Aside from big picture stuff like extreme frugality, I’ve never focused much on ways to save money here on Monevator. Plenty of blogs have that niche covered.
But be under no illusions. Spending less than you earn is the key to getting rich, whether you earn 20K a year or two hundred. The Micawber Principle is the one rule of financial planning that rules them all.
So I was delighted when fellow money blogger David Hamilton agreed to fix the frugal tip deficit on my blog with a guest post offering more than 100 ideas for how to save money. David is the owner of Financial Planning Tips, and is well-versed in thinking of ways to ratchet down on your spending to save more.
None of these ways to save money are rocket science. But that’s the point – if they were, they’d be hard to implement. Instead, a quick skim through this list should spark a frugal push in your own household. A few quid saved here and there a day soon adds up to a lot more funds for investing.
Over to David!
1. Pay your credit card bills in full on time, every time: No more excuses for paying interest or late fees.
2. Buy cars used: Always buy used, never new – you aren’t gaining much by buying new except a nice smell, you lose a lot of value as soon as a new car rolls off the lot.
3. Learn to cook all your meals: Impress your friends and your wallet by cooking at home regularly.
4. Don’t fly or take vacation during peak travel season: This will always be more expensive. Instead, visit on the tail ends of each season – so you can still enjoy the weather along with better rates.
5. Buy your vegetables at the Farmer’s Market: Are you aware of the insane markup that happens because of the use of food distribution centers? Farmer’s markets are great because they cut out the middle man and that’s why the prices are lower. [Editor: This may depend on geography – in the UK, everyday markets or supermarkets will be cheaper, unless you’re after roasted ox truffle oil]
6. Borrow or rent heavy duty tools from a site like Neighborgoods.net: If you have any special projects, there’s no need to buy or even rent special tools. You can find someone who probably has the tool you need.
7. Don’t go shopping just because there is a sale: Do you really need it? Start with the need first, then look for the sale.
8. Change your own car oil: Yes once you learn to change your oil, it’s easier than it seems, no more paying the markup an oil change as a service. Your auto parts store can tell you exactly what you need for your make and model of car.
9. Use a push mower: It’s less expensive, requires less maintenance overall, no gas or oil – and you get a nice round of exercise along by mowing your own lawn.
10. Make food in monthly batches: Preparing food in larger quantities saves money in the long run. You’ll have to spend a day or two cooking for the month, but you’ll save both money and time over the course of the month by having all your meal prepared and frozen.
11. Keep soap remnants: Save those little soap fragments and make them into a soap ball. Also make sure to take any soap in your hotel room home with you – that’s good free stuff!
12. Only wash shirts, jeans, pants when necessary: Unless there is a spill of massive proportions on your clothes, these items don’t need to be washed often. You’ll save by having smaller-size laundry loads. This DOES NOT apply to undergarments however.
13. Install solar lighting or low-voltage lighting: This is great for outdoor lighting like patio or driveway lighting. Installing this type of lighting will save you on electricity bills in the long run. You also can install this for indoor purposes, but outdoor is the more popular option.
14. Ride your bike to work, or take public transportation: You save on parking and gas.
15. Never drink and drive: Besides the obvious safety factors – if you do get caught you can pay thousands in fines.
16. Get rid of your cable subscription: In the age of the Information Highway you can watch movies on your computer, and get news from the Internet or from the radio if you’re concerned about receiving breaking news. All for free.
17. Eat before you go food shopping: An oldie but a goodie – help yourself stick to your shopping list by not going to the store hungry.
18. Don’t buy a smart phone, only a no frills cell phone: Do you really need that data plan? Leave that iPhone or Droid phone at the store. It’s most likely just a fun and convenient thing to have, but certainly not a necessity. [Editor: Oops. I bought an iPhone!]
19. Sharpen your multi-blade razor on the back of your arm: You really may never need to buy one again! For some reason this guy figured out that your arm works like leather.
20. Don’t go shopping at high end grocery stores: It’s overpriced and you can get everything you need at cheaper groceries stores. There’s a reason why they call stores like Whole Foods, ‘Whole Paycheck’.
21. Make your own coffee: If you drink coffee, make your own batch each morning and carry a thermos with you daily. No more Starbucks.
22. Carpool: A thing of the past? Nope, you can still do it. Bring it back in style with friends or co-workers to save on gas and car maintenance costs.
23. Get a hybrid car: If you have to buy a car, get a hybrid and save on gas.
24. Limit your dinners out to once a month: But make it a nice one and look forward to it.
25. Don’t drink alcohol: Empty calories and dollars down the drain! [Editor: I couldn’t live without a drop of red. Your mileage may vary].
26. Cancel magazine subscriptions: Are you really reading all those magazines? I doubt it, so save the one or two you love. All others should be canceled.
27. Download your music legally from GoMusicNow: At 5 to 9 cents per song for cheap and great quality downloads you can’t go wrong. Don’t use Amazon or iTunes at $1 per song. [Editor: Not sure this works outside of the US? Here in the UK I use Spotify for free].
