Originally, this was two separate blog posts, one with 16 and the other with 26 tips on how to save money fast. But surely you’d rather see a combined 40 savings tips? Yeah, we would too. So we combined them!
These first 17 money-saving strategies are courtesy of Krystal from Give Me Back My Five Bucks. Let’s dive in.
It seems like we are always focused on staying away from purchasing big-ticket items to save money. For those of us on a budget, we know we shouldn’t be buying that big-screen TV, or that new car or even that cute purse we’ve been drooling over. But what about the little things? Those easy habit changes that can save us $10, $20 or $100 over the course of a year?
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It dawned on me this evening as I was rinsing out plastic zip-lock bags from my lunch box that there are a lot of things I do everyday to save a few cents here and there. Maybe reusing plastic bags doesn’t seem like much, but I’m saving money and helping out the environment, too. And this got me thinking, what other habits have I picked up that have saved me money?
Krystal’s fast tips for saving money
1. Sell the car
This has been a huge money saver move for me. I sold my Mazda and bought a new scooter for $2,200. The cost of owning a scooter ended up being cheaper than buying a monthly bus pass! Five dollars gets me almost 200 km on my scooter, and it’s only $15/month to insure.
If you’re following a 50/30/20 budget, you might assume the car falls into your essentials category. But does it? Maybe not. Depending on where you live, the bus, a bicycle or a scooter might get you where you need to go.
2. Bring your own grocery bags
In some cities — I’m looking at you Long Beach, Calif.– the grocery stores charge you for plastic bags. In other locales, you might get a credit for bringing your own bags. Either way, it’s a perfect reason to invest in reusable bags that won’t end up in landfills.
3. Use a cloth to remove makeup
No more round cotton pads for me! I swapped out the throw-away cotton pads in favor of a soft face cloth and that saves me $3 a month.
4. Buy generic store brands
I used to be completely against the generic stuff, especially when it came to lotions, body wash and feminine products. But I’m over it. When I see a huge bottle of name-brand body lotion for $10 and the generic version for $3.50, I take the generic.
5. Make your own notepads
Instead of using Post-it notes, I make my own notepads from used paper. That’s right! I take paper from the recycling bin at work, cut the sheets into quarters, and then staple them together. A perfectly good note pad! So what if the back doesn’t stick to things? It’s free!
6. Use coupons
Coupons are old-school, but who cares? Fifty cents here, 35 cents there—it all adds up after a while. I know searching and clipping can feel like a time suck, but seriously, spend 15-20 minutes every Sunday looking for coupons and the savings add up!
7. Only buy groceries that are on sale
The BF and I made it a rule only to buy food that’s on sale. So if we’re out of tea, bread, cheese, or lettuce, and it’s not on sale that week, we don’t buy it. This has saved us a fortune compared to when we just bought whatever we considered “the usuals” every week.
We’ve learned to create our meals around the ingredients that are on sale by looking at the store flyers online before we head out. We spend $20-$50 per week on groceries for the two of us, and that includes stuff to pack in our lunches every day.
8. Pack your lunch
In the last six-plus months, I’ve only eaten lunch out once. I always pack my lunch for work the night before to keep my mornings less hectic. This saves me at least $5 per day.
9. Buy the entertainment book
Seriously, the Entertainment Book is one of the best purchases I make every year. That thing pays for itself after using just two or three coupons! Aside from having the coupons for the places you know and love, it’s also a great way to try out new places you might have otherwise overlooked. The EB is one of the main reasons I was able to stay on my $30-per-month dining out budget for so long.
10. Reuse shoe boxes
I love shoes, but I also love shoe boxes. They’re fabulous and free storage. And, you can wrap them with decorative paper so they’ll look amazing stacked on top of one another. I have everything in shoe boxes, including first aid supplies, yarn, needles, cross stitching, old journals, electronics, etc.
11. Reuse retail shopping bags
I reuse the retail shopping bags as garbage liners. We usually dump the contents from every waste bin into one big bag, and leave the bag liners in place. That way we’re only throwing away one bag.
Shopping bags are also strong enough to hold our recycling when we take it out to the curb every other week. And, the recycling guys always leave the bag so we can use it again the next time.
12. Borrow from the library
Gosh, I don’t even know when I bought my last book. The library has all the best-sellers, and as long as you’re patient, you’ll get to read it for free! Books are so expensive nowadays, it’s not even worth it to buy them.
If you absolutely can’t wait to borrow the book from the library, at least ask around to see if you can borrow a friend’s copy. Or, check out used book stores for people who trade books.
I had a friend who read a lot—every time he finished a book, he’d take it to the used book store and trade it for another one. While I was buying books new from the store, he was saving $20 each time by borrowing it for free.
13. Quit drinking alcohol
I never go to the bars or clubs with my friends anymore, because it costs too much. Plus it’s weird to be surrounded by drunk people when you’re sober. And I certainly never order drinks with my meals if I do go out for dinner. If you don’t want to give up the cocktails, then make a habit of ordering from the drink specials menu.
14. Always order water
Stick with water when you’re eating out. It adds up!
15. Order the daily special
You can’t be too picky but habitually ordering the daily special does save serious dough over time. And it’s even better if you can take half of it home for another meal.
