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12 Things You Should Stop Paying for in 2012

New Year, New Budget


Looking to tighten your belt in 2012? You can start by using coupons, searching for discounts or simply buying lower-cost versions of the items you typically purchase. But if you’re looking for truly big savings, consider entirely cutting out the products and services you really don’t need.

“There are lots of things that you can eliminate from your life altogether, and you can do it without sacrificing convenience and quality of living,” Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, tells MainStreet.

Indeed, from those daily coffee shop runs to your landline phones, there are many items you can certainly live without this year if you’re hoping to build up your savings.

Here are 12 things to consider cutting from your budget in 2012 so your new year isn’t filled with new debt.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Coffee Shop Visits


We know, it’s hard to resist those morning coffee shop runs, but even buying just one cup every day can make a dent in your wallet. A small coffee from my local Starbucks (12-oz.) costs $1.75, which equals $12.25 a week if you buy one cup a day or almost $25 if you buy two cups a day.

A cheaper alternative would be to brew your own. You can buy Folgers ground coffee at Wal-Mart for about $10, and that brews about 270 6-oz. cups (or 135 12-oz. cups). The expense of filters is minimal, too. For instance, you can buy a 200-pack of filters by Original Gourmet Food Co. Coffee Pro for about $2 at Wal-Mart.

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Incandescent Light Bulbs


You’ve heard that it’s “greener” to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and that it could save you money on your electric bill in the long run, so if you haven’t done so already, what are you waiting for? Although it will cost you a few more dollars up front, replacing just one traditional incandescent bulb with a bulb that qualifies for the government’s Energy Star program will save $40 or more over the lifetime of the bulb, and changing five bulbs will save $200 or more over the lifetime of the bulbs, according to the Energy Star website. What’s more, Energy Star-qualified light bulbs last at least six times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Disposable Water Bottles


Whether you’re heading out to the gym or packing your lunch for work, it’s easy to just throw a disposable water bottle in your bag for whenever you get thirsty. But those bottles can really add up, even if you buy them in bulk (a 12-pack of half-liter Poland Spring bottles cost $3.99 at my local grocery store, which only lasts me about a week).

To save money, skip the disposable bottles and buy a reusable Brita water bottle for $9.99, which will purify any tap water you add to it. You’ll just need to change the filter every two months (a two-pack costs $7.99). That means your costs for the first four months are about $18, and after that you’ll only be paying $7.99 every four months for as much water as you’d like to drink.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Baggage Fees


These days checking a bag for a flight can cost a pretty penny, with Continental (Stock Quote: CAL), Delta (Stock Quote: DAL) and American Airlines charging $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second checked bag on domestic flights. If you fly often, avoid the fee by packing your things in a carry-on, or consider sharing a checked bag – and splitting the fee – with a family member or friend you might be traveling with.

You could also choose to fly with an airline that does not charge for checked bags. For instance, Southwest (Stock Quote: LUV) will accept the first two checked bags for free, as long as they’re not more than 50 pounds and 62 linear inches in size (combined length, width and height) each.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Subscriptions You Don’t Use


Is your coffee table cluttered with magazines and newspapers you don’t get around to reading? While we’re certainly not advocating cutting out any reading materials you rely on, it’s worth canceling subscriptions to publications that you really don’t read, or that you could easily read for free online. For instance, a subscription to the print edition of The New York Times cost $6.05 per week in my area for daily delivery (prices vary depending on your location), and a one-year subscription to Men’s Health costs $19.90 plus $4.97 for delivery, but you can read articles from both publications online for no cost.

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Baby Food


You want the best for your little one, but those jars of baby food can get pricey. An equally healthy and more affordable option is to make your own baby food. Here’s an easy recipe courtesy of Leslie Banister, chef for the website Food on the Table. All you’ll need are veggies, water and a blender or food processor. This recipe makes six servings. (Because the nitrates in plants could pose a risk to small infants, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that you avoid giving your child home-prepared foods from vegetables until they are three months or older.)