28. Use coupons: When buying food and other household items, always use coupons and buy what is on sale. That’s not an excuse to buy what you don’t need, however. [Editor: I’ve never used a coupon, but some swear by them. Depends how much time you’ve got, perhaps].
29. If you’re a going bald, shave your head: Don’t buy all that hair restoration crap. Save on haircuts, shampoo and dignity from comb-overs. Besides the Buddhist look is in.
30. Sell Stuff on eBay: Go through your stuff that you absolutely don’t need and sell it.
31. Stop smoking cigarettes: So much money wasted; so much cancer-potential gained. [Editor: Hear hear!]
32. Don’t buy junk food ever again: That includes chips, sodas, cookies, cakes. Wasted money and calories.
33. Cancel your gym membership: No, this isn’t an excuse to not exercise. You can work out at home with isometrics, body weight exercises, go running in the park, or ride your bike.
34. Go generic: From food to drugs and more, going generic almost always saves you money.
35. Get a programmable thermostat: Let it be cooler at night in winter climates, or warmer in the day for summer climates.
36. Rent out an extra room in your house: Help pay down your mortgage by renting out that spare room to a relative or tenant. [Editor: Or a tourist].
37. Keep your blinds and curtains closed: Save energy by keeping the warmth in or the sun out.
38. Learn how to do basic home repairs and maintenance: Unless it’s a major project, you can fix many things around the house yourself. Home Depot offers free classes from the Home Improver Club.
39. Drive the speed limit: Never get a ticket, no paying for speeding.
40. Homebrew: If you must drink, learn to brew your own beer or wine.
41. Take vacations nearby: Forget long flights and big resorts in the Caribbean. Most likely, you don’t live very far from some nice places to visit.
42. Eat less meat and more beans for protein instead: Buy a pressure cooker and cook dry beans (not canned) to really save money. Meat is much more expensive. [Editor: There are big environmental benefits, too].
43. Refinance your home: When rates are low take advantage of refinancing deals.
44. Don’t buy or rent books or DVDs: Get a Public Library card and borrow them – it’s free.
45. Don’t use toothpaste: Use baking soda instead. Toothpaste is a luxury, it’s the brushing that does almost all of the work actually. Baking soda will help whiten your teeth. [Editor: This is a frugal tip too far for me. I love my teeth!]
46. Never buy extended warranties: Ever noticed how these warranties usually last the life of the product anyways? You don’t really need it. If you need additional warranty, use the extended warranty feature for free on your credit card.
47. Bid for your travel needs: Yes, Priceline is still around and you can bid for flights, hotels and rental cars.
48. Create a budget: Fail to plan, plan to fail. Make a tight budget and stick to it.
49. Use open source software: Never pay again for software. Use OpenOffice for documents, Linux for your operating system, and other free software available for free on sites like SourceForge.Net.
50. Settle all of your credit card debt: Make a solid plan for settling credit card debt on your own and balance transfer to 0% APR cards. Just make sure to pay it all off before the 0% rate expires.
51. Always pickup your food, never get delivery: Don’t be lazy – get out of the house and go get it. If you can walk or ride your bike to pick it up, even better.
52. Don’t buy bottled water: Either use a water filter at home or boil your own. Take water with you in reusable water bottles or a thermos.
53. Use gas at home: For heating and cooking, make sure it’s gas to save in the long run.
54. Telecommute: Get a job where you can work from home – at least some of the time. You’ll save money on commuting, lunches, and clothes. Plus you won’t have to see your boss every day.
55. Never finance anything: Never borrow to buy any purchase – except for your home. Always pay in full. Though this doesn’t apply to using credit cards, because we’re paying off those balances every month, remember? Think of your credit cards more like electronic cash (see tip #1).
56. No more fast food: Like junk food, a total waste of money for the nutrition you don’t get.
57. Drink water: Forget juice or soda. Most all drinks are filled with sugar or weird artificial sweeteners. Water is cheaper and far healthier.
58. Don’t buy cereal: For the nutritional value and amount you get, it’s too expensive. [Editor: Actually, I suggest you buy rolled porridge oats in bulk. Fearsomely good for you, and about 20p a serving with milk].
59. Buy frozen veggies over fresh: Frozen vegetables don’t spoil and they are always cheaper.
60. Plan your menu for the week: Planning ahead will prevent you from just saying ‘let’s eat out tonight’ when you aren’t prepared.
61. Use your shopping list: Do not deviate!
62. Buy Fair Trade coffee: For you coffee fiends, you’ll pay much less than most brands and get higher quality coffee.
63. Make your house airtight: Letting that precious heat and cool air escape will cost you. Make sure your windows and insulation are properly installed.
64. Stop using plastic bags for food storage: Use reusable containers for everything you can, instead of expendable Ziploc bags and the like.
