Follow our easy tips for saving money and dramatically reduce your expenses. By cutting out these items and services, you can save big—up to $10,000 this year. And we've even provided low-cost alternatives, so you won't even miss what you've nixed!
1) Bottled water - Save $1,300 a year
If you buy a $1 bottle of water every day, that’s $365 a year for one family member. Even if you buy in bulk, you might be spending upwards of $100 annually per person—and a bottle is only one quarter of what you should drink daily.
INSTEAD: Add a filter (about $30) to your tap and you can enjoy clean water in your glass and your kitchen. For fresh water on the go, pick up a self-filtering water bottle (for as little as $10).
2) Home phone line - Save $516 a year
It’s time to ask the basic question: Do you really need your home phone? These days, cell-phone providers offer mobile-to-mobile plans (as well as free nights and weekends), and wireless Internet is more affordable than ever. Why should you keep paying extra for a secondary line you rarely use?
INSTEAD: Consider putting the estimated $43 a month in savings toward your family’s mobile bill.
3) Brand-name staples - Save $288 a year
Basic ingredients and pantry must-haves such as flour, pasta, eggs and milk are generally the same no matter the producer, so why pay extra money for brand-name versions?
INSTEAD: Substitute store brands and save as much as $4 on some items. If you purchase six staples per month, you could save as much as $288 per year.
4) Cable TV - Save more than $1,000 a year
If you watch only a handful of the channels available to you, then you might be able to do without cable—and the monthly bill, which can run more than $100 per month.
INSTEAD: If you have a Roku box ($60; roku.com), Wii or other compatible gaming console, you can replace your cable service with online streaming. Purchase a Hulu Plus account ($8 per month), which gives you access to current popular shows and an archive of more than 33,000 episodes of your favorite series, plus a library of movies. If you watch the movie channels more often, consider a Netflix membership ($8 a month for online streaming only) or stream movies from amazon.com or itunes.com for as little as 99 cents each.
5) Drinks at restaurants - Save at least $100 a year
If you’ve ever dined out and had a $7 glass of wine from what you know is a $12 bottle in stores, then you’re aware that alcohol at restaurants is massively marked up—sometimes by as much as 200 percent.
INSTEAD: Enjoy a glass of wine and a small appetizer, such as homemade spinach dip or cheese and crackers, before you head to the restaurant. Do this one night a month and you’ll save almost $100 a year (or $200 if you and your hubby both have a glass).
6) Gym equipment - Save as much as $700 a year
It might seem prudent to avoid gym membership fees and work out at home. For many people, however, expensive gym equipment becomes a place to pile laundry.
INSTEAD: Go outdoors or join a low-cost gym (try churches and civic centers). You also can find discounts of 50 percent or more on local boot camps and yoga classes on group buying sites, like groupon.com and livingsocial.com.
7) Spa manicures and pedicures - Save more than $600 a year
A combination mani/pedi costs an average of $55 at a salon. And even though the massage chairs and cheap flip-flops are appealing, is it really worth the frequent trips?
INSTEAD: Go to the salon quarterly and change your polish at home in between appointments. You can buy your favorite colors for as little as $4 per bottle.
8) Oil changes - Save up to $132 a year
You save money in the long run by keeping your car running efficiently, but don’t overspend to do it. Oil changes cost $35 on average.
INSTEAD: Change the car’s oil yourself at home (you can watch a how-to video on ehow.com). Also, try switching to synthetic oil, which can last up to 10,000 miles and cost about half as much as regular oil per year. Your vehicle’s manual lists the suggested oil and time span between changes.
9) Dry cleaning - Save up to $3,100 a year
If you or your spouse work outside the home, you probably make frequent trips to the cleaners. Those trips can wreak havoc on your budget, costing anywhere from $3 to $15 for each item of clothing.
INSTEAD: Dryel, an at-home dry-cleaning kit that gives you the same fresh results, costs about $10 and cleans approximately 24 items. Bonus: You save gas by running one fewer errand.
10) Treats at frozen-yogurt shops - Save $240 a year
Frozen-yogurt shops are on lots of street corners these days. Although they might be a treat for your taste buds, they’re not wallet-friendly—some charge as much as 49 cents an ounce.
INSTEAD: Enjoy the same treat for less by purchasing a carton at your local grocery or investing in a Yonanas machine ($50; yonanas.com), which makes healthful cold treats from frozen fruit.
11) Vending machine snacks and beverages- Save $197 a year
You fight the urge, but vending machines often prevail when you need a quick snack.
INSTEAD: Save the money you spend on pretzels or soft drinks by buying in bulk and keeping a stash at your desk.
12) Prepackaged lunches - Save $560 a year
Prepackaged lunches might contain sandwiches and snacks all in one place, but there is a high cost for convenience.
INSTEAD: Make your own snacks and lunches for a fraction of the cost by purchasing items like cheese, cold cuts and crackers in bulk.
13) Drive-through coffee drinks - Save $450 a year
If you make frequent visits to the coffee shop in the mornings, you could be spending as much as $750 a year.
INSTEAD: Brew it at home and pour it in a thermos to keep drinks from swallowing your budget.
14) Sliced or chopped veggies - Save $130 a year
It can be tempting to buy prechopped ingredients to throw into a quick meal, but what you save in time you lose in money.
INSTEAD: Slice your own vegetabes; if you spend just 10 minutes wielding a knife, you can save enough to enjoy a night out.
BONUS: More money-saving suggestions