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If you are finding it hard to make it from paycheck to paycheck without relying on your credit card, or want to save up some money for a rainy day, look no further. These are tips that are guaranteed to save you money, and most of them are fairly easy to implement.
Go forth and save!
Big ticket savings
These money saving tips will have a big impact on your bottom line. If you only use some of my tips, make sure you start with the top ten – they are pure gold for saving cash.
1. Live close to work: You can drastically reduce your reliance on fuel, or possibly the need for a car altogether. Time saved commuting is time you could be spending doing something else – time is your most precious resource, so make sure you don’t waste it driving to work in rush-hour traffic.
2. Ride a bike: Save money on fuel, on car registration and insurance. Save money on gym memberships, develop discipline and willpower. Everything about bikes is awesome. They are cheap to buy, cheap to maintain and good for the environment. I’ve written a post specifically about this – read more about how awesome bicycles are here.
3. Have a budget and review it regularly: Knowing where your money is and where it is going is the first step to working out how to save it. Are you spending $500 a month on take away food? If you are, you really need to know that so you can do something about it. If you’re in the USA, you really should check out Mint. It’s a free product that lets you add all your accounts so you can track your money in one place. It’s secure, easy to use and powerful. Pretty graphs too.
4. Set up an emergency fund: Some people suggest keeping a year’s worth of expenses in a savings account in case of an emergency, but I think that’s too much for most people. Work out what you’re likely to need to get through losing your job or if your hot water cylinder dies spectacularly. If you need to use a credit card to get through emergencies, then you’re wasting money and setting yourself up for financial trouble. If you do set up an emergency fund, preferably use a high interest savings account.
5. Pay yourself first: If you religiously pay yourself first (retirement savings, topping up your emergency fund, long term savings) and spend only what is left over after your bills are also paid, you’re very unlikely to get into major trouble. As the great Warren Buffett said: “Do not save what is left over after spending, but spend what is left over after saving.”
6. Get serious about crushing your debt: Paying interest to someone else to fund past purchases is a horrible place to be in, and it’s really hard to get ahead. Pay more than the minimum payment and prioritize debts that have the highest interest rates (all other things being equal). Check out this great tool to see how long it’ll take you to get into the black, and where to start: Unbury.me
7. Cut your own hair: If you keep your hair short and you haven’t bought a pair of cheap, reliable clippers (Note: This is an affiliate link, it won’t cost you more if you use the link, but it will help support the blog!) then you need to have your head read. It’ll save you an absolute packet and is about the easiest thing in the world to do. Paying someone to chop your hair slightly shorter is madness. Read my sermon about this topic here.
8. Learn how to cook basic meals: Cooking doesn’t have to be hard. It’s actually quite a bit of fun once you learn some basic skills. It’s definitely cheaper than buying dinner or your lunch at work. Also make large quantities of each meal to use in the days ahead or to freeze as the economies of scale will help you save. Check out Gordon Ramsey’s great ‘Ultimate Cookery Course’ on YouTube as a brilliant starting point.
9. Exercise: Moving your body about and getting your heart rate up is what it’s all about – it doesn’t have to be expensive, and almost certainly doesn’t have to involve a gym membership. Adding years to your life expectancy is a great return on your investment here – you’ll save a heap of money later on in increased productivity, cheaper health insurance and on medical expenses. Start running today.
10. Sell your junk: Sell your old games, books, CDs, DVDs, records, or stuff in the garage. I sold stuff that was lying around the other weekend and made $350 with almost no effort.
Electricity money saving tips
11. Lower the temperature in your hot water cylinder: You save about 5% of your energy bills by dropping the thermostat 10 degrees Fahrenheit. A good general guide – if you can’t hold your hand under the hot water at its hottest, your thermostat is probably set too high.
12. Have shorter showers: Hot water bills are a large component of electricity bills (sometimes up to 50%). You don’t have to avoid hot water altogether, like I did but you should not be having steaming hot 15 minute showers either. For bonus points, try this: 1) Get wet (10 seconds) 2) turn off the taps 3) lather up and shampoo 4) rinse off (1 minute).
13. Install LED lights: They are slightly more expensive than normal bulbs but the evidence is compelling. They last five times longer than normal bulbs (up to 50,000 hours), they emit more light, and are miles more efficient. As your old bulbs die, replace them with LEDs.
14. Install solar panels: This is very dependent on local incentives that may exist in your area. Make sure you research the benefits thoroughly before committing. You need to calculate how long it will take to recover your investment. If you can earn more money by investing in a typical index fund, installing solar panels may not be worth it. Check at regular intervals to see if modern technology or government incentives can bring the price down to an attractive level.
