by: Robin Taylor Updated:
PITTSBURGH -- Saving money may be easier than you think. Target 11 Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor uncovers 8 simple ways to save $500 or more.
Think of it this way. If you modify your behavior, it's as if you're giving yourself a raise. All you have to do is drive less, or pack your lunch, or turn off the lights and pretty soon you'll be saving money.
What starts as a penny here and a quarter there, can add up to real savings. If you follow some of this advice, you can easily save $500 a year. If you're really thrifty, and follow more of these steps, you can even save thousands.
With gas prices hovering around $3.50 a gallon, it pays to think like a GPS. Plan your errands around trips to pick up your kids.
"You would be surprised, even going a few miles back and forth tends to add up when it comes to the use of gas," said Audrey Guskey, a marketing professor at Duquesne University.
If you get 20 miles per gallon, and drive 40 miles less a week, you'll save about $7. That might not seem like much, but in a year's time that's $364.
Turning off the TV, installing energy-saving light bulbs, even shutting the water off when you're brushing your teeth can make a difference, saving about $260 a year.
Installing a programmable thermostat and lowering the heat by a few degrees, could cut your utility bills by $150 or more.
It may seem like a delightful pleasure, but buying coffee from a chic little coffee shop at $3.50 a cup adds up to $1,200 a year.
"You can save literally a thousand of dollars as a result of brewing your own coffee," said Guskey.
When you do the math, brown bagging also makes sense. Let's say you're spending $10 a day on lunch; that's about $2,500 a year. Think about it, that's enough money to pay for a luxury vacation.
Don't flush money down the drain. Toilet paper is a necessity, but you don't have to spend a mint. If you switch to a store brand, use coupons or buy in bulk, you could save $500 a year.
We love them, but pets can also cost a bundle.
"Bigger is not always better, especially when you're talking about pets, because the little ones are going to eat less," said Guskey.
Between vet bills and food, a large dog can cost $1,500 a year, while a cat costs about $600.
Paying your credit cards bills in-full and on-time can also shave hundreds off the total.
"Watch your spending. Try to spend within your means. And then, pay those credit cards off as you're getting the bills," said Guskey.
If you can't afford to pay the whole bill, sign up for automatic payments, so you're never hit with late fees.
Also, at least once a year, go over your bills. If you belong to a gym and you never go, what good is that?
If you're paying for 300 channels, and you watch ten of them, switch to a different plan.
These little changes can make a big difference over time.