16. Drink tea instead of coffee
Coffee dates with the gals can be pricey when the cost of a fancy beverage is five bucks or more. Tea is so much cheaper! And, if you’re being really frugal, you can ask for a cup of hot water and bring your own tea bag.
Heather’s Tips on How to Save Money Fast
Seventeen ways to save money down, and 25 more to go. This next batch of fast money-saving tips is brought to you by Heather Solos, the founder of Home-Ec101.com.
17. Cut the cable
How much are you paying for TV each month? It’s likely that you could survive by paring your entertainment expenses down to one, maybe two streaming services — especially if you have Amazon Prime. Cut the cord with cable now. I bet you’ll hardly miss it at all.
18. Pool a sitter
Here’s a trick that works as long as your kids aren’t teeny-tiny. Coordinate date nights with neighbors or friends and share a single babysitter. You don’t want a teenager trying to take care of three toddlers and an infant—but you might have an older teen watch over a few eight- and nine-year-olds.
19. Rediscover sharing a night in
Instead of going out to dinner and a movie, invite friends over for a movie, poker, or game night. And if they ask if they can bring anything, say yes.
20. Take advantage of free community entertainment
Skip the high-priced concert tickets in favor of community theater, high school sports and concerts in the park. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!
21. Know your spending habits
This is a big one. Know your spending habits and what conditions tend to result in over-spending. Examples:
- If you can’t be trusted with cash, don’t carry it.
- If you’re a spontaneous purchaser of fountain sodas, keep a cooler with sodas and waters in the car. Pay for your gas at the pump and don’t set a foot inside the gas station mart.
- If retail therapy is your preferred method for handling stress, experiment with new hobbies or meditation.
22. Learn to cook
Learning to cook some simple, tasty dishes can save you loads of money and calories. Try stir-fry or pasta with marinara sauce or grilled chicken and roasted potatoes.
23. Watch your portions
To put it bluntly, overeating is nothing more than flushing money down the toilet.
24. Eat less meat
I’m not telling anyone to go vegan. I’m an unapologetic omnivore, but ounce for consumable ounce, seasonal vegetables are cheaper than lean protein. You can also stretch meals by adding beans, rice, or oats to many recipes.
25. Store leftovers before you eat
Here’s the order of operations when cooking: cook, serve, store the leftovers, then eat. Packing up the extras before you dive in to your meal keeps you from eating seconds that you don’t need and also ensures you get two meals for your cooking efforts.
26. Check the fridge for stuff that’s about to expire
Set a time to check your fridge each week for items that need to be consumed. And then eat that stuff, fast. Leftover meatballs? “Honey…You want meatball sandwiches for dinner?” Yeah, that’s the idea. Pretend you’re on Chopped and your leftovers are those mystery ingredients.
27. Grocery shop with a list
Plan out your meals for the week, make a list and shop alone. When shopping becomes a team effort, extra stuff finds its way into your cart.
28. Check the quick sale bin and make stew
Soups, stews, and casseroles do not need picture-perfect produce. And freckled bananas add more flavor to your baked goods.
29. Watch for “quick sale” items in the meat department
You can save double-digit percentages by purchasing “quick sale” meats. Just make sure you cook or freeze them immediately.
30. Shop alternative markets
When you need spices and canned goods, head to the ethnic store or a bargain shop like Big Lots. Also pay attention to the prices for commodities like milk and eggs. In my area, gas stations and drug stores sell milk for less than the grocery store. And Walmart sells eggs cheaper than Sam’s Club. Check out your options and you’re sure to uncover some hidden savings.
31. Always check your receipt
Cashiers are human and they make mistakes. Just be polite when you call attention to the error.
32. Make your own cleaning product
You likely don’t need much in the way of cleaning products, because you can clean almost anything with baking soda and vinegar. Turns out, this combo does a better job getting hard-water stains off a glass shower door than the expensive cleaners.
33. Stop using disposable items
The Swifter may seem like a life-saving, but it’s a budget-killer when you have to keep buying those disposable pads. Try converting old t-shirts and socks into rags and use those instead.
34. Keep a rag bag
Having rags on hand to clean cuts down on your paper towel consumption significantly. And there’s no guilt if a mess was just too nasty and the rag has to be tossed.
35. Sweep and vacuum often
Dirt build-up can damage your flooring and carpet. Make a habit of cleaning up on the regular to extend the life of your floor.
36. Ditch the drop-in toilet cleaners
A toilet brush is a one time investment and doesn’t damage the flushing mechanisms. If your toilet is running due to a slow leak, fix it and reduce your water bill significantly.
37. Pay your bills on time
Late fees create a vicious debt spiral. Set up auto-payments to cover your minimums and avoid those penalties.
38. Use CFL or LED bulbs
As your light bulbs burn out, replace them with more efficient CFL or LED bulbs.
39. Program that thermostat
If you have a programmable thermostat, use it. Your home doesn’t need to be the perfect temperature when you’re not there, or when you’re tucked under blankets in bed. If you can’t program the thermostat, make a habit of turning down the heat or A/C when you leave and when you go to bed.
40. Use ceiling or portable fans in the summer
A room feels much cooler when you move the air around. You may not need to run that AC at all.