15. Don’t use your clothes dryer: Unless you live in a place that snows regularly, just avoid the dryer altogether. Buy a clothes rack and hang clothes inside. It will take a bit longer, but it’s free. Americans spend $9 billion on drying clothes each year.
16. Install insulation in the roof cavity: Insulating your roof will save you a packet every year by reducing the need for heating your home. Most suggest a saving of 40% on your heating bills.
17. Put on more clothes: You don’t absolutely have to have the heater on so that you can get around in shorts and a T-shirt. Set the temperature a bit lower and put on a jumper. It’ll save a ton of money on your bill.
18. Turn off the lights and unused power points: If you’re leaving the room, turn off the lights. There really isn’t any need to keep the light on if you’re not in there. Same goes for turning off power points where appliances are on standby.
Save on your shopping
19. Learn to avoid impulse purchases: For me, learning this skill has almost saved me more money than any of the other tips I’ve listed here. Being able to recognize that you don’t really need whatever it is your looking at in the store will save you a mint. I recommend you check out my post on the subject here.
20. Shop with a purpose, don’t shop for fun: Go to the shop knowing roughly what you want to buy. Research your product before you get there if it’s a big ticket item – don’t let yourself buy something you hadn’t thought of at all prior to getting to the shop.
21. Delay purchases: It will still be there tomorrow. When you delay purchases, you often realize that you don’t actually need the item. Other times, more important items will come up instead. If you can regularly delay spending, you’ll save lots of money over time.
22. Research your big purchases: This saves your money in a number of ways. It helps you avoid products that are known to be defective or useless and it helps you find better, similar products for the same price. I’ve saved lots of money and heartache by simply googling “product x reviews”.
23. Shop around for the best price: This is probably obvious, but if you’re spending more than $100, you should probably do your due diligence. Googling the item and ringing around a few local stores is the minimum you should do. The more expensive the product, the more price hunting research you should do. Check out local shops that price match online prices.
24. Buy groceries based on what is on special: Have a flexible set of recipes you know you can cook and then buy what is on special.
25. Establish a price book: Make a list of commonly bought items and then record the price of it when you shop. Eventually you’ll work out what the price range is for that item. Buy more of it when it’s cheap, and base meals around it for the week.
26. Buy non-perishables in bulk: Don’t make the mistake of buying lots of fresh vegetables because they are cheap because they will waste. When your price book tells you a non-perishable item is cheap, buy lots of it! This works well for canned products, toilet paper, cleaning products or other goods that store well – rice, grains, and so on.
27. Use the library: Learn to love it. They have more than just books. Modern libraries have computer games, DVDs, CDs and magazines. They will often be able to source items from other libraries as well if you ask.
28. Use work perks: My work provides free coffee – work out what yours gives you and utilize it fully. Charge your phone and other electronic devices there too for bonus points!
29. Buy quality tools: It’s much better to buy a $200 knife once rather than a $30 knife ten times. Do your research for brands that last, and buy your tools for life.
30. Shop online: Normally you can find items much cheaper online. eBay and Amazon are good starting points. If you buy something from Amazon and it drops in price within 7 days of delivery, Amazon will refund the difference.
31. Use unit pricing to find the cheapest groceries: The cheapest item isn’t always the best value – a $1 packet of flour that is 1 pound is worse value than a $2 bag that is 4 pounds. Learn to do the maths as you shop.
32. See how long you eat from your store cupboard without buying food: Is a great way of emptying it out and using items before they go off. I made it a month once just living on stuff in the cupboard! Check out my blog post about it here.
33. Make your own cleaning products: Vinegar is a wonderful thing. Learn to make your own cleaning products. They are much cheaper and probably a heap better for you. Here’s a recipe that I use for a good all-purpose kitchen cleaner.
34. Swap name brands for generic brands: It will take some time to work out what is good, but often the products are indistinguishable – except on price. Sometimes they are the same product packaged differently!
35. Reduce your alcohol intake: Sure it’s fun, but it’s bad for you and is expensive. If you must, switch to a cheaper tipple.
36. Use a flask when you go out: It’s a pretty dubious move ethically, but it’ll save you a dollar.
37. Avoid new technology: Often you can get by just fine without the latest iPad or gadget. If you must indulge, check out last years model or a barely used second hand version.
