How much can cutting coffee, dinners out and cigarettes save?

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Cutting out daily coffee runs has always been touted as a way to save cash over the long run.

But if you’re like me, forgoing that morning cup of Joe sounds more grim than getting a tooth pulled, and remembering to make a batch at home every day is a lost cause.

But what about cutting back on dinners out? Trimming your own bangs? Or shaving a few dollars off the grocery bill per week? A simple tool called My Savings Machine from helps people estimate how much can be saved by shedding a few minor expenses over the long haul.

It’s a fast calculation. Just select the categories you want to consider (up to four at a time, from varied areas such as cigarettes, snacks, beauty and car washes), the expected interest rate if you invested what you saved, and a time period (shortest span is one year). Then prepare to cringe.


I selected $15 worth of eating out (once a week), invested at 1% rate of return (the default is 4%, but let’s be realistic here), over a period of a year. My savings: $780. Expand that out to two years, and the savings double to $1,560.

That’s enough to give anybody pause. Now combine that with another category -- say, $20 sloughed off the grocery bill per week by watching out for sales or buying store brands. Individual savings over two years at the same 1% return: $2, 080. Combined with money banked from one less restaurant meal a week: $3,640.

Not too shabby.


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-- Shan Li