Updated on 12.29.06

What Can I Do Today To Make Me Rich In The Future?

Trent Hamm

In an ever-changing fast-paced world, most of us are accustomed to doing things now, and long-term financial planning is often difficult for us to wrap our arms around. We don’t want to think about being a millionaire in twenty years; we want to start down that road now with quick actions that we can use to quickly see rewards.

Here’s a list of eighteen things you can do today that will improve your bottom line in the coming year. I’d advise you to sit down right now with a piece of paper, make a list of the ones that you are going to do today, and total up how much money this will save for you. If the individual items seem frivolous, just bear with me: there’s a conclusion to this that you may find interesting.

1. Drink less expensive coffee. Do you stop at the coffee shop a bit too often? Cutting out one latte a week can save $5 a week, or even ordering a smaller size three times a week can save $3 a week. Do you really need the grande latte? Savings: $5 a week

2. Prepare your own “fast food.” Fast food is convenient and tasty, but with some advance work, you can prepare your own quick foods at home. They take very little skill, are good for you, and are usually at least a dollar less expensive than the equivalent item at a fast food restaurant. If you eat fast food even once a week (and many of us eat more than that), then that’s a dollar saved. For me, I can save as much as $5 a week, so let’s average the two. Savings: $3 a week

3. Instead of watching television, read a book. After evaluating the per-hour cost of my hobbies, I discovered that television viewing was the most expensive and reading was the least expensive, so I basically just turned off the television and opened a book. What happened? We trimmed our cable bill to just the basic channels (a savings of about $15 a month), cut down our electricity usage (television and surround sound were off for two hours when they used to be on) which saved about $0.50 a month, and rediscovered a hobby that makes me consider the world instead of sitting there absorbing whatever the television feeds me. We’re even thinking about eliminating the cable entirely, since the few shows we now watch are almost all on network television. An average individual could save about $8 a month doing this, so we’ll use that. Savings: $2 a week

4. Find worthwhile weekend projects that don’t burn money. I used to spend my weekends involved with some pretty expensive hobbies, but then I started spending a couple weekends a month engaged with things that made money or were at least inexpensive. Do you spend $50 on a golf excursion with your buddies twice a month? How about a once a month trip to the mall with a $100 bill? Replace these with cost-effective weekend activities. Even better if you’re a parent: these can all involve the kids in a productive fashion. Just replacing one expensive weekend activity a month can save $30-$50 a month. I’ll even estimate this one on the low end. Savings: $10 a week

5. Air up your tires. On your way home tonight, stop at a gas station and air up your tires. It’s incredibly simple to do (if you’re capable of taking the cap off of a toothpaste tube, you can do it), it’s free, and it saves serious money – about $0.07 a gallon with current prices. Do this once a month if you can, and you’ll save about $3 a month. Savings: $0.75 a week

6. Use free software instead of expensive commercial products. In the past, I’ve bought copies of Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop and I also paid for yearly renewals for an antivirus package. No more. I save about $50 a year by using great open source software solutions. Most are easy to install and work as well as the software they replace. Instead of buying an expensive software package, look at what you can get for free. Savings: $4 a month.

7. Buy in bulk. Instead of buying smaller packs of items you’ll continually use (such as toilet paper, dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent, fabric softener, shampoo, conditioner, dish soap, tissues, diapers, baby wipes, trash bags, etc.), buy them in packages that cost the cheapest per unit (almost always the largest one). Put the excess in storage and continue to refill smaller containers out of the bulk containers as you need them. Even if you save only $5 per year on each item, if you buy ten items in bulk, you’ve saved $50. If your grocery list has such continuous use items on it, pick up the bulk version instead. Savings: $4 a month

8. Plan your road trips more carefully. We often make multi-hour treks to visit my son’s grandparents and other relatives, as well as visiting friends and going on camping trips. By planning ahead just a bit (maybe fifteen minutes of work), we can save $20 on each trip. If you travel quite a bit, planning ahead can easily save you up to $100 a year. Savings: $5 a month

9. Drink lots of water. Keep a water bottle full at your side and take a big drink every time you feel hungry or thirsty. This trick has saved me from many trips to the vending machines and unnecessary stops for food and beverages when out and about, and this converts straight into cash in my pocket. By cutting out the unnecessary snacks, I can save a couple dollars a day on average – and some people are far worse than I am. Savings: $10 a week

10. Check the library for books instead of the bookstore. Before you go buy a book, check and see if it’s available at your local library. Many libraries now have an online catalogue that enables you to check for a book. If this keeps you from buying one book a month (average cost $12), this adds up to $150 a year. Savings: $12 a month

