Most days I wake up and find myself wishing I were independently wealthy, living off my substantial trust fund. I could go on trips and hire people to pay my bills for me. I could be comfortable. I could not worry about saving money because I'd already have a bank account full of it.
Alas, this is but a dream.
I am not independently wealthy, and I have to work to support myself. I have to pay my own bills, so I know exactly how much everything costs, from my expensive electric bill to my more expensive cell phone bill.
It's exhausting, but it's reality. As a result, I'm constantly looking for ways to save money and stretch every dollar I make. This mentality is what helps me save for friend trips to other countries, tickets to concerts and multi-course anniversary dinners. The kinds of experiences you remember forever, you know?
In that spirit, here are 11 easy things you (and I) can do every day to save money.
1. Make your own coffee three times a week.
Spending 2 dollars here on a coffee and 4 dollars there on a latte doesn't seem like much, but it really adds up after a while. Instead make your own coffee at home Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Save fancy barista coffee for Monday and Friday as a special treat to start and end the week.
2. Go grocery shopping — with a list — every week.
The more groceries you have in your house, the more options you'll have for meals and the more likely you'll be to eat at home. The more you eat at home and cook those raw ingredients, the more money you'll save on restaurants and takeout. It's simple logic.
But grocery shopping is more than the effort of pushing a shopping cart through the aisles. You want to make sure you're shopping smart once you're there, too. Preparing a list will help you avoid last-minute decisions driven by exhaustion and hunger.
No more will you be compulsively snacking on graham crackers while throwing anything that sounds remotely appetizing in your cart.
3. Use those groceries to pack breakfast and/or lunch for work every day.
As you're making your dinner at night, prepare an extra portion for the next day's lunch. And in the morning as you're getting ready, leave an extra five minutes to prepare a quick, delicious breakfast. If you eat both meals at work, you will be satisfied throughout the day and won't feel the need to run out and buy snacks to tide you over.
Of course, if you don't have time to pack both meals, that's totally okay. Even packing one is a step in the right direction.
4. Don't buy your household items at grocery stores.
Products like toilet paper, paper towels and laundry detergent are marked up at grocery stores. Don't settle for a higher price, even if it is convenient. Shop online or go to drug stores and big-box stores to get prices that are more in line with your budget.
5. Unplug "phantom appliances" like your cable box when you leave your home.
As the New York Times reported, about one-fourth of all residential energy consumption goes toward devices that are off or in sleep mode while still plugged in. Appliances like cable boxes, coffee pots, TVs and modems are using energy — whether you think you turned them off or not.
If you unplug such appliances before leaving the house, this will cut your electricity bill AND save energy. You'll be doing something good for your bank account and the environment.
6. Embrace using coupons and rebates!
Taking advantage of coupons and rebates doesn't make you old. It makes you smart, thrifty and prudent.
If you buy something for 90 dollars and you have a 200-dollar rebate, you would be crazy not to send that in the mail ASAP. That's free money! And if you buy a head of lettuce for 4 dollars instead of using a coupon that would make it 2 dollars? That's just silly.
Pro tip: Even specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods offer competitive deals every week — you just have to be on the lookout for them.
7. Invest in a reusable water bottle so you aren't constantly buying bottles of water with lunch.
Most of us are lucky enough to live in a place where water is an abundant resource. There are faucets in your home and your office, and sometimes even a filtration system. So, instead of buying bottles of water, take advantage of those resources and purchase a reusable water bottle.
For all you seltzer fans out there, you should also look into buying a soda maker, which will turn that tap water into the stuff of your dreams. Your reusable water bottle will be the perfect storage vessel for your precious sparkling water.
8. Transfer at least 1 dollar every day into your savings account.
Just think, if you can put aside at least 1 dollar every day for your savings account, you'll have saved 365 dollars in only a year. That's no small amount. And if there are days when you can put aside more because you were extra good that week, then you could end up with even more money at the end of the year.
To make this process simpler, you could even join a service like Digit, which links to your bank account and automatically withdraws small sums of money multiple times a month. It then transfers that money into a personal savings account that you can withdraw at any time.
9. Always eat the free food in the office.
There is no shame in indulging in free office food. It's constantly someone's birthday or baby shower, so why not reap the benefits? Have at it! You'll also be less hungry later in the day, so instead of opting for a large meal, you can buy or cook a cheaper snack.
10. Research where your impending big purchase is the cheapest.
Just as you can never be too young to clip coupons, you can never be too young to shop for the best price. When you're buying an appliance, a plane ticket or anything else that will stretch your wallet, be smart about it and look around, both in-store and online. You may even save enough money to make two big purchases.
11. Opt for BYOB restaurants and skip the apps.
This one pains me too, I know. But alcohol and appetizers are what usually take your restaurant bill from manageable to ridiculous. Skip the apps and opt for a more filling meal instead.
Plus, just think about it: If you're at a BYOB restaurant, your group of friends can share a bottle of wine for the price of one glass. The math really does add up.