I like saving money, but not to the point where it seriously infringes on my lifestyle and makes me look like a cheapskate. For instance, I'm sure if I never turned the lights on in my house, never took showers, and read books and ate dinner by candlelight, I could save a lot money. But, I'm not Amish and happen to really enjoy electricity. My favorite ways to save money are when you don't really know that you're doing it—sneaky ways that add up to a good amount of extra dough at the end of the year. Here are five ways to save $20 a week, without changing your life in any significant way.
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1. Make Coffee at Home
Back when I worked a 9-to-5 job, a Starbucks opened up inside my office complex. I went at least once a day, sometimes twice a day if I was avoiding my boss, and spent around $4.50 a cup. At six times a week, that added up to a cost of $27 per week, $117 per month, and $1,404 per year. Now, I make coffee recipes at home. A bag of coffee costs around $5, the creamer costs around $3, and both last me at least two weeks. That's a difference of $23 every single week.
2. Sign Up for Store Rewards Cards
Most major grocery stores and drugstores have their own rewards card, which you can use to get access to the sales and special discounts. Some stores, like CVS Pharmacy, also let you earn points with every purchase. Once a month or so, you can cash in those points for gift certificates at the store. Between the sales and other rewards, you can save up to $200 a month. I typically save around $20 a week by using the rewards card at my grocery store.
Better yet, find a dual purpose rewards card and make most of your purchases at that store. Several grocery stores, including Winn Dixie, Tom Thumb, and Kroger, also give you gas discounts. At Winn Dixie, for example, I earn $0.50 off a gallon for every $50 I spend on groceries. The program doesn't have a cap and I've had discounts on gas when I went to filled up on more than one occasion. [In Pictures: 10 Ways to Save on Big-Ticket Items]
3. Clip Coupons
Using coupons can easily save you $20 or more per week. Although most people know that they need to use coupons at the grocery store, you don't need to stop there. Many other places accept coupons as well, including drugstores and major chains like Walmart. For even more savings, learn how to extreme coupon by timing the use of your coupons with store sales and promotions. Online coupon codes are another source of untapped savings for many people. Before you make any purchase online, do a quick search to see if the retailer has any available coupons. Several websites collect a database on all the coupons available online. RetailMeNot.com is a good one to keep bookmarked for your online shopping needs.
4. Eat One More Meal at Home a Week
I love eating out at restaurants, so I used to go out to eat at least twice a week, sometimes more. Then I looked at my spending over the past few months and noticed that I spent $20 to $25 per meal on average, or $40 to $50 a week. Since I cut it down to only once a week, I save about $20. You can save even more as a couple or a family with kids. If you'd rather not limit your trips eating out, at least look for restaurant discounts and coupons or utilize group buying daily deals sites to cut costs.
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5. Hang Your Clothes to Dry
Your dryer is to blame for a good chunk of your utility bill each month. And if you have kids, you probably do a lot of laundry. In fact, you could easily spend over $100 a month powering up the dryer for each load. But if you stop using the dryer altogether and hang your clothes outside on a line instead, you can save that money. Hanging your clothes can work for apartment dwellers who do their laundry at the local laundromat as well. I used to spend $3 per load each time I used the laundromat's dryers—five to seven loads a week. To save money, I started washing the clothes at the laundromat and hauling the wet loads back home. As long as I hang them up quickly, they don't mildew or wrinkle.
You don't have to be a miser who never leaves home or never turns on the lights in order to save every penny possible. With a few simple changes, you can save an extra $20 per week. Whether you're saving for a dream vacation, a kid's college fund, or retirement, you'll reach your goal that much faster. What other small changes can you make in your life to save $20 per week?
Angela Colley is a Money Crashers contributor who lives in New Orleans. In addition to frugal and green living, her interests include real estate, animal rights, and mob movies.