When it comes to saving money, we're usually looking for the big wins—a hundred dollars here, a thousand dollars there. We're looking for the large life changes that can make the difference, rather than considering the little things that, given enough time, can add up to bigger savings than we might initially imagine.
No matter what the economy might be doing, we can all benefit from some extra money in our pockets, and saving hundreds (and thousands) of dollars each year is as easy as just taking an extra moment to think about your daily routine.
Count Your Coins
You may have seen the Coinstar machines in your local grocery store—and you may be aware that they charge a fee for converting your loose change into bills. But, just in time for holiday shopping, Coinstar will now convert your coins into gift certificates—and there's no fee for the counting process!
Even a modest jar of loose change can add up to $20 or more, so having a container or place near the door that you drop your change into each day could give you some bonus cash or gift certificates for use online.
When you're balancing your checkbook, you may want to consider "rounding up" the value of purchases made on your checking or debit card. If a purchase is $4.66, round that up to $5.00, and set aside that extra 34 cents into savings—if not for real, then some kind of "virtual" savings in your checking account. This kind of book-keeping can be tricky, but you can set up a spreadsheet on your computer to help you keep track. A few virtual cents here and there can add up pretty quickly. Or, look for a bank that offers a similar service, such as Bank of America, where they'll match your "rounded up" savings up to $250 a year.
Make Your Own Fun
TV commercials are usually not terribly helpful—after all, they are trying to get you to spend money on tempting treats such as toys, gifts and other items. However, if you tear yourself away from that box, and search the internet, you can find less expensive alternatives to create yourself.
Websites like Familyfun.com have lots of great ideas for arts and crafts, recipes, games and other cool projects for whole families to work on together. Ever wanted to make colorful cereal box sandals? All you'll need is an empty cereal box, scissors, a pencil, some duct tape and an hour…
Buy Groceries, Get Fuel Rewards
If you have a local grocery store offering something like fuel rewards, sign up and start using it as soon as you can. Some stores offer 10 cents or more off gas per $50 spent on groceries at their store, which can add up very quickly. Other reward programs may be offered as well as (or instead of) fuel rewards, but can still make it very worthwhile.
Drive Slow, Save Fast
Energy conservation is always a good idea, and will always save you money in the long term, but it's easy to forget one of the most basic tips. Reducing your speed reduces the amount of gas you use, which could save you a great deal of money. According to some experts, reducing your speed from 70 mph to 60 mph could reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 percent. (At $2.00 a gallon, that's a savings of 40 cents a gallon!) Also, improving the aerodynamics of your vehicle will improve gas mileage—so keep your windows rolled up if possible, and if you have a roof rack you aren't using, consider removing it. Also, don't forget that proper tire inflation will increase traction and improve your gas mileage.
Compare Prices Before You Buy
It's easier than every to check multiple prices on an item before you buy it. Check online before you make a purchase, and be sure you're getting the best price for the item. If you're shopping for a TV or washing machine, make sure to keep a list of the prices and model numbers, and when you're visiting different stores, make sure to be very clear to the assistants that you're shopping around, and give them a chance to match (or beat) the best price you've found. They may well have the ability to do so.
You can compare prices online too, just like Insurance.com lets drivers compare car insurance rates before purchasing. You can shop for other products like this too, and save yourself some gas instead of driving around town—some more small savings right there.
Other Small Ways to Save
Like so many daily commuters, a quick drive-by caffeine boost from your local coffee shop can be a great way to kick-start your work day. And a few dollars each day hardly seems like it matters.
But considering that some coffees can cost around $4 or $5 each time, you could be spending $100 a month on that morning treat! That's over $1000 a year, and when you consider what that kind of money could buy you or your family, the morning coffee stop feels more like it should just stop—period.
Having lunch at a local fast-food place may not be terribly expensive, but it's hardly the most nutritious meal (and good health has savings of its own, as we'll see.) Healthier lunches at restaurants will cost more, and if you're spending $5 to $10 once or twice a week, that could add up quickly. Consider bringing in a packed lunch instead—a cheaper (and potentially healthier) alternative.
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