11. Keep a list of what you spend. I keep a small notebook inside my jacket along with a pen, and whenever I spend money on anything, I jot it down. Every once in a while, I look it over and usually shake my head at the wasted money, but that’s not the powerful part: the power is in the guilt I feel when I consider adding an item to my notebook. This usually makes me stop and reconsider frivolous purchases, which can save me as much as $50 a pop. On average, though, it’s much smaller than that. Savings: $10 a month

12. Install compact fluorescent bulbs. Replace the light bulbs in your home with compact fluorescent bulbs; stop on your way home from work and use one of those Christmas gift cards to stock up. If you replace fifteen bulbs with CFLs and use each bulb for four hours a day, you’ll save $0.22 a day, or $7.50 a month, in your energy bill. Per bulb, your savings each month is about $0.50. Savings: $7.50 a month

13. Write a grocery list. Preparing a grocery list seems kind of silly at first, but it works amazingly well. We keep a pad of paper and a pen attached to the refrigerator so that both my wife and I can write down anything we can think of that we need or that we want for preparing a meal. Then, when we go to the store, we just stick to that list; if it’s not on the list, we don’t buy it. Our weekly grocery bill immediately dropped by about $20 when we started sticking to this principle, and it’s so easy to do (and actually faster, because you don’t wander through the store wondering if you forgot something). Put a pad and a pen on the refrigerator and start making a list today. Savings: $20 a week

14. Eat breakfast. Before you leave in the morning, eat something small, like a bagel or a cup of yogurt. Why? When lunchtime rolls around, you won’t be as hungry and you’ll make more sensible dining choices which don’t involve going out to TGI Friday’s and ordering a giant appetizer before your meal … not that I’ve ever done that … not me … yeah, right. When I do this, I save about $3 on ann average lunch, which is balanced against the $0.50 or so that the breakfast food cost me. Savings: $10 a week

15. Invite your friends over. “Won’t that cost money?” you ask. Nope. Invite your friends over about once a month for a potluck dinner. Break it down into small pieces for everyone to bring (assign each person something to bring) and provide one of the main meal elements. For example, you can have each couple bring their favorite pizza topping and some pizza sauce and you provide the dough. Not only is this cheaper than going out to eat, you’re also spreading some of the dinner cost out among the guests. Even better: since you’re at home already, it’s pretty easy to find a very inexpensive activity to fill the evening, which is much cheaper than out-on-the-town activities. We did this with a New Year’s Eve party once and it was a huge hit – and it didn’t cost much either. Everyone brought their favorite pizza toppings, favorite finger snack, and a six pack of their favorite beer. Total cost for hosting a memorable New Year’s party: about $20 (dough, some mushrooms, and some Leinenkugel). Savings: $20 a month

16. Install programmable thermostats. This is another great item to spend Christmas gift cards on. A programmable thermostat can cut your energy bills by about $100 a year by following pre-set programs to lower and raise temperatures in rooms automatically. This enables the house to be at a nice temperature when you’re using it, but at an ambient (or close to it) temperature when you’re not (in the night, or when you’re at work, for example). This can save serious cash over the long term. Savings: $7.50 a month

17. Turn your computer off every night. You can do this automatically with little effort, and with a typical desktop computer, you can save about $2 a month on energy costs. Savings: $2 a month

18. Use the ten second rule. The ten second rule basically states that you should pause for ten seconds before making a purchase and spend that time asking yourself if you really need what you’re buying. Quite often, the answer will be “no,” which is all the incentive you need to put the item back on the shelf. I do this all the time and end up saving some decent money each month. Savings: $20 a month

Now that I’ve done all of these things… If you’ve done all of these things, you’re now spending roughly $85 a week less than you used to. Instead of letting that money just sit in your checking account, tempting you, sign up for a high-yield savings account at ING (4.5% APY and a $25 signup bonus if you use a referral code – just ask me for one) or HSBC (5.05% APY). Set up an automatic weekly deposit into that high-yield account from your checking account equal to the amount you’re now saving.

And how much will I have? If you followed all of the steps in this plan and put it all into HSBC, at the end of the year you’ll have $4,641.22 in the account. You might think that some of the ideas on this list are a bit silly, but how silly is $4,600 a year? That can easily be enough to make a few extra mortgage payments each year, pay off your car, or start an investment portfolio.

The best part? You can start immediately.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. BeN says:

    you might add this..

    pay money for gym and go exercise rather than pay for medicine and doctor !

  2. Great post Trent. You really put effort into your articles.


  3. R. Narayanan says:

    I liked it so much I sent to my son, daughter and daughter in law. Most of the suggestions are generally used by people and some were found to be very useful. Thanks.

