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Want to improve your financial situation, live with less stress, and have more money for things that are truly important to you? I think we can all answer “yes” to that. An important step is to spend less and save more.
In a lot cases that’s easier said than done. But fortunately there are many realistic and practical ways that we can save money in our daily lives, starting today. And many of these methods aren’t even painful or difficult, they just require some simple changes.
In this article we’ll look at 101 different ways you can go about saving more money. The money that you save can be used to pay off debt, invest, save for retirement, save for a family vacation, or even given to charity.
If you don’t already have a budget, take some time as soon as possible to do that. You’ll need to not only create a budget, but also start tracking your expenses. Having a budget is a great start, but if you’re not tracking your expenses you won’t know if you’re actually sticking to the budget. You can use EveryDollar.com (free) to create your budget and track your spending.
Once you’ve created your budget and you’re paying more attention to how you are spending your money, you’ll probably be surprised at how much you are spending on certain things. All of us have some areas where we could cut back on spending without having a major impact on our lives. Take a look at your spending and identify your own “problem areas” where you think you could cut back.
Having financial goals is important. If you don’t have goals or a plan you’re unlikely to ever have much success in managing your own finances. Your goals could involve paying down or eliminating debt, saving a certain amount for retirement, saving for a major expense like a house or a wedding, or whatever else is important to you. When you have goals that matter to you, you’ll start to scrutinize your expenses more, because every dollar you spend is one less dollar that can go towards your goal. Reaching your goals can be a fun challenge that motivates you even when it’s not easy.
Cutting back on your spending is great, but if you’re able to make some extra money you’ll have more to save. Maybe you’d like to make a little more than you currently make at your job. Or maybe you’re a stay at home mom or dad and you want to make some money. Or maybe you don’t like your job and you’d like to find a side hustle that has potential to turn into a full time job or business. In any case, a side hustle is a great way to improve your financial situation, and it can even be fun.
Blogging is my favorite side hustle because you can work on something that you enjoy, and it can easily be a part-time thing or you can take it to another level and replace your full-time job. I started blogging as a side hustle in 2007 and it turned into a full-time business in 2018. If you’d like to make some extra money with a blog of your own, see my page How to Start a Blog for a step-by-step walk through.
Another option for a fun way to make some extra money is to turn one of your hobbies into a business. Of course, some hobbies lend themselves to this purpose better than others, but there are plenty of options. You could make and sell products at Etsy. You could offer a service like photography and graphic design. You could write ebooks and sell them on Amazon or on your own website. There are plenty of possibilities, it really just depends on what you enjoy doing. You can even combine this with the previous point and start a blog about one of your hobbies.
This is one of the biggest strategies I use to save money in my own life. For any purchase that isn’t a necessity, especially big ticket items, I try to put it off and wait till later. If you avoid buying on impulse a lot of times you’ll ultimately decide that you don’t really want or need the item anyway. Or maybe you’ll wait until it goes on sale or the price drops. And even if you do eventually wind up buying it at the same price you’ve at least delayed the purchase and saved some money in the meantime. You’ll find that have less buyer’s remorse and more money in your bank account when you wait on purchases.
This is a big one for a lot of us in our society. Technology is such a big part of our daily lives and it’s easy to get wowed by the latest, greatest TV, phone, tablet, or any other type of gadget. The thing with technology is that the prices drop very quickly, and if you’re always buying the latest gadgets you’re spending a lot more than you would if you just waited a little longer. Compare the price of TVs to what they were just a few years ago and it’s insane.
Not only will you save money by not buying the latest devices, but you may not even miss out on anything important. The first two smartphones that I bought were the newest, most expensive Android phones on the market. I paid $300 and $400 for them, even with a contract with a major carrier. For my two most recent phones I got older and very basic smartphones. I realized I didn’t use any of the advanced features of the more expensive phones and it was an unnecessary expense. I’ve paid $20 or less for each of my last two phones and there has never been a single time where I regretted not getting a nicer, newer phone.
Some financial experts will advise you to never use credit cards. I’m not an expert, but I think by not using credit cards you’re missing out on an easy way to make some money. Of course, this assumes that you pay off the balance in full each month. If you’re racking up a big bill and paying interest the rewards are irrelevant, so you have to know your own level of discipline and whether you can manage a credit card or not.
