Cutting Costs

By Chandra Orr

October 17, 2008 5 min read

CUTTING COSTS

Little steps can promote a healthy savings account

Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

Americans are spending more and saving less than any generation since the Great Depression. But you don't have to live like a pauper to save like a prince. Little lifestyle changes add up to a nice nest egg in the long run.

Think you need that fancy latte? Think again. Skip your daily Starbucks and you could save nearly $1,500 a year.

Rethink your family's weekly pizza delivery and you'll save even more. At $20 per take-out order, you can easily pocket $500 or more per year by making your own pies at home. That's enough to fill the average gas tank 10 times -- or start a savings account.

"Saving for an emergency fund or paying down high-cost debt should be top priorities for any family," said Nancy Register, director of America Saves, a national initiative to encourage and assist Americans to save and build wealth. The group's website, americasaves.org, features hundreds of helpful tips and simple strategies for cutting costs and saving money.

Simply by keeping your car tuned up and your tires properly inflated, for example, you can easily save up to $100 per year in gas. Watch those fast start-ups and stops and you'll save even more. Raise the deductible on your auto insurance and you'll likely see your annual premium drop by several hundred dollars.

All those savings can add up.

"We want to help people find ways to stretch their dollars, but most importantly, we want to encourage people to save the money they didn't spend," Register said. "We know that with support and encouragement, people can and will improve their savings habits."

Make a few small changes and watch the savings add up:

TIME FOR CHANGE

Want to "earn" easy money? The average U.S. household is sitting on $90 of spare change, according to Coinstar, the company behind those ubiquitous green coin-counting kiosks. Check your change jar, look under the couch cushions and dig around under your car seats then keep adding to the stash. Set aside an additional fifty cents a day in loose change and you'll have nearly $300 by the end of the year.

CLOSE TO HOME

To save on your utility bills, schedule a free or low-cost energy audit through the utility company. While you're at it, ask about the "off-peak" hours for your area. When possible, run major appliances like your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer during those times to lower your monthly energy bills.

Review your phone and cable bills periodically and cancel the services you don't need or don't use. Simply canceling premium cable channel subscriptions can easily save $500 or more per year. You'll save even more by downgrading to basic cable and switching to a bare-bones home phone line.

LET US ENTERTAIN YOU

If you haven't had a library card since high school, you might be surprised at what you'll find -- and how much you can save on your yearly entertainment expenses. From the latest best-selling books and most current magazines to the hottest Hollywood blockbusters and chart-topping CDs, most local libraries offer the same selection as the big chain bookstores, and it's all free.

The average book on the best-seller list costs $15-$30. If you routinely read one book per week, you could save up to $1,500 per year by borrowing rather than buying.

Maybe movies are more your style. Replace one movie rental per week with a free library loaner and you'll save $150 per year.

THAT'S A LATTE

Forgo your favorite espresso drink and you could save more than $1,000 per year. You don't have to give up your daily coffeehouse run. Just swap that $4 latte, mocha or cappuccino for a simple $1 cup of Joe and watch the savings add up. If you're feeling really frugal, make a pot of coffee at home and you'll save on gas as well.

Prefer to get your caffeine from cola? Soda sippers can save big by skipping that daily trip to the vending machine, which likely charges $1 or more per beverage. Instead, purchase a 12-pack of your favorite drink for just $4 at the grocery store and save nearly $250 per year.

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