In general, we are a society of overspenders. Everyone thinks they need the latest and greatest. A new piece of clothing. Another toy for their toddler. I fall into the trap all the time. Despite knowing some of the best frugal living tips to save money and frequently using them, I still like to spend.
DSW was having an awesome deal on shoes. I bought two pairs online and had them delivered to my house. My intention was to keep only one and return one. I tried them on with a dress for my husband and asked which one he liked. He said I don’t buy shoes that often and said I should keep both. His words convinced me to keep both, justifying in my mind that he’s right, I don’t buy shoes often.
I’m always behind the fashion trends, but my concern with these new shoes is they are a style I’ve never worn before and now I have two pairs of them. It’s just an example of overspending when I didn’t need to. Do you NEED a new pair of shoes? Yes or no? No, I didn’t need a new pair of shoes; I WANTED a new pair of shoes and ended up with two that I’m not even sure I’m going to wear yet.
Are you an impulse spender?
Do you fall into that trap? When something is on sale or a good deal so you have to purchase it, even if you don’t actually need it. I convince myself I need things almost daily. Online stores, Amazon, promo codes, buy/get offers all trying to convince me that I have to have it.
Delaying a purchase will only mean I will pay more in the future so I better snag this once-in-a-lifetime deal now while I can. If you are looking to save more money, find below some of the best frugal living tips to help you save money and get your financial life on track.
Frugal tips to curb spending in general
1. Stop buying things you don’t need.
Take notice of all of the purchases you make on a daily or weekly basis. The extra few items you put in your cart at the grocery store. The clearance sweater at Gap you couldn’t help but purchase – it’s an end of season sale and might sell out soon. Swinging through Starbucks and ordering a breakfast sandwich to go with your coffee, when you could have just as easily had breakfast at work.
We all make impulse purchases, but challenging yourself to stop with the impulse buys and keep the money in your wallet will not only make you feel better because you’re proud of the choice you made but will keep more money in your pocket. Check out ways to curb impulse spending if this is you.
2. Try a no spend month, week, or even day!
Make a challenge with yourself to not spend any money on anything, period, for a given amount of time. This might be different for everyone as your spending habits are different. If you’re a serial eating-out-person who stops for coffee in the morning, grabs lunch with colleagues during the day, and snags take out for dinner – not spending for one day might be a huge accomplishment.
Maybe for you, a challenge is not spending any money for a week, or not spending online for two weeks. Whatever it is, make a challenge with yourself to stop the spending habits you know you need to break.
3. Delay a purchase.
This may be for a day, or two days, or a week. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in the awesomeness of the deal, you haven’t checked yourself to know if you really need it. By all means, online shop and put things into your cart. Then STOP. Pause before you hit the checkout and close the browser.
Odds are whatever is in your cart is a need not a want. If there is an awesome deal on it today, perhaps the deal will get even sweeter tomorrow. Plus you’ll likely not even remember what you put in your cart 24 hours from now.
A few days from now if you’re still drooling over this amazing purchase, then fine. Buy it. You may even have saved a few more dollars with an abandoned cart email from the retailer. I see this on Etsy all the time. I put an item in my cart, and a few days later a 10% off coupon arrives in my inbox. So waiting may benefit you financially.
4. Ask yourself: will I be happy I purchased this a year from now?
This is a simple checkpoint to identify if this is a purchase you truly need. We are habitual spenders. Everything is so disposable these days that it seems ordinary to just whip out the plastic consistently and buy anything you want today and have it delivered tomorrow. Simply asking yourself this question may talk you out of buying today, or at least delay the purchase.
5. If something breaks, consider fixing or not replacing.
Certainly, this depends on what the item is, but not everything that breaks is garbage. And not all garbage has to be replaced. Don’t be in such a rush to replace everything that has broken or that has worn out. Do you already have a substitute at home you could use in the meantime?
6. Avoid spending money just because you have it.
This one can be tricky, especially if you have a budget for specific expenses and do not spend everything in that month. Perhaps you’re using the envelope method and have been really diligent about not spending at the grocery store. You see you have money left over at the end of the month, so you pat yourself on the back and spend it on something you want, not something you need.
Saving those dollars for a rainy day, or investing them will only benefit you in the long run. Don’t let a short-term impulse rob you of your financial dreams. Take any leftover money at the end of the month and put it away where you can’t spend it. One idea is to use the investment app Acorns for your savings. Simply having money isn’t a license to spend it. Break the habit of spending.
7. Adopt a cash-only lifestyle.
Try using the envelope method of budgeting where you identify the areas you will spend this month and withdraw enough cash to cover all of those expenses. For example, if your grocery budget is $200 for the month, withdraw $200 and put in an envelope just for groceries.
Take the envelope with you each time you shop and only pay using the envelope. You’ll not only stay on budget, but you’re likely to spend more when paying via credit card according to Consumer Reports.
8. Delay purchasing the latest fashion trends or the newest technology.
Trends change, technology ages. Both will be cheaper if you wait a little bit versus being an early adopter. If it’s a need and not a want, sit tight and wait a few months before making a purchase on a trendy or new item. The hype will fade and prices will adjust.
9. Cancel subscriptions to things you are not using.
That grocery delivery service, gym membership, a discount airline club, etc. There is likely a subscription of some type that you are paying for, for something you barely use or are not getting the return on. Cancel now, or cancel right before the membership expires. Don’t get caught in the trap of automatic renewal on something you don’t use!
Frugal Tips for Food & Groceries
1. Write a list.
We’ve all been there. The grocery store is crowded. You don’t want to go to the store to begin with but you need milk and “a few other things” before you head home. You race around the store snagging this and that. You’re in the busy checkout, approaching the cashier when you realize you forgot a critical item. Your mind races wondering if you have enough time to jump the line grab the item and come back.
If you write a list and stick to it, it actually works! You enter a grocery store that is bombarded with bright lights, thousands of products, and sale stickers galore. It’s a budget-buster to not come prepared with specifically what you are going to purchase while in-store.
Plus it’s a lot more time-consuming in the store without a list – running from aisle to aisle, having to retrace your steps when you forgot something a few aisles back. Before you leave for the store, jot down everything you plan to purchase. This ensures you are only buying what you actually need, are not purchasing something you already have, and allows you to spend time shopping more efficiently and not forget anything standing in line.
2. Switch to cheaper brands on consumables.
The name brand isn’t always better, but it’s usually more expensive. Challenge yourself to find cheaper alternatives to some of the products you are not brand loyal to. If you have a few products you’re willing to pay more for, to get the brand you want, great. Keep buying those items. But find products you don’t have a preference for and try the store brand next time.
3. Use the store sales flyer to save and plan.
There are so many awesome money-saving ideas within the store flyer itself. When you are writing your shopping list, check out what is on sale at the store you are heading to. That way you already know what the best deals are going to be and can craft a meal plan around them.
4. Find coupons to use to pair with sale prices.
One of the easiest ways to save even more money while grocery shopping is to use coupons. They could be ones you have clipped from the Sunday paper. If that’s not your jam, download the app of the store you are shopping at and clip coupons digitally. Typically the apps have the exact same or very similar coupons. Pairing a coupon with a sale priced item is an easy way to stay frugal and save money. Discover where to easily find coupons here.
5. Leverage receipt scanning apps like Ibotta, Fetch Rewards and Checkout 51.
These apps have come a long way in the last few years and make it incredibly intuitive and easy to save.
Recently I learned you can tie sore reward & loyalty cards directly to Ibotta so all you have to do is clip offers you are interested in, in advance and shop using your rewards card (no actually uploading of your receipt). Ibotta will automatically credit your account for qualifying purchases.
Checkout51 is also a favorite of mine. In some cases, they have overlapping offers with Ibotta so you can make one purchase, and use multiple receipt-scanning apps for the same item!
Fetch is my new favorite and works similar to the other receipt-scanning apps. However, what makes this app different is you don’t have to scan offers in advance! Simply shop, scan your receipt, and any offer you qualify for will be credited to your account. No pre-clipping of offers or watching 30-second videos to quality. Easy peasy and another easy frugal living tip to help you save money.
Sign up with Fetch and enter my referral code M2CNU and you’ll get 2,000 Fetch Points ($2.00 in points) when you scan one receipt.
6. Take snacks and lunches to work.
This really is a no-brainer and so much more cost-effective than eating out or snacking from the vending machine. I cringe when I see people standing in front of the vending machine either for a beverage or a snack. They. Are So. Expensive! Relative to anything you can find in the grocery store. Plan ahead, stop at a store before you get to work, and stock up on the exact same snacks and beverages for a fraction of the cost.
7. Take snacks and beverages on to the grocery store with you.
We’re all tempted to open the cooler and snag a beverage in the checkout line on our way out the store. Or you reach your car and have a hankering for some fast food. If you bring snacks and a bottle of water with you, it’ll be easier to talk yourself out of impulse buys you don’t need.
8. Drink more water.
I’m not sure when our household turned into such a “beverage” family. But the amount of sparkling water, Gatorade, vitamin water, soda, etc. we have in our fridge at any time is crazy. I have started to wean myself off of some of the beverage consumption that has become a habit and I have seen great savings in our food bills.
