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How to Save $500 This Month

Geoff Williams
The new Canadian five and 10 dollar bills, made of polymer, are displayed with the previously released 20, 50 and 100 dollar notes following an unveiling ceremony at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Be a ruthless saver.

If money is tight and you need to drastically reduce your budget, here are some strategies to start saving right away. Putting even one of these ideas into practice should give your finances some much-needed breathing room, but if you adopt all of them, as long as your income remains steady, you could be looking at an extra $500 -- or more -- this month.

Dine in, not out.

It sounds basic, but discretionary expenses add up. Last year, a Visa survey of 1,005 adults found that on average, American consumers eat lunch at restaurants almost twice a week, spending about $10 each time. Putting a moratorium on dining out could save you $80 a month -- and perhaps much more.

Ditch cable.

Swearing off cable could net you an extra $90 monthly -- the average bill for a U.S. household, according to The NPD Group, a market research company. Instead, find ways to watch your favorite shows for free on network websites and services like Hulu.

Get creative with your commute.

According to the California Energy Commission, commuters would save an average of 30 percent on their fuel costs if, instead of driving alone to work, they carpooled, took a bus, rode a bicycle or walked. Considering that the average household spent $2,912 on gasoline in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a 30 percent savings could equate to more than $70 a month.

Reconsider your insurance.

If your car is getting old and you've paid it off -- and especially if it hasn't retained anything close to its original value -- both comprehensive and collision insurance may be a waste of money. Someone with a 2008 Toyota Camry who switches to only liability insurance might see their insurance costs drop by 30 or 40 percent. "Depending on where you live, [that could be] $200 to $600 per year," says Craig Lozofsky of That's $17 to $50 a month.

Give up a vice.

The average consumer spends more than $1,200 a year on beer, according to Survey Analytics. And according to the American Lung Association, the average retail price of a pack of cigarettes is $5.51. If you're a pack-a-day smoker, you'll save $167 in a month if you give up this vice, and a little over $2,000 a year. Maybe you gamble? There's got to be something, from a serious vice to a relatively innocuous habit (like soft drinks), you can cut back on.

Grocery shop smarter.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average family of four with tweens spent $1,258 at the grocery store in December 2013. An adult male or female spent between $300 and $400. So if you're spending more than that, you could probably do a lot better. Strategies to help you save: Don't shop when you're hungry; take a shopping list; look at the unit price as well as the actual price tag; bring coupons; shop at deep-discount grocery stores.

Corral your finances.

This isn't just budgeting -- it's looking at when bills need to be paid and having a system for keeping your financial life on track. It's crucial to avoid late fees and slash unnecessary expenses. "You get a late fee, a negative mark on your credit report," says Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. "And then there's the gym membership that's on automatic pay, and you haven't seen the gym in six months. How about habitually picking up fast food on the way home from work because you're too tired to cook? ... All of these could add up to over $100 a month or over $1,000 a year. Now that's real money."

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