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How to Save Money (A Few Cents at a Time)

Updated on September 1, 2012

The struggle continues

 

Many families in America and around the world have been forced to survive with fewer financial resources than they previously enjoyed.  Although experts proclaim the economy is improving, many are still struggling.  Credit card debt is rising.  Payday loan companies now inhabit strip malls and business districts.  In these trying times, it is extremely important to find ways to stretch a dollar.

There is a wealth of information available about saving money, but much of it assumes a high level of income to begin with and involves investment advice and tax shelters.  More modest strategies are still geared toward men and women with income levels that offer some choices.  What can someone struggling to make ends meet do to improve their financial situation?   

How can we save money?  An old adage advises us to “watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.”  Unlike similar advice such as “starve a cold and feed a fever,” this is actually worth paying attention to.  If you find small ways to put aside money, you will manage to save.  If you plan to set aside an extra $1000 each month that you weren’t saving before, you will likely fail.  It is too large a goal to tackle in one step.  How can we improve our situation?  How can we save money if we don’t have much to begin with?  How can we reduce our reliance on credit cards or payday loan companies and improve our financial situation?

The good news is that it isn’t impossible to make your weekly pay check last an extra day or two.  There are simple strategies that can be utilized by anyone to leave a few more dollars in our pockets.  These twelve recommendations won’t put a Jaguar in your driveway, but they might help if you’re struggling to make ends meet.

 

 

There are things we can do to save

We all need to find ways to stretch a dollar
We all need to find ways to stretch a dollar
These recommendations won't necessarily put a Jag in the garage...
These recommendations won't necessarily put a Jag in the garage...
...but the will provide a few more dollars to work with
...but the will provide a few more dollars to work with
It is possible to save money by performing maintenance tasks yourself
It is possible to save money by performing maintenance tasks yourself
Look for bargains everywhere you go
Look for bargains everywhere you go
Shop opportunistically
Shop opportunistically

Twelve strategies for saving money

 

1.  Know your weaknesses.  Recognize and offset your weaknesses.  If you dine out too often, buy groceries with the money budgeted for food before you can hit your favorite restaurants.  Make your own coffee instead of buying lattes.  Go to the library instead of buying books.  Whatever your spending weakness is, you must acknowledge it to combat it. 

2.  Anticipate needs and search for opportunities.  Identify your future needs and plan for their fulfillment.  Take advantage of yard sales, coupons, store clearance items, generic substitutes or rebates and shop opportunistically.  Shop around and buy when bargains are available.  It’s okay to have a few extra rolls of paper towels in the basement, especially if you found a good deal.

3.  Ask for and accept help.  Don’t suffer in silence—let others know what your needs are.  You will likely find someone happy to help if they can, particularly if you are anticipating your needs well in advance.  Giving others time to help you dramatically improves your chances of getting the support you need.  Each time someone offers you assistance, accept with grace and dignity.

4.  Give help whenever you can.  Offer whatever you don’t need to others.  If someone gives you a new sofa, offer your old one to another family in need.  Finding a new home for unwanted items may encourage someone else to reciprocate, and you could end up with something else you need.

5.  Do things for yourself.  If you can maintain automobiles, machinery, furniture or appliances, you will save a tremendous amount of money.  It is very expensive to have mechanical or electronic devices serviced for you, and failing to care for them will necessitate their replacement sooner than is necessary.  Check the oil in your car or change the filter in your furnace—it will pay off. 

6.  Make things last.  I’ve owned my wrist watch since 1973 and intend to wear it for the rest of my life.  A good leather belt can last decades.  A dirty or stained jacket will still keep you warm.  Don’t dispose of things unless they no longer serve a purpose.  If it still has a value—either its original function or a new one—hang onto it.

7.  Become aware of resources in place that can help you.  Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, there is probably a place to get help.  Look for grants or scholarships if you’re returning to school.  Be aware of tax breaks and utilize them.  Apply for a small business loan if you’re starting a new venture.  Whatever expense you’re facing, there likely is help somewhere.

8.  Stay one step behind trends.  Whether purchasing phones, cars, computers or clothes, the bargains come from shopping after everyone else has already made their purchase.  If you can wait to buy, the price will come down.  Music, clothes and automobiles can be purchased used and technology drops quickly in price to make way for upgrades and new products. 

