having a charcoal grill means you’re constantly having to buy charcoal, which increases your cost. But what’s the greenest grilling method?

If you have solar panels, then the greenest way to grill is to get an electric grill. It will also reduce your cost because there’s no consumables. However, if your electricity comes from coal power plants, then gas grills are actually more eco-friendly.[10] Just be aware that you’ll have the recurring cost of propane tanks.

Also, be cognizant of the challenges you can face with recycling the tanks. If you have a large-tank propane grill, it’s easy to find recycling programs where you turn in your used tanks and get a new one in exchange. However, if you have a camping grill, the small tanks aren’t refillable and usually don’t offer recycling programs. You’ll have to find a recycling center in your area that’s willing to take them.

How to go green and save money on transportationHow to go green and save money on transportation

37. Use mass transit

Whether it’s subways, above-ground rail systems or bus systems, mass transit avoids the greenhouse gas emissions of driving your own vehicle or using ride-sharing services. It may take some planning and some extra time to get where you want to go to accommodate mass transit schedules, but you’ll significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

You will also save money, because you avoid the cost of purchasing vehicles, maintaining those vehicles and filling up your tank. Transportation costs take up almost 20% of the average household budget when the family owns vehicles.[11]

38. Ride your bike to work

If you want to save the environment and save even more money by cutting transportation costs, then you can ride your bike to work. This tip won’t work for everyone. If you live too far away and it would make for an hours-long commute, then this isn’t practical. But, if you live within a few miles of your office, this may be the cheapest and most eco-friendly option.

A Debt.com employee totaled up how much money they save by biking to work. It’s a 7-mile trip, which takes him about 30 minutes each way. He saves more than $280 per year biking to work instead of driving. Even mass transit would be more expensive than using and maintaining the bike he already owns.

If you want to try this option out, Bike to Work Week is May 13-19. If you’re not up for trying the full week, then you can narrow it down to Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 17.

37. Walk whenever possible

Minus the cost of your shoes that you have to wear anyway, walking is free. So, find ways to walk whenever possible. You should be able to pair mass transit with walking to get anywhere you need to go if you live in an urban area.

38. Make your next auto purchase green

If you can’t give up your vehicle, then the next best thing is to go electric for your next vehicle purchase. Just make sure that there are enough charging stations where you need them to avoid getting stuck.

If full-electric isn’t feasible, then hybrid vehicles offer the eco-savings of electric with the dependability of having a fuel tank when you need it. When purchasing a hybrid or any car, you want to aim for the highest gas mileage possible. This will mean less fuel consumption, which also saves you money.

39. Keep up with your manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines

If you want to keep your car running as cleanly as possible, you need to follow the recommended maintenance instructions provided by your manufacturer. This means regular oil changes, fluid replacement and keeping your tire pressure aligned with what the manufacturer recommends. All these steps will keep your car running at maximum fuel efficiency for as long as possible.

40. Don’t leave your car idling

Leaving your car idling while you run in someplace or idling to “warm your car up” when it’s cold isn’t good for the environment. The bigger your vehicle, the worse idling is for the environment. And if you have a diesel engine, it’s even worse. So, if you’re not driving and you’re parked somewhere, go ahead and turn the vehicle off.

NOTE: Some states like New York are beginning to implement policies against idling. If you have heavy-duty vehicles, including diesel trucks, then you can get fined for leaving your vehicle idling for more than 5 minutes.

Can You Tell Me How to Save Money on a Low Income?

Debt.com strives to provide our users with helpful information while remaining unbiased and truthful. We hold our sponsors and partners to the highest industry standards. Once vetted, those sponsors may compensate us for clicks and transactions that occur from a link within this page.

Question: I’m on a fixed income of $700 a month, which is my only income. I pay rent, utilities, and I’m also trying to pay off old debts. Can you tell me how to save money on a low income?Lee in Texas

Laura Adams, author, and host of Money Girl podcast responds…

Saving money when you’re on a fixed income or have an extremely tight budget can be challenging. To get ahead financially, you’ll need to be creative and persistent.

Try staying focused on what you can do with your budget, instead of what you can’t. You may not be able to save a huge amount quickly, but over time you can slowly create more financial security.

If you have no or little savings, make accumulating an emergency fund your top priority. Then you can work on those old debts. Here are four ways to learn how to save money on a low income.

1. Earn more income

Just about everyone can earn extra income by creating one or more additional income streams. You could:

  • Drive for Uber or Lyft
  • Do online tutoring
  • Get a seasonal second job
  • Take surveys on Survey Junkie
  • Do house sitting
  • Deliver for items for Instacart
  • Offer services on Fiverr
  • Sell items on eBay or Amazon
  • Be a virtual assistant

2. Shop your recurring expenses

You probably have skills that can be used in a variety of jobs and types of work. Try something new to bring in extra cash for savings or paying down debt.

Be vigilant about shopping prices for all of your recurring utilities and services, such as cable, internet, wireless, and insurance. Use the following comparison sites to easily comparison shop:

  • uSwitch
  • WhistleOut
  • Major Insurance

Taking the time to get rate quotes might seem like a hassle, but it’s an easy way to cut expenses so you free up more money to save. You might find that your current provider is giving you a great deal, but you won’t know until you shop around.

3. Automate savings

No matter your financial goals, automation is the trick to making saving a habit. It allows you to set aside money effortlessly and adjust to living on less.

For instance, if you want to build an emergency fund, set up a recurring transfer to an FDIC-insured bank savings account. Even saving a few dollars a month is better than nothing. Over time you can slowly increase this amount.

4. Negotiate debt settlements

If you’re dealing with old debts, consider settling them for less than you owe. You might be able to work out a payment plan or a lump sum amount.

Be sure to get an agreement with a creditor in writing before paying them. It should state that any partial payment or plan settles the entire debt in full and releases you from any further obligation.

This is important because in some states paying any amount of an old debt restarts a new statute of limitations period. This is a legal deadline when a creditor can sue you to recover the full amount of old debt.

If you have a large amount of past due debt, it’s wise to get legal help so you understand all your options and make the best decisions for your financial future.

How to Save Money on Clothes

Debt.com strives to provide our users with helpful information while remaining unbiased and truthful. We hold our sponsors and partners to the highest industry standards. Once vetted, those sponsors may compensate us for clicks and transactions that occur from a link within this page.

33 Ways to Save Money on Clothes

Clothes only seem to be getting more expensive. But when you go for something cheap, it falls apart after a few wears. No need to max out your credit card trying to get the clothes you want – we’ve scoured the Internet for the best ways to save money on clothes, so you can find a middle ground between budget and style.

According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends just over 3% of their annual household budget on apparel. That comes out to over $1,800 spent on clothes each year, on average.[1] With that in mind, Debt.com offers this list of the Top 33 methods to save money on clothes:

Method 1: Thrifting

We are starting with the most obvious tip: don’t be afraid of thrift stores! You can find vintage stuff, modern pieces, or items that will look great with just a little bit of alteration, usually for less than $10.

TIP:

Thrift stores aren’t just for clothes shopping. If you choose to donate your old clothes, get a receipt. This way you can itemize the donation on your taxes.

Method 2: Second-hand apps

Apps like Poshmark and ThredUp are like thrift stores you can visit from your phone. On Poshmark, people list items of clothing they don’t want anymore and you can interact with the sellers directly. Often, this means you can negotiate prices. ThredUp is a little different. The company handles the pricing and vending, and sellers just send in all the clothes they want to get rid of in a shipping bag that ThredUp provides for them. Both of these apps are great ways to buy (and sell) clothes.

TIP:

Turn on notifications for these apps if you want to be sure not to miss any deals.

