The average American household spent approximately $3,900 on groceries, $2,600 on dining out, $2,600 on entertainment and $9,000 on transportation in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The following tips could help your family save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.
$ave on food
1. Dining out costs a bundle, even if it’s pizza or fast food. Pack a cooler for road trips, have friends over to grill out, and freeze meals that can be easily prepared on busy nights.
2. If you do dine out, look for deals online at sites like Restaurant.com, mykidseatfree.com and others.
3. Stick to your list. How many times have you gone to the store for a “few things” and come out with a receipt for a hundred dollars or more? Impulse buys add up quickly.
4. Growing a vegetable garden costs very little, and you can save a lot of money.
5. Buy food from local farmers’ markets, which typically costs much less than at the grocery store.
6. Freeze food and store it in airtight containers to reduce waste. Don’t discard food on the “sell by” date - most food can last at least 15 days past that date. According to AARP, the average American family wastes approximately $1,600 in food annually.
7. Drink tap water instead of bottled water. Eliminating soft drinks also saves a lot of money.
$ave on travel
1. If your schedule is flexible, you can find better deals by traveling during the off-season, or at the beginning or end of peak season.
2. To get the best deals, book flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. January and February are the best months.
3. Visit Costtodrive.com to determine whether it’s cheaper to fly or drive to your destination.
4. Consider taking a bus, which is cheaper than a plane or train. Intercity bus services such as BoltBus and Megabus offer steep discounts for booking early online, and they offer free WiFi and power outlets.
5. To get the lowest car rental rate, compare on websites like CarRentals.com, VroomVroomVroom.com, Hotwire.com and Priceline.com.
6. Rent compact cars, which are fuel efficient, less expensive, and not as popular with renters. Because fewer are available, you might be eligible for a free upgrade.
7. To find a large, comfortable place to stay for the price of a hotel – or even less – consider renting an apartment or a home through services such as VRBO.com.
8. Roll clothes to save space. Pack what you need into a single carry-on bag to save on baggage fees.
9. Ask for tourist discount cards at larger retailers or department stores, which can save you up to 11 percent off purchases.
$ave on utilities
1. Cut the cord on cable television. Many shows are available for free online, or through streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu for a small subscription fee.
2. If you don’t want to ditch cable or satellite TV, contact your provider. They’re fighting to keep customers, so discounts are often available.
3. Close doors to rooms you don’t use during the day to save money on heating and cooling.
4. Turn your air-conditioned temperature up or your heat down by just a few degrees to noticeably reduce your energy bill. A programmable thermostat can automatically adjust the temperature to further save energy when you go to bed or leave the house.
5. Turn off unused appliances and electronics that drain power. Unplug cell phones and other gadgets that are fully charged.
6. Open the drapes on sunny winter days to help warm your home. In the summer, close your drapes to keep things cooler.
7. Reset your water heater to 130 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to clean dishes and clothes and for a warm shower. The default setting is typically 140 to 160 degrees.
8. Check around doors and windows for drafts and seal them.
9. Replace older household appliances with energy-efficient models.
10. Turn down the brightness on your big screen TV, which is usually set at very bright for showroom display.
11. Use bathroom and kitchen vents sparingly during the summer or winter. They blow cooled or heated air outside.
12. For heating small portions of food, use a microwave. It uses 80 percent less energy than a stovetop.
13. Replace light bulbs with low-energy compact fluorescents or LED bulbs.
14. Switch to gas appliances, which typically cost less to run than electric.
15. Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when you have a full load.
16. Take showers instead of baths, and limit length. Low-flow showerheads and water faucets can reduce water bills.