Small changes can go a long way. In fact, super savers and early retirees will tell you that the key to saving half your income is to start with the small stuff.
"So maybe cutting out your daily coffee isn't going to do a whole lot, but what if you can find 10 or 15 equivalent ways to save that small amount of money? Suddenly, you've got this massive firehose of spare savings that didn't exist before."
Here are 10 relatively small and easy ways to cut back that could help you save thousands over time.
"Every Sunday evening, I cooked up a big feast and divvied it up into portions for the work week ahead, " Meadows writes on his blog. "This saved me about a grand a year. Over a working career, with compound interest, that's well over $100,000 right there. "
That's not to say you can never enjoy a meal out. "I bought my lunches on Fridays to stay sane," Meadows notes.
"Unless you live somewhere with water quality issues, fill a reusable bottle from the tap and get a filter if need be," says Meadows.
It'll save you a few bucks every time you're parched and tempted to hit up the closest convenience store.
These days, cable costs Americans more than $100 a month. That's a lot to pay for a service that people often don't take full advantage of — especially now that streaming-only shows are winning Emmy's.
Consider cutting the cord and getting your TV via the internet through services like Netflix ($8 a month), Hulu ($8 a month) or HBO Now ($15 a month).
From grocery stores to department stores, retailers have a way of tricking you into spending money mindlessly. One tactic is loading the checkout aisle with tempting products: cold sodas, candy bars, and 99-cent knick-knacks.
And, when it comes to online shopping, you could be spending twice as much as you think you are online.
To cut back on things you don't necessarily need, Meadows recommends taking a financial fast: "Commit to buying nothing but the bare essentials for a month. Most of us are stuck on the hamster wheel of consumerism. … Going cold turkey is a good way to break the circuit."
Going generic for groceries, toiletries, pet supplies and other items is an easy way to save money over time.
You don't have to buy generic for everything. Identify what's really important to you and what you're willing to sacrifice. Then buy brand-name for the stuff you care about and go generic for everything else.
Late fees, penalties on credit cards and ATM fees are pointless money sucks. To avoid late fees, automate all of your bill payments that can be made online, such as internet, insurance and cell phone. Additionally, set up autopay on your credit card, so your full balance is paid at the end of every month.
To avoid fees, make sure to withdraw money from your bank's ATMs or get cash back from convenience or grocery stores.
Like buying lunch, the occasional happy hour or night out is fine, but if you're looking to free up some cash, skipping drinks will do the trick. And, let's face it, ordering one drink usually leads to ordering two or three, which often leads to ordering food.
"If you're getting together with friends or colleagues, put your hand up to organize things," suggests Meadows. "That way you can suggest somewhere with a price range that doesn't give you heart palpitations, and make sure the venue is OK with splitting the bill."
Making indulgence a habit can add up. Rather than stopping by Starbucks every morning, consider investing in a French press or coffee pot. It'll save you in the long run.
"Brewing at home is the way to go, or taking advantage of workplace coffee machines," says Meadows. "Of course, there's no replacement for your favorite blend brewed by a skilled barista. Once again, a really good coffee is a whole lot more enjoyable if it's an occasional treat, rather than a twice daily routine."
How many 30-day free trials have you signed up for and forgotten to cancel? Are you getting your money's worth from the gym you signed up for at the beginning of the year?
Look over your last couple of credit card statements and figure out exactly what you're paying for in terms of subscriptions to magazines, software or online services. Ask yourself which you could eliminate and cancel them on the spot to save a couple hundred dollars a year.
You could also use Trim, which automatically finds and cancels your subscriptions with a text.
Keeping up with the Joneses, or trying to live up to your friends' and neighbors' standards, is a tempting but expensive habit.
If you stop choosing where to live, what to wear and what gadgets to buy based on what your friends do, chances are you'll save a ton of money.
Question each and every purchase you make. "Look at all of your outgoing and figure out, does this make me happy?" says Meadows. "And slowly work towards the point where you're spending money on exactly the things that bring you the most happiness and absolutely nothing more than that."
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