  4. Kimber says:

    Another great thing about reading vs tv is…no commercials! Yep, no temptation.

  5. Phia says:

    There needs to be a tip chart for students. =/

  6. Anna XYZ says:

    Once a Month Cooking. Once/twice per month create frozen assets and keep in one or two portion sized containers in the freezer, labeled. Healthy, ‘cuz you cook fresh, and keep frozen – don’t think for a minute the restaurants don’t do exactly that with lower quality ingredients. This makes buying in bulk a lot of sense, esp. if singles team up and hit the discount stores in bulk. I put 5 star gourmet meals on the table for $1.35 and LESS per meal. I have friends saying we can’t get such delish three course exotic meals for love or money or for less than $25.00 per person. I keep a food blog, with recipes, and they are top of the line.

    In any case, meals at home or to go are always available. Once we went OAMC eating in restaurants – any restaurant is a huge step down in terms of quality. And our take to work lunches have others thinking about another way to be.

  7. zack says:

    Anna, would you link to your blog?

  8. Mr Zone says:

    One other thing to add is when you are about to check out at the grocery store, re-check everything in your cart to see if you really need it. When I spend about $100 at the store, I find that I have collected about $10-$20 in junk food and other stuff I don’t really need that I can put back.

    Also Anna I would like you to post a link to your blog.

  9. bob says:

    what about growing your own food

  10. Kevin says:

    I just recently found your website and now check it daily. Great articles. One thing I would recommend to support item # 10 above is to check the local Goodwill for books. I am an avid reader and go through books relatively quickly (mostly fiction). When I get low on new books to read I head to the goodwill where I can always find at least five books that I would like to read for an average of $.50 apiece (for paperbacks). On average I can find enough books to keep me going for a couple of months for around $5.00 and I don’t have to worry about returning them on time. While not exactly free this is definitely cheaper that a trip to Barnes and Noble. When I am done with the books I keep the ones I will reread at some point and donate the rest back to the same Goodwill which gives me a tax deduction and allows Goodwill to profit from the same books more than once. I look at it as helping myself and my community at the same time.

  11. Aaron says:

    With airing up your tires, it actually saves you a ton more money then what you stated. Working at a Auto Center, I noticed that most people let their tires wear unevenly, thus waisting a ton of the life of the tire it should have. Having to get new tires too often is no joke! Very expensive.

  12. Great Post Trent. I am forwarding this article to all of my friends for money savings.


  13. Jeanette says:

    If you live in the Baltimore area, you can get books for free at The Book Thing of Baltimore, Inc. http://www.bookthing.org free book exchange. I love this place! You can donate all of your books that you have finished with and you can take as many free books as you can carry. Each book is stamped “Free Book, Not for Resale” to encourage you to keep the books going. They have many rooms filled with neatly organized shelves of books.
    If you don’t live in Baltimore, do an internet search for a free book exchange in your city.
    You could even start a book exchange in your office or with your group of friends.

  14. Delray says:

    Wow, this helped me in so many ways. I’m a sophomore in college and opened a HSBC savings account just last week. I will defiantly use these tips in the future!

  15. Great post. The devil is in the details and you have just proved it. Its incredible when you look at the money that goes on the small and so called low cost items how much can be saved in the long run.

  16. I like this post because it has provoked some good conversation about ways to save money. I have 2 more tips to add (:

    The Bank of America debit card has an easy savings program called keep the change program. It rounds all of your purchases up to the nearest dollar and deposits the change in a savings account. They will match some of your contributions and you don’t have to worry about over spending because this is not a credit card.

    Another good tip is to look at the grocery store flier in the Sunday paper and make a list of all the good sales before you go. This saves me quite a bit of dough and gives a couple hours of good reading material for cheap.

  17. Bocarat says:

    One thing I discovered is that you can get out of your expensive cellphone contract if the companny changes its terms.

    Like when Sprint changed its charges for texting, I called them and was able to cancel my contract!

    They won’t tell you, of course. You have to ask!

    I turned around and got a pay in advance phone from Net10 and only pay want I can afford up-front.

    Good deal!

  18. rodgerlvu says:

    thanks for sharing your idea!!!

  19. Mike says:

    Good post, but some items are a per week savings and some are a per month savings…Would be nice (easier to follow) if everything was one or the other…

  20. Mike says:

    Some things are listed on a per week basis, and some on a per month basis…Would be nice (and easier to read)if everything was one or the other. Otherwise, good post. (Tried posting, but it hung, hopefully it doesn’t turn into a double post).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *