16 Easy Ways To Slash Unnecessary Spending (and save $12,410 )

By Ali Luke

February 5, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

How would you feel if you were given a tax-free pay raise of $12,410? I’d imagine you’d be pretty delighted – especially in the current economic climate. OK, so you’re not getting that raise, but i am going to tell you how to save $12K over the next 12 months. Trust me, this will be simpler than begging for a raise anyway!

Yes, we’re talking about spending cuts. Companies are doing it, schools doing it, and you must admit – the time has come for you to seriously consider cutting some ‘extras’ from your budget.

So get ready. If you do all of these (and they all won’t apply to everyone) you will save $34 per day… that’s $12,410 in a year. (Note that figures are for illustrative purposes and have been rounded to the nearest 50c.)

    1. Brown-bag lunch – save $3 per day
      Instead of buying your lunch out (and spending $4-$6 for an average sandwich), make sandwiches at home for $1-2 each. Alternatively, take leftovers from last night’s dinner, rather than leaving them to slowly turn to sludge in the fridge before you chuck them away. 
  • Go vegetarian – save $2 per day
    Try having a vegetarian meal in the evening. The meat you eat at dinner is often more expensive than everything else on your plate: switch to a veggie protein source like quorn, tofu, beans or pulses, and you can easily save $2 or more per person. (A pound of cheap beef is about $3. According to MSN Money, a pound of non-meat protein is typically well under $1.) 
  • Switch to store brands / house brands – save $2.50 per day
    Are you a brand addict? Do all your food products come emblazoned with logos and company names? Try switching to non-branded goods; you probably won’t even notice the difference. You may even find you prefer them! On a typical weekly shop, you’ll save at least 30% of your usual bill – for an average US household bill of over $3,000 on groceries per year, that’s a saving of about $2.50 per day. 
  • Take a thermos – save $3.50 per day
    Instead of spending $4 for a latte on the way to work, take a thermos of coffee with you instead. It might cost you $10 for the thermos, but after that, your daily coffee will cost you pennies. You’ll also avoid the line at Starbucks. 
  • Leave your gym – save $2 per day
    Did you join a gym at the start of January? Are you still on a membership plan from last year? Be honest with yourself about how often you go to the gym. If it’s once a week or less, it’ll almost certainly work out cheaper to pay by the session. And, of course, walking or jogging outside is completely free. The average annual gym membership is $775, so you’ll be saving $2 per day. 
  • Don’t buy greetings cards – save 50c per day
    The average person buys over 50 greetings cards every year – at an average of $4-$5 per card, that works out to over 50c per day. By making your own cards (save ones you’re sent and cut out motifs, or buy a pack of cheap craft papers), you’ll be spending a few cents instead of a few dollars on each card. If you’re not the crafty type, why not send e-cards instead – they won’t cost you anything, and you’ll be doing your bit for the environment. Check out 123 Greetings for some free e-cards. 
  • Bulk-buy non-perishable goods – save $4 per day
    Stock up on non-perishable goods when they’re on offer at your local store – or join a warehouse club to get bulk deals. You’ll typically save 30% – 60% on everything, about $4 per day on the average shopping bill. Canned, bottled, dried and frozen groceries will all keep for weeks or months, and cleaning supplies can last for years. Just don’t make the mistake of spending money on something which you’d not otherwise have bought.
  • Switch off the lights and television – save 50c per day
    Get yourself – and your family – into the habit of switching off lights and electrical appliances. Not only will you be improving your green credentials, you’ll be saving money on your electric bill. Make sure computers and televisions are turned off rather than left on standby. If you’re leaving your computer for a short period of time, switch off the monitor. Don’t leave rooms lit if you’re not in them.
  • Get your home insulated – save 50c per day
    Although you’ll be paying for the initial work, you could easily save 50c per day by making sure that your home’s properly insulated – for the average American home, 50% – 70% of the energy bill is spent on heating and cooling. Don’t let the heat or cool air you’re paying for leak straight out of your roof and walls – keep it inside where you want it! 
  • Buy clothes on ebay – save $2.50 per day
    The average American family spends over $1,700 on clothes each year – $4.65 per day. Use ebay to look for clothing: you can find new and unworn items there, as well as second-hand bargains. If you like big-name brands like Levi or Nike, you could make big savings by buying on ebay: easily saving 60% or more on many garments. 
  • Use your local library – save $2 per day
    Instead of buying books and DVDs, use your local library. Books are free to borrow, and DVDs will typically only cost a couple of dollars to rent. If you’d otherwise buy two books (at $10.99 each) and two DVDs (at $29.99), you’d be saving over $2 per day, even allowing for DVD renting costs. 
  • Car-pool with a neighbour or colleague – save $3 per day
    Work out a schedule with a neighbour or colleague so that each of you drives half the time. You could easily end up saving over $1,100 per year – $3 per day.

For example, a person with a 25-miles-per-gallon car who drives 20 miles round-trip five days a week spends about $229 a month to drive alone. That’s $2,748 per year. Car pooling with one person who drives half the time could cut costs in half, to $1,374. (Ventura County Star)

  • Buy multipacks of chips/cookies – save 50c per day
    Do you always buy a candy bar mid-afternoon? It probably costs $1 from the vending machine – but $2 could get you a multi-pack of six or eight candy bars. You’ll be saving about 50c per day, which soon adds up. 
  • Buy from Amazon – and use supersaver delivery – save $1
    As most of us know, Amazon.com doesn’t just do books. Laptops, DVDs, kitchen equipment, homeware, exercise gear … prices on all of these are often cheaper on Amazon than in other stores. (This newspaper report in the UK found that Amazon was the cheapest source of a number of popular goods.) Your savings will vary depending how what you buy, but you could easily save at least $1 per day. 
  • Carry a water bottle – save $1 per day
    A one liter bottle of water costs about $1. Instead of buying a bottle of water every day, carry your own bottle with you whenever you go out. You can fill it up from drinking fountains or drinking water taps in your workplace – saving $1 per day. 

And there you have it: an extra $34 in your wallet every day, or $12,410 in the bank every year. Can you think of any other ways to save a dollar or two per day, every day? Are there any methods above that you’ll be trying out?

Written on 2/5/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: Mike Schmid
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