I’ve read a lot of blog posts and articles about saving money…but many of them involve a lot of effort to save only a little bit of money. I know that every little bit counts, but sometimes saving 10 cents here and there just doesn’t seem worth the time.
But, with a little arithmetic and planning, the savings can really add up. Here are 11 easy ways to save a lot of money:
The savings can really add up by just making a few changes. Some “Family of Four” savings are adjusted to be more realistic…sometimes having four times as many people doesn’t save you four times as much money (for example, when you get rid of cable, you save $30 a month even if you have 20 people in your home, and kids clothes may not be as expensive as adult clothes).
1. Make your own meals.
If you choose to bring your own lunch to work just two times a week and skip going out for dinner once, you can save (2 lunches x $7.50 + 1 dinner x $15) = $30 per week. Of course, you’d have to replace those meals with things you buy at the grocery store. Realistically, I can make a great meal for $3. So, those three restaurant meals you just skipped would cost (3 meals x $3) = $9. Your actual savings will be ($30 – $9) = $21 per week.
Bonus: Home-cooked meals are often healthier and take less time that driving to a restaurant and waiting for your order.
2. Do less laundry.
Does that shirt really need to be washed after 1 wear? Probably not. When you change into your pajamas at night, inspects what you wore that day. Check for stains and sniff for any foul odors. If it looks and smells good, hang it back up in your closet! Even Clinton Kelly from “What Not to Wear” approves of this method.
Rather than calculating actual savings on water and electricity, I’ll base the savings on what it costs to do a load of laundry at a laundromat. If you normally do your laundry once a week, it can cost you ($1.25 to wash + $1.00 to dry + $0.15 laundry detergent) = $2.40 per week, or ($2.40 x 4) = $9.60 a month. If you can get it down to once every two weeks, it’ll cost you ($2.40 x 2) = $4.80 a month. That may not seem like much, but those savings are just based on one person. The more people in your home, the more money you’ll save.
Bonus: You’re helping the environment by saving water and electricity and your clothes won’t wear out as fast. You’ll also be saving time by not having to fold laundry each week!
3. Return what you don’t need.
Have you ever bought something and then later decided you didn’t actually need it, or it just wasn’t what you expected? Return it! Don’t let it just sit around collecting dust. If you return just $10 worth of stuff a month, that’s $120 a year.
Bonus: If you notice that you’re returning a lot of stuff each month, you might start thinking more about potential purchases when you’re at a store. Do you really need that cute throw pillow? By buying less in the first place, you’ll be saving even more money!
4. Eat less cheese.
You read that right. Cheese is expensive. By just buying one less cheese item each week, you can save about $5 a week, or $20 a month!
Bonus: The dairy industry is notoriously cruel, so buying less cheese will help out those cute dairy cows! Cheese is also addictive due to the protein casein…after a while of cutting back, you might realize that things taste just fine without it!
5. Buy secondhand.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Instead of buying things brand new, try going to a thrift store, consignment shop, or looking on eBay. I’ve found a lot of great things that are practically brand new but for a lot less money.
For my calculations, I’ll focus just on clothes, but if you have a habit of buying furniture or knick-knacks, make sure to add those as well. Also, if you usually spend more (or less) on new clothes than I do, also make adjustments in your calculations.
If I usually buy about 2 new outfits a month (maybe a blouse, a skirt, a dress, and some sort of outerwear), I could potentially spend ($25 blouse + $30 skirt + $30 dress + $30 cardigan) = $115 a month. If I buy used clothes, I would only spend about ($8 blouse +$10 skirt + $12 dress + $10 cardigan) = $30 a month. So, without even cutting back on the number of clothing items I buy each month, I can save ($115 – $30) = $85 a month!
Bonus: Buying secondhand prevents things from ending up in landfills and will reduce the number of things that are produced in the first place.
6. Do it yourself.
Instead of buying makeup remover, make your own (I just use plain coconut oil…no “doing” necessary!). Don’t buy art to put on your walls, spend time creating your own! Need a case for your tablet? There are lots of great tutorials out there using only felt (which costs a mere 30 cents a sheet). By making things yourself, you can potential save a lot of money.
For my calculations, I’ll just focus on one thing…yep, that’s all it takes! The store bought makeup remover I previously used was $7.99 and lasted me about 3 months, so I had to buy it 4 times a year. That’s ($7.99 x 4) = $31.96 a year. The coconut oil I use cost $5.99 and will probably last me a good 18 months. That means that in one year, I will have used ($5.99 x 2/3) = about $4 worth. That’s savings of ($31.96 – $4) = $27.96 a year. And again, that’s just by DIY-ing one thing!
Other things you might DIY: nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew), art/decor, blush, desserts.
Bonus: By DIY-ing, you get to have fun creating something. You can also customize what you’re making to be exactly how you want it! You now have the power to leave out harmful chemicals, artificial dyes, corn syrup, etc.
7. Shop around.
Watch out for coupons, sales, and special subscription discounts. I always check my Sunday newspaper for coupons and sales, there are websites like coupons.com that let you print out only the coupons you’ll need, Target. JoAnn, Michael’s and many grocery stores let you print coupons from their websites, and online stores like Amazon, Drugstore.com, Soap.com, and even Target.com are now offering subscription discounts. Subscription discounts typically range from 5% to 15% off, and usually you are saving even more by just buying online or in bulk!
I typically save about $10 per month using coupons, $15 a month by using subscriptions and buying online, and about $10 by watching for sales. That’s a savings of ($10 + $15 + $10) = $35 per month.
Bonus: Buying in bulk can save money and reduce the amount of packaging that’s being used (which helps the environment!).
8. Sell your stuff.
Rather than letting old stuff you don’t want just sit around in your closet, try selling it! By just selling a few pieces of clothing a month, I can make about $150. If you’ve got larger items that would be hard to ship, you can also try Craigslist or have a garage sale
Bonus: Selling your stuff will help you get more organized and might make you realize what kinds of things you can avoid buying in the future…like if you notice you’re selling all your red tops, maybe you’ll think twice before buying something red!
9. Buy generic and store brands.
Ibuprofen is ibuprofen whether it comes in a Target bottle or an Advil bottle. It just is. Based on what I’ve seen, store brands are about 20% less expensive than name brands. If I would normally buy $50 worth of name brand stuff a month, buying store brands/generics would save me ($50 x 20%) = $10 a month.
Bonus: Store brands typically don’t have to test on animals because the larger name brands have already done that.
10. Use your library.
You’re already paying for the library through tax dollars…you might as well make use of it! My library gives out a free Sunday newspaper each week (loaded with coupons!), has tons of magazine subscriptions, a DVD collection almost as good as any store, books, and CDs. Not to mention access to loads of online resources (including ebooks, various software programs, and a music download service called Freegal).
If by using your library you can keep from buying one book ($15) per month, one magazine subscription per year ($30) and 6 DVDs a year ($90), you’ve just saved ($15 x 12 + $30 + $90) = $300 a year.
Bonus: By using your library instead of buying your own things, you’re reducing waste (especially with a magazine subscription).
11. Get rid of cable tv.
There are so many things you could be doing besides watching cable tv. And with Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and the library, you can probably still watch those shows you can’t live without. Get rid of cable and save $30 a month.
Bonus: With all that extra time you’re not spending in front of the tv, you’ll be able to exercise, DIY, and make your own meals more often!
By just making these small changes, one person can save about $450 a month, or about $5,500 a year. A family of four will save even more, almost $1000 a month, or about $12,000 a year!