Method 3: Shop off-season

Retailers want to make the most money they can. We know, that’s not exactly a revolutionary thought. But when you think of it from this perspective, it makes sense that winter clothes are never actually on sale in winter and summer clothes are never discounted when it’s actually hot outside. Stores are going to charge you more when they know you need something. After a season is over, clothes for that type of weather go on sale so stores can get rid of excess inventory. Even though it may seem backward, buying clothing for winter in the summer and vice versa can save you a lot of money.

TIP:

Some items that can be worn year-round, like t-shirts, won’t be discounted very much when seasons change. Look for things like swimsuits and puffer jackets that are very seasonal.

Method 4: Get on email lists

Some people see an inbox full of junk mail, but to you, it’s an inbox full of savings opportunities. Consumers on email lists are often the first ones to know about sales and special offers.

TIP:

Set up a separate section or folder in your email inbox for offers and promotions. This way, your important personal or work emails won’t get lost.

Method 5: Shop online

Shopping in physical stores gives you a limited range of prices to choose from. Looking at online retailers means you can quickly and easily compare prices and find the best one for your budget


Online Shopping Theme with man using a laptop

TIP:

Shopping through sites like Ebates will give you cash back with every purchase.

Method 6: Sell what you don’t wear

Make some extra cash from the clothes cluttering up your closet. Use the apps in Method 2 or sell to a local consignment store to make some cash on the side, which frees up money for you to spend on new clothes.

TIP:

The money you get from selling clothes doesn’t have to go back into clothes. If your budget is lacking somewhere else, use your earnings for that first.

Method 7: Search coupon sites

Good, old-fashioned coupons will always help you save. You can check out our coupon database here, or Google the store you want to shop followed by the word “coupons.”

TIP:

Don’t feel like searching for coupons for hours on end? Try the Google Chrome plugin called Honey. It finds the best deals for you at checkout.

Method 8: Look for “machine washable” items OR dry-clean at home

Clothing maintenance is a big part of saving money on clothes. Buying clothes that are dry-clean only is counterproductive if you’re trying to save, and hand wash items can take up a lot of your time.

On the other hand, there are some effective methods for taking care of your dry-clean-only items without paying an arm and a leg. This list of dry-cleaning alternatives will keep your clothes fresh at a lower price. Some detergent/fabric softener companies like Woolite also make dryer sheets that have a dry-cleaning effect.

TIP:

Always check the tags on the inside of a piece of clothing to see what the washing instructions are.

Method 9: Upcycle older pieces

Get crafty with clothes that aren’t in style or don’t fit anymore. YouTube and Pinterest are full of ideas for making over old shirt, pants, jeans, and more. Did you know you can make an old t-shirt into tank tops? Or a men’s button-down into a dress? The possibilities are endless.

TIP:

This Pinterest board has over 1000 ways to upcycle clothes.

Method 10: Discount Stores

Discount stores like T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, and Ross sell trendy clothes at lower prices than most department stores. Especially if you shop their sale racks or find gift cards using Method 18, you can get awesome deals.

Sale sign in clothes shop

TIP:

Many of these stores include a “compare at” price on their tags to show you how much you are saving compared to the suggested retail price. These prices are often inflated to make their price look better, so don’t trust it too much.

Method 11: DIY Alterations

You don’t have to throw something out just because it doesn’t fit right anymore. There are some simple ways you can alter your clothes at home to make them last, with or without a sewing machine.

TIP:

This Bustle article gives you some hemming hacks for the less crafty among us. Bespoke Post has a guide to making more drastic alterations, but a sewing machine is required.

Method 12: Rent formalwear

When you have a formal event coming up, it’s tempting to go out and buy something special. Luckily, there are several sites and stores that you can rent clothing from. Renting is a wise choice for outfits like these, because you may only wear it once.

TIP:

RentThe Runway.com is one of the most popular sites for renting designer clothing.

Method 13: Only buy what fits now

You may think you’ll look great in that dress after you lose 20 pounds, but don’t waste your money on something you can’t wear right now.

TIP:

Make goals to buy the clothes once you get to your goal weight, don’t buy the clothes first and try to fit into them later. It will make weight loss feel even more rewarding.

TIP:

If you hit a weight loss goal and need some extra cash, sell your larger-sized clothes. This will help you keep the weight off as you earn some extra cash.

Method 14: Stay away from the center of stores

Many clothing stores put their highest prices in the center of the store. Sale items are usually in the back or around the edges of the store. Flashy center displays are meant to draw you in, so you buy the more expensive stuff.

TIP:

When you walk in, put on your blinders and head straight for the sale section.

Method 15: Use price-adjustment programs

Some stores will match prices at other stores or adjust prices if the item goes on sale within a certain amount of time after you buy it. Here is a list of some store policies you should know to save.

Price Fight

TIP:

Don’t count on always being able to adjust prices later. Try to make sure you are getting the best price when you buy, so you don’t have to double back!

Method 16: Know your price codes

Some stores use certain numbers in their sale prices that indicate aspects of the sale. If you know these secret codes, you can navigate sales knowing exactly what kind of deal you’re getting.

TIP:

The Cheapism blog has a list of 16 retailers and their sale pricing codes.

Method 17: Don’t trust outlet malls

Outlet malls can be just like the flash sales described in Method 23: tricky. Stores there will say they have the lowest prices to get you to buy, but you can never be too sure.

TIP:

Really want an item at an outlet store but not sure if you’re actually getting a great deal? Use your phone to look it up online to see if you can find a better price.

Method 18: Get discounted gift cards

Believe it or not, some people just don’t want to use their gift cards. They sell them online at a deep discount and you can find them on sites like Gift Card Granny and Cardpool. This basically means you can get free money. Want to shop at your favorite store but there are no sales going on? Buy a $30 gift card for $25 and automatically save.

TIP:

Don’t buy a gift card for somewhere you rarely shop just because it’s a great deal. Look specifically for cards you know you will use.

Method 19: If you want luxury, go for consignment

You don’t need to pay full price for designer clothes to look good. Check out local designer and vintage consignment shops to find unique clothes at prices you can actually afford.

TIP:

If you want to shop for discount designer goods online, try The RealReal or LePrix.

Method 20: Care for your clothes

Learn what the fabric care symbols on your tags mean and make sure to follow those care recommendations. Store your clothes in a dry, clean place, and wash delicate items accordingly. The more you care for your clothes, the longer the will last and the less you will spend.

Clean clothes on hangers in the laundry room

TIP:

Don’t keep your plastic dry-cleaning bags. They can actually harm your clothes if you leave them in too long.

TIP:

Don’t hang sweaters and knit fabrics. The weight of the clothing will cause it to stretch over time. Fold and store these items.

Method 21: Host a clothes swap

You probably aren’t the only one in your friend group who wants to update their closet without emptying their wallet. Plan a clothes swap party in which all of your friends bring the clothes they don’t want any more to trade with others. Then you can all get something new without spending a dime!

TIP:

Make it a real party! Plan activities besides the swap and have people bring food and drinks.

Method 22: Don’t be a follower

Following trends is fun, but it means buying new clothes all the time. Even if you can get a trendy piece cheap at a fast-fashion store, it won’t be made to last. Spend some time building your own style and investing in classic pieces instead.

TIP:

If you just can’t tear yourself away from looking through all the trends online, look at what’s in your closet before buying something new. You may be able to use Method 9 to be “in” this season without spending money.

Method 23: Skip the flash sales

Flash sales are tempting, but tricky. Often, the discounts aren’t really that great, they’re just hyped up to draw you in and make you think you’re getting a good deal. You’re smarter than that. Don’t be fooled!

TIP:

Keep an eye on the shipping prices. They may be higher during flash sales, which basically cancels out your savings.

Method 24: Avoid buying things just because they are on sale

Low prices are enticing, but will you actually wear that sale item? If you buy something just because it’s on sale, you’re wasting money that could have been spent on a better addition to your closet.

TIP:

Before you make an impulse purchase, put the item back on the rack and walk around for a bit. If you’re still thinking about it later, it may be worth getting. If you’re not so sure about it after a while, let it go.

