Today you’re going to learn how to save money each month. How would you like to save $150 or a £150 over the next 30 days? If you have an income and regular outgoings such as food, transport and entertainment then this guide just might be for you…
The 15 ideas in this article are all tried and tested and within your reach, but reading this alone won’t save you any money. If you just HAVE TO have Heinz baked beans and no other, then the section on grocery shopping won’t help you, if you’re just too lazy to write a letter to cancel a subscription then maybe this article is not for you after all.
Saving money is not passive, you have to do something and often it will feel like hard work because most of it is about changing habits. This takes us outside of our comfort zone, and let’s face it, that’s always going to be uncomfortable.
So if you could really do with saving a $150 or £150 in the next 30 days, and you’re not going to cry like a baby because you didn’t get your Lucky Charms for breakfast and you think you just might survive cancelling your subscription to a magazine that you never read anyway, then read on…
How To Save Money Each Month:
1. Cancel a Subscription
If you have online banking, go get your details and log in now.
Go through each item over the last 30 days making a note of what the payment is for. If it’s easier for you print it out as a pdf or download it as a spreadsheet to make notes, then do that.
If you don’t recognise a payment then find out what it’s for. This is really important; it may be something you don’t actually use. If you have payments for legacy items that you don’t even use cancel them. Very likely you can do this online. Often times you will be required to confirm in writing, but do it anyway, then you know you’re covered.
NOTE: If you have items you’ve taken out within the last 12 months, look at your policy to see if there is a penalty for cancelling early.
Once you’ve gone through your list and are clear about what each payment is for. Put brackets around items you must pay for. These are utility bills, local taxes, insurances and the like (while you may be able to save on these it’s probably outside the scope of this publication).
What have you got left, magazine subscriptions, movie subscriptions, and gym membership? Now I’m not telling you not to go to the gym, but if you’re not going anyway, why pay? This is where it gets hard, admitting that you’re not following through on something.
Last year I cancelled a subscription to a computer magazine. It was hard. It was hard because the magazine was about a subject I had real aspirations around, and cancelling was a symbol for me that I had either given up, lost interest or failed. This is not a nice feeling.
But get this I literally had a stack of 24 or so magazines still in their cellophane wrappers. I had not read this thing for maybe two years and ironically was still sad to cancel it.
This is madness.
Now be strong and cancel something you no longer use, just one thing, cancel it, write your letter confirming your decision and be done with it. If you can do that then you’ve got what it takes to save some decent money this month.
Ok so we’re going to change gears now and take a big dive into food, this area can be a challenge but offers some BIG savings.
2. Your Refrigerator
Go to your refrigerator, go through everything shelf by shelf and take out anything that is out of date. If you have some undated items like leftovers that you would not now eat, then take them out too.
Put it all on the kitchen table and estimate the cost of this food, be realistic. Write it down (maybe on a post it) stick that on the fridge.
Now throw all that food in the bin. I mean fire it in there one item at a time, all those food items you bought with your hard-earned money, throw them in the trash, thud, thud, thud…
Now imagine throwing that amount of money out of the car window whilst you’re driving along. You would never do that would you?
But you just did.
Go back to your fridge and work yourself a system that will work for you. Order everything by date. Maybe it goes up the shelves or down the shelves, depends on you and the size and style of your fridge. But make a commitment to eat the food with the closest sell-by date first.
3. Food Cupboard
Repeat the refrigerator exercise here with your cans and packets. Yes even tins go out of date, and this is a shocker to find you’ve had a tin of tuna in the cupboard for three years. Don’t forget to make a note of the cost of the items, put that up somewhere you can see it and through those items in the bin.
Sort the items nearest date first and work your system.
4. Eat What You Have
Make a commitment over the next 30 days to run down some of your items in the refrigerator, freezer and cupboard. I’m not advocating only eat these things in the next 30 days but let’s have a bit of a clear out. This can be a challenge because usually we eat what we want. I actually want pita bread with cheddar cheese but the celery I bought is dated tomorrow. Not very exciting is it. If this happens a lot, then the answer is to really stop buying celery.
