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Innovative Ways to Save Money

Updated on October 12, 2015
Save money!
Save money!

Have you ever known someone who lived through the Great Depression? Chances are they could have written a book about how to reduce expenses, chock full of money saving ideas. Their attitudes and practices toward spending money and saving money were quite different from today's norm. The depression made an indelible impression on anyone who lived through it. Money ceased to be something to be taken for granted, and deprivation installed lifelong habits of frugality. Today experts tell us we are living in a depression even greater than the "great" depression, and that we are possibly even approaching a cataclysmic meltdown. If this is even remotely possible, it is useful to revisit one of the truisms of the depression era: "A penny saved is a penny earned." So while I'm not advocating washing and reusing aluminum foil (yet!), read on to discover some valuable money saving ideas that will not lower the quality of your life. One caveat: learn to balance your time and your money. You can always make more money, but your time on earth is limited. Ask yourself, "Is this use of my time WORTH this monetary savings?" Sometimes, especially for the more complicated methods of savings (such as the creation price books -- in my circumstance), the answer is no.

The Obvious

The best way to save money is to spend less of it. Consider these money saving ideas:

Try buying generic. Don't assume it's not as good as the name brand until you've tried it. Most of the time the quality is the same, sometimes it isn't, and sometimes it is BETTER!

Cook from scratch. Not only is it much healthier (better ingredients and no preservatives) but it's MUCH cheaper. Convenience foods save time but cost much more money.

Buy in bulk. I keep my flour and sugar and rice in five gallon buckets. A great Internet grocer that sells in bulk is Honeyville Grains. They sell specialty grains, oats, wheat berries, dried fruits and vegetables, etc. Check them out: $4.49 ships your entire order, no matter how much it weighs.

Shop Aldis! If you happen to have one of these absolutely awesome money saving stores near you, by all means, shop there for staples. Their cereals (most currently $1.69 a box) are perfect clones of many of the name brands.

Go to yardsales. I could not have survived without this invaluable resource. I have clothed my babies, furnished the apartments of my college aged children, purchased incredible Christmas presents and bought myself treasures I could not otherwise have afforded, all for pennies on the dollar. Plus, it's fun! Go early for the best selection, late for the best deals. Always "dicker" ... it's expected! Look for neighborhood sales in high end neighborhoods.

Shop Goodwill and consignment shops. Get into the habit of browsing the ones near you on a regular basis. The idea isn't to purchase your whole wardrobe there, but to snag that one perfect sweater or pair of jeans in your size for a couple of bucks when it would have been many times that in the store.

Hang out your clothes. Electric clothes dryers are an energy hog. Hang clothes outside until almost dry, and finish off in the dryer for a "best of both worlds" solution.

Check the library before buying books. If the library doesn't have the new best seller you're looking for, buy it at a discount store, read it quickly and resell on Amazon while it is still "hot"!

Barter. We have a photography studio and have been bartering portraits for hair cuts with a hair dresser we know for years. Craig's List has a section just for bartering ... you never know who might want what you have to offer or what you might want that someone else is willing to trade!

Less Obvious

It might seem counterintuitive, but to getting the most from your shopping dollar requires that you shop more often. Some people are good with sitting down with the sale flyers from the Sunday paper each week, and figuring out who has what lost leader sales, and all of the ins and outs of each drug store's special savings promotions. This is a great way to save money ... if you have the patience for it. I do not. What I do instead, is I leave early and take a few minutes to cruise through the stores I frequent when my errands take me into their general vicinity. I keep a list in my purse of things I need or am looking for. Just today I found soft cotton turtlenecks in beautiful colors in Walmart, for just $4.50 each! Woo hoo! The trick here is to only buy the things you a) need or b) that you're going to eventually need and recognize to be a superb deal.

Shop ahead. At the first of the year, make a list of all the people you plan to purchase gifts for throughout that year. This is easy to do with Christmas just past. Keep the wrapping paper handy and as you see good gift items (frequently on sale, just after Christmas!) go ahead and wrap them up and label the package with a sticky note: to, from, contents. I keep my Christmas and birthday gift list with me at all times, and doing so helps keep me on track AND take advantage of sales as I come upon them!

Save on heating bills by using electric blankets or heated mattress pads at night, and electric warming throws during the day. A small ceramic space heater at your feet in the room you spend the most time is more cost effective than turning the thermostat up on your heating system.

Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or even better, LED lights, particularly with your most used lights. I noticed a savings of about fifteen dollars a month on my electric bill for each frequently used bulb I replaced with CFL's and am currently experimenting with my first LED's, now that their prices have fallen into the affordable range. (Check Amazon.) Beware that CFL bulbs contain mercury, and don't put them where children or pets might cause them to break. LED bulbs, while more expensive at the outset, do not break, and use much less electricity than even CFL bulbs, and last practically forever..

Make those expensive three and four blade razor blades last MUCH longer by drying and oiling the blade after shaving. It isn't use that so quickly dulls them, it is microscopic rust. Dry the blade and dip in mineral oil, or spritz with WD-40.

If you have high speed Internet, replace your phone service with a Magic Jack. Currently selling for $39.95, this small device connects your telephone and your computer, and gives you unlimited long distance and local calling in the United States and Canada for $20.00 a year. Additional years may be purchased at a discount. This little gem lowered my phone bill from $38.00 a month, to $1.39! Test it out before you disconnect your other service to be sure it works well for you, and do look on the Internet for free programs that can be downloaded to your computer which will allocate the computer's resources to the jack first, when phone calls are made. The Magic Jack DOES allow for 911 calls to locate you.

If you live near a public library or a McDonald's, consider surfing the web and checking your email from your laptop on their dime! Most libraries and McDonald's restaurants offer free wi-fi to their customers.!

