To prepare for this post, I turned to my community to ask the question, “what is your favorite money saving tip”? And I was lucky to receive such awesome responses from all of you (our dear readers). It appears that a lot of you are true frugalists and have some wonderful insights on how to shave off the costs that are associated with many of your everyday activities.
So I thought that this would be a good time to share everyone’s favorite money saving tips here. After all, it’s been a while since I’ve compiled a giant list of frugal tips and frugal advice in one place; I figured, why not showcase all the wonderful, helpful and timely suggestions that I got on this occasion?
Check out our reader contributions in this list — which ones have you put into effect?
Best Ways To Save Money: Our Readers Share Their Favorite Frugal Ideas
- Make a budget. Getting the big picture on your cash flow and how your finances look is a good place to start. So it makes sense to use money management tools if you feel that these can help you control your spending better. There are actually some good free and low cost choices out there.
If you want to find out more about budgeting software, check out our list of budgeting tools here.
- Keep money in a hard-to-access, high yield savings account so that the funds are harder to spend. Use your checking account for your everyday expenses but “hide” the rest of your money elsewhere, where you’re not tempted to use it.
If you are inclined to look for new places for your savings, check our preferred list of high interest savings accounts.
- Set up automatic deposits between your checking account and your savings/investment accounts.
- Budget for emergencies and for impulse purchases to give yourself some slack.
- Use credit card rewards programs if you can pay off your monthly bill in full every month. One reader puts all the family’s expenses on their Discover credit card for the cash back rewards. This way, they rack up the 1% to 5% cash back and buy gift cards for holiday presents. Plus there are some added bonuses that a cardholder receives: rewards gift cards may actually be valued at a higher price than what one ends up spending for them in “cash back dollars” (e.g. get a $25 gift card for $20 in cash back dollars). This is actually an effective way to save, if you are careful about what you charge on your credit card and don’t end up neutralizing the savings effect by spending too much or racking up debt.
If you’re in the market for it, then you may want to check out these ongoing credit card deals that can help you save in this manner.
- Brown bag your lunch and bring your own snacks to the office (which you’ve bought on discount).
- Get a roommate and share the rent.
- Use coupons and check out helpful coupon sites and deal sites. Be willing to shop online, often you’ll save more money this way. Try to get free shipping deals when you do shop online. Check local stores for pricing, then buy items online for less; as one reader points out, it’s almost always cheaper to buy stuff through the web.
- Walk more often and potentially save money on commute costs. If you work in the city, walking instead of taking the subway cuts down on your costs and is a pretty cheap way to exercise.
- Invest in a folding bike and adopt biking as part of your commute, if possible. We published this Guide To Commuter Bikes to cover this topic.
- Carpool with others in your neighborhood or use mass transit.
- Be creative with your exercises and you can avoid having to get a gym membership. Think about using makeshift equipment to exercise, but be careful what you do use: make sure the equipment is safe.
- Get cash back and save money when buying stuff at the drug store. You can join the CVS Extra Care rewards program for this purpose. Go to CVS.com for more information.
- Use synthetic motor oil if it fits your situation. You can then change your oil less often (once every 15,000 miles or once per year).
- Attend college online. Check out these additional cheap ways to learn.
- Don’t buy stuff you don’t need and avoid buying things you know you’ll hardly use.
- Be careful that you don’t buy the stuff you already have. How often is it that we buy things then realize later that we have those very items at home, buried under clutter, gathering dust?
- Pick up books and DVDs from the library instead of buying or renting these items elsewhere.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for something you need (or want). One reader received a large TV from a friend (who had a spare one around) upon making a casual mention of it.
- Apply the three day rule, which is something along these lines: when you’re thinking of buying something, sit on the idea for a while, say for at least 3 days. Many times, the desire to purchase something fades over time; by employing this basic frugal technique, you’ll be able to hold back on your spending a bit better.
- Use cash when you buy! There have been studies that show that consumers who use cash to make purchases save 18% more than their counterparts who use credit cards.
- Steal your neighbor’s newspaper (okay this is a nice, jovial wisecrack).
