We’ve said it plenty of times before and we’ll say it again — little expenses can cost you a lot more each month than you probably even realize.
If you don’t track your expenses, chances are you have no idea just how much damage those little costs are doing to your monthly budget.
Even if you do have a good idea of how much you’re spending, and you’re even able to save a decent amount, there are likely still things you’re wasting money on every month.
Read more: 19 smart money moves you can make today
What seems like a small expense may actually be a really big one
And here’s why you should care: identifying the small, often unnecessary, expenses that are eating away at your hard-earned money can help you save more toward your goals, pay off a big debt you’ve been avoiding and get you one step closer to reaching financial freedom.
Financial success isn’t something that happens overnight — slow and steady wins the race. Making small changes can have a big impact over time — and for many people, a much bigger impact than you think!
In a recent article for Business Insider, Jacquelyn Smith explained how she and her husband decided to make a few lifestyle changes with the goal of kicking bad habits — like watching too much TV and buying unhealthy lunches every day — in order to implement better ones.
They were moving from a small New York City apartment to the suburbs and decided it was a great time to start making some changes.
After just a couple of months, they noticed something else that was starting to change: their credit card bills.
‘After noticing that my credit card bill has been lower these past few months, I decided to find out why,’ Smith wrote.
Here’s what they found.
These small changes saved one couple $1,200 a month
1. They bring lunch to work instead of buying it
After sifting through their bills, Smith and her husband figured out that they were each spending about $11 a day on lunch — or about $110 a week and $485 per month.
Now, they stock up at the grocery every Sunday night and bring their lunches to work. Assuming they each go out to lunch once per week, they’ve reduced that one expense down to just $205.
That saves them $280 a month.
2. They cook dinner instead of ordering it
The Smiths were living in a small New York City apartment and cooking wasn’t really ideal in such a small space. So they ordered out almost every night and went out to dinner once a week.
Those six takeout nights were costing them about $25 each — or about $660 a month!
Seeing the pattern here?
After they realized how much they could save on lunch, they decided to start cooking dinner, too. They spend $50 a week on groceries for dinner and still eat out once a week. Now, instead of spending $660 a month, dinner only costs them $220.
That saves them $440 a month.
3. They found a cheaper option for watching TV
To get out of the habit of just picking up the remote whenever there’s a free moment, Smith and her husband decided to ditch their cable and just stick to subscription services like Hulu and Netflix.
That saves them $100 a month.
If you’re paying too much for cable each month, there are several ways for you to save.
You can start by calling your cable company every six months. When you call, you don’t want to talk to the billing department, instead you want the cancelation department. Tell them you aren’t happy with your service and the rates are too high. In most cases, they’ll work with you to reduce your bill. And if they hike the rate before your next six month appointment call, go ahead and make the call before agreeing to the higher price!
You can also consider sticking with services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Here are 10 ways to watch TV without paying a big bill each month.
4. They canceled their gym membership
This is one thing that costs a lot of people a lot of wasted dollars, and for the Smiths, it was costing them about $150 a month.
When they moved, the closes gym was about a 15 minute drive. So instead of paying for something they knew they wouldn’t use, at least not very often, they bought some used equipment and now work out in their basement.
That saves them $150 a month.
If you’re paying for a gym membership that you rarely use, or don’t use at all, get rid of it! If you want to keep that option open, here are some easy ways to reduce what you’re paying each month.
5. They got a library card
Sounds old school, but it can really save you a lot of money if you’re buying books or ebooks all the time.
Smith says when they moved farther away from the city, it added 45 minutes of train time, each way, to their commute every day — which they both spend reading.
So instead of buying books, they now rent them from the library.
That saves them $100 a month.
And in case you missed it, you aren’t limited to just hard copies at the library — you can also check out ebooks for free! And just to be clear, it’s free!
Read more: How to get free and super cheap ebooks
6. They walk more
This not only helps Smith in her goal to get healthier, but it also saves her money each month. After taking the commuter train into the city, her office is about a 15-minute walk.
So instead of paying $116.50 on an unlimited monthly subway pass, she walks — and occasionally take a $2.75 subway ride, but only once per week at most.
That saves them $105 a month.
How you can implement better habits
So you can see how little expenses do really add up — in this case, to the tune of $1,200 a month! That could be money put toward savings, debt or a even a vacation!
If you don’t have emergency savings, making a few small changes to your routine can help you start building that fund — which could prevent you from going into debt when something unexpected like a medical bill or car repair comes up. And these things do happen, so it’s better to be prepared!
Making small changes can also simply help you boost your savings, allowing you to reach your bigger goals quicker or make a big purchase down the road.
So here are ways to get started: