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Money-Saving Tips for the Real World

Updated on January 1, 2015
Only finding lint in your pockets? Fear not, I've got some great money-saving advice for you.
Only finding lint in your pockets? Fear not, I've got some great money-saving advice for you.

Saving on a Tight Budget

We all wish we could save more money. And everyone's reason is different! While some folks want to save for vacation a year down the road, others may be putting cash back for college, a different car, or even for groceries next month. Saving allows us to have some extra cash later while not having to dip directly into our checking accounts or wallets.

As a former college student, I have mastered, at least for myself, a few ways of saving extra cash. Whether it's for items you want to splurge on or for surprise expenses you're not expecting, it's always best to have money set aside.

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like. Will Rogers


Housing Expenses

Living on your own during your college years means either financing living expenses with loans, or by living on a strict budget. And while loans are convenient in the short term, they easily tend to drive people to madness down the road if they are not careful.

Avoiding loans as much as possible, I chose to rent a small apartment that included utilities in the rent payment. This is rare to find, I know, but if you look hard enough, and build your contacts, you can find renting deals.

  • Ask around - Whether it is at school, work, circle of friends, or family, ask around about rental properties that are open and who you can call to inquire about them.
  • If you are a busy college student, keep your standards equivalent to that of your income. Many people my age attending college are desperate to get out of the dorms and into a snazzy apartment. Who can blame them, right?

    More room, more freedom, and if you're smart, less money per month. However, look within your means. Be realistic- do not rent an apartment that leaves you with little or no money for food, entertainment, or out-of-the-blue expenses.
  • When looking for an apartment, aim low. If you come across an apartment that might need fresh paint, for instance, work with the landlord. Offer to paint for a discount on your first month's rent payment, or agree to a payment plan to pay off the deposit. Because I took the chance, this happened to me with my apartment.

    The landlord showed me the apartment and pointed out that the walls were getting dingy and needed a fresh coat of paint. I told her that I would paint if she took it out of my rent payment. And as luck would have it, I got fifty bucks chipped off my rent for three months and she let me make payments to pay off the deposit. The bottom line is, you never know what deals you might get until you try - bargain, people, bargain!
  • DO NOT BUY EVERYTHING NEW! This tip I cannot stress enough. Especially if you are just starting out, buy as much as you can used. Whether it is a couch, recliner, bed frame, kitchen items, or electronics, you can save so much money by allocating used items versus new.

    I am a huge fan of yard sales, bulletin-board postings, hand-me-downs, and Goodwill. Finding treasures from others' clutter and scrap is not only cost-saving, but definitely fun because you never know what you will happen upon.

Elbow grease is the best polish — English Proverb

Plant a garden!
Plant a garden! | Source

Save Money on Food

We all need food. So saving as much as possible on this necessity is an important avenue to look into. And while the stigma out there is that buying healthy food is expensive, that is not always the case! Keeping with my budget, religiously, I do everything I can to find healthy food for favorable prices.

  • Buy in bulk and freeze. This is not limited to shopping from a wholesale store. Buying in bulk is cheaper and freezing will keep food in your house longer without going to waste.
  • Check out local farmers' markets. Buy fresh produce and help out local families.
  • Take advantage of Aldi! I shop there for a good amount of my groceries. Aldi is one of the largest private-labeling food sellers in the United States. Their products are manufactured by all the big brand names we all know except with an Aldi label.

    If not buying private-label items from Aldi, choose store-brand items at the stores you do shop at. For instance, Wal-mart's brand of Frosted Flakes are identical to Kellogg's Frosted Flakes - just cheaper.
  • Clip the coupons. As monotonous as clipping coupons can be, the savings do add up. However, do not buy an item you would typically not buy just because you do have a coupon for it. Keep with the items you normally buy (and eat!).
  • Grow a garden! If you have a yard, grow your own vegetables. This will definitely save some money.
  • Cook in bulk. On Sunday, make a crock pot of your favorite dish. Stew, chili, pot roast... you name it. Then pack it away in the refrigerator and/or freezer and you will have food for later.
  • Don't buy bottled water. Walk a couple aisles over and pick yourself up a BPA-free re-usable water bottle. If you have city water, chances are that your tap water is either just as good, or even better than most bottled water.
  • Utilize the deli. Do not buy the plastic-packaged cheese and meat. It is ALWAYS more expensive.

From the Department Labor, a graph of the typical family's expenses in the US
From the Department Labor, a graph of the typical family's expenses in the US | Source

Odds and Ends

  • If you are busy with work and/or school and you find yourself rarely watching television, ditch it. Sometimes providers will let you back out of a subscription at a small fee - or no fee. Just ask. Also, Netflix is a great way to have entertainment at a small cost.
  • Cancel magazine subscriptions if you are not reading them! So many times I see stacks of magazines at homes and you can tell they were never looked at. Use your local library.
  • Ditch the daily coffee drink. Not to beat a dead horse, but you can save hundreds of dollars a year by making your own drinks at home.
  • Pay your car insurance either once or twice a year. By paying for either half a year or a whole year in one payment, your overall payment will be slightly less because of the absence of monthly service fees.
  • For gas savings - check tire pressure, wheel alignment, spark plugs, air filters, and extra weight in your vehicle. A lot of things contribute to fuel economy.
  • Do not buy your college textbooks from the bookstore. EVER. And I mean...ever. Buy them used online, rent them, or ask around at school about buying them at a discount from those who have used them in the past and no longer need them.