Ingredients:

1 cup of fresh vegetables

Water

Directions:

-Cut vegetables into small pieces (1-inch cubes)

-Place veggies into a steamer basket with just enough water visible through the steamer basket

-Steam until tender

-Place steamed vegetables into a blender or food processor

-Add purified water as necessary to achieve a smooth, thin consistency

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Credit Score Fees


If you’re looking to be more financially sound in the new year, it’s a good idea to check your credit score. But while some companies will charge you a fee, others offer free versions – you just have to know where to look. Luckily, MainStreet did some detective work last month and reported on three websites where you could get your score for no charge. Here’s a recap:

CreditKarma.com: To get your free score, you must create a free account on CreditKarma.com. Doing so requires you to enter your Social Security number and answer some questions about the accounts appearing on your credit report – such as which lender is associated with your auto loan – to verify your identity.

Quizzle.com: You can get a free copy of your Experian credit report and accompanying score on credit monitoring site Quizzle.com. To do so, you must create a free account on the site. Although you won’t have to enter your Social Security number, you will have to answer some questions about your credit history to verify your identity.

CreditSesame.com: You can also get a free version of your Experian score on CreditSesame.com, which you can obtain by providing your Social Security number and answering some personal questions to verify your identity. Credit Sesame also has a free iPhone app that will provide a free score as well as monthly updates on your score’s status.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Cable


You don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars every year to watch your favorite shows. This year, consider canceling your cable and taking advantage of several free and low-cost entertainment services. The website Hulu, for instance, lets you watch a variety of hit shows for free such as Glee, The Office and Modern Family, plus movies and documentaries. Or for $7.99 a month, you can take advantage of Hulu Plus, which gives you access to all of the selections on regular Hulu, plus more shows and movies.

You can also watch many shows for free on the network’s website, or pay $7.99 for Netflix, which provides access to unlimited movies and TV episodes.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Landline Phones


If you think about it, that landline phone really isn’t necessary if you’re trying to cut costs. You could make calls on your cellphone, or take advantage of free calling services. For instance, Skype provides free calls to other Skype users and free video calling (in which you talk face-to-face with live video).

You can also take advantage of Google Voice, which lets you place free calls to the U.S. and Canada and charges low-cost rates to other locations, including 10 cents per minute to France and Germany.

Schrage also suggests replacing your landline phone with the magicJack, a device that lets you make calls over the Internet. The magicJack plugs into your computer's USB port, and has a standard phone jack into which you can plug a standard phone. The device costs $39.95 the first year plus $6.95 for shipping and handling, and after that you'll only have to pay a $19.95 annual renewal fee

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Cleaning Supplies


If you’re doing multiple loads of laundry per week, those bottles can go fast  and add up in price. An alternative is to stop buying detergent and start whipping up some of your own. Sound daunting? It actually can be done easily with just a few common household products. Here’s a recipe for liquid detergent courtesy of Money Crashers:

Ingredients:

2 gallons hot water

1 bar soap, grated

2 cups baking soda

Directions:

1. Melt bar soap in a pan with just enough boiling water to cover. Stir until the soap is completely melted.

2. In large pail or bucket, pour in 2 gallons of hot water. Add the melted soap.

3. Add the baking soda, and stir well. Use 1/2 cup per load, or more for oversized or very soiled loads of laundry.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

ATM Fees


Nothing’s more annoying than being short on cash and having to pay a surcharge at an ATM. And with ATM fees often ranging from $1.50 to $3 per transaction – and sometimes more – we felt it was worth exploring a few ways to avoid them.

If you use your debit card at certain merchants, such as CVS and Rite Aid, you can often get cash back for no additional fee. Another option is signing up for a credit union that’s part of the CO-OP Network, which allows access to 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the U.S. and Canada. The CO-OP Network website also lets you type in your current location to find the closest ATM.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Home Repairs You Can Do Yourself


From fixing that leaky faucet to repairing your washing machine, it might not be necessary to call in a professional. Many home repair projects can actually be handled yourself, which can save you big bucks. A good place to start is by checking out the website of The Family Handyman, which offers step-by-step instructions on a variety of home repair projects, from plumbing and electrical fixes to repairs in your kitchen, bathroom and backyard.

Although you might have to spring for a new tool set if you don’t have one already, it’s well worth the investment when you consider the savings in the long term.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Kristin Colella is a writer/editor for MainStreet. You can follow her on Twitter at @KrisColella.

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