You can see in this article that I made a good bit of easy money last year from credit card rewards and sign up bonuses. My favorite deals right now are from Chase. If you sign up for a Chase Freedom card you can get $150 as a bonus when you spend at least $500 in the first 3 months. You’ll then earn up to 5% cash back, with at least 1% cash back on every purchase. The Chase Freedom Unlimited also offers the same sign up bonus, but this card pays a consistent 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Both of these cards have no annual fee.
Many retail stores, drug stores, hotels, restaurants, and other stores offer their own rewards program. Be sure that you’re taking advantage of these rewards programs at places where you shop regularly. Even small perks can add up. I love getting a free pizza, hotel room, or any other perk.
There are lots of other types of discounts out there that are easy to overlook. Many businesses offer discounts for military, students, teachers, senior citizens, AAA members, other group members, and even employees of certain companies. Check your employee benefits, think about the clubs and memberships that you have, and of course, have valid student or military ID. Don’t be afraid to ask if a business offers a discount for whatever applies to you.
If you have a job with employee benefits there may be some additional savings that you’re not aware of. Many companies offer benefits like discounted gym memberships, or they may participate in programs managed by Working Advantage or Tickets at Work, Of course, you don’t want to buy things or pay for memberships just because you get a discount. But you may be able to get a discount on things that you would be paying for anyway. Check with your company’s human resources office to ask about any available discount programs.
Get in the habit of paying your bills on time, and consider setting up an automatic payment when available. Late fees can be very costly, and if you’re paying them on a regular basis it really adds up. With some bills you may even be able to get a discount for paying up front or for paying in full by a certain date. We get a slight discount on property taxes every year by paying by a certain deadline.
If you’re in debt, interest payments are probably seriously cutting in to what you could be saving or investing every month. Make it a priority to pay off your debt and you’ll find that you have a lot more money to save. This is especially true with high interest debt like credit cards.
Of course, there are a few different methods that you can use for paying off debt. With the debt avalanche approach you’ll pay off the highest interest debts first. With the debt snowball approach you’ll pay off the smallest debts first. See this article for a more detailed comparison of the two approaches.
YouTube isn’t just a place go to waste time when you have nothing else to do. There is a wealth of information and tutorials that are freely available on YouTube. Instead of paying someone else to do something for you, you can probably watch a YouTube video and learn how to do it yourself.
Over the past few years I’ve used YouTube videos to learn how to maintain a riding mower and snow blower, how to trim specific plants, how to treat a brick patio, how to waterproof a deck, how to change a fill valve on a toilet, and several other things. In each case, if I hadn’t been able to learn how to do it myself I would have needed to pay someone else to do it for me. Get in the habit of searching YouTube when you need to have something done, and you may find that it’s actually pretty easy to do it yourself with a little bit of guidance.
All of us have some sort of skill that others might not have. And you can trade services with others to save yourself some money. Several years ago I helped my brother-in-law set up a website for his business and he helped me tile my kitchen floor. I probably wouldn’t have attempted the tiling on my own, but wound up getting the help of a professional, and he got a website out of it. There are a lot of possibilities here if you use some creativity. Websites like Simbi and SwapRight.com make it easy.
Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts are benefits offered by many employers that allow you to contribute tax-free to save on medial costs that you’ll incur throughout the year. They’re a great way to save money if they are available to you, but be careful to understand how it works an to use it properly. This article at NerdWallet covers the differences between the two types of accounts.
Contributing to a 401(k) or a traditional IRA is a great way to reduce the amount of tax that you owe, effectively saving you money. Not only does it save you money, but it’s a critical part of preparing yourself for retirement. Most employers offer some sort of match to contributions that you make to your 401(k). Be sure that you are contributing enough to get the full match offered by your employer, otherwise you’re passing up on free money.
A great way to ensure that you save is to make it automatic. Most 401(k) plans will involve contributions being taken out of your paycheck automatically, so you won’t even have to think about it. you can also set up automatic contributions to many other types of accounts. For example you could set up an automatic transfer of $100 (or some other amount) from your checking account to savings account each month.
Investment and management fees can really eat into your earnings, especially when you look at the long-term impact. If you’re paying a high fee for an investment or an advisor be sure that you are getting enough benefit to justify the fee.
My wife and I have most of our investments with Vanguard, and one of the reasons Vanguard is so popular is because of the low fees. Just a few months ago I had someone pitch me an investment opportunity that looked pretty good at first glance, but looking at more detail the fees were too high to justify. I can do much better with simple Vanguard funds.