65. Stop going to the mall: This place is designed to make you buy, buy, buy. Go directly to the store you need to buy something from, and then leave.
66. Get rid of newspaper subscriptions: Use the Internet for all of your news – it’s more up to date, anyway.
67. Wear more layers: In cool or cold seasons keep thermostat 68 or lower and wear more layers in the house to save on heating bills.
68. Sweat it out: Equally, don’t use the A/C if you don’t really need to. When it’s hot season sweat it out during the day. [Editor: We solve this problem in Europe by being too poor to have air conditioning].
69. Grow your own spice and vegetable garden: Got a green thumb? Grow your own and get fresh spices and veggies from your own backyard.
70. Wash your own car: No reason to buy a car wash, you can do it at home easily.
71. Buy clothes at thrift store: Save money on clothing, and get a cool vintage look by putting your outfits together the right way.
72. Move away: Live in a new town or even country where the cost of living is lower.
73. Get free prescription drugs: Stock up on samples from your doctor of your prescription of choice, and pay nothing more than your co-pay, which you have to pay anyways. Just ask your doctor and explain you have trouble affording them. [Editor: That’s for my US readers. In the UK we’ve got the NHS, albeit a tax bill to match!]
74. Use an insurance broker: When buying your own personal health insurance, never get all your insurance from one company just because it is convenient. Insurance brokers need to get you the best deals to stay in business, because they know they are competing against other brokers. You’ll be able to find the cheapest homeowners insurance, car insurance and life insurance plans by using brokers.
75. Keep your windows closed: In the summer when it’s hot, keep the cool in, or in the winter, keep the heat in with closed windows.
76. When traveling, carry food: Make your food ahead of time or get from your cheap grocery store. Especially when in airports, don’t buy anything there as it’s all overpriced.
77. Fly & return mid-week: Everyone wants to fly Fridays and weekend days, so mid-week has the best rates for departure and return.
78. Party at home: Invite your friends over, and rotate house parties. Make it B.Y.O.B. – share and share alike. (Offer up some of that homebrew that you’ve made after reading tip #40).
79. Invest in no-load, no-fee mutual funds: Invest over the long term with these types of funds and never worry about paying management fees.
80. Only withdraw from free ATMs: Don’t use the gas station or non-network ATMs. Or get a Charles Schwab checking account where you get reimbursed for your ATM fees. [Editor: In the UK, this means avoiding withdrawing money from nightclub ATMs or dodgy cash machines in newsagents miles from anywhere].
81. Setup auto-payments: For your credit card or other bills and never pay a late fee again. [Editor: Direct debits in the UK].
82. Use EnergyStar products: Make sure your appliances are EnergyStar rated to save money on electricity. The higher the rating, the better the savings. [Editor: Details on UK energy ratings].
83. Turn off the lights: Whether you’re leaving a room or the house.
84. Use Skype or Google Talk: The best choice for long distance calls with family and friends. The quality is amazing, it’s like they’re in the next room. Get on board!
85. Never impulse buy anything: Wait two weeks after the impulse to see if you really need it. Bet you don’t!
86. Make your gifts: Get your craft on, and make your gifts for family and friends.
87. Negotiate prices: Wherever you can, from large corporations to small businesses. And always be willing to walk away.
88. Book in advance: As far ahead as you can when traveling to save money.
89. Stay with friends: When you go on vacation, plan to go where friends are. Most likely you’ve friends that live in a nice place.
90. Crash on a stranger’s couch when traveling: Find a couch to crash on with – it’s safe and been going on for years.
91. Beware tourist areas: Stay away from high tourist traffic areas where everything is more expensive when traveling.
92. Buy clothing out of season: You’ll find the best deals after a fashion season is over.
93. Buy in food in bulk: Set up shelves just for bulk food storage.
94. Get a large freezer: Put one in the garage for the storage of bulk meats, veggies and other bulk frozen foods.
95. Move in with family: If you’re renting save money, or if you own, rent out your home to others.
96. Make your own protein shakes: For snacks or meal replacements, shakes are more nutritious and cheaper.
97. Clean your own carpets: Just like your car, you can rent or borrow a cleaning machine and clean carpets yourself.
98. Don’t play the lottery: Your chance of winning is extremely small. Save that money for an emergency fund or investing.
99. Buy a refurbished computer: Buying a used computer is a gamble, but refurbished one from a manufacturer can be a good deal, because it comes with a warranty.
100. Use timers for your lights: You’ll never forget about turning off your lights in the day or late at night again.
101. If you own a home, plant trees: Yes, trees do provide shade which can keep your house cooler in the summer. Think long term.
What other tips you do you have to share? Feel free to comment below, to add any tips you think would be useful.
David Hamilton is owner and author of Financial Planning Tips, which offers sensible information on personal finance. Besides being passionate about his finance blog and helping others keep their finances in check, David also enjoys playing music, staying healthy, spending time with family and friends, and traveling the world. You can also follow him Twitter.