So far this year we've shared financial advice on everything from minimizing laundry to wasting less food, saving big at the outlet mall and the pump, and even traveling on a budget. And as 2012 draws to a close, we present a holiday gift to you, our Financially Fit audience. It's a roundup of our favorite savings tips from our collection of experts, editors and gurus- all meant to help you stick to your financial resolutions.
Bottle Your Own Water
The number one tip from one of our cooking experts involves making small changes to our dining habits for a savings of more than $3,000 a year. "Everybody just goes out and grabs bottled water," said Lisa Gosselin of EatingWell magazine. Bottled water starts $1.55 for a bottle, when in fact if bring your own water bottle, put it in a water bottle and it's free. Over the year that would come out to be $375 on minimum if you bought it every day during the week."
"Let's talk lunch," Gosselin continues. "I love to go out and get hummus and carrots and maybe a chicken Caesar salad. If you go out and buy that at a deli or take out place, we priced it out to $9.79 a day. To make your own, though, it would only be $3.55. Over a year, that would be a savings of over $1,600 dollars." She says the the best thing about bringing your own lunch that you get exactly what you want and you're going to save the time picking up takeout, not to mention the gas. "And it's probably going to be a lot healthier."
Stretch Your Portions
Yet another way to save, according to our next food guru is to stretch your portions. "You always order chicken or pork chops or steak - costs 20 bucks. You have twice as much protein than you really need to consume on the plate," says Contributing Editor at Cooking Light Allison Fishman. "Take half that steak home. Finish your green beans, mashed potatoes, feel nice and full. When you go home the next day, slice that steak. Toss it with some quinoa, some fresh arugula, maybe some Parmesan, a little bit of grilled tomato, pour a vinaigrette over it. Guess what? You've just made lunch for two people."
Stop Emergency Shopping
For fashion fans, we tapped our style expert for her best shopping tip of the New Year. Fashion stylist Amy Salinger says her top savings tip for 2012 is to stop the emergency shopping. "You're going to end up with a closet full of things that are okay rather than a closet full of things you love," Sallinger says. "If feel that urge - as we all do sometimes, to go out because you need to buy something, you're going out that night - think of a staple outfit that you love and maybe buy one thing to change it up: a necklace, a different top, a fabulous pair of earrings. But don't, don't, just go and buy something from top to bottom at the last second. It never works."
Consider A Used Car
If you're interested in a new car in 2013, it's best to keep an open mind. "For any car shopper, my best saving advice is to consider a used car, a two or three-year-old car instead of brand new," says Lawrence Ulrich, contributing editor for Yahoo Autos. "You'll save thousands of dollars off the top and you'll get a better car. You'll be driving, say, a BMW for the price of a Toyota."
Find A Budget Buddy
If your new year's resolution is to boost your rainy day funds, Paul Golden of the National Endowment For Financial Education suggests one of the best ways that you can save more is to to have a "financial buddy." "Rather than going shopping at the mall, going out to restaurants all the time, going to movies, you want to find somebody who can help hold you accountable by coming up with alternative ideas; maybe cooking in, renting a movie, things like that," says Golden.
Think About Trade-Offs
Features and Entertainment director at Self magazine Laura Brounstein has another tip: prioritize your spending. "If you want to get your splurges in you've got to save somewhere else," she says. "I love to take cabs, I'm always running late. So I figured out that if I spend $5.72 on my Venti Latte at Starbucks, if I cut that out, I'm going to be saving almost $29 a week - and that's going to get me to work three times in a cab. That's one of the ways I think about it."
Keep Recent Receipts
Finally, to add to the advice, one of my favorite shopping tips from 2012 is to never leave home without recent receipts. Sometimes this is one way to get a discount after you've made a purchase. That's because many retailers offer a price adjustment if an item you bought goes on sale within 14 days. I actually did this on Black Friday and saved hundreds of dollars without buying anything new.
As always, we want to hear from you. What was your favorite Financially Fit of 2012? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the #finfit.