Letting Your Tires Deflate
Gas is expensive, but air is free—and using enough of it can actually help you use less gas. According to the guys at Car Talk, your gas mileage is 0.4% worse for every pound that your tires are under-inflated. So if your tires are down by just ten pounds, you’re using 4% more gas—that’s an extra gallon for every 25 gallons that you buy.
Bottom line: Read your owner’s manual for the correct tire pressure for your car’s make and model, and check your tires regularly—especially in the wintertime, when tires lose pressure as the air gets colder.
The Car Talk guys also suggest an even easier way to save gas: slow down! Gas mileage is less cost effective at higher speeds—going just 10 m.p.h. faster costs you 15% in fuel economy.
Being Overly Brand Loyal
Buying store brands instead of brand-name products will save you an average of 25% on your grocery bill. In fact, Consumer Reports found that a shopping cart full of the same items cost $66 if store brands were chosen compared to $164 for name brands.
And shopping this way doesn’t have to mean a sacrifice in quality, either. Consumer Reports recently taste-tested 19 grocery store staples and found that, in ten cases, store brands were just as good. Cranberry juice, granola bars and Greek yogurt were just a few of the items that stood up to brand name counterparts. They also point out that many name-brand manufacturers produce store-branded products, so you could be getting basically the same frozen French fries for less.
Leaving Electronics Plugged In
Nowadays most of our electronics aren’t really off when you flip the off switch—those gadgets are still sucking a bit of electricity, so they’re ready to spring into action when you need them.
For example, a laptop computer uses around 29 watts when it’s turned on, over 15 watts when you put it to sleep and 8.9 while it’s turned off. Using one watt per year costs about a dollar, so your plugged-in laptop will use almost nine dollars of electricity per year even if you never turn it on. That may not seem like much, but the average home has dozens of these little vampires feeding on electricity, which you can see for yourself in this handy chart from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
The only way to keep devices from using excess power is to unplug them. But since constant unplugging can wear out the wires, the lab suggests only unplugging appliances that are used infrequently, and plugging the rest into power strips with on-off switches.
You’re a busy person, and making your own lunch means planning ahead. For many of us, it’s simply easier to run out to the deli come lunchtime. Sure, it probably costs more, but the difference probably isn’t that much, right?
Well, one blogger actually tried his own brown-bag experiment, and he found that when he and his wife started bringing lunch to work, they saved over $1,000 a year!
It’s also the healthier option, since you have complete control over the ingredients—and no one’s asking if you want fries with that. Still think you don’t have the time? Consider this: Is it really faster to wait in line at the deli five times a week than buy groceries once and throw together a sandwich the night before?
Paying ATM Fees
If you use an ATM from a bank that’s not your own, you’ll often be charged a fee both by that bank and your own—which can add up to several dollars per transaction.
Sometimes all it takes to avoid a fee is to walk another block (or drive a little further down the road) to a machine at your own bank. And if your bank doesn’t have a branch nearby, some chain stores and supermarkets will give you cash back when you pay for a purchase using your ATM card. You can also download the Allpoint mobile app to help you find ATMs that don’t pile on the surcharges.
Pumping Premium Gas
The word “premium” may sound like an extra special treat for your car, but don’t be fooled: Premium isn’t necessarily better. Read your owner’s manual: If it doesn’t specify that your car was built to require the more expensive gas, you’re just wasting money using premium.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, higher octane premium gas won’t do a thing for a car that doesn’t need it. So it won’t make your car perform better, get better gas mileage or make it run cleaner—all grades of gas are required by the EPA to contain additives that prevent deposits from building up in your engine. In rare cases, if your car is making a heavy, consistent pinging or knocking sound, a higher grade gas might clear it up. But don’t bother for an occasional, light pinging, which won’t damage your engine.
Taking Coffee Breaks
Yes, you need your java fix. But do you know what it’s really costing you when you buy it at the gourmet coffee bar every day? One survey found that half of Americans purchase coffee regularly while at work, costing them an average of $1,000 a year.
Of course, one obvious way to save is to pick up a plain cup of joe instead of a raspberry-white-chocolate mocha with whipped cream—a drink that can cost the same as an entire can of supermarket beans. But even if you make that sacrifice, you’re still spending more than you need to. According to this Consumer Reports table, the average price of 12 ounces of coffee at a national chain will cost you $1.50—compared to 33 cents if you make it at home.