9.  Complain when you need to.  Complain in a polite, rational manner when it is appropriate.  If the food you were served in a restaurant is cold, tell your waiter.  If you bought a defective product at your local big box store, return it.  A tool the retail or service industry utilizes to keep customers happy is to discount or “comp” their products or services.  If the price reduction or freebie is worth it, accept their offer with thanks and don’t hold a grudge.

10.  Plant a garden.  You don’t have to be a farmer with hundreds of acres of crops to save money through gardening.  A small area in the back yard can yield tomatoes, onions, green peppers, radishes and more.  Try planting corn, watermelon or cucumbers if you are a bit more ambitious.  It will taste wonderful and be far more cost effective than buying from the grocery store.

11.  Save change in jars.  This advice is hardly unique, but it is easy and practical.  Split a dollar instead of digging into your pockets or purse for coins, and put the change you get back in a jar every evening.  (Keep a few dimes and quarters in your car for parking meters and tolls, however.)  This will leave fewer bills in your wallet to spend, and the change will quickly accumulate.   

12.  Network.  Let your social network know how things are for you.  Don’t bombard family and friends with sob stories—be honest but upbeat.  Demonstrate that financial burdens haven’t defeated you.  Keeping in touch with your contacts might eventually provide the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

 

 

And more....


There are, of course, many other ways to save a little money not mentioned here, and they are just as valid as most of the items on my list. You can brown bag lunch or only shop when you're in a hurry; you might borrow books instead of buying or downloading them; you probably care well for your vehicle to make it last as long as possible. There are no "right" or "wrong" ways to save because anything you do to save a few bucks is beneficial. I am not advocating using my methods instead of other ideas as long as you find ways to save.

Good luck.


Don't bear burdens alone

 

Perhaps you’ve heard some of these suggestions before, but the social aspect of these ideas is worth emphasizing.  It is important not to bear burdens in silence; ask for assistance and help others in return.  Teaming up to save money is not only a good way to save a few dollars; it will help solidify your friendships, as well.  We all need other people to succeed in life, during good times and bad.  Looking to friends and family when the going gets rough makes good sense and will benefit you in ways unrelated to money.  Be gracious, both in giving and accepting help, and you will quickly see your situation improve—financially, and in other ways, as well.

These twelve recommendations won’t allow for an early retirement, but they will help.  Like dieting or fitness training, watching your budget requires mental discipline and support from others.  If you struggle to make ends meet, these simple steps will contribute to your long-term success.  I wish you everything you need for a comfortable, happy life.  Good luck!

 

 

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    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Eileen, thanks for reading. I agree with you about young couples with big houses--so many folks get in over their heads from the very beginning and struggle all their lives to make their payments. It is better to think smaller and work up to their dream house--the house will still be there when they are ready for it.

      Yup, you are right about the last point, as well--don't let anyone know that there is money in the jar. Unwanted guests will come looking for it.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by. Take care.

      Mike

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 7 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      I wish the young couples going out and buying big houses straight up and having mortgages for ever would read this article.

      You need to start small and reduce loans then not such big mortgage. Great way to save money with the jar or piggy money box.

      One thing though. Do not tell anyone that you are doing it or they may come and raid the jar. Thats the only disadvantage. with thieves about.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Springboard, thanks for reading. Looking at savings from a smaller perspective has been the only way I could really save money, regardless of whether I made a lot or only a little. There is still much to be done before I can retire, but you're right--a little here and there adds up.

      Thanks for your insights, Springboard--I appreciate your stopping by.

      Mike

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Pennies at a time is really the right way to go, and it happens to be something I've preached incessantly. I've never had a great income necessarily, but I have ALWAYS been thrifty and frugal and have taken care of the pennies, knowing they are the part of my finances I rarely miss, and that add up big time. A little here and a little there and I now feel I have a comfortable nest egg, real estate that earns passive income, and I'm not struggling even while the economy is in a bad way.

      It's not about how much you make, but what you do with it is the saying I use often. You seem to have that concept spot on here Mike.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks, Noorin. Have a good day.

      Mike

    • noorin profile image

      noorin 7 years ago from Canada

      You are very welcome. Will always do =)

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Noorin, thanks for reading, and thanks as well for your kindness. I am so pleased that you enjoy what I have written and find value in my hubs. That is extremely gratifying, and I thank you so much for your kindness. I hope that my words have indeed meant something to others, as you suggest. It would mean a great deal to me.

      Thanks again for your wonderfully kind comments, they are greatly appreciated. Come back anytime!