Get a piggy bank, or just use a big jar and throw all your change in it. You might be surprised at how much it can add up. When I was in college I bought a PlayStation just from change (I didn’t actually take all that change in to the store, they would have hated me. I took it to the bank first)! I’ve heard of other people using change to pay for bigger things like travel.
This one may seem counterproductive, but I don’t believe it is. Get in the habit of giving money to worthy causes and organizations that are important to you. Giving back helps to give you perspective and appreciation for the money that you have. You may even find that it gives you inspiration and motivation to manage your money more effectively so that you can do more good with it.
Cable TV is ridiculously expensive, and there are so many cheaper alternatives available now. You can buy a basic antenna for anywhere from $20 – $50 and get local channels for free in HD. How many channels you’ll get will depend on where you live and how strong of an antenna you buy. Subscriptions like Netflix and Hulu also have a lot to offer at a fraction of the price of cable. Amazon Prime customers get access to a great selection of videos as well. Other alternatives like Sling will give you live TV for a very reasonable monthly fee.
In our house we have an antenna but rarely watch anything with it. We use Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for the majority of shows and movies that we watch. In the fall I’ll get a subscription to Sling to watch college football on ESPN.
If you decide to keep cable there are still some ways to reduce your bill. You can get rid of upgrades like HD or a DVR, or use cable on fewer TVs in your house. You may also have the option to buy your own equipment rather than renting it from the cable company.
Do you smoke? If so, you should quit. Not only is it bad for your health, but it’s also a very expensive habit. How much do you spend on alcohol? Going out to the bar can be very expensive. If you’re able to get rid of these habits, or at least cut back, you can save a lot of money. You’ll also save on medical expenses later in life.
When you’re looking for entertainment or something to do, don’t go shopping. Even window shopping can easily turn into unneeded purchases that you wouldn’t have made if you didn’t go shopping in the first place. Shop when you need to buy something, not just for something to do.
Plan your meals ahead and make a shopping list of everything that you need for those meals. Then when you go to the grocery store only buy what is on your list. Not shopping from a list will lead to a lot of impulse buys, and you can really save a lot of money by planning and shopping just from your list. Not to mention, most of the impulse buys at grocery stores are for junk food or other things that you are better off without.
One very effective way to reduce the amount of money spend on groceries is to buy and eat less meat. Chicken, beef, pork, and fish all add significantly to your weekly grocery bills, and you don’t need to eat meat with every meal. Simple meatless meals like rice and beans and meatless chili can be very filling and nice for the wallet. If you think you’ll have a hard time cutting back on meat check out this list of 24 Meatless Recipes That Carnivores Will Love.
Where you shop for groceries can have a big impact on how much you spend. Many towns and cities have discount grocery stores, and you can save a lot of money each week by shopping at them instead of the major grocery chains. I do most of the grocery shopping in our house and for the past few years I’ve been shopping at Aldi. It’s amazing how much cheaper their prices are! And on top of the savings, the smaller store and fast checkouts make it a more pleasant experience. If your town doesn’t have a discount grocery store you may have a local Wal-Mart with groceries, which is typically cheaper than other grocery stores.
Shopping at local farmer’s markets is a great way to get fresh produce, support local farmers, and to save some money. Many of the items will be priced lower than what you would pay at the grocery store. If you’re not aware of any farmer’s markets in your area check LocalHarvest.org.
Opting for generic brands instead of name brands can easily save a considerable amount of money. One of the reasons I like shopping at Aldi is because you can almost completely avoid the overpriced name brands, and their generics and private label products are very good. In many cases I’m sure they are made in the same factory with name brand products that are sold for much more. Aside from groceries you can also save by buying store brands for things like paper towels, cleaning supplies, and other household items.
If you’re tracking your expenses you may be surprised at how much money you spend going out to restaurants. I’m not saying you should never eat out, but most of us could cut back and save a lot of money. One meal for your family at a restaurant can sometimes equal the amount that you spend on groceries for an entire week!
Take out can also be a nice compromise. If you want to take a break from cooking or get a meal from your favorite restaurant you can save some money by going with takeout instead of eating at the restaurant. You can skip out on things like appetizers, drinks, and desert and just use what you already have at home to go along with your entree.
