Ideas for Saving Money
I was raised by parents who grew up during the depression. In my eyes they were the picture of thriftiness. We lived well. My parents had steady jobs. We had a lovely home, a swimming pool, nice cars, and so forth.
However, my parents saved consistently by:
- shopping smart
- taking care of what they had so it did not have to be replaced frequently
- by forgoing much of what others told them they needed or wanted
- being stellar examples of delayed gratification
- buying things only when they had the cash to do so
- enjoying life's simple things
- seldom letting anything "go to waste"
- avoiding all credit and the interest payments it involved
By doing these things, they had a cash reserve and eventually became good investors to amass a much larger net worth than most people with far more resources ever achieve.
As children, there were things we wanted of course, some of which we received and some of which we didn't. I think that it taught us the reality that we were not entitled to everything our hearts desired. It wasn't always an easy lesson but it's one that has served me well in my adult life.
Saving money can be difficult. Costs continue to rise and many people are feeling the pinch. Most of us want to live well and yet also save for the future.
This page is dedicated to sharing ideas for saving money to help anyone who comes upon it to achieve their goal of cutting back on any unnecessary spending and being able to save for the things they need or truly want.
Ideas for Saving Money: Some Prerequisites
Just a few thoughts about our ideas for saving money before diving in:
- All of the suggestions on this page could potentially reduce your spending. Not every idea will suit you. Only you can evaluate each one based on your personal situation. But, don't forget that if you really want to save, you may have to stretch or be just a little uncomfortable to achieve your goals. If there are too many things that you refuse to change, then you can assume nothing will change.
- Don't "pooh-pooh" small savings. Small savings are easier to achieve and they do add up. Small, gradual success is more likely and generally more sustainable. That doesn't mean you can't have a guilty pleasure or two, it just means you need cut where you can and seriously prioritize how you spend your money. The difference between saving $100 and spending a $100 is larger than you think. If you invest that $100 and earn interest on it, it grows and you have "saved" more than the original $100. If you spend it and pay interest on it, you have spent even more than $100. Obviously, over time this difference can be huge.
- You'll need to keep track of your savings to remain motivated. Nothing makes you feel better or makes you keep working at something more than success. For instance, on a visit to the grocery keep track of your savings when you buy a less expensive brand, use your frequent shopper card, or whatever. When you see the total each week or over the course of a month, you will feel great and it will spur you on to continue your efforts. It works!
- You need to set goals and priorities. In addition, you must find things that aren't priorities.The decision to save money is usually prompted by a "spending goal". For instance, you may be saving to buy a home, saving for college, saving for retirement, saving to pay off your debt, or something similar. Having it all isn't an option for the average person. Decide what your spending priorities are and cut back on those things that aren't priorities. Perhaps health care insurance, food, and a new car are your priorities. Shop wisely for those items that are priorities and then cut deeply on all other items. List them out and rank order them, but remember you can't have 20 number one priorities.
Money Saving Tips: Groceries
Groceries are a necessity and yet something that consumes a large amount of a person or family's monthly budget. Here are a few ideas for saving money on food:
Consider buying in volume and stock up
This is a throw back to my mother. She stored huge quantities of food in our basement. Others use freezers, large pantries, excess garage space, and so forth. The advantage of this is that by doing so allows you to buy when the price is right rather than at the last moment when the pricing many not be as attractive. If there are items you consume often, there is no reason not to buy it at the time of your choosing and to store it for later use. Buying a super size container of some foods can also save money; but be sure to compare the per ounce price to be sure.
Coupons can offer significant savings. The frequent shopper cards that many stores offer can also help save. Using these two items can save several hundred or even a couple of thousand dollars per year when used wisely. However, it can be important to use coupons carefully. Shoppers should determine their "menu", make a list, and then use coupons to save versus buying more items, that may not be necessary, for the primary purpose of using the coupon. Newspapers and coupon mailers are the best source and there are many coupon swapping sites such as Thriftyfun online.
