Finance -
Five Simple Ways to Spend Less
Ki Gray
Ki is a real estate agent in Austin Texas. He works with buyers interested in investing in the Austin real estate market. His site provides a free search of the Austin MLS as well as a graph of recent mortgage interest rates. 
By Ki Gray
Published on 10/10/2008
Cutting your spending isn't as complicated as it seems. Making smart choices day-to-day can help you save big bucks over time.

Budgeting and living within your means is often perceived as a difficult, daunting task. In reality, there are plenty of simple ways to trim your budget all they require is a little time and effort.

1. Pack your lunch.
Instead of spending upwards of $40 - $50 a week eating out, take your lunch with you to work. Even if you go out for relatively cheap meals, the total cost (plus tax and tip) adds up quickly. A great way to do this is to cook double or triple the amount you'll need for dinner the night before, and set lunch portions aside ahead of time.

Another way you can simplify the entire process is to cook a large amount of food over the weekend say 8-10 chicken breasts, a big lasagna or pasta dish, for example and portion it out for lunches and dinners throughout the week. If you're pressed for time and don't have anything prepared, head to your local supermarket and pick up a few microwavable meals and other healthy items like single-serving-size frozen vegetables or fruit packs. This option is a bit pricier than cooking from scratch, but still much cheaper than eating out every day.

2. Hand-wash your car.
Skip the $5 - $10 drive through car wash and soap up your car yourself. It may take a bit longer than the drive through option, or it may not, depending on how far you have to drive to get to the car wash in the first place. Regardless, washing your car yourself can save you $30-plus per month. If that doesn't sound like much, think of it this way: it adds up to about $150 per year.

3. Take a walk.
Next time you need to run to the corner store, to drop off your child at soccer practice a few blocks away, or to pick up a couple of items at your neighborhood grocer, skip the car and make the short trip on foot. You'll conserve gasoline which is good for both your budget and the environment and you'll be doing something healthy for yourself. It's a win-win situation.

4. Enjoy the outdoors.
Next time you're looking for a fun family activity, skip the movie theater or other venue in favor of the great outdoors. Most cities and towns have a wealth of public parks, complete with jungle gym equipment, swings, shade trees and sunshine everything you need for a fun afternoon of quality time with your family. And it's free!

5. Check out consignment.
Looking for a new top, bag, or shoes? Head to your local consignment shop instead of the mall odds are you'll find great deals on quality items (though you may have to do a little digging). Many cities have upscale consignment shops, too, offering designer items at a steal of a price. And next time you clean out your closet, make a pile of your best give-away items and take them to the consignment shop instead of Goodwill. You may just pad your wallet with some extra cash. If the items don't sell, you can opt to pick them up after a set period of time (usually about three months) or have them donated for you.