Updated: Apr 24, 2020
I hesitated to write this blog because I feel like there is a lot of information out there already on this topic. But, I felt compelled to write it partly because the things on the list are tried and true…and because it brings me so much energy! While I see others around me getting pumped over new purchases, my husband and I high five over saving money and using what we have the best we can. Neither way (spending or saving) is better or worse, but for us we’ve made a goal to save money…so that’s what we celebrate.
As I write I keep thinking about the idea of short term pain=long term gain. I always thought of that quote as it related to athletics, but now it takes on a new meaning for us. Yet, the word pain doesn’t even seem to fit. Our family is so privileged. We have everything we need and then some. In no way have we felt deprived with the path we are on. We have all our needs met and just cut back on things that don’t add value to our life to help us move towards a new goal!
So, without delaying any further I want to get to the list. Here are 33 ways to save money. I will warn you, it’s long!
1. Eat in
This might seem obvious. Of course, eating in saves money! For some, the decision to eat in feels like deprivation. For us it never has, mostly because it also helps us eat healthier and we both love to cook. To us, it’s an art. I realize for some it’s not an art, but a chore. Yet, if you want to save money try to eat in more than you have before.
2. Buy staples in bulk
We do this as much as possible. The funny thing about this is just this morning I was listening to a book on tape called “Goodbye, Things” by Fumio Sasaki. The book is about minimalism. He suggested NOT buying in bulk because it takes so much room to store. So, if your goal is to move to a smaller space soon and not worry about storing things, then don’t do this. But if you want to save money, buying in bulk generally helps! It helps you save in extra trips to the store, in packaging, and just typically the price per item or ounce in bulk is cheaper than if you were to buy a small quantity.
3. Create a life that needs less vacating from
This one probably doesn’t fit in a list like this because of the weight behind changing lifestyle, but I have to add it. If you’re always living for your occasional costly vacations, I think it could be time to see if your life might need to shift around a bit. In the book, “Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence through Simple Living” by Elisabeth Willard Thames, she talked about how changing the way we live can even out the happiness curve. What she meant by that is we don’t have to live for huge spikes in happiness, like going out to eat on a weekend or traveling somewhere amazing…just to go back to a low slump of happiness during the week. She said looking to see ways we can create a life that leads to more overall contentment can be the trick.
4. Shift the way you travel (air b n b, house swap, camp, take food)
I don’t want to contradict myself, but while I think it’s important to take a look out our lives and how we are living them, I also think vacations are great! Yet, we can greatly reduce the cost of traveling. There are many amazing sites out there now (depending on your comfort level with these things) like air b n b and house swaps. We use air b n b all the time but have yet to try house swapping. There’s also the good old way of traveling…camping, which gets you outside and is much cheaper. Also, no matter what way you choose to travel, especially if it’s road-trip related, you can either take some food along with you or get groceries once you’re there so you don’t eat out every meal.
5. Buy used clothing, or better yet, stop buying clothing
I have to talk about both of these. First, if you’re in need of something, used can be great. Especially for babies because the stuff rarely gets worn out! It’s cheaper and it’s often in great condition. Now, if you’re like me, you can use this “well, it’s used” as a reason to still buy too much stuff that never even gets worn. When I was newly married my favorite past-time was looking on local yard sale sites. I would gladly tell my husband how lucky he was that his wife shopped smart, but now that I stopped that habit I look back and realize how much crap I bought that I haven’t even used much. So, if you need to, buy used, but it’s not a deal unless you need it and will use it. Don’t spend money to get a deal…it’s NOT A DEAL.
6. DIY as much as you can
I read sometime recently that hiring out jobs that saves you times leads to happiness. I agree. My husband and I had a period of time where we were both working full time and had a 5-month-old baby, so I hired a person to help with our house cleaning for a short period of time. I hated to see the money go, but gosh that really helped my sanity!
Yet, now that we aren’t in that situation we don’t hire out our cleaning. We also don’t hire out for as many of the things around the house if we can help it. It saves a lot, and it’s also made us quite handy, which can be fun and leads to feeling really self-sufficient. We get to be creative with how we approach things that come up. And, there’s always you-tube to trouble shoot just about anything…just ask my husband :)
7. Use the library
I have to be honest about something…I have a book addiction. It might not be to the same degree of an actual addiction, but it can seem that way at times! Well, actually I could probably put all of this in the past tense. Although I have the urge to buy books, I’ve figured out two things. The first is to use the library. It’s good for not only having new content to read, but I know some people use them for movies and other forms of entertainment, like free story times for kids :)
The second thing I do is keep a running “wish list” of books. If the library doesn’t have it and it’s a book I continue to go back to wanting to read, then I buy it. But for the most part this process of keeping a list has saved me lots and lots of money.
