Small Changes for Big Savings By Matt Diehl


We could all use extra money in our pocket. Did you know that there are some small changes to your spending that could make a big impact? Take beverages. Depending on what take-out coffee you’ve been buying, you could save from $1 to $5 a cup by brewing your coffee at home. If soda is your usual go-to drink, try switching to tap water. That can cut both your grocery bill and your costs when eating out, where a soda often costs $2 or more.

When thinking about making changes, we sometimes think that sticking with the change will be difficult. Did you know that if you try to make the change into a new habit, you’re more likely to succeed? Some psychologists have found that it takes 21 days of practice to form a new habit. Try changing up your beverages for 3 weeks! Or try one of the ideas below for just 21 days and see if you can make it a habit AND see how much money you’re able to save.

  • Make a grocery list (and stick to it!) – Do you ever walk into the grocery store to pick up three or four items and walk out with two bags and a bigger tab than you expected? One way to curb spending at the grocery store is to make a list before you shop and only buy what’s on your list. That can help you avoid making impulse purchases, like that ice cream or those chips that suddenly look so appealing. It’s also smart not to shop when you’re hungry, because you’re more likely to indulge in those impulse buys.
  • Cook at home and pack your lunch – Americans’ spending on restaurants and take-out has continued to grow, with many people rarely making food at home. The cost of eating out, even if you just buy fast food or pizza, adds up more quickly than you’d think. A 2015 study found that Americans spend almost $3,000 a year on eating out for lunch alone.1 To save money, try cooking at home and packing a lunch. If time is tight on weeknights, try cooking and freezing some dinners or key ingredients on the weekend. Having two meatless meals a week can also lower your grocery bill.
  • Pay cash – Leave your credit cards at home when you go shopping. Paying in cash may make it easier to say “no” to buying things you want, but don’t really need.
  • See how much coupons can help you save – Use newspaper and online coupons to help cut the cost of your groceries and other necessities. Many grocery stores have free savings club cards that give you automatic discounts. There are also smartphone apps that aggregate weekly sale circulars and coupons that you can try.
  • Quit smoking – This one is good for you and your budget! The cost of a pack of cigarettes in the U.S. can range from more than $5 to more than $12. If you smoke a pack a day, that can add up to nearly $5,000 a year.2 Join a smoking cessation class at your local Y or healthcare center and save money while protecting the health of your lungs.
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