10 ways you can be richer this year
Families that use public transportation can reduce their annual expenses by more than the average U.S. household spends on food every year, according to a study the American Public Transportation Association published in January 2007. And that was before the price of gasoline established what appears to be a permanent home north of $4 per gallon.
The study was based on households with two working adults and one car, which are located within three-quarters of a mile of the bus, subway or other public conveyances. If you’re in a position to give up your car entirely and rely on walking, bicycling or public transportation for most trips, you can save even more. That might not be as hard as you think. The widespread availability of rental cars and the popularity of car-sharing services such as Zipcar and car2go, when you really must have a car, are making car ownership optional for a growing number of people.
Cut back on coffee
Whether you think of coffee as “liquid will to live” or you just enjoy starting your day with a hot latte, you may not realize the price you’re paying for your caffeine habit. If you figure the average flavored coffee drink costs around four bucks, then even if you indulge only on work days and have only one per day, that morning jolt or afternoon pick-me-up is costing you more than $1,000 annually. If you routinely drink two or three lattes every day, well, you do the math.
A great way to save money on everything from prescription drugs to groceries is to choose the generic option over the more expensive brands. Many drug stores, grocery stores and other retailers offer generic or store brands that are identical to the leading brand-name items but significantly cheaper. There’s no advantage in paying more than you have to for cold medicine, toothpaste, cleaning supplies and other basics. Bank the money and save it for something more important.
Go to the library
The cost of premium cable channels, movie rentals and bookstore purchases can add up fast. One easy way to save money without sacrificing quality entertainment is to take advantage of the resources available through your local library. Along with thousands of books, most libraries offer a wide range of magazines, music CDs, and DVD or Blu-Ray movies and television programs. You may not always be the first among your friends to see the latest film or to read the new best-seller, but you’ll have more money at the end of the year.
Skip expensive movie snacks
If you can’t imagine going to the movies without hitting the concession stand, give some thought to what that habit is costing you. At most movie theaters, a soda and a bag of popcorn will cost you as much or more than you paid for your ticket. If you can’t resist the urge to snack during the newest action film or romantic comedy, bring some nuts or a granola bar from home and just say no to expensive movie concessions. Your budget and your waistline will thank you.
One of the best ways to save more, spend less, and end up richer this year is to stop paying for things you could easily, and profitably, do yourself. This could include routine tasks as simple as handling your own manicures and washing your car at home as well as more demanding jobs such as cleaning the gutters or painting the house yourself. In addition to saving a lot of money, you’ll also accumulate a wealth of personal satisfaction.
Pack your lunch
You can save a small fortune on workday lunches by bringing your lunch from home. Pack a sandwich, a salad (with dressing on the side) or a can of tuna and a piece of fruit. Many offices have microwave ovens where you can reheat leftovers from the night before, and a growing number of retailers now offer canned or frozen meals for one that are perfect for a quick and inexpensive lunch. To save time and stress in the morning, pack your lunch the night before and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to leave for work. If part of the appeal of a restaurant lunch is getting away from the office, try taking a walk instead. You can reduce your weight along with your budget.
Another way to save money is to get back to basics by cooking more of your own meals from scratch. You pay a high price for the convenience of fast food, take-out orders, and processed food such as frozen entrees and packaged mixes. Buying fresh meat, produce and grains, and spending a little extra time in the kitchen with your cookbooks can add up to big savings. To make this change less time-consuming, spend part of one weekend day cooking extra servings that you can freeze and reheat during the week when your time is more limited.
The more often you shop, the more you buy. Why? Because frequent trips to the grocery store generally equals less planning and more impulse purchases. In “America’s Cheapest Family,” authors Steve and Annette Economides cite a study of 4,200 shoppers in 14 different cities, which found that people who make a “quick trip” to the store to pick up a few items usually buy 54 percent more than they intended, and impulse buying accounts for between 50.8 percent and 67.7 percent of all purchases. To save money try shopping once a week or less, make a comprehensive list before you go, and stick to your plan.
Skip the spa
Everyone deserves to be pampered now and then, but you can get the TLC you crave without spending a lot of money. Skip the professional seaweed wraps, and indulge in a little self-care or amateur beauty treatments. A candlelit bubble bath at the end of a hard day can do more than a sea-salt scrub to restore your sense of well-being, and by getting together with your best friend to give each other facials you’ll end up feeling enriched as well as relaxed.