Between gas, groceries, rent, and other bills, it may not take long for your paycheck to vanish from your bank account. Even if this feels like an unfortunate part of growing up, it doesn’t have to be that way. From being mindful of little purchases to rethinking your large expenses, there are plenty of ways to save money without drastically changing your lifestyle. For starters, here are nine places you can easily cut costs.
Generic drugs are required to meet the same FDA standards as name brands, but they can cost up to 40 percent less. Instead of wasting money on fancy packaging and a recognizable name, opt for the generic brand instead when buying medicine over the counter. It’s also worth looking to see if you could be getting your prescription drugs for much cheaper. Next time you visit the doctor, make sure to bring a copy of your formulary—a list of drugs preferred by your health insurance plan—for them to reference before writing your prescription. You should be able to find this list by visiting your health insurance company’s website.
You may be willing to shell out some extra dough to ensure your locks are in good hands. American men spend an average of $28 on haircuts while women pay about $44. These prices get even steeper in big cities—in New York the average women’s haircut costs around $73, and you can easily spend over $100 (plus tip!). But there are easy ways to cut back these costs without sacrificing the quality of your ’do. If you visit the barber or hairdresser every two weeks to keep your short hair in shape, consider cutting your visits down to once a month. If you spend $28 on your haircuts, this would bring your yearly cost down from $672 to $336 (and that’s not including what you’d be saving on tips). You can also scope out sites like Groupon and Living Social for cheap haircut deals from normally expensive, high-quality salons.
3. BANK FEES
Just having a bank account may be costing you more money than you realize. Bank of America, for example, charges members a “maintenance fee” of $12 a month for having a regular checking account. To potentially have this fee waived, read your account's fine print closely: If you meet a certain number of requirements (like maintaining a minimum daily balance or having a certain number of bills paid automatically from the account each month), this fee could disappear.
4. GIFT CARDS
If you’re paying the full price for gift cards, then you’re paying too much. Instead of purchasing cards from the stores themselves, browse sites like CardCash, where gift cards can be purchased for less than face value. Shoppers can find cards from brands like iTunes, Xbox Live, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Starbucks. And even if you have no one to gift them to, you can always stock up and reap the savings yourself.
You likely know that turning the lights off when you leave a room and switching to more efficient products saves you energy, but other tips may not be so obvious. One significant source of energy waste comes from “phantom usage,” which is when plugs sap small amounts of electricity from your sockets even when they’re not in use. The energy taken by one plug isn’t enough to make a big difference, but if you add up all the devices you leave plugged in 24/7 you’ll begin to see an impact. According to Energy.gov, these so-called “energy vampires” can add 10 percent or more to your monthly utility bill. Cut your energy costs by unplugging your charger cables, television, game consoles, toaster, etc. when they’re not being used.
It takes immense willpower to walk out of your favorite bookstore without an armful of new reading material. New books are nice to own, but with many hard-covers costing near $30, every title you add to your home library rakes a small chunk out of your bank account. Instead of paying the full price for a story you plan to read once, you can pick up the same exact book for free at your local library. And if you’re a member of the e-reader camp (which can end up costing you just as much) many libraries also offer free e-book downloads as well. Amazon Prime also has an option to share e-books with other Kindle owners (but this only applies to a select few titles).
7. CELL PHONE BILLS
Just like you can’t avoid living with a cell phone, you can’t avoid those pesky cell phone bills that come each month. If you feel like you’re paying too much for your services, consider looking into switching carriers, contracts, or even phones. One simple way to save is by ditching your multi-year contract. Opt for an installment plan instead that allows you to pay for your handset through monthly, no-interest payments over a couple of years. According to Consumer Reports, making the switch could save you up to $360 a year after you’ve paid your phone off.
8. CAR INSURANCE
It’s hard to turn on a TV, pass a billboard, or browse the Internet without being reminded of all the ways you can save on your car insurance. While repetitive, those advertisements have a good point: An easy way to cut your current car insurance bill is to shop around. Even if you find a great deal but don’t feel like switching providers, you can always show those figures to your insurer in hopes of negotiating your price down.
9. ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE
Antivirus software is not something you should try to get by without, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay the full price for it. There are plenty of options out there that offer significant protection for no cost at all. You can check out PCWorld's list of top free antivirus options to see which program would work best for your computer.