If you want to save big over time, you have to start with the small stuff.
As 38-year-old self-made millionaire Chris Reining tells CNBC, “I know there are some people out there that say you shouldn’t worry about the $5 latte, but the more I think about it, cutting out the $5 latte was a good place to start.” Starting with small changes helped Reining work his way up to saving 54 percent of his income, which allowed him to retire at age 37.
“If you try to downsize your house, get rid of all your cars and make all of these drastic changes, it’s so overwhelming and you’re not going to do any of it,” he says.
Here are 10 relatively small and easy things to give up, besides the morning latte, that could increase your savings rate significantly over time.
From grocery stores to department stores, retailers have a way of tricking you into spending money mindlessly. One tactic is loading the checkout aisle with tempting products: cold sodas, candy bars, and 99-cent knick-knacks.
Skip the candy and soda. Your wallet will thank you.
How many 30-day free trials have you signed up for and forgotten to cancel? Are you getting your money’s worth from the gym membership you signed up for at the beginning of the year?
Look over your last couple of credit card statements and figure out exactly what you’re paying for in terms of subscriptions to magazines, software or online services. Ask yourself which you could eliminate and cancel them on the spot to save a couple hundred dollars a year.
Buying lunch every day
Eating out can add up quickly. It doesn’t help that apps like Seamless let you place a delivery order with the touch of a finger. The more food you can prepare at home, the better off your food budget, and your bottom line, will be.
Of course, it’s OK to treat yourself and buy the occasional meal out, but keep in mind that going homemade is one of the simplest ways to cut back without making dramatic sacrifices.
While you’re getting into the habit of packing your lunch, start filling up a water bottle too. It’ll save you a few bucks every time you’re parched and tempted to hit up the closest convenience store.
Excessive bar tabs
Like buying lunch, the occasional happy hour or night out is fine, but if you’re looking to free up some cash, skipping drinks will do the trick. And let’s face it, ordering one drink usually leads to ordering two or three, which often leads to ordering food.
To still enjoy nights out without breaking the bank, consider using CNBC reporter Emmie Martin’s strategy, which saves her $300 a month: Either order alcohol or food, but not both.
“If I choose to go out to dinner, I skip the wine,” she says. “If I head to the bar, I commit to cooking dinner myself when I get home.”
These days, cable is costing Americans more than $100 a month. That’s a large sum to pay for a service that people often don’t take full advantage of.
Consider cutting the cord and getting your TV via the internet, through services like Netflix ($8 a month), Hulu ($8 a month) or HBO Now ($15 a month).
Late fees, penalties on credit cards and ATM fees are pointless money sucks.
To avoid late fees, automate all of your bill payments that can be made online, such as internet, insurance and cell phone. Additionally, set up autopay on your credit card, so your full balance is paid at the end of every month.
To avoid ATM fees, make sure to withdraw money from your bank’s ATMs.
Trying to show up your friends
Keeping up with the Joneses, or trying to live up to your friends’ and neighbors’ standards, is a tempting, but expensive, habit.
If you stop choosing where to live, what to wear and what gadgets to buy based on what your friends do, chances are you’ll save a ton of money.
Going generic — for groceries, toiletries, pet supplies and other items — is an easy way to save money over time.
You don’t have to buy generic for everything. Identify what’s really important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice — then, buy brand-name for the stuff you care about and go generic for everything else.
This doesn’t have to be a long-term strategy, but if you want to save big relatively quickly, ditch your plastic. Simply withdraw a predetermined amount of cash for the week and commit to spending only that amount.
Going cash only adds another barrier between you and spending money. It’s easy to mindlessly swipe a credit card and forget you even bought something. Try handing over physical bills and watching your money disappear right in front of your eyes. It makes a big difference.