“It’s just a few dollars — it won’t break my budget.” If you find yourself saying this frequently, you might be fooling yourself. A few dollars here and there can add up quickly.
Here, let’s do the math. Say those little things you don’t consider to be budget breakers are costing you $5 a day. Spending that much 365 days a year adds up to $1,825. Think of all the big things you could do with that much money — take a vacation, pay down debt, start an emergency fund, save more for retirement and more.
That’s why it’s a worthwhile exercise to track expenses for a month to see how often you’re spending just a few dollars. You'll find you could easily save several dollars a day. To help get you started, here are 25 ways to cut about $5 in daily costs.
1. Stop Getting Breakfast on the Go
Brown bagging your lunch can help you avoid blowing several dollars a day on fast food or restaurant meals. But a growing number of consumers are seeking convenience for the first meal of the day, said Kendal Perez, a money-saving expert with Coupon Sherpa. Visits to restaurants in the morning increased by 5 percent from February 2015 to February 2016, according to The NPD Group, a research company.
For example, a sausage, gravy and biscuit meal that includes hash browns and a small coffee at McDonald’s costs nearly $5. You’ll save by eating at home or creating a stockpile of breakfast items at work. Perez recommends storing low-cost items such as bread, peanut butter, granola bars or even frozen breakfast sandwiches at the office so you won’t be tempted to buy a pricey breakfast on your way to work.
2. Make Coffee at Home
If you buy a 16-ounce cup of coffee at the coffee shop each day for about $2, it might not seem like you’re spending a lot. But it costs only about 8 cents to brew the same size cup at home, according to the USA Today coffee cost calculator. You could easily save $5 a day if you buy several cups of joe or pricier coffee drinks such as a cappuccino or latte at the coffee shop.
3. Dine at Home
Consumers spent an average of $3,008 on food away from home in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That averages out to about $8 a day on restaurant meals.
To avoid the temptation of going out to eat on a busy weekday, make meals at home with a slow cooker.
“Just throw a few simple ingredients in before work, and you’re all set,” said Jamie Cattanach, a staff writer for The Penny Hoarder. You’ll come home to a ready-made meal. “This can help you save an extra $5 to $25 a day,” she said.
4. Make Your Own Baby Food
It’s easy to reach into the pantry and pull out a jar of baby food to quickly feed a hungry child. But with a little planning, you can save a lot of money — and know what exactly is going into your child’s mouth — by whipping up your own baby food.
"If you have young kids, baby food can be expensive,” said Cattanach. “Save up to $20 a week by making your own baby food. All you need is fresh produce, a blender and some jars."
5. Skip the Soda
If you do dine out for lunch or dinner, lower the cost of those meals by ordering water rather than soda. At a fast-food joint or restaurant, you’ll pay $1 to $2 — or more — for a soda. If you order one at both lunch and dinner, you could easily approach the $5 mark.
Cutting out sodas at home and opting for water instead also could help you save money. A 12-pack of brand-name soda costs about $5. You’re likely not drinking that many a day. But if you do drink two cans a day and go through five 12-packs a month, you’ll save about $25 a month by eliminating your soda habit.
6. Stop Wasting Food
A family of four spends at least $1,500 each year on food they never eat, according to congressional testimony by Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist Dana Gunders. That’s about $4 a day that is literally thrown away.
Meal planning can go a long way toward reducing food waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA recommends keeping a list of foods your family likes, planning weekly meals before shopping so you only buy what is needed, and checking your refrigerator and pantry to avoid buying things you already have. Also, resist the urge to buy in bulk if you can’t eat it all before it goes bad.
7. Use Discounted Gift Cards
You can save money on everyday purchases by buying discounted gift cards for retailers you frequent. Websites such as CardCash.com, GiftCards.com and Raise.com sell gift cards for hundreds of national retailers for less than face value because they buy them at a discount from consumers who don’t want them.
For example, we recently found a CVS gift card with a face value of $45.11 selling for $39.70 at Giftcard Zen — an instant savings of more than $5. So if you stock up on discounted gift cards for drugstores, gas stations, restaurants, supermarkets and other stores, you easily could save $5 a day on your purchases.
