- Personal Finance
5 Easy Ways to Reduce Spending
We all want to spend less money, and most of us want to do it without sacrificing basic needs and comforts. As they say, where there's a will, there's a way. Here are a few basic tips on spending a little less money without giving much up.
1. Have a Daily "Earth Hour"
Most of us have heard of Earth Hour, a day in which people all over the globe commit to shutting off their lights for 60 minutes in the evening. It's meant to bring attention to the amount of power we waste, climate change, and what a huge impact a single hour can make.
I've participated in Earth Hour since the beginning, but I began thinking that just shutting off the lights isn't enough, and once a year isn't either! Since 2010, I have tried to have a daily Earth Hour, shutting off all the lights and the TV, and unplugging anything that isn't in use. I'll light some candles and either read a book (if it's light enough!) or unplug my laptop and run on the battery for awhile. Sometimes I write, sometimes I paint, sometimes I have people over and we'll play candlelight chess or cards. Not only does this help reduce my energy waste, it has cut my power bill in half. That's right, one hour a day can reduce the amount you spend by 50%. That means I've saved approximately $300 in the last year, just by lighting some candles!
2. Visit Coupon and Freebie Sites
There are some things we're always going to need to buy, so why pay more than you have to? There are many websites out there that offer free coupons on staple products, or freebie trials. Search around a bit and see what is available in your area, and how you obtain the coupon (some are printable, others are mailed to you). If they are being mailed to you, try to plan your shopping trips around them -- order your coupons before you run out of those products so that you can take advantage of the savings on your next trip!
Just to give you an idea of how much you can save, my first batch of mailed coupons saved me $5, and all I bought was coffee, kitty litter, laundry soap, cheese and yogurt. That averages out to a dollar off of each item!
3. Shop At Farmer's Markets
I buy all of my fresh fruits and veggies from farmer's markets and fruit stands, and the savings are incredible. Because they've cut out the middle-man (the grocery store), they can afford to charge less, and actually make a larger profit, so everyone wins! As a quick example, mushrooms sell for $2.99/kg at the grocery store -- at the market down the street, they're $1.99. That's an entire dollar less, and the produce at a farmer's market is fresher, tastier, and the money is actually going to the farmer. A single trip to the farmer's market probably saves me $10, and I get a better product. Who wouldn't want that?
4. Don't Buy What You Don't Have To
There are tons of products we buy that are completely unnecessary. And I'm not talking about your luxury items or your Starbucks latte, I'm talking about things you think you need, but don't. Here are just a few examples:
- Glass Cleaner -- no need to buy a bottle full of chemicals; a little vinegar water and an old newspaper works wonders on your glass and mirrors, and costs about 1/10 the amount of glass cleaner!
- Bottled Water -- sure, we all want fresh, clean water that's easy to take with us, but bottled water is expensive and wasteful. Spend the money to get a water filter (either for your tap, or a filtered jug) and a reusable bottle, and you'll save tons of cash!
- Air Fresheners and Deoderizers -- having a fresh smelling house does not require a bunch of sprays and powders. Add a little lemon juice to water and use it to dust and clean your counters and you'll be left with a nice fresh scent. Use baking soda instead of carpet deoderizer. Buy a couple of scented candles and keep them in your bathroom. And, above all, open a window! There are many cheaper, more natural ways to keep your home smelling nice.
If you have a bit of time on your hands, I'd also recommend looking into making foods from scratch -- baking your own bread or making your own granola bars is both healthier and cheaper, and it usually tastes better, too!
5. Free, Used and Traded
It's no secret that shopping at thrift stores can save you money, but I don't think people realize just how much you can save if you look around a little.
- Many apartment buildings, schools, small shops and thrift stores have a table somewhere for people to leave items they are giving away. In other words: free stuff! Look for things you may want or need -- it's not in my budget to buy many new magazines or books, but I quite often find them on the "free" table in my apartment lobby.
- Thrift stores and flea markets often have better deals at certain times of the week, month or year. Take note of those days, and do as much of your shopping then as you can.
- Trading items is a great way to get "new" things for free. My friends and I will trade clothes, kitchenware, towels and sheets; sometimes to try to make matching sets of things, sometimes just to get a couple of new t-shirts without paying for them! Having a constant rotation of "new" items makes it far less tempting to go out and buy a new wardrobe or bedding set.