If you’re cooking something small enough to fit into a toaster over, use that instead of the full oven to save money on utilities. Toaster ovens are pretty cheap and they can be very useful.
Another easy way to save on groceries is to eat leftovers. When you’re planning meals you can even plan many meals to last for two days (of course, this depends on the size of your family and how much food you’re making). Our family gets two dinners out of many meals. It saves money and saves time cooking and preparing meals.
If you have a large freezer you can buy items in bulk when they are on sale, or buy in quantities that lower the price per unit. We bought a cheap freezer on Amazon several years ago and it’s been a great investment for our family. We buy large quantities of beef from a local farmer and get great high-quality meat for less than what we would pay in the grocery store. Just recently my wife found a great deal on chicken from a local farm.
If you’re willing to do a little bit of work you can grow your own vegetables and save a lot of money. The first year you start the garden you’ll have more expenses for things like getting it set up and maybe some tools, but after the first year it should save you a good bit of money.
Buying in bulk is another good way to get items cheaper, but don’t buy in bulk just because it looks like a good deal. If it’s something that will go bad, make sure you’ll gave enough time to use it or else you’ll be waiting money. If you have young kids, buying things like diapers and wipes in bulk can save a good bit of money.
Couponing is a topic of its own, but you don’t need to be an extreme couponer to take advantage of some savings. With a simple Google search you can find coupons for a lot of things that you need to buy anyway, and even if you are not looking for them coupons probably show up in your mailbox pretty often. Get in the habit of actually looking through the coupons and keeping the ones that you might use.
Don’t buy things simply because you have a coupon, but coupons can save you a good bit on things you need to buy. We have a membership to BJs and they send coupons every month to members. When there’s a coupon on non-perishable things that we use pretty often we’ll buy it even if we don’t need it right away, knowing we’ll use it later.
When possible, stock up on items that you can buy on sale. Of course, you don’t want to buy things just because they are a good deal, but take advantage of sales on things that you are going to need in the near future. One good way to save on sales is to look at the grocery sales paper or your available coupons before doing your meal planning. Plan meals based on what you can buy on sale that week and you’ll save a lot of money.
Many products fluctuate in price throughout the year. If you can buy at the right time you can save a lot of money. For example, you could buy Christmas decorations after Christmas and put them away until you need them the next year. You might save 50% or more by buying holiday decorations after the holiday.
Likewise, clothing and other household items are often discounted after their peak season. Want to know the best time of year to buy a certain item? Check out this page at The Budget Diet and this page at FreeShipping.org.
If you buy your lunch at restaurants every day you could save a huge amount of money by packing your own lunch. Even if you’re eating inexpensive lunches it is still far more expensive than making your own lunch and bring it from home.
Likewise, you can also save a lot by bringing your own drinks to work instead of buying them from vending machines or stopping at the coffee shop. Regardless of whether you’re buying coffee, soda, iced tea, or even bottled water, you can save a lot by bringing your own drinks. Instead of buying that bottle of soda from a vending machine you could easily get it cheaper at a grocery store or Wal-Mart and bring it with you. Or better yet, switch to drinking water, which brings me to the next point.
Drinking water instead of soda, iced tea, juice, coffee, or anything else can help you to save a lot as well. Not only will it save money on drinks that you don’t buy, but it’s also better for your health and will probably save you money on medical bills in the long run.
Drinking more water doesn’t mean that you need to buy bottled water. You can easily buy a cheap water filter for your home and just drink filtered tap water (or if the water is good where you live, you may not even want or need to buy a filter).
When was the last time you shopped around to see if you could lower your insurance premiums? There are a lot of websites that make it pretty easy to do this. You can read this article to see how I got significantly more life insurance coverage for just a few dollars extra per month by using Quotacy. If my main goal was to reduce my monthly premium instead of getting more coverage I could have easily done that with Quotacy as well. This page at Nerd Wallet makes it easy to compare car insurance rates.
Every now and then you should review your insurance policies and make sure that it suits your needs without paying more than necessary. You can significantly reduce your premiums, in most cases, by increasing the deductible. You can also look at the insurance limits. For example, when we moved to a bigger, more expensive house our homeowner’s insurance went up drastically. Of course, that’s expected, but when I talked to our local agent she told me how much our homeowner’s policy was covering for the contents (or the “stuff”) in our house. We don’t have much that’s very valuable and we were way over insured. Reducing that amount cut back on our premium a lot.