Method 25: Think about the cost-per-wear

Say you are thinking about buying a shirt that costs $40, but you think you’ll only wear it 4 times. That’s $10 per wear! The lower the cost-per-wear, the more “worth it” a piece of clothing is.

Sad woman looking at her wallet with money fly away

TIP:

Not into doing math? Glamour has a cost-per-wear calculator.

Method 26: Take the surveys on your receipts

You know those surveys cashiers always tell you take that you ignore every time? Take the survey and you could get a coupon for the next time you shop. It’s worth the five minutes.

TIP:

Only do surveys that give you immediate benefits, like $5 off a $25+ purchase. The contests aren’t worth entering.

Method 27: Set a waiting period

Prevent impulse buys by giving yourself a purchase waiting period. See an item you really like? Make yourself wait anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. The amount of time you wait depends on how much time you think you need to decide.

TIP:

Waiting can help in more ways than one. If you wait long enough, the item you want might go on sale, making your decision much easier.

Method 28: Explore yard sales and garage sales

This is similar to thrifting, but a little more hit-or-miss. The great thing about garage and yard sales is that you can negotiate prices. If you see something you really like, ask the seller if they’re willing to go lower.

TIP:

Treat it like a fun outing, not a mission for something specific.

Method 29: “One in, one out” rule

Keep your closet clean and your budget happy by using the “one in, one out” rule. This means that if you purchase a new piece of clothing, you have to get rid of a piece of clothing you currently own. You’ll shop less if you know it means having to give away things you like.

TIP:

Be flexible with this rule if you have a small, minimalist wardrobe. You probably need all of those items to stay! Try another method instead.

Method 30: Use rewards programs at your favorite stores

Everyone has a favorite store, or two, or five. Whatever yours are, check to see if they have a customer rewards program. You could earn discounts and special perks just for shopping at your favorite places.

Earn Reward Points

TIP:

Check out this list of loyalty programs on Shopify to get started.

Method 31: Track prices for items you want

Just because something is expensive now, it doesn’t mean it will be impossible for you to forever. Set up a price tracker so you get notified when the price drops. Then you get what you want without having to overspend.

TIP:

camelcamelcamel is one of the most popular price trackers online.

Method 32: Create a budget and stick to it

Add a clothing category to your monthly budget. Don’t spend any more than the amount you set for that category. If you have extra at the end of the month, you can put it in your savings account or roll it over to the next month’s clothing budget.

TIP:

Follow our guide to creating a budget or set a 3% target spending limit, since that’s the average spending on apparel. You can always adjust the spending target later if you need to scale up or scale back

Method 33: Invest in your basics

In a post about saving money on clothes, it seems counterintuitive to tell you to invest in some more expensive pieces. Yet, spending on quality basics now can save you a lot down the road. Looking back at Method 25, the “cost-per-wear” rule, you can see how spending more now on an item you will wear for years can be the better option for the long run.

TIP:

Not quite sure what your style is yet? Make a Pinterest board and pin every outfit you like. Then look over all your pins and make note of what is similar about everything you chose.

How to Save Money on a Wedding

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51 Ways to Save Money on a Wedding

Weddings are about starting a life together. When you begin your lives as a couple, you also start a joint financial journey. Start it on the right foot with these 51 ways to save money on a wedding:

Save on Your Wedding Dress & Wedding Party AttireSave on Your Wedding Dress & Wedding Party Attire

1. Buy a used or sale dress or sample dress

Keep in mind, you’re only going to wear this dress for the big day. You may not even have it on for a full 24 hours. Why sink your money into buying a new dress when that cash could be better spent on things like catering and decorations? Websites like Nearly Newlywed sell used wedding dresses at lower price points. You can also try local thrift stores or go to sale events at bridal shops. Additionally, many bridal shops sell their sample dresses for low prices at special events. Ask your local stores about a sample sale. You can always have it altered later, but you won’t be able to beat that lower price!

2. Wear a non-wedding dress

You also have the choice to not wear a “wedding dress” at all. Formal gowns, prom dresses, quinceañera dresses, and even more casual outfits could substitute for a wedding dress. Something white that isn’t specifically marketed for brides will almost always be cheaper.

3. Rent or borrow jewelry

Get glitzy without breaking the bank. Many pieces of wedding jewelry are available to rent just for the occasion. Often, this means you can have even more high-end jewelry for a lower price than if you bought it outright. This list of jewelry rental sites can help you find the right accessories for your big day (and your wallet).

4. Rent a tux

Tuxedos are also prime for renting. It’s convenient and often cheaper to rent a tux or a suit for your big day, and many places will also rent you accessories like shoes and cufflinks. You can also borrow a tux from a friend or family member, or buy one using our tips for saving money on clothes.

5. Save on Bridesmaid Dresses

There are plenty of ways to help your bridal party save money on their dresses and avoid maxing out their credit cards. A modern approach is to pick a color scheme and let your bridesmaids choose whichever style of dress they like in that hue. If you’re afraid of mismatching, go for shorter dresses. They are often cheaper than the floor-length gowns.

Save on Wedding PlanningSave on Wedding Planning

6. Recruit friends

Just because you don’t want to spend on a wedding planner doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. If your friends are willing, delegate some planning tasks to them. Try to keep it light and avoid getting caught up on the little things. They aren’t professionals, but they love you!


7. DIY invites

Printing paper invitations is expensive. Give your invites some homemade flair by creating them yourself! Take a trip to the craft store for some nice cardstock, use a home printer to print on the details, then add some embellishments. It takes some time, but it’s much cheaper and much more personal.

8. Mail a postcard instead of a reply card

Minimize invitation costs even further by including a small RSVP postcard instead of a full-size reply card. It’s cute, more customizable, and much cheaper.

Create an Amazon Wedding Registry

9. Free wedding website

Wedding websites are no passing trend! Efficient, eco-friendly, and simply more fun than a card, they are here to stay. The best part? Many wedding websites are free. That’s right – $0. Zola, Wedding Wire, and the Knot all provide websites and much of their planning features for free.

 

10. Have a long engagement

Enjoy your engagement for as long as you can. A long engagement gives you more time to plan and more time to save. Waiting a couple of years (or three, or four) may mean you have to put up with a lot of people asking when you’re going to get on with it already, but it also means that when you finally have your wedding, you will have the money to make it perfect.

Save on DrinksSave on Drinks

11. Get bubbles beside real champagne

Real champagne is only made in the Champagne region of France. Go with another type of bubbly to avoid overspending on your toast. Prosecco, sparkling rose, and cava wines are all great choices that taste similar to real champagne.

12. Find a store that lets you return unopened alcohol

Ask the liquor provider you work with if you can return unopened beer kegs or bottles of wine and liquor. If you have extra, you can waste less and get your money back for what you haven’t used.

13. Limit options to only beer & wine at dinner

Having a full bar at dinner is unnecessary and costs more than it would be worth. Offer only beer and wine at the reception dinner. It will give your guests something to sip on that’s not too expensive and won’t get anyone too tipsy too fast.

14. Create one or more signature cocktails

Personalize your cocktail hour and cut down on costs by creating a menu of 2-3 signature cocktails. You can name them after you and your new spouse, your pets, your hometowns  ̶ whatever you like. Make a little sign to explain each drink and talk to your bartender about what you want each one to consist of. By doing this, you keep your liquor purchases at a minimum.

15. Don’t use top-shelf liquor

Speaking of liquor purchases, stay away from the top shelf for this event. Especially since most of it will be mixed into cocktails, you don’t need to splurge on big-name brands. Stick to well liquor brands and you (and your wallet) will be fine.

Save on FoodSave on Food

16. Try family style or buffet

Guests usually like this more, anyway, because they get to eat a wider variety of foods and they can portion for themselves.