8. Take Advantage of Supermarket Sales
One of the best ways to lower your grocery bill is to stock up on items that are nonperishable or can be frozen when they are on sale rather than buying just what you need for the week.
“When shoppers buy only their weekly needs, they are forced to pay full price for 50 percent to 80 percent of what goes in their cart,” said Teri Gault, author of “Shop Smart, Save More."
Once you have a stockpile, plan weekly meals around what you have and perishable items that are on sale at the supermarket. Gault said a family of four can save more than $50 a month by stockpiling sale items and using coupons. That amounts to about $1.70 a day in savings.
9. Find Coupons for Retail Purchases
Of course, clipping coupons can help you save at the supermarket. But you can use coupons to save on plenty of other everyday purchases — and you don’t have to clip them.
Mobile apps such as Coupon Sherpa and RetailMeNot make it easy to find coupon codes for a variety of items and services when you’re out shopping. Simply search for a retailer and, if it's offering a coupon, show the barcode on your mobile device at checkout to get a discount.
For example, there recently were coupons available on Coupon Sherpa for $10 off a $60 purchase at PetSmart and $10 off a $50 grocery order at Walmart.com.
10. Cut Electricity Costs
You can save up to $2.50 per day on your electric bill by unplugging all electronics when they’re not in use, said Cattanach. To make it easy, plug electronics into a power strip to turn them off with the flip of a switch.
Cut your bill by 10 percent by adjusting your thermostat by 7 degrees to 10 degrees from its normal setting — down in the winter and up in the summer — for eight hours a day, according to the Department of Energy. And lowering the temperature on your water heater from 140 degrees to 120 degrees can help slash energy costs by up to 22 percent annually.
11. Spend Less on Prescription Drugs
"If you spend a lot of money on prescription medications, check out LowestMed.com,” said Cattanach. You can use the site or its free mobile app to compare prescription drug prices at pharmacies near you to find the best deal.
You also can use LowestMed to get discounts at local pharmacies. “Type in your medication and zip code, and then fill out the details of the amount you need,” said Cattanach. Once you choose a price and local pharmacy that works for you, the site will provide you with a discount card. Just print out the card and bring it to that same pharmacy."
Discounts range from 10 percent to 85 percent. Savings will vary depending on the type and number of prescription drugs you take but could amount to savings of several dollars a day.
12. Look for Free or Low-Cost Entertainment
You might be surprised at how much you’re paying for entertainment. The average household spends $2,482 annually on fees and admission, toys and other entertainment supplies, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s nearly $7 a day.
There are plenty of ways to cut entertainment costs. Take hikes in nearby parks rather than paying to go to an amusement park. Visit museums on free admission nights. Invite friends over to watch a movie rather than going to the theater. And, take advantage of free lectures at the public library or a nearby university.
13. Do Your Own Nails
Getting a manicure and pedicure is a nice way to pamper yourself. But getting your nails done weekly can be a costly indulgence. The cost of a manicure can range from $10 to $15 at a small nail shop to $25 at a spa or salon, according to CostHelper.com. Pedicures can cost $15 and up.
Skip the pricey professional service, and learn to do your nails at home by searching online for “DIY manicure” tips.
14. Stop Buying Bottled Water
The average cost of one bottle of water is $1.45, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute. If you or your family members drink several bottles a day, you could easily be blowing $5 a day on water that you could get for a fraction of the cost from the tap.
15. Avoid ATM Fees
If you’ve made it a habit to withdraw cash from the nearest ATM rather than one in your bank’s network, you’re paying a lot for convenience — about $3.50 to $7 in fees each time. To avoid getting charged to access your own money if you’re not near your bank’s ATM, withdraw cash fee-free during your next grocery store visit, said Perez.
Find Out: 31 Worst Fees in America
16. Eliminate Cable TV
With so many free and inexpensive ways to watch TV shows and movies, there’s no need to pay for pricey cable TV. The average pay-TV bill is $103 a month, according to Leichtman Research Group. So, cutting the chord can save you $3.43 a day.
Watch movies and previously-aired TV shows for free on Hulu.com and Crackle.com — which also offer their own original series. The major networks, such as ABC, CBS and NBC, also let you watch some of their shows for free on their websites. And, take advantage of your public library to borrow DVDs for free.
