I’m sure you’ve heard the good news by now—the recession is over! But in case it doesn’t feel like it’s over at your home, or in case you want to buffer yourself from the next one, here are 25 ways to save more money.
Ways to Save Money #1: Buy Post-Season
People are becoming more conscious about buying produce in season—it saves money, is better for the environment, allows one to support local farmers, and fresh produce truly tastes better. But many shoppers don’t realize how much they can save by planning their purchases for post-season savings. For instance, vehicles are usually the cheapest two weeks before Christmas because sales drop, and because auto lots are trying to unload vehicles before the new year’s model arrives.
Need office supplies? Wait until the second week of September when all of the back-to-school items go on sale.
Shop for next year’s clothing at the end of the season—buy next year’s summer clothing at the end of this year’s summer when things go on sale. Even thrift stores will have clearance sales on clothing in order to make room for the upcoming season.
Buy gardening supplies at the end of summer (even seeds; they will have a slightly lower germination rate, but will do fine) and winterizing supplies at the end of winter. Neil has pointed out that there are great savings to be had on turkeys and chickens right after Thanksgiving and Christmas but this is also a good time to stock up on baking supplies such as flour, sugar, canned pumpkin, baking powder, and so forth.
Ways to Save Money #2: Do I Need It….?
And if I do, can I get it for free? Never, never, never just go out and buy something you think you need. First, wait a day or two and decide if it’s something you really need, or if it was just a passing desire; this will cool any impulse buying.
Second, figure out if there is a way to reconfigure something you already have. Last summer I needed summer pajamas for my little girls—their father’s old T-shirts worked great.
Now, if you can’t repurpose something, begin looking for ways to get the item for free. Check out your local Freecycle where people post items online that they are looking to get rid of. Ask around and see if you can borrow or have the item; many times, people actually have a surplus of the same thing! You can help lighten their load! Maybe you can barter for an item; you can borrow the neighbor’s weedeater in exchange for weedeating their lawn as well. Finally, if you can’t get the item for free, try to at least find it at a reduced cost. Check out yard sales, thrift stores, Craigslist, eBay, or consignment shops.
Ways to Save Money #3: Barter and/or Trade
We use money so often it becomes automatic, but in other cultures, and in previous times, bartering and trading was much more common. Before you make a large purchase, or before you negotiate payments for classes, lessons, or services, find out if you can trade or barter. Frugal moms often trade childcare because the cost of a babysitter can get out of hand for one night out. Consider offering to teach someone how to change his oil if he will show you how to knit a potholder. These types of exchanges not only save you money, they help to build community. Everyone feels better when they can share their knowledge with others.
Ways to Save Money #4: Practice No Buy Days…
…or weeks or months. Go ahead and fill up the vehicle with gas and stock the pantry, but other than that, go on a spending-fast. In addition to helping your budget, there is a feeling of relief when you know you will not be handing over any of your money for a given amount of time. These spending-fasts also offer the benefits of cooling any impulse buying, easier money management and tracking, getting the kids (and perhaps the spouse) on the same money-page (at least for a certain amount of time), and learning self-discipline.
For those of a spiritual bent, I have found that practicing no-buy-days on our Sabbath days helps to make that day that much more centered on our spiritual practices rather than the same old, same old consumerism.
Ways to Save Money #5: Free Entertainment
Everyone wants to get out and have fun once in a while! There are the obvious free entertainment choices—a picnic at the park, a hike in the woods, or a stroll through town. Yet there are even more options.
Start with your local library; our library has a plethora of events like storytelling, lectures from guest authors, and movie screenings. Our town also has a famous music center but the price of tickets is exorbitant—yet I attend free concerts when the music students give free practice concerts at the center or around town.
Don’t forget the local places of worship. Recently, I very much wanted to take my son to see a certain bluegrass band but I was having a hard time budgeting for the tickets. Then I found out that the band was scheduled to perform at several local churches in the weeks before the concert.
