Leah Ingram is a freelance writer and the author of "Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less"
Here's her list of easy things you can do to keep $500 in your wallet every month of the year:
CUT COFFEE SPENDING
The average American drinks 1,132 cups annually--or about 3.1 cups of coffee per day--and spends $1,562 a year on brewed coffee or $2,773 on espresso drinks at stores, restaurants, and coffee shops. The cost to brew the same number of cups of coffee at home is just $147 ($.13 per cup) or $294 ($.26 per cup with a K cup). By making your coffee at home, you can save between $1,415 and $2,626 per year or between $118 and $219 per month. Even if you have upgraded to a Keurig machine, you'll still save some money.
SWITCH TO REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLE
Bottled water is more expensive than gas. It costs about $10 per gallon. Americans spend about $1,400 a year on bottled water. That works out to about $117 a month.
PACK YOUR LUNCH
Americans who eat out for lunch every weekday spend, on average, about $7 per meal. One survey showed that by eating out lunch five days a week, you spend $1,820 a year on lunch, or about $152 per month. If pack your lunch, you would save nearly $2,000 a year.
SWITCH HOW YOU MAKE TELEPHONE CALLS
Leah's family used to spend about $750 a year on phone service from the phone company; now they are making calls for free. A landline phone is quickly becoming a duplicative expense. If you are already paying for high-speed Internet, you should consider a VOIP system like the Ooma Telo. This VOIP device can be hooked up to the internet instantly, allowing you to make unlimited long distance calls within the U.S. for free. You can reduce cell phone expenses by switching to a prepaid plan and using your home phone more, once the VOIP system is up and running.
GET CASH BACK FOR RECYCLING INK CARTRIDGES
Nearly every home in the United States has some sort of computer printer. Rather than toss old in cartridges in your recycling bin, bring them to an office supply store that will not only recycle them for you but will give you cash back. At Staples, for example, you can earn up to $20 per month--you get $5 per recycled ink cartridge--for recycling those cartridges. That adds up to $240 back in your pocket each year.