Here's the deal: Little steps to help you save big money

today we're not going to suggest investing thousands in the latest energy-efficient appliances to save a few bucks on your electric bill. • We're not going to advise you to switch your car to canola oil, give over your yard to subsistence farming or your life to extreme couponing. • Today's money-saving tips are fast and simple. But depending on how you're spending, you could save big. • We are not saying it will be easy. You might feel a bit deprived of cherished luxuries. • But you might also feel pretty good when all the bills are paid at the end of the month — and there's even a little left over. • So, let's get started.

Entertainment

Take a look at all the money you spend to amuse yourself — movies in theaters or at home, music everywhere, books both digital and traditional.

Months ago, I was spending $125 a month on cable, $25 a month on two Sirius radios, $8 a month on Netflix and $50 a month on music CDs and downloads. I had so many services, sometimes I was buying the same music and movies twice.

I canceled the pay-cable channels, chose a lower-tier plan and knocked $50 off my monthly cable bill.

I went down to one Sirius radio, dropped Netflix and now use my local library for movies and music. The selection isn't as great, but it's good enough. (Many libraries also have free e-books.)

Those choices saved me about $120 a month.

Dry cleaning

I hate ironing. And with some dry cleaners only charging $1 a shirt, why do it?

But five shirts a week is about $20 a month. So now I drag out the ironing board and save.

(Though I still allow myself occasional trips to the cleaners when I need a break from the awful chore.)

Dining out

Look at how many times you went out to eat last month. Aim to cut that in half next month.

At the very least, brown-bag your lunch if you don't already. Look at it this way: If even an inexpensive lunch out costs $10 with tip, that's $50 a week. One week, I computed that my homemade lunches cost $3 each — or $15 a week.

That adds up to a savings of about $140 a month.

Brew coffee at home

I love barista-brewed coffee. But I haven't been to a coffee shop in months.

Bags of popular brands like Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts occasionally go on sale at the grocery, and depending on your tastes you can score BOGO deals on your favorite grind fairly often.

Match that BOGO with in-paper or online coupons for $1 or more, and you'll be paying as little as $1.50 a bag.

I figure it would cost me at least $40 to buy as much coffee at Starbucks as I can brew at home from one bag. And by reusing my own eco-friendly thermal mug, I'm saving the environment too.

Phones

First off, if you have both a cell phone and a land line at home, drop the land line.

Make sure you have the best plan for your smartphone habits. If you use your phone for texting, photos and calls but not the Internet, change your service and save up to $30 a month.

Monitor your minutes. If you're mostly calling people who use the same company as you, those minutes may be free, so you could switch to a cheaper plan.

Coupons

You don't have to become one of those hoarders on the extreme couponing shows to reap substantial coupon savings. Look for the grocery coupons worth $5 off a $25 purchase or $10 off a $50 purchase, either in the mail or in grocery store fliers. Some stores accept competitors' coupons, so don't forget to check ads even for stores you don't like.

Flip through the coupons in the Sunday paper and clip only the ones for products you use. Check online coupon sites, too.

Match those coupons with BOGOs at Publix or sales at Winn-Dixie or Sweetbay (yes, you can stack a manufacturer's coupon on top of a store deal).

Sites like truecouponing.com or addictedtosaving.com even help you match up the deals.

Start with this goal: Devote a half hour a week to coupons, and see how much you cut your bill. If it's worth the time, keep it up.

Get moving

If you have a gym membership you never use, cancel it. Is your fancy treadmill gathering dust in the garage? Sell it.

Get your exercise by doing your own yard work and cleaning your own pool.

Instead of using the car for short trips, walk or bicycle.

You might find yourself in better shape both physically and fiscally.

Times staffers Sue Carlton, Jessica Vander Velde, Janet Keeler, Kim Wilmath, Kate Brassfield, Patty Ryan, Chris Davis and Katherine Snow Smith contributed.

Here's the deal: Little steps to help you save big money 12/18/11 [Last modified: Sunday, December 18, 2011 6:13pm]

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