Do you really need that $1.50 Bai or could you put lemon in your water and that would suffice. Expensive beverages are such a waste, especially if you’re mindlessly drinking them and trying to pay off debt.
9. Grow your own herbs.
We have a garden, and I’m torn with how cost-effective it truly is over purchasing in store when in season. It takes a lot of time and money to maintain a garden. Fresh, organic and delicious? Yes, Free? No. One thing I would recommend though is growing your own herbs. In fact, you could keep them in a pot right in your kitchen.
It’s crazy how much a small pack of mint is if you’re muddling mojitos, or rosemary if you want to add it to tonight’s dinner. Growing a few herbs year-round in our house has not only saved money but encourages us to put these awesome fresh flavors into meals we are cooking regularly. It makes them taste so fresh. Try it!
10. Purchase in bulk when it makes sense.
I used to have a Costco membership and canceled it (check out why here). So I’m not a proponent of buying in bulk at all times. But if you use some quick math and determine the bulk item is, in fact, the best deal AND you know you’ll be able to consume it before the expiration AND you have room to store it, then by all means, bulk shop away!
11. Shop Aldi for staples.
If you have an Aldi store around and are not shopping for staples there, prepare to save some money. I have never found a store with such low everyday prices in my life. Pair those already low prices with a sale price and you have an unbelievable deal. Produce and meat are hit and miss in my opinion.
But staples and non-perishables like canned goods, baking supplies, snacks, etc. are all very competitively priced. Plus they typically have a seasonal section for holidays and other events around the year. I go there every year before we throw an Oktoberfest party to stock up on various mustards and Bavarian pretzels. Aldi really does have it going on!
12. Cook in batches.
Try making a huge batch of your favorite meal this weekend and either freeze some of it or plan to eat it multiple times throughout the week. Not only will it be more efficient on your time, but it’s also cost-effective in many cases to buy ingredients in larger units of measure. I love being able to pull leftovers out of the freezer and eat what tastes like a home cooked meal (because it is); only it was prepared a few weeks ago.
Frugal Tips for Household & Laundry
1. Only run the dishwasher completely full.
You’re likely putting in the same amount of soap and the machine is using the same amount of water regardless. Maximize the dirty-dish run by making sure it’s full before you run it. Also, make sure the dishes aren’t overlapping each other too much or are covering where the water sprays out.
For months after getting a new dishwasher I didn’t realize that the way I was stacking the dinner plates in the lower part made the water spinny thing catch on the edge of the plates. No wonder the dishes were coming out less than clean. I thought it was our crappy new dishwasher, turns out it was the way I was loading the dishes that mattered.
2. Only wash dirty clothes.
I fall into this trap a lot. I automatically throw everything on my body into the hamper whether I’ve worn it all day or only a few hours. I’m not saying to wear dirty clothes. I’m saying every load adds up, so check yourself before throwing barely worn clothes into the hamper. Can you wear it again and wash it after that?
3. Shop in your pantry and freezer before going shopping.
We’ve all been there. We’re at the store buying groceries and can’t recall if we have a can of this or a frozen pack of that, so we buy another one at full price just in case. Using what you already have is a great way to keep the pantry turned over and save some money in the process. Avoid buying duplicates of something or spending full price on something you thought you needed but taking note of what you already have on hand before you shop.
4. Make a zero-based budget and stick to it.
Wondering why you aren’t meeting your financial goals each month? It may be because you haven’t written them down and taken deliberate actions to reach those goals. Check out how to create a zero-based budget here and get your financial goals on track this year.
5. Watch the thermostat.
Keep the heat on as low as you can tolerate and the AC on as high as you can tolerate. Every degree you can swing is money saved. I’m not suggesting freeze or sweat to death. I’m saying to simply don’t overheat or over-cool the house. Grab a sweater or blanket and snuggle up if you are cold. There are ways to regulate your own body temperature that does not involve the thermostat and you can save money in the process.
6. Get a roommate/rent out a room.
This may be an option depending on your personal situation. If you’re living alone, could you consider getting a roommate? Or, do you have a spare bedroom you’d consider renting out to someone? This tip isn’t for everyone but could be a good option if you have space to spare, patience to handle another person living in your home, and are looking to make some extra money on the side.
Money-Saving Tips for Online Shopping
1. Shop around for pricing.
This is really a no brainer. Not only shop around at various stores and websites but, if it’s not urgent, put off the purchase. Put it in your Amazon cart and wait a few days. Pricing is so volatile it could go up (or down) by the day; heck by the hour!
