Several years ago I wrote an article about 51 painless money saving tips. It was a simple enough article with a bunch of ideas on how to save some money without making huge sacrifices. The response was stupendous. There have been countless comments to the article, and the article has been viewed by more than 340,000 people. But the best part of the article has been the money saving tips submitted by readers.
Through comments and e-mail, readers have offered dozens of ways to save some money. So I thought I’d collect all those ideas and republish here. So in no particular order (although I have organized them by category), here are your frugal ways to save money (along with some helpful links I’ve added in parentheses where relevant):
Table of Contents:
Save Money Through Better Money Management
- Make a budget and try to stick to it (DR: You can check out these Online Budget Tools
- Save all change. Adds up quickly.
- Pay your mortgage payments bi-weekly, rather than monthly. If you pay monthly, you’re only making 12 two-week payments (that’s 24 payments), but if you pay bi-weekly, that’s 26 payments! Two more payments a year adds up over time.
- Record every purchase. A few years ago I decided to do this for one month, but I saved so much money that I stuck with it. No more impulse gum, coffee or magazine purchases, and it allowed me to both create and stick to an annual budget. Just buy a cheap notebook and stick it in your purse or jacket pocket. At the end of every month, add up all your purchases and compare them to your budget.
- Also, be mindful of your ATM usage. Try to go to your own bank’s ATM as much as you can. If this is impossible, get out more money at each transaction, reducing your frequency of ATM visits. It’s amazing how much you can pay in bank fees each month if you don’t bank wisely.
- My best tip is never to spend a $5 Bill that comes into my possession. I can’t say I don’t ever spend them, but with a kid in college, high gas & grocery prices I always have an envelope with some cash in it!!! And at the end of the month I deposit at least $50 into my savings account.
- A lot of good tips here..I’d like to add pay your bills online to save on postage.
- Another good idea is only take a certain amount of cash to the grocery store. And leave the credit or debit cards at home! I bring a cheap calculator or just paper and a pencil with me and my little girl loves to keep my running total! She is learning about math and how to be responsible with money at the same time! It never too early to teach your children about personal finance!!
- Do take advantage of those 0% credit cards, but read the fine print. Sometimes it only applies to transfers, sometimes only for a limited time, etc.
- Track your expenses for free from various bank, credit, mortgage, car loans etc at Mint.com. It is free and have intuitive user interface.
- Don’t have a credit card. Period. See Dave Ramsey’s books Total Money Makeover and Financial Peace Revisited – your public library will have them.
- Also, try taking enough cash from your account to last you the week without using your ATM card. You’ll be surprised how soon you’re out of cash, and soon you’ll find yourself cutting out the little extras that have been costing more than you realized.
Save Money on Transportation
- Walk or ride a bike when possible (DR: Here are some crazy bikes available on eBay)
- Learn to drive a manual-transmission car. It’ll save you on gas and maintenance costs. (I don’t know about insurance, though).
- While driving use cruise and pay respect to Henry Ford (inventor of automobile), respect to your car (no wear tear, best mpg), and best of all respect to your family, whom you would always see after a soothing drive back home cruising. More such advice to come.
- Just a couple more to add to the list. Check your fuel efficiency on your vehicle, particularly if you drive extensively. With gas prices the way they are, purchasing a vehicle that allows you to get 10 or more mpg more than your current vehicle will quickly pay for itself.
Save Money on Food
- Don’t go to the grocery store more than once a week. You always spend more than you need there. When you do go, make a list and *stick to it*. True, this is not always painless. But the extra money in your account is worth it.
- Breastfeed – Breast milk is always the right temperature (when given directly from the source), doesn’t have to be boiled or mixed, no bottles to wash, you’re taking it with you anyway. If you can’t, use Kirkland Signature (Costco brand) formula, it’s many times cheaper than name brands with basically the same ingredients.
- Buy a water filter and take your own water to the gym/sports etc. bottled water is expensive, unnecessary and bad for the environment
- Making your own smoothies at home helps a lot. We get our frozen fruit from Sam’s club.
- Also getting powders/concentrates (nestea/fruit punches)instead of drinks and making the drinks at home saves us a lot of money
- Go to the grocery store with your belly full. You won’t buy too many things because you just ain’t hungry.
- Cook from scratch, use your crock pot!