      Mike

    • noorin profile image

      noorin 7 years ago from Canada

      Mike, perhaps it didn't increase the balance in ur account ;-) but im sure it somehow made u rich for I am positive that the souls u have touched, the people u have inspired and the hands u have reached to make u rich.

      You have no idea, how much I enjoy reading ur hubs ... Just today, i was struggling with a dilemma and reading ur hub "What do I do" helped a lot. And "The Room is Empty" just expressed emotions I would have never been able to explain using my own words.

      Cheers,

      Noorin

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Noorin, thanks for stopping by. I am a believer that being gracious and altruistic will even help with saving money. It hasn't made me rich, but it has helped.

      Thanks again.

      Mike

    • noorin profile image

      noorin 7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for a great hub. Very straight forward. Some of the ideas would have never crossed my mind =) I like how u integrate networking, well manners and altruism in all of this. =)

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Askpowers, thanks for stopping by. I struggle to save money also, but it helped when I started to find strategies to make it a bit easier. Glad you find my ideas helpful. Thanks again.

      Mike

    • profile image

      askpowers 7 years ago

      I could never save my money if i have in my pocket, Dont know why i cant save money... well i'll must try now to save money :)

      Nice hub with cool information.

      Thanks,

      Regards,

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Hi, Peggy. Thanks for stopping by. You're right, bartering for services is a huge way to save money. I also knew an electrician and traded a painting for some work on my house. I also referred him to everyone I knew, which he appreciated greatly. It just makes sense for people to help each other, and the benefits are lasting. If it's old-fashioned, then I am old-fashioned, as well.

      Thanks again for reading.

      Mike

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Bartering is also a good way to save. Some good friends of ours are proficient with doing electrical things which they did for us and I gave them some artwork that they liked in exchange. It was not a formal "swap" but it was done in the spirit of friendship on both sides.

      Our neighbor across the street has a gas generated power washer which he loaned to us. I sent back lots of the baked goodies from my grandmother's old journal that I was baking and testing for my hub. We got cleaner looking sidewalks and they (who are professed sweet lovers) got some extra desserts.

      People just helping people...it may be old fashioned...but it certainly works and can save money as well. GOOD HUB! Rating this useful!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Elena, thanks for reading. My intent was to mention things that can help in small ways, but hopefully they add up in the end. There is government help available, but so often people don't know where or how to look for it. I hope for the day when times are better for us all.

      Thanks again, Elena. I am always appreciative when I see you've stopped by.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Hi, Maita! I've become a penny pincher since times have become harder for me--it's important to make a dollar go as far as possible. And, you're right--self control is going to make the difference in the end. Thanks so much for stopping by, hope everything is going well for you.

      Mike

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      Excellent Tips, Mike. They actually, save more than a few Cents. There is also a lot of Government help out there, if only people would look or ask for it. (In the UK, anyway).

      Best Wishes. :)

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

      Hi Mike, your advices are all excellent and count the pennies yes -- and self control too. I am a penny pincher hehe, Thanks Mike, Maita

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Donna, thanks for reading. I am a huge advocate of staying a step behind. I think we lose very little (or nothing) and the savings are enormous. In the last few years I've become a big bargain hunter, and that is one of the easiest ways to pay less for something. We can wait awhile for nearly anything, so why not?

      Thanks again for reading.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      CS, thanks for stopping by. I believe that helping others benefits in the short and long term. Not only does it allow for more use of an item, it also offers the opportunity to build relationships. This is an essential element of success, but it is also fundamental to living a good life. We need people around us to be happy.

      I am not a big gardener, but I do try a little bit. I also spend a lot of time in resale shops. Once in awhile there will be a huge bargain in among their ordinary fare. Got an unworn pair of tennis shoes there just the other day.

      Thank you for the kind words regarding the topics I write about--I try to look for practical subjects.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Mike

    • DonnaWallace profile image

      Donna Wallace 7 years ago from North Carolina

      What a great hub. I love the ideas about saving money, particularly the "stay one step behind."

    • profile image

      coffeesnob 7 years ago

      Mike,

      Very thorough list. I like it. I especially like numebr 4. it reminds me of the pay it forward concept. I like to spend :-) but have been trying to cut back some. I find a lot of things at our local resale shops. I usually garden and can, but since I am moving this summer I didn't plant - but I still do the canning and process what I find at the farmers market. It is a tad bit cheaper and much much better. You think of so many neat things to write about. I Enjoy your hub.