With many insurance companies you can save by having multiple policies with them. We save a lot on our homeowner’s insurance with State Farm because we also have our car insurance policies with them. We might be able to save a little bit on car insurance somewhere else, but the amount that we save on the homeowner’s policy more than offsets it.
When it comes to life insurance, do you want it to be insurance or an investment? Whole life and universal life insurance policies try to be a blend of the insurance and investment, and the premiums are really high (and as an investment, it’s generally not very good). Term life insurance is not an investment, it’s just life insurance, but the premiums are much lower. My opinion is that a term life policy is better for most people, and then you can invest the different that you’re saving by not paying for whole life or universal life insurance.
Of course, not everyone’s situation is the same, so you need to consider your own specific situation and determine what is best for you and your family.
Health insurance is a huge cost for many individuals and families. As someone who is self employed, health insurance is a hassle, and an expensive one. And even some of you who are employed don’t have access to very good insurance options through your employer. Of course, if you’re in the US you can check HealthCare.gov to view plan details. But that’s not the only option. Last year my wife went on a health sharing plan with Samaritan Ministries instead of a traditional health insurance plan. I was skeptical at first, but the health insurance plans available to her were extremely expensive and the coverage was awful with very high deductibles. We save a lot of money by having her on a plan with Samaritan Ministries and so far we’ve had a good experience.
You can get insurance plans for just about anything these days. While some types of insurance are necessary, others aren’t. I don’t want to pay a monthly fee to have insurance or coverage on my cell phone, or any other device. Most of these types of insurance policies are unnecessary.
Commuting to work is a necessary part of daily life for most people, but it can also be expensive. Consider carpooling with a co-worker to save money on gas. Taking public transportation can be a good option in some situations, but do the math to see if it will truly save you money. If you work in a city and have to pay for parking every day or every month you are more likely to be able to save by taking public transportation.
Carpooling and public transportation can also help you to save money on insurance. If you drive fewer miles or don’t drive to work every day you can probably reduce your car insurance premium. Check with your insurance company for details.
It really wasn’t that long ago that most adults lived without a cell phone. Now it’s a part of our daily lives and most of us, myself included, view a cell phone as a necessary expense. But in the era of smartphones and data plans the amount that we pay each month for coverage has gone up a lot from the previous era of cell phones.
Fortunately, there are still ways to save on your monthly bill. Some of the major carriers are now offering cheaper plans, and my favorite option is to go with a discount carrier. A few years ago my wife and I cut our bill in half by switching from Sprint to Boost Mobile. Last year I switch from Boost Mobile to Cricket Wireless. I still pay the same amount, but I have much better coverage. Of course, the coverage for any provider will vary depending on where you live and where to travel. I’m extremely happy with Cricket Wireless, and with all of the discount wireless carriers I don’t know why more people aren’t using them.
If you live in a state that is deregulated, like I do, you have the option to change the company that you pay for utilities. Your state may even have a website that makes it easy. In Pennsylvania we can go to PA Power Switch to compare rates and change providers. We recently switched our electricity to Constellation Energy. Constellation Energy is available in many states and you can check availability here.
Aside from lower the rate that you pay for electricity, you can also save by cutting back. Simple things like turning off lights that aren’t needed can have an impact.
LED lightbulbs are much more energy efficient and can reduce your electric bills. The lightbulbs are more expensive, but they last for years, so they actually wind up being cheaper.
This is one area where I really need to do better. By unplugging things that are not in use you can save a lot of electricity. According to studies, about 25% of all residential energy consumption is used by things that are turned off. Read this article for more details. Unplug things like laptops when they are fully charged, or unused electronics like game consoles and cable boxes. (After writing this paragraph I unplugged 5 things just in my office alone.)
Another easy way to reduce your electricity and/or gas bill is to adjust your thermostat. Set it a couple of degrees warmer in the summer to save on air conditioning costs. And set it a few degrees cooler in the winter.
With a programmable thermostat you can set it to turn down the air conditioning or heat when you’re at work or sleeping, and to me more comfortable in the hours that you’re typically awake and at home.
Water heaters use a lot of electricity or gas. How hot do you need the water to be? If it’s hotter than it needs to be you are wasting money. You can lower the temperature so it’s not making the water any hotter than it needs to be, and not using excess electricity or gas. With some water heaters you can get a timer that will turn it off at night. At our old house we had one of these and it didn’t start heating the water until shortly before we woke up. The only problem was when the time would change or when the electricity would be off for a few hours and I would forget to adjust the timer. Cold shower to start those days!