17. Plan brunch or tea

Go non-traditional and don’t serve dinner at all! If you have an early afternoon wedding, serve brunch or have tea time instead. There won’t be as much food to buy but it will still be fun and filling.

18. Choose cheaper, but more creative foods

Find ways to use cheaper ingredients in innovative ways by using unusual spices or picking pretty presentation styles. It will save you money on food, but it won’t look or taste cheap!

19. Serve small plates/tapas rather than a big meal

They may not be as filling as a big buffet, but small plates and tapas mean lots of fun and variety. If you have an afternoon wedding, this is especially fitting.

20. Host a potluck or BBQ

Get help from your guests and have a potluck or BBQ instead of a traditional dinner. Every family can bring a dish they love, ensuring that everyone will have enough to eat. Just make sure to create a spreadsheet or email chain to record what everyone is bringing beforehand. You don’t want 10 people bringing sides of mashed potatoes.

Save on CakeSave on Cake

21. Get a fake decoration cake

Instead of having one huge decorated wedding cake, ask your baker to make a fake one just for decoration. Then they can bake less decorative (but just as tasty) sheet cakes for the guests to actually eat. Or you can have them make a single tier of the cake real, then make the rest fake.

22. Buy a traditional real cake  ̶ but small, just for you

Instead of a fake decorated cake, get a real decorated cake, only small. That way, you can your spouse have something for the cake cutting for the cameras, but guests will have some yummy sheet cakes instead.

23. Go with non-traditional desserts

Why stick with cake? Try something different and have a variety of smaller, non-traditional wedding desserts. Brownies, lemon bars, cannolis, cupcakes, cake pops, and other small bites are perfect for a cost-effective and adorable dessert bar. If your wedding is outdoors, you can even just stock up on s’mores supplies and have a dessert bonfire!

24. Dress up store cakes

Store-bought cakes are often better than people give them credit for. Buy a variety of cakes and add your own decorations, fresh fruit, extra icing, or other edible decorations for a homemade feel without all the work.

25. Get naked

Less icing = less money. The “naked cake” – a cake with icing between the layers but barely any on the outside, usually decorated with fruit and flowers – is very trendy. You can be fashionable and save money!

Save on Your Wedding ReceptionSave on Your Wedding Reception

26. Make your own playlist

Instead of hiring a DJ, create your own playlist and hook up your computer to large speakers. You can guarantee that the music is exactly what you want, and you don’t have to pay anyone to do it for you.

27. Ask your friends about speakers/mics

If you’re your own DJ, it’s even better if you can borrow speakers and amplifiers from friends instead of renting them. Ask your friends who are musicians or in bands if you can borrow their equipment for a night.

28. Set up a DIY photo booth

Set up your own (or a friend’s) camera and create a DIY photo booth. All you need is a nice backdrop and some fun props to record some fun memories of your guests.

29. Thrift dishes and glassware

Get eclectic with some mismatched tableware. Go to a few different thrift stores in your area to stock up on the dishes and glasses that you need, and don’t worry about if they “go” with your wedding colors.

30. Borrow chairs and tables

If you can avoid renting tables and chairs, you will save a lot on your reception costs. See if your religious organization has some you can borrow or ask a local school.

Save on DecorationsSave on Decorations

31. Use fake flowers

Most people at your wedding will be looking at the flowers from a distance, anyway, and fake flowers are just as pretty. Choose this cheaper and longer-lasting option to have a cost-effective and wilt-free decoration.

32. Try dollar store/craft store DIYs

Time to get on Pinterest! There are so many ways to DIY decorations. Make it fun and give your wedding a handmade flair.

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33. Double flowers or plants as favors

A cute way to use your decorations as favors is to use plants as placeholders that your guests can take home. Little succulents or small flowers are perfect for holding place cards and will look great in your guests’ homes.

34. Find recycled materials

Your decorations don’t need to be brand new to give your ceremony and reception the feel that you want. Check sites like Wedding Recycle to find decorations that fit your needs or use leftovers from other friends’ weddings.

 

35. Choose a venue that doesn’t need much decór

Some venues are come beautifully decorated, or their minimalist designs already fit your aesthetic. If you’re going to pay for a venue, you might as well choose one that requires as little extra decór as possible.

Save Money on Wedding GuestsSave Money on Wedding Guests

36. Limit your plus-ones

Don’t throw out a plus-one on every invite you send. Keep it limited to people who you know have significant others.

37. Limit kids

Especially if you want your wedding to have a calmer, more adult-oriented atmosphere, ask your guests to leave the kids with a babysitter for a night. The fewer people there, the less you have to spend.

38. Keep it small

Make your guest list as short as possible and only invite close friends and family for a lower-cost and more intimate affair.

39. Use handmade favors or charitable donations

Instead of dropping big bucks on new favors for everyone, make them yourself! If you’re not very crafty, you can also give a charitable donation in honor of each of your guests.

40. Ask for honeymoon money instead of registry gifts

Creating a registry can be a hassle for both you and your guests. Make it easier on everyone by simply asking for some cash toward your honeymoon.

Save on Wedding CeremonySave on Wedding Ceremony

41. Hire music students

Want some music to walk down the aisle to but don’t want to empty your pockets for a professional? Hire some music students from the local college. Just make sure to “audition” them first.

42. Keep it short

No one wants to sit or stand through an hour and a half of convoluted vows. The shorter the ceremony, the less you have to pay the officiant, and the less you have to pay for the venue.

43. Do it at the courthouse

Bring just a few people with you to the courthouse for a short and simple ceremony. Afterward, you can all go to the reception together.

44. Have a friend do it

Chances are, you have a friend who is ordained to officiate weddings. If they are willing, you can probably get them to do it for free! You can also ask teachers and work colleagues that have been important to you.

45 – Limit photographer hours

It’s unnecessary to have a photographer there for the whole ceremony and the whole reception. Set a limited number of hours for your photographer to keep expenses at a minimum.

Save on a Wedding VenueSave on a Wedding Venue

46. Lose the limo

Your 20-minute drive to the venue shouldn’t take up that much of your budget. Skip the limo and drive there yourself. Make sure there is enough parking for you and your guests, though.

47. Host the ceremony and reception in the same place

Obviously, it costs more to rent two places than to just rent one. It also means no transportation costs between the ceremony location and reception location. Pick a venue that will work for both the ceremony and the reception to save on venue costs.

48. Schedule on non-peak days

Some months and days are more popular than others, and they are priced accordingly. Set a date for a time that’s not in high-demand to get the best price.

49. Consider spaces that aren’t specifically for weddings

Barns, parks, and college campuses all make fun and unusual venues. You’ll get beautiful photos and have more fun than you would in a traditional, stuffy wedding venue.

50. Use someone’s home

Especially for smaller, more intimate weddings, hosting your wedding at a family member’s or friend’s home is a cozy option that can save thousands

51. Relax! You don’t need to be a perfectionist to have a budget-friendly wedding.

How to Save Money on Your Electric Bill

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15 Ways to Save Money on Your Electric Bill

Have you ever asked yourself, “why is my electric bill so high?” If you have, this guide is for you. These 15 ways to save money on your electric bill will help you save energy fast, along with some cash.

how to save money on your electric bill

Method 1: Conserve energy

The best way to save money on your energy bill is to simply to use less energy.

This means turning on fewer lights (and remembering to turn them off), using your hair dryer less, watching less TV, etc.

TIP:

When you first start implementing this rule, leave little notes for yourself by light switches so you remember to turn them off to reduce your light bill.

Estimated Time: Less than 5 minutes

Method 2: Check your water

Your water heater could be a big contributor to your high energy bill.

It takes a lot of work to heat gallons upon gallons of water, so check yourself before you take a long shower or let the faucet run for longer than necessary.

TIP:

Turn down your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for adequate heat that won’t break the bank.

Estimated Time: Less than 5 minutes

Method 3: Get smart with your thermostat

Changing how you regulate the temperature in your home can change the cost of your energy.

