1. TAKEOUT COFFEE
No knock on Starbucks or Dunkin, but for a quick cup of coffee in the car or at work, it’s a lot cheaper to brew your own. Get a coffee maker and buy some high-quality ground coffee, plus a couple of travel mugs from the dollar store. After a few months, the setup will pay for itself and you’ll reap savings after that. Learn more about the Latte Factor.
2. ATM FEES
With a little advance planning, you can completely avoid these. You can go to a bank-owned ATM and also, you can check your bank’s website to find out which other ATM’s won’t charge you fees. Also investigate whether certain convenience stores or other retail outlets have fee-free ATM’s. Also, you can use your check card for almost anything now, even dollar menu items at fast-food restaurants, so you probably don’t need to carry much cash anyway.
3. BOTTLED WATER
Come on…do you really need this? Much bottled water is only purified tap water to begin with. And you’re already paying taxes for your own local water. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, buy a filter to attach to your kitchen and/or bathroom faucets – or get a water-filtering pitcher. Get refillable plastic bottles and watch your savings pour in. Learn more on why Aquafina is a rip off.
4. CONVENIENCE FOODS
Yes, we know – you’re busy, oh so busy. It’s tempting to grab already-assembled sandwiches and prepackaged cheese and crackers. But those daily convenience store runs are costing you time and money. Hit up your local supermarket once a week for quick, easy food items such as bread, cold cuts, cheese slices, apples, etc. and throw some plastic storage bags into your basket as well. Packing your own lunches will be a snap.
5. CAR MAINTENANCE
No, you don’t need to go to your dealer for most types of maintenance and repairs. The exception would be covered warranty work and recalls – but for everything else, shop around. Usually a reputable, independently owned garage will fix your car for less.
Go to the library; it’s an amazing treasure trove not only for books, but also music and movies. You can find your nearest branch at PublicLibraries.com or by Googling the word “library” and your zip code to display the results on a map. If you want to be nice and support your locally owned, independent bookstore, go there and buy the things you can’t find at the library, such as gift items or very specialized books and magazines.
Are you still buying CD’s? There’s not much reason to do that anymore, unless you really love cover art and lyric sheets (and yes, some folks do.) Buy songs individually at 99 cents or so, from iTunes or Amazon. For the iTunes store, you’ll need to download free software at Apple.com. Amazon’s Music Store
8. HOME PHONE
Even if you normally use your cell, a land line is a useful backup and also is a better choice for making 911 calls because emergency centers will get your location more easily. Just don’t overpay for the land line. Shop around, and ask your phone company for a package deal; you could pay as little as $10-15 per month for a land line with unlimited calling if you also get high-speed internet and/or cable TV with the same company.
The seductive clang-clang of the casinos draws you in, and you walk out poorer. Remember, the house always wins in the end. If you really enjoy gambling as entertainment, fine, but decide on your budget before you walk in – $25, $50, or whatever you really can afford to part with. Las Vegas Entertainment book can also help you save money when going to Vegas.
It sure feels good to own the same brand of designer jeans Jennifer Aniston wears – but are you a multi-millionaire like she is? If not, skip the celebrity wear and go for some sharp designer knockoffs. Try Target at www.target.com or H&M at www.hm.com. Both stores carry lines from famous designers. Look for a special line of Jimmy Choo shoes at H&M later this year.
11. NEW GADGETS
It’s fun to be the first person on your block with the latest, coolest cell phone or some other gadget. But you pay dearly for the privilege. Wait at least six months and you’ll likely see lower prices for the same products.
12. NEW CARS
Do you absolutely, positively need a brand new car? Consider the fact that new cars instantly lose a lot of value the moment you drive them off the dealer’s lot. Nobody says you have to buy a junker – just consider opting for a slightly used set of wheels and you’ll save a lot.
13. EXTENDED WARRANTIES
Service warranties are big profit items for retailers but do little for consumers. Most electronic items can be replaced for not much more than the cost of repairs and warranties, and most likely you’ll be able to upgrade the technology too.
14. TRAFFIC TICKETS AND PARKING TICKETS
We all make the occasional mistakes. But repeat violations add up to big bucks – and traffic violations could cost you more on your car insurance as well. When you park, set a timer on your cell phone. And don’t speed or drive recklessly.
15. UNUSED GYM EQUIPMENT AND MEMBERSHIPS
So many people invest money to join a gym they never visit or workout equipment that gathers dust. Don’t waste money on good intentions. And if you really do decide to get fit, you can always start with something free, like walking or running. Learn how to get a cheap P90x DVDs.
16. FANCY HEALTH FOOD
Free-range chicken is nice, but not a necessity. Ditto for a lot of food that is only sold in health food stores or labeled “all-natural”. Read labels and shop carefully; there are some plain old store brands that are just as healthy. And buy produce in season at local farmer’s markets; you’ll find good prices.
17. GREETING CARDS
No need to pay $3-5 for a typical gift shop greeting card – design and print your own with your computer. Or shop the dollar store.
18. CREDIT CARD FEES
Consumers are getting some new protection from sneaky rate hikes and hidden fees, thanks to a bill signed into law by President Obama; details at WhiteHouse.gov
Still, you need to be responsible for your own finances. Pay your bills on time.
19. IMPULSE BUYING
We all fall victim to the desire for immediate gratification. A carefully planned budget helps a lot. Find out how to create a budget the painless way. Allow yourself a set amount each week for minor impulse buys such as magazines or gum.
No knock on florists here, but for everyday flower purchases, try your local supermarket. A dozen roses costs only $9.99 at my local supermarket (not on Valentine’s Day, of course.) Also check out Proflowers.com coupons and promo codes.
Some of the free software out there is as good as any you would buy. Check out Lifehacker’s top free downloads for some great picks of free Windows and Mac software.
Photo Credit via Flickr