You can also save on your water bill by being more conscious of the amount of water that you’re using. Simple things like turning the water off when you’re brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, and installing low-flow shower heads and toilets can all add up to a noticeable difference.
If you need to replace an appliance, why not go with an energy efficient option? These days they make it pretty easy to compare the energy efficiency of most appliances. And in many cases the energy efficient appliances are very reasonably priced.
Insulation is pretty cheap, and it can save you a lot of money on heating and air conditioning. If your house is drafty or under insulated make the expense now to fix it and it will save you money in the long run, especially if you do the work yourself.
In general, extended warranties are a bad use of money. Stores and manufacturers try to sell an extended warranty for everything, and there’s a reason – because it’s a good deal for them. Of course, you never know when you’re going to need a warranty, but in general, you’re better off keeping your money than paying for an extended warranty. Even if the item breaks you may have trouble actually getting money or a replacement based on the fine print and the details of the warranty that you weren’t aware of.
How many tools do you have in your garage/shed/basement that you’ve only used once or twice? If you’re like most of us (myself included), you have at least a few. And tools can be expensive. Instead of buying a tool that you’re unlikely to ever need again ask around and find a friend that has one that you can borrow. You can also rent many types of tools from hardware stores like Home Depot. AutoZone even has a free loan-a-tool program.
Lawn care and landscape services can get pretty expensive. Doing the work yourself, if you’re able, can save you a lot of money. Last year we moved and bought a house with a lot of landscaping. In the spring I paid a lot to have trees and shrubs trimmed because I didn’t know how to trim some of the specific plants. This year I’ve been watching videos on YouTube and I think I can do the majority of it myself and pay the pros only for what I can’t do on my own. If you need someone to do basic yard work and easy landscaping, consider hiring a teenager or look for someone on Craigslist. You’ll pay a lot less than going with a commercial landscaping company.
How many cleaning products do you have in your cabinets? Did you know that many of them are unnecessary? With a good microfiber cloth you can clean a lot of things with just water. When my wife first told me about this I was very skeptical, but after seeing it with my own eyes and using microfiber cloths for a few years I am a believer. e-cloth makes a quality microfiber cloth that is very affordable. You can also buy Norwex products, but they’re more expensive (read this article for a comparison of e-cloth vs. Norwex). Not only can you save on cleaning products, but it also helps to remove toxins from your home.
Another way to save is to make your own cleaning products. You’ll save money, and again, reduce harmful chemicals in your home. Check out this handy list of homemade cleaners for every room.
Another benefit of using an e-cloth microfiber cloth is that you can use it instead of paper towels. If you use a lot of paper towels, and you probably do if you have kids, the cost can really add up.
Make it a habit to only run your washing machine and dishwasher when you have a full load. Otherwise, you’re spending more on water and electricity than you need to.
The heated dry option will dry your dishes faster, but it also uses a lot more electricity. Instead, just open it up when it’s done, pull the racks out, and let everything air dry.
Instead of buying fabric softener or dryer sheets buy some wool dryer balls. The wool dryer balls last a really long time, will help to dry your clothes faster, and will reduce waste. Not to mention, you’ll save money by not needing to buy fabric softener.
Instead of using the dryer, you can dry clothes on an outdoor clothesline or on indoor drying racks. If you have a family you probably do a lot of laundry, and the cost of running the dryer all the time really adds up.
This is easy for me to say because I only need clippers or a razor to cut my hair, it’s not very complicated. But if you’re able to cut your own hair (or have someone in your family do it) or cut your kids’ hair, you can save a lot of money. You can get a set of clippers for about the same price that you would pay for a single haircut.
If you don’t want to cut your own hair consider going to a local beauty school. Many of them will offer cheap haircuts so their students can get experience.
Vacations are a fun time for families, but they can also be very expensive. Consider taking a staycation where you stay at home and do different local activities instead of traveling. Before my wife and I had kids we were planning a big trip for the following year, so we decided to take a week and do something different locally each day. We went to the Washington Zoo (it’s free, aside from parking) one day. We went hiking at a state park and found some other free activities. And one day we spent more money going to Hersheypark. All in all, we had a really fun week and spent only a fraction of what we would have spent going away for the week.
