PUBLISHED: 4:28 PM on Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Small changes can lead to big savings
Does it sometimes seem like you spend money without even knowing where it's gone?

If you are like most Americans, you're being "nickled and dimed" by seemingly small charges throughout each week. Pretty soon all those nickels and dimes add up, and without even realizing it you've spent a ton of money.

"Whether it's using an ATM machine that charges an extra fee, or little luxury items like that designer coffee drink on your way to work, many of us wind up spending a lot of money on things that aren't categorized in a monthly budget," says Michael McAuliffe, president of Family Credit Counseling Service, a non-profit consumer credit counseling agency.

"These little extras don't seem expensive, since they only cost a few dollars each, but over time they can add up to the cost of a new car," he said.

Here are some easy ways to save lots of money in the long-run:

• Morning latte and muffin test: Your daily dose of caffeine and muffin on your way to work may run $7 per day or more. Consider breakfast at home and save $150 per month or $9,100 in five years.

• Soda or bottled Water test: Purchasing that refreshment at the local convenience store could cost $1.50 per bottle, costing you over $45 per month or $2,700 over five years. Consider purchasing beverages from discount or wholesale stores to add even more money to your pocket.

• Cigarette test: The average cost of cigarettes is over $5. Add up a pack a day for five years and you've spent $9,125. Consider the visual motivation of saving a $5 bill in a large jar every day. This might prove beneficial for your health, as well as adding money to your wallet for that new car.

• Take-out test: Eating out every day is unhealthy for your body but even more for your wallet. A $10 meal every day adds up to $18,250 over five years. Challenge yourself to bring your lunch or eat meals at home Monday through Thursday and treat yourself on Fridays. You'll still be able to enjoy the company of your friends while saving a bundle of money throughout the rest of the week.

• ATM Fee test: Are you an ATM junkie? If so, you could be paying $5 per transaction. Two or three trips per week to another financial institution's ATM machine could cost over $780.00 per year or $3,900 after five years just to use your own money.

This is just a sampling of ways you can save money without altering your quality of life, other than for the better.

These changes alone add up to over $43,000 in just five years, and this is tax-free money and doesn't include interest.

"If you examine your weekly routines, you'll quickly find several ways that small amounts of money are leaping out of your pockets," McAuliffe said. "Little changes can mean big savings over the long term."

For additional budgeting, general money management tips, or a copy of a personal budget guide from the FCCS, go online to online, or call one of their consumer advocates at (800) 994-3328.