Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.
--William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor
We're all full of resolutions at this time of year. We want to be more healthy, learn new skills, save more money, and so on. This article won't help you get into those pants you loved to wear last year, but it offers five great ways to save money in 2015 that can definitely improve your financial condition. And as Shakespeare pointed out, the sooner you get around to these, the better.
Seek coupon codes
If you know what you want to buy and you're about to click and buy it online, pause for a few minutes. Do a quick Internet search for the retailer's name and "coupon code," and you'll likely find some discounts. For example, you might find a coupon code that gets you free shipping on your order, which could save $10 or more. You might find a 20%-off coupon or a "buy one, get one half-off" coupon. Enter the code during your checkout process, and presto -- an extra minute or two just saved you some real money.
This may sound draconian, but it's actually gaining a lot of favor as more and more people cut the cord. It helps that cable companies regularly rank near the bottom of customer-satisfaction surveys. (Comcast has actually been rated the Most Hated Company in America by the folks at Consumerist.) According to the FCC, the average cable bill for Americans is about $64, while the Mintel Group estimates that the average home communication bill (including cable, Internet, and telephone) was recently about $154. These are big numbers, amounting to about $768 per year for cable and close to $1,850 per year for cable, Internet, and phone. Think about how you might pare that down.
If you rarely use your landline telephone and are always on your cellphone, you might be able to say goodbye to your home phone. And when it comes to cable, you can get a heck of a lot of programming from Netflix for $8 per month ($96 per year), Amazon.com's Prime service ($99 per year), and Hulu Plus ($8 per month or $96 per year). Many others are switching to streaming services from favorite content providers such as HBO, Showtime, and more.
Alternatively, you might save money by calling your cable company and genuinely threatening to cancel your service. A little negotiation can often result in lower rates, more channels, or some other benefit, according to Consumer Reports.
Eat out just a little bit less
You may not be willing to quit dining out altogether. But you might eat out two fewer times each month without feeling too deprived, right? If you generally spend, say, $20 for a dinner out, you could easily save $480 per year. Apply this kind of thinking to other frequent expenses and see if you can save more. One fewer mocha-latte-chino per week? That could save you more than $200 per year. Cutting down from smoking two packs a day to just one? That could save you more than $2,000 in a single year!
Be more diligent
Next, vow to be better at certain tasks, such as paying bills. Being late on bills can cost you $30 or more per offense. If you save yourself such an expense twice per month, then you can save more than $700 over the course of a year. Spend a little time closely studying where your dollars go, and you might be surprised that you're losing a lot of money needlessly.
Get an insurance checkup
Finally, think about the insurance that you do and don't have. Take inventory of everything that you might need to protect and ask yourself whether it's worth it or whether you're currently overpaying. For example, if you rent your home, do you have renter's insurance to protect your belongings? If you have children or any other dependents, do you have life insurance? Have you checked your home insurance lately to make sure it's sufficient to fully cover your home in case of a major catastrophe? (Some home insurance policies may seem like bargains, but they may be undervaluing your home.) Disability insurance is smart for most of us, though workplaces often offer that. Long-term care insurance is worth considering, too, though it's costly, and many might choose to simply set money aside in case it's needed for that.
As you assess the insurance you do have, a little investigation can save you a lot of money. Shop around to see whether any other insurer will offer you a better rate. Staying with the same insurer for many years isn't always best, though some will offer valuable discounts for years of loyalty. Look into other discounts as well. For example, you may get lower rates for being a good driver or having a home or car security alarm, and if you work from home, you might pay less because you drive less.
All of these ways to save money in 2015 can help you keep more of your hard-earned money this year and beyond. Don't put them off, because procrastination can be costly.
Longtime Fool specialist Selena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter, owns shares of Amazon.com and Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.