This article has everything you need to know about the best ideas for saving money.
When you first start living on a budget, you may only be able to scrape up tiny amounts of ‘extra’ money for savings. Or, you may find that you don’t have enough to meet every budget item every single month. Whatever the reason, you’ll want to try and free up as much money as possible to pay off your debt and start building up your savings for a sweet retirement situation.
There is something you should know about saving money.
First, it can become highly addictive. Once you start watching your savings account grow, you may never want to touch it, so that you can look at it and see all the numbers every time you check your statement. That’s okay; it happens to most people.
Second, thanks to the miracle that is compounding interest, even small amounts of savings can be a big deal in ten, twenty or thirty years’ time. You may put away a measly $500 in one year, but if you’re young and don’t spend that money, it could sit and grow in an account for decades, reaching thousands of dollars just by accruing interest on top of interest. Who said savings accounts were boring? Probably someone who was broke…
So, to get started saving that money, use these tips and tricks to help wrangle your money. Some will help you save money, some will help you find money you didn’t know you had, and some will help you earn more money with just a little effort.
The Best 11 Ideas For Saving Money
1. Pay yourself first
This concept means exactly what it says. Every time you get paid, bill yourself for a certain amount, and pay that ‘bill’ first. Put the money in your savings account and forget about it. If you don’t make your savings a priority, life will find plenty of ways for your money to get frittered away, so establish this habit from the start, even if you’re just putting aside $10-15 each time. You have to start somewhere, and the important thing is that you just do it!
You can make this super easy by setting up an automatic transfer to take place every payday, from your checking account to your savings account. This is super easy to set up and is so much better than trying to hide cash in your sock drawer every time you’re flush with money because you won’t be tempted to spend it.
Check with your bank, because some offer a service that allows you to ‘round up’ every purchase, moving the difference between the actual cost and the rounded up amount into your savings account. However, don’t rely on that type of savings as your only savings method.
Paying yourself first is better and smarter, so do that before you do anything else. If it helps, treat it like paying a bill. Just make sure you pay yourself on time, so you don’t have to start calling yourself on the phone and asking when you’re going to get paid…
2. Eat more home-cooked foods
If your diet consists mostly of things that come out of a box or a can, your body will thank you for making this change, and your wallet will, too. Research some easy, inexpensive meals that you can cook at home, preferably using basic ingredients that you can use in more than one dish. Cooking just 3-5 meals a week from ‘scratch’ can be a lot cheaper and healthier than eating processed foods, fast foods or even restaurant meals.
If you don’t have time to cook every day, consider cooking several days’ worth of meals one day a week, then freezing or refrigerating them so you’ll have them on hand when you need them. You can do this with your lunches for work, too. Just portion out enough for each day and freeze it, then you can pop it in the microwave for a homemade frozen dinner that’s far tastier than the ones you buy at the store.
Slow cookers are a frugal person’s best friend. You can buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook them all day long, so they’ll be nice and tender when you’re ready to eat. Plus, you can just toss your ingredients in before you leave for work, then come home to a home-cooked meal with almost no effort.
3. Stop shopping
Okay, so you can’t stop shopping altogether, but you can change the way you shop and the frequency. Grocery spending is one budget category where it’s very easy to go over your budget, especially if you are cooking for a family. Start planning your meals, then buying just what you need to prepare those meals. Any other snacks or treats need to be included in the budget or made from scratch using the food you already have.
Stop going to the store ‘for one thing.’ That is unless you can actually walk into the store, past ten rows of mouthwatering goodies, dazzling gadgets and tempting toys. But, if you’re reading this article, you probably can’t resist, so just don’t do it, or you could end up blowing your budget.
Also, stop viewing shopping as a recreational activity. If you’re bored, pick up a book. If you’re feeling down, get some exercise. Those endorphins are way better for you than the ones you get from a ‘buyer’s high’ anyway.
4. Grow your own food
Start a little garden in your backyard, or in a container if you live in an apartment or condo. Grow the vegetables and herbs that you love to eat, and you’ll save money on your grocery bill. As a bonus, you’ll have an active hobby that can reduce your stress and give you something new to enjoy.
If you do have a little outdoor space, consider growing extra vegetables (1) and selling them to your friends and neighbors. You could end up with a very lucrative side gig during the growing season, and if you have a green thumb, you will never go hungry.
5. Learn to barter
Do you have skills you can trade in exchange for something else? Maybe you have something that you don’t want anymore, and you’d be willing to trade it for something that you do? The barter system is one of the oldest forms of commerce, and although it’s not common today, it does still exist.