When you do travel, you can save a lot by traveling at off-peak times. Not only will you save money, but you’ll avoid big crowds that come with the peak seasons.
When you’re traveling, consider driving instead of flying. Of course, this is not always possible, but in many cases it is. Road trips can be fun too, just find some things to see and do along the way. If you have kids or a large family the cost of flying the entire family can get really high.
If you don’t want to put the miles on your own car, consider renting a car. A lot of times you can get a great deal and put the miles on someone else’s car. Plus, if you go with a major car rental company like Enterprise and you have car trouble on the trip you can swap out the car at another location and continue on your trip.
Another great way to save on travel and vacation costs is to go where the deals are. If you don’t have somewhere specific in mind you can go on sites like TravelZoo and find some great deals.
Instead of going out and spending money on entertainment, you can stay at home and have a family game night. Game nights can be a lot of fun and it encourages more time together as a family.
Aside from game night, there are a lot of other ways you can entertain your family for free, or cheap. Make a list of ideas that your family likes and check the list whenever you’re in need of something fun to do. You can check this list of 101 Fun Family Activity Ideas. Check local websites, like a calendar page on your township website, and Facebook groups and you may find some great free or low-cost activities. One of our local radio stations mentions 5 free family fun things to do each weekend, and they also post it to their website. You may even find classes at craft stores or hardware stores. There are a lot of possibilities if you look around a little.
Many parks (including national parks) museums, and other places have certain days with free or discounted admission. Look for them, put them on your calendar, and take advantage of it. About a month ago our family went to a $2 day at Port Discovery, a fun kids museum in Baltimore.
If you have kids, babysitting can get pretty expensive. Maybe you don’t even want to go out because you don’t want to pay for babysitting. Why not find some friends or neighbors who have kids and trade babysitting each other’s kids?
Taking the time and making the effort to teach your kids about money will save you in the long run. Kids need to learn about money, and there’s no one better to teach them than a parent. If your kids learn how to respect and manage money early on they’ll be set up for a better future, in addition to saving you money from mistakes. Teach them to respect their possessions and they’ll take better care of what they have.
Pets can be expensive. Food, vet bills, grooming. And some pets cost you a lot of money by destroying stuff. If you don’t have a pet already, continue to live without one and you’ll save money. For some people a pet is like part of their family, so the expenses aren’t really important. I understand that a pet is an important part of life for some people, but if that’s not you, don’t get one.
Take care of yourself physically and you’ll save money on medical bills over the course of your life. Simple things like walking or riding a bike can be good exercise, can serve as entertainment, and will not cost you any money.
Do you feel like you buy gifts for too many people at Christmas? Consider a set up where you buy a gift for one other person instead of an entire group. On my wife’s side of the family we put all of the adults’ names in a box and we each draw one name, and then buy a gift for that person. So we each get and give one gift (except for the kids, they get a lot more). You can also do the same thing at work with co-workers.
Another way to save on gifts is to put a dollar limit on what each person can spend on the other. That way you’re not in the uncomfortable situation of paying more for a gift than you want because you don’t want the other person to spend more than you.
Earlier I mentioned credit card rewards and how you can get a lot of cash back just by using the right credit cards. One great way to use that cash is for Christmas gifts. The last few years I’ve used my rewards at Christmas and it’s totally covered what I spend in gifts. If a free Christmas isn’t a reason to use a good cash rewards card I don’t know what is.
I know re-gifting is looked down on, but if it’s a gift that someone else will like and actually use, who cares? If you got a gift that you won’t use and you know someone else who would like it, don’t let it just sit around your house, re-gift it. Obviously, if it’s a crappy gift that no one wants I’m not saying you should just pass it on to someone else.
Let’s face it. We all get a lot of gifts that we’re never really going to use or that we don’t even want. Instead of doing that, if friends and family are going to get you a gift ask for cash or a gift card to a store or restaurant that you like. Instead of useless gifts you’ll get something that will actually save you some money.
A lot of stores and restaurants give out freebies on your birthday. If you know where they are you can take advantage of them. Check out this big list of birthday freebies at The Budget Diet.
How many cards do you buy in a year? Birthday cards, cards for holidays, get well soon cards, etc. Cards aren’t cheap. You can save a ton of money by getting cards at the dollar store where they are as cheap as $0.50.