- I buy extra large pizza on 2-for-1 Tuesdays, then bag up at least a dozen $2.00 lunches and freeze them.
- Eat less! Sure, you’ll feel hungry quickly in the first few weeks, but eventually, you’ll get used to it and will start slimming down substantially (and without any effort).
- Buy a flask and carry your coffee/tea to work with you. Coffee and tea only costs pennies to make yourself, but costs $1 or more elsewhere. (I myself can prepare coffee better than Starbucks at home (DR: Amen!). I start with whole-beans of course.)
- Don’t buy packaged cookies and treats. Make cookies with your kids on Sunday and they’ll last all week. Marshmallow treats are quick and easy. Don’t buy candy. A bag of chocolate chips is much cheaper than a bag of chocolate candies. Instant pudding is sooooo easy to make and much cheaper than prepackaged.
- Print out grocery coupons online at smartsource.com and coupons.com.
- I run a home based childcare. My food expenses are quite high on a monthly basis. To save money on baby food I do not buy the prepackaged serving size baby foods in the baby food aisle. Instead I buy canned fruits and vegetables and fresh fruits bananas, and puree (or chop) these in a food processor. (depending on the age of the baby) I then pour the food into ice cube trays and freeze them. After they are frozen I place the food cubes in a ziploc bags for storage. A can of vegetable can cost me 35-50 cents on sale. One single serving of pre-packaged baby food is about 45 cents. From one 16 oz. I can easily get 12-16 servings of home made baby vegetables or fruits for the infants in my care. Doing on line searches for home made baby food can be helpful, especailly for thos that like to follow a recipe. Good luck. I hope this helps at least one other person!
- Food. I’m single and live on my own, but I buy chicken in big family packs. When I get home, I open the package and put all the breasts into individual sandwich bags and freeze them. Then I just take a breast out and put in the fridge before I leave for work in the am. It’s thawed & ready by the time I get home.
- I’ve thought of a new way to save more money at the grocery store. Before when I would find a coupon online, I would print it and use it. Recently the bright idea of printing the coupons and then copying them came to mind. Most websites with grocery coupons will only let you print them once and then you’ll have to wait until they say you can print again. Well now, I print the coupons and make a couple of copies for the next time I need them and keep them till they expired. I make copies of the coupons for things I buy every time I go to the grocery store and that way I can compound my savings. Last week I saved $18 dollars off my grocery bill. Not much but I’d much rather have that money in my pocket than in Wal-mart’s.
- Steer clear of McDonald’s, Starbucks and the frozen food section of the grocery store. It is easy to whip into a fast food place when you feel a hunger pain but if you can hold off ’til you get home it will save you about eight bucks(I carry a package of cheese cracker that cost 25 cents) And the frozen foods although convenient are way more than if you cook the food yourself. Keep up the good work!
- My 2 young kids and I love juice (and I only give them 100%), but it can be expensive at the grocery store, especially when your family drinks 3 large bottles per week! I have started buying the store brand frozen concentrate. It has saved me lots over the years, plus my kids are getting the extra fluoride in the tap water that isn’t in the bottled juice.
- After spending entirely way too much money on groceries for our family of four, I sat down and devised these strategies:Money is wasted when spent on items never used. I only go to the grocery store every 10 days (unless I run out of something of necesity, like milk) and before I do, I make a detailed list of what we will eat each of those ten days. Breakfast is usually one of 4 things to eliminate over-buying: pancakes, eggs and potatoes, oatmeal, or cold cereal. The eggs come from my own chickens, which eliminates one less thing to buy. Lunch is almost always leftovers from the night before because I always cook enough to cover both meals (I have found that it is quicker and more convenient to heat up leftovers than to run to the nearest drive through). If leftovers aren’t available, then PB&J sandwiches or hot dogs are on the menu.Dinners almost always contain one element of the next night’s dinner, to save time and money. For example, Last night we had pork chops, scalloped potatoes, and asparagus. Tonight I made a stir fry of leftover pork,a bag of frozen mixed veggies, egg noodles, topped with cheese. The bag of noodles that I have been using came from a store that sales in bulk, and I have been using it for a couple of months. Thus, the only thing that actually was not left over was the bag of veggies.