Keep your thermostat set to higher temperatures in the summer and lower temperatures in the winter to lower your electricity costs. If it’s too cold for you, put on some extra layers; if it’s too hot, see method 9.

TIP:

If you’re willing to pay a little more up front, think about actually getting smart with your thermostat by purchasing a smart thermostat system like Nest.

Estimated Time: Less than 5 minutes

Method 4: Replace your lightbulbs

Outdated lightbulbs can suck up a lot of electricity.

Switch out your old lightbulbs for LED or smart lightbulbs. They last much longer than normal lightbulbs and don’t waste as much electricity.  When shopping, look for ENERGY STAR certified bulbs.

TIP:

Consider getting dimmer switches, as well. They make it so that you can have the lights but still conserve energy.

Estimated Time: 1-2 hours

Method 5: Check for drafts and leaks

Look around for both air and water leaks, as both can cause hikes in your electric and utility bills.

If you hear a drip, it’s not only annoying  ̶  it’s wasting both water and energy. If things like your toilets or pool pump constantly running, it will add to your water bill, too. Fix leaks as soon as possible and try not to keep windows or doors open while the air conditioner or heater is on.

TIP:

Use a candle to check for air leaks around your doors and windows. Turn off any fans in the room, close any doors, and light the wick. Move it around the edges where there could be a draft. If the flame flickers, you will know there is an air leak there.

Estimated Time: 30 minutes

Method 6: Upgrade household appliances

An investment in high-efficiency appliances can help you save more in the long run.

Older appliances use much more electricity than newer, high-efficiency appliances. Retire your old dishwasher, washer, or dryer in favor of a new one that will save you more money in the long run.

TIP:

Check EnergyStar.com for lists of efficient appliances. You can usually find these money-saving products at Sears for good prices.

Estimated Time: 3-5 hours

Method 7: Change your fridge & freezer temperatures

Don’t waste energy keeping your food colder than necessary.

Refrigerators don’t need to be set any lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and fridges don’t need to be colder than 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Setting temperatures any lower than that will not keep food any fresher and will simply waste electricity.

TIP:

Read storage labels on your food and drinks to make sure you are storing them properly.

Estimated Time: Less than 5 minutes

Method 8: Switch out your air filters

A clogged-up air filter means more energy is needed to push air through the system.

Make it easy on your airways by changing out filters. It’s recommended that you change your filters approximately once every three months.

TIP:

If you can’t spend money on a new filter, make yours last longer by cleaning it regularly. Also clean all your vents and around your air conditioning unit, especially if you have pets. Pet hair can build up and cause clogs.

Estimated Time: 30 minutes-1 hour

Method 9: Install ceiling fans

Ceiling fans are a more efficient way to keep cool.

Although being strategic with your thermostat can help lower energy costs, turning it off altogether and sticking to fans will use even less. You can also open windows to get a cross breeze.

TIP:

EnergyStar.gov has a list of the most efficient fans you can buy.

Estimated Time: 3-5 hours

Method 10: Remember to unplug

Even electronics that are switched off can use electricity if they remain plugged in.

Most people think that turning something off is good enough when it comes to saving energy. Actually, electronics are still using electricity as long as they are plugged in. If you want to save a little extra, fully unplug your electronics when you aren’t using them.

TIP:

To make unplugging easier, get a power strip with a switch. Instead of unplugging everything, you only have to turn the strip off.

Estimated Time: Less than 5 minutes

Method 11: Do your laundry on cold

Set your washer to “cold” to save more energy when you’re washing clothes.

In addition to using less electricity, doing your laundry on the cold setting prevents colors from bleeding. It’s a win-win for your wallet and your white shirts.

TIP:

Make sure you are using a detergent that works well in cold water. Some are specially designed to work best at warm or hot temperatures.

Estimated Time: Less than 5 minutes

Method 12: Air-dry your clothes

Your dryer works overtime to dry your laundry. Give it a break.

Not every load of laundry needs to cycle through the dryer, which sucks up a ton of energy. Try air-drying your clothes every once in a while to lower your power bill.

TIP:

Is the weather making it hard for you to line-dry clothes outdoors, but you don’t have a lot of space inside? Invest in a foldable drying rack for the laundry area that you can store when not in use. If it’s raining outside, you can set up floor fans to dry your clothes inside.

Estimated Time: 5-7 hours

Method 13: Avoid cooking with the oven

Ovens take a lot of energy to heat up, even when you’re cooking something small.

If you can use the stovetop, a toaster, or a toaster oven to prepare your meal instead, you will save the energy it takes to heat up a large oven.

TIP:

Want to save any more energy? Try some one-pan recipes. Short cooking times and fewer dishes to wash means less energy all around.

Estimated Time: None

Method 14: Plant trees

Trees provide shade that can reduce the need for energy-sucking air conditioning.

Not only are trees beautiful to look at, but they are also useful for those wanting to save money on their electric bills. Trees near your home help regulate indoor temperatures, meaning your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard in the hot summer months.

TIP:

This guide from the Arbor Day Foundation guides you through everything you need to know about planting trees specifically to save energy.

TIP:

If you want to avoid the cost of purchasing trees some trees, such as fruit trees, can be grown from the seeds of the fruit.

Estimated Time: 3-5 hours to plant, time to grow the tree varies based on the variety.

Method 15: Talk to your utility provider

You’ll never know if you could be paying less if you don’t ask.

Some companies can offer you a special deal or arrange your bill so that charges are lower during certain times of the day. Make a call and be upfront about what you want. You may be surprised by what you can negotiate.

TIP:

Ask for an energy audit. Utility providers will often do this for free and the results of the audit will show you how you could be using less energy in your home and saving money.

Estimated Time: 15-30 minutes

How to Save Money on Food

Debt.com strives to provide our users with helpful information while remaining unbiased and truthful. We hold our sponsors and partners to the highest industry standards. Once vetted, those sponsors may compensate us for clicks and transactions that occur from a link within this page.

Learn how to save money on food without cooking every meal at home or only eat ramen.

When you realize just how much money you spend each month on food, it can be eye-opening. From the higher price of organic foods to the excessive cost of eating out with your coworkers every day, there are plenty of ways that food can be a runaway cost in your budget. But with a little planning, you can learn how to save money on food without cooking absolutely every meal at home or only eating discount ramen for the rest of your life. You can eat well, indulge your inner foodie and still stay on budget.
Woman counting expenses with calculator at supermarket, learning how to save money on food

Step 1: Understand the cost of food

Know what food costs, so you know how to save

Comparing price per unit is a good way to save money on foodIt’s common wisdom that when it comes to making meals at home versus dining out, at-home meals should save money. But is that always true? It depends on what you buy and how smart you are about shopping.

If you buy prepared meals from the grocer or frozen meals, the costs savings can be minimal… unless you use coupons. So, saving money on food usually requires a combination of cooking and smart shopping.

You also need to be aware of other factors that increase the cost of food:

  • Organic produce and organic proteins are always more expensive
  • Fruit and vegetables are cheaper (and often on sale) when they’re in season
  • Store-brand or local products may give you a discount over national brands
  • Preparation generally increases cost – for instance, block cheese is usually cheaper than shredded

TIP: Take some time to get familiar with when produce is in season, so you can cook meals when produce is at its cheapest. The USDA offers a basic seasonal produce guide.

Time: 5 minutes

Save money this week with these unbeatable discounts!

Get Coupons

Step 2: Check coupons and grocery store circulars first

See what’s on sale and where you can double up on discounts

Shopping with couponsHere’s a secret to shopping. In many stores, you can usually pair manufacturers’ coupons with in-store deals that you find in grocery store circulars. For example, find a coupon good for a dollar off on two pizzas. Then find a BOGO (buy one get one) offer on the same pizza. Now you get two pizzas for a dollar less than the price of one.