8. Find free entertainment
Check out different forums, like facebook forums that post events or even local newspapers. They list events and there are often free things as well. You might find some postings in coffee shops too. Then, there’s always the option to come up with your own bucket list of free things to do in your spare time…like hike, go on walks, attend library events, bake (free except for supplies), or visit a friend. I think it’s probably more fun to come up with your own list!
9. Get rid of cable
This probably seems like old news. Some people love cable and getting many different channels. We just use an antenna to get a few channels and then use our internet to watch other things. We don’t watch a ton of TV anyway, so it doesn’t make sense for us to put much money into it.
10. Don’t go to stores
Just like a said I cut my habit of yard sale shopping…if you want to save money stop going to stores “just to look.” If you have amazing self-discipline, sure, go shop! But if you’re like me and always seem to find something you want then I suggest cut out shopping all together unless you really need something. That means cut out going to stores both in person and online.
11. Cut your gym membership
For some reason this one makes me think of an activity in “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez where it asks you to access your needs, wants, and luxuries. I’ve always loved going to the gym because of the classes. I’ve been fortunate to go to amazing gyms and it’s helped keep me healthy! For a long time, I thought it was necessary, that is, a NEED in order to be healthy. I’ve been wrong. I go on walks and hikes, which fills my passion for being outside, and then also watch online free workout videos. It works for me!
12. Buy used…everything
Above I mentioned buying used clothing, but now that I think of it there are a lot of great things you can get used. Our personal favorite is to buy used cars because a car depreciates as soon as you drive it off the lot when you buy it new. Buying everything used might be a stretch, but it can help thinking through if you really need something new or not. Some things just are better new because of safety or sanitation reasons.
13. Simplify your meals
I heard this suggestion before and hated it. And I still do to an extent. I mentioned that I love to cook, so trying new recipes often requires new ingredients. Those new ingredients cost money. I have to admit that I haven’t simplified our menu much until the current situation. Right now, I am writing this during the covid-19 quarantine…so naturally I have been cooking more simple meals and it really has been fun to get creative with what we have. I’ve been forced to modify our grocery list (big time!), yet it feels great going through the pantry to see what can be used. Nothing is going to waste!...and that saves money.
14. Buy less seasonal decorations
I don’t know if I should be embarrassed to admit I had to learn this lesson. I am not a scrooge, but yes, I’ve switched to the other side where I’m now selling stuff that we don’t use. I LOVE celebrating holidays, but I realized there are ways to celebrate other than having yet another decoration to show we are celebrating. I can’t say I’m perfect in this area (I love me some fall décor!), but I can say my husband is grateful for less holiday stuff :)
I have to mention this because it can save money, but I will fully admit this is Alan’s specialty. All I know is refinancing can save some major moola. I hope that is enough to convince you!
16. Use insurance wisely
To some people this might be extreme, but we change our health insurance from year to year based on what we see coming. I know you can’t always predict unfortunate events, so this might seem risky. So far it’s worked. I’m not saying we ever go without insurance. I’m just saying the year we had Marley we upped our coverage in every area…and then decreased it afterwards. We also alternate some things, like eye insurance, just because we don’t really feel like we need to go every year for an eye checkup. We get the supplies we need the year we have insurance and then make do after that.
17. Buy quality products
There are times you need to spend a little more, which can later save you money. This isn’t always the case. Just because you buy a high-end brand doesn’t always mean you will get your money’s worth. You need to be smart and look into it. There are many ways we are tricked by brands. I’ve fallen into this trap. But, if a place has a high price tag with good customer service to “make it right” if something goes awry, then I see that as a win.
One thing I want to mention in this area is if it relates to clothing. Buying quality clothing can also steer you away from fast fashion. This is a dangerous industry that many in first world countries have no idea about. If you are interested in this topic, I suggest checking out the documentary, “The True Cost.”
18. Don’t upgrade technology
If you know my husband and I…you would know I’m totally calling him out. I probably shouldn’t be doing that, because I, too, have my weak spots. Every time the i-phone gets an upgrade you don’t have to get it. Your phone probably works JUST fine. If I sounded like I was getting sassy in that one, it’s because I was.
19. Limit kids’ toys
If I’ve learned one thing about parenting, it’s that kids don’t actually like toys. They like everything they are not supposed to have…like remote controls, anything sharp, anything dirty on the floor…toys are ok, but nothing is as tempting as a wire they aren’t supposed to touch.
Since Marley is still young I can only say this suggestion based on my reading…if you limit TV use you will limit how much your kids want. I don’t think it’s quite that easy. And I think the way companies advertise to kids has been changing to different avenues. So just pay attention to how many ads your kids are seeing that seem to teach them they “have” to have something.
20. Join a “buy nothing” group
This is a new one I recently heard about and joined on facebook a few weeks back. The idea behind these groups is not to barter, it’s to create a sense of community by offering up something you don’t use or asking for something you need. It’s a pretty cool idea and requires no money!
