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12 Steps to a New You: April: Save More Money

If you’re working on crafting a whole new you, taking control of your finances is a crucial area to focus on.

This is especially important for us ladies because although women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, we suffer from a proven wage gap, earning only 80% of what men earn on average. More than ever, we need to focus on money-saving tips to make the most of our finances.

Sign Up For & Use Rewards Programs

There are an abundance of rewards programs out there, and we should be taking advantage of them. One of the most common ways to earn rewards is to sign up for a credit card that earns you cash-back, rewards points, or travel miles. While you should avoid opening up a ton of credit cards (especially if you’re prone to running up the bill), it’s important to select one or two credit cards to stick with and earn rewards with purchases you have to make anyway.

Do your research and pick a plan that has the most bang for its buck -- for instance, Airline credit cards are restrictive and come with blackout dates, while Capital One’s travel rewards allow you to erase any travel related purchases (airlines, hotel, etc.) from your bill if you have enough points. Use an app like Shopkick or RetailMeNot to earn different kinds of rewards, maximizing coupons and potential discounts at hundreds of stores.

Go Homemade

Odds are, if you make something from scratch, rather than going out to buy it, it’s going to be cheaper. Apply this to everything from groceries to birthday presents for friends. When it comes to food, something homemade is often healthier and goes further than fast food or a meal out. Look for great deals on food (if you want to shop organic, go to farmer’s markets instead of expensive stores like Whole Foods) and shop generic. 

If you’re making a gift from a friend, they’ll appreciate the effort and care that went into a homemade present much more than a pricey store-bought gift. If you know how to sew (or want to learn), consider making your own clothes. This is also a great way to reuse items you have lying around the house, rather than buying an entirely new item. Staying in and making things at home is a major way to save cash.

Become a List Master

A great way to avoid impulse buys is to make a list before you go shopping and resist deviating from it. This is especially crucial when grocery shopping -- it is shockingly easy to run up our bill buying food/snacks we don’t need and may end up leaving on the shelf to rot. If you have trouble with this, consider a helpful app like Grocery IQ that allows you to build lists by searching their database or even scanning barcodes. As a bonus, the app also offers coupons tailored to the lists you build.

Ditch the Gym Membership

Unless you’re going to the gym every single day, odds are that your gym membership is a waste of money. On average, people waste $39 a month on their gym membership based on utilization. So, ditch that monthly fee and adopt an exercise plan that doesn’t cost you anything or one that’s more cost effective. Choose free workouts -- try walking or running in your neighborhood (often, you can run a local high school track on weekends and during the summer for free); if you have a local pool, swim every day (or use the ocean); commit to a yoga routine you can do at home.

There are also countless DVDs and streaming workout programs that are much cheaper than a gym membership (many of them are a one-time cost for an infinite number of workouts). Or, if you really want to get out of the house or do a guided workout, choose a class that’s only once or twice a week with lower costs -- if you’re doing yoga every Sunday morning, at least you know you’re getting your money’s worth.

Track Spending, Save and Set Goals

Finally, the best way to save money is to keep tracking of what you’re spending and actively plan to save. Whether you’re saving for retirement, a new car, or your next vacation, it’s important to set goals and put aside money towards them on a weekly or monthly basis. If you can’t set up automatic deductions to your savings account from your paycheck, look for similar options at your bank or set a weekly reminder and do it manually. Pick a realistic amount to set aside each week so it doesn’t impact your ability to pay bills, but set goals and commit to them. Often times, we don’t even know how much we’re spending each month -- set and stick to a budget.

Or, if you need to figure out what you’re spending wear before you can even get to that point, download an app like Mint. It can keep track of all of your financial activity (checking, savings, retirement, etc.) and automatically records all of your transactions, so it can track your spending habits and create a budget for you. This is extremely helpful to determine things like how much you’re spending on dining out each month and learning how to cut back.

Saving money is a crucial component of bettering yourself and reversing negative habits -- set yourself up for success with helpful apps and proven techniques.

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