17. Walk More, Drive Less
Being willing to walk or take public transportation can save you some serious cash depending on your driving habits and gas prices where your live, said Stephen Rischall, co-founder of 1080 Financial Group. The savings could add up to $5 a day, he said.
You could save even more by ditching your car entirely. According to AAA, the annual cost of owning and operating a vehicle is $8,558 — or $23.44 a day.
18. Opt for Regular Fuel Instead of Premium
If you can’t cut costs by driving less, lower the cost of driving by filling up with regular fuel instead of premium. AAA found that 16.5 million U.S. drivers used premium fuel — and wasted $2.1 billion — in the past year even though their vehicles were designed to use regular fuel.
Check your owner’s manual to see which fuel the manufacturer recommends. If it’s regular-grade fuel, don’t spend more to fill up with premium gas that won’t improve your vehicle’s performance. The average price of regular gas is about 50 cents less per gallon than the price of premium, according to AAA. If your car’s gas tank holds 15 gallons, you’ll save $7.50 each time you fill up with regular instead of premium.
19. Spend Less on Auto Insurance
Put money back into your budget by lowering the cost of auto insurance. For starters, shop around to see if you can get a better deal from another insurer. The J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study found that car owners who shop for a new insurer and switch save an average of $356 on their annual premiums.
You can save a few more dollars daily by cutting your auto insurance premium by as much as 40 percent by raising your deductible, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
20. Cut Credit Card Payments With a Balance Transfer
If you carry a balance on a credit card with a high interest rate, lower the amount you pay each month by taking advantage of a 0 percent balance transfer offer. Based on calculations by financial education site MagnifyMoney.com, if you transferred a $10,000 balance from a card with a 20 percent interest rate to one with a 0 percent rate, you would avoid paying nearly $1,900 in interest over the course of a year — or about $5 a day.
21. Adjust Your Tax Withholding
If you usually get a big tax refund, save more than $5 a day by adjusting your tax withholding. That refund means you’re letting Uncle Sam hang onto too much of your paycheck each month.
File a new W-4 form with your employer to claim more allowances. The more you claim, the less tax is withheld. IRS.gov has a withholding calculator you can use to figure out how many allowances to claim. If you received the average refund of $2,732, you should get an extra $227.66 in your paycheck each month — or $7.58 a day — by adjusting your withholding.
22. Refinance Your Mortgage
If the value of your home has risen since you bought it, and interest rates have dropped since you locked in your mortgage rate, you might be able to lower your monthly mortgage payment by refinancing.
According to a report by Black Knight Financial Services, 3.3 million homeowners could save at least $200 a month by refinancing their mortgages at today’s rates, and about 1 million could save $400 or more each month. That averages out to about $7 to $13 a day.
23. Slash Investment Fees
The seemingly small fees you’re paying on your retirement account — plan administration fees and investment fees — can put a big dent in your savings. According to the SEC, 1 percent in annual fees can reduce a $100,000 portfolio by about $30,000 over 20 years compared with a portfolio with a 0.25 percent annual fee. That works out to about $4 per day.
Check your retirement plan statement to see how much fees are eating into your returns. The investments offered in your 401k might have varying fees, so you might want to consider switching to lower-fee investments — as long as they fit your investment objectives and risk tolerance.
24. Don’t Pass on Extra Money for Retirement Savings
Make sure you’re contributing enough to your retirement account to get the full matching contribution from your employer — if it offers one.
One in four employees miss out on receiving a full match by not saving enough in a 401k, leaving an estimated $1,366 of free money on the table, according to research by Financial Engines, an independent financial advising company that provides investment advice for workplace retirement plans. That’s an extra $3.70 a day in free money that you could be adding to savings.
25. Actually Save $5 a Day
To help her clients save money, certified financial planner Ilene Davis said she tells them to stash $5 a day into an empty soda bottle. This guarantees that they’re actually saving that amount daily.
If you don’t have the discipline to do this on your own, free services such as Digit can help. You link your checking account to the service, then it analyzes your income and spending to determine a small amount that it can move every few days into a savings account for you.