A few minutes (and some saving tips) is all it takes to save hundreds of dollars in a month.
1. Give your cart a once-over: Before you reach the checkout, remove at least one impulse purchase. Cutting just $10 a week of unnecessary spending adds
2. Replace one processed food: Pick one processed item and opt for an unprocessed substitute. For example, making mashed potatoes from scratch twice a week instead of buying a pre-packaged version will save you $60 a year.
3. Punch the numbers: Don’t assume that a jumbo-size household or grocery product is the best deal. Bring a calculator on every shopping trip and figure out the price per ounce.
4. Compare prices in advance: You can save money on everything from books to home décor by checking sites like pricewatch.com and shoppingnotes.com before you hit the stores.
5. Lower your prescription costs: Before refilling, check out the competition, since prices vary among pharmacies. Log on to pharmacychecker.com or pillbot.com for current pricing, and look for promotions that reward you with cash back for making the switch.
6. Get into an energy-saving habit: Put sticky notes at eye level around the house to remind everyone to close the blinds during the day, turn off lights and
water whenever possible, and unplug major appliances before leaving.
7. Insulate the attic door: Use a strong adhesive (try Loctite Power Grab; lowes.com) to secure rigid foam insulation and new weather stripping to the inside of your attic door or pull-down hatch. The project will pay for itself in a few months. Find instructions at energysavers.gov.
8. Change the furnace filter: You will save on unwanted repairs as well as heating and cooling costs, since your furnace will run more efficiently. Learn
how at doityourself.com.
9. Seal up drafts: If you live in an old house or apartment building, buy draft stops to slide under exterior and basement doors and windows. Energystar.gov estimates that proper insulation could cut heating and cooling costs by 20 percent.
10. Install a dimmer switch: This project is easier than it sounds and could save you hundreds of dollars in electricity costs (learn how at allyou.com/dimmers). Save even more by using compact fluorescents (CFLs) made for dimmers.
11. Check for drips: You can waste gallons of costly water from even the smallest leak. Turn off all the fixtures in your home (including appliances
that use water) and check the water meter. If the water flow indicator is rotating, you have a leak.
12. Use less laundry detergent: Today’s detergent is powerful, and too much can be hard on clothes. To make it last longer, halve the suggested amount.
13. Trim the dryer hose: Cut the hose to a length that’s just long enough to pull the dryer out a few feet from the wall. A short, unobstructed line helps your dryer run more efficiently, which could save up to $25 a year on your electricity bill.
14. Examine your cell phone bill: Opting for an unlimited plan may sound like the best choice for smartphone users, but you might not talk, text or surf nearly
enough to cover the extra expense. Dropping your data storage to 2GB alone will save $5 a month with most carriers.
15. Sign up for load management: Allow your utility company to oversee your home’s power during peak usage hours, and you could save $100 a year without a noticeable change in service.
16. Plan a "date day": Instead of having an expensive date night, set up playdates for the kids, then enjoy a romantic brunch and matinee movie.
17. Purchase a discount Entertainment book: Take advantage of two-for-one restaurant deals and access to hundreds of printable coupons and discounts online. Get yours for half off (normally $35) at entertainment.com.
18. Institute a "no spend" day: Limit your family’s spending to six days a week, then get creative with free family fun ideas, like having a game night or themed movie marathon.
19. Check out competing car insurance: Compare costs in your area on insurancerates.com, then call your agent to see if you qualify for new discounts.
20. Pencil in a car appointment: Look in your car’s manual to find suggested maintenance dates and schedule them for the year. You’ll not only avoid costly repairs, but regular oil changes and properly inflated tires can save you $100 a year in gas.
21. Arrange a ride to work: Plan to share a ride with a co-worker, or take a bus, train or bike to work. You’ll spend about $5 less per ride (or $260 a year if you do it
once a week).
22. Walk a mile: Chances are you run several errands a week right around the corner; use your car only for trips over a mile, and you’ll improve your health while saving on gas.
23. Take stock of needs and wants: Get together and examine each family member’s wish list. If it’s a need, it stays. If it’s a want, put a time frame or a
contingency on the expense. Save on needs by switching to store brands or borrowing the item instead of buying it.
24. Discuss ways to save: Share financial goals as a family and let each person contribute their ideas for cutting costs. Kids are never too young to learn about money—plus, being open about finances will make you less wasteful.
25. Pay all bills on time: Late fees average $28 per bill, so missing a due date puts a dent in your funds. Add each bill’s “send by” date to your calendar or agenda, or sign up on the company site to receive e-mail reminders.
26. Search for lost treasure: It takes only a few minutes to visit missingmoney.com and see if you have any unclaimed accounts, safe deposit box contents, dividends, uncashed checks, insurance policies or utility refunds in your name.
27. Look up your credit score: The higher your score, the more you can save in interest on credit cards and loans. Get a free report once a year at annualcreditreport.com, check your score anytime at creditkarma.com and find ways to improve (or maintain) it at myfico.com.
28. Plan your weekly withdrawals: Using an ATM that doesn’t belong to your bank can cost you about $3.75 per transaction—almost $200 a year if you do it once a week. If you’re in a pinch, buy a small item at a drugstore and get cash back.
29. Bank for less: Call your bank and ask to switch to a free checking account with no minimum balance. If your bank doesn’t offer that option,
consider a credit union—interest rates tend to be higher and fees lower. Or sign up for a free, interest-bearing checking
account at an online bank such as ingdirect.com.
30. Cancel overdraft protection: The average overdraft fee is $27 (almost as much as the average bounced-check fee, which is $30). To avoid these traps, spend a few minutes every week tracking your spending—including your debit card purchases—in an old-fashioned check register.