Couponing will help you get discounts on prepackaged meals, frozen foods, snacks and pantry items. This can be a big help for things like packing lunches and dinners for nights when you won’t have time to cook.

Tip: Don’t want to waste time clipping coupons and having them scanned in checkout? Go digital!

Tip: Gradually build your pantry by waiting for key ingredients to go on sale. Here’s Food Network List of Basic Pantry Items.

Time: 30 minutes per week

Tool: Debt.com’s Coupon Center

Step 3: Set a weekly meal plan that works for your schedule

Don’t get complicated on days where you’re short on time

If you're cooking a meal for the firs time, don't do it on a busy nightPlan your meals for an entire week and be practical. Choose recipes that match your enthusiasm for cooking and with consideration for your schedule. Have a tough meeting every Wednesday afternoon that tends to run late? Make that a night you cook a frozen meal or do semi-homemade.

Meal planning allows you to make sure you use ingredients fully, instead of letting things go bad. If you buy meats for the week, freeze proteins for later in the week so they don’t spoil. If you’re buying something like heavy cream and one recipe will only use half the container, find another recipe that will use the other half.

Tip: Also consider tricks like making foods ahead of time on the weekends or prepping casseroles and freezing them. Any trick you can use to make weeknight meals easy is one less meal you didn’t mean to eat out.

Time to plan: 30 minutes per week

Time to shop: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Step 4: Take advantage of deals when dining out

Look for the apps, offers and credit or debit accounts that help you save money

Using a cash back credit or debit card can help you save money on foodThere are plenty of ways to save money when dining out. You can find deals in apps like Groupon and Living Social to get discounts on meals. Many banks (and credit unions) offer cash-back offers if you use your debit card at certain restaurants. Or you can use a rewards credit card that offers cash back on your meal.

There are also restaurant apps that help you find places to eat and reservations. Many of these services, such as OpenTable, give you points for using their app. Once you get enough points, you can redeem them for a gift card.

Like using coupons and in-store deals, you can also pair savings on dining out. So, you find coupons for discounts on meals, make the reservations through an app that offers points, then pay with a debit or credit card that gives you cash back.

Tip: Restaurant apps and other finder apps like Yelp always list the average cost you can expect to pay. Check this while you’re choosing restaurants to avoid bills that are out of your budget.

Time: 15-30 minutes

Step 5: Only dine out to treat yourself

Meals out and lunches with coworkers shouldn’t be an everyday occurrence

Cheerful business colleagues talking about something funny on a lunch break in a restaurant.This doesn’t mean that you should only eat out on birthdays and holidays, but it does mean dining out should be done in moderation. If you’re eating out for dinner 3-4 times per week, and then you’re eating lunches out with coworkers every day, you’re overspending on food.

In general, you shouldn’t eat out more than 2-3 times per week, including work lunches. If you’re budgeting to pay off debt or reach a savings goal, you should eat out even less. But don’t cut eating out completely! Make sure to treat yourself, so you don’t succumb to saving money exhaustion, which usually leads to overspending.

Step 6: Make any big meals at your home potluck

You can drop serious cash on a big dinner or party, so divide the cost

Make party spreads potluck to spread out the cost of a big mealBig family meals and parties can easily bust your food budget. Just because you’re hosting, it doesn’t mean you’re the only one that needs to incur the cost. The best idea is to split up the cost by making things potluck or BYOB. Have guests bring a dish or bring their own alcohol. If it’s a party, you can provide the mixers, but everyone brings the hard liquor they want to drink.

Tip: Meal planning for big meals is essential. Count portions for guests carefully so you don’t overspend and end up with food waste. Only cook to feed an army if you have an army of people coming over for dinner!

Step 7: Be smarter about food when you’re on vacation

Food can end up being a big credit card expense when you travel

Pack snacks for family road tripsIt’s not always possible to get away from using credit cards on your vacation. You may not want to carry a lot of cash, and if you’re traveling aboard, your debit card probably won’t work. But this doesn’t mean that you should just spend with a total disregard for your budget.

Here are a few tips for how to save money on food while traveling:

  1. Get a coupon book for restaurant discounts from the city’s visitor center or from your hotel concierge.
  2. Find a hotel that offers free continental breakfast.
  3. Consider getting a hotel with a kitchenette, so you can cook some meals at home.
  4. Take snacks and drinks or buy them at a nearby convenience store, so you can avoid vending machines.
  5. If you’re driving, pack food to eat on the trip, so you don’t have to stop for fast food.

How to Save Money on Groceries

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Follow this guide to learn how to save money on groceries to feed your family – and your finances.

You have to eat to live and you have to pay to eat. It’s a vicious, hungry cycle. If you’re wondering how to save money on groceries without losing too much of your free time, this guide can help. Shows about extreme couponing make it seem like a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Start by getting organized and setting a realistic budget and the rest of these steps will fall into place.

how to save money on groceries

Step 1: Create a monthly budget.

Your first step is mapping out exactly how much you want to spend on groceries each month.

Don’t forget to factor in things like cleaning supplies and toiletries – groceries aren’t limited to food. Debt.com offers a range of budgeting resources, so you can make a budget that works for you. The 50/30/20 budget helps you split up your income efficiently to cover your needs, wants, and savings. Tiller, a budget spreadsheet system, can also make it easier to plan out your spending.

TIPS:

Find a budgeting tool that minimizes the hassle of managing your money, so it’s easier to stick with planning and saving.

Add some room for indulgences into your budget. If you plan to be as bare-bones as possible, you could get frustrated and give up more easily. Rewarding yourself is a responsible part of budgeting!

Estimated Time: 1-2 hours

Step 2: Plan your shopping trips around grocery store sale schedules.

Grocery stores run on specific shipment and sale schedules that you can track.

This means that you can anticipate sales before they happen and only stock up on something when you know you’ll get the best deals. For example, every time the Super Bowl rolls around, there are great specials on frozen foods and snacks. After Thanksgiving, you can stock up on all the hearty ingredients that go on sale. Love chocolate? Post-Valentine’s Day sales will be perfect for you.

TIP:

This guide from the Six Dollar Family blog explains the best times to shop for different items throughout the year.

Estimated Time: 15 minutes

Step 3: Compare prices and check out grocery store ads.

It may be more convenient to go to only one grocery store, but it can result in better prices if you shop around.

Different stores also have sales at varying times, so check out their weekly ads. Don’t forget about gas prices, though. If a store 15 miles away has slightly lower prices, the cost to get there may mean it isn’t worth it.

TIP:

BeFrugal has a long list of stores with links to their weekly ads. Look for stores near you and find out what they have on sale.

Estimated time: 1-2 hours

Step 4: Find coupons for the products you want.

Online coupon sites make it especially easy to get the products you need at lower prices.

Search the web for the type of product you want followed by the word “coupon” and thousands of results will come back. Keep your eyes open for products you may need to replace soon or you’ve avoided before because of their prices. You should also take a look at our Coupon Center to find coupons that help save you extra money on things you normally purchase.

TIP:

Finding coupons before you make your list helps you be more efficient about when you buy things you need. For example, you may not be out of your favorite laundry detergent yet, but a $1-off coupon that expires next week means you should buy it now for the best deal.

Estimated time: 2-3 hours

Step 5: Make a list and stick to it.

Creating a list is one of the most important steps of this guide.

Only write down what you know you will use, otherwise you could end up losing money on food you never eat. Grocery stores are designed to be tempting. It can be difficult to resist picking out unnecessary foods from those beautiful displays of new products, freshly made sweets, and expensive pre-packaged meals. Put on your grocery shopping blinders when you’re at the store and stay focused on getting only what you need.

TIP:

A great way to shop and save is to invest in frozen and canned foods. They last much longer and are very versatile ingredients, not to mention they’re usually cheaper. Frozen vegetables also retain more nutrients.