Watch TV online for free. is the most well known website, but even the major networks feature some of their shows for free. Hunt around ... and drop that fifty dollars a month cable bill! Many of the major networks post their shows online after they have been viewed on cable.

Don't have insurance that covers your prescription? Walgreens offers a prescription savings plan for $20.00 a year for individuals or $35.00 per year for families. Not only do you get reduced prices for prescriptions (sometimes enough off to pay for the plan immediately!) butyou also get 10% off of Walgreen's brand products. If you're a member of the National Rifle Association, they, too, have a prescription assistance plan that gives you up to 55% off of your scripts! Another option to consider is

Brush your dogs' teeth. This is insanely easy to do, and will allow you to keep the hundreds of dollars you'd otherwise pay your veterinarian to anesthetize your dog to scale his teeth. Don't buy expensive pet toothbrushes and toothpaste. An soft, human toothbrush works fine with a little baking soda.

Don't buy expensive tooth whitening systems. Baking soda and 3% hydrogen peroxide both whiten teeth.

Lots of people are into making their own laundry soap now. Internet recipes abound, liquid and powdered, most of which use some combination of soap, washing soda, and borax. It is cheaper by far to A) buy powdered Purex (that is quick dissolving, even in cold water) at the dollar store and use a third of what the box recommends (same results) or B) use a teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing soap. If you buy a scented variety, you even get the scent, the clothes come out perfectly clean, and the sudsing is minimal for those who have the high efficency washers. Pennies on the dollar. Try it, you'll see!

For fabric softener, you can eliminate static cling by either using a half cup of white vinegar in the rinse (there is no smell when the clothes are dry) or use a crumpled piece of aluminum foil. If it is the scent you're after, a small amount of liquid fabric softener applied to a dry washcloth does the trick. Note: avoiding the use of commercial fabric softeners also drastically lengthens the life of clothes and towels. In the case of towels, they also are more absorbant when dried without softeners, which coat the fibers of the cloth.

Print priority postage online. The USPS website gives you a discount if you pay online and print the postage label at home. Be sure not to obscure the barcode with tape.

Instead of purchasing flowers and shrubs at the nursery, root your own with cuttings taken from friends. Almost anyone will give you a cutting or two from a plant you admire! The typical procedure: take a 3" soft cutting during the growing season and remove all but the top couple of leaves. Allow to harden off overnight, then dip into rooting hormone and then into moist potting soil. Place container in a shady area and cover with a clear lid. Leave for one month, checking weekly for moisture. (Usually if you can see condensation on the underside of the lid, it does not need water! Remove and plant.

Purchase concentrated cleaner by the gallon at a janitorial supply house and dilute for various household uses. Buy automobile windshield cleaner by the gallon (same price as a small bottle of windex at the grocery store) and use as window cleaner.

Bathe your dog with Murphy's Oil soap. It's gentle, vegetable based, extremely inexpensive and it rinses squeaky clean in seconds.

These are just a few of the ways I save money that I don't often see posted anywhere else. Please feel free to add your own favorite tips in the comments section ... let's help one another!

I love this one. It comes from my college aged son. The difference between top shelf (expensive) alcohol and bottom shelf (cheap) alcohol is the degree of filtration. For less that $20.00, you can purchase either a PUR or BRITA filtration pitcher and run the bottom shelf alcohol through the filtration, with top shelf alcohol results!


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    • Brett Winn profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett Winn 

      6 years ago from US

      Thanks, Moms ... we need all the help we can get, these days!

    • MomsTreasureChest profile image


      6 years ago

      Great tips and suggestions, thanks for sharing! I came across your hub while on bubblew...

    • thost profile image


      7 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Great money saving tips, will vote up.

    • Brett Winn profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett Winn 

      7 years ago from US

      Sgbrown ... thanks for the comment and the share! I wrote this so long ago, I had to search for what you were talking about re the Oreos, lol ... I still stand by that! I thank you so much!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      7 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Brett! You have a ton of good information here! Some I do now, some I will be trying soon. I just want to say I totally agree with Oreos! Voted up and awesome! I will be sharing this on my blog, thanks again for SHARING! :)

    • kenoscully profile image


      7 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Brett,

      Found your article after you left a comment on my blog. All I can say is a big thank you for this article and I plan to put some of your tips into practice and comment on them in the future.

    • Brett Winn profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett Winn 

      9 years ago from US

      Another thing about convenience foods, too, is the preservatives they contain. I'm far from a health food groupie, but preservatives give me the creeps. The exception would be Oreos ... they are worth the risk!

    • Springboard profile image


      9 years ago from Wisconsin

      You mentioned convenience foods as being very costly, and I always point to those in particular when I talk about saving enormously on the grocery bills. I don't think most people realize exactly how much more they spend on convenience foods, nor how simple it is to make things so many buy in a box from scratch.

      Just a couple of examples. If you buy a bag of those Pasta Sides, they are around 4.5 oz. and they sell for about $1.20 each. You are paying $4.27 per lb. for noodles. Betty Crocker boxed mashed potatoes are sold in an average box size of 6 oz., depending on which one you get, and they cost around $1.89 each. That's $5.04 per lb. for potatoes.

      Even with regard to laundry detergent, there's so much psychological attachment to products. Tide is probably the most expensive thing on the shelf. I have to tell you Xtra works just as well for me and it's a fraction of the cost. Though making my own detergent I'm sure would be even cheaper, and maybe even better.

      Thanks for the useful information.

    • wordmasher profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Lots of good tips here, but the only one I've had a chance to try out is the one about shopping Aldis . Almost everything is way lower but there is not trade off in quality! Bye Bye Wal Mart.


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