Saving is about discipline, and the best way to save is to start small and be consistent. To figure out how much you can save, you need to first identify where you spend your money and develop a financial plan or budget that can help build long-lasting savings. In fact, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can save $1,000 by the end of the year, by reducing or eliminating some expenses for three months and stashing that money away. That extra money can be put toward an emergency fund or your retirement savings.
The 10 savings steps below will hardly inhibit your current lifestyle and, if practiced, will provide you with some extra money as you head into 2015.
1. Save your loose change.
Putting aside 50 cents a day over the course of a year will allow you to save nearly 40 percent of a $500 emergency fund, according toAmericaSaves.org. Most people may think it’s not worth it to put aside two quarters a day, but the reality is, many people can put away 50 cents a day, and the numbers show that it adds up over time.
If you start October 1, by the end of the year, you will have saved $46.
2. Drive sensibly and safe.
Have your money go the extra mile by driving sensibly. What does this mean? Staying calm, cool and collected on the road, because aggressive driving (think: speeding, rapid acceleration and excessive braking) can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent around town, according to fueleconomy.gov. With the price of gas around $3.40 a gallon for the national average, if you drive sensibly, you can save at least $0.17 a gallon in town (and up to $1.12 a gallon on the highway).
On average, you’ll buy around 133 gallons by the end of the year, for a savings of at least $23 to nearly $150.
3. Shop for groceries and save on gas.
Check your local grocery stores for gas rewards programs for another way to cut down on your gas bill. Some allow you to earn one point for every dollar you spend, and for every 100 points you earn, you’ll save $0.10/gallon at the pump. According to the USDA, the average four-member family (on a moderate-cost budget) spends about $245 a week at the grocery store, meaning your card could save you nearly $0.25/gallon at the pump. AAA figured out in 2012 that the average American goes through about 533 gallons of gas a year.
If you use a fourth of that amount (133 gallons) by the end of the year (and buy an average amount of groceries for a family of four per week), you’ll save about $33 or more on gas.
4. Look for cheaper car insurance.
A 2013 survey by NerdWallet found American drivers are overpaying an average of $368 each year for car insurance. NerdWallet analyzed car insurance quotes for 1,000 Zip codes across the U.S. The wide range of quotes available even in one Zip code shows there are opportunities for drivers to find substantial savings by comparison shopping. For example, in Stockdale, Texas, a hypothetical 40-year-old married male driver with a clean driving record would typically pay $1,436 for auto insurance, but the cheapest premium offered in his area is $1,045, a savings of 27 percent, or $391. To find out which car insurance discounts apply to you, Insure.com’s car insurance discounts tool gives an overview of the discount landscape among large insurers in each state.
Over just three months, changing car insurance could save you $92.
5. Turn down your thermostat.
Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees this winter. You can save energy—and money—by setting your thermostat to 68 degrees while you are awake, then setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home.According to the U.S. Department of Energy, by turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save 5 percent to15 percent on your heating bill. The average cost for heating homes with natural gas—what nearly half the country uses—was $663 last winter.
By lowering your thermostat from now until the end of the year, you willsave from $17 to $50.
6. Sell your old smartphone.
With the launch of the Apple iPhone 6, you may be ready to turn in your old iPhone. Or maybe you decide you can live with a cheaper phone. The iPhone 5 is still the most popular of the iPhones, but maybe it’s time to sell yours. You can go through Apple’s Reuse and Recycling program and get an Apple Store Gift Card, but if you want cash, try a reseller, like NextWorth or Gazelle.
You could get as much as $170 for a 16GB AT&T iPhone 5 in good condition on NextWorth, but the price drops for phones with scuffs, scratches and water damage.
7. Brown-bag your lunch.
The typical American buys lunch nearly twice a week and spends about $10 each time. According to Visa, only 30 percent of us never eat lunch out. So if you’re one of the people who spends $20 a week on lunch, brown-bagging it for the rest of the year and spending half that amount on groceries will save you $140 by year-end.
8. Skip the theater and wait for the DVD.
From movie tickets to the cost of a bucket of popcorn, going to the movies can be a pricey experience. Entertainment is an expense that can easily be delayed. So instead of catching the latest-and-greatest flick once a month, perhaps skipping the theaters and waiting for your movie to show up on DVD is an option. The National Association of Theater Owners says the average movie ticket price was $8.13 last year.
If two of you go once a month, skipping these movies would amount to $48 in savings by year-end. Skip the $6 each for a large soda and $8 for a large popcorn to share, and that’s another $20 in savings each time you go, for a total savings of $108.
9. Drink water from the tap.
Drink water—not soda, iced tea, Gatorade or even bottled water—just plain old tap water, which costs less than $1 per year. If you drink only bottled water, you’ll spend about $1,400 or more to get a year’s worth of drinking water. If you don’t like the taste of tap water, buy a water-filter pitcher. Keep a refillable bottle at work and in the car. And although eliminating eating out altogether could save you a bundle, it can be a hard habit to cut out completely. So just cut back on drinks—order only tap water instead of beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee or tea.
Bottled-water drinkers will save $350 by year-end.
10. Cancel your cable, or at least negotiate a discount.
Cable isn’t a “necessity,” but it’s a basic household expense that can be easily bargained down with a relatively quick call. The average cost of cable TV each month is $64.41, according to the FCC. With taxes, surcharges and fees, most monthly bills round out to $80. If you’re bold enough to cancel your cable altogether, you’ll save around $240 in the last three months of the year.
And when we add up these 10 savings tactics …
Your total savings by year-end amounts to …
At least $1,252!
Note: In running the numbers for this savings exercise we gave you two weeks to get your act together. The total savings assumes you procrastinate for the rest of September and start saving on Oct. 1. But why wait? You can save even more if you start saving with the 50 cents, and more of these thrifty measures, today.