Estimated time: 25 minutes

Step 5: Check the prices again at the store.

Not only should you double check the prices for the brands you have on your list, but you should also keep an eye out for comparable items at lower prices.

In addition, there could be in-store sales that you missed when doing research online and in weekly ads. This is also your chance to take advantage of stores that have price-matching programs. Some stores, including Walmart and Target, will match lower prices on qualifying products. Read more about the programs here.

TIP:

At most stores, there is a section of the price sticker on the shelves that lists an item’s price per ounce. This price is a better indicator of the value of the product. For example, you may think that a $4 jar of tomato sauce is better for your budget than a $5 jar, but because of differing sizes, the $5 jar may have a better price per ounce.

Estimated Time: 1-2 hours

Step 6: Ensure that everything checks out correctly.

Grocery shopping can be exhausting, but don’t think getting to the checkout line means you can relax.

Keep an eye on every price as it’s being rung up. A sale may not register correctly or there may be price discrepancies that you were unaware of. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you think something is wrong.

TIP:

Don’t forget to use any of your paper or electronic coupons!

Estimated Time: 5 minutes

Step 7: Store your groceries properly.

Learning how to properly store things is as much a part of how to save money on groceries as tracking sales.

Even if you’re a master at couponing, all that work is worth nothing if your purchases go bad in just a few days. Make your food lasts longer by reading up on how to store it the right way (and when to throw it out).

TIP:

Use this guide for storing fruits and veggies, this guide for meats/seafood, and this guide for dairy products.

Estimated Time: 5-10 minutes

Bonus: Consider meal planning and meal prepping.

Planning out your meals and prepping them all at once can save you time and money.

Making a weekly menu plan for all your meals means you will know exactly how you are going to use all of your grocery store purchases. You can’t have waste if you have a plan for everything! Meal planning and prepping also enables you to be prepared for situations where you are in a rush. If you wake up late, you already have some overnight oats stashed in the fridge. If you need a quick dinner, you already have the recipe planned out and the ingredients chopped. Getting started will take some adjusting because of the time it takes to plan, but if you get used to it, it’s worth it.

TIP:

The Budget Mom has a meal planning freezer challenge that can help you jump right into this money-saving hack.

How to Save for Retirement

Retirement can be hard for people to understand because it’s not something you can buy, but it’s something you need money for. And it’s not something you need money for in a few years, like buying a house or car. It’s something that, for most people, is decades away. But financial companies and even your employer are trying to get people to think more about saving for retirement because for most of us, we can’t work forever. This guide helps you understand how to save for retirement

When is the right time to start thinking about retirement?

It's time to learn how to save for retirement
Retirement, in general, usually enters your life the first time you get a job with an actual paycheck. Each paycheck you get has money deducted from it that goes toward Social Security. That’s a government program that provides retirement benefits, as well as disability and survivor’s benefits to Americans.

But the idea of saving for retirement probably won’t enter your life until you get a full-time job. It happens when your company offers something called a 401(k) plan. These are employer-sponsored retirement plans. Your employer takes money out of your paycheck and invests it for you via an outside company. Companies can also provide a financial incentive in the form of a match, allowing you to save more for retirement. A 401(k) is often the first time that people start actively saving for retirement.

Why do you need to save for retirement?

Individuals are living longer than ever, but the retirement age hasn’t changed much. The average retirement age for Americans is 62. However, many of us are living until almost 80, and a chunk of us make it to over 100, which means we will need some form of income for at least 15 years after our last paycheck.

Years ago, it was the protocol for companies to “provide” for your retirement through pensions, or defined benefit plans. But according to a recent Willis Towers Watson study, only 16 percent of “Fortune 500” companies offered a defined benefit plan, whether it was traditional or hybrid (with a 401(k)), to new hires. This is a drop from 20 years ago when 59 percent of the same employers offered jobs with pensions.

And while Social Security can provide some financial help, individuals can no longer solely depend on the system to take care of all their financial needs. For those of us who aren’t living like Scrooge McDuck, we need some kind of backup plan. This is where saving for retirement comes in.

Retirement planning can help you figure out how much money you will need when you are no longer working. Recent research from the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies shows the average income for a retiree is $32,000. The number is higher for married retirees ($48,000) and much lower for those who are unmarried ($19,000). The majority of this comes from Social Security retirement benefits, but many say they still struggle with everyday expenses. Proper planning can help you avoid that struggle and allow you to live your retired life to the fullest.

How to save for retirement

Assessing the health of your 401K nest eggThere are many different investment vehicles to help you save for retirement. The easiest way for many of us is to use a 401(k) through our company. It will automatically deduct money from your paycheck and put it into an account. Then you invest the money in a mix of stocks, bonds, and cash. How the money gets invested depends on the company you are with. Some companies let you choose how you want to invest while others give you a suggestion based on your risk profile. Others will put your money in their own selection of investments based on the year you will likely retire. The older you get, the less risky your investments tend to become as you will be needing more of that money sooner.

Even if you leave the company, the money in this 401(k) will continue to be invested until you decide what to do with it. You can roll it over into another account (where it will still be invested), you reach retirement age and start getting disbursements, or you cash it in.

Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs

Individual retirement accounts are like 401(k)s, except they are not provided by your employer. You can open an IRA by visiting a local financial services firm, or even finding one online, and creating an account. It is similar to a 401(k) in that your investments will be based on your risk profile and other retirement needs. Some companies provide you with an adviser to understand your needs and help you create a retirement plan. These retirement planners will look at all aspects of your life and ask you questions about how you anticipate your lifestyle to be once you’ve retired. From there they will formulate an amount you need to invest in order to achieve those goals when you reach full retirement age.

Unlike a 401(k), where the money is taken out of your paycheck, you will need to have money transferred from your checking or savings account on a regular basis to mimic a 401(k).

Traditional IRAs vs. Roth IRAs

With a traditional 401(k) or IRA, taxes will not be deducted until you start taking disbursements on the money. This means that the money you invest is actually tax deductible each year when you file your taxes. When you start taking disbursements, you will pay taxes on the amount then, whatever your tax rate might be.

However, there is another form of retirement account called a Roth. This type of IRA takes out taxes before you invest the money. This means that when you retire, you’ll get whatever money you are being disbursed, tax-free. This can be really useful if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket when you retire. You cannot deduct Roth contributions from your yearly taxes. However, there are certain limits to who can invest in a Roth and how much you can put in.

Roth IRA Limits

There are some basic rules for those wanting to contribute to a Roth. The main rule is that how much you can contribute depends on your adjusted gross income. As you make more, the amount you can contribute decreases. At a certain income level, you are no longer able to contribute — at least in the traditional way.

Can contribute the maximum of $5,500 (or $6,500 if over 50)

Single/Head-of-household: $120,000 or less

Married Filing Jointly: $189,000 or less

Can contribute a reduced amount

Single/Head-of-household: $120,000 to $134,999

Married filing jointly: $189,000 to $198,999

Not eligible to contribute

Single/Head-of-household: $135,000 or more

Married filing jointly: $199,000 or more

 

There’s more to Roth IRAs, but these basics can help you decide if it’s a good choice for you.

Using an HSA as a retirement vehicle?

Health Savings AccountHealth Savings Accounts are frequently a topic of conversation when starting a new job or getting a new insurance provider at work. Most people think of them as an alternative to a PPO or HMO. However, for those in the know, an HSA can be a secret retirement fund.

An HSA is an alternative to a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) or a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), where you have a high-deductible health plan and no other health insurance. You can contribute money via your paycheck. This helps offset your taxable income, or via additional funds, which are tax deductible. Most people who have this account carry a small balance for use as its intended purpose, taking care of medical expenses, such as doctor and specialist visits.

But for many affluent Americans, they max out the contribution amounts, which currently are $3,350 for individual health plans and $6,750 for a family plan. But they pay out of pocket for medical expenses, allowing their HSA money to grow throughout the years.

