*I am not a financial guru or adviser. I am just someone who is more interested in finance than the average person and have been fairly successful in my financial journey thus far. This series is simply to share my story in hopes that someone else will be inspired or takeaway some good ideas.*
Back in 2015, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to start focusing on my financial goals and a small obsession was born. If you read my post on How to Pay Off Debt and Build a Security Fund, you'll know I promised to share some of the crazy things I did to save money and make money during my journey and after. I will admit I got relatively extreme, but at that point I wanted to reach my goal extremely badly. I tend to get obsessed with ideas and run with them. I will say now that I am debt free and in a much better financial place, I do not strictly adhere to all of these anymore but many of these habits have become my lifestyle. If you've been following my Low Buy 2020, you'll know I'm approaching money with a healthier mindset than I have in the past. I understand not all of these ideas will work for you! As always, take what works for you and leave the rest!
As promised, here is a list of simple ways to save money (I'll do a separate post on making more). Let's be clear, simple does not mean easy. Some of these were/are really challenging for me. This list is ongoing as I have learned and tried new money saving hacks as the years have passed. Using these methods, I was able to pay off my debt and start saving around $800 per month on the less than 30k salary I was earning back then while owning a home and solely supporting myself. If you do the math, that is saving quite a bit on a low salary. Now that I make quite a bit more and am financially stable with a supportive partner, these habits have allowed us to save an invest so much more.
30 Simple Ways to Save Money:
Utilize the Peak Hours Schedule for Power
Did you know your power costs more during certain times of the day and during certain months? I was so surprised when I found out about this. Depending on your state, your power company may post a peak hours schedule. In Alabama, power usage during the summer peak hours is triple the economy price! I use this schedule to plan when to do laundry, run the dishwasher, hairdryer, etc. I printed the schedule out and keep it in the laundry room. So for instance, during the months of June through September it costs way less to use power during the hours of 7PM-1PM on week days and anytime on the weekends. It's mind-blowing to spend less just by changing what time you do the same activities.
Hang Dry Your Clothes
When I was paying off my debt, I hung literally every clothing item to dry instead of running my dryer. Your dryer uses a LOT of power. I am not this strict now, but I do still hang quite a bit of my clothes to preserve the clothing and our power. Hack: if you don't have a hang-bar in your laundry area use the shower.
Cut Cable and Streaming Subscriptions
I did not have cable (and still don't) because it is 100% not worth the money
. I much prefer to binge watch shows rather than browse channels with commercials. Netflix was and still is my go-to for mind-numbing shows; luckily, I found someone who would let me use their login. We do have a Netflix subscription now, simply because Keith had it and wanted to keep it (if not for him, I would still be finding a generous soul to share with).
Pretend to Cancel Internet
I called Charter and told them I wanted to cancel my service. They wanted to know why so I said, "I can't afford it." They wanted to know what I would be using for internet and I said "I guess I won't have any." Then they proceeded to offer to lower the bill about $20 per month which I happily accepted. I did this for several years by calling back every time they raised the bill again. I will say I do not love dealing with their customer service so Keith handles all of that now.
Use the library
I love to read. Instead of purchasing books, I reserve and pick up books from the local library. My current library membership allows you to request books from the entire county's worth of libraries so the selection is quite large. I only buy a book if it fits into my personal 'hall of fame'. Yes, driving to the library is a little out of the way but paying for and storing tons of books is very wasteful if you're not re-reading them.
Be Hot, Be Cold
I set the heat as low as I could possibly stand it (approximately 63) in the winter and wore extra clothes at all times. In the summer, I would do the same with the A/C (around 78). We are definitely not this extreme now in the summer because we hate to be hot inside but we currently have our winter temp set to 63-65. Also on this note, a programmable thermostat works wonders for the energy bill. We recently received an Ecobee as a house warming gift and absolutely love it.
Take Your Lunch and Snacks to Work
At one point, I ate PB&J sandwiches for lunch at work every single day for a few months straight. Extreme, I know. Even if you don't eat PB&J's, planning workweek lunches ahead on the weekends saves a ton by preventing you from impulse buying takeout or snacks from the vending machines. Another trick is not keeping small bills or change in my wallet so I literally cannot use the vending machine...even when the Cheezits are whispering to me.
Make Coffee at Home
I'm no stranger to Starbucks, but when I go it is a special occasion (typically when Keith and I are out and about or traveling). Every night before bed, I prep my cheapo mini coffee maker for the next morning. The first thing I do when I get up is sleepily walk downstairs to turn it on. I buy bulk coffee from Costco through Shipt and save hundreds by making lattes myself. I was recently gifted a frother, which has been life-changing. I look forward to sipping coffee while I get ready for work or in my pj's on the weekends.
