hands counting money

Saving money can be particularly tough on one or even two income households in today’s economy.  But there are many money-saving strategies that can boost your bank account and help you save a few hundred dollars per month. Here are some ideas:

1. Save on Your Current Housing

Some of the ways you can cut your existing housing costs are to get a roommate, rent out a room, and cut back on decorations and upgrades. Needless to say, if you rent, and you decide to bring in another tenant, make sure you’re not violating any provisions of your rental or lease agreement.  Also, only pick a tenant or family member you’d be comfortable having around your kids.

2. Save on Your Car

Lowering your transportation expenses isn’t always easy, but it can be done. If you live in a city with reliable public transportation, like New York or Boston, and you don’t actually need a car, consider selling it to raise cash. If you have a car and need to keep it, start following these cost-cutting tips.

Take account of all the expenses involved with having a car: your monthly car payment, gas and maintenance charges, insurance, parking, and so forth. See if you can renegotiate any of your current costs or shop around for better deals. For instance, if you’re paying $50 a month for parking at your apartment complex, can you park it outside the building and get a $50 discount from your landlord? (Obviously, you only want to do this if it’s relatively safe for your car to be parked on the street, as well as safe for you to enter your building from outside.) Then there’s insurance. Ask your insurer about any discounts for which you might be eligible: good driver discounts, lower rates for taking a defensive driving course, or even decreased premiums for having an alarm system or antitheft device. Also, by raising your insurance deductibles, you can save 10% to 25% off of your annual premiums.

3. Get a Lower Car Payment Via Auto Refinancing

Even your car payment itself can be re-negotiated, through a process called auto refinancing, which allows you to get a lower interest rate and a smaller monthly payment than you currently have. Many people don’t know that you can refinance your car loan just as you can refinance a mortgage. A car refinancing is faster, simpler to do, and costs virtually nothing. There aren’t any closing costs or points, like you might have with a mortgage. Most auto refinancing companies do business online. Capital One Auto Finance (www.capitaloneauto.com) allows you to refinance your car loan in just 15 minutes, saving the average customer more than $1,300 over the life of the car loan. So if your car has a high interest rate, check out a lender like Capital One to knock down your monthly car note and save yourself some big bucks.

I once refinanced my auto loan with Capital One and saved more $100 a month on my car payments. Two caveats though: don’t try to refinance your car right before you go in to apply for a mortgage. You don’t want extra inquiry on your credit report. Also, if you do refinance your car, don’t extend the life of your payments. If you only have three years left to pay off your car, refinance with a lender that lets you keep a three-year payoff. Otherwise you’ll stretch out your payments and wind up paying additional money in interest charges. When you do save money with auto refinancing, apply your savings toward your home down payment or build up your cash cushion.

4. Save Money on Food

Avoid wasting money on the things that can really blow your budget like eating out frequently. I’m not only talking about restaurants. I don’t have to tell you the impact of spending $50 or $75 for dinner for two. I’m talking about eating out at fast food places, or spending what seems like small change on local delis and the like. If you’re not careful, before you know it that “chump change” can really add up.

For starters, stop making your daily run for coffee and donuts or a bagel and juice before work. Many people spend about five dollars a day on these items, which equals $100 dollars a month, or $1,200 a year. Just as bad are those trips to the vending machine for junk food each day at work. If you spend $3 a day on these small items, eliminating those purchases saves $900 in a year.

At the grocery store, use coupons and choose your purchases based on the price per unit for everything from toiletries to food products, and take advantage of sales and reward cards from retailers who offer discounts to repeat customers.

5. Save Money on Medicine

I love to tell people to do