By Andrew Housser
Money is tight these days. If you like the idea of trimming the fat from your budget, but not the idea of spending hours clipping and organizing coupons, read on for a list of 12 ways to save money effortlessly.
- Use cash instead of credit. People spend more when using credit than when they use cash. Tracking expenses in detail also helps; learn to develop and use a simple budget.
- Keep the change. After paying in cash, sock away the change. Then cash in the full jar and deposit the amount in savings. Or postpone a splurge until you have saved enough to cover it.
- Cut prescription costs. Ask your doctor if you can take a less expensive, generic medication. Check with a pharmacist about other discount options for which you might qualify, from AAA programs to $4 prescription promotions to state-sponsored discounts.
- Buy store-brands. A recent exercise by a Consumer Reports writer found that purchasing store brands, instead of brand names, saved almost 50 percent, and saved even more money (not to mention time) than a savvy coupon-clipper.
- Skip the shopping cart. People buy 30 percent more if they use a large shopping cart. Leave the kids at home, too, if you can. Shoppers who have children with them buy 40 percent more.
- Unplug unused appliances. Today, many electronics use power even when turned off. Connect the TV or computer to a power strip and turn off the electricity when not in use. Unplug appliances such as a toaster, coffee maker or spare refrigerator when not in use.
- Chill hot water heating costs. Water heating accounts for 12 percent of home utility costs. Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket (about $20) and lower its thermostat setting to 120 degrees from the typical 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For every 10 degrees you lower the temperature, you can save 5 percent on energy costs, or approximately $5 per month.
- BYOB. Brew coffee at home and bring it to work in a reusable cup. If you like strong coffee, invest in a $50 espresso maker to brew up lasting savings. Or buy soda pop at the grocery store or warehouse club for 20 cents a can instead of from a vending machine for a dollar or more.
- Review bills for errors. Instead of writing checks on auto-pilot, carefully review credit card, utility and other bills to be sure charges are accurate. If you suspect a problem, write to the issuer or call the provider. Be especially wary of ongoing charges that might have been incorrect from the beginning.
- Keep pets small. Love has no price, but when choosing a new dog, opt for the smaller canine. Its annual upkeep costs will average $700 less per year. Or choose a cat for another $60 in savings.
- Eliminate catalogs. We will not covet what we do not see. Free services such as catalogchoice.com can help eliminate junk mail.
- Wait before buying. For any impulse buy, wait 48 hours. If you still want the item and can afford it, return to buy it. You will find that many purchases lose their appeal after even a short cooling-off period.