7 smart things you can do now to cut expenses the rest of the year

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The best money-saving tips are things you can do once in a few minutes or in an hour and then have that action continually save you money over the next several months (or even the next several years). Those kinds of strategies can fill up an afternoon or a weekend, but thereafter you'll have smaller bills coming in the mail, making it easier to make ends meet.

Here are seven of my favorite strategies along those lines. You can do each of these things in less than an hour, they don't require any repeat or upkeep work, and they will consistently save you money over the following months and years. You'll spend less on gas, less on your energy bills, less on your debts, less on your food bills – it's savings all around.

Replace your light bulbs with LED bulbs. As your light bulbs fail, don't replace them with ordinary incandescents or whatever bulb is cheapest at the store. Instead, replace that bulb with an LED bulb that produces a similar number of lumens to the bulb you had in the socket. Yes, the LED bulb will cost a little more, but according to the Department of Energy, that LED bulb will use less than a quarter of the energy (saving you money on your energy bills), and it will also last 25 times longer than other bulbs (saving you money on future shopping trips).

Consolidate or refinance your loans. If you have a home, auto or student loan, look into your options for consolidating or refinancing those loans to achieve a lower interest rate and, likely, a lower monthly payment. If you can achieve both, you'll not only have a smaller bill each month, but you'll also pay less in interest over the course of the loan, which leaves more money in your pocket both in the short term and long term.

Cancel unwanted memberships, subscriptions and services. Do you still have an old World of Warcraft account that you never play? Did you sign up for DailyBurn but haven't done the workouts in months? Do you have a gym membership that you don't use? How long has it been since you've watched Netflix? Do you have a magazine subscription on automatic renewal that you haven't read in a long time? Cancel them. All of them. If you're not using a subscription, it's simply a money loser. Drop it, and move on with life.

Fill your car tires to the recommended air pressure. When you let your tires run low on air, they have more contact with the road, which reduces your car's fuel efficiency. For every 2 PSI that your tires are below the recommended amount, on average, you lose 0.6 percent of your fuel efficiency, according to the Department of Energy. Almost every gas station offers a free air service you can use to fill up your tires, and your car's manual tells you how much air your tires should have. You can buy a cheap pressure gauge (it costs about a dollar) to keep in your glove compartment that will help you measure this, too, and it only takes a few minutes to do.

Transfer the balance on your credit card. If you're carrying a monthly balance on your credit card and paying interest on it, look into options for transferring that balance to another card. Many credit card issuers offer 0 percent interest for several months on transferred balances, so take advantage of that and move a balance you pay interest on to another card with no interest. (That doesn't mean you should slack off on the repayment, but it does mean the interest won't work against you as you pay it off.)

Stop consumption habits, such as alcohol, cigarettes or soda. Unhealthy consumption habits are not only expensive, but they cost you in terms of your health in the long run. Replace soda and other beverages with water, for starters, and drop addictive habits that damage your health. You'll have more money in the bank, and you'll feel better.

Request a rate reduction on your credit card. Simply give a call to your credit card company – that number is right on the back of the card – and request that it reduce your interest rate. This is a great money-saving tactic to use if you're otherwise happy with your credit card, but would like a lower rate. A successful rate reduction will save you money each and every month thereafter.

These tactics are all simple and straightforward things that almost anyone can do, and they all have the wonderful effect of reducing your expenses without any continual effort.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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