You can start by using coupons, searching for discounts or simply buying lower-cost versions of the items you typically purchase. But if you’re looking for truly big savings, consider entirely cutting out the products and services you really don’t need.
Here are 10 things to consider cutting from your budget in 2012 so your new year isn’t filled with new debt.
Coffee Shop Visits
We know, it’s hard to resist those morning coffee shop runs, but even buying just one cup every day can make a dent in your wallet. A small coffee from my local Starbucks (12-oz.) costs $1.75, which equals $12.25 a week if you buy one cup a day or almost $25 if you buy two cups a day.
A cheaper alternative would be to brew your own. You can buy Folgers ground coffee at Wal-Mart for about $10, and that brews about 270 6-oz. cups (or 135 12-oz. cups). The expense of filters is minimal, too. For instance, you can buy a 200-pack of filters by Original Gourmet Food Co. Coffee Pro for about $2 at Wal-Mart.
Incandescent Light Bulbs
You’ve heard that it’s “greener” to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and that it could save you money on your electric bill in the long run, so if you haven’t done so already, what are you waiting for? Although it will cost you a few more dollars up front, replacing just one traditional incandescent bulb with a bulb that qualifies for the government’s Energy Star program will save $40 or more over the lifetime of the bulb, and changing five bulbs will save $200 or more over the lifetime of the bulb, according to the Energy Star website. What’s more, Energy Star-qualified light bulbs last at least six times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
Disposable Water Bottles
Whether you’re heading out to the gym or packing your lunch for work, it’s easy to just throw a disposable water bottle in your bag for whenever you get thirsty. But those bottles can really add up, even if you buy them in bulk (a 12-pack of half-liter Poland Spring bottles cost $3.99 at my local grocery store, which only lasts me about a week).
To save money, skip the disposable bottles and buy a reusable Brita water bottle for $9.99, which will purify any tap water you add to it. You’ll just need to change the filter every two months, which costs $7.99. That means your costs for the first two months are about $18, and after that you’ll only be paying $7.99 every two months for as much water as you’d like to drink.
These days checking a bag for a flight can cost a pretty penny, with Continental, Delta and American Airlines charging $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second checked bag on domestic flights. If you fly often, avoid the fee by packing your things in a carry-on, or consider sharing a checked bag—and splitting the fee—with a family member or friend you might be traveling with.
You could also choose to fly with an airline that does not charge for checked bags. For instance, Southwest will accept the first two checked bags for free, as long as they’re not more than 50 pounds and 62 linear inches in size (combined length, width and height) each.
Subscriptions You Don’t Use
Is your coffee table cluttered with magazines and newspapers you don’t get around to reading? While we’re certainly not advocating cutting out any reading materials you rely on, it’s worth canceling subscriptions to publications that you really don’t read, or that you could easily read for free online. For instance, a subscription to the print edition of The New York Times cost $5.85 per week for daily delivery, and a one-year subscription to Men’s Health costs $19.90 plus $4.97 for delivery, but you can read articles from both publications online for no cost.
You want the best for your little one, but those jars of baby food can get pricey. An equally healthy and more affordable option is to make your own baby food. Here’s an easy recipe courtesy of Leslie Banister, chef for the website Food on the Table. All you’ll need are veggies, water and a blender or food processor. This recipe makes six servings.
1 cup of fresh vegetables
-Cut vegetables into small pieces (1-inch cubes).
-Place veggies into a steamer basket with just enough water visible through the steamer basket.
-Steam until tender
-Do not reserve any leftover water to use for thinning out the carrots if your baby is under eight months old, as nitrates may seep into the cooking water.
-Place steamed vegetables into a blender or food processor.
-Add purified water as necessary to achieve a smooth, thin consistency.
Credit Score Fees
If you’re looking to be more financially sound in the new year, it’s a good idea to check your credit score. But while some companies will charge you a fee, others offer free versions—you just have to know where to look. Here are three websites where you could get your score for no charge.
CreditKarma.com: To get your free score, you must create a free account on CreditKarma.com. Doing so requires you to enter your Social Security number and answer some questions about the accounts appearing on your credit report—such as which lender is associated with your auto loan—to verify your identity.
Quizzle.com: You can get a free copy of your Experian credit report and accompanying score on credit monitoring site Quizzle.com. To do so, you must create a free account on the site. Although you won’t have to enter your Social Security number, you will have to answer some questions about your credit history to verify your identity.
CreditSesame.com: You can also get a free version of your Experian score on CreditSesame.com, which you can obtain by providing your Social Security number and answering some personal questions to verify your identity. Credit Sesame also has a free iPhone app that will provide a free score as well as monthly updates on your score’s status.
You don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars every year to watch your favorite shows. This year, consider canceling your cable and taking advantage of several free and low-cost entertainment services. The website Hulu, for instance, lets you watch a variety of hit shows for free such as Glee, The Office and Modern Family, plus movies and documentaries. Or for $7.99 a month, you can take advantage of Hulu Plus, which gives you access to all of the selections on regular Hulu, plus more shows and movies.
You can also watch many shows for free on the network’s website, or pay $7.99 for Netflix, which provides access to unlimited movies and TV episodes.
If you think about it, that landline phone really isn’t necessary if you’re trying to cut costs. You could make calls on your cellphone, or take advantage of free calling services. For instance, Skype provides free calls to other Skype users and free video calling (in which you talk face-to-face with live video).
You can also take advantage of Google Voice, which lets you place free calls to the U.S. and Canada and charges low-cost rates to other locations, including 10 cents per minute to France and Germany.
Schrage also suggests replacing your landline phone with the magicJack, a device that lets you make calls over the Internet. The magicJack plugs into your computer’s USB port, and has a standard phone jack into which you can plug a standard phone. The device costs $39.95 the first year plus $6.95 for shipping and handling, and after that you’ll only have to pay a $19.95 annual renewal fee
Click here for the full list of Things You Should Stop Paying for in 2012.
This article is part of a series related to being Financially Fit