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Image: Barista makes coffee
Mario Tama  /  Getty Images
The difference between coffee from home and from the barista down the block can run into the hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
updated 6/6/2011 12:39:21 PM ET 2011-06-06T16:39:21

Everyone's "hustling" these days. Some are hustling to keep their jobs; others are hustling for new ones or are starting their own businesses — in part so they don't have to worry about someone else laying them off.

In aftermath of the recession (which feels like it's still clear and present), hustling is the new steady state. It's what we do. Laziness isn't an option.

Wait, who are we kidding?

Laziness has been humanity's bane for millennia. In Christian mythology, sloth was one of the seven deadly sins. Transgressors were fed to the snake pits in Hell.

Forbes.com slideshow: 23 ways your laziness is costing you money

Countless businesses have made a mint by taking advantage of our collective indolence — everything from not bothering to spend a few minutes surfing the Web for a better price to not mailing in a $50 rebate on a new laptop. A more subtle punishment than snakes, perhaps, but still potent.

In 2009 Forbes started asking experts, in fields ranging from personal finance to health care, to put a price on our laziness — and to demonstrate what little you can do about it, because in many cases that's all it takes.

For some highlights, read on:

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Buying premade food at the supermarket
Convenience doesn't come cheap, but is the markup worth it? Whole Foods charges $8.99 per pound for its pre-made Mixed Berry Fruit Salad, brimming with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. The cost of making your own salad (a simple task with berries) is $6.56 per pound, a markup of 37 percent just to have the fruit washed for you.

Ordering premium video on demand
Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures are set to offer certain movies on-demand through DirecTV just 60 days after their theatrical premieres. The movies will cost $30 and you will be able to watch them multiple times over a 48-hour period. Is it worth a 150 percent markup just to watch the movie in the comfort of your own home? Maybe if you've installed a comparable home theater, but considering the movie will be available at the standard video-on-demand price of about $5 in a couple weeks, you might want to hold off. Better yet, get off the couch and head to your local movie theater.

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Not maintaining your car
You can ease pain at the pump, and with not all that much effort. The Federal Trade Commission has found that by keeping your tires properly inflated and aligned you can increase gas mileage by up to 3 percent. It also says that tuning your engine according to your owner's manual can add another 4 percent. On a 2010 Ford Explorer with 4-wheel drive, that translates into savings of about $5 each time you fill up, based on the Environmental Protection Agency's gas mileage estimations and current gas prices.

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Not comparison shopping with your smartphone
Finding a lower price can be as simple as downloading a free mobile app. Ones like RedLaser, TheFind and PriceGrabber, made for iPhone and Android, can deliver significant savings on items like electronics, books and appliances. Just open the app when you are in a store, scan a product's bar code and learn where you will get the best deal. When we used RedLaser at an FYE on a $230 box set for "Lost: The Complete Series," the app showed that the Barnes & Noble next door was selling it for $207 while a Target 10 minutes away had it for $184. The best deal: eBay, $90.

Not trading in your car at the end of its lease
Turning your car over to the dealer is easy enough, but it could cost you. The value of a car at the end of its lease is predetermined based on mileage projections. Say you sign a three-year lease at 1,000 miles per month, the value of the car at the end of that lease is based on 36,000 miles. But if you rack up fewer miles you'll be losing out on the difference between the real value and the projected value of the car by turning it in. Instead, research the real value of the car (try Kbb.com or NADAguides.com) and find a dealer who will buy the vehicle from the leasing company and apply the credit to your new lease or purchase.

Not searching for coupons online
Websites like Retailmenot.com, Coupons.com, Dealspl.us and Couponcabin.com offer coupon codes for thousands of stores. Just plug in the code during your online checkout. Retailmenot.com recently featured a coupon code that reduced the price of a Dell XPS 15 laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor to $1,059 from $1,414. Big money for a small amount of effort.

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Not donating stuff you don't use to charity
Everyone knows charitable gifts are tax deductible (and make you feel warm on the inside). The truly lazy will also be happy to know that some charitable organizations make free house calls to pick up your unwanted stuff. For a list, visit DonationTown.org.

Not reading your credit card statements
That niggling $7 monthly toll for a subscription you tried once and never used again is so small that you rarely notice it on your credit card statement. "The terrible part is that they are an insidious expense that often automatically hits our credit card bills with little visibility," says Ken Calhoon, managing partner of Calhoon Consulting, a management consultancy in Palo Alto, Calif. "Regularly checking your statement (and canceling the subscriptions) is easy money."

Not making your own coffee
From your $6 can of coffee you can make at least 25 full cups — five weeks’ worth of commutable caffeine. In a year, you’ll spend $60 on coffee (not including milk and sugar). The alternative — paying $2.50 a day at Dunkin Donuts (or more at Starbucks) — slurps up $625 for the year. Brew your own (preferably by setting the timer at night so you wake up to that fragrant, comforting smell) and you’ll save enough for a plane ticket to warmer climes and a few rum drinks.

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Not choosing the best rate on your savings account
Many Americans are content to keep their money in traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Put less charitably, they're too lazy to root around for a better interest rate offered by online institutions. The best annual percentage rate you'll get at a traditional bank is about 0.1 percent, while Internet banks can easily offer a 1.15 percent APY. May not sound like much, but it all adds up. On a $100,000 principal, compounded monthly for five years, the higher interest rate yields an additional $5,414. A quick search for a good rate at an FDIC-insured bank plus the few clicks to set up an account can take under 30 minutes.

Not opening a retirement fund ASAP
Twenty-somethings aren't necessarily in touch with their own mortality. Take a hint: Old age comes quick, and you'll need a serious retirement stash if you want to ride it out in any kind of style. Setting up a 401(k) account — one that automatically draws a certain percentage from each pay check — doesn’t take much effort and could have a dramatic financial impact. If a 40-year-old starts saving $5,000 annually at 6 percent interest per year (a conservative assumption based on historical returns for the stock market), he would have $291,000 at age 65; if that same person started saving that much 15 years earlier, at 25, he would have amassed $821,000, three times as much.

Not sending in rebate offers
Department and electronics stores often advertise goods at post-rebate prices, assuming most customers will be too lazy to mail in the rebate, which could save them up to 10 percent on big-ticket items such as dishwashers, refrigerators and computers. At Staples, a $650 laptop from Hewlett-Packard carries a $50 rebate. Don't let them get away with this. Filling out and mailing the rebate takes all of 15 minutes. Says Tod Marks, senior project editor at Consumer Reports: "Anyone who walks away from rebates is giving money away."

Forbes.com: 20 ways you're getting ripped off

Not paying attention to 0 percent deadlines
Many stores offer no-money-down financing for a length of time. Great deal, right? Only if you remember (or bother) to pay in full by the end of the no-interest grace period. Fall short and the often very steep interest rate that kicks in applies not to the remainder of the debt, but the entire original purchase price. Example: Electronics retailer P.C. Richard & Son sells a $3,100 television with 0 percent financing for 24 months. Say you've paid $3,000 at the 24-month mark; one day later, you will owe an additional $1,029 — the $100 you hadn't paid yet, plus the $930 in interest (30 percent of the entire $3,100).

© 2012 Forbes.com


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