21. Practice gratitude
Gratitude helps you be grateful for what you have. If you commit to this practice you will see your “stuff” with fresh eyes and might not feel so inclined to upgrade. It will also help you to include mindfulness in this, so you can really taste what you’re eating and appreciate the small moments. Mindfulness and gratitude go hand in hand.
22. Accept hand-me-downs
You’d be shocked to know how many things in our house are hand-me-downs. We’ve been fortunate to have family members offer up things…or find things alongside the road. One day my aunt was riding bike in her neighborhood only to find a couch on the side of the road. Boom…we have a couch. Another day we saw a neighbor with a wood dresser outside…boom…we have a changing table for Marley. Chalk paint can go a LONG way.
23. Change your mode of transportation
We haven’t done this because of where we live, but we hope to some day! The only thing we really set as a goal for this is to pay off our cars so we aren’t throwing interest into them, which we were fortunate to do.
But, a goal I’d love to get to is to walk, bike, or use more public transportation and sell a car. We can’t with where we live…yet it remains a goal. It can certainly save a lot of money.
24. Take advantage of company benefits, especially a 401k match
If your company has this benefit, use it! Alan’s company has a 401k match, so we always put the full amount in. It’s free money!
25. Reuse products
I’m not encouraging hoarding. No, that gives me the eeby jeebies. I am talking about using a plastic bag more than once…or wearing a dress multiple times. My most recent item I’m hoping to reuse is an elegant floor-length bridesmaids dress that I spent a pretty penny on and have no use for something like that. So, I’m going to hem it shorter and wear it to a wedding I have this fall that is much less formal! I can’t lie and make you believe I can hem anything. I have no sewing ability. I will cut it, my mother in law will be the one adding a straight stitch :)
26. Learn how to invest your money
This is not my specialty, more of my husband’s since he is a financial analyst. But what I do know he’d recommend is low cost passive investments. This option will help you save money in the long run.
27. Change how you celebrate
If you’re someone that has always celebrated with expensive meals out or tons of presents, maybe it just means slightly shifting that to help you save some money. You don’t have to forgo anything completely, but just be a bit more mindful of what you associate as a necessity to celebrate.
28. Eat less meat
This option saves money and can be a great option for helping the environment because of everything that goes into meat production. Maybe for you it means one meatless meal a week. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but it can certainly help save some money.
29. Pay attention to your utility use
Paying attention to utility use might seem obvious, but I had to list it. Turn off the lights for crying out loud!
30. Shop around for the best prices
Shopping around for best prices can be time consuming but it can certainly pay off. For us, we wanted to invest in some kitchen upgrades (this was much debated) to add value to our house in the long run. The cost of a kitchen redo can be outrageous. We took time to get multiple quotes for each upgrade we were doing. One thing to be careful of is sometimes cheap contractors aren’t reliable, so we also got referrals. In the end we saved a boatload of money by getting referrals and getting multiple quotes for each big item.
31. Avoid childcare if possible
Ah, I hesitated to list this because we recognize to be able to go without childcare is a sign of our privilege. We are so lucky to have the support we do! We work our schedules around each other and both have mothers who enjoy coming to tend to Marley to help us out. I realize for many, especially single parents, this is just not possible. I also realize because of my work as a marriage and family therapist sometimes alternating your schedule is actually NOT good for your marriage…no time together can really impact your marriage in a negative way. I’m just listing this because it’s a way we’ve saved majorly because of the high price of childcare.
32. Rent out part of your home
It depends where you’re at in life, but this is something we’ve done both short term and long term. We live in an area with a lot of colleges around us, so we rented it out for May weekends during graduation time and vacated for the weekend. We also rented to friends who lived with us for a period of time. Now, I know some fear living with friends because of how it can change your friendship. For us, we didn’t necessarily strategically plan for friends to live with us. But, I can say it really worked on both sides because it saved everyone some money in our high rent area. It was fun to have friends around more often when we often get so into our separate lives!
33. Insulate your house
Last thing! You made it! When we moved to our fixer-upper house we had horrible insulation. We’ve saved on heating costs by adding insulation and even changing our front door to be more energy efficient.
I know that list was rather lengthy, but I wanted to put on paper the ways we’ve saved money in hopes that it can help you too. I could tell you how much we’ve saved, but whenever I see those numbers listed on articles I somewhat roll my eyes because that number varies so much from person to person. It depends on your renting fee/mortgage, salary, and any other unavoidable high-ticket expenses. Like I said in the examples I gave…this is not about deprivation. In no ways do we feel deprived. We just made a plan to move in a direction to save where we can and see where it leads…maybe even financial independence by age 40? :) We shall see!
Happy rooting, everyone!