If you've ever wondered where your paycheck went, you are not alone. Most of us spend money on small expenses that may seem insignificant, but over time slowly drain our funds. Money in the bank equals flexibility, freedom and choices. If a $10 a day latte habit seems minor, consider the expense of more than $3,600 per year.
Making small, relatively painless changes can yield big savings. Here are a dozen ways to keep cash in your pocket with marginal sacrifice.
- Pay cash. Credit cards are useful when the balance is paid off in full each month, however, carrying over a debt will erode your finances. Make it a habit to pay for some expenses with cash and notice how quickly your money disappears. It will be a reminder to think twice before completing that nonessential purchase.
- Brew your own gourmet coffee. Invest in a coffee pot, a travel mug, a coffee bean grinder and a bag of specialty coffee or beans. If you skip the sugary syrups, you will save even more in dollars and pounds.
- Cook meals at home. There is no excuse for culinary ignorance. With the abundance of cooking shows, food magazines, online recipes, and menu planning options, you are one click away from a quick and easy meal. Stock up on staples and get cooking.
- Pack a lunch. By spending $5 to $10 each day on lunch, you are blowing as much as $50 a week on eating out, or $2,600 over the course of a year. Use leftovers from the night before and take advantage of not getting stuck in the drive through line. Also, keep snacks in your desk drawer - nuts, granola bars, dried fruit - instead of hitting the vending machine for an afternoon energy boost.
- Wash and detail your own car. If you have access to a strong hose and a driveway, consider a scrub-it-yourself car wash rather than a full-service detail. It's great exercise and you won't be tempted by the items at the gift shop.
- Adjust the thermostat before you leave home. Set the temperature higher in the summer and lower in the winter, then crank it back up or down when you return. A programmable thermostat or an app on your phone works wonders.
- Dry clean sparingly. It's not necessary to send your garments to the cleaners after every wear. The strong cleaning solvent can damage your delicate clothing. Depending on how hard you are on your outfit, a light brushing and spot treatment may be all that's required before hanging your suit or dress back in the closet for another occasion. Dry clean only as needed.
- Go green. Invest in an insulated water bottle and a water filtration system. Save money on bottled water and do your part to save the environment.
- Take advantage of your local library. Often forgotten, it can be a great source for books, magazines and DVDs. If you have a tablet or an e-reader, check out e-books from the comfort of your own home and you'll never have to worry about late fees.
- Eliminate expenses for things you can do yourself. Give yourself a manicure or trade manicures with a similarly budget-minded friend. Swap your pricey gym membership for a running group, a walk with a neighbor, or exercising at home to an online workout.
- Shop around for a good rate. If you carry a credit card balance, do your best to pay it off as soon as possible. In the meantime, consider transferring the balance to a card with a lower interest rate and no annual fees. Watch for deals on balance transfer offers and make sure to read the fine print.
- Take higher deductibles on your auto insurance. You may be paying more than you need to, especially if you don't file a lot of insurance claims. Get several quotes from different insurance companies to seek out the best deal.
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