Cutting back to save money doesn’t have to be a big, budget-rocking resolution. It can be done on a small scale that adds up big time: Saving just $10 a day will net you $3,650 a year. Even $5 a day saves more than $1,800 per year. Here are 10 ways to save money a little bit at a time.
1. Pick up a lunch special for dinner. Many restaurants serve the same dishes for dinner and lunch; it’s just that the lunch portion is smaller and, therefore, cheaper. The next time you don’t feel like cooking, order carryout during the lunch hour instead of waiting until dinnertime. Then stash the food in the office refrigerator and heat it up when you get home.
2. Adjust the thermostat. Cheapism has plenty of energy-saving tips for beating the summer heat without blasting the AC. According to the Association of Energy Service Professionals, simply using the manufacturer’s recommended settings can save up to 30 percent on energy costs.
3. Mind your beverages. Do you drink coffee in the morning, water throughout the day, and a glass of wine with dinner? Brew coffee at home instead of hitting the coffee shop on your way to work; drink tap water instead of buying bottled water; and avoid alcoholic drinks that add a hefty price to your dining tab. (Those three tips could put us halfway to our 10 ways to save money, but we’ll count them as only one — we’re just getting started.)
4. Get fit for free. Drop your gym membership and save money by exercising at home. Try “taking a class” via YouTube or check out Cheapism’s list of other ways to work out without the gym.
5. Shop with a grocery list. Make a note of only what you need and don’t deviate from it — those extra things that end up in your cart can really balloon your bill. While you don’t have to go extreme-couponing crazy, try to plan your meals and make your list around stores’ weekly circulars and include items for which you can find coupons.
6. Collect rewards. If you regularly use a credit card, make sure it has a good rewards program (and if it doesn’t, consult Cheapism’s list of the best rewards credit cards). Even if you don’t use credit cards, you can take advantage of loyalty programs for the stores where you shop. Rewards savings at the grocery store and elsewhere can quickly add up to an easy $10 every time you go out shopping.
7. Stream your tunes. Instead of buying albums or paying to download songs a la carte, listen to the music you like for free through streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. This also lets you sample new artists without making a financial commitment.
8. Pack your food for the day. No list of 10 ways to save money would be complete without this perennial piece of advice. To avoid eating lunch out or hitting the vending machine for an afternoon nibble, take a lunch and snacks with you to work. Leftovers from dinner the night before are an easy thing to grab in the morning. Get in the habit of making extra so you can have a good lunch the next day.
9. Find an alternative way to commute. It’s no secret that gas prices pump a lot of money out of your bank account. That’s not to mention the cost of wear and tear on your car. Save by simply driving less: Walk, bike, or take the bus if you can, or set up a carpool system with coworkers to cut down on fuel costs and other auto-related expenses.
10. Read for free. Of our 10 ways to save money, this is one of the easiest: Stop paying for newspapers, magazines, and books and head to the local library instead. Many libraries even offer e-book lending. And, of course, countless periodicals and other news sources are free online.