Saving money doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, by making some very slight lifestyle tweaks you can save a significant amount of money. The key is to make the adjustments small enough so that you don’t even notice them; cut expenses on the things you hate paying for (like car insurance and cell phone bills). Then live more comfortably knowing that you’re money isn’t going to things that don’t bring you enjoyment. Here are 12 ideas from your Aurora accountant to get you started. If you then think of 3 more you will be well on your way to financial freedom.

Skip Eating Out for Lunch

Instead of dining out every day of the week when the noon meal rolls around, do it just once a week, then brown bag home-prepared food for the rest of your work days.

Just Drink Water

Aside from the fact that water is the healthy, staying away from flavored drinks and pop will help you save quite a bit of money. Drinking a pop per day can add up to over $350 per year.

Goodbye Car Wash

Rather than bringing your car to the car wash, why not make washing the car an additional chore? If you have kids, sign them up and make car washing a weekly family chore. If you have to, you can bring your car to the car wash just once a month, instead of once a week.

Groom your dog.

You love your pet, right? So show him/her by personally washing your pet instead of taking him/her to the groomer every time. If nothing else you can increase the time between grooming.

Brew Coffee at Home

We all know how easy and convenient it is to buy ready-made coffee from those coffee shops that are just everywhere. You can choose to continue with this coffee-buying attitude or you can try brewing your own coffee for a change, and for the better. Sure, you can treat yourself occasionally but if you’re determined to save up, you’ll be surprised at how much you can save by making your own coffee.

Get Your News Online

Are you still subscribed to the local newspaper? If yes, consider discontinuing your subscription and catch up on local, international and all kinds of news online instead.

Do Your Own Nails

Rather than paying someone else to do your nails for you every time, learn to do it yourself and save some bucks in the process.

Exercise for Free

Still paying for gym membership? Time to drop it and exercise on your own. There are so many articles and videos about exercise. Take some time to go over those that relate to the type of exercise you have in mind, then get work out your body based on the information you got.

Go Generic

When you experience some minor but common discomforts like headaches or migraines, you don’t always need to buy name brand medicine. If it’s just a simple headache, a generic aspirin can likely make the pain go away just as well as a branded aspirin. Some generic products are just as good as their brand name counterparts, but others (usually foods) aren’t quite up to snuff.

Negotiate your Car Insurance

Car insurance is one of those things that you have to pay for. If you want the luxury of driving a vehicle, you have to maintain insurance in case something bad happens. But how many of us have taken the time to actually go over our insurance lately? There is a good chance that you are overpaying your premiums. A 30 minute phone call with your agent could save you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars per year.

Downgrade your Cell Service

Do you really need that $90 monthly cellphone service? Are you able to use it up or is part of it always getting wasted because your phone usage doesn’t really go that high? Maybe it’s time you reviewed your phone consumption and get a lower plan — one that actually fits your cellphone habits. Most major carriers have switched to plans based on data usage. It’s as simple as a 15 minute call to save $30 per month.

Find other ways to relax.

Getting a massage is always a treat. But do you really have to do it every week? There are many other ways to relax. Find a relaxation technique that you can do for free. From healthy eating, to exercising at home, there are ways to relax without expense.

Bonus: Cut the Cable

With so many online streaming options for television, do you need to be paying $60 per month for TV that is turned off most of the day? Cut back to Netflix and Hulu and you could save $40/month. That’s an instant savings of $480 per year by getting rid of something you’re not using anyway.

Practical Taxes is Here to Help

We want to make sure that you are financially healthy. By offering our online tax preparation services to the Aurora, Colorado area, we are helping thousands of people to be able to afford the services of an accountant, and ultimately get a bigger refund than they would have on their own. That refund can help jump start your emergency fund, bolster your retirement savings, or let you splurge on one of the things above that we just told you to cut out.

Happy Thanksgiving! This is the time of year to be thankful, and, for some of us, this time of year has us thinking of giving back, making charitable contributions. Charitable contributions to those of your choosing are obviously very important, but it’s also important that you make those contributions in a way that also benefits your taxes. For those of you who don’t know, charitable contributions can be assessed as deductions on your tax bill! Giving is important and the government recognizes your charitable donations as a private citizen, but, it does impress upon you a few stipulations to receive the deduction on your taxes.

First, the charitable contribution needs to be to a qualified organization. You cannot deduct donations made to individuals or to political campaigns. Also, many contributions to organizations are met with gifts from said organization: consider an outdoor organization at who’s benefit dinner you wind up winning some grand prize because of your donation: the amount you can deduct from your taxes may only be the balance between the fair market value of the gift given to you by the organization and the amount of that year’s donation. If the fair market value of the gift exceeds the donation, then you’re out of luck at tax time. Also, to deduct the contribution you made, you must keep the receipt of the payment you made. The IRS doesn’t want to see a hand written sheet from So-And-So, claiming that you paid them some money; it wants to see receipts, receipts which, if needed, can be tracked back to a source. Non-cash donations are also considered contributions which can be written off, however, in order to claim the contribution on your taxes, for a contribution totaling over five hundred dollars, you must complete a separate IRS form, IRS form 8283, and, if you have trouble understanding the form, Practical Taxes is ready to help.