Many people think about saving money, but decide that it’s too much work or it interferes too much with their lives. I’m usually this way, too; I’d rather not think about it when I’m hanging out with friends or spending time with family. I’m also not a big investor, so I don’t exactly plan on the ol’ stock dividends giving me money for nothing.
So what can a person do to save a buck or two without really doing… anything at all? Below, there are five things that take a few minutes to set up; afterwards, you can forget about them. What happens if you set them all up? For me, I made about $550 in a year and didn’t change a thing about my lifestyle. It’s as easy as pie, and I’m not going to ask you to sign up for any crappy e-book or click any affiliate links or send me any money for the knowledge. All you have to do for the $550 is these five quick things that will take you fifteen minutes or so… and then do nothing.
Switch all of the light bulbs in your home to CFLs.
Most people aren’t aware of compact fluorescent light bulbs, which are basically excuses to put money right in your pocket. Shoppers just wander down the light bulb aisle, grab the cheapest bulbs in their wattage, go home, toss ‘em in the socket, and curse six months later when the cheap bulb blows. Rinse and repeat. On the other hand, CFLs break less often and use less energy for the same amount of light as regular bulbs, and they’re available in the same light bulb section at your local department store. By buying them, you’re automatically going to put cash in your pocket.
Let’s say at the start of a year, you move into a new apartment and all of the light sockets are empty. You count sixteen light sockets, plus four more from the lamps you brought with you. You go out to the store and buy light bulbs, twenty 75 watt bulbs. At your local drugstore, you can get regular bulbs for $0.62 a pop (a total of $12.40) or you can get the equivalent CFL (labeled as 75 watts, but only burning 20 watts) for $1.16 a pop (a total of $23.20). It’ll cost you $10.80 more at first for the CFLs, but just wait…
Let’s say you have each light on an average of four hours a day. Over a year, that’s 1,460 hours. Since the life span of a regular bulb is 1,000 hours, you’ll have to replace all of them around late September (on average). On the other hand, the CFLs have a life span of about 10,000 hours, so you won’t have to replace any of them. So, your actual bulb cost for regular bulbs is $24.80, meaning you’ve already saved $1.60 on the CFLs.
It gets better. During those 1,460 hours in a year, your ordinary bulbs will gulp down 75 watts, meaning for each bulb, that’s 109,500 watts per hour, or 109.5 kWh, over a year. With twenty bulbs, that’s 2,190 kWh per year. Assuming that your electric company charges you $0.09 per kilowatt hour, it’s costing you $197.10 to run the ordinary bulbs for a year.
The CFLs, on the other hand, only burn 20 watts. That’s a total of 29.2 kWh per bulb over a year, or a total of 584 kWh. At that same $0.09 rate, it costs $52.56, or $144.54 less than the normal bulbs.
So, you put $144.54 in your pocket for getting better bulbs, save $1.60 for buying longer lasting bulbs, and actually get to sit on your rear more because you’re not changing the bulbs. What are you waiting on?
Money for nothing: $146.14
Set up Windows so that it automatically shuts down every night.
About every other night or so, I used to leave my computer on after I go to bed and I don’t notice it until the next evening after I got home from work. That is, until I told it to shut down automatically at two in the morning each night. Here’s how to do it (it’s really easy):
1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
2. Click Performance and Maintenance, and then click Scheduled Tasks.
3. Double-click Add Scheduled Task. The Scheduled Task Wizard starts.
4. Click Next.
5. Under Click the program you want Windows to run, click Browse.
6. In the Select Program to Schedule dialog box, locate the C:\WINDOWS\System32 folder, locate and click the Shutdown.exe file, and then click Open.
7. Under Perform this task, specify a name for the task and how frequently you want this task to run, and then click Next.
8. Under Select the time and day you want this task to start, specify a start time and date for the task, and then click Next.
9. Type the user name and password to run this task under, and then click Next, and then click Finish.
10. In the Scheduled Tasks window, right click on your new task and choose Properties. Select the Settings tab, then check the box that says “Wake the computer to run this task,” then click OK.
