So now that we have all spent way more than we planned to on Christmas gifts, decorations, and celebratory booze, we are all making New Year’s resolutions on how we will do a much better job spending and saving our money in 2013. Most of us make these drastic resolutions that are so out of our character or comfort zone that it’s no surprise that by January 2nd we’ve already broken them. What if we could drastically alter our lives by making simple, everyday changes that barely feel like changes at all? Read on to find out how you could save hundreds of dollars per year just by making 5 easy lifestyle changes that you’ll barely even notice.
Nix paid subscriptions to mobile apps and opt for the free versions.
Chances are you have a cell phone, laptop, or tablet. Chances are also that you use one or several of these devices to listen to music, play games, or watch videos. And chances are that you subscribe to at least one of these services that bill you monthly or yearly. That premium Spotify app you pay 9.99/month for so you can avoid those annoying GEICO ads messing up your jam session is costing you almost $120/year. Busy booklovers who don’t want to go through the trouble searching for audiobooks in pieces on YouTube pay 14.99/month just to get 1 audiobook a month. That’s almost $180 for 12 books. Oh, and in addition to your music and your books, you need your games! Angry Birds .99, Words With Friends .99, Grand Theft Auto .99, Draw Something 2.99…These fun, but not worth it little apps can pile up to a pretty hefty toll by the end of the year. Instead of buying the paid versions, opt for the free versions. Sure you may have to sit through a few McDonald’s ba da ba ba ba ads and have to do a little detective work to find all 600 parts of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on YouTube, but your wallet will thank you for it.
Swap the on-the-way-to-work coffee house stop for the free stuff in the break room.
Starbucks is sooooo good! As a writer, recent college grad, and 1st shift worker, I completely understand the benefit of a good espresso or at least a cup of McCafe to shake off the early morning grogginess. But, as delicious as all that sugar, syrup, and cream mixed with a spoonful of coffee is, is it really worth the $5/morning dent it makes in your purse? I’m not saying give up the caffeine– I’m just saying get it for free! It may not seem as tasty, but if your employer has a coffee maker and free coffee in the break room or reception area, by all means partake! You can have all the free coffee you want. Add some pizazz with your own flavored creamer or 15 packs of sugar if you want. $3 for an entire container of creamer is better than almost $5 per cup from Starbucks. If you just can’t stand the taste of the generic brand of beans your employer provides, go in with a coworker for a $10 bag of Starbucks Dark Espresso Roast and stand guard at the pot to make sure no one steals your brew. All of these options provide much more cost-effective caffeine high.
Shrink your mobile data plan and use more Wi-Fi and free hotspots.
Why pay upwards of $30/month for a data plan with your mobile services provider when 90% of your data usage is done at work where your office offers free Wi-Fi or at home where you already pay an astronomical fee for wireless internet? Check your data usage on your last few wireless statements and see how much of that data plan you actually use. Chances are you’re not even close and can reduce the plan to save up to $50/month and just use the Wi-Fi you (or your employer) already pay for. Now you can watch Netflix, surf the web, and play online games without paying double for the data usage.
Brownbag it or split a lunch with a coworker.
Every fast food and mid-priced restaurant seems to have a $5 lunch special. Initially that may seem perfect for a thrifty lunch shopper. But, if you work at least 5 days a week like most Americans, those super great $5 lunch specials come to a whopping $25/week, which turns into $100/month, which turns into over $1200/year! Think of the money you would save by packing a lunch from the groceries you’ve already paid for from your own fridge or pantry. Maybe you could eat a moderately priced lunch just on Fridays or just during your pay weeks. If you must eat out frequently, think about going in with a co-worker and buying just one lunch and splitting the bill. Most Chinese restaurants have $5 lunch specials with portion sizes that can easily be split between two people. A little less take-out could keep your wallet a little fatter (and your waistline a little slimmer as an added bonus).
Pocket the cash and leave the cards on the nightstand.
After a night out on the town with the fellas or a Saturday afternoon shopping trip with the girls, wouldn’t you rather know you spent only the $200 cash you stashed in your wallet specifically for this outing than that you lost track of for how many drink specials or clearance sales you swiped your Visa and accumulated $650 in irresponsible charges? Plan ahead when you’re going out and take only the cash you want to spend. Leave the cards at home so that you won’t be tempted to spend more than you need to since swiping that card is so deliciously tempting.
Saving money is not so hard. It’s not always about giving up the things you love, but more about learning to enjoy those special little things by reserving them for special occasions. Not only will you appreciate them more, but you won’t have to feel guilty about how much they cost you.