The Authors of “The Power of Small” Share a Few Small Tips That Can Add Up to Big Savings
Let’s face it. Right now, times are tough and we’re all looking for little ways to save in our day to day routines. Although saving an extra $100 a month sounds like a lofty goal in an economic climate where every penny counts, we know it’s easier than you think. As the authors of the new book, THE POWER OF SMALL: Why Little Things Make All the Difference, we’ve made a valuable discovery. The secret to attaining your biggest goals is to take one tiny step at a time.
Instead of making one big change, such as cancelling your cable or giving up eating in restaurants entirely, we believe that these painless modifications to your current spending patterns will help you easily net that extra $1200 a year.
So, how can you get started? Try out these eight tips to save an extra hundred bucks this month:
1. Switch from a latte (approximately $3 for a tall at Starbucks) to a drip coffee (approximately $1.75) 3 times a week.
Although many financial experts will tell you to give up the trips to the coffee house entirely, we think that Spartan approach is a little unrealistic. For those of you who enjoy the experience of grabbing your daily Starbucks, you can still indulge your habit while giving your wallet a break, just by switching drinks three days a week. Pick the “bold” brew and add a little cream to your coffee and you won’t even miss it. Plus, as an added bonus, the calories you save by trading latte for drip can result in a little unexpected weight loss. We tried it and lost 5 pounds!
Monthly amount saved: $15
2. Buy frozen Atlantic salmon ($6.00 per pound) instead of fresh ($8.00 and up).
Thanks to the proven health benefits of this tasty fish, salmon is a favorite in many households. But did you know that the frozen stuff offers the same Omega-3s as fresh? And even more surprising, our fish monger told us that frequently, the seafood at the grocery counter is just the thawed out version of the product in freezer section. So, save a few dollars per pound and go with the frozen fillets. If you buy it every week, it can really add up.
Monthly amount saved: $8
3. Bring your own snacks to the movies.
Why pay $6 for a small popcorn, $4 for a small soda, and $3.50 for a box of candy when you can bring the same thing with you for a whole lot less. Pop some microwave popcorn ($.87) at home and transfer it to a resealable bag, stock up on candy at the grocery store ($.45), and stick a can of soda ($.33) in a purse or backpack and you’re good to go! Even if you only go to the movies once a month, this change can lead to BIG savings.
Monthly amount saved: $11.85
4. Downgrade your Netflix one level.
With the recent financial troubles of former movie rental king, Blockbuster, it’s obvious that most have gotten on the Netflix bandwagon. But how many of you actually watch all of the movies you receive? If you send back a few movies a month without even watching them, consider switching from three movies ($16.99) at a time to two ($13.99). After all, you’ll still get unlimited rentals!
Monthly amount saved: $3
5. Brown bag it once a week.
If eating lunch out every day (approx $5-$10) is a necessary office ritual, bringing your own lunch (approx $1.50-$3) just once a week is a much easier adjustment. Plus, no one said you had to eat it at your desk! If the weather’s nice, head outside to eat al fresco.
Monthly amount saved: $14-$28
6. Subscribe to your favorite weekly magazine.
If you notice you’re buying the same magazine every time the new issue hits newsstands, consider purchasing a subscription instead. The difference in price can be staggering. The New Yorker, for example, costs just under $5 in stores, while the very same magazine costs just $.85 for subscribers.
Monthly amount saved: $21.55
7. Buy the drugstore brand.
Whether it’s for ibuprofen, allergy medication, or adhesive bandages, you probably hit up the drug store at least once a month. Luckily, the pharmacy brand usually trumps brand names by a dollar or more, even though they are often identical in effectiveness. Just make sure to read the label carefully to ensure you are getting your money’s worth.
Monthly Amount Saved: $1
8. Spend one weekend night in.
It doesn’t matter if it’s date night, game night, or girl’s night in, spending one weekend night a month at home can save you a bundle off of the cost of restaurants, bars, movies, and more. Make do with what you already have at home and you won’t have to spend a dime.
Monthly Amount Saved: $15 or more
The grand total for these eight easy changes? $103.40! Try them yourself and we bet you won’t even notice the difference… but your bank account will.
Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval are the authors of THE POWER OF SMALL: Why Little Things Make All the Difference, available online and in bookstores nationwide. For more information, please visit their website at www.thepowerofsmallbook.com.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
Awesome tips - I'd like to share one of my own. I just graduated and am living my first apartment alone, including paying for everything on my own now without help from my parents. So I had to find ways to cut back on my expenses and theres one way I find that has been extremely effective. PREPAID! I switched my cell phone bill over to Straight Talk wireless and the savings have really made a difference in my budget each month. I'm paying almost half of what I used to. The service is great and the coverage is nationwide with clear reception. Its really helped me get on my feet :)
I think it is always important to save money and do follow some of the above tips myself but it gets to the point when you can't physically cut back anymore without doing nothing, which is the point I got to. I now make money on the side doing paid surveys and copywriting. This really helps me to make some extra money and fill some time so that I am not spending money.
