A new year is a great time to try and be the best version of ourselves, but too many of us do it at the expense of our wallets. If you're looking for some ideas to help you cut spending this year, look no further than this list of money-saving New Year's resolutions.
1. Cancel Your Gym Membership (Or Don't Get One)
Feel free to ignore this controversial advice if you know you're the kind of person who will hit the gym up multiple times a week and get the most out of the monthly or yearly fee. But if you're one of those people who joins an expensive gym every single January, and stops going by February but keeps paying the fees, please drop the "New Year, New Me" gym-rat charade. You already learned last year (and the year before that) that $50 a month isn't actually the motivation you need, so instead of throwing your money away, try a different route to better health this year. If this is your first time considering a fancy gym membership, and you're not sure you're dedicated enough to commit the funds, gauge your level of interest by streaming some free at-home workouts first, or find a gym with a free trail period. If you find yourself committed and yearning for more, go ahead and splurge on the gym membership.
2. Use Your Holiday Gift Cards
NPR reports that from 2005-2011, $41 billion was left unspent on gift cards. Billion, with a b. The best way to stop this atrocious waste of money is to make sure you're actually using the cards you're gifted. And if the card is for a store or service you know you'll never use, you can use the funds to buy another gift for somebody else, or you can resell the card on online swap sites. You won't get the full price, but you will recoup some of the loss, and you'll rest easy knowing Great Aunt Kathy's $25 didn't just get flushed down the toilet. Another way to prevent this money-waster is by avoiding gift cards unless you know the person will use them. If you're not sure what they're into, go ahead and give cash. Nobody forgets to spend cash.
3. Start Bringing Your Lunch
If somebody asked you what you would do with an extra $30,000, would your answer be "Eat Chipotle every day for lunch for the next 10 years"? Probably not. (We hope not.) But according to TIME, if you buy lunch 5 days a week, that's about how much money you'll end up throwing away. If that's not enough to convince you to start brown bagging, you should also consider the major health benefits that come when you take the time to prepare your own fresh lunch, as opposed to the greasy, calorie-heavy fast food you might buy on an impulse instead. Also consider that the five minutes it takes to throw leftovers into a container, or put a salad or sandwich together, can actually end up saving you a half-hour or more when lunch time actually comes. Win/win/win.
4. Quit Cable TV
It's hard to believe that some people still pay for cable TV, but it's true. If this is you, consider the benefits of streaming service subscriptions compared to old-fashioned cable. Hulu, Netflix, and HBONow are all considerably cheaper options than cable, and usually, you can subscribe to all three of those streaming services for less than many cable packages. Not to mention, there are no ridiculous contracts with month-to-month streaming services. If you realize a couple months in that you don't actually want or need the service, you're free to go. Most cable companies lock you into longer plans with hefty fees for wanting out. Not to mention with cable, you end up paying for so many things you don't want. The package with your favorite channel might also require that you subscribe to multiple channels you don't even care about. With streaming services, the low price gives everyone access to the same content. The upgrades are only for things like no commercials, more devices, or faster streaming.
5. Stay In More
Listen, we're getting to that age where going out is getting kind of old and boring (like us). While you don't need to totally give up your social life for your New Year's resolution, this could definitely be the one that helps you save money. After ringing in the New Year, feel free to call it quits for a couple of weekends—why wear yourself out and blow all your money going from bar to bar, buying $10 drinks and paying $5 covers? For way less money, you could buy yourself a cheap bottle of wine, a bath bomb, and order some delicious take out. What are you waiting for? Treat yourself.
6. Downgrade Your Makeup, Upgrade Your Lifestyle
At the risk of upsetting millions of Sephora-devotees, we have to say it: You probably don't need $60 foundation. Unless you do makeup for a living, or you're constantly on camera or in the public eye, nobody is going to notice if you swap out your Urban Decay highlighter for a NYX one. In fact, drugstore products are advancing so much that many pros and celebrities actually are opting to use less expensive brands. If you're a makeup devotee, switching out a few high-end staples for their drugstore counterpart could mean major savings.
7. Start An Emergency Savings
"Pay yourself first" is sound advice that most financial experts will give you. What that means is, before you allocate your paychecks anywhere else, set aside some savings for you. Only you can decide what's a reasonable amount to set aside each pay period, but if you want to start a savings this year, $1,000 is generally a good goal for an emergency savings fund. Not only will you have a chunk of cash set aside in case of unexpected expenses, but you will end up saving yourself even more money you might otherwise accrue in interest when you're forced to put a surprise car repair or last-minute flight on your credit card. If starting your savings feels overwhelming, there are a lot of charts to help you set aside $1,000+ relatively easily, like this savings plan from Simplemost.