Taking the time to look at the specials in a flyer while planning a weekly menu or shopping list is wise. You can have New York Strip, just have it when the price is right, when there is a special. Many grocers also have an aisle reserved for specials or push lower priced items to the top or bottom shelf.
Determine how much convenience is worth
Buying lettuce pre-chopped and bagged versus in bundles or by the head is often more expensive when considering similar quantities. The same is true with other food products, customers often pay a premium price for the convenience of cutting down their own preparation time. If saving money becomes a priority then eliminating some of the convenience is one option.
Sometimes a lesser known brand or store brand is cheaper. Be sure to compare the per ounce price.
Avoid impulse buying
Again, an occasional treat is nice, but if you really want to save, impulse buying isn't the best idea. It's best to shop when you aren't hungry for this very reason. A written list can help as well.
Consider your weekly menu carefully
Families on a budget often seek chicken and hamburger over steak and brisket. Learn more about the food pyramid here to assure your choices are healthy as well as affordable. Many families focus much of their diet on meat (which is generally expensive) when in fact the USDA recommends approximately 5 ounces a day (for women) and that includes seafood, dried beans, and poultry.
Are there items you buy that you don't really need and may actually be better off not having?
Many people for instance are re-evaluating the need for bottled water when their tap provides what they need. A filter or a pitcher with a filter can be used when necessary. Another example are those who are cutting back on carbonated drinks such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Studies have shown that bone health can be enhanced by drinking water and milk versus "pop". Do you really need that dip for your chips, the frosting for your brownies, or that cream cheese for your bagel? Only you can decide.
Growing your own
A throw back to the "victory garden" of the depression/World War II era? Maybe, but growing your own vegetables (and herbs) can provide a great deal of cheap yet healthy food choices for you and your family. Another option is to check with local farmers markets and produce stands which sometimes offer more attractive pricing as the transportation costs are minimal. For those who are more ambitious, canning and freezing produce can extend the benefits of your garden.
Money Saving Tips: Entertainment
A significant amount of money goes toward entertainment, here are some ideas for saving money on such activities.
Free, or nearly free, family entertainment.
Families can evaluate how they spend their entertainment dollars.
- ice skating
- getting movies at the library
- playing cards
- board games
- paint by number
- working puzzles
- attending free community concerts, and lectures
All of these are among the many options. Spend some time with the your newspaper to identify nearby opportunities.
- Local universities often present events and competitions (i.e piano recitals, band competitions, movies with discussion, etc. ) for free entertainment as well.
- Take advantage of city and state parks, nature preserves, and rail trails
- Consider school and community sporting events for family activities
- Even local bookstores host story telling and other presentations periodically.
- Visiting nearby small towns for the day can be a fun summer time activity.
- Seeking out local eateries, antique stores, parks, touring courthouses, free festivals, and so forth can make for a leisurely and memorable day.
- Eating at home is more economical. Taking your lunch versus eating out or in the cafeteria at work can also save.
- When you do dine out coupons can sometimes be found in the yellow pages as well as in coupon mailers.
- Concentrate on decreasing costs for drinks (and deserts). Drinking water (not bottled) can easily trim $5-$10 off of the bill for a family. Beer, wine and mixed drinks are particularly expensive and can be reserved for special occasions or served only at home where the purchase of a bottle at the store is much less expensive.
- Restaurants serve large portions; save the leftovers for a second meal, split an entree with a spouse or child, or see if you can order from the seniors or children's menu if it's appealing.
Cable and satellite TV subscriptions can be high. Families can evaluate getting a more basic subscription, or if necessary, canceling the service completely. Some families do still enjoy network television via over-the-air signals only and supplement their viewing with movies.
Going to the Movies
Getting movies on loan from the library is free but if you're wanting the total experience and a newly released film, try hitting the cinema for a matinee and save significantly. You can also skip the refreshments and eat before or after the movie to save. Drive in movies are still available in some areas and are often more economical as they charge per car.
Vacation More Economically
- Schedule trips in the off season, lodging costs are significantly lower both domestically and internationally even if you miss the main tourist season by only a week.
