How to save money all year long

By Jennifer Rose Hale

Growing your savings account is an admirable goal, but it can be difficult to decide where to start. To get your creative juices flowing, here are 12 ideas to save money over the course of a year whether you start in January, June or just in time for the holidays.

January

Cut back on cable TV. Make a list of the shows you don't want to miss, and investigate if they are available somewhere else: online or through a streaming service such as Netflix. When you eliminate the shows that you can watch for free over the Internet, you may find that cable bill isn't quite the value it seemed.

February

Pack your lunch. Depending on where you live, a sandwich out can run from $5 to $10 or more. So even a couple of outings a week can nick $50 to $100 a month from your budget. Replacing those deli excursions with a sack lunch can easily boost your savings. Leftovers make great lunches! Your taste buds will thank you, and you'll enjoy the savings more if you're enjoying last night's lasagna or roast beef instead of dry cold cuts on bread.

March

Sell, sell, sell! It's time to take a hard look at your book collection, or re-evaluate those framed pictures in the guest-room closet. Craigslist and eBay have taken the garage sale online, but a real garage sale can give you an immediate payoff with no shipping hassles. And those framed pictures could find a proud spot on someone else's wall. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution featured tips on hosting the "ultimate yard sale."

April

Explore alternative transportation. Carpool to work, for example. It's easy for a gas budget to run into the hundreds, so sharing a car can save you a chunk of change. Or check out Commute By Bike for resources on transitioning from four wheels to two.

May

Make the most of the money you already save. Make sure your bank stands up to the competition by comparing rates on savings accounts, checking accounts and money market accounts. Online banks frequently pay higher rates than brick-and-mortar banks.

And call your insurer to discuss increasing your deductibles to the highest amount you can afford. The higher the deductibles on your insurance policies, the lower the premium. According to an article in MSN Money, you can save an average of 24 percent on your homeowners policy by raising the deductible from $250 to $1,000.

June

Make June your personal DIY month. Mow your own lawn, clean your own house, wash your own car, repaint your own kitchen. You'll save money, and get some exercise to boot.

July

Pass up a couple of movie outings with the family and look for free or inexpensive events in your community--movies in the park and events at your local library. Not only will you save money, but you'll get to know your neighbors and your community better.

August

Shop at thrift stores for a new season's wardrobe. Need new button-down shirts for the spring or blazers for the fall? You may find gently used or even new-with-tags designer clothes for a few dollars apiece. The money you spend can help support community services. Get Rich Slowly has tips on thrift-store shopping.

September

Change to store brands. Consumer Reports frequently finds that for many products, store brands were at least as good as name brands, while being considerably cheaper. Investigate store brands for items you buy regularly.

October

Change your hair salon or your hair style. (Admittedly, women will get the bigger benefit from this one.) If you're coloring your hair professionally, try going less often or changing to longer-lasting highlights. If you only get cuts, check out the local trade school for discount pricing.

November

Invite friends over for dinner instead of meeting at a restaurant. Preparing a satisfying entree and side dishes yourself ensures your focus is on the good company--not the cost. For even bigger savings and fun, make it a pot luck dinner.

December

Make gifts. When you plan for a series of birthdays or a major holiday, bake, knit and get out the glue gun. Use your existing skills to share presents that will be enjoyed, or type "how to" into Google's search for whatever craft you want to make, and you'll likely find easy instructions.

If you're still struggling after exploring these ideas, read about saving when you can't make ends meet.