monthly expenses can amount to putting a dollar or more in your pocket every day. “Cable TV can average over $80 per month. If you switch to a basic plan, at say $29 per month, you can save $720 a year,” says Bach. If cable is king in your house, consider getting rid of your home phone if you have a cell phone (or at the very least, make sure the plans don’t overlap) and switching to a basic gym membership, both of which can save you hundreds of dollars per year. “Spending an extra $15 to $20 per month on cable just doesn’t make sense,” says Britton-Parris, who also gave up her $80-per-month gym membership. By doing so, she added an extra $1,200 to her savings plan.
Another savings strategy? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, increasing your lighting efficiency is one of the fastest ways to decrease your energy bills. By replacing 25% of your lights with fluorescents, you can knock almost 50% off your lighting bill.
STRATEGY# 4: Do you really need to visit the ATM every other day? By making one withdrawal per week, you’ll save hundreds of dollars each year by eliminating withdrawal fees. “When you use an ATM that’s not affiliated with your bank, you’re paying extra for your own money,” says Bennett, who is saving money to purchase music for his radio station. He withdraws $200 from his bank every two weeks, and when his funds get low he stops spending.
“Find a bank that offers totally free checking, swear off using out-of-network ATMs, and watch out for nuisance charges,” suggests Beth Kobliner, the author of Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties (Fireside; $13). Go to the Checking & ATM section of www.bankrate.com to find the best banking deals. The watchdog U.S. Public Interest Research Group estimates you could save an average of $228 a year.
STRATEGY# 5: Many families—and single, working professionals—don’t realize how much they can save on groceries, clothing, and entertainment. Ilyce Glink, the author of 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Your Personal Finances (Three Rivers Press; $14), makes sandwiches in bulk and freezes them. “Instead of spending an average of $9.50 per person on lunch, we end up spending about $1.50,” she says. She also suggests buying in bulk, planning out a week’s meals in advance, and making double servings and freezing half for later. Eliminate all junk food, which can become costly, or go to a discount warehouse and buy snacks that are individually wrapped. A family of four can save thousands of dollars by tweaking its food budget. Bennett, who has a day job that requires an all-night shift, makes it a point to eat his lunch at home and estimates that he saves almost $10 per day by doing so.
When it comes to entertainment, be creative. Take the family to a discount Saturday matinee. Instead of hoofing it to Blockbuster, go to the local library, where you can rent movies