- If you're driving, take a cooler along with a meal, snacks and drinks to eat when traveling by car; stop and "picnic" to get the rest you need.
- You can schedule international trips to countries where the exchange rate is favorable and get much more for your money. A travel guide from your local library can help identify lower cost options. (Rick Steve's books are one good source) Consider staying in hostels or the homes of locals who rent out rooms.
- For those who are very flexible last minute flight deals can spell big savings for those who can pack and go with only 24-72 hours warning; simply sign up with the airline for notices. For those traveling to Europe or Japan, researching rail transportation within and between countries is wise as it's fast, clean and very affordable; much less expensive than renting a car, especially when planned ahead
Money Saving Tips: Smart Shopping for Bigger Ticket Items
Saving even a little when you need a big ticket item is important and we have several ideas for saving money on these types of things.
Evaluate the real cost before deciding.
For example, when buying a new car consider the cost of insurance, routine maintenance, and gasoline. Some cars cost considerably more to insure and some have far better fuel economy. The purchase of home appliances and large electronics is another instance where total cost can be important. Comparing energy usage is a vital consideration when determining the total cost of such items.
Evaluate the importance of having the flashiest, newest, or most trendy.
For instance, a 60+ inch OLED television is certainly attractive. However, there are more affordable options that can offer great viewing for a far smaller price tag. Technology in general tends to decrease in price over time as manufacturing processes improve and items are produced in volume, thus avoiding the initial stampede for a product is wise for more than one reason.
Seriously consider whether or not "new" is what you need.
For instance, many experts have discussed the fact that a car loses the largest percentage of it's value in the first year, closely followed by it's second year. Thus, buying a car that is at least a year or two old and has been well cared for is often the more economically sound decision unless you have an employee discount or fantastic rebate offer.
Look at cost, not just payments.
Many buyers are attracted to lower monthly payments. Unfortunately these payments may equate to a total cost that would be completely unreasonable. Be sure you know what you will be paying in total. Avoiding the interest associated with credit or potential late fees should be a primary goal for true savers. Late fees and interest both add unnecessary cost for which the buyer receives nothing additional.
Be cautious about buying an extended warranty
Extended warranties are designed to make money for the business you purchase them from. Often an extended warranty overlaps the manufacturers warranty and thus you are getting less coverage than what you imagine. In most instances, mechanical failures occur within the first year and are therefore covered by the standard warranty. It's best not to decide about the extended warranty when you are making the purchase as you are under pressure to decide. In most cases you will get an opportunity again before the standard warranty expires. Carefully evaluate whether or not a likely repair or replacement of the device is significantly more costly than buying the warranty.
Consider Scratch and Dent.
Looking for "scratch and dent" models that have slight cosmetic "injuries", floor models, and "closeout" items can save significantly.
Buy at the end or out of season
For instance, buying an outdoor grill or lawn mower at the end of summer or the fall guarantees a better bargain. Think ahead or delay a purchase to hit the best time.
Money Saving Tips: General
My parents didn't believe in letting things "go to waste" so along those lines here are some extremely thrifty ideas for saving money at home:
- Save documents from your home or work printer rather than discarding them.Use the back, unused side of it for any handwriting tasks; notes, grocery lists, and so forth or for small children who want to draw and color.
- Save plastic and metal containers such as tubs of margarine, cookie tins, and so forth. Use them to hold crayons, buttons, thread, marbles, safety pins, paper clips, leftovers, and so forth rather than buying special containers for such purposes.
- Turn off lights and devices such as the television or radio when leaving the room. In other words don't waste energy. "Don't stand with the door open on the refrigerator", "shut that door it's hot outside", and similar statements were common in my childhood home.
- Re-use plastic grocery bags. Ours frequently lined small wastebaskets and eliminated the need to purchase small trashbags. Paper bags were also assigned this duty and were sometimes broken down and used as wrapping on packages sent through the mail. Most boxes for gifts and parcels where "re-assigned" shoe boxes and similar containers. We purchased gift wrapping but not gift boxes, unless they came free with a purchase. Bows were routinely recycled.
