Photo (cc) by dave_mcmt
Who hasn’t gotten distracted just managing day-to-day life and skipped the little details that can save money? A dollar here, five dollars there — lost in the chaos of just living in our 9-to-5 world. But maybe it’s time to pay attention to the nickels and dimes that slip through our fingers and declare war on those small everyday expenditures that can add up to big money.
With that in mind, here are eight ways to save (at least) $25 next week:
1. Pay at the pump
I’m convinced there’s something hypnotic that happens when we have to go inside a gas station or convenience store to pay for our fuel. The bright lights impair our judgment, the prepackaged food calls our name, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee intoxicates us — and all of it conspires to lighten our wallets considerably. Dodge the draw of the convenience store by paying for your gas at the pump. You’ll thank yourself at the end of the week.
2. Eschew the drive-through
If you were able to avoid the siren song of the convenience store, don’t blow it at the drive-through. All the coupons and dollar menus in the world won’t save you as much as just driving past that drive-through menu. Avoid temptation by eating regularly throughout the day (the worst food choices are born out of hunger and exhaustion). Store a few low-calorie, high-protein energy bars in your glove compartment for weak moments. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you later.
Though it might cramp your morning style, consider organizing a carpool group with your co-workers. If you want to retain a bit of your freedom, designate the first week of every month as “carpool week” and take turns driving. Sharing gas and expenses for just one week a month can add up to big savings at the pump. Once you get used to sharing the rides, expand to two weeks a month and work your way up to using the HOV lanes all month long.
4. Skip the latte
The coffee queue takes time and gets expensive. Add five minutes to your morning routine and save $3 to $5 by making your own delicious coffee drink. Besides skipping the retail markup on coffee, you’ll also avoid the hassle and the temptation to splurge on a morning pastry.
5. Pack a lunch
Pack lunch for the next workday before you head to bed each night. It’s a smart way to control fat and calories, boost your nutrition, and dodge restaurant prices. Bring a good book and leisurely read over lunch while everyone else is out battling for parking spaces, standing in line, and watching the clock.
Bartering is a lost art that’s due for a renaissance. Consider swapping items or services with neighbors and friends. Could you do some weekend baby-sitting in exchange for yard work? Swap an oil change for fresh-picked vegetables from a neighbor’s garden? Bartering is a great way to build goodwill, strengthen relationships, and get things done without the need for cash. Explore ways to form mutually beneficial bartering arrangements with people you trust.
Money earned is money saved. Dive into the dark recesses of your closets and basement and see what treasures you can find. Reselling unused sports equipment, outgrown clothes, old electronics and miscellaneous antiques can pad your budget. Explore selling on eBay, listing on Craigslist, or hosting a yard sale. Ask neighbors if they’d like to participate in a streetwide rummage sale to boost traffic.
8. Enjoy some cheap thrills
Entertainment has almost become synonymous with expense. Taking the entire family to a movie practically requires a home equity line of credit, and dinner out means skipping a car payment. Maybe it’s time to simplify our amusements. Beyond renting or streaming another blockbuster, consider designating one or two nights a month as family game night. Silence the smartphones and ban the laptops, break out the old-fashioned board games, sit around a table together and enjoy a little friendly competition. Make it even more of an event by cooking or making snacks together. It’s practically free and, before you know it, it’ll be one of your family’s most popular activities.
Sometimes paying attention to the details of our financial lives is as important as paying attention to the big stuff. After all, $25 a week adds up to $1,300 a year. That equals a house payment, a healthy IRA contribution, or a decent little vacation.
What other leaks in your own budget could you plug and easily save $25? What would you do with the extra cash? Let us know on our Facebook page.