38. Think of purchases in ‘hours of work’ rather than as dollar values: If you think of the cost of a new iPod just in terms of dollars it can be easy to trick yourself into thinking it’s decent value – but if you think of it as, say, 10 hours of slaving away at work, it presents a very different picture. Just take the price and divide it by your hourly rate at work.
39. Calculate the long term cost of unnecessary purchases: One $4 take away coffee per day over 30 years? $43,800 before compounding interest! Any time you are thinking of signing up for a recurring service or justifying a small, regular unnecessary product, think of the long term cost to see if it’s really worth it.
Save money with your car
40. Never buy a new car: This is the undisputed king of car related money saving tips. If you buy a new car and drive it out of the car lot, you lose about 20% of the value of the car immediately. Buy a car that is about three years old instead of a new car, and save up to 50% of the new car price. Sure, you might not get a warranty, but with all the money you save, you’ll be ahead even if the car breaks down in the first few years.
41. Learn how to maintain your car: All you need in order to save thousands of dollars a year is your car’s service manual, some basic tools and your time.
42. Search for the best car insurance: Don’t just go with the insurer you have for your house. Make sure you get at least five quotes before settling on the best option.
43. Slow down on the road: It saves on fuel and you’ll avoid needless speeding tickets.
44. Hypermile: Learn to drive your car more efficiently. Coast to corners instead of speeding up to a corner and having to break hard. If you perfect hypermiling you can save up to 25% of your fuel bill.
45. Make sure your car tires are pumped up to the level suggested in the manual: This can improve your efficiency a small amount, but air is free when you fill up, so why not?
46. Carpool to work: Split the driving between you and your coworkers, or neighbors if you have to drive a long distance to work.
47. Use public transport: If you don’t carpool, look into the relative costs of public transport if it’s available to you.
Pay less for food
48. Cook your own meals: Learning to cook myself has probably saved me more money than just about any of these other tips. It’s way too easy to get into the habit of going through the McDonald’s drive-through on the way home, but it’s really expensive, bad for you, and it’s horrible food compared to what you can simply cook at home.
49. Make your own lunch for work: Related to the tip above – save a bunch by bringing left overs to work, or by making a few sandwiches on a Sunday ready for the first few days of the week. Rice and tuna for lunch is really yummy and cheap. It costs me about $1 a serve, and frankly, I wouldn’t eat anything else given the choice.
50. Bake your own bread: Check out a simple recipe here.
51. Make lots of meals at once: Make large serves and eat the left overs all week or freeze them instead of buying food at work or on the way home.
52. Grow your own vegetables: Whether it’s a simple herb garden in your kitchen window, or a fully fledged garden outside, you will make your money back many times over by investing in some seeds, quality soil and some basic supplies to make an enclosure. Check out my vegetable garden enclosure I made in the early days of this blog.
53. Learn to cook simple vegetarian dishes: If you avoid meat you’ll save a bunch of cash, but the final results are also normally pretty brilliant. Vegetarian curries are amazing – use Google to find some great vegetarian dishes.
Finance penny pinching
54. Pay bills automatically: If you have bills that regularly fall due at the same time each month, consider setting up a direct deposit so the money is transferred automatically. This provides you with limited opportunities to spend money you don’t have. It also is very effective for avoiding late fees.
55. If you can’t pay off your credit card balance in full dump it: This is easier said than done, particularly if you are already carrying a considerable balance. Use the other money saving tips listed here to get your balance down, and then religiously stick to paying your card off in full each month. Avoiding interest payments on your credit card is an absolute must if you want to get ahead financially.
56. Learn how to negotiate fairly and effectively: Make sure you always try to avoid the marked price on big ticket items. You’ll have done your research first obviously, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for a discount. If asking a question saves you even $20, it’s completely worth it. The question ‘is that your best price?’ has a fantastic hourly rate.
57. Avoid bank fees: Walk further to the ATM if it means saving fees. Make sure your bank accounts don’t have any monthly fees.
58. Choose one unnecessary luxury expense and dump it: If you’re in the habit of buying a takeaway coffee every morning like so many others, wait until you get to work and use the coffee at work. If there isn’t any, bring in a $10 kettle and some instant coffee. You’ll be ahead in a week and way ahead in no time.
59. Take the 52 week challenge: Save $1 in week one, $2 in week two and so on. If you can keep it up for a year, you’ll have $1378 you wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s practically free money!
60. Hunt for the best insurance: Don’t just go with the companies you know. Search for the best deals for your bank accounts, credit cards, phone plans and insurance. Often all it takes is a phone call or two to compare.
