Confession time: I used to order Seamless, like, four times a week.
As a busy freelance writer, having a ready-made meal delivered to my apartment on the regular just made sense. It saved me time, I thought, and time is money. Right?
Well, sort of.
In my case, that Seamless bill was coming close to $150 a week. When I moved to a new house outside of the delivery zone of my old favorite restaurants, I decided it was a good time to start eating healthier by going to the grocery store regularly, meal planning and cooking my own food at home. I lost weight, sure, but there was another unexpected benefit: I saved a ton of money. That got me thinking. There must be other relatively painless ways to save.
With a little research, I learned that there are so many ways to make tiny, barely noticeable lifestyle changes that translate to saving hundreds of dollars every year. After a month, I've put an extra $400 into my savings account. Here's how:
1. Use cash, not a debit card
Swiping plastic is just too easy — it encourages mindless spending. When you use cash, it's much easier to set a weekly budget and then stick to it because you can easily see how much you're spending and how much money you have left. That leads to more thoughtful spending, which means less blowing hard-earned cash on things you don't really need.
2. Save $5 bills
This tip makes the rounds on Pinterest pretty regularly, but only because it works! Once you're only using cash for daily spending, start hanging onto $5 bills. Every time there's a fiver in your purse or wallet, put it into a jar or envelope. It is hard to miss, but after a few weeks, all the bills you've saved will really start to add up.
3. Make coffee at home
If you're a latte-a-day kinda person like I am, Starbucks can become a major line item in your monthly budget. You can get a budget coffee maker or French press to make your morning cup of joe, but even if you invest in a pricey espresso machine, as long as you use it instead of hitting the coffee drive-thru in the morning, you'll end up saving in the long run.
4. Get a phone plan with no annual contract
Phone plans can come with crazy-high bills — not to mention the hidden costs and fees. With a smartphone plan that doesn’t require an annual contract, but still provides reliable nationwide service, like through Cricket Wireless, you can have your favorite device (even iPhones!) and save money at the same time.
Take a close look at your monthly bank statement and highlight any subscription services you're paying for. Sure, Netflix and Ipsy may be nice luxuries, but are they really worth it when you're trying to save? If you can live without some of your subscriptions, canceling them is an easy way to save a little dough.
Is there anything in your life you might be overpaying for? In my case, it was auto insurance. I've been with the same insurer since I started driving a decade ago and never filed a claim. When I called them and pointed that out, they were more than happy to offer me a lower rate. Think about your monthly bills and whether any of them may be negotiable. At the very least, it's worth a phone call to ask.
7. No more fancy cocktails
The house cocktail menu at my favorite bar changes all the time, and I love trying all the new creations the bartenders come up with. But those specialty cocktails can run $8 to $12 each, whereas a beer or glass of wine is more like $5 or $6. That's an easy choice that leads to more dollars in my pocket.
8. Be gender neutral
The "pink tax" is a real thing — women's products, like razors, deodorant and soap, tend to cost more than men's even though they're basically the same. Ignore the colors of your products and instead focus on the price.
9. Plan a no-cost hangout
My ladies and I used to do a weekly "brunch squad" meetup, and between breakfast and mimosas, we usually dropped around $50 — each. We all agreed that was a little excessive, so instead, embraced the challenge of planning Sunday morning hang seshes that didn't cost a dime. Sometimes we all get together and walk our dogs at the park. Other times we just watch a silly rom-com on Netflix. We've grown to love our creative new hangouts even more than we loved brunch.
10. Read more
As a kid, I used to set my alarm an hour earlier than I had to get ready for school so I could read my book before I had to get up. Now, there's very little that could drag me out of bed an hour early (fire is really the only thing that comes to mind). Still, I'm trying to rekindle the love of reading that I had as a kid. Instead of going out several times a week, I try to spend a few nights at home curled up with a book. It's relaxing, and with a library card, free.
Implementing all of these tips at once may sound like a lot of work. But picking one or two of them to start can mean saving money without even trying, and who isn't down for that?
This post was sponsored by Cricket Wireless.