BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – Evaluating the small purchases you make each day can be the key to accumulating wealth rather than living paycheck to paycheck. “The money that slips through our fingers from insignificant daily purchases can add up to big bucks over time,” said a University of Missouri Extension family financial education specialist.

To fund a major financial goal, first look at the small ways you are spending money, said Carole Bozworth. How much do you spend each week for fast food, bottled water, lottery tickets, ATM fees, etc.?

Track your spending to find out how much money is leaking from your wallet. Start by recording all of your spending for just one day, though you might need a week or more to pinpoint those small spending patterns that you can reduce or eliminate to redirect money to other priorities, Bozworth said.

Once you have identified spending leaks, think about what habits you can change to plug some of those leaks. Can you give up the gourmet coffee on your way into work? Can you eat out less often? When you do eat out, can you order water instead of coffee, tea or soda?

“Sometimes it is not so much stopping a spending behavior as it is figuring out less-expensive ways of having what you want,” Bozworth said.  

For example, choose a restaurant based on the coupons from the Sunday paper. If you really enjoy having an espresso on the way to work, buy your own espresso maker. Bring a 12-pack of your favorite soda to the office instead of buying one every day from the vending machine at work.

You don’t have to eliminate frivolous spending altogether to save money.  Buy one lottery ticket a week instead of every time you purchase gas. Downgrade your cable subscription to the next-lowest level.

Deposit the money you’re no longer spending into a savings account. Your bank might be able to do this automatically. If that is not possible, deposit the money yourself at the same time you write your rent check or mortgage payment. When you have accumulated a reasonable amount, open an IRA or put the money into a certificate of deposit. Shop around for a savings vehicle that offers an annual percentage yield that outpaces inflation.

Stay on the savings path by setting a goal for what to do with the money that is no longer dripping away.

“It might be hard to believe, but cutting back on small spending habits can translate into a down payment for a house, a large-screen television, a more reliable car or that family vacation you never thought you could afford,” Bozworth said.