HSA vs. FSA

Many of you might be wondering what the difference between an HSA and an FSA. Well, an HSA can be used to pay for medical expenses but can also be used as a retirement investment. A health savings account can be used to pay for doctor’s visits, procedures and the like. But you can also let it sit, untouched, earning money for as long as you don’t use it. Your HSA carries over with you from job to job as well.

An FSA is a Flexible Spending Account. It’s also used for health care, including eye doctor’s visits. However, you can only contribute a maximum of $2,650 to it. These funds must be used by the end of the year they were distributed. Otherwise, you will lose them.

Interesting HSA Facts

Once you put money into an HSA, it grows tax-free. You can use that money without penalty at any time on qualified medical expenses without facing any tax penalty. If you do decide to use it on something other than a medical expense before retirement age (65), you will face a 20% penalty. Once you reach 65, you are allowed to take as much as you want and use it for what you want, there are no required minimum distributions.

The HSA is definitely a health plan, but it is often used as a third investment account next to 401(k)s and IRAs. While it is still best to use this for medical expenses, which have a tendency to jump as you age, it can be a nice addition to your retirement savings if you plan correctly. When planning your retirement, make sure think about how this money could be used for long-term care facilities, hospital stays and more.

How much should I save for retirement?

Again, this all depends on the kind of lifestyle you would like to live in retirement. If you plan on living modestly in a house that will be paid off, you likely will not need as much in retirement savings as someone who wants to travel the world and spend money on their grandchildren. Certified Financial Planners can help you plot out your savings and investing plans so that when you are retiring, you won’t need to worry about potentially running out of money due to illness or unexpected expenses.

What Can I Do Now To Prepare For A Recession?

Question: I’ll turn 25 in December and am in line for a major promotion at work. I grew up during the Great Recession, so I’ve been very careful about not blowing my money on a house or an expensive car. I live in a modest apartment and still drive the Honda I had in high school. 

Thing is, I still have $14,000 in student loans to pay off, and a couple grand on my credit cards from last holidays. I have an emergency fund of $1,200, and no other debts. But what if there’s another recession in my lifetime? What can I do to prepare better than my parents, who lost their jobs a year apart and were already seriously in debt when that happened?

This has me seriously freaked out.   

— Rebecca in Rhode Island

Howard Dvorkin answers…

I don’t want to scare you, Rebecca, but I feel safe making this prediction: There will be another recession in your lifetime. In fact, it might be a lot sooner than you think.

While I’ve mused about the next recession myself — wondering if the spark will be an auto bubble, student loans, or even a retirement crisis — other experts have become more emphatic.

Zillow Research polled 99 financial experts, and while their opinions on the date of the next recession varied from the fourth quarter of 2018 (only 4 percent) to the first quarter of 2022 (6 percent), one stat was startling…

Only 1 expert thought a recession would happen after 2022.

I’ve been around long enough not to make predictions about the economy, sports games, or the Oscars. I simply mention this as proof that recessions are a part of life.

Hopefully, the next one — whenever it is —won’t be as devastating as the Great Recession of a decade ago. I’m a CPA and not a psychologist, but it seems like you’re experiencing some post-traumatic stress from your adolescence. I can try to alleviate your stress with some factual advice.

Don’t go for the gold (or silver)

First, let me tell you what not to do. Last year, a reader’s husband wanted to invest in silver, as a hedge against the next recession. While it’s true that precious metals skyrocket in value during economic downturns, it’s also true that they don’t help you when you have bills to pay.

The wife told me the couple still had debts to pay. It makes no sense to prepare for a recession by ignoring bills that come with steep interest rates to buy metals or stocks in them that earn no interest themselves.

Don’t panic

You’re in pretty good shape, Rebecca. Your biggest debt is your student loan, and you have options there. While you can’t simply get rid of that debt, you can make a serious dent in it by exploring several proven options — including federal programs that can greatly reduce your monthly payments. Check out How to Get Out of Student Loan Debt.

Do prepare

You’re not alone, Rebecca. Many survivors of the Great Recession are worried about the next one. That’s why Debt.com put together this report: How to Recession-Proof Your Finances. I urge you to read it because I think you’ll find you’re already halfway there.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

Ask The Expert: How Can I Avoid Overdraft Fees?

Question: I just started to budget a few months ago, after reading articles and blogs. I’m in debt, and I’m working on that. I have no credit cards due to poor credit management, and I have a small savings account that I can only put $10 a month into.

My main concern is using my overdraft protection funds to cover my bills. I get paid twice a month on the last day of the month, and the 15th of the month. (If that date falls on the weekends, I get paid the day before.)

After figuring out all my expenses for the month, I’m in the negative. I split up my bills between the two paychecks. I have two automatic payments that come out on the 30th of the month. This causes my account to go into overdrafts ($28 fee per item).

So when my direct deposit comes in, it deducts what I owe and leaves me short on funds for paying rent or car insurance — unless my overdraft kicks in again. This is a constant struggle on my part.

Sometimes my overdraft will be a little over $100. The next payday it will be over $300. I have my budget to the bare bone and I’m still coming up short. Any suggestions?

— Josephine in Alabama

How To Never Pay An Overdraft Fee Again

How can I avoid overdraft fees? A reader is hit with these fees every month because she can’t make ends meet. When I council smart people who are constantly being hit with overdraft fees, I know it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem.

These people aren’t lazy, they aren’t forgettnig to check their bounces. No, they’re just like Josephine, good people buried under bad debt. It might seem weird that when I hear about constant overdraft fees I may start thinking about bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is a last-ditch maneuver towards financial freedom. But based on what Josephine has told me so far bankruptcy may be an option. It sounds scary and it’s a last resort, but it’s not a death sentence.

I urge you to read Debt.com’s report the pros and cons of bankruptcy. I also mentioned bankruptcy because Josephine is just the kind of person it’s designed for, she provided me with a detailed list of her finances which she meticulously maintains.

She’s obviously the kind of person who will spend and save responsibly. If she can just get back to zero. If you have an issue like Josephine’s please call Debt.com.

Howard Dvorkin answers…

Using overdraft protection to juggle debt is like drinking poison because you’re thirsty – but then you drink the antidote right after. Eventually, this process takes its toll.

Better to solve the original problem.

I can understand why you feel you have no other choice, Josephine. When you’re struggling week to week, it’s hard to step back and look at the big picture. That’s what credit counseling is for.

A certified credit counselor will give a free debt analysis, reviewing your entire financial picture to see what programs exist to help you out. Based on the details you’ve provided, this might sound like an odd thing to say, but: I believe you’re going to be just fine.

How can I say that when your numbers don’t add up? I’m simply impressed that you’ve crunched all those numbers. You’d be surprised, Josephine, how many Americans have no clue what their income is, much less their debts.

The first step to solving a financial problem is quantifying it, and you’ve done that. When you speak with a credit counselor, that phone call will be so much more productive because the data is right at your fingertips.

Based on what you’ve told me so far, bankruptcy may be an option. That sounds scary, and it’s a last resort, but it’s not a death sentence. I’d urge you to read Debt.com’s report, The Pros and Cons of Bankruptcy.

I’ve been asked about bankruptcy many times, from questions like Is It Possible To Get Credit Cards After Bankruptcy? (yes) to Will Bankruptcy Keep Me From Buying A Car? (no, but it will cost more to get an auto loan). I’ve even been asked Can I Declare Bankruptcy Twice?

While a credit counselor often spends a lot of time just trying to understand the contours of someone’s debt, in your case, the conversation can focus on the best solutions. If that’s bankruptcy, then I expect you’re just the kind of person that last-ditch option was designed for: Someone who will appreciate the clean slate, and will prosper in the future.

If you don’t call Debt.com, Josephine, call someone who can get you the help you need. You’re a success story waiting to happen.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.