2. Use money-saving apps like Ebates or Paribus.
Ebates is old reliable. It’s been around since 1998 and is the cornerstone of my online shopping savings. Simply visit Ebates.com before you make any purchase. Ebates will track purchases made through the app and give you quarterly cashback on qualifying purchases. Even if it’s an extra 1% cashback, that’s 1% you didn’t have before!
Watch Ebates like a hawk because the percentage cashback fluctuates daily. Many times they feature 2x cash back or more at select stores. Depending on the size of your purchase, when you can get 5, 10 or even 12%+ cashback on your purchase; and you do that for nearly every online purchase you make, you can see how the savings can rack up quickly.
Paribus is another good staple to consider if you want to become a little more frugal. It’s an app that essentially tracks your online purchases made. If the online price should drop, they work with the retailer on your behalf give you back the difference. Seriously all you have to do is set up your account and forget about it. Paribus works behind the scenes to do the heavy lifting for you and everything is automatic.
3. Use Retailmenot or Honey to find promo codes.
Do not, I repeat do no,t check out from an online vendor without first trying to find a promo code. You can find a code for almost anything. My favorite place to start is retailmenot.com. Simply head to the website and search for the retailer. If there is an online code available, odds are it’s on this website.
Using Honey is a great option if you are on a desktop computer. So many of us shop on our mobile devices today, but if you’re bored at work and shopping online, this tip is for you. Download the Honey browser extension on your computer.
After you’ve shopped and are approaching the checkout, the Honey app comes into play. Honey will basically scour the internet and apply the promo code that will give you the biggest savings automatically. So it is not only a time savings but gives you peace of mind that you used the highest money-saving code the internet has to offer.
4. Purchase discounted gift cards.
This is one of my favorite frugal living tips and I use it all the time. Purchase discounted gift cards (pay below what they are valued at) using an online vendor. My preference is giftcardgranny.com. They are a website that hosts multiple gift card resellers at once.
If you are looking for a specific discounted gift card, let’s say for Gap, you can search for a Gap card and find multiple vendors selling Gap cards. You can pick and choose the right deal for you. I typically just go with the best deal, the highest percentage discount. But sometimes the vendor comes into play. If I’ve worked with them before and know they deliver fast and on time, I may choose to not go with the very best deal and use a vendor I know and trust.
5. Buy used when you can.
Whether it is at Goodwill or a consignment shop locally. So many high-quality items are donated by people who no longer need or want them. It could be an awesome score for you. Think Halloween costumes, specific kitchen items you only use once in a while, baskets, etc. Truly someone else’s trash can be your treasure if you hunt for it!
6. Sell things you don’t need or use.
Conversely, if you have things sitting around the house not being used or loved, consider selling them. Have a garage sale, use the Facebook marketplace, try eBay. You may be sitting on some pretty nice change if you look around and find belongings that no longer serve you, and put them up for sale. You’ll be giving someone who needs the item a good deal and put money in your pocket at the same time!
Save on School Supplies
1. Stock up while in season.
This is a no brainer. Your child has a school list and you buy everything on the list. If the deal is too good, why not stock up on a few extra? You know your child will be using the basics: crayons, pencils, folders, etc. for years to come. Plus you could probably even keep some around the house for those snow day arts and crafts.
If the deal is too good to be true, stock up on extra for the future, or donate extra to the classroom. Teachers spend so much money out of pocket stocking the classroom with extra supplies, I’m sure they’d be grateful for any additional supplies you bring their way.
2. Stock up on seasonal sales year-round.
It’s amazing the deals you can find throughout the year. While you’re grocery shopping or perusing Target, head down the office products aisle. You’d be surprised at the sale and clearance deals you can find on select items throughout the year. Or even month or two after traditional back-to-school shopping. It was probably October or November and there were still mounds of school supplies on clearance. Stock up for next year when it is truly rock bottom pricing.
3. Price compare.
I’m shocked at the school supply deals I’m able to find at Staples. With the big box stores directly competing, I didn’t think Staples would have a chance at my business. During the back to school season, they had weekly deals for just a few cents. Scissors for $.05, folders for $.01, erasers for $.02, folders for $.03 ea, etc. Of course, they had maximum quantities and you had to spend at least $10 in the store, but it was such a good deal.
After adding the penny items to my cart, there were still so many good deals that I could pair with coupons, it was easy to reach the minimum dollar threshold and simply get an amazing deal all-around.
Save on Eating out and Fast Food
1. Plan in advance.
Check out the website and social media accounts of the restaurants you are visiting. That way you know of any daily specials they have and can print or bring with you any coupons they are offering to social media fans or website visitors.
2. Use coupons.
Don’t throw away that junk mail. Open the coupon packets that arrive at your house and page through. Keep the few coupons that you think you might use to restaurants in your area that you are interested in trying, or that you frequent all the time.