Buy in bulk! I just spent $12 for a 5 pound bag of cheese, and the expiration date is not until February. Vegetables can be bought freshly frozen which eliminates the waste of them going bad, and drastically reduces the amount of sodium you would get from canned veggies. Works great for making your own baby food! I am also a fan of buying extra products on sale and then freezing them so they don’t go bad. This works with bread, meat, veggies, some cheeses, even some entire meals.
It might take a little extra time, but probably not much more than you spent reading this!
Save Money in the Home
- Buy an all-in-one video card (for maybe $80) and install it into your computer and plug your TV cable into it. Now, you can; record your TV shows onto your computer’s hard-drive and burn DVDs of what you’ve recorded. Some cards can also turn on and turn off your computer when the scheduled time comes up.
- Buy an Induction Cook top! It’s 80-90% energy efficient compared to electric heat and even better than gas. It also won’t make the kitchen hot in the summer.
- Invest in a rooftop solar water heater. At only a few hundred dollars, it’ll repay itself many times over in its lifetime.
- Use CFL bulbs. They last forever and save a ton of electricity. Amazon has great deals on CFL bulbs.
- Only turn off your fluorescent lights if you’re leaving the room for more than 15 minutes. It does use more energy to leave them on, yes, but turning them on and off reduces their useful lifetime. Sticking to the 15-minute rule means that you’ll save money on bulb-replacement costs, which will make up for the extra electricity costs.
- A good tip for your clothes dryer: Check the lint trap and clean it weekly. The dryer will run more efficiently saving you money and energy. But did you also know the built-up lint in your clothes dryer vent is the second leading cause of house fires? So clean the lint trap regularly, it could save you more than just money.
- CANCEL cable tv and internet at home. Access the internet from work or the public library. Watch your favorite tv shows online, or rent the DVDs when they come out from your local video store. Sign up to get emails from Redbox. They send out a coupon code every monday for 1 free rental.
- Before buying or replacing healthy, beauty or cleaning products, consciously put yourself in –Use It Up– mode. By finishing up partially used containers of lotion, shampoo, cosmetics and cleaning items you’ll free up space and feel good knowing you didn’t throw away money on unused products. Once they’re gone you can happily buy the latest and greatest product – if you still want it!
- Only wash with cold water. the detergent does the cleaning, not the temperature of the water. if you have heavily soiled items, just soak them in detergent BEFORE washing.
- Just a note-be careful with not washing sheets in hot water. To kill dust mites (which most are allergic to) you need a high temp. otherwise you just give the critters a bath and put them back on your bed!
- We keep saying lets do something about nature. How about not using any paper products , helping nature and saving a lot of money. Use handkerchief instead of paper tissues, to clean counter tops as well as your nose. Also you can still keep using toilet paper, but don’t feel tough when you go to countries where its just you and your hand and water to clean. Avoid using plastic cups, glasses, plates, spoons instead use steel glasses, utensils . They clean easy, never break and are reusable till you get bored looking at them, eventually never. Carry water from home never buy (mineral) water . Cause that’s also H20. Being in best country of this earth i guess we have access to one of the purest water on earth available to man kind.
- If you live in a house with a lawn, cut your own lawn. It is great exercise and saves you about 20 bucks a week in general.
- If you have ADT or Brinks look into another monitoring provider. There are several that will monitor your system for $10/mo, which is a $20-$30 dollar savings. You have to wait till your current contract is up, but hey. I’m not suggesting canceling it however. I live in LA, and it’s stopped people on two occasions.
- We save water by running the cold shower startup water into a gallon container. By the time the jug is full the water is comfortably warm for a shower. We use the saved water to take care of plants or add it to the laundry water. We also dump the water from the dehumidifier into the washer. A little bleach keeps it fresh until we do the first load of whites or the really grubby work clothes.
Save Money on Insurance
- Get the barest amount of insurance you need. There are lots of recommendations on the list for various types of insurance, but don’t buy any of them if you don’t absolutely need them. That means no life insurance if you don’t have a kid or share a mortgage with someone. Even if you do, get the smallest policy possible–that money is supposed to keep them afloat if you die young, not pay for their Caribbean vacations.
- Watch out for getting your company to pay part of your disability. If you do then you will likely have to pay taxes on the money. If you pay yourself, you can get the money tax free (DR: This is a really important point to understand, and your HR benefits director at work can walk you through it. Basically, if you pay for your disability insurance with after-tax dollars, your benefit should you need it would be tax free. But again, double check with your HR department.)