5. Reach to the Back of the Shelf
This really is a game changer. Develop a habit of reaching to the back of the shelf when buying meat and bread. I regularly find meat items with an extra 5 days on the sell by date simply by reaching my hand in past the item closest to me. Packaged bread items like pita bread I can plus by a week.
This will save you big time in the long run. Combined with your stock control in the fridge, throwing away out of date fresh food can become a thing of the past.
I regularly by cucumbers and broccoli, it takes me about 3 seconds, to go from a 04 Feb item to a 06 Feb item (I now do this on auto-pilot). It may not sound like a big deal but it means those items, which I would have had to eat on Wednesday, are good up till Friday too. There is a far less chance of them hitting the trash.
But it’s a habit you have to consciously form, which takes effort.
My wife does not do this, and often (to my great sadness) will come in from the shops with items that expire the following day. Which is awkward because I may not want to eat 6 pitas this evening.
6. Go Unbranded
If you are shopping for a family, you can probably save your £150 or $150 right here. Even if you’re shopping for one, there are still big savings to be had.
First we have to understand the food hierarchy. As I see it there are basically 3 levels. You have your branded, so Heinz Tomato Ketchup, you have your shop brand or unbranded and then you have your budget or economy, probably still made by the shop but in very plain packaging.
Now this can be quite hit-and-miss. Sometimes the unbranded supermarket item is as good as the branded. I’ve found this with cereals and honestly find it difficult to tell them apart. Sometimes the difference is noticeable.
Try working your way down the chain, now I’m not suggesting you ditch your Jack Daniels BBQ sauce and drop straight to budget. That would be hard I’m not denying it, but do try the regular shop brand, ask the family at dinnertime, take a vote and have some fun.
If everyone understands that the family could save money you might be surprised on how many family members get on-board.
There are big savings to be had on non-food items like detergents, washing powder, tissue paper.
Now you’re not even eating these so there’s really no excuse.
Take dishwashing soap as an example. In my local shop the branded item ‘Finish Quantum Max’ costs £6.00 for 30 tablets (20pence each). The unbranded item also cost £6.00 but for 60 tablets (10pence each). Now the no-frills loose powder costs £3.00 for 1kilo and I get about 40 washes out of this so (7.5pence per wash).
Because it’s loose powder and not a tablet I get to choose how much soap I put in. Half a load, cleanish looking dishes – not a lot. Heavy load, dried on food, obviously more, you can’t do that with a tablet.
So not earth shattering but 20pence per wash down to 7.5pence… over time adds up. When you’re saving like this over a range of products the saving is noticeable.
Side note: If your dishwashing powder is called ‘Quantum Max’ you should sort of know you are probably paying over the odds.
7. Take Your Lunch to Work
Now, notice how I didn’t say “make your lunch”. This is extremely hard: you have to be super organised and have everything at hand, prepare it the night before AND remember to take it with you. There are so many pitfalls here I do not even advocate it. What I’m suggesting is shop for lunch items with your regular shop and bring them in to work on Monday.
If you have use of a fridge at work this can work nicely. So a little loaf of bread, some humus, some cream cheese, whatever you fancy. If you don’t have a fridge then crisp bread, instant noodles, a jar of peanut butter, fruit.
You absolutely do not have to suffer in terms of quality of food.
One of the bigger challenges here is peer pressure. If most of the people in your work environment eat out then it’s tricky. But you can ease out of this. If there is somewhere nice to sit outside, get yourself a book and say “I’m going to read my book” or tell them straight, you’re trying to save money or you and your wife are saving for something. Most people will respect you. You never know, you may even start a trend.
Personally I mix it up. I have noodles, cereal and snacks, but I will go out to lunch once a week for a coffee and pastry.
8. Buy Refills
Now not all refills are equal. I have seen the very strange situation where the refill pack actually works out more than the original. Particularly where the original is on sale.
But there are deals to be had; I save a lot on liquid hand soap by buying a large bottle and refilling the smaller ones in the bathroom and the kitchen. Even when the original items are on sale, I still beat them out with the refill.
You can even do this with items like table sauces. If you can get your hands on a gigantic Heinz Tomato Ketchup you can refill the smaller bottle as you go. This way you can keep your branded favourite (YAY!) If the smaller bottle gets all yucky, just throw it in the dishwasher.
