By: Ryan Guina
This is a list of common things my wife and I do to save money on a regular basis. Luckily, we are both frugal by nature and we actually do most of these things without needing to discuss it much. These tips can be used by almost anyone, and more importantly, they don’t force you to make radical changes to your lifestyle. With a few small changes, it’s very easy to use these money saving tips:
Be a Savvy Money Manager
How you manage your money can have a big impact on your bottom line. Simple changes like making your savings automatic, using a free online checking account, keeping your savings in a high yield savings account, and avoiding ATM fees can save you hundreds of dollars a year. More importantly, these changes are quick and easy to make, and don’t cost you anything!
Make it automatic.
Before I see my paycheck, a good portion of it is diverted to my online savings account and retirement savings. This forces me to save money without taking any additional action on my part. This is important because it reduces the temptation to spend it, and reduces the barrier of having to “actively” save.
Use rewards credit cards.
If you are a responsible credit card user, then you should absolutely use a cash back credit card for all your purchases. I get cash back on every purchase and I pay the card off every month so I don’t pay any interest fees. I only recommend credit cards if you have no current credit card debt, and can afford to pay the balance every month! If you don’t want to use credit cards, then consider using a cash rewards debit card. The best on the market is the debit card from PerkStreet Financial. If you are a savvy credit card user, consider saving more money by using specific credit cards based on the type of purchase.
Health insurance, home owner’s insurance, auto insurance, and other types of insurance are designed to save you money! Sure, you may end up paying premiums for years and never file a claim, but in the event you need to file a claim, your premium will likely be small compared to what you would have had to pay. You’ll be very happy if you ever need it!
Save Money Around Your Home
After making small changes to how you manage your money, the biggest way to save money every day is by making small changes around your home. These small changes usually don’t take much effort, but can save your hundreds of dollars a year in recurring energy costs for things like utilities and energy.
Examine your cable TV needs.
You can save a lot of money by bundling these items with the same provider rather than purchasing them separately. But you may also find that you can do without some of these items. For example, my wife and I dropped cable TV two years ago, and haven’t looked back. We use cable TV alternatives such as over the air network television, streaming video, and DVDs.
Use a programmable thermostat.
Programmable thermostats save you an estimated 10-20% on your heating and cooling bills. When we aren’t home, or we are sleeping, our house is quite a bit warmer or cooler, depending on the season. We save a substantial amount on our utilities compared to many of our neighbors!
Install CFLs to save energy.
Compact fluorescent lights use about a quarter of the electricity of normal incandescent bulbs. They also need replaced much less often – often lasting five years or longer. LED lighting has become popular recently and the bulbs use even less energy than CFLs. However, the bulbs are still very expensive, and we haven’t made the switch yet.
Be a Smart Consumer
Seek out deals to save money!
The Internet has been the great equalizer when it comes to researching major purchases and saving money. But you can also save a lot of money on everyday purchases you make at your local grocery store. Here are some ways we save money on almost everything we buy:
Use coupons and rebates.
We use coupons for oil changes, groceries, books, on-line purchases, and just about anything else we can find. You can even find coupons on the back of receipts. There are several great websites that offer users cash back on virtually every online purchase (this is on top of the savings you can get with your credit card!). Some examples include of these free online rebates companies include:
Plan and research major purchases.
I do a lot of research before I make a major purchase. This includes reading product reviews from places like Consumer Reports and creating a spreadsheet on Google Docs where I can compare reviews, prices, features, and other aspects of the product. Then I look for additional savings and discounts. My wife and I recently did this to save money on a vacation. A little planning on our end saved us over $2,000.
Buy quality products.
Quality items may cost more up front, but they last longer and generally provide better results than cheaper, inferior products. Examples of items you should buy higher quality – furniture, clothes and shoes, vehicles, and other items that will see a lot of use. I used this premise to build a professional wardrobe on a budget.
Buy generic where applicable.
Yes, I just wrote “buy quality,” but you can save a lot of money on generic items for which the brand name product is essentially the same as the store brand. Food and medicines come to mind as items where generic products are good deals.
Save Money on Food
Food is a large expense for most families, and an unavoidable one at that. But just because it is an unavoidable expense doesn’t mean you need to spend too much money on it. With a little planning, you can save a lot of money on your food expenses each month.
Use grocery store rewards cards.
Most grocery stores (and many other stores) offer free membership cards that allow shoppers to save at least 10-15% on every trip. (Personally, I dislike the savings cards because I believe the stores actually mark everything up to force their customers to get the cards, but that is another story…) We still save a lot of money on groceries, so we use it.
Cook at home.
My wife is a great cook and we both enjoy cooking and eating at home more than we do going out. We only go out about once a month, but when we do, we prefer to make an evening out of it and go somewhere fairly nice. We prefer eating out once a month at a nice restaurant more than we enjoy eating out several times a week at chain restaurants such Chili’s or TGI Friday’s. Eating out once a month at a nice restaurant is much more affordable than eating out once or twice a week at chain restaurants.
Brown bag it, and eat leftovers.
I grew up eating leftovers, and I still love them (as long as they are not leftover from when I was a kid! yuck!). I estimate I save a minimum of $20 a week by bringing my lunch to work. It is also healthier, and on the rare occasion I go out to lunch with coworkers, I enjoy it more.
Arts & Entertainment – Big Saving Opportunities!
You don’t have to spend a small fortune to have a good time. Whether it’s a family outing, or paying for entertainment, there are a lot of ways to save money. Here are some of our favorite money saving tips for the arts and entertainment:
Use the library.
My wife and I borrow movies from the library almost every week. New releases aren’t always available, but lately, we have been watching a lot of classic movies from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. My wife and I also borrow CDs, books, and puzzles for our daughter.
My wife and I love to go hiking and our children also love getting out and enjoying the weather. We have 2 great parks nearby that we visit often. We get great exercise and the only costs to us is the gas to drive there.
Take Care of Things
Pride in ownership goes a long way to helping you save money. Performing seasonal maintenance around your home, doing your own home improvement projects, and doing scheduled maintenance on your vehicles and other items makes them last longer and saves you money.
Take care of things.
I treat items I own with respect and I take good care of them. This includes doing things such as cleaning our house, washing our cars, and polishing shoes. Things last much longer when you take good care of them.
Home improvement and car repairs.
Once upon a time I was an aircraft mechanic in the USAF, so I am fairly handy with tools. I am comfortable repairing most items around the house, and I always attempt to repair problems before calling a professional. However, I am not afraid tohire out anything dangerous or that I don’t have the tools or knowledge to do (usually electrical or plumbing). The same goes with car maintenance and repairs. Stay on top of maintenance like tuneups and oil changes, and your car will run more efficiently, last longer, and cost less to maintain.
Be a smart driver.
Many people underestimate how their driving habits affect the wear and tear on their vehicle – which can lead to shortened life spans for tires, breaks, transmissions, shocks, and other high dollar items. Taking care of your vehicle when driving results in less wear and tear and gets you better gas mileage. Some tips include accelerating smoothly and at a reasonable rate, coasting to a stop as often as possible, and using cruise control on the highway. My car is rated to get 26 mpg around town and I regularly get 29. That’s not quite hypermiling, but it’s not bad!
I know some of these tips won’t apply for everyone, but they work for my wife and I. I’m sure there are many more things we can do to save money, and there are a few places where we can plug some money leaks, but overall, I think we are doing a good job. I hope these tips can help a few other people out there