- One often overlooked place to save some money is your car insurance bill. As an agent, I can tell you that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We don’t have time to requote every policyholder’s coverage at renewal, but if asked to, we will shop their coverage around. Companies are changing rates and adding discounts all the time, so if you haven’t shopped your coverage around lately, you might be surprised how much you could save!
- This cost money, but in the long run can save you money. If you are buying a major appliance, or electronics, get the extended warranty. I bought a computer and a flat-screen TV and within 6 months of the manufacturer warranty expiring, both needed costly repairs.
I paid 1/10 the price of the electronics for the extended warranty. That warranty has covered 2 motherboards and 2 system fans for my computer, and is replacing basically the brain to my flat-screen TV. So I paid roughly $175 for the extended warranty, saving the cost of replacing both my computer and TV. Did I mention the problem I had with my washer right after the manufacturer warranty expired? (DR: I’m not a fan of extended warranties. I never insure something I can afford to replace. My 14 year old son disagrees with me. Believe it or not, we’ve spent a lot of time debating this very point.)
Save Money through everyday frugal living
- Here’s a rhyme that my depression savvy grandparents lived by:
Use it up, wear it out, make do, do without, can your borrow? can you rent? then consider buying
- Develop a hobby– You will save money you spent on leisure activities and will do constructive for your own development. Indulging in social activities is a great way to inner satisfaction too.
- For students, stay in relatives house. No rent to pay. It is quite a pain though.
- Visit the thrift shops frequently (Goodwill, hospital auxiliary, etc.). It’s amazing the wide variety of good useful items, many of them near new or brand new, for just a couple dollars.
- Also when making purchases check a store’s online price before you go in to the store. Sometimes the online price is cheaper than the store price. So just have the store match their online price.
- I decided a while back to discontinue my magazine subscriptions (I spend more time reading articles on the internet anyway) and was amazed by how much money I was spending every year! It really does add up!
- Don’t buy fast food, or waste your time on impulse buys. Think about it, could you live with out it? If you even have to think about it then don’t spend money on it.
- Clip coupons. It’s worth organizing them and holding onto to few of them until a sale comes up-then you save even more money. I’ve save hundreds of dollars a year doing this, and it feels so good to know how much I’ve saved. (I even put the “saved” money in the change jar). Every so often we empty the jar take a fun day trip/have a nice dinner/etc. without using credit cards or cutting into our budget.
- barter services with neighbors and friends
- limit yourself to a weekly cash allowance for your treats ~ alcohol, cigarettes, McDonald’s or whatever it is that you crave. (DR: You could always give up alcohol and cigarettes (but not McDonald’s).)
- Always wear comfortable shoes. If you wear crummy shoes with no support, or expensive shoes that put your feet and spine out of whack, you will spend way more money on medical bills when you blow your knee out or sprain your ankle or your back. Save money by taking really good care of your feet. I found that out the hard way, wearing cheap flat slipon sandals to work every day, and ended up blowing out my ACL just on an ordinary day, climbing a flight of stairs. At $180 per hour, physical therapy was expensive, and my insurance only paid HALF that. If you are trying to save money, save yourself $80 per hour out of pocket by avoiding injuries: wear good shoes!!!
- Bring your lunch to work, don’t leave midday to go home or to a restaurant. I used to go home to eat lunch every day. I have cut my commute in half by not doing this any more. I save a lot on gasoline. I never ate out much before, but I’m economizing on lunches by purchasing those bags of bean burritos in the frozen section at the grocery. They come to about 75 cents per lunch that way, I’ve not found a cheaper way to do lunch yet. I am getting a bit tired of burritos though.
- Replace expensive hobbies with cheap ones, or better yet figure out a way to make extra money doing what you love to do. I used to play golf, but figured out that what I liked the most about the game was the exercise and being out in nature. Now I hike with my wife and dogs. Way cheaper and it has improved my marriage.
- here’s a great cost savings tip! call 1-800-411-SAVE for all you directory assistance needs. It’s completey free and you get to speak with a live operator! they have business and government listings as well as home numbers. How cool is that?