There is a local pizza restaurant near us that we absolutely love. Chicago deep dish. Nice beer selection. Great atmosphere. We never go without a free appetizer coupon. Do we need the appetizer? No. Do I want the free cheese curds? Yes. We feel like we’re getting a deal and I eat less pizza because of it. More leftovers come home and the restaurant got me to come in the door. It’s really a win-win situation.
3. Order off the kid’s menu.
Restaurant portions are simply out of control in most cases. Ordering off the kids menu when you can (I usually only consider at fast food places), is a great move all around. It’s a frugal cost-savings move as the child’s meals cost less than the adults. It’s also a calorically-conscious decision because it’s a normal portion.
I’d argue it’s actually the appropriate portion for an adult. I always feel satisfied and not disgustingly stuffed after eating a kid’s meal. Typically they offer a fountain drink in lieu of milk and you can swap the apple sauce or “healthy” item for fries. Try a kid’s meal…your wallet and midline will thank you.
4. Share an entrée.
Order one entrée and split it with the person you are with. Regular entrees are typically huge depending on the restaurant you are at. Maybe order an appetizer and an entrée and split both. I don’t know about you, but when I go out to eat, I’m hungry.
Because of that, my eyes are typically bigger than my stomach and I over-order because I’m ravenous. Get a few bites down my throat and I realize I’m starting to feel satisfied and have only started my meal. Try sharing an entrée or paring down on what you order when you’re hangry.
5. Only order dessert.
Dessert is my favorite part of the meal anyway. I’m usually too full from the meal to be able to fit any more deliciousness in my stomach. Try something new and order that fancy dessert as your meal.
6. Box up half of your meal and take it home.
Either make a commitment to yourself you are only going to eat half; or ask the waiter or waitress to box up half before it even reaches the table. Most regular meal portions are more filling and higher in calories than your daily needs anyway. Do yourself a favor and try not to eat the entire meal. You won’t feel like you have to waddle out of the restaurant and will have a great 2nd meal to enjoy again soon.
7. Order water.
Beverages are expensive! Don’t order a drink and simply ask for water. You’ll cheaply stay hydrated and not consume unnecessary liquid calories.
Save Money on your Pet
1. Find a good, but affordable vet.
Not all cheaper vets are of poorer quality. I was amazed to compare prices in my area and find a vet that I feel comfortable with is professional and is affordable.
2. Order pet supplies online.
There are hundreds of online pet vendors for everything from medications to basic supplies. If you hunt around online you may find a deal that is better than Petco or Pet Smart for your pet supplies. Plus you benefit but being able to shop at home. You can shop in your comfy clothes and save time (and gas) in the process.
3. Use discounted gift cards to places like Petco or Pet Smart.
Start with a website like giftcardgranny.com. They offer gift cards for sale from many different vendors. When I looked today, Petco cards were being offered at 17% off. This means you could purchase a $100 gift card for $83. It’s a great option if you shop these stores already and know you are going to spend the money anyway.
Frugal Entertainment Ideas
1. Entertain yourself around the house.
I’m amazed and how much crap we have in our house that we don’t use on a regular basis. Cards, board games, video game systems, etc. Dust off the shelves and break out a puzzle. There are likely so many things you already own that you can use to entertain yourself or your kids instead of leaving the house to spend money on entertainment.
2. Invite friends over.
I find it so much more relaxing to go to a friend’s house or have friends over than going out to a bar. The kids can be crazy together. I can kick off my shoes and just relax. Invite the neighbors over and have a cost-effective evening in.
3. Go to the library.
I’m floored at what an untapped resource the library is for most people. It truly is a mecca for free or affordable entertainment. My local library allows you to check out books and movies online which makes it really convenient to simply swing by and pick them up.
Beyond that, they offer awesome FREE classes and entertainment for people of all ages. Storytime and group activities for toddlers; crafts for kids; life skills for teens and young adults, and all sorts of awesome resources for adults. I was thinking about attending one next week called “10 Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Retirement Money.” If you’re looking for something to do yourself or to get the kids out the house, check out a local library today! Yes, they offer free entertainment on some weekends too!
4. Use Groupon or Living Social to find cheap entertainment.
These sites have been around for a while and offer a nice assortment of discounted tickets to local events, restaurants, spas/salons, etc. In fact, use Ebates first before you make a purchase on Living Social or Groupon to save even more!
5. Check out a park.
When the weather is nice, my daughter really enjoys going to the park. Any park, but I like to change it up. In fact, the “park” we go to most often is playground equipment located at an abandoned elementary school. My daughter loves playing with other kids but typically when we go, we have the entire playground to ourselves. I have to pry her off the slides after we’ve been there for a while. It’s free, it gets her energy out, and she is highly entertained.