Grocery List and/or Shipt
Write a specific grocery list, organized by location in the store, and stick to it. If you didn't need it before you went in the store, you don't need it once you're in there. This rule has saved me from throwing extra items into the cart. I also found that I've saved a lot by using Shipt. Since I'm not physically in the store to browse, I'm less likely to buy unnecessary items. Note, Shipt has a 5% up-charge (except for when using Target), you add a tip, and there is a yearly fee; however,if you're problem is buying things you don't need in the store, having someone else shop saves so much. Let's be clear, there is no way I would have paid for Shipt when I was paying off debt or if I were in a financial pickle. I utilize it now that I'm out of debt to keep me out of the store mostly because I'd rather be spending my time doing something else (and it forces me to stick to a list which saves me money in the long run).
Buy the Store Brand
When possible and not sacrificing quality, buy the store brand items. Publix, Wal-Mart, and Target items usually cost less than the other name brands and are just as high quality. A dollar here and there adds up quickly.
When you need something, try finding it used first. Thrift stores, yard sales, Facebook Marketplace and the LetGO app have all brought amazing deals into my life. I've purchased high quality furniture, clothing, home items, shoes and more secondhand at a fraction of the retail price. Many of my absolute favorite clothing items have come from yard-sales or thrift stores.
Try a Capsule Wardrobe & Re-wear Items When Possible
Save on new clothing and laundry by paring down to a capsule wardrobe or a 'uniform' and only washing items when they actually need it. Call me gross, but I will re-wear items that are not 'dirty' such as pants or dresses I've worn to work. I'm planning to do more posts on how I use capsule wardrobes at some point!
Make Bulk Meals
Make meals that will have easy leftovers such as chili or spaghetti. Typically the cost of making large amounts of meals like these is very low. As a bonus, you don't have to cook as often when you have leftovers for several days.
Make it/Do it Yourself
Try thinking outside the box before you purchase something. I didn't have a Christmas Tree when I bought my first home, but my parents do woodworking. So I snagged some free pallets from the job I had at the time and we made a pallet tree and strung lights around it. It was adorable.
Also, we DIY whenever possible around our home. Although I would love to pay someone to paint I've been slowly working on it myself since we moved in. Keith has figured out how to change our sink faucets himself and install our over-the-range microwave (there's nothing sexier than a man who gets shit done).
Rethink your gift-giving approach. I did an entire post on minimalist gift ideas and how to re-evaluate stressful holiday traditions and costs. For several years, we donated to charity instead of purchasing individual gifts. I've also come up with a way to invest for my nieces and nephew instead of wasting money on toys. I have a Betterment account for each of them and make deposits for their birthdays and Christmas. We've also started purchasing family experiences for Christmas instead of 'stuff'. Using these methods, we have saved a lot and made the holidays more meaningful.
Buy Blank Cards
Instead of buying a $3-$5 card for every birthday and party, I buy packs of blank cards for less than $15 and write my own (like these). Not only do you always have cards on hand, but you save money and give something written from the heart.
Cut/Dye Your Own Hair
I've been dying my hair out of a box since I was a teenager. My dye costs about $6-8 verses a $60+ salon trip. For a time, I cut my own hair too. I found a YouTube Tutorial on how to cut your own layers. It took about a year before I had to go to a professional to do it correctly again. Now, Keith shaves my undercut at home and I go to a salon for my layers ($30).
Paint Your Own Nails
I've saved over $9,000 by doing my own gel nails for the past ten years. I did an entire post for you on how I do this! I have salon-quality nails all the time and it is basically free after you've recouped the cost of the supplies (which is after the first mani/pedi; last time I had this done in a salon it was over $80). I have also been painting my mom's nails for 10 years using the same method. We only rarely have to replace polishes or buffing blocks so it is hands-down a genius way to save money.
Buy Staple Items When They're On Sale (if you have room for bulk storage)
When you see items you use frequently on sale, buy several! For example, when Publix has Bubly on sale BOGO, we stock uppppp because Keith drinks several per day. When Lean Cuisine has the .55 OFF coupons on each box in the store, I buy more of them than usual to get the savings. This only works for items you know you use frequently.
Before you purchase a specialty item you may not need very often, see if you could borrow it from someone. For example, I've borrowed ladders, a stud finder, clothes, shoes, beach supplies, costumes, audiobooks, casserole dishes, etc.
Try a Low Buy or No Buy Year
I've recently embarked on a Low Buy year for 2020 and have been amazed at what I've saved so far and the things I haven't purchased that I probably would have otherwise. A low or no buy is where you set specific goals and guidelines for what you will and will not purchase during a specified amount of time.