- If you want one more painless way to save money, 1-800-411save is also worth trying. It has live operators no matter where you are in the US and Canada, and no matter what time of day you call.This provides the best quality of service for your business customers– employees.
- I have saved money on many services (auto repairs, dog grooming, locksmith, etc.) and some purchases (tires, floor models of items, etc.) by haggling. My dad suggested it to me and I am always surprised how well it works. Sometimes the people you deal with are a bit surprised, but it works frequently. I have had the greatest success with service providers, but I have gotten great deals on items as well. I have done best with local companies rather than big chains, because the employees have a greater stake in company success and you’re more likely to be dealing with the owners.
- We have four sons and people constantly tell us that you can’t exist on one income. Lol
We’ve never received welfare and we have zero debt. We own our home. We own our car. That’s right. Paid off. I’m 36 and my hubby is 42. We don’t have a McMansion or a newer model vehicle. As a matter of fact, our 1600 square foot is on the market and people who have one or two children say it’s too small for them. lol And our new home that we’re getting is 800 square feet. An elderly couple is pursuing the purchase of our current home.I have home schooled our children for the past 15 years. I use cloth diapers. I breastfeed. We use the library for entertainment. My sons and I all cook from scratch and from basic whole foods. Reference an old children’s book to see our grocery list. (Milk, flour, honey, eggs, cheese) Our babyfood? Home-made. Don’t think I can’t see those carts full of pre-cooked chickens, pepsi that’s still more expensive than gasoline, chips, tv dinners, cracker snack-packs, and even pre-cut apples!
We hang out the wash. We garden every year and preserve. We have one car that we use to get to and from work and to consolidate errands along the way. We refuse to waste money on heating and cooling that runs all day. We’re rarely inside our house because we study primarily out of doors anyway.
We buy our clothing at second hand shops and because we dry them naturally, they last forever. We haven’t owned tv in 20 years and our children’s SAT scores were coming in stamped post high school by the time they were in 5th grade. we use 4-H for Public Speaking Club, Chess Club, Photography, etc. If we want bottled water for trips, we buy a reusable bottle and fill it. lol why are Americans throwing away their money, eating fattening junk that’s far more expensive than the healthy food I’m buying and then telling lies about it?
- Skipping Starbucks has saved me a lot of money. I make my own lattes now. I started with a $10 Mr Coffee Espresso Machine from a garage sale, and then I learned the technique. I wrote a how-to at http://www.ehow.com/how_4575451_best-cafe-latte.html It tastes better, and you get the same result every time.
- Instead of exchanging Christmas gifts with everyone you normally do, sponsor a child through a local charity. It is better for your budget, better for the environment, and will help someone who really needs the help. (Who really needs all the stuff they receive at Christmas anyway?)
- Here’s a rhyme that my depression savvy grandparents lived by:
Save Money Investing
- Spend time learning about investing, and always keep control of your investment decisions. Knowing how to invest the money you save can be just as important as saving it in the first place. You will save tons of money if you are financially savvy and have a proper asset allocation for your goals in life. Even if you hire a professional money manager, you will be way ahead if you understand what he is up to at all times, and monitor his decisions to make sure they are in line with your instructions. The one absolute rule about any investment is the higher the potential reward, the higher the risk period. If any one tells you they have a risk free way of making outsized return, run. They are either an idiot or a crook
- Invest in no load mutual funds with low expense ratios. Domestic funds should charge you less than 0.50% (with many under 0.15%), and foreign funds less than 1%.
- If you want to buy stocks with dollar cost averaging, consider Sharebuilder. The cost is just $4 a trade.
Save Money Shopping
- Shop the outlets. Also, check online because sometimes you can get coupon books from the outlet itself – my friends and I live near Clinton outlets in CT and we printed out their online coupon and went to their office and got a coupon book that saved us 10-20% off at almost every store we went to. I got T-shirts at the Gap for 50% off, plus 10% off that – 6 T-shirts for $35. I’m set for summer. Also, ask the sales people – they can turn you onto the good stuff that’s a great deal.
- When you have an impulse to buy some thing, give your self 24hrs before buying it, in 24 hrs you still really want it and it’s worth going back then fine, but if it’s not necessary and it was just an impulse thing, chances are 24 hrs later you won’t want to go back to get it!
