Ridiculously Easy Ways to Keep More Money in Your Pocket

It happens every year around the holidays.?Usually I’ve had a few drinks on New Years Eve and I make a promise to myself (I hate calling it a ?resolution?) that I’ll be better at handling my finances in the coming year.?But, as the new year gets less new, I forget my beer-buzz-inspired plans.?The credit card debt remains and spur-of-the-moment purchases put we woefully over-budget.

Maybe the key is to be simpler.?Rather than pursuing abstract money-saving goals, in 2012, I’m going to take some real steps to keep more money in my pocket.?I’m not going to stoop to clipping coupons or shopping at Goodwill, but I have started to compile a list of simple money-saving ideas that won’t take much effort and won’t leave me looking like too much of a cheapskate.?I’ve even gotten ahead start and have been pleasantly surprised with the results.

Expensive computer programs are almost completely unnecessary.

Fill your pockets!

I am writing this article using Open Office Writer, an absolutely free word processing program that does almost everything that Microsoft Word does.?Open Office actually has a whole suite of products that mimic MS Office, making it unnecessary to spend $100 or more on the programs.?Even more specialized programs have shareware alternatives. Inkscape can do many of the things that Adobe Illustrator can do.?GIMP (an acronym of GNU Image Manipulation Program), is a similarly feature-rich and free alternative to Photoshop.

Sure, if you are a pro, you still might want to spring for the Adobe Creative Suite, but only if you’ve already looked at the shareware versions of its programs and found that they can’t do everything that you need.?The same goes for any other type of software: make sure you really need it before you buy it.? Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of all the free alternatives out there.

Why do I have to pay so much for my cell phone bill?

I recently realized that I could get by paying about 30% of what I used to pay for phone service.?I switched to a MVNO (short for mobile virtual network operator), a small company that rents space on a big company’s network (like Verizon or AT&T) and then offers discounted service to customers.?Some of the plans seem almost ridiculously cheap and many don’t require any sort of contract.?You can save even more if you cut out data plans and simply use your phone for talking and texting.?I purchase enough data to check my email and then rely on wireless internet (come on, even McDonald’s has wifi now, so saying that you can’t find it really isn’t an excuse) when I need do do something that requires more megabytes.

Buy bulk.

So buying bulk food is something that your grandma, who is frugal to a fault because she grew up during the Great Depression, does.?But for certain things, it doesn’t matter if you buy large quantities.? It helps to think from the end when it comes to this type of shopping.?By that I mean thinking about the overall price per unit of product versus how much you have to pay upfront for a big box of whatever it is you are buying. Bulk-buying is hard with food, unless you eat a lot of canned products or pastas and other dried foods.?But what about batteries, toilet paper, soap, or even condoms.?These things are not going to get old, so you can buy them by the 100 and get a super-low price per unit.

Getting your caffeine fix.

Caffeine is my addiction of choice. When it comes to my morning cup of coffee, I have no will-power or self-control.?I can’t start a day without it.?But I can get my fix at home from a coffee pot instead of from Starbucks or one of its high-priced peers.? I’ve already taken this money-saving step and have gone from spending $5 per day, to $5 per week.? Don’t worry, you can still stop by your local ‘Bucks occasionally to flirt with the pretty barista.?Since you’re saving money you can afford to get her attention with a generous tip…? Or maybe coffee isn’t your vice, but there is something else that you can save money by doing at home (packing your own lunch for work instead of hitting the McD’s every afternoon, for example).

Carrying these ideas into 2012 will hopefully save some cash.?I think it’s important to keep in mind, though, that money is for spending, so getting too carried away with the frugalness is as bad as getting into debt by over-spending.? Saving money so that you can have a better lifestyle is not the same as saving money just for the sake of saving money.

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About Josh Lew Josh Lew lives in the Midwestern US when he is not traveling. He is a columnist for Gadling and has contributed to Hackwriters and Skive Magazine.

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