Another way to hear music or see free art is to volunteer for festivals; our town has many festivals and if one helps with collecting tickets or ushering and so forth, he gets to attend for free. Finally, be sure to check out the free or discounted days for any event or museum you’re thinking about visiting.
Ways to Save Money #6: Do-It-Yourself
This is a no-brainer for most homesteaders, but many people don’t realize just how much money they can save by doing things for themselves. Save major money doing minor auto repairs, plumbing, baking, or sewing. Rather than buying the kids’ Halloween costumes, do the old sheet-into-ghost costume. Instead of buying so many Christmas presents, make gifts of your homemade jam, your best pumpkin bread, or your best handwoven baskets. If you don’t know how to do something, you’ve got the Internet right at your fingertips, books in the library, and friends, neighbors, or relatives that can teach you. In addition, each time you learn a new skill, you have made an investment in your future self-sufficiency.
Ways to Save Money #7: Clean Out the House
I thought our house was pretty much down to the bare essentials. We had gotten rid of a lot of stuff in our move three years ago, and with our tight budget and my new penchant for frugality, we hadn’t allowed too much new stuff in. But recently my husband decided to finally attack the basement, which inspired me to attack some of the “hot spots” around the house. Not only is our house now (a little) more organized and things run more efficiently, but we made quite a bit of money selling things on eBay and Craiglist.
I know clearing out and letting go can be hard for some homesteaders since you never know when you’re going to need a _____, but, really, if you haven’t used it in two years, you probably aren’t going to use it! If it makes the process any easier, pack up the things you’re tentatively thinking about selling or getting rid of—if you are consciously aware of those items and still haven’t used them within the month, sell them and get some cash you can use!
Ways to Save Money #8: Review Your Insurance
Review your insurance policies at least annually and make sure that you’re paying for the amount of coverage you actually want. Also, whenever your policy is up for renewal, you’ll usually get offers from other insurance companies trying to entice you to join them—take a look at the offers, they might be worthwhile. The easiest way to save on premiums is to have a higher deductible; this could be a better deal if you are generally healthy and have a bit saved. Also check that you’re not paying for insurance that you don’t need. For instance, you may not want to pay for flood insurance if you live on a mountaintop, and you may not want to have a high coverage for a car that’s from the 80’s. Finally, make sure you are getting all of the discounts you qualify for—such as discounts for not smoking, for driving a safer car, for having smoke detectors, and for young students getting good grades.
Ways to Save Money #9: Simplify
“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Simplify, to put it simply. In all that you do, try to find the easiest, most efficient way. Cooking elaborate meals with multiple ingredients can be a fun, “weekend project” for some, but in order to stay within the food budget and to ensure that you will actually cook from scratch, keep the meals simple with a few, fresh ingredients. Rather than having twenty gizmos in the workshop or the kitchen, are there a few classic tools that can do the job just as well? Do kids need blocks that look like stones, blocks with animal faces, and blocks with zigzags – or will a simple set do?
Ways to Save Money #10: Buy Locally
Buy local as often as you can, because you will usually have great savings (and you’ll be helping out your local economy as well as benefiting the environment). This is usually easiest when it comes to food. I buy antibiotic-free, free-range beef from my local farmer; this requires that I buy in bulk and pray that the freezer doesn’t go out, but the price per pound is at least one-fourth of the cost of the grocery store. Buying honey from local beekeepers and produce from the CSA both offer savings. In addition, if you’re going to buy any gifts this year, local artisans are usually a better bet.
Ways to Save Money #11: And Buy Online
On the other hand, some things I have found to be much cheaper online. I buy some items through Amazon through their Subscribe and Save program, which provides scheduled shipments, big discounts, and free shipping.
Same for Vitacost and Amazon for quality vitamins and herbal medicines I can’t make at home. I’m sure there are many, many other similar programs online. And sometimes online shopping’s convenience is worth it for rural customers. I can drive an hour away to get a specific car part that I need, or I can have it shipped—the time and gas that is saved is sometimes worth a small shipping fee and many times, the online price is cheaper than the store price anyway.