6. Check out free or really cheap activities at Michaels.
Michaels Craft Stores offers an entire calendar full of arts and crafts activities for people of all ages. Sometimes they are free. Sometimes they may cost a few dollars. The mess stays at Michaels, your child is entertained for an hour, and they get to take home a project. Visit your local Michaels website to find local calendars as all stores are different.
7. Bring your own beverages and snacks if you’re heading out.
Many places that offer entertainment or activities allow you to bring your own food and beverage into the location. Just check ahead. If you’re allowed to bring your own coolers, food and closed beverages, then do it! You’ll get to eat and drink what you want for a fraction of what any vendor would charge on-site. I’ve been surprised to see this at Disney, at ballparks, at outdoor fairs and concerts. Pack a few of your favorite essentials and save!
8. Go to a matinee instead of a night movie.
I’m surprised at the difference in price between going to a theater before 4 pm or so and going after. Get the exact same entertainment for a lesser price point. If your theater has a rewards or loyalty program, don’t forget to use that too. You may earn free or discounted tickets to come back again.
9. Buy discounted gift cards at Target using your RedCard.
Heading to Disney? Swing by Target and use your Red Card to purchase gift cards for the park. You will receive 5% the purchase of all Disney gift cards. If you’ll be at the parks for a few days with children, between the food, snacks, treats, souvenirs, etc. you could definitely save some cash by thinking ahead.
This is also a great gift idea for any families you know are heading to Disney! Check out gift cards you can purchase at 5% discount here. Note, Target gift cards and Visa and MasterCard gift cards do not qualify. But almost any other store does!
Transportation Saving Tips
1. Use TrueCar before you purchase your next vehicle.
I loved using TrueCar so much when I bought my new 2012 Malibu (yes, years later I’m still loving the deal I got), that I wrote a review about it. If you hate the price haggle when you’re purchasing a vehicle, this website is for you. Essentially you choose the make, model, and features of the car you are looking for.
True Car will then show you how much off sticker local retailers are willing to offer you off the car you are interested in. You then go to the dealership with the piece of paper and they will honor the discount. No-haggle; you know what the retail is on the vehicle, you know what they will give you off. No awkward price discussions, just getting a good deal you want with ease.
2. Watch for deals on maintenance and tune-up at your local dealership or independent repair shop.
I get junk mail every other day from local shops offering discounts on oil changes or a combo discount on oil and something else. I also sign up for emails from the dealerships and independent repair shops I trust and receive coupons and discounts that way.
3. Watch for or ask for discounts when you are purchasing tires.
I received, what I thought was a great deal on ties complete with a manufacturer rebate. On top of that, the dealership offered me 5 free oil changes and gave me a punch card.
4. Find a mechanic you trust.
This one can be difficult to “know” if you can trust them, but well worth it. I get so frustrated every time I go into this one dealership for an oil change. My car isn’t that old, and every time I go they try to upsell, cross-sell, make additional recommendations.
I am so frustrated with being sold that I am on the hunt for an independent repair shop. I have my car’s manual, I know what their recommendations are; why are the dealerships recommending so much more? You want the vehicle to be reliable, but don’t just agree to every single thing the dealership recommends. Do your homework, look online, get a second opinion before you spend unnecessary money.
5. Don’t drive so much or combine trips.
Every mile adds up. Instead of running one errand at a time, can you combine them? I found myself leaving during my lunch hour at work frequently just to “get out of the office.” When the weather was nice I decided to swap the drive for a nice long walk. I put on my earphones and, jammed out to some country and got a decent amount of steps in on my Fit Bit.
Plus I could tell I didn’t have to fill up as much. Not running errands one at a time during the day extended my next fill-up by another day. Ask yourself if you really need to hop in the car or are just looking for an excuse to leave. If it’s the latter, find an alternate way to relieve your stress and save some money in the process.
6. Use GasBuddy or simply watch gas prices in general.
My car holds 15 gallons. So when on empty, every $.10 per gallon I can save on gas is $1.50 saved per fill up. I’m not saying drive across town and spend extra time and extra gas seeking out the best deals. But if you drive a lot or drive past a lot of gas stations on your way to work. Take a few seconds and use the GasBuddy app to see which station has the best price on gas in real-time. Plan your stop accordingly and save with very little effort.
7. Wash your own car.
I have to admit, I’m not as good about washing the inside and outside of my car as I should be. I’m the type where I’m happy it’s raining today to wash the winter salt off my car and am considering it a “free” car wash. Instead of going through the drive-through or to a fancy car wash costs $30 or $40 to wipe down the inside and outside, why not do it at home? Get the kids involved. Turn it into a fun activity and save some money in the process.