Say Yes to Leftovers
We have a lot of family dinners and get-togethers. I've learned to say 'Yes!' to leftovers when they are offered. Then, we usually have a free lunch or dinner for the next day. Plus, you're family loves when you love their food.
Use Coupons and Promo Codes
If you get free coupons in your mailbox, clip the ones for items you would be purchasing anyway. The trick with coupons is not to buy things just because you have a coupon for it. Before you go into a store or order online, search for promo codes and discounts. Usually I can find discount codes for online orders or specialty stores on RetailMeNot or CouponChief. For grocery and cosmetic items, I recently discovered Coupons.com for free printable coupons.
Don't Wash Your Hair Every Day
It's healthier for your hair, your water bill, your shampoo and conditioner lifespan, your hairdryer/power bill, and saves you time to not wash your hair every day! I've been doing this since high school and love the evenings where I don't have to spend time washing and drying my long hair. I simply clip it on top of my head before I shower.
Minimize Your Toiletries, Makeup, and Beauty Products
Before I became a minimalist, I would try new beauty items pretty regularly. Not surprisingly, this cost adds up over time and I ended up with a vanity full of items I wasn't using regularly. Now I have a limited amount of makeup, skincare, and hair products that I just replace when I use up. Finding products you like and sticking with them saves you time, stress, and money. All of my makeup fits into a small basket that stores easily in the cabinet.
Workout at Home
I am a huge supporter of regular exercise and I think it is a worthy investment, even if you pay for it. Sometimes, going to a gym is what works best for your schedule and motivation; however, if it works for you there are tons of free workout videos on YouTube or inexpensive workout apps. In the past I've done Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube. Then I used Kayla Itsines' BBG program that a friend let me have in pdf format. After that, I transitioned to the Sweat App - PWR at Home with Kelsey Wells for $19 per month. Collecting the workout equipment was an investment up front, but it pays for itself in the long run. I was thinking about doing a post on my workout routine soon. Let me know if this is something you'd like to see.
Cut Soda and Alcohol
Whether you're at home or at a restaurant, drinking water is healthy and cost effective. Drinking soda or alcohol can easily add $3-$15 to a meal in a restaurant and even though purchasing them at a grocery store is cheaper, it is still an unnecessary cost. I'm not saying I never have a drink on a special occasion, but they are few and far between and we never have soda or alcohol in the house.
Have Movie Night at Home
One of our favorite things to do is have dinner at home and watch a movie together. Netflix has tons of movies and we also have a family member's login for several other streaming apps. Taking the high cost out of 'dinner and a movie' saves so much (and we watch a LOT of movies). I think we may have been to a theater a total of three times in our relationship and those are only for really special movies.
Plan Ahead (Get a Planner)
I've had a yearly planner since I can remember being able to write in one. I plan out birthdays, holidays, special occasions, paydays, bills, meals, appointments, workouts, grocery lists, etc. This way, it's rare that something I need to budget for sneaks up on me and I'm less likely to forget items or meals when I go to the grocery. I design my planners on PersonalPlanner.com. They are a fraction of the cost of designer planners and you can customize them.
Buy Glasses on Zenni
If you wear glasses, you know how expensive they are through a traditional eye doctor even if your insurance covers a portion. So a trick I've learned is to use my insurance money for contacts. While I'm at the eye doctor, I have them measure my pupillary distance and write it down. Then, I order glasses for a fraction of the price on Zenni Optical. I've ordered three pairs over the years, each for less than $50.
Make a Budget/Track Your Spending
You don't realize how much you're spending until you start tracking it. I recently discovered Personal Capital and have been loving using it to track the whole picture of our finances in one place. Once you link all of your accounts, it automatically updates as you make purchases and get paid. You can categorize each income and expense to get a broad view of your finances (and it is free).
Plan your vacations around peak tourist periods and shop around for the best deals. Or simply don't go on vacations. When I was paying off my debt, I didn't go on any vacations. Now, we take maybe one vacation just the two of us per year and we try to keep it under $1,200 which we budget for all year. We also take advantage of family vacations when they are offered since those usually only cost transportation, food, and experiences.
Be Car Smart
Drive an affordable used car and do any maintenance you can yourself. Both of our cars are paid off and over 10 years old. The temptation to buy newer cars has presented itself, but there is no need to get a car payment when it is not necessary. We are blessed to have a mechanic in our close family and are able to do most car maintenance at a fraction of the cost. As long as our cars are safe and get us where we need to go, there is no sense in upgrading.
I hope you have enjoyed these 33 simple ways to save money and have found a few that will work for you! As I mentioned before, I know all of these will not apply to everyone and that's okay. These are just a handful of things I've found helpful in my financial journey and I wanted to share them with you!