Photo: ThinkstockBy Nathalie Gorman
How much you can save: $35
How to do it: Even the tidiest and most budget-vigilant person on our staff was surprised to hear that the average family spends $46 a month on cleaning supplies. As it turns out, much of that is unnecessary, because there's one little tool that you can clean almost anything with: a microfiber cloth. "It lasts forever," says Donna Smallin, author of Cleaning Plain & Simple and The One-Minute Cleaner Plain & Simple. "You wash it when you're done. You don't dry it; you just hang it and use it instead of buying paper towels or disposable wipes." Smallin says that the cloths are so effective that you can generally use them with nothing but water and scrub everything from wine stains in carpet (we were skeptical, too, but check out this video--with a clean white cloth, it's absolutely possible) to wood floors. For a greasy countertop, Smallin recommends sticking with an all-purpose cleaner, but if someone's tracked mud on your floors, scrub those with a water-and-vinegar solution.
How much you can save: $29
How to do it: Head to BillShrink.com, a site that analyzes your wireless usage and tells you which parts of your plan to jettison in order to spend less. Whether it's by changing data plans or taking a step down in text messages if you also use iMessage or BBM, BillShrink saves its average customer $29 a month on a family plan.
How much you can save: $35
How to do it: Dinner with a friend is a great way to get one-on-one time, but the chatting time comes at a price: The Zagat 2012 America's Top Restaurants survey revealed that nationally, people eat out three meals per week at a cost of about $110 each week. If you arrange to meet two friends at a time, you'll save yourself about $35.
How much you can save: $45
How to do it: Now's a pretty good time to join a gym. "Initiation fees have gone down from an average of $121 in 2008 to $99 in 2011," says Meredith Poppler, vice president of industry growth for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. Membership rates in the United States are now averaging about $55 per month, but if your rate is higher than you'd like, consider joining a gym such as Planet Fitness or Blink Fitness, a new, lower-cost offshoot of the popular Equinox Chain. Planet Fitness is currently nationwide, while Blink Fitness exists only in the New York metro area but has plans to expand across the country. Both gyms contain between 75 and 150 pieces of cardio equipment, plus strength equipment for the upper and lower body. Membership costs $10 to $20 per month. They keep rates low by eschewing aerobics and yoga classes, swimming pools and childcare.
How much you can save: $15
How to do it: "What people don't realize is that butchers will mark down their meat either early in the morning or in the evening--you can save 30 to 60 percent," says Jeanette Pavini, a consumer reporter and a contributor to Coupons.com. "Most butchers will tell you when they mark it down if you ask." For a family of four that eats meat three times a week, it's possible to save anywhere from $10 to $20 per month.
RELATED: Money Lessons for Kids
How much you can save: $3
How to do it: A new study from the Online Publishers Association reports that tablet users spend $349 a year on purchases made from their devices. This means your small digital treats are costing $29 a month. How about making a deal with yourself to cut back, say, by just 10 percent? Go ahead and spend $26 on whichever magazines or videos you like, but when you're reaching for the download button for the purchase that'll send you over the limit, just say no. By the end of the year, you'll have $36 that you might otherwise have spent on watching The Notebook...again.
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