8. Price check your insurance.
My husband and I had American Family for years. We used the same agent as his parents, paid the bill every 6 months and thought nothing of it. Then our premium started to inch up. I’m thinking, my car is only getting older and worth less, why in the heck is the premium going up? We shopped around and saved hundreds, yes hundreds annually by switching insurances and received better coverage, too. It doesn’t hurt. It’s really easy to grab some quotes online and compare costs with coverage.
9. Once you’ve made your last vehicle payment, save for the one.
Pretend you continue to have a car payment and make payments to yourself each month to save up for the next vehicle. You’ve been living with this car payment for a while, so your budget won’t notice a difference. Money has this magic superpower where once it hits your checking account it has a way of disappearing.
Continue to pay yourself the car payment and put it away in a safe place for a down payment on your next vehicle. Heck, depending on the time between now and your next vehicle purchase, you may even be able to pay for the next vehicle in cash!
10. Use public transportation or ride your bike to work.
If you work far away from home but are close to public transportation, consider using it instead of driving. You’ll likely save time and money over gas and paid parking. Or, if you’re close enough to work consider riding your bike to work. Get a workout in before you even hit the office.
Saving Tips for Holidays / Gift Giving/ Gift Exchanges
1. Plan ahead.
Likely you know these annual events are coming. Make a budget in advance, and start saving up for holidays well before its gift-giving time. Think birthday gifts, holiday gifts, holiday décor, holiday cards, etc. These are all expenses you know are coming. Start saving now, and if you find a deal on a perfect gift for Christmas in July – pick it up! Deals and steals happen year-round, not just Black Friday.
2. Set a dollar threshold with the person you are exchanging with.
My husband and I started to do this and I really like it. For times when we mutually exchange or what do a small token: Anniversary, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. we discuss and set a limit. Typically we still are on our own for Birthdays, mother’s day/father’s day, etc. Sometimes one of us will go over the limit, but in general, it’s been a good way to control the finances, gift something meaningful and creative but not go over-the-top.
3. Look for gifts throughout the year, not a day before you’re giving.
This is a tip for those last-minute gift-givers who leave shopping until it’s 24 hours before the gift-opening is planned. It can be stressful shopping when you’re under a time limit and need to find something, like, today. You’ve missed the window of nearly any online shopping so you’re likely limited to in-store options or a gift card. Keep your eyes peeled for good gift ideas throughout the year and purchase as you see fit. Take note of any “hints” the recipient may drop during the year to make this even easier.
My husband has gifted me so many things throughout the years that I have inadvertently hinted at. We were heading to the neighbors with a casserole-type pan and I mentioned how it would be so nice to have a carrier to take it over in. Next opportunity he had, I was gifted this awesome new Pyrex set with a nifty carrier & handles. I wasn’t trying to drop a hint. I merely mentioned an inconvenience and he remedied it in the future (I had forgotten I had even said something).
4. Stock up on post-holiday or seasonal items for next year.
You can easily score 75% to even 90% off holiday décor if you shop a day or two after the holiday passes. I’ve scored stocking stuffers, holiday books, Easter eggs, Shamrock bling…you name it at post-holiday sales. Snag some significantly discounted items this year for use next year. Beware of buying just to buy though. It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that something is on sale or is a deal. Only buy what you truly think you will need or use.
5. Draw names or do a White Elephant exchange
Rather than purchasing for everyone, buy one gift. Either select or draw names in advance. Or everyone brings a funny wrapped gift for a random exchange. Set the dollar threshold upfront. Everyone will at least receive something but you won’t break the bank.
6. Only buy for the kids
I typically buy what I want throughout the year, so when it comes to exchanging with my husband or when my mom asks what we could use, I come up empty-handed. Sure I want stuff, but do I really NEED it? Why not decide to only purchase gifts for the kids? It’s more fun buying for them anyway.
7. In lieu of buying for each other, donate a gift.
There are so many families in need over the holidays, why not forego some of your own gifts for others who are truly in NEED? Instead of exchanging with family or friends, volunteer the idea to purchase for Toys for Tots or other local organizations helping local families. Or volunteer to help wrap said gifts. It feels so good to do something nice and unexpected for someone you don’t know!
Don’t Overpay on Beauty
1. Pamper yourself at home.
Try your own color at-home or give yourself a mani/pedi. Even after purchasing a brand new nail color or tool you need to get the job done right, you’ll still be ahead financially than if you went to the salon to have someone else do it for you.
2. Use Groupon or Living Social for your next haircut.
You can score a great deal on haircuts, color or almost any beauty regimen using one of these discount sites. Check the terms and conditions. Sometimes there are no limits to how many Groupons or Living Social certificates you can use, so you could go back to the same salon with the same deal within a specific period of time.
