I was originally going to list off 20 things you can do, but quickly realized how long the post would be. So here are the first ten. Before we start, though, let me just say that you owe it to yourself to take the time to think about where your money is going. I heard recently of a woman and her husband who smoked for years. A year after they finally quit, they bought a brand new truck in cash they had saved from quitting. They were absolutely amazed at what cutting out a recurring expense, one they previously thought they couldn’t live without, could do. So here are some others:
- Drink more water
Although it’s technically not free, you could save a significant amount by switching to water over soda, sports drinks and juice, especially if you eat out a lot. We’re talking about an extra $1-3 a DAY per person. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up. I talked to a girl once who was wanting to save more for college, and after talking about her budget, she realized that she was spending $60/month on Dr. Pepper. Is it worth it?
- Turn the thermostat down a bit in the winter and up a bit in the summer
I wouldn’t be able to give you hard numbers, but it takes a lot of electricity and/or gas to heat up or cool down a large space, even one degree. My in-laws keep their thermostat at 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter, and although it’s definitely not comfortable, I haven’t had a crisis yet. We even got used to it after a while.
- Turn off lights
This seems like a relatively small thing, but all that electricity over time builds up. You may only cut off a few bucks a month, but it really doesn’t take long to flip a light switch. The same goes with the television. If no one’s watching it, turn it off. Also, unplug your appliances when you’re on vacation. Even if they aren’t on, they’re sucking electricity.
- Pack a lunch
My lunches typically cost me less than $2 per day when I take 10 minutes to make it in the morning, or even no time at all when I just grab a can of my beloved Progresso soup and some crackers. On the other hand, when I eat out, it averages out to $5 or $6, sometimes more depending on where I go. It takes a little more thought and planning, and it’s okay to treat yourself to a restaurant every once in a while, but if are looking to save, this one’s a biggie.
- Learn how to cook
Although it may seem more expensive at first to buy produce and other ingredients it would take to make your own meal, over the long run it ends up cheaper than processed food, and it tastes so much better. Also, if you cook enough for leftovers, there’s a quick lunch for the next work day.
- Shop at thrift stores
This is like one of those taste tests when they cook insects into your food and you think it’s delicious until they tell you what’s in it. Honestly, I love me some thrift stores. I’ve had a lot of success clothes shopping in the past, although it’s been a while because I don’t buy clothes that often. The secret? If you live in a college town, go right at the end of the school year when all the students are going home and have to get rid of stuff to make it on the plane or fit it in the car.
- Take advantage of birthdays and Christmas
Whenever I want something, I think, Can it wait until Christmas or my birthday? My birthday is in July, so having them spaced apart like that helps, but last month I got a bunch of books I’ve been wanting. I do the same thing every Christmas. I keep a running list of things I want. Anything I want that isn’t too expensive, I add to the list then when people ask me what I want, that’s what I give them.
- Take advantage of credit card rewards
If you currently have credit card debt, skip to the next one. If you are the type to pay off your card each month, get a credit card that has good rewards. Despite what Dave Ramsey tells you, credit cards are not of the devil. If you have good spending habits and always pay off each month, the rewards are awesome. We use our card for just about everything we can and every couple of months have enough points to get a free date night at a local restaurant. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
- Don’t let someone else convince you to buy something
I used this approach when selling life insurance. My goal, as an agent who actually cared about the financial well-being of my clients, was to explain how it works and the benefits well enough that my clients knew they needed it. I didn’t want to convince them, I wanted them to convince themselves. If a salesman is trying to convince you to buy something, don’t give in because of the flashy words or, probably more common, your desire for him to shut up. Have the courage to say, “Give me some time to think about it.” And do exactly that.
- Buy used
Nothing will drain your money like a car. I know, I know. I’m also not immune to that new car smell, or that warranty that makes you feel special for a while when things go bad and you can just take it in. But don’t be deceived. Underneath all that shiny is a giant leech that will put a burden on your finances for years. Instead, do your homework. We bought our first car together three years ago for $4,200 and have put about $800 in it since then. And sure, that’s almost 20% of the value of the car, but if you spread $800 across three years, that’s only $22/month. I’d take a $82/month car payment over a $300/month payment ANY day. Except I don’t have to, because we paid the car off 5 months later, which is another thing that’s a little tougher to do when your car loan is closer to 20 G’s. If you’re stuck with a car with a huge payment and you can’t sell it for what it’s worth, it may still be worth it to sell it in favor of a cheaper one. For example, if you lose $2,000 on the sale but end up saving $200/month, it will only take you 10 months to recoup that loss.
Are there any changes you’ve made that have helped you save money? Tell me about them below!