- One thing I always do is when purchasing something online, I always do a quick google search for coupon codes for that website or that product. Or, if there are multiple sites which offer that item, I will search for coupon codes for each of the sites and figure out what the best overall deal is (based on base price and any discounts, if available).
- Shop at home before you go: Before you write your grocery list, dive into the freezer, pantry or wherever you hide the things you bring home from the grocery or drugstore. It’s surprising how many of us duplicate purchases without realizing it, and there is some satisfaction to be had from actually using up those frozen or canned goods befoer buying more. While recently helping my father reorganize, we came up with four jars of peanut butter and three of mayonnaise, which in their house will last about two years!
- Use sites like Dealtaker.com to shop around for good deals. You can even post a request on their message boards for help in finding a good deal on just about any item you can buy on or off line.
- If you need furniture, buy dorm furniture from a discount store like Target or KMart. Also, my local Habitat for Humanity runs a resale store and sells lots of furniture and other household items people donate to them. Find out if your local Habitat For Humanity runs a shop also.
- Get athletic shoes at a discount store like KMart. I read a consumer reports article some time ago that stated there basically isn’t any difference in quality between the $500 athletic shoes and the $10 ones, so why pay more. I saw ladies’ jogging shoes at KMart for $9.99 just the other day.
- To save money and still give nice gifts for birthdays and occasions throughout the year I do all my gift shopping at the after Christmas clearance sales. I purchase several items and store them in Rubbermaid totes in my storage room. I shop with family members and close friends in mind as well as purchase several toys for the age/sex of each of my children to use when they are invited to birthday parties. Throughout the year I have nice gifts to give at 75% off what I would pay if I waited. It’s not all glittery reindeer sweaters either! LOL!
- Two words to remember when buying something online: “Promotion Code“. Google the name of the vendor your buying from and add in the phrase “Promotion Code”. E.g., Google “Famous Footwear” “Promotion code” There are dozens of websites that track promotions from vendors. Even when I buy on sale (which is always) I can almost always find a promotion code that will take an additional 10-25% off or free shipping or both. The only thing better than buying on sale is buying on sale with an additional percentage off and free shipping.
- What about making sure that when you buy something on the internet you receive cashback using cashbackchart.com. (DR: You could also use cash back credit cards.)
- An organization called Freecycle has different groups all over the country. You’re even likely to find one right in your hometown. You sign up through Yahoo, but it’s all e-mail based. I reccomend creating a new e-mail address for this because you usually get quite a few e-mails a day. If you are looking for something specific you can send a mass e-mail out and ask if anyone has the item. Or if you’re looking to get rid of stuff you don’t use, rather than throwing it away send a mass e-mail out offering the item to anyone that wants it.
- http://www.freecycle.org Everything is completely free, advertising garage sales or requesting money is off limits. You do porch pick-up as well but if you’re uncomfortable with someone knowing where you live you can request something else. I just got a great new charcoal grill for free!!!
- There is also a FREE category on craigslist.com under the For Sale section where you can basically do the same thing.
- http://www.smarthealthbuyer.com. It gives you the prices for dental procedures, chiro, optical, accupuncture, and a couple other things. But this way you can price compare on more things than just dental
- I only shop for clothes once every 6 months or so. I go to the Goodwill Store at that point and outfit myself completely for under $40.
- Don’t go to the mall for “fun”. Replace shopping as your therapeutic activity with some other hobby, like walking (if you live in a safe neighborhood), or writing or yoga or join a reading group or club.
- To reduce Christmas expenses, suggest to your family that everyone just exchange names and buy one gift this year. My family does this. For adults it’s fine. For the kids, we still each buy them a gift, but we don’t buy presents for each and every adult any more. Everyone is getting married now, and our family is growing more quickly than our budgets! Holidays are more about spending time together anyway. Who really needs or wants all that stuff?
- Buy children’s toys at discount stores like Big Lots — they get lots of items at deep discounts. Also, use Dealtaker.com to shop around if there is one particular item a child really wants.
- Shop at the dollar store ~ only buy what you need !
- shop at the bread outlet for bread deals & stock up
- look for reduced priced meats
- read the newspaper ads and stock up on loss leader sales at the grocery store
- Shop at Amazon! It sells a lot more than just books, and you can find some items at incredible discounts.
As with the first list of ways to save money, please add your money saving tips to the comments below.