12 Household Spending Habits You Need to Kick
Off the cuff, the idea of curbing your personal spending habits may not seem like the most enjoyable of tasks, but you'll be whistling a different tune once you start to see the dollar signs rolling in. Start to see cold-hard-cash results, and saving takes on a fun new twist. With a few minor tweaks, you can actually save a substantial amount of money each year. Changing a few subtle habits, and you'll have a nest egg waiting for you the next time you want to splurge on a truly worthwhile purchase or dreamy vacation. We’re not asking you to reinvent the wheel; just to spin it in a different direction. We promise this won't hurt.
Dry cleaning can become one of the most expensive habits of homekeeping. Few garments really need to be dry cleaned: hand-washing in cold water and air-drying usually does the trick. Leave dry-cleaning to silk fabrics, tough stains you can’t get out, or super-delicate items.
Have a plan of attack. If you wander into a store without a list, you'll likely wind up buying whatever catches your eye, rather than only what you need. You may even forget a few of the things you actually need. Bring your list to the store, and while you’re at it, try your hardest to avoid the overpriced gimmicky items at checkout.
Whenever you’re checking out online, don’t press “confirm” without doing a quick Google search first to see if there’s a promo or coupon code available to use for the shop you’re visiting. RetailMeNot is the major coupon hub, but there are many more. By entering a promo code at checkout, you may just save yourself 20%, earn free shipping, or even receive a complimentary gift.
The majority of things we buy are depreciating assets, so they lose value as soon as we walk out of the store. By shopping for vintage or secondhand furniture, you can find more unique and rare items, as well as save money. Especially in the cases of those items we need but will only use a few times, search Craigslist, garage sales, or thrift stores to see if you can find a quality alternative to a brand-new piece.
Household items purchased at convenience stores can cost two to four times as much as they would at a grocery store or a discount store. Not only are items at your local corner store simply more expensive, they’re also sold in small portions. Buy nonperishable goods in bulk and store them, rather than buying a single overpriced roll of paper towels when you’re in a pinch.
You can’t spend cash if you don’t have any, so only take out as much as you need. Having a few extra $20 bills floating around in your purse may find you making little splurges here and there that wind up being costly at the end of the month. Limiting what you pull out at the ATM will ensure you stay on budget. While you're at it, steer clear of those out-of-network ATM fees.
Compact fluorescent lamps cost more upfront than incandescent light bulbs, but they last about five times as long and use 75% less electricity. If you haven't already, making the switch to CFLs, such as Cree light bulbs, can save you up to $10 per bulb per year.
Whether you’re sharing expenses with family or you’re living on your own, you should always have a household budget to keep your finances in order. In the back of your mind, you should have a general idea about how much you can afford to spend on groceries per week, on a dinner on the town, on dry-cleaning each month, on cleaning services, and so on. If you realize you’ve exceeded that number when you’re checking out, you’ll still have time to revise your shopping cart.
The biggest waste of money and resources is buying something that you already own. Take a regular inventory of all of your closets and drawers every few months, and a look at your pantry and refrigerator before you shop for groceries. A friend of mine even has an inventory for the alcohol in her liquor cabinet, which makes it easy to stay organized and also read to guests what’s available to them.
There’s a time and a place to shop at specialty stores: special occasions. But buying toilet paper at Whole Foods, weeknight chicken at the fancy butcher, or pens at the luxury stationer is just foolish. Spend your money in those places when it counts.
There are some brands that, for whatever reason, we can’t help but stand by (umm, Vanity Fair paper napkins, anyone?). But when it comes to many products in the grocery aisle, hardware store, or department store, you’re just throwing away money by buying the brand name. Cut the habit immediately and you’ll see significant savings on your next trip to the store.
Tap water is just as healthy for you as bottled water, and regularly purchasing bottles can cost you up to $1000 per year. If you’re concerned about the quality or taste of your water, invest in a filter, which will still cost you less than a bottled water habit.
What are your best tips for saving money at home? For more tips, shop our edit of personal-finance reads.
Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals by Caroline Wright ( $13 ) ($10)