9. Dial Back on Going Out
Even if you are quite budget conscious on where you eat out, by the time you get drinks, leave a tip, pay for travel, it can still come to a pretty penny.
Could you get a take away version of the same food and save money, or depending on what it is could you buy the kit version from the super market. I know these aren’t popular in the States but in the UK, take away kits are big and pretty decent.
10. Watch a Movie at Home
Older DVD’s can be had on Amazon for a penny plus shipping. It doesn’t take long for the price of a new movie to tank. In a year or two most DVD’s can be had for pennies. The charity shop / or thrift store is another place to pick up a cheap movie.
Oh I hear you… “but my online movie subscriptions only costs xyz” Well it’s kind of up to you really. You can let that money walk straight out of your wallet on auto-pilot month on month, or take control and watch movies on your own terms. Sorry, was that harsh?
11. Back to the Shops
Couponing while big in the USA is (to my great sadness) a bit of a non-starter in the UK. BUT there are a number of apps worth looking at.
I use Shopitize and Checkoutsmart.
These apps have ‘offers’ say 30pence of a jar of a specific tomato sauce. When you buy the item as normal in the supermarket you scan the receipt and the app reimburses you the 30pence to your PayPal or bank account. That is the basic premise.
Shopitize has been the biggest winner for me. It is mostly branded items, but if the branded item on the app is ALSO on sale in the shop I can occasionally even beat the unbranded item price.
As a rule, I will go unbranded over a higher priced branded item that is on sale.
But every now and then there is a ‘perfect storm’ pricewise and this works in my favour. Also when the prices equalize I buy the branded.
Shopitize also regularly gives rewards on shop brand milk and broccoli (sort of random I know) but that’s 25pence of a £1.00 milk and 20pence of a 45pence head of broccoli, I’m in!
Checkoutsmart is not great for discounts but occasionally gives 100% refund on an item, so basically you can pick up an item that is new to market for free, and I’ve had some good ones.
In the last 9 months I’ve totalled about £60 from these 2 apps.
12. Bottles Upside Down Trick
I expect most families in the world do this a matter of instinct. The tomato ketchup is running low so you turn the bottle upside-down in preparation for the next meal. Manufacturers have finally caught on and are producing bottles that ‘live’ upside-down.
My tip here is when you have 2 half empty bottles of the same item, then balance them on top of one another. Now if this is too risky (and let’s face it, sometimes it is) I will use masking tape to hold them together. Job done.
13. Never Put Half a Jar of Anything in the Fridge
You know it don’t you, even as you put that half jar in the fridge it will eventually end up in the bin. In fact you may as well take that half jar and toss it in the bin then and there.
What I do is freeze it then and there. I use up half my jar of tomato spaghetti sauce and immediately put the other half in a plastic cup and freeze it. When I need it, I’ll run the outside of the cup under the tap to release it. Put that in a pot with the lid on very low heat stirring occasionally.
14. Measure out your Food
Now you have to be a bit careful here because I’m not talking about portion control which I have no time for, particularly with young children. If you’re hungry eat. Simple.
No, what I’m talking about is the incredible amount of cooked pasta our family used to through away.
I know pasta is not hugely expensive but we would dump a lot of the stuff.
I now weigh it. It’s easy. I can tell you exactly how much I need for an adult or child portion. No one goes hungry, everyone can have seconds but we don’t through nearly as much away.
This is a varied topic and will vary greatly depending on your particular situation and the country you live in.
In the UK there is a scheme called ‘delay and repay’. Basically if your train is late by 30 minutes or more you can claim a percentage refund. They send you a check in about 3 weeks. I am absolutely canning this one, and since finding out have barely missed a chance for a refund.
If you do take a train to work and home again AND it’s a stopping train, why not find out how much you’d save if you got off one stop early.
You might be surprised at the saving and if you commit, you could get yourself some exercise.
Now for drivers, you can all certainly shop around for fuel. Most countries have dedicated websites to find the cheapest fuel near you, but did you know underinflated tyres adversely affect your fuel economy?
If you don’t believe me then Google ‘Fuel consumption and tyre pressure’ you will see.
That’s it for now…I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article about how to save money each month. I hope you found some of the ideas here useful, as I said these are all tried and tested.