For many of us, it’s easy to spend a few dollars here and there on coffee, drinks out, or entertainment without giving it much thought. These small expenses can add up to hundreds of dollars a month.
With a little bit of discipline and effort, you can turn these small expenses into thousands of dollars in savings over the course of a year — savings that will allow you to pay down debt, take a vacation, or work towards achieving an important financial goal.
Follow these money-saving tips on the following dozen categories and then find out how far your dollar can go by using the Bills.com Savings Machine Calculator. Outside of these clever and fun ways to save, we recommend cutting debt out of your life first and foremost. Here are 12 simple ways to keep money in your pocket:
- Coffee: Mornings at work can be tough without a cup of Joe. If you can’t give up coffee, you can still save money by forgoing your fancy coffee and choosing a cheaper drink. Better yet, go for the free cup of coffee at the office.
- Entertainment: Entertainment doesn’t always have to cost money. Be on the lookout for free street festivals, parades, concerts, and movies offered in your community. Use your local library’s DVDs as a free source of entertainment.
- Eating Out: Eating out is a great way to relax and spend quality time with friends and family. But if you’re eating out a few times a week, it might be one of the first expenses to considering cutting. Cooking at home and bringing lunches to the office cost significantly less than dinning out. If you decide to eat out, you can save by looking for restaurant promotions and specials to get the most out of your money.
- Groceries: A trip to the supermarket frequently leads to unplanned spending. It’s easy to buy things you don’t need — the store is banking on it. To avoid falling into impulse-buying trap, shop with a list. The list will help you keep track of what you need and reduce the likelihood of impulsive purchases. It may not seem much if you’ve stopped buying some items that look appealing as you walk through the aisles or when you are in the checkout line where the stores place the high-impulse items. But, the total amount you save from each trip to the supermarket can be significant and it really adds up when you total your savings over a year.
- Coupons: Coupons are everywhere. They appear in the store, in your mail, on the merchant’s Web site, at special Web sites full of coupons, and in your e-mail. With minimal planning effort, using coupons can save significantly on your shopping bills.
- Insurance Reviewing your insurance policy isn’t the most exciting thing, but it can save you money. Dedicate an hour or so to look over your insurance policy and cut back on any coverage you don’t need. Compare quotes from your current provider with ones from other companies to find the best deal. Ask about any available discounts.
- Cut or Ditch Your Cable or Satellite Service: Cable providers do a great job offering channel packages to get you to pay more. The average cost for basic cable is less than $15.00 per month. Extended basic cable averages over $43.00 per month. Premium cable channels cost even more. Ask yourself if the premium channels are really worth what you pay. Try an experiment and reduce your cable costs to the bare minimum you can handle… and watch your savings add up. Or, buy a Google Chromecast or Roku device to watch streaming content from Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon. You’ll likely cut your cable bill to 10% of what you’re spending now. As an added bonus, you’ll be bombarded by fewer ads.
- Bottled Water: Thanks to all the marketing and fancy labels, U.S. consumers are lead to believe bottled water is better tasting and safer than tap water. The truth is tap water is closely regulated by the Environment Protection Agency and local governments and is perfectly safe to drink. To find out your area’s water quality, visit the EPA Web site or contact your local water utility. Reducing your consumption of bottled water is a great way to save money and also helps eliminate bottle waste.
- Abandon Your Landline: Disconnect your landline and stop paying double for mobile phone and landline services. Avoid your cable provider’s “triple play” service where you buy cable TV, Internet, and phone service in one expensive package. You really don’t need all three services.
- Reevaluate Your Cell Phone Plan: You are paying too much for your cell phone service if you are locked into a two-year contract for your cell phone service. As of early 2014, on a per-minute and per-megabyte basis the best deals for cell phone service are found in pre-paid plans. Sound like a bold claim? Visit a big-box store and compare the pre-paid plans to what you’re paying now for cell phone service. Two-year contracts are a one-sided deal favoring the cell phone networks. See the Bills.com article Cheap Cell Phone Plans to learn more.
- Gym Membership: Too many of us sign up for a gym membership with the best intentions and end up not using it. Are you using your gym membership or is it a wasteful expense? If so, consider alternatives such as exercising at home and borrowing yoga or exercise DVD from your library, or using your local parks.
- Quit Smoking: Not only will your health improve, your health insurance costs drop, and those who love you be happier, but you will save a lot of money. As every smoker knows, the cost of a pack of cigarettes is a lot higher now than when he or she started smoking… and the costs will keep rising.
- Employer Discounts: Ask your human resources department if it lined-up any discounts with local retailers. For example, employees at some state governments get up to 18% off of their cellphone plans. Your employer may offer similar cellphone discount codes, and discount codes for local auto repair franchises. Employee discounts are an easy and painless way to spend less.
What little changes did you make to save money each month?