If you want to run, first you have to learn how to walk.
And if you want to invest, first you have to learn how to save.
A lot of people get it backward: They want to make a fortune in the stock market, even as their personal finances are in disarray.
Unless you want to borrow to invest – not a strategy I recommend – you'll have to spend less than you make, and invest the difference. For most working stiffs, that's the surest way to building wealth.
As Benjamin Franklin said: "Be industrious and frugal, and you will be rich."
With that in mind, today I present five easy ways to save money now. As these examples illustrate, being frugal doesn't mean you have to feel deprived.
Cut your cable
Some of my friends spend upward of $80 a month on cable. I cancelled my cable years ago and had an antenna installed on my roof for a grand total of $350. Now I watch high-definition television over-the-air for free, and so do a growing number of my neighbours. All you need is a newer HDTV with a built-in digital tuner. Annual savings: $960.
Make your own lattes at home
Instead of handing over more than $4 for a grande latte at Starbucks, you can easily make your own specialty coffees at home. And no, you don't need a $1,000 espresso machine. Pick up a Bialetti stovetop espresso maker for about $20, and a hand milk-frother (mine's a Frabosk) for about $35, and you'll be enjoying homemade lattes and cappuccinos for about one-tenth the price. Annual savings based on 365 beverages a year: $1,314. (Tip: skim milk froths the best.)
Bring your lunch to work
A brown-bag lunch will cost you about $5 (or less, depending on how much you like sandwiches), compared with about $10 for a meal and a drink at the food court, where you can never find a table anyway. Annual savings based on 250 lunches: $1,250. Savings on grease alone: Priceless.
Cancel your gym membership
No, I'm not advocating a life of sloth. Buy a set of dumbbells and a bench to use at home. Walk and cycle more. Do some pushups and situps. Take up running. You don't need a gym to stay in shape. Besides, have you smelled one lately? Annual savings: About $600.
Ditch one of your cars
Admittedly, this is a tough one if you live outside a major urban centre. But for us city folks, cutting back from two cars to one, or from one to zero, is easy thanks to public transit, auto rental agencies and car-sharing services such as Autoshare and Zipcar. Based on 12,000 kilometres of driving a year, the Canadian Automobile Association estimates that a Honda Civic LX costs about $7,723.72 annually to own and operate – including fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, licence and registration fees, depreciation and finance expenses. For less than a third of that – say about $2,500 – you could get yourself a transit pass and have ample cash left over for car rentals. Annual savings: $5,223.72.
There, I've just saved you $9,347.72 – and I didn't even suggest cutting your own hair with a Flowbee. Even we frugal folks have our limits.