      Many blessings

      CS

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      You are quite welcome, tipsguru. Come back anytime.

      Mike

    • tipsguru profile image

      tipsguru 7 years ago

      Thanx for answering me......meow meow :::D

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      stars439, thanks for reading. I am glad you found the information helpful and I hope others will, as well. Thanks again.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      tipsguru, thanks for stopping by. I will look for your work and see what you have written.

      Mike

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Thank You For the helpful information. GBY

    • tipsguru profile image

      tipsguru 7 years ago

      hi mike, i would like be your friend, can we?

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Saddlerider, thanks for stopping by. I no longer tell the cashier to keep the pennies either--I need them at least as much as the retail store I'm shopping in. The idea that millions of dollars are in the streets of America is fascinating, isn't it? If one were to look, I'm sure a few pennies or nickels could be found on the ground every day throughout the course of conducting our normal business. That is indeed a lot of money.

      Thanks again for your comments, and hopefully we can all look forward to better times.

      Mike

    • saddlerider1 profile image

      saddlerider1 7 years ago

      Great hub Mike and brilliant advice. I wonder how many of us will now NOT throw away pennies on the street BUT now stoop down to pick them UP. They say in America alone there are millions of dollars laying in the streets by tossed away coins, pennies mostly? It's time now to keep those pennies don't leave them with the retailer, I have been guilty of that when the purchase say is $9.98 I would tell the cashier KEEP the pennies, I don't need them, WELL that has changed for many of us and PENNIES now add up to $$$ so hang on to em. I rate this hub UP..very informative and timely, bravo

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Granny, thanks for reading. I'm glad this made "cents" for you.

      Thanks again.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Charles, thanks for stopping by. Hopefully small gains recommended here can help some folks. It might not solve their problems, but if something can help a bit, it is worthwhile. Thanks again for your comments.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Ladyjane, thanks for reading. You are quite correct, the "gotta have it now" mentality has caused problems for so many people, and technological advances certainly don't help. Once we have purchased a computer or phone or car, the next "must have" item makes our purchase almost immediately obsolete.

      Debt has hurt so many people who counted on their homes to appreciate in value. When the housing market collapsed and refinancing every two years didn't bring a windfall, things got desperate for a lot of folks who fell victim to the "gotta have it now" disease.

      Thanks for reading, I appreciate your stopping by.

      Mike

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 7 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      Thanks for the tips. It makes a lot of cents.

    • profile image

      Charles Roring 7 years ago

      I like this tip. Everybody needs to read this in order to live well and not to fall into the trap of financial debt.

    • ladyjane1 profile image

      ladyjane1 7 years ago from Texas

      Great advice Mike especially now when times are tough all around. The problem with people nowadays is that everybody wants everything right now and people are spoiled that way and debt is the consequences of that. Great job here, cheers.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Pollyannalana, thanks for reading. A lot of folks do know exactly what it takes to save, and it sounds as though you are among them. Having a good yard sale location must be helpful--mine is fair. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this, and I appreciate your stopping by.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      mysterylady, I appreciate the kind words and the follow. You are very gracious. Thanks for reading.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Teddletonmr, thanks for stopping by. A little at a time is the only way to go if you are suffering from a money crunch. It is usually possibly to save a few cents, no matter how bad things get, and that's all it takes to get started. Thanks again for reading.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Shawna, thanks for reading. A friend of mine had the exact same problem--garage door had a spring break. You would think it would be simple to replace, but apparently $100 or more is the going rate for any type of service like that. The more we can fix ourselves, the better off we will be.

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      Mike

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 7 years ago from US

      Believe me I know how to save, I have been doing it so long I don't know another way and I am in the perfect yard sale place in the world apparently. I find name brand clothes (which really doesn't matter to me but do to the girls in the family, with high price tags still on, those save me a fortune at Christmas, lol. Great tips you have I can add to my list though, thx!

    • mysterylady 89 profile image

      mysterylady 89 7 years ago from Florida

      You write well, and you give excellent advice. I am going to start following you. Thanks!

    • Teddletonmr profile image

      Mike Teddleton 7 years ago from Midwest USA

      How to save money, a few cects at a time is a great idea. Thanks for the hub, and the reminder.

    • shawna.wilson profile image

      shawna.wilson 7 years ago from Arizona

      Very thorough hub-thanks for the tips. We had to have our garage door opener repaired last week and it was $125 just in labor. I agree with you that being able to maintain your own equipment/appliances saves a TON of money!