Ways to Save Money #12: Take Up Thrifty Hobbies
This would certainly not be golf! If you’re nearing retirement or you’re looking for something to do with the kiddos, consider picking up a hobby that not only costs very little, but that might help you save or make money in the long run.
Rather than taking up a sport, which requires equipment, fees, and gas to get with the team, consider hobbies such as gardening, knitting, furniture building, or cooking from scratch. These types of hobbies will help your children learn useful lifelong skills and they will help you gain skills that will help see you through retirement and fixed incomes.
Ways to Save Money #13: Sell Your Services
This one isn’t so much about saving money as it is about making a little extra. Consider taking on some extra side jobs. You probably have skills that you don’t even think about but that could really benefit someone else. Are you a retired teacher? Consider offering tutoring services. Do you have some prize-winning dairy goats? Consider acting as a consultant for those starting their own herd. Your services can be posted in likely areas (such as the local college or the local feed store), on places like Craigslist, or even just put the word out, and if your town is like mine, word will get around quickly!
Ways to Save Money #14. The 50 Percent Solution
The solution is to use fifty percent of whatever you’re using. Cut your use of certain items down by fifty percent—toothpaste, shampoo, detergents, and so forth. If you are making weekly trips to a coffee-shop to visit with friends, consider replacing every other visit with an invitation to your home. If you’re driving to town five times a week, try to cut that down to three times a week (okay, not exactly 50%, but you get the idea). Try to make it a fun challenge and place the money you’re saving right into the bank.
Ways to Save Money #15. Kill Energy Vampires
You would think that when you turn off your TV or microwave, that it is really off. Unfortunately, many electronics only go on standby and still use up electricity, potentially costing as much as $200 a year. If your electronics use remote controls, have a continuous digital display, use rechargeable batteries, or have external power supplies, then chances are they are drawing “phantom loads”. Plug these vampires into power strips and then turn the strip off when not in use or unplug each electronic device when not in use.
Ways to Save Money #16. Cheaper Laundry
Start off saving on laundry by wearing outfits more than once, if you can. Next, get to know the various settings on your washer—use the cold water and use the light wash and/or quick wash if you have those settings. These are usually sufficient for most loads. As stated in #14, use half of the laundry detergent that is called for. Some people save even more money by replacing part of the detergent with boosters like borax or by making their own detergent. And, of course, line dry your clothes as often as possible. This also helps your clothing last longer.
Ways to Save Money #17. Low-Cost Clothing
There are several strategies for dressing for less. First of all, don’t buy so many darn clothes. Really, how much clothing does one person need? Secondly, try to avoid paying full price for any clothing—ask for clothes on Freecycle, shop thrift stores and yard sales, buy at the end of seasons, and look pitiful around well-dressed relatives.
Another option is to have a clothing-swap; everyone brings clothing they want to get rid of, throws it in a big pile, and then everyone goes home with some new, and free, clothing.
Third, stick with the classics; buy basic colors and fabrics. Jeans go with everything, black, white, and solid colors are easy to match, and a couple of plain skirts thrown in will get you through fancy occasions. Finally, this may not sound frugal, but buy quality items. What will save you more money, a fifty-dollar pair of shoes that last for years or five ten-dollar pairs from Walmart that just seem to fall apart?
Ways to Save Money #18. Cook More Efficiently
Look for ways to save energy when you cook. According to Mr. Electricity, the crockpot costs 8¢ for seven hours of use, a toaster oven is 4¢ for an hour, and a microwave is 4¢ for 15 minutes. This is compared to 24¢ for an electric oven running for an hour. Do some simple planning and bake multiple things at once, bake during the coldest time of the day, and reuse boiled water when you can (e.g. use the pasta water to boil some eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast).