- My father frequently stated he had "more time than money" thus a repairman, contractor or other service personnel never stepped foot inside our home. Most busy families pay for services due to the convenience. The cost for most of these jobs lies in the labor rather than the materials or parts. Thus doing it yourself can result in a significant savings. While there is a time the "pros" are needed, considering the option of DIY is important. With a free course at some chain hardware stores you can learn to tile, caulk, paint, install faucets, wallpaper, build a deck and more.
- Consider doing more of your self care too. Color your own hair, do manicures, and so forth if those things are necessary.
- Make use of cash back offers and rebates. This is particularly easy online with websites like ebates and similar sites which can potential provide cash back each time you shop. At a minimum search for coupon codes before making an online purchase. (For instance, if buying something at Macy's, search "macy's coupon codes" and see what you can save)
Another comment often heard from my parents was that we didn't need something. They didn't succumb to the word of the media who said something was necessary, they had their own priorities. Each of us needs to carefully evaluate and identify what is necessary and what is merely "nice to have". We all want life to include some luxuries, but it's important to know the differences. Consider the following:
- Cell phones: Are they indispensable? Very few people had them 15 years ago but our world is different now. Could you get by with fewer minutes at a lower price? If it truly is indispensable, do you also need your landline? Is that iPhone necessary or would a smart phone at half the price meet the need?
- Your SUV or large truck: Could you get by with a smaller, more economical vehicle most of the time? For families that live in more urban areas is a 2nd vehicle necessary or can they use the bus, a moped, or even a bicycle? These other alternatives can save on the cost of another vehicle, the insurance, maintenance, registration, tags or plates, and the fuel.
- Frequent, habitual purchases: Cigarettes, coffee, a doughnut in the a.m., vending machine breaks, and so forth add up and are often habits not needs. Breaking the habit can save hundreds of dollars (or more) a year.
- Christmas Gift Giving Under Control: Gift giving is out of control in some families. In large families, perhaps drawing names would be best, then each person buys one gift instead of 15. Hand made gifts are another option to control the spending. Parents can also avoid buying additional gifts that their children present as gifts to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and so forth. Allow children to learn more about the spirit of giving by making their own gifts; this can be as simple as cookies or something else suited to the skills of the child. Christmas is, after all, about giving, not just receiving; even for children.
Money Saving Tips: Involve Everyone
Financial worries are adult concerns. However, raising kids to understand the concept of saving and basic financial responsibility can begin quite young.
Teaching kids to save money and allowing them to purchase some select non-essential items can help foster the type of spending habits and financial know how that will benefit them in adult life. Starting with a piggy bank and moving on to a savings account are good beginnings.
When families are striving to save it can also be beneficial for children to have some understanding of the process and participate as they are able; even if it's just helping mommy clip coupons or understanding that they must take care of their things once they are purchased.
Money Saving Tips: Going Green
Many efforts to reduce power usage can also save a significant amount of money. Here are just a few ideas for saving money by cutting power consumption beyond turning off the lights/TV when you leave the room and keeping the thermostat lower in the winter or higher in the summer:
Use a Reel Mower.
It eliminates the need to buy gasoline and oil for your lawn mower and costs 3 or 4 times less than power walk behind lawn mowers. (Obviously, this works only with a small lawn.)
Dry Clothing Outdoors
Save hundreds of dollars a year by drying clothes on a line outdoors versus using a clothes dryer. (This works only if you live in an area that allows clotheslines.)
Reduce dependence on electrical appliances.
Don't use a hairdryer, allow hair to air dry. Avoid electric shavers, use a razor blade or disposable razors. Use hand can openers, hand operated blenders/mixers, and other manual devices whenever possible. These items are less expensive and can significantly cut back on electrical energy costs.
A Few Websites That Might Help You Save
Helping you find the Wireless and Credit Card Services that will save you money.
As the name implies this site helps you search for and compare credit card services for the purpose of finding the greatest savings.
A site to help you save on phone & internet, mortgages, insurance and more.
A free online money management service. Tips for saving and making money included.