That’s it. It’s done. So what do you get out of that? Let’s say your computer uses 80 watts per hour, and your monitor when receiving no signal eats 5 watts an hour (these are rough average estimates). So, every hour your computer is off when it would have just been sitting idle saves 75 watts or so. Now, let’s say that every other night, you forget to turn off your computer and you don’t notice it until you come home from work the next day. That’s about 20 hours of unused energy, or an average of 10 hours a day. Over a year, that’s 3650 hours unused – a lot of time.
Multiplying 3650 hours by 75 watts gets you a big number, about 273.75 kilowatt-hours. An average eletric bill charges about $0.09 per kilowatt-hour, so multiplying $0.09 by 273.75 gets you the amount of money you put right in your pocket just for doing this simple task once and forgetting about it.
Money for nothing: $24.64
Get a good reward credit card instead of using your debit card for regular purchases.
Lots of people use debit cards to make it easy to buy groceries, gasoline, and other routine purchases during a month. Instead of doing that, why not just get a credit card with a great rewards program for those routine purchases. Set it up to automatically pay the statement balance from your checking each month.
Let’s use me as an example. Each month, I spend about $120 on gasoline and about $150 on groceries (I have a family and I commute), plus about another $100 on irregular expenses. Ordinarily, I’d just put these things on a debit card and earn nothing. But let’s say that instead I use a Citi Driver’s Edge Platinum Select card. I get 6% back on the gasoline and supermarket purchases, plus 1% on those irregular expenses. What does that mean? On each statement, I get credited $7.20 for my gas purchases, $9.00 on my grocery purchases, and $1.00 for my other purchases, a total of $17.20 each month. Even better, they pay me $0.01 for each mile I drive in my primary automobile, which is about 1,000 miles a month. Another $10 a month, in other words.
Over the course of a year, just by using the card with the good rewards program instead of my ordinary debit card, I put $326.40 in my pocket. This is just one of the potential programs, of course, but it happens to be one that fits my lifestyle quite well.
Money for nothing: $326.40
Buy lots of toilet paper.
Toilet paper is something pretty much everyone uses at a steady rate. It never goes bad, but eventually you use it up and go back to the store and buy more, right?
The grocery stores like to trick you, though. They put nice, small packages of this stuff out where it’s convenient to grab and fit right in your cart. Four rolls of your favorite toilet paper for $4.99? Sweet, taken care of, you think as you toss it in your cart. But turn your eyes upward. You can get 36 rolls of that same toilet paper for $27.99. That’s a lot of toilet paper, you think, but consider this: you’ll always use toilet paper and it’ll never go bad. Why not throw the extra rolls in the back of the closet and just get them out of there when you need them? Better yet, over the life of the package, you’ll save $16.92. If you want to keep going (and have lots of closet space), Amazon sells massive packs at even better rates.
You can do the same thing for soap, dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent, shampoo, dish soap, tissues, diapers, baby wipes, trash bags, softener, and so on. If you have a guest bedroom, the closet in there makes a great place to store lots of stuff, so buy the jumbo packs and put cash in your pocket without even thinking about it. Even better, buy them on Amazon and have someone leave it at your door so you can be even lazier while putting cash in your pocket. Even if you can save only $5 a year on each item, if you buy ten items in bulk, there’s $50. For doing nothing.
Money for nothing: $50.00
Set up an ING Direct savings account and have it auto-deduct a small amount from your primary checking every week.
Would you miss $5 every week? Probably not. In fact, if you’ve done the other things here, you’ve already got about $5 a week more than you had before, on average. So why not just be lazy and do nothing at all with that $5?
Instead, just sign up for an ING Direct savings account, which earns a 4.4% APY and is easy to sign up for, and set it up to deduct $5 every week from your checking account, and just forget about it for a year. At the end of that year, you’ve still got that $260 you deducted – plus an extra $5.80 for doing nothing. Do it for two years and you’ve got $28.26. Double those numbers if you elected to put in $10 a week. For doing nothing.
Money for nothing: $5.80 (at least)
These five tips in conjunction do nothing… but put cash right in your pocket.