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Five simple changes, one big money-saving reward

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Jacquelyn Martin/AP

(Read caption) Fanta soda cans are seen at The Corner Market in Washington May 22. Switching from soda to tap water would save the average American $152 a year, one of five simple, money-saving substitutions.

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It’s amazing how much money can be saved by making one simple change in your life. I ran the numbers on several changes (using the behavior of the average American) and was shocked at the financial savings of a single simple change.

Drink water instead of soda.
Average annual savings: $152
Facts: Tap water is essentially free. The average American consumes 216 liters of soda per year, or 7,300 ounces. You can purchase a twelve pack of twelve ounce cans for $3, typically, so the cost is $3 per 144 ounces. This adds up to an annual cost of $152.

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Carpool with another driver two days a week (driving once and riding once).
Average annual savings: $868.60
Facts: The average commute is 16 miles one way, giving a round trip of 32 miles. The average maintenance cost per mile on an American car is 52.2 cents. Thus, the cost of a single commute is $16.70, including fuel, depreciation, and all maintenance costs, and thus riding with someone else once a week (and letting them ride with you once a week) saves 52 commutes, a total savings of $868.60.

Install a programmable thermostat and set it to turn off your heating or cooling at night.
Average annual savings: $248
Facts: Using the assumptions in the EnergyStar programmable thermostat calculator for a typical American home with typical energy costs ($0.11 per kilowatt hour) and assuming only nighttime use, a programmable thermostat reduces the energy bill by $248 per year.

Wait one more week before getting a haircut.
Average annual savings: $63.90
Facts: The average haircut costs $45. The average time between haircuts is five and a half weeks, or 39 days. Thus, an average person gets 9.35 haircuts per year. Waiting just seven days longer reduces that count to 7.93 annual cuts, or 1.42 fewer cuts per year, a savings of $63.90.

Eat leftovers for supper one night a week.
Average annual savings: $334.14
Facts: The average cost for a moderate meal plan for a family of four in the United States is $771.10. That’s 120 meals, giving an average meal cost of $6.43 (averaging home meals, restaurant meals, etc.). Assuming a leftover meal to be free, a year’s worth of weekly leftover meals saves $334.14.

Just one simple switch and you save a surprising amount of money. If you take the money saved each month (1/12th of the average annual savings) and sweep that money directly (and automatically) into savings or into an extra loan payment, simple lifestyle choices can have a profound impact on your financial life. That’s the key, of course – using the money you save in a responsible fashion.

So, if you were truly the average American and did each of the five switches listed above, you would save $138.89 per month. Have these switches become the new normal in your life and set up an automatic savings plan to sweep $140 a month into a savings account that earns 2%. Give it five years and you have $8,830 in savings. These five little changes will buy you a pretty nice car in five years.

That’s a pretty big thumb in the nose to those who ignore frugality tips.

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