Does the avalanche of news about layoffs, business losses and a declining stock market have you looking for ways to cut your spending so you can beef up your savings? We're here to help, with suggestions for less-expensive alternatives to ten everyday purchases (for more ideas, go to www.BillShrink.com, which tracks cell-phone plans and credit cards).
Afternoon snacks. Do you munch protein bars as a healthier alternative to a chocolate pick-me-up? You could easily be paying more than $2 per bar and consuming just as much sugar as you would with your favorite candy bar. Stock up on fruit for a fraction of the cost when you do your grocery shopping. You'll be fitter and save a bundle.
Bottled water. Yes, it's important to drink water every day. But picking up the bottled variety with your lunch is an expensive way to stay hydrated. Rather than spend $2 a day for water, buy a pitcher and a filter for about $20 and drink as much as you want for pennies a glass.
A caffeine fix. Can't get through the day without at least one cuppa Joe? Stopping at Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts can set you back as much as $1.65 per cup. Splurge on a pound of gourmet coffee for $8 to $13 and you can make 40 cups for about 20 cents to 33 cents each.
Favorite tunes. Do you rush out to buy the latest CD by your favorite group even though there are only one or two songs you really like? Instead of paying up to $18 for the CD, download those cuts you want from iTunes for 99 cents each, or from Amazon for as little as 79 cents.
A night at the movies. An evening for two at your local theater costs an average of about $20, including the popcorn - and closer to $30 in major cities. And that doesn't even count the babysitter. For just $5 a month, you can watch two movies from Netflix or pay $9 for unlimited viewing. If you're willing to wait a little longer for new releases, borrow them free from your local library. (See Cut the Cable Cord for other inexpensive entertainment options.)
Fresh flowers. A bouquet of spring blooms brightens up a room and your mood. But purchasing it from a florist at $25 and up can quickly put a dent in your budget. Check out your local grocery store, which offers a selection of seasonal bouquets for $5 to $10.
Fruits and veggies. Sure, precut vegetables and salad mixes that are washed and bagged save a little time. But you'll pay for the convenience. Broccoli florets and sliced peppers cost $6 per pound, compared with one-third to one-half the price for the uncut versions. Lettuce varieties that are pre-washed and bagged sell for $5.98 a pound. But it takes just minutes to wash and spin dry enough arugula for your evening salad, and you'll pay one-third as much. Buying whole strawberries rather than sliced ones that are prepackaged cuts the price by 75%.
Credit-card fees. Every month, millions of credit-card customers pay their bills late, and they're assessed as much as $39 each time. Set up an automatic debit and you'll never incur another late fee.
ATM fees. Each time you use an out-of-network ATM you pay an average of $3.43. Do that once a week and you'll rack up almost $180 in ATM fees every year. Avoid those charges by selecting a bank with a large ATM network or an online account that reimburses your ATM fees - such as the eOne no-fee account from Salem Five Direct bank. Another alternative: Get cash back at the grocery store.
Fax and mail services. Instead of paying FedEx $1.49 to fax one page, sign up to send free faxes from a provider such as faxZero or K7.net. Save on shipping with the U.S. Postal Service's priority mail service. You'll pay just $4.95 to mail an envelope or small box anywhere in the U.S., and your parcel is likely to arrive within two days. Larger packages cost $10.35. That saves at least 50% compared with UPS's two-day service, the cost of which varies by weight and distance
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