Make Small Changes for Big Savings

Need to cut back on expenses? Begin by taking stock. How much does your family spend on groceries? Eating out? Entertainment? Use the information you gather to come up with some painless ways to cut back. Here are some ideas.
Keep the Change
Make it your policy to never spend coins. Use paper money for all transactions and save your change. At the end of the day, put your change in a jar and deposit it into your savings account when it is full. If you bring home $1 in coins each day, you’ll end up with $365 in one year. Check with your bank or credit union to see if they charge a fee and whether they prefer your coins rolled or loose. Avoid using the in-store machines that charge a transaction fee of up to 10%.
After awhile, you might shift to keeping all singles and spending coins and larger bills. Savings can add up even faster this way.
Bring Back the Family Dinner
A home-cooked meal does more than fill you up and give you and your family time to reconnect—it can also save you a lot of money. At $100 a week on groceries for a family of four, each meal costs $1.11 per person. Lunch out would cost you about $7, and dinner would likely run you $15 for an adult and $7.50 for a child. So, if you and your spouse cut two work lunches and two family dinners out per week, you would save $102, or $5,100 in one year.
Ditch the Mocha Habit
No one is suggesting that you give up coffee. But if you make more cups at home and buy fewer out, you’ll save a lot of money. You can purchase the same flavorings and syrups at the grocery store and whip up your own concoctions before you leave the house for pennies per cup. As an added benefit, your reusable coffee cup saves trees and landfill space. Cutting out just two premium coffee drinks per week saves you $7. That adds up to $364 in a year.
Evaluate Your Services
The costs of many services have increased over the years, so it makes sense to make sure you have the most cost-effective plans to meet your needs. Do you watch all of the channels on your cable or satellite service, or can you go down a tier? Do you use all the bells and whistles on your cell phone plan? Can you hand wash some of your clothing instead of sending it out to the dry cleaner?
Saving $10 a month on your cable and cell phones bills adds up to $240 in a year. Cutting one trip to the dry cleaner per month will save another $240.
Cut Your Utility Usage
Utilities are one of the biggest recurring expenses, but a little creativity can help cut those costs, too.
Try turning your thermostat down one or two degrees both at night and during the day. (If you have young children or elderly family members in your home, don’t try this one.) Each degree can cut your utility bill by 2%, which is an annual savings of $36 if your average bill is $150.
Turn off power strips for DVD players, TVs, and other so-called energy vampires. And, make sure you unplug your chargers–they continue to pull power even when you unhook your cell phone or iPod.
Check Your Progress
The changes outlined here add up to more than $6,000 per year. Give it a month and then check with your family to see if they are still on board with the savings. And decide what you will do with the money–you could take a family vacation and still put a good chunk into savings.