25 Great Ways to Save a Buck
Recently I was discussing ways to save a buck with some friends – such as using coupons or the library. I also encouraged members to their share own ideas and received quite a response.
Below is the list of some of the best ideas. These aren’t in any particular order, but if you’re looking for some ideas to save a buck, here is a great list to get you started.
1. Make your own lunch. Instead of eating out every day, get your butt out of bed early and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Or, prepare a lunch the night before and take that lunch with you to work the next day. It can be leftovers, it can be a fresh meal (like a sandwich), but either way, it can cut into your costs tremendously and make a big impact on helping you reach your goals.
2. Break a Bad Habit. Expensive habits such as smoking or drinking can be a huge drain on your financial situation. Eliminating an expensive habit can quickly improve your financial situation while also improving your health (which can also improve your financial situation by reducing health care costs). It doesn’t have to be smoking or drinking either—habits such as online-gaming or shopping in general can prove to be expensive habits that prohibit financial health. Breaking such a habit can prove to be invaluable to getting your finances back on track.
3. Visit the library. How many times do you read a book and then place it on a bookshelf to gather dust? Well, the library can singlehandedly save you money, by just borrowing books instead of buying them, but also save you time cleaning all that dust! It can also save you on the cost of buying books, provide DVDs for viewing, CDs for listening, and many other interesting cultural experiences if you pay attention to the schedule of events.
4. Stop shopping for fun. If you shop for fun, you are probably in more trouble than you think. Instead of shopping with your free time, find other fun things to do - almost anything is cheaper! Leave the shopping trips for the times when you actually need an item, and budget for those items accordingly.
5. Cancel your cable. One of expenses I constantly argue with my wife about is our cable bill. All it seems to do is provide you with more channels that repeat variations on the same content. Websites such as Hulu provide a good deal of the same content for much less than cable. Or, you can get a digital converter box instead and watch the channels that come in over the air - ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox, and often others for free - no monthly bill!
6. Utilize direct deposit at work. Instead of receiving a paper paycheck, have your paycheck directly deposited into your checking account. This spares you the need to have to go to the bank to cash your check, plus relieves you of the temptation to have some cash taken out of the check when you deposit it.
7. Use online bill pay. Billpay saves you the expense of envelopes and stamps (roughly fifty cents per bill paid online), it also provides you the convenience of auto-calculating your bills and comparing them immediately to your checking and savings account balances. No more checkbook math necessary.
8. Start your emergency fund. An emergency fund is a cash reserve that can help you in the event of a crisis such as a job loss or an automobile breakdown. It’s easy to get one started, just sweep a small amount of money on a regular basis into a savings account, watch it build, and utilize that cash whenever you’re down and out.
9. Try the “envelope” budgeting system. Many people swear by this method, in which one actually budgets their money for a month using “envelopes.” Whenever you need money for, say, groceries, you take money out of the groceries envelope - when that envelope is empty, you’re out for the month. This forces you to be careful with your spending in all respects.
Personally, I don’t think this method is terribly realistic because I don’t think that one will put say, $56, into an envelope each month in order to pay a bill for $336 six months later. One reason is because you would be losing interest that money could earn if you simply left the money in a savings account (although it wouldn’t be much).
10. Date Night In. Instead of going out on the town for entertainment, stay at home and enjoy the activities available in your own home. Most of the activities you can do at home - reading, watching television, exercising, playing games with friends, meditating, listening to music, cooking, etc. - are far cheaper than similar activities you might do out of the home.
11. Drink more tap water. Drinking regular tap water can help make you healthier (most people are dehydrated, even if they don’t realize it), fills you up (keeping you from overeating expensive food at meals), and is incredibly cheap compared to any other beverage out there. Take advantage of the tap - it can save you a ton of money on beverages, especially when you eat out!
12. Plan ahead for meals. At the start of a each week, sit down and create a plan of what meals you’re going to eat during the week, including what leftovers you will have for lunch the next day. Then make a grocery shopping list based solely on those meals. When you go grocery shopping, stick to that list. This is a great way to keep your food shopping bill low while keeping the food you want and need on the table.
