PENNIES ADD UP
Cutting back to save money doesn't have to be a big, budget-rocking goal. It can be accomplished on a small scale and eventually add up to impressive numbers: Saving just $10 a day will net $3,650 a year. Even $5 a day saves more than $1,800 a year. Here are 21 ways to save money a little bit at a time.
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.
CUT BACK ON THE AC
Cheapism.com 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.
TURN DOWN THE HEAT
You can also find alternative ways to stay warm in the winter months. Even bumping the heat down a few degrees and putting on another layer of clothing will keep you just as toasty and cut costs.
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.
GO ON BUDGET DATES
Instead of doing the same old (and often costly) dinner-and-a-movie routine when date night rolls around, consider opting for cheaper or free entertainment. As fall arrives, there are bound to be many festivals near you that are free or very cheap and which could be a fun date. In warm weather, take in a free outdoor concert, or in the winter have a movie marathon at home.
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.com's list of ways to work out without the gym.
SHOP WITH A GROCERY LIST
Make a list that contains only what you need, and don't deviate from it -- all those extra items that end up in your cart can really balloon the tab. While you don't have to go extreme-couponing crazy, try to plan meals and make a shopping list around stores' weekly circulars and foods you can buy with coupons.
Instead of buying the pricey brand-name item at the grocery store, opt for store brands or off-brands. Often times, store brands are exactly the same as brand-name products for a fraction of the cost.
Ever been shopping with kids in tow? If so, then you know how many things they beg for and think they just absolutely must have. To eliminate the temptation to give in and just buy them the $10 toy they keep demanding, simply find a time to shop without them. You'll definitely have better shopping trip, and unnecessary items won't find their way into your cart.
If you regularly use a credit card, make sure it has a good rewards program. Even if you don't use credit cards, you can take advantage of loyalty programs for the stores where you shop. These rewards savings can quickly add up to an easy $10 every time you go shopping.
STREAM YOUR TUNES
Instead of buying albums or paying to download songs à 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.
Cable services coupled with streaming services can add up to over $145 a month. Cutting these services and finding other means of entertainment can save you money daily. Consider listening to music or reading a book instead of vegging out in front of the television. If you can't go completely cold turkey, try cutting cable and paying for only one streaming service at a time.
AVOID YOUR FAVORITE STORE
Think about a store where you just can't say no. Target or Walmart may come to mind. If you have a hard time walking out of a store like that without dropping $100, then make a plan to skip that store from now on, or at least limit the trips there to once a month instead of weekly.
PACK YOUR FOOD FOR THE DAY
No list of 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, bring lunch and snacks 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.
MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING PRODUCTS
The cost of cleaning products can add up -- especially for items you use daily, like all-purpose cleaners, sanitizing wipes, detergents, and air fresheners. Consider making these items yourself with household items you already have on hand. Another way to cut cleaning costs is to use microfiber cloths -- there will be a cost up front, but in the end they will eliminate the need to shell out for paper towels and cleaners like Windex.
RUN YOUR APPLIANCES LESS
Make sure you are doing laundry or running the dishwasher only when you have full loads. And instead of using your dryer, opt to line dry your clothes. Run your dishwasher on the lighter cycle, and use the air-dry option instead of the heat-dry setting.
FIND AN ALTERNATIVE WAY TO COMMUTE
It's no secret that gas prices pump a lot of money out of your bank account. And think about the cost of wear and tear on your car. Save by driving less: Walk, bike, take the bus or train, or set up a carpool system with co-workers to cut down on fuel costs and other auto-related expenses.
CUT BACK ON DRY CLEANING
If you must wear business attire for work, your can dry-cleaning bill can be sky high. Cut back by buying only clothes that you can wash yourself at home, or consider hand-washing those special pieces that need to be dry cleaned instead of shelling out the cash.
CUT PET COSTS
Pets can be costly, but there are several ways you can cut costs in this area that amount to about $10 a day in savings. Skip the groomer and learn to do it yourself. Buy a pair of clippers and trim your pooch's nails, and some cheap pet shampoo that will keep your pet's coat clean. Search for the best deals on pet food, too. Utilize rewards programs at pet stores to get your discount and freebies in, and, finally, eliminate doggie daycare or regular dog walking fees by hitting the dog park after work to get your pup some much needed exercise and socialization.
READ FOR FREE
Of our 21 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.