Dining on take-out; avoiding late fees
Money drainer: It's dinnertime and you're dialing the local pizza place again even though you just dropped $100 at the grocery store.
Get on a meal schedule. Create a rotation of two weeks' worth of meals. Since you'll always know what's on the menu, you can stock your kitchen accordingly.
Keep basics on hand. "I buy a few ready-to-serve rotisserie chickens when they're on sale, strip the meat from the bones, and freeze it in one-cup containers," says Courtenay Wells, a mom of two in Lafayette, Indiana. "I also fry up a few pounds of ground beef at a time and freeze it the same way."
Join the meal-prep trend. Stores like Let's Dish and My Girlfriend's Kitchen, where customers assemble dishes to freeze and cook later, are springing up nationwide. "At the Dinner Station, I prepare a month's worth of meals in under two hours," says Kristy Hill, a mom of two, of Keller, Texas. "I freeze everything and pull out a meal when I need it." The cost -- about $200 for 12 meals that serve four to six-breaks down to about $3 to $5 a serving. That's cheaper than many takeout options.
Money drainer: You rent movies for the kids and then forget to return them on time. And those late fees are a horror show.
Sign up for a movie-by-mail service. Online DVD rental sites, such as Netflix and Blockbuster, offer several different monthly plans, starting at about $6. The biggest plus: no late fees.
Be choosy about where you rent. If you decide not to do it online, select a shop that allows leeway on returns. Or try your local library -- many have at least one-week lending periods, and the late fees may not be so onerous.
Put returns in an "outgoing" basket when you finish with them. Grab what's in the basket as you leave each day.