61. If you can’t control your credit card purchases: Pay it off and then get rid of it. If you absolutely have to have it, don’t take it with you everywhere. Freeze it in a block in the freezer that you have to defrost before you can spend! While it is thawing, you can reflect on the bad choice you might be about to make! Leave your wallet at work if you go out for a walk at lunch. Don’t let yourself spend.
62. If you’re an emotional spender: Recognize that you spend to make yourself feel better and then do something about it! Learn that it doesn’t help to make you feel better and if it does, it’s only temporary.
63. If you’re in debt: Keep a chart of your debt somewhere visible or a simple number of your total debt on a post-it-note at work. Remind yourself how important it is to remain on course and that little purchases do add up. Each month update the chart or post-it and you’ll be on track in no time.
General money saving tips
64. 30 day list for major purchases: If you plan to spend over $100 on something that’s not an essential, put it on a list and wait thirty days. After that time, if you still want it, you’ve earned it. The thirty days allows you to calm down, assess if you really want the item and also allows other more important things to come up in the mean time. It’s a great way to avoid spending money that you needed for something else!
65. Watch less TV: This is really important. When you watch TV you watch advertising, even stuff that’s not between your shows. Advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry and is great at divorcing you from your money. Don’t give them a chance to seduce you!
66.Craigslist/Gumtree: If you’re not using Craigslist or your local equivalent, you’re missing out on massive savings. Before buying new, check Craigslist and eBay.
67. Free loyalty programs: Generally speaking, if you have to pay to join a loyalty program you need to know you’re going to get ahead. If a shop you use regularly has a free loyalty program, it’s mad not to sign up!
68. Cancel subscription TV: Why would you pay to watch TV when you can read, stream on the internet or do something productive outside?
69. Cancel your gym membership: This might be controversial, but you probably don’t need a gym membership. Unless you use a wide variety of machines regularly, you’re probably best running for free outside, doing body weight exercises or playing a team sport.
70. Brew your own beer: If you’re a regular beer drinker, you owe it to yourself and your mates to try to brew yourself. Go straight to the bible here.
71. Stop smoking: This should be a no brainer. Smoking kills you. You are literally paying money to kill yourself. Stop now! Get help if you can’t.
72. Holiday close to home: You don’t need to go overseas every year for your vacation. Try out a few attractions closer to home. Or alternate between going away one year and staying home the next.
73. Downgrade your home: If you’re in the market for a new house – consider whether you really need five bedrooms, just in case the relatives come around. You might save a small fortune by getting a smaller place closer to work.
74. Get a flatmate: If you have a spare room, consider getting a flatmate in to split your expenses. It’s an increasingly popular method of paying off a mortgage quickly – having someone else do it for you!
75. Swap expensive hobbies for cheap ones: If you haven’t read my mega list of frugal hobbies – do it now!
76. Learn how to fix things yourself: The sheer number of things you can fix yourself with a simple google or youtube search is staggering. Make sure you keep the manual for any mechanical item you use regularly – they often have pretty good troubleshooting guides.
77. Make gifts at Christmas instead of buying them: As good a resource as you’ll find on this topic is at instructables.com.
78. Don’t throw out clothes because they have a hole: Learn how to sew. Alternatively, turn old items into rags.
77. Stop gambling: If you’re doing this regularly you should stop. Games are designed to make you lose, period. If you can’t stop, get help.
78. Read more books: Books are cheap, expand your mind and aren’t laden with advertising.
79. Have a small set of clothes that go well together: Avoid chasing fashions or trying to keep up with people who spend all their money on clothes. Chances are they are in debt and not adequately saving for retirement. It’s OK to wear the same thing multiple times, or even most days. I wear the same pair of jeans all the time and no one notices. Chances are, people are more worried about how they look than how you look.
80. Get a slow cooker: Just chuck anything you have lying around in it and you’ll have a meal eight hours later. You can use cheap cuts of meat and they will taste much better than if you cooked them another way.
81. Invest in a chest freezer: These are gold. They don’t use much power and let you keep left overs for months. Also, if you grow vegetables, this will let you keep them for months after you harvest them. It’ll help you get through the leaner winter months.
82. Buy clothes at thrift shops: You can get some great bargains from thrift shops. Make sure you wash everything thoroughly, and be discerning.
Hopefully these money saving tips will help you fatten your wallet – if you liked this list, be sure to check out my huge list of the 100 best cheap hobbies.
What are some of your best money saving techniques?