Don’t Give Up That Latte
Financial expert David Bach coined the now-famous phrase “latte factor” more than a decade ago to illustrate the thousands of dollars you could save over time by giving up your daily latte. The phrase is akin to the common notion that little things add up.
But we’re tired of the same old coffee-hating advice. If giving up your gourmet cold brew is non-negotiable (or not applicable), there's still hope. Here are eight strategies that, combined, can help you save up to $5,000 in one year.
Stick With Your Bank’s ATM
Banks raked in billions of dollars in account fees last year. A serious chunk of that came from our own lazy tendency to use out-of-network ATMs. (I’m totally guilty of doing this.) The average ATM withdrawal fee surged by 5 percent in 2014, to $4.35, according to Bankrate.com. This includes the fee your bank charges you for using an out-of-network ATM and the ATM’s own fee.
Avoid these fees altogether by using your bank’s mobile app to find the closest in-network ATM (most major banks offer this free tool). And take the longer walk if need be. Consider it good exercise.
Potential savings: $225 (weekly ATM trips)
Ditch Bottled Water
Like lattes, bottled water is a small expense that, over the long haul, can compromise your savings account. Water is free, after all, and by investing just $20 on a nice, BPA-free water bottle you can simultaneously fill up that piggy bank and help the environment. Win-win.
I did the math: The savings from skipping that $1.50 bottle of H20 from the gym or lunch spot, five days a week, is compelling.
Potential savings: $400
Opt for Generic Drugs at Big Chains
Discount chains like Walmart and Target, and even some major grocery stores like Winn-Dixie and Kroger, offer low-cost prescription drug programs that provide generic versions of hundreds of common drugs for just $4 for a 30-month supply or $10 for a three-month supply — a fraction of the pharmacy price. Anyone can join these programs.
What’s the savings? It’s case-by-case. But let’s say you take Benazepril, which is the generic form of Lotensin and treats high blood pressure. It can cost as much as $36 (without insurance) at the pharmacy, versus just $4 through one of these discount programs.
Potential savings: $380
Enjoy Boxed Vino
If taste, price, and quality were all equal, which would you rather have: one bottle of wine or four bottles in an entire box? Before you turn your nose up at boxed wine, know that it’s come a long way since the days of sneaking Franzia into your dorm room.
Boxed wine is actually a major trend in fancy parts of Europe, and many brands are being recognized for their outstanding quality and taste. Some award-winning boxed varietals include Black Box, Yellow + Blue, and La Petite Frog.
Potential savings: $500
Ask for a Cable Discount
I just helped my friend save 10 percent (or $180) on her annual cable bill by calling Time Warner and asking for a discount. It was as simple as that. And there was no need to pare down her service. They actually threw in faster Internet and a year’s worth of free HBO. Combined, those freebies are worth close to $200.
I coached her through the call and reminded her to be direct, polite, and determined. For example, when the customer service rep told her that sending the cable guy to her house to set up the faster Internet would cost $40, she asked if they would kindly be willing to waive the fee. After a couple of minutes on hold, the rep returned and replied, “Yes!”
Potential savings: $180
Get Free Pampering
A routine facial could run you $100. Instead, make a mask at home. Apply this popular pore-shrinking recipe: 2 raw egg whites plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then remove with a wet towel. (I’m also a fan of placing Bioré strips all over my face instead of just my nose!) Or get a free 20-minute mini facial at a nearby Origins.
The occasional massage costs about $60 per hour (the national average). Instead, check out your local massage school. Most require students to give hundreds of hours of massages before being certified — at a discount or for free.
Another trick: Take advantage of your salon’s free bangs trims if you need a quick refresh. Didn’t know they offer them? Chances are they do; this is a common but lesser-known freebie.
Potential savings: $1,000
Convert to a Family Phone Plan
For a family of four, this could be a giant savings over the course of a year. According to the research team at WhisteOut.com, a site that lets you compare cell phone plans from all major carriers, four separate plans might be $70 a month each (conservatively speaking), or $280 combined. But you can combine them for a total bill of around $140 from all carriers.
Potential savings: $1,700
Splurge — With a Discounted Gift Card
Last but not least, here’s how to enjoy that daily latte — or whatever your heart desires — while pocketing a few extra hundred dollars a year. Stock up on discounted gift cards from your favorite restaurants, clothing stores, movie theaters, etc. from sites like GiftCardGranny.com, Raise.com, and GiftCardRescue.com.
If that daily latte costs you $4 a day, that’s a little over $1,400 over the course of a year. Shave off 15 percent by using a discounted card. (Raise.com actually estimates purchasers save an average of 16 percent.)
Potential savings: $200-$500
Farnoosh Torabi is the host of the new daily podcast, So Money and author of When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. Join her online community and instantly receive the complete introduction to her book for free.