Libraries can be a great resource if you use them. Not just for books either. Many libraries also have movies and CDs that you can borrow. At some libraries you’ll have to pay a small amount to rent these things, but other libraries are free. My wife and I used to live in Mount Laurel, NJ and the Mount Laurel library was amazing! They had a huge movie selection and you could take out something like 10 movies at a time for free. I used to pick up a few movies before every weekend.
There are a lot of things that you can buy used and it will have no real impact on your use of the item. Of course, buying clothes at yard sales, consignment shops or thrift stores is an option (especially for kids that outgrow clothes quickly). You can also save a lot of money by buying furniture and other household items used. Sites like Craigslist and the Facebook Marketplace are perfect for finding cheap, used items.
Likewise, you can also sell your own things that you’re not going to use. Most of us have a lot of stuff sitting around the house just collecting dust. Why not get rid of it, de-clutter your house, and make some extra money? Have a yard sale or list it online.
The interest rates of savings accounts are pretty pathetic. You’re not going to make much money, or even keep up with inflation by having your money in a savings account. But savings accounts are convenient for money that you may need soon, so you might as well make some interest on that money. If you’re using local bank for your savings account you probably have a very low interest rate.
I’ve been using Capital One 360 for several years and I highly recommend them. They offer one of the best interest rates, and if you sign up through this link you’ll get $25 for opening a savings account.
Be sure that you are checking your bank and credit card statements and look for any fees that you weren’t expecting. If you’re paying unneeded fees talk to your bank and see what can be done about it. Maybe your account balance dropped below a minimum allowed or maybe they can switch you to a different type of account that wouldn’t incur the same fees. If you don’t pay attention to your statements you probably won’t even know about the fees.
Do you have any memberships or subscriptions that you don’t use? If you don’t use the gym, or don’t use it often, cancel your membership. You can always exercise at home and save money. Also, you can cancel magazine subscriptions unless you’re really into a certain magazine. Look at the recurring bills that are on your credit card statement each month and see what you can live without.
Amazon Prime costs a yearly or monthly fee, but if you use the benefits it is well worth the cost, and then some. Getting free two-day shipping can save you a lot of money if you do your shopping on Amazon, and they’re making it increasingly easy to buy just about anything that you could want or need. Prime members also get a lot of other perks. Earlier I mentioned Prime Video and how it can be an alternative to cable. I also use Prime Photos, which gives you free photo storage and backups if you’re a Prime member. There are many other benefits as well, and if you use just a few of them it will easy more than pay for itself.
Another great way to save with Amazon is to use their Subscribe and Save program. Many consumable products that you buy over and over again can be put on Subscribe and Save. You just need to be careful that you’re not getting shipments sent too frequently or you will buy more than you need. But you can always adjust it. We buy diapers through Subscribe and Save and it’s much cheaper than we can get anywhere else, even in bulk at BJ’s with a coupon.
It’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once a year. If there is an inaccuracy on your credit report you’ll want to know about it as soon as possible so you can get it corrected. Checking your credit report can also help you to identify problems like identity theft, which can be very time consuming and costly to fix if it continues.
This applies to a lot of different things, but I think one of the most obvious examples is with cars. The more bells and whistles you have on your car the more you’ll pay for it, plus, that’s more things that can go wrong. All of those fancy gadgets are nice when they’re working, but when they break they can be expensive to fix.
Another example is with appliances. We moved less than two years ago and the house we bought had high-end kitchen appliances. A few months ago our oven wasn’t working right and we had to replace one of the heating elements. I don’t even want to admit how much it cost just for the part. When we eventually replace all of the appliances in the kitchen I highly doubt we will be going with high-end brands. They’re nice, but expensive to fix.
Most things in life are negotiable. In our culture we negotiate on certain things, like cars, real estate, and starting salaries, but other things are rarely negotiated. I’m not suggesting that you go in to the grocery store and haggle with the cashier. But there are many things that you can negotiate, especially services. Maybe they say no, but in a lot of cases you can get a discount if you ask and if they think it will be the difference in getting or losing your business.
Take good care of what you have and you won’t need to replace it as often.
We’ll be publishing a lot more in the future about saving and making more money. If you want to improve your own financial situation please sign up for our free email list and you’ll be notified about new articles and tips.
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I've been working in internet marketing full-time since 2008. I started VitalDollar.com to share from my experience and to help others who want to improve their own financial situation. You can read my full bio here.
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