- Buy your gifts during after holiday clearance sales and you’ll save a ton on discounted items. Some readers stock up on gifts they give away during the year, which they buy during the cheapest time of the year.
- Watch for weekly ads and catch sales and discounts from your local paper (or other periodicals) for the best time to pick up items.
- Enter contests and giveaways to pick up freebies! 😉
- Cancel your cable TV and sign up for an online movie rental service like Netflix. Get a Roku digital video player to stream Netflix to your TV. A reader’s cable TV was costing him $50 to $60 per month, while Netflix only costs him $10 monthly. A Roku box pays for itself pretty quickly. Explore other ways to watch TV for less.
- Make cheap phone calls: drop your phone service and use Skype, Vonage VOIP or some other VOIP service instead. Here’s more on lowering your phone costs.
- Check your Human Resources web site for employee discounts. Some companies have perks for their employees beyond the usual retirement plan or group insurance rates. One reader’s company offers employee discount programs for cell phones, groceries and other products where he saves at least %10 off retail.
- Eat out less and cook your meals at home more often. Precook food and freeze it for later consumption.
- Eat your leftovers, or recook leftovers.
- Buy in bulk when it makes sense! Get a membership to wholesale shopping clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club for the discount shopping experience.
- Use will power.
- Look online for sales and discounts before making a purchase. For example, use travel sites like Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity or Airgorilla.com before checking an airline’s own site so that you can make some comparisons. As mentioned, make online price comparisons whenever you can.
- Map your grocery shopping route and have a shopping list before setting foot in a store.
- Get double savings by pairing a manufacturer’s coupon with other sales, discounts and coupons available at your local grocery stores.
- Drop junk foods and sodas from your grocery list. The empty calories cost extra.
- Don’t shop while hungry.
- Skip the lattes and that extra cup of coffee! Order only water instead of expensive drinks or sodas when dining out.
- Hang clothes on the line instead of putting them in the dryer.
- Save money on used items at auctions, garage sales, flea markets, farmer’s markets and at sites like Craigslist or eBay. Pick up secondhand items instead of buying brand new, but use your best judgment.
- Comparison shop for big ticket items such as home and auto insurance coverage, health insurance policies, cars, appliances, etc.
- Move to a new country or a new location where the cost of living is cheaper. Depending on where you relocate, you may also discover that you are able to eschew consumerism more easily.
- Find cheaper alternatives to everything.
- Find creative ways to cook your meals using cheaper or fewer ingredients.
- Become a vegetarian: beans and whole grains bought in bulk are a third of the cost of meat. Or if you can’t become a full vegetarian, limit your meat intake. You can find great easy veggie versions of popular dishes like chilis and casseroles on websites like Epicurious.com, Allrecipes.com and VegWeb.com.
- Live and enjoy a simple lifestyle.
- Consider using restaurant discounts, dining coupons and gift certificates for the savings. Check out Restaurant.com or the Entertainment Book to see what kind of deals they can offer you.
- Save all your change and deposit your savings into your bank account every few months. Your change adds up!
- Keep your pantry, fridge and freezer well stocked so that you don’t end up buying things on impulse when you’re out shopping. By being organized with the supplies you need, you’ll be more prepared with a sales/coupons/savings strategy when shopping for groceries.
- Learn how to cook, then learn how to prepare tasty meals for less.
- Create your own 100-calorie packs by buying in bulk and dividing your large packs into smaller ones yourself.
- Do it yourself whenever you can. But make sure you can successfully take on a DIY project on your own, otherwise you’ll risk calling on an expert (and spending money) to fix any problems you end up causing.
- Think about how much money drains can cost you.
- Avoid stores and shops where you know you’ll end up spending more than you’d like.
- Have potluck dinners once a week instead of dining out! You can socialize with friends and family while cutting down on what you spend on restaurant meals.
Phew! That is one long list! If you’re so inspired, please don’t hesitate to pass along any more money saving recommendations in the comments below.
For additional ideas, you can check out the Wise Bread team’s book called 10,001 Ways To Live Large On A Small Budget. This book was a great hit with the money saving crowd as it was full of ideas to help us cut back.
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