Five Ways to Save in 2012

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People are getting serious about credit repair. Rising costs and soaring unemployment rates have forced many to take a hard look at how they spend in order to reduce debt. While the future may seem bleak, finding creative ways to enjoy everyday comforts can help soften the blow. Consider the alternatives to the following "luxury" items.

1. Gym Memberships

The average gym membership costs between $600-$800 per year; a hefty price tag for those trying to cut back. While sacrificing your fitness isn't the answer, you can find ways to stay in shape without traditional fitness equipment. Consider moving your run to a local park and replacing the Stairmaster with real stairs in your home. If you can’t imagine life without a treadmill, research reliable at-home models. While the up-front cost may be steep, it is likely to have less impact than years of gym membership fees.

2. Cable

Yes, television is entertaining and perhaps even addictive. No, it is not a necessity. Basic cable can cost an excess of $40 each month, and that's not including the bundled deals and bonus channels. Media companies are cashing in on consumers’ habitual TV watching by offering more channels and packages. The downside? Costs rise an average of five percent a year. Take advantage of low-cost sources of entertainment. Many major networks stream the latest episodes of their shows for free, and Hulu tends to carry older iterations. Netflix also offer a wide variety of shows and movies for around $8.00 a month.

3. Phone Data Plans

Technology is a wonderful thing, but at what cost? The invention of the smart phone has put the internet in consumers' pockets—literally. Although this resource offers immediate convenience, it could also put a dent in your bank account. Tacking a data plan onto your phone can double or even triple your monthly bill depending on your usage. Consider reverting to a simpler time and picking up a no-frills cell phone. After all, do you really need to surf the web 24/7?

4. Costly Commuting

Travelling to work is an obvious necessity, but spending too much to get there is not. Metropolitan residents are blessed with a variety of economical alternatives including the train and bus systems. If you live in a less populated area, consider carpooling to mitigate fuel costs. If neither of these options are plausible, do the bare minimum by examining your car’s fuel economy and reliability. Investing in a more practical model could save you hundreds each year.

5. Dining Out

Enjoying a night out is great every once in a while, but habitual foodies will spend way more than they should on food costs. Restaurants charge an average of three times the true value of their meals in order to cover their overhead: insurance, wait staff salaries, etc. Cooking at home will save you big bucks in no time. If you long for gourmet cuisine, why not learn how to make those dishes yourself? Take a class or borrow some cookbooks from your local library. Invite your friends over for a dinner party if you miss the atmosphere and company.

The Bottom Line

Cutting back doesn't always mean suffering to save. There are plenty of ways to focus on your credit repair while spending responsibly. A healthy credit score is better achieved with money in the bank. Invest in your future by pinching a few pennies. It could make all the difference.

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