Ways to Save Money #19: Create a Price Book
Keep a book of prices for items you buy regularly. In this way, you will know what store carries the item cheapest, and you will also know if an item is really on sale or not. I have been surprised when I assumed some stores were cheaper than they actually are; recently, my Walmart added a food section and I assumed they would be cheaper for the basics—but my locally-owned grocery store was still cheaper for all of the food items. The easiest way to create a price book is to shop at a few different places and use the receipts for comparison.
Ways to Save Money #20: Avoid Advertising
I don’t usually get magazines—I much prefer books (and the Internet). However, I was given a free subscription to a health magazine. I was surprised by how little information about health there was; instead, the magazine was nearly full of advertisements.
Second, I was surprised at how quickly I was drawn into wanting this or that, things that I didn’t even know existed until I read that magazine. Later, my dad was lamenting the whole Christmas-shopping-thing; I was thinking how lucky I am that, because we don’t watch TV, my kids don’t realize how many things there are to beg for. This also goes for the grocery store—avoid those brightly colored displays that they purposely place in the middle of the aisle for you to stop and gape at. New mantra for shopping – “I don’t need it!”
Ways to Save Money #21: Costs = How Many Hours of Work?
Sometimes I blow my budget by thinking, well, this only costs x number of dollars. Maybe I think we should go out to eat just this once because I don’t feel like cooking. However, when I start thinking about how many hours of work that translates into, it cools my enthusiasm. A meal out for our family of six can easily run into three or four hours of work—compared to cooking for twenty minutes. It also helps to think of what else you could buy for that money. Our local farmer’s beef costs $3.00 a pound; therefore, a McDonald’s “Value Meal” equals two pounds of high-quality beef that can feed my family for at least two meals—the value meal is just not a value when viewed that way.
Ways to Save Money #22: Cook From Scratch
Most of us on this website cook our meals from scratch, but challenge yourself to begin cooking more and more things on your own. Start with something relatively simple like bread, yogurt, and jams and move into more complicated and/or uncommon items like homemade tortillas, sauerkraut, and hard cheeses. The more you can do on your own, the more you save and the more control you have over your food supply.
Ways to Save Money #23: Pay Yourself First and Cut Up Your Credit Cards
It’s all too easy to determine that you will put some money aside into the IRA—but by the end of the month, you find that you haven’t a cent left. Pay yourself first.
Take care of the usual bills, put aside the money for typical expenditures, then deposit the rest right into the bank. Also, cut up the credit cards (or at least hide them from yourself).
Pretend you don’t have them, and if you’re short at the end of the month, start cooking with items in the pantry, cutting down on gas usage or anything else that helps you make it to the next paycheck. Don’t dip into savings, and don’t add to your credit card.
Ways to Save Money #24: Get an Accountability Partner
Nothing can keep you on track like some good old guilt. It’s hard to break habits, including the spending habit. Share your goals with others and ask for their support; ask them to keep you accountable. I’m hoping that one of your accountability partners will be your spouse or partner, and you don’t want to let him or her down.
If you can share your financial goals in kid-friendly terms, children can be very effective accountability partners because they love keeping an eye on adults in order to catch them making mistakes!
Ways to Save Money #25: Save on Heating
Heating is one of the biggest energy costs. Obviously, turn down the heat as low as you can stand it. This counts for bedtime as well—time for the layers and layers of blankets. Remember, too, that it’s often not necessary to heat the entire house; during the winter, our family hangs near the woodstove while other parts of the house go unheated. Also, think of all the ways you can insulate your home; there are the obvious ideas such as caulking the windows, and using weather-stripping on the doors, but there are also some areas you might not think of, like the clothes dryer vent and the places where pipes or wires run in and out of the house. You may want to consider putting up heavier curtains or thick quilts on the windows and constructing, if possible, an entry area that is blocked off from the rest of the house, even if it’s just a temporary structure with curtains that block the wind coming in when the door is opened.
I know you all are a frugal bunch, but I hope you’ve gleaned some ideas from this list, or were motivated to get “back on track” with your frugality. The great thing about frugality is that it not only saves money but it helps the environment, it leads to great self-reliance, and it stretches one’s ingenuity. Enjoy!