Think you're the only one who needs to exercise? How about those greenbacks in your wallet?
It's always a good idea to spend your money wisely, but during tough economic times, this smart step is even more important. Which is why the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers these tips on how to get the most out of every dollar that you spend.
· Keep the Change: You've heard President Obama talk about the need for change. Well …
Every night, set aside the change that has collected in your pocket or wallet. After a month, deposit those coins into your savings account. It's an easy habit to get into, and it doesn't eat too deeply into your budget. Most important, you'll be amazed at how quickly the savings add up and give you an extra bump in the wallet.
Even more amazing — and money-making — are those coin-redemption machines situated at area supermarkets where, for a small charge, you can dump all your change into the coin-counter and it will spit out a receipt, minus the transaction fee, to be redeemed at the supermarket front desk.
It's a better deal than the stock market; here, you're only losing about 7 percent.
· Plan Ahead When You Travel: Airfares shot up during the surge in gas prices last summer, and many have not yet come back down. You can still get a good deal on a flight, but you have to make your plans — and buy your ticket– well in advance. The same is true for hotels. You may be able to get lower rates if you just shop around ahead of time.
And don't forget to bargain, even at the hotel's front desk. An unsold room brings in no cash and they know that.
· Avoid Unnecessary Fees: If you kept track of all the needless fees that you pay in a week, you'd probably be amazed at how much of your money they consume. For example, how often do you pay an extra charge for withdrawing money from an ATM that is not part of your bank's network? How many times do you pay for directory assistance, instead of looking up a number in the phone book? (Or, for that matter, try typing in www.whitepages.com and getting it that way.)
The next time you find yourself paying one of these "convenience" fees, consider what an inconvenience they are to your wallet. Avoid them whenever possible — it may take an extra effort, sure — and you'll find more money left at the end of the month.
· Brown-Bag It: Whether you're grabbing breakfast on the go, getting lunch at the local deli or hitting the vending machine during a mid-afternoon lull, the cost of buying food can add up. If you cut out even one of these indulgences — like a daily $5 latte or the organic chocolate chip/blueberry gluten-free bagel — you can save at least $100 a month. Try carrying your coffee into work, bringing a bag lunch and keeping a stash of snacks from home.
Better yet, use the office refrigerator for storage. (Just make sure you're out the day it has to be cleaned.)
· Clip Coupons: You can save hundreds of dollars a year if you use store or manufacturer's coupons for groceries or other purchases. There are numerous Web sites these days that specialize in coupons; you simply need to install their coupon-printout form. Also, many restaurants may offer coupons or specials that cut the price of a takeout meal. Make sure you keep your coupons with you so they are available when you need them. Remember, be sure to send in any rebates you receive from purchases to ensure you get the lowest price possible.
· Head Into the Carpool Lane: Gas prices are creeping up again, so it's a good idea to carpool with officemates who live near you. You'll save money on gas and maintenance if you are able to use your vehicle less often. You'll also be doing something beneficial for the environment, which should make putting up with a co-worker's hot air endurable.
Certain states have a "fast lane" to be used by cars with at least one passenger in addition to the driver. These, too, can save, although it's not advised that one do what some New York drivers did — put plastic life-size figures in the passenger seat to obviate the rule. Some of those state police have better vision than you'd think. And it may be difficult to get your plastic seat-partner to pay the nasty fine.
· Cushion the Blow: Don't discourage Dad from sleeping on the couch while "Desperate Housewives" is on. Remember, every turn he takes may mean coins from his pockets falling out and getting stuck in the couch, where a little reconnaissance effort may net an industrious son or daughter some extra cash. "Finder's keepers" reportedly will still hold up in a court of law.
Business editor Michael Elkin contributed to this report.