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With the holidays closing in, most of us are ready for our own kind of fiscal hibernation. The adventurous risk-taking behaviors of spring and summer are losing heat with the air around us and the next six months are all about playing it safe. Do you have all the nuts and berries you’re going to need to make it through to May? Perhaps it’s time to start optimizing your daily finances with the following 25 money-saving tips:
1) Avoid ATMs
Most banks charge a fee for ATM transactions completed by customers who are using a debit card issued by a different bank. ATM fees can range as high as $5. While that extra few bucks may not seem like a lot at the time, the charges can really add up.
2) Skip the Gym Membership: The Spartans were pretty darn in shape, by all accounts, and they didn’t spend $50 a month on gym memberships. Buy some weights, a scale, and a second-hand treadmill, and voila--you have yourself a home gym.
3) No More Data: In today’s world, a smartphone is a must, but how essential really is your data plan? If you’re home, you have wi-fi. If you’re at work, you have wi-fi. If you’re at McDonald’s, you have wi-fi. Is checking your Facebook while you’re in the car really worth the extra $420/year?
4) Cut the Cable: Okay, so reality check. How often do you actually watch your cable tv? For most of us (football/basketball fans exempt), cable tv is a frivolous waste. Stop flipping through channels and wasting time on advertisements. Netflix is only $7.99/month, and boasts a library of over 10,000 streamable movies and DVDs.
5) Order Pick up: Between the delivery fee and the tip, it’s more than worth it to just get off the couch and pick up your pizza.
6) Stop Eating Out: Eating out is sort of like flushing your money down an extremely high-calorie toilet. Try to eat out only on special occasions, or as a bi-monthly self-reward for good financial behavior.
7) Be More Energy Efficient: As well as being good for the environment, cutting back on your energy usage can help keep your monthly bill to a minimum. Switch to energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, and for goodness sake turn out the lights when you leave the house.
8) Cut Coupons: You don’t have to take up extreme couponing, but by cutting and using coupons you can rack up significant savings.
9) Caffeinate at Home: Whether you buy your morning coffee at Starbucks or Burger King, you’re spending more than you have to. Get up five minutes earlier, and brew it yourself (or stop by your bank in the mornings and grab yourself a free cup).
10) Avoid Credit Card Fees: Even it you pay off your bill on time, you’re paying extra when you use your credit card. Transaction fees can range from $0.10 to $2.50. Avoid these fees by paying with cash or debit.
11) Use Gift Cards: When your friends and relatives ask you what you want for your birthday/Christmas gifts, tell them to get you gift cards. Far better to get a gas station gift card from your grandma than to let her pick out that clothing that she thinks you’ll like.
12) Buy Generic Brands: For the most part, generic brands are the same as the brands you know and love, just with less attractive packaging. Stop paying for advertising costs by going generic.
13) Get the Medium: Whether it’s popcorn, Mountain Dew, or french fries, how often do you actually finish your “large” order? It might only be $0.70 to upgrade, but $0.70 over the cost of the year amounts to a whopping $256. That’s enough to cover your car payment.
14) Buy Second Hand: Okay, so a second hand shirt might not be ideal for your hot date, but why not start buying your work clothes at the thrift store? By getting second hand button-ups and dress pants, you can save your clothing budget for the weekends.
15) Car Pool: Stop spending more on gas than you need to by car-pooling to work--or even walking or biking if your commute is short enough.
16) Get the Rewards Card: When you’re at the checkout and the cashier asks you if you’d like a rewards card, say yes. Most of them actually offer pretty decent money-saving incentives.
17) Stop by Your Local College Move Out Sale: At the end of the college year, most schools have move out sales, where they sell off all of the furniture, clothing and electronics left behind in the dorms by students. These sales are often even cheaper than thrift stores--you’ll be looking at $1 for a garbage bag full of clothing, or $25 for a flat screen tv.
18) Go to the Library: Stop paying for books and head to the library instead. If you’re not a reader, check out the DVD and video games selection. You’ll be surprised by how many titles they have to offer.
19) Buy in Bulk: Instead of just picking the cheapest package of paper towels off the shelf, get out your calculator and figure out how many sheets you’re getting per dollar. For the most part, you’ll save a few bucks by buying in bulk instead.
20) Water it Down: You can double the life of your shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, dish soap and laundry detergent by watering it down. Unless you go over the top with it, it won’t affect the effectiveness of the product.
21) Get a Toaster Oven: Instead of turning the oven on every time you want to make yourself a snack, switch to a toaster oven. Toaster ovens are more energy efficient, and can even cook your food faster.
22) Shop with a Friend: By shopping with a friend, you can split the cost of buy-one-get-one-free offers, saving you both on the cost of the original item.
23) Freeze Old Fruit: Fruit is expensive enough, without throwing half of it out every time it gets old or bruised. Instead of dropping it in the trash, pop it in the freezer. You can use it later on for smoothies or baking.
24) Drink Tap Water: Stop wasting money on water by buying a nalgene bottle and drinking from the tap. If you’re concerned about purity, just buy a home water filter.
25) Order Large Meals on Dates: If you’re not paying for it, let him. Order the biggest portion on the menu, and then take the leftovers home with you. If you’re a serial dater, you’ll be amazed by how much this can save you in groceries.