13. Set up an automatic savings plan. The best way you can save is to pay yourself first, but If you’re getting your paycheck automatically deposited, consider setting up an automatic savings plan to have some of that money routed into retirement or into a savings account for an emergency fund. It’s much easier to start saving if the actual transfer of money happens automatically without your intervention.
14. Avoid Window Shopping. Shopping and looking at advertisements of all kinds - from television commercials to flyers from the Sunday paper simply serve to coerce you into spending money on things you don’t actually need. Minimizing your exposure to window shopping and advertisement minimizes the temptation to spend that money, keeping it at home in your wallet where it belongs.
15. Cook at home. Every time you purchase prepared food outside the home, you’re spending more than you would making a similar meal at home. Cooking at home also ensures the quality of the ingredients that you are consuming, as well as the opportunity to portion your meals appropriately. Cooking can also be fun! Learn how to cook at home, make your own meals, and save a lot of money.
16. Stop trying to keep up with the Johnsons. Don’t let the opinion of others influence the choices you make in your personal life. It’s not their life to live - it’s your life. Instead, make choices that will help you reach your financial goals - and don’t worry about what the Johnsons have to say about it.
17. Try the “ten second rule.” Whenever you are tempted to spend your money on something frivolous, stop and consider for ten seconds whether you really need this item and what you could otherwise do with the money you are about to spend. Ten seconds is usually enough - many people also recommend putting the item down and leaving the store, only returning if you’ve decided you actually want it after some serious consideration.
18. Eliminate expensive hobbies. Are you engaged in a hobby that requires a lot of financial upkeep, like golf or collecting? Instead of continuing to spend on your hobby, watching it drain all your money, choose a different path entirely - find a new hobby to focus your energy on that doesn’t require so much upkeep cost such as simply exercising or reading. With a library card you can read all you like for a few bucks a year.
19. Be prepared to accept help from others. We all need help sometimes in life. It’s easy to let pride get in the way of accepting help from others. Don’t let that happen. Be willing to accept help if others offer it, and be thankful for it. Later on, when your situation improves, you can pay it forward and help someone who needs it.
20. Create a budget that shows you where you’re headed. If you can’t seem to get a grip on your spending, try creating a budget that shows you exactly where you are headed financially. Spend a month or two keeping careful track of what you actually do spend on certain items, then set a spending goal for that type of item. This can help serve as a wake-up call and as a start to establishing good financial habits.
21. Try going on a diet. Many people recommended healthy dieting as a tactic for saving money, especially if you eat out a lot. If you make a conscious choice to eat less, not only will you save money on your food bill, you’ll also reduce your health care bill and perhaps your clothing bill as well (since it’ll be easier to find consignment clothes).
22. Stop reading women’s magazines. I think watching Oprah should be included with this, but several readers swear that women’s magazines are extremely effective at convincing you to shop for things you don’t necessarily need, convincing you that you need some item in order to keep up with the crowd. Spare yourself the guilt - skip those magazines, and any tv shows like Oprah that push products in the same fashion.
23. Sell your car. A car is perhaps the worst investment you can make. It can depreciate rapidly, break down at the worst possible time, and requires constant upkeep. Most people have almost an emotional attachment to their car, but instead of dealing with this, sell the car and make do with the other transportation options available to you - a bicycle, buses, trains, and so forth.
24. Set financial goals, and stick to them. Don’t think about how you wish things were. Instead, sketch out exactly how you want your life to be in, say, three years, then focus all of your actions toward that goal. Chances are you will run into roadblocks along the way so make sure you stick to your plan. Not only can this cut out frivolous spending, it can also help you to make strong choices to improve every aspect of your life.
25. Take responsibility for your spending. Finally, try having a weekly or monthly review of all of your spending. Make yourself face the mistakes you’ve made - don’t let a bad spending move lie in the dust and be forgotten. Use it as a tool to make sure it never happens again and better yet, determine what you are going to do in your next pay period to compensate for any over-spending.
I’m confident that at least one of these tactics will help you achieve your goals, so get started! If you have any you’d like to add to the list, please leave a comment. Cheers!