We’re just a few days a way from the beginning of 2012, which means millions of people around the world are resolving new attitudes, goals, new fitness routines, and diet plans. With the current state of the economy, many are also brainstorming new budgets and ways to save a little money. If you’re hoping to break even in 2012 — or at least stop breaking the bank — here are 12 ways to save at least $12 a day in 2012.
Bring your lunch four days a week.
If you work 9-5 in an office, there is always immense pressure to join your colleagues for a bite at the local burger joint or to grab some exotic Thai or teriyaki. Every lunch, every day, can add up, as an entree can easily cost $10 — not to mention the addition of soda or tea into the grand total. Of course, joining your coworkers for lunch is a critical part of remaining cordial and is sometimes necessary for taking part in those awful office politics. Consider going out for lunch only once per week and bringing your own lunch Monday through Thursday. You may even end up meeting others in your office who do just the same, talking shop in the office lunchroom instead of the diner down the street. This tactic alone can easily save you $10-12 per day.
Stop eating out, period.
Bringing your own lunch to work can easily save you $50-60 per week, but if you’re single (like yours truly), it can be even more tempting to grab takeout on the way home from the office after a long day in the cubicle. Spending another hour cooking when you’d rather be watching TV, spending time with friends or other loved ones, sleeping, reading Facebook, or doing, well, anything else makes grabbing food seem like a much better option. However, takeout can be just as expensive as buying lunch at the office every day. Spending an hour every week buying groceries to prepare food can save you hundreds of dollars every month. If you buy groceries to make both your lunch and dinner, you’ll likely spend between 5-10% of your income every month on groceries for the month. This will likely be about $200 for all the food you need for the month, including lunch, dinner, and breakfast, snacks, and late night munchies, too. Compare this to the $100 a week you spend on takeout and you’ll easily save way more than just $12 a day.
Stop driving to work.
For many who work in the city and live in suburban areas, driving to work is one of the only ways to get to your job. However, by combining alternative modes of transportation, you can easily save that early morning stress and angst, the cost of gas to get all the way to the office, the cost of parking (if your employer doesn’t subsidize the parking lot or garage), and the cost of wear and tear on your car. If your city offers park and rides, consider taking the bus, which can easily save several dollars per day. In Seattle, the daily cost of gas from a commute from the suburbs into the city can be about $5, and while many employers won’t pay for parking (Which can cost $10 to $15 a day), they will subsidize a bus pass — saving anywhere from $5 to $20 a day. Also, consider walking or biking to work. The initial investment in a bike or new shoes may not save you money initially, but being able to sell your car or reduce your car insurance rates will eventually save you much more money.
Stop buying overpriced lattes.
Are you one of those people who orders a grande doublepump mochalatte half-caf with two sugars every morning? I’m not even sure that exists, but if you’re ordering a cup of coffee with more words than you have fingers, you’re also paying for it. A latte with milk, syrup, and and extra shot can easily cost more than $5 — and let’s not talk about how much your bad habit costs if you hit the coffee shop more than once per day. Consider ordering a normal cup of coffee — you can even add your own milk or sugar if you prefer. The $4 price difference can quickly add up, especially if you make other changes to your daily spending habits.
Better yet, make your own coffee.
I have a bad habit of hitting the drive-through coffee stand on my way into town while running errands. Even though I just usually order iced coffee, I can’t seem to break the routine of having a barista pour me a cup of coffee. While the cost is minimal — $2 a day, including tip — it would be much more cost effective to brew my own coffee. The savings aren’t as dramatic as other changes, like bringing my own lunch, however, brewing my own coffee can boost my $12 a day savings towards $20 per day, or even more. If you like it iced, consider buying a BPA-free tumbler (found at almost any retailer, including Starbucks) to carry your coffee on-the-go.
Ask your boss if you can work from home.
Your commute may be killing your patience, but it may also be killing your wallet. If the cost of your commute is draining your bank account and severely impacting the benefit of being employed, consider asking your employer if you can telecommute. Even working from home one or two days per week can save the cost of your commute dramatically, especially if you’re spending $5-10 a day in gas, $15 a day in parking, and potentially other costs if you have an even more horrific commute that involves subways, trains, or boats.
Buy generic products.
You’ve likely seen generic products on the shelves next to the brand name versions of toilet paper, vitamins, and other personal and home essentials. These products are often made by the same manufacturer as the brand name, but can cost half as much. Some generic products — like food — do taste different, but many products, such as paper towels, function just the same. Buying generic when the product won’t affect the result is an easy way to save at the cash register and make a big dent in how much you save when you shop every week.
Use your smartphone while shopping.
Getting the best deal on a high-priced product can save you dozens of dollars, but you have to find the best deal first. If you’re at a box store and see a new gadget on sale, you may be inclined to purchase it on the spot. But what if an online sale (even at the same store) has a better deal, or an auction site like eBay has a brand new model at half the price? Use your smartphone to search for the same product to make sure you aren’t spending more than necessary. This tactic has saved me hundreds of dollars in 2011 alone, as I’ve been able to purchase items I’ve needed in both new and used forms without paying sticker prices at the store on impulse purchases.
Turn off all of your electricity-dependent “things” when they’re not in use.
Winter is notorious for high electricity bills. With shorter daylight hours and colder weather, we leave our lights on later and run the heat later. If you’re not home, consider turning everything off. When you get home, only turn on the light you need for the room you are in, and only use the heat you need to be comfortable. I’m a huge fan of using blankets to stay warm as well as opposed to blasting the heat. That said, don’t become hypothermic to save a few dollars on your electric bill. However, attempting to reduce your electric bill — especially during peak months — can save you dozens of dollars every month.
Stop paying for cable.
How much TV do you really watch? Are you a DVR addict? Do you tend to gather at the local bar to watch sports games (or better yet, actually go to the stadium)? Most TV shows are now available almost immediately on replay via Hulu and many movies can be found via Amazon Instant and Netflix. Consider cutting the cable cord and using a service like Boxee or Roku to connect directly to your television and use your Internet connection to watch your favorite TV shows and movies. This can easily save you at least $30 a month, if not more.
Stop paying for your own cellphone plan.
Paying for a mobile plan can be expensive. Current plans can run anywhere between $50 to well over $100 for an individual depending on your carrier. Data plans can quickly add to the cost, and any plan with the word “unlimited” may just as well cost you your first born. An easy easy way to save money every month is to team up with friends and/or family and create a “family” plan that consists of a few plans to pool and share your minutes. If you choose wisely, your calls between each other will then also be free.
You may also want to consider relying more heavily on services like Skype and Google Voice to make calls and changing your plan to the lowest allowable minutes, thereby severely reducing your cost.
In what ways are you planning to save money in 2012? Let us know your ideas in the comments.
Latte Image Via Faithful Provisions