If you’ve ever searched for articles online about how to save money, you’ve probably noticed that much of what you read wasn’t terribly helpful. Half of the articles about saving money are filled with “tips” that aren’t particularly actionable and are definitely ideas you could have come up with on your own.
“Set a budget and stick with it!” “Put a little money away every month!”
As if you weren’t already trying to do those things.
Sometimes, it feels almost impossible to save money no matter what you do. You already buy household consumables in bulk whenever possible. You’ve already cancelled services you aren’t using, and you’ve already slashed your budget for take-out food and drive-through coffee. You need to find more opportunities for savings, and that’s where this article is going to help. We’re going to provide four insanely actionable tips that can put an extra $285 into your pocket each month right now. Let’s dive in!
Switch from Bottled Water to Filtered Water
Savings: $100 per month
Are you a bottled water fan? There’s an excellent chance that you are; the global bottled water industry is worth a massive $217.66 billion per year. That’s an insane number of plastic bottles that require an enormous amount of fossil fuel to create and, for the most part, aren’t recycled. Bottled water is also incredibly expensive, with even cheaper brands usually costing around $1.00 per bottle.
The worst thing about bottled water is that it’s usually just filtered municipal water, which has an average cost of a couple of cents per gallon. Why are you giving a company an enormous markup to filter your water when you could do the same job yourself?
A family of four that uses one bottle of low-cost water per person per day will spend around $1,460 per year – and that’s a conservative estimate. Filtering your own water, on the other hand, might cost around $100 per year in replacement filters. The increase to your existing water bill will be negligible – perhaps a few dollars a month. After a month or two, a good reverse-osmosis water filter will pay for itself. After that, you can expect to save at least $100 per month.
Switch from Cigarettes to Vapes
Savings: $130 per month
If you smoke, your biggest unnecessary monthly expense is staring you in the face every time you light up. In the United States, the average price for a pack of cigarettes is $6.65 as of 2022. That’s $2,427 a year if you’re a pack-a-day smoker – and if you live in a state with extremely high tobacco taxes, you might spend far more than that.
You’re probably aware of vaping, and maybe you’ve opted not to buy a vaping device from a company like Premium Vape because you’re a committed fan of tobacco and don’t think that you could ever give it up. Well, now is the time to reevaluate that decision. Health experts largely agree that vaping is significantly less risky than smoking and that it could lead to a better health outcome later in life. Vaping also smells infinitely better than smoking.
If those facts aren’t enough to sway you, though, switch for the savings instead. Even if you use nothing but disposable vapes – generally the most expensive vaping devices – today’s high-capacity disposable vapes deliver as much nicotine as about two cartons of cigarettes at a dramatically lower cost. Let’s suppose, though, that you turn out to be a heavy vaper, and you need to buy a disposable vape every week. That’s still a savings of about $1,560 per year. That’s $130 per month.
Switch from Coffee to Tea
Savings: $15 per month
Thanks to high consumer demand and unfavorable weather, coffee growers have found it impossible to keep up with consumer demand over the past couple of years. The price of coffee futures doubled in 2021, and that trend seems unlikely to change any time soon. What does that mean for you as a consumer? An 18-ounce bag of ground coffee from a major coffee chain costs $9.98 on Amazon as of early 2022. That’s enough coffee for about 50 cups. If you and your spouse each drink two cups of coffee per day, you’ll need to buy about 30 bags per year at a total cost of around $300. You’re spending double that amount if you buy K-Cups, but we’ll stick with this conservative estimate.
Spending $300 a year on coffee might not sound like such a terrible thing. As we’ve shown in this article, though, several small expenses can add up to a very large number. As an alternative, try switching to tea. Tea hasn’t experienced the same drastic price increases that coffee has over the past couple of years. You can expect to spend around $9.00 for 100 tea bags – and that’s if you’re buying a premium brand. If you buy a middle-of-the-road brand, you can save even more. Switching from coffee to tea can easily result in a savings of $15 per month.
Switch from an Unlimited Phone Plan to a Roll-Your-Own Plan
Savings: $40 per month
If you use your phone as a replacement for a computer and simply can’t handle not having an Internet connection wherever you go, this money-saving idea might not be appropriate for you. There’s a good chance, though, that you’re paying for an unlimited data plan that’s completely unnecessary for your needs because you use your phone over a Wi-Fi connection more often than not. Why pay $60 per month for an unlimited phone plan – and some plans are far more expensive than that – when you could pay just for what you actually use instead? A roll-your own plan with plenty of minutes, messages and data for most users costs around $20 per month.
Now That You Have Some Extra Money, What Should You Do with It?
By making four simple switches, you’ve managed to save $285 a month. What do you do with that extra money? Leaving it in your checking account is the worst thing that you can do because you’ll undoubtedly just spend the extra money on something else. If you want your savings to grow into a truly meaningful amount, you need to put that money to work for you.
Start by paying off your debts, starting with the ones that have the highest interest rates. It’s unwise to invest money, for instance, if you’re carrying a balance on a credit card with an APR of 20 percent because your investment isn’t likely to grow at a rate of 20 percent per year. Once your mortgage and car payments are your only outstanding debts, you’re in good shape to begin investing because the stock market grows at an average of 10 percent per year.
You’re probably thinking that putting away $285 per month doesn’t sound like a fast way to become a millionaire – and it’s definitely not. You will, however, get there eventually. The best part is that it’s never been easier to create an account at a brokerage and buy a few shares of a total-market index fund every month.
What can you expect if you make the four changes outlined in this article and invest the saved money every month at an average growth rate of 10 percent per year? With a monthly investment of $285 and a 10 percent rate of growth, your account would grow to a total value of:
- $59,291 after 10 years
- $219,662 after 20 years
- $655,537 after 30 years
- $1,840,203 after 40 years
Somewhere between the 30- and 40-year marks, you’ll become a millionaire – and that’s on a monthly investment of just $285. That sounds like a pretty good reason to buy a water filter and some tea bags.