There are lots of lists out there on how to save money. Here’s my list. I’ve used these ideas for over a decade …
There are so, so many tricks on how to save money. Entire books have been written on the subject. Here, I’ll chip in with a list of ways I’ve saved money for a good long time.
Buy discounted gift cards
There’s a whole market that matches up people who want to sell gift cards they don’t want (for whatever reason) to people who want to buy them at a discount to face value. As long as you buy them safely (which mostly involves using common sense) then you can save a few percent up to 20% or more right off the bat.
We recently got a Starbucks less than a mile from our house. Talk about temptation! We do grab some now and then but for the most part we brew our own. Most of the time we use a Keurig 1.0 with EkoBrew reusable cups . We’ve found that Folgers Black Silk brews well through these cups. Other times we use an AeroPress with some of our specialty coffees, like my beloved Death Wish Coffee. (And yes, I totally got suckered in by the 2016 Super Bowl ad. Drink Vikings AARRRRRR!)
The markup on stuff from a vending machine is horrendous! It’s easily 100%, sometimes 200% or more. There are tons of alternatives to buying from a vending machine. Carrying only $5 bills and larger helps me to reduce the temptation (because the machines at work only take coins and $1 bills!)
Buy cars (and lots of other things) used
Buying quality used items saves money because the original owner paid the retail markup. The two cars we own were bought used. My Corolla was three years old, and my wife’s Sienna was five years old. They’re still going great, and we paid a lot less than if we had bought new.
Whether or not you do this for your cars is a matter of taste (some people can get a lot done while their oil is being changed) but we save money — about the cost of a nice dinner — out each time we change the oil ourselves instead of having our local car place do it.
Use rebate sites
It’s easy to save a few percent or 30% or more just by clicking through a rebate site instead of going to an online store directly. They keep track of your rebates and send them to you either on a specific schedule or after you have accrued a reasonable amount. I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of dollars back from these kinds of sites. I even have a rebate comparison engine that can help you to find the best rebate on your favorite store!
Drink water in restaurants instead of soda
We easily save $5 each and every time we ask for water instead of soda, lemonade, etc., when we’re eating out. Your mileage may vary depending on whether your locality charges for non-bottled water (ours doesn’t).
Get big carrots instead of baby carrots
Sometimes our local Walmart is out of bags of regular-sized carrots but we prefer the 1- or 2-pound bags of carrots to bags of baby carrots, or julienned carrots, when we are cooking soup. Peeling with our OXO Peeler and slicing the carrots with a Ninja blender takes but a few minutes, and tastes a bit better, too.
Stock up on sale items when I can
Buying in bulk isn’t always the answer, of course, because you need to be able to store the stuff, as well as consume it all before it goes bad. But the cost per unit usually goes down when you buy in bulk so it’s a good way to save money.
Buy generic or store-brand over name-brand
Walmart has Great Value products. Costco has Kirkland products. A good chunk of the time these products are every bit as good, and every bit as effective, as the name brand. We use store-brand body wash, laundry detergent, whey protein, and more — and save a bit of money on all of them.
Go easy on the accelerator
Accelerating and braking quickly uses more fuel than accelerating or braking gradually. I’m glad the power is there, but I don’t use it if I don’t have to, and my tanks of gas get me farther.
Negotiate, wheel and deal
One yard sale we went to had a large, nice collection of Vera Bradley purse sets. My wife and daughter were poring through them, because the prices weren’t bad. I offered what my wife thought was an insanely low price for the lot, and the seller accepted it. My wife loves to give gifts, so this was an opportunity for some very nice gifts at a giant discount.
Thrift stores, yard sales, and auctions
Each of these has their own flavor, but all of them have lots of good deals to be found. Thrift stores offer some room for negotiation, but typically not as much as yard sales. And for estate auctions, high bid wins. We’ve gotten box lots at auctions where one item more than paid for the entire box (or set of boxes!)
There are all kinds of websites to compare prices. Google Shopping is the most far-reaching of them. With the world’s information at your fingertips, it’s easier than ever to find a good deal.
Cut or eliminate cable service
First we got rid of the premium cable package, and we’re now considering getting rid of the rest of the cable channels. I watch TV maybe twice a year (the Super Bowl and New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop). Is it worth it keeping that? (We may hold off until the Olympics are over, but not much after that.)
Dilute ultra-concentrated dishwashing soap
If you’re really careful and only put a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid in the water, it works fine. But it’s easy to put too much in, and that wastes it. If you dilute dishwashing liquid about 10:1, it makes it easier to control putting in the right amount.
Save money on Amazon and eBay
We’ve found some items on eBay that we weren’t able to find anywhere else. And with over a million items for sale every day, Amazon is becoming our go-to place for checking out deals on things we get regularly. Combining Amazon Prime and Subscribe & Save helps us to save a bit on our regular favorites.
Re-use plastic bags of all sizes
Plastic grocery bags can be reused in a number of ways. One way we reuse ours is to put one in the van over the armrests in between the seats and use it as a trash bag. They also work well for bathroom vanity garbage bags. We’ll also get a couple of uses out of gallon-sized zipper bags by washing them out. They’re strong enough to handle that without ripping.
Pay more than the minimum on our mortgage
We round our mortgages up to the next $100 and that extra money goes straight against the principal. That makes the interest part of the payment on every subsequent payment less. It’s a way to reduce the total number of payments without refinancing.
Some titles on Amazon are available used for one cent (plus shipping). Even cheaper is waiting for them to come into the library. Some libraries have electronic lending, so if you have an e-reader you don’t even have to go to the library to sign out a book!
Save money at pawn shops (with caution)
The people who lose out at pawn shops are the people who borrow money from them, or who sell their stuff at giant discounts. For buyers, they can be a great source of deals. We got our daughter’s computer there for a sweet price. I found out the hard way that it’s probably not best to get cordless power tools from there. The batteries are usually toast, and it costs just as much to get a new battery as it does to get a new drill (with the battery!) So it’s not the best place for all kinds of merchandise. Jewelry can be a decent deal, though.
Get maximum matching out of my employer’s retirement plan
This is free money, plain and simple. For example, put in 5% to a 401(k), and the employer kicks in another 5%. This is hard to pass up.
Buy used toys
A couple of reasons. First, your kids will outgrow them quickly. Secondly, toys seem to only get more cheaply made with time. One game that I used to play when I was younger still worked when I was a grownup. When we bought the current version of the same game a few years ago, it broke that day. Older (i.e. used) games stand a good chance of lasting longer! A good way to save money is to not buy things again and again when they break!
Take advantage of continental breakfast at hotels
Consider looking for hotels that include continental breakfast with the room price. Sometimes it’s been really good (and often hot!) Easy way to save $20 or more on a vacation or trip.
Collect change and deposit into savings (away from checking)
There are lots of tricks to socking away more money. It can be just as easy as throwing change in a jar and then carting it off to the bank or credit union. (Our credit union takes in coins for free.)
Use reward credit cards
This isn’t for everyone, but it works well for us, since we pay off our balance each month in full. Every purchase triggers a 1% or greater reward, with almost no extra effort on our part. All we have to do is allocate the rewards to something (like a statement credit or a gift card). So easy!
How do you save money??