My bank just started charging me a monthly account fee, without telling me before hand (I have paperless billing and they never sent an email or an alert when I check my account online). I am so upset. I guess it's time to find another bank. Account fees can definitely add up, and mine would be a significant percentage of the $100 I'm trying to save this month.
Its important to try and save as much as you can. If you are really looking to save a lot, then I would say yes to skipping the coffeehouse altogether and just brewing your own at home. If you really want star bucks, you can buy a package and brew it at home. As for the movies, yeah its always nice to have a purse with you so you can take some of your own snacks without feeling embarrassed about it. There are so many different things you can do. Trading is also good, like brown bagging everyday, so you don't have to give up any of your Saturday night excursions.
All very good tips. We just used the trick about bringing our own snacks to a movie. Instead of paying $12+ for some snacks at the theatre, beforehand we went to the grocery store and got an 8 pack of mini chocolate bars for 87 cents, a bag of candy for a couple bucks and a bottle of water.
There are so many other ways you can make small changes to your lifestyle to save money. When you are young you do not realize how much money is wasted on some things. By being cheap about some things you are essentially giving yourself a raise to spend on more important things.
I think one way we can make a huge impact on our financial budget is to make small changes in the areas where we spend the most on a daily basis. Mainly - housing, transportation, and food - our top 3 expenses.
By making small changes here we maximize savings.
Lets take a look at food. You can easily cut your yearly food expenses in half!
Shop at bakery outlets - the food is fresh. Many bakery outlets get deliveries from bakeries three times a week.
You'll save 50% to 75% off of supermarket prices. This one small change in shopping behavior could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Stop by an Aldi's. This is a German based deep discount supermarket that is rapidly expanding here in the US. They sell great food and low prices.
A dozen eggs cost 79 cents recently, compared to 1.99 at a local supermarket. Bag of carrots 99 cents a bag compared to 1.99 at the nearby grocery store. Stopping by an Aldis before proceeding to your nearest supermarket can easily save you $1000 or more a year.
Stock up at super sales. Its not just enough to save money by buying your food item on sales. Wait and stock up at the super sales - sales at which the item is at a STEEP discount. These occur every 6-8 weeks.
At a local Chicago grocery store you can normally purchase Marie Callendar frozen dinners for $4.29. You may get them when they are on sale for $3.59, or even $2.99.
Yet every so often there will be a super sale. This past week you could buy the very same frozen dinners for $1.99 a piece - OVER 50% OFF.
This type of cycle occurs with most items in your local supermarket.
By making small changes in the areas where we spend the most money we can maximize our savings.
Great tips! I'm sure they will help me save cash! I'll try and implement them into my everyday life. I had no idea about the fresh salmon just being defrosted salmon. Ugh.
I get your point about increasing income, but that has its own difficulties, especially right now. Our commission-based income stinks at the moment, but I believe our savings will pull us through until things improve. I know plenty of folks, though, in much worse situations who just can't find work. Of any kind.
Great Addition Elbyron! With the high Gas Prices, the only time I would say that it is a bad idea to pick up your food is when there is no delivery charge. Because... the gas $ you would waste.... plus the time you spend.... would likely make it better to have it delivered. Now... that's only if there is no delivery charge :-P and you are giving a low tip, hehe.
Most of these tips are pretty obvious to those who are already quite frugal. So I'll add a couple more obvious ones:
- Cut costs on eating out. Unless you're going on a date, there's no need to blow $30 - $50 on a meal at a fancy restaurant every week (but do treat yourself once in a while). This doesn't mean you should only eat at fast-food joints, but check out lots of restaurants and find one that has good entrees at a lower price - and make that your "usual" place. Also, order water rather than their overpriced beverages.
- Pick up your pizza or chinese! Delivery charges are usually high enough that it's worth your time to go get it yourself. Plus it'll actually still be hot by the time it gets home!
- Use your library instead of buying books. Are you really ever going to read it twice? I never do, though I sometimes buy a really good book so that I can lend it to friends.
- Rent movies instead of buying them. Unless you have kids who love to watch the same movie over and over, your DVDs are just going to sit around collecting dust.
