2012 remains full of promise — promises to yourself, mostly. Did you vow to lose a few pounds, get organized, quit smoking, or the like? We hope you, dear dealnews reader, also resolved to save money this year! With a few simple cutbacks, you could be saving thousands of dollars to put towards a dream vacation at the end of the year. Here are eight small ways to save money at home or while out and about in 2012 that, over the 12 months of the year, will add up to some big bucks.
Cost-Cutting at Home
End Automatic Renewals
Any business that encourages you to make automatic, monthly payments through your credit card or checking account could be putting a drain on your finances. While there are certain incentives and environmental perks associated with not receiving a monthly bill, you might not realize that you're paying for a service you don't use frequently.
The biggest culprit is your gym membership. We're not suggesting you nix the gym all together, but rather, consider paying for it month-by-month. To do so, it might cost you a bit extra for the months you decide to go, but you're saving $50 or more each month you don't attend. Beyond the gym, it's also quite easy to overlook additional fees or overages tacked onto your account when you're using an automatic payment option. Take a hard look at all of your automatic debit and credit payments to determine if you're really getting the most of out them.
Estimated Savings: $60 a year
Enroll in an Automatic Savings Account
Automatic payments to others can be ill-advised (see item #1), but automatic payments to yourself are great! Set up an automatic deposit of about $25 to your savings account, either monthly or weekly, and chances are your checking account balance won't know the difference. Use this same method for payroll deductions before taxes: a health spending plan, retirement, or savings contributions, and the like.
Estimated Savings: $100 a month, $1,200 a year
Save on Electricity
For an initial investment of about $35, a smart power strip can pay for itself in a few months. Pick up a Bits Limited LCG4 10-Outlet Energy Saving Surge Protector ($30.99 with $4.05 s&h, a low by $1) and you'll be cutting your energy use from up to nine electronics. Smart power strips work by allowing electricity to flow to all the associated devices (hard drive, printer, etc.) only if the main device (your PC) is powered on. Once your computer goes to sleep, your other devices also shut down. Electricity bills vary, but even $5 in monthly savings will add up.
Estimated Savings: $5 a month, $60 a year
Get a Piggy Bank
Putting your daily change into a piggy bank (or a jar, as it's not worthmay not help you spend less money, but not having change with you at all times may dissuade you from buying something that costs less than a dollar. Better to have that change safe at home in a change jar than jingling in your pocket or purse, just waiting to be spent. At the end of the year you may find yourself with enough change to purchase something worthwhile.
Estimated Savings: $5 a month, $60 a year
Do It Yourself
Even if you're not especially crafty, you can probably whip up something handmade for a holiday or birthday. Use your skills: Can you cook? Bake brownies. Instead of buying a birthday card, find nice paper and write a personal birthday message. You can save a bunch of money by undertaking DIY projects.
Estimated Savings: $10 a month, $120 a year
Cost-Cutting Out and About
Cut Entertainment Spending
Stop spending money for a full-on movie theater experience, and you'll see savings bigger than your $10 tub of popcorn and soda. While there is no real substitute for going to the movies, you can always consume your media on your home theater setup (which you're saving electricity on with that smart power strip, #2!). A Netflix subscription costs just $7.99 per month for streaming access and $15.98 per month for DVD and streaming capabilities. We also see discounts on borrowing movies at rental kiosks and streaming movies at Amazon. Plus, you probably have a few hundred stations on your TV that you haven't even noticed yet.
Estimated Savings: $40 a month, $480 a year
Go to the Library
That new eReader you got for Christmas was the perfect bookworm gift ... until you realize that as a digital bookworm, your spending on reading material has doubled. If you aren't able to find a free or discounted eBook that appeals to you, then consider saving your Kindle, iPad, Nook, or other reader for vacations when you don't want to lug a book around. For the everyday, stick with picking up a used paperback here and there, or — better yet — take a trip (or three) to your local public library, and borrow books for free.
Estimated Savings: $25 a month, $600 a year
Nix the Take Out Habit
Keep track of how much you spend in a week eating take out or in restaurants and determine if it's more economical to spend some time making meals at home. Cooking at home requires thinking ahead and buying groceries, but you should aim to replace at least one meal per week with a homemade dish. Even if it's one less fast-food lunch per week, your wallet (and waistline) will thank you.
Estimated Savings: $40 a month, $480 per year
How much does all of this add up to? A lot — $3,060 in money saved throughout the entire year. All you have left to do is find yourself an outstanding travel deal, and take your well-deserved vacation.