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Aug 012012
 August 1, 2012  Posted by  Money

With back-to-school practically here, you may be looking for ways to free up some cash to pay for college, afford your children’s school supplies or just be able to sock away more money for retirement. Recently, I revisited some of my original frugal roots to come up with these five ways to put $500 back in your pocket this month.

These tips are a good reminder if you’ve fallen off the frugal wagon or never hitched a ride. You may have heard much of this advice before. But have you actually put it into practice? Maybe the numbers I show you below will change your mind and finally convince you to follow this money-saving advice.

  1. Cut coffee spending.
    The average American drinks 1,132 cups annually — or about 3.1 cups of coffee per day — and spends $1,562 a year on brewed coffee or $2,773 on espresso drinks at stores, restaurants and coffee shops. The cost to brew the same number of cups of coffee at home is just $147 (13 cents per cup) or $294 (26 cents per cup with a K cup). By making your coffee at home, you can save between $1,415 and $2,626 per year or between $118 and $219 per month. Even if you have upgraded to a Keurig machine, you could invest $18 in a reusable K-cup and slash your per-cup cost at home from 26 cents to 13 cents.
    Monthly Savings Brewing Coffee at Home: between $118 and $219.
  2. Switch to a refillable water bottle.
    Water that comes out of the tap is free. However, did you know that bottled water is more expensive than gas? If you were buying bottled water by the gallon as you do gas, you would pay about $10 per gallon. As it is, Americans spend about $1,400 a year on bottled water, or about $117 a month. If you got a refillable, reusable water bottle and filled it from the tap, you would save not only money but trash from cluttering up landfills.
    Monthly Savings Using Refillable Water Bottle: $117.
  3. Pack your lunch.
    Americans who eat out for lunch every weekday spend, on average, about $7 per meal. I’m sure those living in big cities spend way more. Nonetheless, one survey showed that by eating lunch out five days a week, you spend $1,820 a year on lunch, or about $152 per month. If you started to pack your lunch, you would incur some grocery costs in buying what you need to make lunch, but by bringing your lunch, you would save nearly $2,000 a year. Also, with the kids going back to school, you have the potential to save even more by packing their lunches, too.
    Monthly Savings from Packing Lunch: $152.
  4. Switch how you make telephone calls.
    Our family used to spend about $750 a year on phone service from the phone company. After discovering creative ways to make our calls without spending that kind of cash, we are saving big bucks every month. One option for making calls free — especially if you are already paying for high-speed Internet — is a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) system like the Ooma Telo. This VOIP device can be hooked up to your existing modem, allowing you to make unlimited long-distance calls within the United States free. Your only upfront cost is for the Ooma Telo device, which is $199. Consumer Reports just ranked Ooma Telo as the number one home phone device.
    Monthly Savings for Changing How You Make Calls at Home: $40 to $50.
  5. Get cash back for recycling ink cartridges.
    Nearly every home in the United States has some sort of computer printer, and those printers go through a lot of ink. Rather than toss used ink cartridges in your recycling bin, bring them to an office supply store that will not only recycle them for you, but will also give you cash back. At Staples, for example, you can earn up to $20 per month — you get $2 per recycled ink cartridge, up to 10 cartridges per month. That adds up to $240 back in your pocket each year.
    Monthly Savings for Recycling Ink Cartridges: $20.

When you’re living frugally or on the cheap, it’s always a good idea to review your finances on a regular basis so you can find new ways to save. We hope these five tips helped you find some big savings in your monthly budget.

What are your top tips for putting more money in your pocket this month?


Leah Ingram

One comment on “5 ways to save $500 this month

  1. JulieCC on said:

    Regarding #4 – we opted to use Google Voice for our home landline. It’s free (even tax-free) for all U.S. calling and international calls are dirt cheap. All we needed was a VOIP box from Obi which was about $42 from

    The great thing about Google Voice is it transcribes (admittedly sometimes not very accurate!) all voicemails which are accessible online with G.V or Gmail, or via an Android smartphone. We can also have the G.V. number ring our cell phones at the same time as the landline, which is nice when we’re away from home.

    The only drawback, and I believe this is true for all VOIP call systems, is you cannot make emergency 911 calls from it. But we have three cell phones. We attached stickers to the back of each cordless phone with our local police and fire phone numbers just in case.

    Our cell phone usage has been cut by 80% with adding back in a landline this way. Also, we can yet again send and receive faxes from home, which was annoying when we were without a landline.