- When shopping for a new computer, carefully consider your needs. What's the point in having a $2000 state-of-the-art PC that you only use for browsing the web? Do you really need a whole new PC or could you just upgrade your current one? Desktops are cheaper and easier to upgrade than laptops, so carefully consider the value of it being portable. If you know any computer geeks who love to keep their super duper gaming system up to date, ask if you can buy their old parts (which are usually still fairly new). They may even help you install them!
Ditto. Making wise financial decisions is important. The advise that reiterates the point never gets old. Another source for making wise financial decisions (or at least avoiding the traps) is: http://payday-loan-service-review.toptenreviews.com/. You'd be surprised at what this small researching company has to say.
I've come upon many of these tips before - but it's always nice to read them again and again. We all know about these tips - but we always give in to temptations. :)
Here's another few:
1. Save all receipts so that you can return things when you find them cheaper or they don't work as you expected. (Make use of all those life-time warranties by stapling the receipt to the warranty.) I once took back an aluminum set of bowls when the seam on one started to split--I got to keep the good ones and a got a whole new set as well for free.
2. Get to know your favorite store policies with regards to limited timeframes (ten days?) for getting the lower price advertised at other stores. If you buy an item of significant value it would be worth looking at stores with same products to see if they are less expensive.
3. Negotiate on larger items: Can't hurt to ask!
To add on that tip about the latte: if a drip coffee is too dull or just not your taste, you can still get the latte effect if you just order (at Starbucks) a misto. It's the exact same drink made with drip coffee instead of espresso, and it's at least a dollar cheaper.
In other places, try ordering an au lait (but make sure it's also cheaper there than the latte) - this is what most places call what Starbucks calls the "misto".
At every theater I have been to carry in snacks are not allowed. Most theaters can afford to operate in spite of exorbitant rental costs for blockbuster movies by making a profit in their concession. Is it the policy of this site to encourage dishonesty to cheat someone out of money to save a few bucks? I've seen many good ideas but NOT this one.
Hmmm, living healthily and preparing most of your own meals, along with not buying snacks, sweets, cool drinks and coffees, alone is worth a substantial monthly saving. The point is that the small things can really add up, and it is well taken!
Best ones hands down are:
3. Bring your own snacks to the movies.
8. Spend one weeknight in.
I had no idea how much these could cost me over the course of a month. I, like many people in the 20-30 crowd, often spend on things unnecessarily, especially when going out on a weeknight. The more you go out on weeknights, the more you'll spend on weekends to "out-do" the weeknight outing.
You might feel funny bringing your own food into theaters, but you'll get over it once it gets dark.
it is ridiculous how much money you can actually save when you invest in a quality coffee machine and stop waiting in line at Starbucks. Hmm...
Great tips. I usually buy my Salmon frozen from Trader Joes that is wild and far cheaper than even "fresh" farm raised salmon. I also agree with bringing snacks into the movie theater :)
I like the tip about bringing snacks to the movies... There is a dollar store right beside the theatre we go to, most of the time we'll stop in there and pick a bag of candy each!
Good tips, but I have to nitpick on #2.
I don't buy salmon all that often, but when I do, I buy wild Alaskan salmon. It has lower levels of mercury than farm-raised Atlantic salmon. Also, wild salmon contain more nutrients because they feed on natural food sources, rather than man-made food pellets. From a health perspective, I feel it's worth the extra money to buy better quality salmon.
Stay on top of hygiene so you don't get sick. There may not be a "Monthly Amount Saved: " tag attached to it, but when you do get sick, the price tag is huge.
While I think these are really great tips and definitely right up the alley for a lot of people, it's not anything I haven't heard before. On top of that, I'm already doing everything on this list - except I buy orange roughy because I can't stand the taste of salmon. I assume your book has other tips to help people save money, so perhaps I'll pick up a copy to read, but all in all, there was nothing earth-shattering here. But, as Jeremy pointed out, there are still plenty of people looking for this information, so it was a good post in that sense.
While a lot of people may find this type of advice redundant, the reality is that most people still need help finding simple ways to save money. Sure, if you're a regular reader of the wide variety of finance sites out there, this has become common knowledge. But for many, this economic downturn is sparking interest in simple frugal tips for the first time.
To those who may be looking for even more extreme money-saving tips, I think rather than trying to squeeze even a few more pennies out of your budget, you should begin to focus on increasing income. Cutting back on how much you spend is only half the equation, so once you've begun to live a frugal and common sense lifestyle, you should start to find ways to bring in more money.
In fact, I think I'll turn this discussion into a future post. Thanks for starting the conversation!
I'm with Fern... most people who are interested in saving are already doing these things.
