Cut Costs Not Corners
Finance Experts Share 20 Money Saving Tips
Read below ways to save money, without sacrificing happiness
1. Install CFL (or, even better, LED) bulbs wherever it makes sense. These bulbs might cost more initially, but they both have a longer life than normal incandescent bulbs and they both eat far less electricity. CFLs tend to use about 25% of the electricity of an incandescent — LEDs use about 2%. CFLs are cheaper than LEDs right now and produce better light, but not quite as good as incandescent bulbs. My policy? Put LEDs in closets and out of the way places, use CFLs for hall and some room lighting, and use incandescent bulbs (until the other bulbs get better) where you read and do other eye-intensive activities. This will trim a significant amount from your electric bill.
2. Install a programmable thermostat. These devices regulate the temperature in your house automatically according to the schedule that you set. Thus, when you're not home, it allows the heating or cooling to turn off for several hours, saving you on your energy bill. A programmable thermostat can easily cut your energy bill by 10 to 20%.
3. Buy appliances based on reliability, not what's cheapest at the store. It's worth the time to do a bit of research when you buy a new appliance. A reliable, energy efficient washer and dryer might cost you quite a bit now, but if it continually saves you energy and lasts for fifteen years, you'll save significant money in the long run. When you need to buy an appliance, research it — start with back issues of Consumer Reports at the library. An hour's worth of research can easily save you hundreds of dollars.
4. Clean your car's air filter. A clean air filter can improve your gas mileage by up to 7%, saving you more than $100 for every 10,000 miles you drive in an average vehicle. Plus, cleaning your air filter is easy to do in just a few minutes — just follow the instructions in your automobile's manual and you're good to go.
5. Hide your credit cards. Take your credit cards and put them in a safe place in your home, not in your wallet where it's easy to spend them. If you argue that you need it for "emergencies," just be sure to keep a small amount of cash hidden in your wallet for these emergencies. Don't keep plastic on you until you have the willpower to not use it even when you're sorely tempted.
6. Plan your meals around your grocery store's flyer. Instead of just planning your meals based on a cookbook or whatever you can dream up, plan all your meals around what's on sale in your grocery store's flyer. Look at the biggest sales, then plan meals based on those ingredients and what you have on hand, and you'll find yourself with a much smaller food bill than you're used to.
7. Do a price comparison — and find a cheaper grocery store. Most of us get in a routine of shopping at the same grocery store, even though quite often it's not the one that offers the best deals on our most common purchases. Fortunately, there's a simple way to find the cheapest store around. Just keep track of the twenty or so things you buy most often, then shop for these items at a variety of stores. Eventually, one store will come out on top for your purchases — just make that one your regular shopping destination and you'll automatically save money.
8. Challenge yourself to try making your own things. Before I tried it myself, I thought homemade breadmaking was complicated and a waste of time and money. I came to find out that it was pretty easy and it was actually much cheaper, healthier, and tastier than buying a loaf from the store. Now, we rarely ever buy bread products at the store — and we save money by making that choice.
9. Don't spend money just to de-stress. Quite often, I used to spend money just to wind down from a stressful day at work. Instead, I've found that I quite often feel much better by going home and taking some quiet time just to stretch and then meditate. I end up feeling much more together, happy, and ready to face an evening with the kids in the right mindset than I ever would by just blowing some cash after work. Instead of spending to de-stress, try some basic meditation techniques, stretching, or yoga and see how you feel.
10. Talk to your loved ones about what your dreams are. This seems like an odd way to save money, but think about it. If you spend time with the people you love the most and come to some consensus about your dreams, it becomes easy for you all to plan for it. If you're all planning and working together towards this dream, it becomes easier to stay focused on it and reach it. Set a big, audacious goal together and encourage each other to be financially fit — soon, you'll find you're doing it naturally and your dreams are coming closer than ever.
11. Do a "maintenance run" on your appliances. Check them to make sure there isn't any dust clogging them and that they're fairly clean. Look behind the appliances, and use your vacuum to gently clear away dust. Check all of the vents, especially on refrigerators, dryers, and heating and cooling units. The less dust you have blocking the mechanics of these devices, the more efficiently they'll run (saving you on your energy bill) and the longer they'll last (saving you on replacement costs).
12. Cancel unused club memberships. Are you paying dues at a club that you never use? Like, for instance, a gym membership or a country club membership? Cancel these club memberships, even if you think you might use them again someday — you can always renew the membership at a later date if it turns out that you actually do miss it.
13. When shopping for standard items (clothes, sports equipment, older games, etc.), start by shopping used. Quite often, you can find the exact item you want with a bit of clever shopping at used equipment stores, used game stores, consignment shops, and so on. Just make these shops a part of your normal routine — go there first when looking for potential items and you will save money.
14. Keep your hands clean. This one's simple — just wash your hands thoroughly each time you use the bathroom or handle raw foods. You'll keep yourself from acquiring all kinds of viruses and bacteria, saving you on medical bills and medicine costs and lost productivity. That's not to say you shouldn't explore the world and get your hands dirty sometimes — that's good for you, too — but basic sanitation does help keep the medical bills away.
15. Remove your credit card numbers from your online accounts. It's easy to spend online when you have your card information stored in an account — just click and buy. The best way to break this habit is to simply delete your card from the account. That way, when you're tempted to spend, you'll be forced to spend the time to dig out your card — and really think about why you're spending this money.
16. Give a gift of a service instead of an item. For new parents, give an evening of babysitting as a gift. If you know pet owners, offer to take care of their pets when they travel. Offer up some lawn care as a gift to a new homeowner. These are always spectacular gifts for anyone — I know that, as a parent of a toddler and an infant, I love receiving a babysitting gift, probably more than any "stuff" I might receive.
17. Do holiday shopping right after the holidays. Most people use this technique for Christmas, but it works for every holiday. Wait until about two days after a holiday, then go out shopping for items you need that are themed for that day. Get a Mother's Day card for next year the day after Mother's Day. Get Easter egg decorating kits the day after Easter. Get wrapping paper and cards and such the day after Christmas. The discounts are tremendous, and you can just put this stuff in the closet until next year, saving you a bundle.
18. Join up with a volunteer program. It's a great way to meet new people, get some exercise, and involve yourself in a positive project that can lift your spirit. It also comes without a cost to you and can provide a lot of entertainment and a fulfilling day when you're in the right mindset. I've come to spend more and more of my time volunteering, serving on various committees and groups in the community — and it's the best thing I've ever done.
19. Reevaluate the stuff in the rooms in your house. Go into a room and go through every single item in it. Do you really need that item? Are you happy that it's there, or would you be just fine if it were not? If you can find stuff to get rid of, get rid of it — it just creates clutter and it might have some value to others. You also improve the perceived value of your house — and you're likely to get a lot of cleaning done in the process. It's a frugal win-win-win.
20. Try generic brands of items you buy regularly. Instead of just picking up the ordinary brand of an item you buy, try out the store brand or generic version of the item. Likely, you'll save a few cents now, but you'll also likely discover that the store brand is just as good as the name brand — the only difference between the two, often, is the marketing. Once you're on board the generic train, you'll find your regular grocery bill getting smaller and smaller.