“Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck.” This old saying holds true today, because every penny that you save contributes to your overall wealth. It isn’t luck that gives people comfortable savings; it’s hard work and good savings habits.
To save money for long term goals, consider the following ideas for helping to manage everyday expenses such as food, housing, transportation, healthcare, and lottery tickets.
Eat Healthy, Spend Less
One effective way to save money involves the meals you eat every day. In his book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan writes, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He’s not suggesting that everyone should be a vegetarian, but he does recommend that people eat real food made with simple ingredients – which can be less expensive than processed foods.
One way to eat healthy and spend less is to make food at home using fresh ingredients. While eating out may sometimes appear to save you money, most restaurant items can be made at home cheaper and healthier. Another way to eat healthy and spend less is to purchase and prepare only the amount of food you will eat. Americans throw out almost 35 million tons of food per year; when spread out across each individual, this translates to big dollar savings if you only purchase what you’re going to eat.
Eating healthy also has some long-term cost savings as well. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “The best way to keep your medical costs low is to stay healthy by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and making other healthy choices.” Diets high in sugar, fat and carbohydrates contribute to diabetes and heart disease, which cause higher medical expenses, prescription costs and insurance premiums later on in life.
Economize Your Housing and Material Possessions
Downsize your living expenses, starting with your home. If you live in a much larger space than you need, you’re not only paying a higher rent or mortgage, but also higher costs for utilities, cleaning and maintenance. Give yourself a smaller “footprint” and you can save money on the monthly mortgage or rent, as well as daily expenses.
Do an energy audit of your home. Look for and repair leaks that contribute to high heating and air conditioning costs. Have the whole family review good usage habits such as:
- Turning off lights when you leave a room
- Keeping doors and windows closed when the AC or heat is on
- Running the dishwasher and washer/dryer only with full loads
Don’t purchase things that you don’t really need. Look in your closet. If you find clothing you have worn only once, adjust your shopping habits; buying it on sale costs more than never buying it.
Use Alternative Transportation
Walk, ride a bike or use public transportation when you can. Gas is not the only cost you incur by driving a car. With insurance, depreciation, parking and maintenance included, the costs of operating a car are significant and can be avoided through alternative means of transportation. If you decide to drive, plan your trips so that you travel efficiently and avoid last-minute shopping or back-and-forth driving.
Manage Healthcare Costs
Healthcare is one of the largest budget items for most households and it’s growing at a phenomenal rate. Average annual healthcare cost for a family of four is now more than $24,000. Eat well, exercise regularly and stop smoking to help your body avoid sickness and disease. With a heathy lifestyle, you can minimize doctor visits, medications and possible loss of income due to the inability to work. Some insurance companies even provide rebates if you demonstrate wellness activities.
In addition to long-term cost avoidance, consider these immediate health-related savings opportunities:
- Use generic drugs for savings over branded products. These savings amounted to $239 billion across the U.S. in 2013.
- Give up or reduce smoking cigarettes to save up to $3,700 a year for a single pack-a-day habit.
- Be sure you understand your insurance plan and take advantage of benefits. Choose service providers included in your plan, file claims promptly, practice self-care and keep current on wellness visits to minimize unexpected trips to the hospital.
Make Every Dollar Count
You may want to consider no longer buying lottery tickets – they may cost only a dollar or two, but it adds up. According to the Consumer Federation of America, 21% percent of people think that winning the lottery represents the most practical way to accumulate several hundred thousand dollars. Instead of spending ten dollars a week on lottery tickets, put that money into your retirement fund.
When you combine all of these savings, you can do a lot to accomplish your goals, big and small. There are a number of practical ways you can save money, and you may end up healthier and happier as a result.