3. Purchase discounted gift cards to your favorite beauty stores.
Ulta, Sephora, Sally Beauty, etc. all have discounted gift cards for sale on Giftcardgranny.com. Use this site to purchase store gift cards for less than their value. For example, you could purchase a $50 Ulta gift card for $42.50 saving 15%. You’re saving $7.50 immediately on purchases you were going to make anyway.
4. Space out your treatments
Do you typically get your hair cut every 6 weeks? Could you extend to 7 or 8? Are you a once-a-month pedicure or massage person? Could you consider every 6 weeks or every-other-month? I’m not saying to stop treating yourself.
I’m suggesting if you’re trying to save money and are in the habit of having regular beauty treatments, challenge yourself to cut back. You’ll likely not even notice an extra week between appointments. But over the course of the year that may be one or two fewer services, you are paying for.
Save by Using the Library
1. You can try before you buy.
The library offers an awesome opportunity for you to read nearly anything for free. Instead of spending money purchasing that hardcover, why not check it out from the library first. If you still want a hard copy after, fine, go buy it. But at least you now know for sure that you do.
2. There is so much media beyond books.
The library offers so many other forms of media beyond just books. DVDs, music, etc. are all available at the library. One of my favorite memories as a kid is being able to go to the library and select books on tape. The ones that hang from a rod in a plastic bag attached to a hook. Take time to explore the library and all of the other options of media to check out and enjoy at home.
3. Free activities for adults and children.
Most libraries’ host a plethora of free activities for people of all ages. Visit the website of your local library to check out a schedule. Everything from story or playtime for the little kids, to crafts for the bigger kids, and informational seminars for teens/adults.
4. A quiet place for work or journaling
If you’re ever looking for a place where you can get concentrated work down without spending money, try the library. I’ll usually default to Starbucks or to Panera. I need WiFi and think spending money on a coffee isn’t a big deal, and it probably isn’t. But not only are you spending money you don’t need, but restaurants are also noisy. Head to the library the next time you are in need of some peace and quiet for work time and I bet you’ll really enjoy it.
Ideas for What to do with your Savings
1. Pay yourself first.
Find a way to automate your savings so you “pay yourself” i.e., your savings accounts first before you start paying other bills and spending. This ensures you are taking efforts to fund your future self and will lessen the risk of overspending or not meeting your financial goals.
2. Round up your change automatically using Acorns
Use this round-up savings app to automatically invest your spare change. Do you have a jar or container somewhere in your house that you put spare change? Then every so often when the jar fills up you take it to the bank to cash it in?
That’s the idea with Acorns except it’s all electronic. You round-up your electronic purchases from debit or credit card transactions and the “change” automatically gets invested in an account for you. Check out my review of Acorns here to learn more and sign up today!
3. As you pay down debt, roll those payments into the next highest debt payment you have.
When you are finally able to pay off that credit card or pay off your car, pat yourself on the back. That is a huge accomplishment you should be proud of and recognize yourself for. After that, make a plan for where that money is going to go, now that you don’t have that debt.
Is there another debt you’ve been chipping away at that you can roll that payment into and double-down on that debt? If you’re debt-free, is there an investment you can be making, or high yield savings account you can be using? Find a comfortable place to put the money to work for you!
4. Deposit money into an account you can’t reach electronically.
Find a bank where you can automatically deposit money each paycheck, but that requires you to physically drive to the location to take funds out. It’s a lot harder to spend money you don’t readily have access to.
4. Call companies and ask for a lower interest rate.
Sometimes all it takes is a call. You’re trying to pay down your debt but are getting raked over the coals with high-interest payments that make the principle go down so slowly. What harm is there in calling to ask for a lower rate? You may be happily surprised to hear a yes!
5. Use a credit card for purchases to earn loyalty points.
This is not a license to spend more. But if you’re diligent in paying off your credit card every month, this is a nice extra perk to earn cashback on purchases you were going to make anyway.
I use a Chase Freedom credit card. I earn 1% cashback on all purchases. Quarterly I earn 5% cashback on specific categories such as gas, restaurants, or department stores. This is a no-brainer option to earn on your purchases, but only if it doesn’t elicit more spending, or cause you to not pay down the balance each month.
Simply adopting a few new frugal living habits can do wonders for your finances. Challenge yourself to identify a few ways to cut costs and save more money this year. Not all tips will fit your lifestyle, but odds are there are at least a few things you splurge on unknowingly that you could easily cut from your expenses without even realizing it!
What is your best frugal living tip, or what tip are you going to try this week?