    Again, do not buy from the college bookstore. The only time it may be necessary is when a college orders a customized book for a class that you cannot purchase anywhere else. This happened to me once. It is not common, but it does happen.
  • If you want to see a movie at the theater, go to a matinee. Ticket prices are always cheaper earlier in the day than at night. Also, check for student-ID discount nights. A theater near my city offers college students $6 movie tickets with a student-ID on Wednesday nights.
  • Use cash- not plastic (a rebuttal point next) - Each week I take out a certain amount of cash from my checking account for my spending money. Take out an amount you are comfortable with.

    Because you are actually seeing your money handed over to someone else, you are forced to evaluate your purchases more so than you would be if you used a debit or credit card.
  • A frequent flyer? If you have excellent credit, take advantage of credit cards that offer rewards on every dollar you spend. CapitalOne VentureOne Rewards Card earns you 1.25 miles for every dollar you spend, and if you spend $1000 in the first three months of activation, you earn 10,000 bonus miles.

    So if you fly frequently or you have a trip coming up, take advantage of reward cards. Just make sure to pay off your balance, in full, each month. Or else you will pay interest - defeating the whole purpose.
  • And most of all, watch impulse purchases. Before spending money on something, ask yourself if it is a need or a want.

Excellent Money Saving Tips for Everyone

How are You Saving?

What money-saving tips from this article will you be trying?

See results

© 2012 M Carnahan


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    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Kas, so glad you like this. Your habits sound just like mine! And congrats on being out of credit card debt - that is just awesome. It really is a ball and chain. Merry Christmas!

    • Kasman profile image


      6 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Thanks alot for writing this, it speaks to me as I am always looking for new ways to save on cash. For one thing, I don't have cable tv. I rarely watch it anyway as it is a mind-numbing thing. Only thing I have a tv for is watching a movie on dvd sometimes. Also, Aldi's is a GOD-send! I save so much money on Aldi's. Also, I walk a lot of places I like to go anyway just because I enjoy walking and it's a great way to stay in shape. Also, I've been out of credit card debt for 5 years now and it's one of the greatest blessings of my life. Felt like a ball and chain on my foot. Paid off my car as well! This article rocks, I'm voting it up and sharing it! Merry Christmas!

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Sarah, you are absolutely right!! It definitely pays off to take care of your things.

    • sarahshuihan profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      These are some great points you have written here. I know the best tip I've learned is that it is ok to buy used things, nobody will know where you got them. Oh, that and take care of your things, it'll last longer and you'll save money in the long run :)

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      hockey, you're mentality is much like mine - run out of cash, no more spending!! Thanks for coming by and reading.

    • hockey8mn profile image


      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I could learn to take out cash more often instead of paying with a debit card. However, when I go out on any given night I try to take out a certain amount of dollars. Once I have exceeded that amount, my night of buying is over. Doesn't mean I have to go home, it just means I can't buy any more drinks. Voted up and useful.

    • Monis Mas profile image


      6 years ago

      Great tips! Voted up and useful!

    • idigwebsites profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks for sharing your hub chockfull of great practical tips! I am thinking of starting a small garden now.

      Some stores (and especially market stalls) lower the prices of their goods before closing time, especially food. Sometimes it's good to take advantage of that and buy anything in bulk, especially goods that you really need to restock in your kitchen.

      Voted up and useful. :)

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Thank you for coming by and reading, Mark!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      All excellent tips Jen. It is good to see a young person with the sense to know and share these ideas. Not only will these serve you now, but always will be important.


    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Thank you all so much for your kind words!

      @Louisa: I've learned from observing others who have had trouble with debt or just lack money handling skills.

      @Mary: College can be very expensive. Especially for those who do not receive a lot of aid with grants or scholarships. And 25,000 is low compared to some people I know who have 50,000+ in college debt - and still no job with their degree!

      @Audrey: Thank you for stopping by!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      Lots of great tips!!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Good advice here! I have a daughter who just graduated with a B.S. She worked 3 jobs, and still left school with 25,000 in student loans. She won 18 scholarships (I wrote a Hub about her) and even at that college was more expensive than she expected.

      You sound like a very wise young lady, and I wish you the very best.

    • Louisa Rogers profile image

      Louisa Rogers 

      6 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      Excellent tips that are usual learned later in life, after you've already accumulated debt! Good job.

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Om Paramapoonya, you're right! If I use a debit card to shop, I definitely spend more than if I was using cash. Thanks for commenting!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for these smart tips! I agree taking out a certain amount of cash before going shopping can help prevent overspending. Using debit cards might be more convenient, but it also tends to make us more reckless with our money.

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Thank, phoenix! I'm glad your daughter knows how to manage money. I wish her much luck.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Brilliant hub. My daughter moved out in May and uses many of these methods to stretch her paycheque. I use quite a few of these tips as well.

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Thanks, Bill! I wish more young people had a higher knowledge and understanding of financial responsibilities and debt. Many kids I graduated high school with four years ago are up to their ears in college debt and work for minimum wage or a step above that. It's sad.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Look at you...Miss Frugal! I love it, and these are all great suggestions for a college student or anyone in financial trouble. You are going to do well in life if you remember these lessons. Well done!


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