1. We don't buy coffee out unless someone has given us a gift card. Ever.
2. Salmon is way too expensive. There are lots of cheaper fish options, like halibut, cod or flounder.
3. We don't go out to the movies. There just aren't any movies worth paying $10+ to see (we're in LA, so even matinees are that expensive). We wait and Netflix our films.
4. Who sends Netflix movies back without watching them? If you actively manage your queue, you'll always get discs you want to watch. Sending them back without watching? What a waste!
5. We brown bag it every day, mostly eating leftovers.
6. Magazines are a huge $$$ suck. We neither subscribe nor buy off the rack. If we really want to read one, we go to Barnes and Noble, grab a comfy chair, read it, and return it to the rack. It's a fun night out for both of us, and it's FREE.
7. We never buy name brands when generics are available.
8. We do usually get out of the house most weekends, but that doesn't have to mean spending money. We like to hike, visit the beach, enjoy walking around in Downtown, visit friends' houses, visit Barnes and Noble to browse, hit the library, check out a street fair, go on photography quests, and the like. It's a wonderful way to spend a weekend day, and again, it's FREE.
I subscribe to more than 10 personal finance blogs, and they all rehash the same 20 or so tips for saving money that don't save us a penny. Where are the suggestions for people like us who already live a full, rich, FRUGAL life, but would love the challenge of saving more money? I'm just not seeing any, and it's a shame. :(
This kind of blog is written for people who have had their heads in the sand since 2007. How about some real suggestions for people who already have the basics covered. I mean, i must've heard about cutting back on lattees a MILLION times.
1. I don't buy coffee out; i drink tea at home.
2. there's a huge difference in taste between fresh and frozen. I wouldn't do this one.
3. When i go to the movies, i don't eat snacks, period.
4. I'm already at the Basic level for Netflix.
5. I brown bag it 5 days a week.
6. I already subscribe and never buy mags off a rack.
7. I always buy generics when available.
8. I don't go out and spend $ on weekends but make my own entertainment.
These are pretty good tips. Here's some input from me.
1. Skipping the latte will save you a ton. You'll save even more if you make your own coffee.
2. Be sure to try out a few different brands of salmon, some are better than others. This tip isn't as valuable if you live on the coasts where the salmon from the fishmonger is fresh. If you're stuck in the Midwest like I am then you can save nicely and not sacrifice quality.
3. Just don't let the movie people catch you. Sometimes they'll go all crazy.
5. Bringing your lunch is another area where you can save big. But you can also lose big if you are only doing it once per week. Buying fresh bread, meat, cheese and vegetables for just one sandwich may lead to a lot of wasted food and not much actual savings. If you brown bag it daily, you'll save a ton.
7. I always buy generic drugs when available and encourage everyone else to do so as well.
8. Bah. Where I live every night during winter is a night in. So I try to take full advantage of the summer months by doing as much as possible. I also optimize my spending so I get the most out of it. I cut spending on fast food and mediocre restaurants so I can afford to eat at better places where the food is truly memorable. I buy less material stuff so I can afford to do more things.
I like the fish tip. I was told the same thing at our local store. They said all the fish comes in the same and they let some thaw for display in the case as "fresh" and vacuum pack the rest and toss in the freezer section, but charge more for fresh.
Of course, I think this primarily applies to locations that might not be close to one of the coasts or higher end places that fly in their own fish every day. I'm sure if you live on the coast you can easily get real fresh fish vs thawed being sold as fresh.
Either way, fish freezes very well and I always buy tilapia and salmon frozen for at least a few bucks less a pound.
I'm not sure I'd pop a whole bag of popcorn to sneak in the movies, but taking a small snack is easy. Of course, around here one of our theaters has reusable popcorn buckets and soda cups and if you remember to bring them back you can get $1 refills. Big savings and reduces waste.
I haven't been buying salmon. Store-brand fish fillets are $2.70/pound or less. I also haven't been going to the movies. However, I think bringing your own food into the theater is frowned upon.
I dunno... can't say these tips affect me much lol...
1. don't drink coffee
2. I should buy salmon, I'll use that tip =)
3,4. Rarely go see movies and no netflix, hulu for me =)
5. Already do equivalent.
6. nytimes online =)
7. Iono... i rarely go to drug stores ...
8. Done. I spend most of them in my office doing hw/research.
But there's always options like gym to play bball,, etc.
Oh geeez i suck lol
Really awesome post! I love actionable lists like this. They help me with brainstorming even more ways.
One comment about the movies is that usually bringing food and drink is prohibited. Not that I haven't done it myself, but be prepared for the possibility of getting caught!