6. Use coupons and watch for sales
Use this tip with caution! Too many people fall into the habit of chasing a bargain at any cost, which leads to buying stuff they don’t need just because it’s priced low. Use your coupons and sales wisely. Clip coupons for only the products you’d be buying anyway, and be aware that the item that the coupon is for is almost always more expensive than a generic version, even with the coupon.
You can take advantage of bargains by doing a little comparison shopping every week.
Recycling is one way that you can save money, make money and help the planet, all at once. If you aren’t recycling your scrap metal, such as aluminum cans and empty food tins, you are throwing money away. Most towns have recycling centers that pay for scrap metal, and although it’s not much, it can add up if you have a lot of metal to recycle. Copper, brass, and other metals can be recycled too, so scan your home for items and make some extra cash!
Another form of recycling that can save you money is reusing items around your home in different ways. Use old things in new ways to save having to buy new items. Turn boxes and food containers into storage options, turn old clothing into dust cloths or quilts and reuse wrapping paper on gifts to save money and waste.
You can also buy recycled items for less money than buying new ones. An excellent example of this is buying clothing from consignment shops. You can often find nearly-new items for a fraction of the price you’d pay off the rack.
8. Sell the stuff you don’t need
This is how you can find ‘hidden’ money that you never realized you had. If you take a really good look around your home, you can probably find more than a few items you just don’t use anymore. Why let these sit around, taking up space when you could sell them and add to your growing savings?
Have a garage or yard sale to get rid of the things you no longer need or want, and see how much money you can make. You can also sell items online with sites like eBay. You’ll be surprised how freeing it can be to turn loose of the ‘stuff’ that put you into debt in the first place. Your wallet will feel better, and so will you.
If you own a home or a car, you will have maintenance costs. It’s just a given. But, you can minimize those costs by tackling some small jobs yourself. Thanks to the internet, there’s literally a video on how to do almost anything in the world, and they’re all on YouTube.
Whether you want to tackle some minor plumbing repairs or build yourself a new set of shelves, there’s bound to be a video that walks you through the process so that you can try it for yourself.
Car maintenance is another area where DIY can save you big money (2). Instead of paying a mechanic $25-60 to change your oil, why not learn how to do that yourself? For the cost of an oil filter and a few quarts of oil, you can do the job at home for far less money.
If you don’t have the tools you need, borrow them from a friend or relative, or consider renting them from a hardware store. Be sure that you feel fully comfortable doing your own DIY, or you could cause more damage than good. If you aren’t sure what you’re doing, ask a friend who may have more experience than you. (Here’s another time when bartering may be useful. Barter someone for their services if you can’t do it yourself!)
There is more than one way to make sure that your home repairs and auto maintenance get done, and you don’t have to pay a fortune for them.
10. Give handmade gifts
When it comes to being frugal, it can be hard to find gifts that are inexpensive but still meaningful, unless you’re willing to get your hands dirty. Handmade gifts are almost always less expensive than store-bought ones, and they come with an added touch of love since you have to make an effort to create them.
Depending on who you are giving gifts to, there are thousands (or more) gift options. You can give homemade food gifts, beauty products, bath soaps, handmade clothing…the possibilities are endless.
You say you don’t have any gift-making skills at all, and that your arts and crafts project always look like something the dog dragged in? No worries. YouTube can help with that, too. Also, go to the library, borrow a few books on how to make handcrafted gifts, and let your imagination run wild. Everyone can make something, even if it’s just a handmade card with a gift certificate that can be redeemed for a little of your time.
11. Get involved with the frugal community
Frugal living doesn’t have to be a solitary existence. In fact, there are a lot more people enjoying the frugal lifestyle than you might think. Facebook groups, blogs, forums and more exist to help people share their love of frugal living, and there’s no better way to pick up new tips and inspiration to keep your eyes on the prize of financial freedom than by talking to others going through the same situation.
It can feel lonely if you are the only one in your circle of family and friends who is trying to live frugally. You may be battling feelings of jealousy, or dealing with people who don’t take your efforts to save money seriously. If you don’t have someone who understands what you’re going through, it could be tempting to throw in the towel and go back to living beyond your means.
Frugal living communities offer more than just support and inspiration. You can generally pick up some really useful ideas that can make your journey a lot easier. Need some frugal recipes, or think you want to try making your household cleaning products, but not sure which websites offer the best advice? Ask your frugal living friends. Chances are, they’ve tried the things you’re not sure about, so they can guide you to the best resources.
To find frugal living communities online, just do a quick web search for ‘frugal living communities.’ You’ll see pages and pages of sites, so you should have no problem finding a place you feel comfortable.
With time and practice, you’ll learn all the frugal living tricks and tips, and before you know it, people will be coming to you for advice on saving money. Learn all you can from these communities, because some day, you could end up helping someone you know to become financially independent through frugal living.