The Little Things Do Matter

Twelve Little Hacks That Add Up To A Lot

1. Switch your savings account from your local bank to ING Direct.

That’s the bank I switched to about a year and a half ago in order to get a higher interest rate (over 4%). They made the whole thing easy as pie – it took about five minutes – and I’ve never had anything but stellar customer service.

2. Drink one less coffee a week.

Let’s say you stop at Starbucks – or your preferred coffee house – three times a week. Just trim it back to two. That’s it.

3. Call one credit card company and ask for a rate reduction.

Just flip over your card and call that number on the back. Ask to speak to a supervisor if the first human you get won’t reduce your rate.

4. Stop by the library and check out some movies.

Most libraries have a pile of movies available to check out. Stop in and browse their selection, then take some home for some viewing with the family.

5. Replace one light bulb in your house with a CFL.

Many people complain about CFLs for general lighting, but they’re great to put in some places, like in closets, garages, and the laundry room where light quality isn’t that important. Instead of tossing in another incandescent bulb, put in a CFL instead.

6. Air up your tires.

The next time you get your oil changed, ask for them to air up your tires if they don’t already do it. If you’re willing, do it yourself – most gas stations offer free air and your car’s manual explains how to do it.

7. Drink water instead of your usual beverage with one meal a day.

Instead of having a soda or a glass of milk or a beer or whatever you might have, enjoy a glass of water with your meal instead.

8. Switch your checking account to Electric Orange.

That’s the checking account I currently use. They pay 3.5% on your checking account balance and have a huge ATM network, including any Target in the United States.

9. Read a book.

Instead of filling your time with other activities, curl up with a good book. Pick one off your shelf that you already have, get one from the library, or request one off of PaperBackSwap.

10. Write a grocery list before you go to the store, and stick to it.

This keeps a lot of unnecessary stuff out of your cart.

11. Prepare one simple meal at home out of the cupboard instead of ordering delivery or take-out.

Even if it’s something simple like a hamburger and macaroni and cheese.

12. The next time you make a casserole, make a triple or quadruple batch of it and freeze the rest for later.

These meals are great for lazy nights when you would otherwise get some fast food, delivery, or take out – instead, just pull it out of the freezer, heat it up, and you’re ready to eat.

Those are all easy steps – all of them are reasonable for the average person to do. They’re tips that, in various ways, I’ve often mentioned on The Simple Dollar. You might already be doing some of them.

How Much Do They Save?

Switching your savings account from your local bank to ING Direct.

If you have $1,000 in your savings account and your local bank is giving you 0.5% interest, moving it to an account with 4% interest means an extra $35/year.

Drinking one less coffee a week.

Let’s say your average coffee store shop costs you $5, all told – you get a scone sometimes, after all. You’ll save up a nice, tidy $260/year.

Calling one credit card company and ask for a rate reduction.

The average American household has $9,000 in credit card debt. Let’s say that call reduces your rate by 3%. That one phone call saves you $270/year.

Stopping by the library and check out some movies.

If you do this once a month instead of going out to a movie or renting movies, you’ll easily save an average of $10 a month. That adds right up to $120/year.

Replacing one light bulb in your house with a CFL.

An average light bulb is on 4 hours a day, and you’ll save 50 watts an hour with a CFL, equaling 200 watts a day, or a kilowatt hour every five days, which is $0.10. Over an average four year period, you’ll use one CFL or you’ll use eight incandescents, so over an average year you’ll save the cost of a normal bulb – about $0.80. Remember, this one’s easily multipliable because you can replace all of your bulbs, but just one bulb will save you $8/year.

Airing up your tires.

An average tire is around 6 pounds low on pressure. Filled to capacity, that will save you 3% on your gas mileage. If your car normally gets 20 miles per gallon, you drive 10,000 miles a year, and that gas costs $3 a gallon, you’ll save $46/year.

Drinking water instead of your usual beverage with one meal a day.

On average, this saves you $0.40 a day, as that’s the average cost of a meal beverage. Thus, water alone saves you $146/year.

Switching your checking account to Electric Orange.

If you’re like me, your old checking account costs you $5 a month in fees and pays no interest. If you switch to Electric Orange, you get a 3.5% bump up in interest and the fees go away. If your average balance is $2,000, this move will save you $130/year.

Reading a book.

If you replace one $20 activity a month (going to a concert, etc.) with reading a book from the library, you save yourself $240/year.

Writing a grocery list before you go to the store, and stick to it.

I’ve calculated that a well-executed grocery list saves me about $15 a week for my family. That really adds up, to $780/year.

Preparing one simple meal at home out of the cupboard instead of ordering delivery or take-out.

If you do this just once every three months and it saves you $10, you can save $40/year.

Making triple or quadruple batches of your casserole and freezing the rest for later.

If each extra casserole saves you $5, and you make a quadruple batch once a month, you’ll save $180/year.

This all adds up to $2,239 in a year – and it’s pretty easy to see that some of these are repeatable, which racks up even more savings. That’s a car payment. That’s a big piece of saving for a house down payment. That kind of money can eliminate a five figure credit card debt in just a few years.

What’s the point of this exercise? It skewers pretty cleanly the two biggest arguments against frugality: it doesn’t add up to real money and it’s too hard. Few would argue that these activities are hard at all, and I think it’s pretty challenging to say that $2,200 a year isn’t real money for most people.

Take the little steps. They will pay off.

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