25+ ways I save money

Whether because it’s that new-beginnings time of year or because the economy stinks, how to save cashola is always a popular topic. I have to admit I’m just naturally frugal (or my dad brainwashed me anyway) and I get a high from saving or not-spending money. But I’ve also identified I’m pretty boring and unlike those I consider to be an average American consumer. Anyway, lots of people have shared their 25 ways they save here if you’d like more ideas, and PQ recently had a bunch of comments from readers who do all sorts of things to be frugal. Got any other good suggestions? I actually had a couple of extras.

Two things happened since I wrote this post last week and didn’t bother to publish it: I decided I didn’t really like the tone of the list, and I met with a financial advisor again. This process is new to me and I’m struggling with knowing how to invest. My income and situation is far different than the one my parents were in when I grew up and learned about money, so I don’t have a sense of what advice is good and what is just someone trying to sell me something. Or maybe some things that would be bad investment choices for a person stretching dollars are actually good investment choices for someone with more income and therefore more tax implications. One resource I’m starting to use is The Simple Dollar, a blog with a ton of helpful advice (even the comments are instructive) about personal finance. I did apply for disability insurance but don’t know where to head next.

Anyway, I decided to post my ways of saving after all. Reading other people’s lists helps me think creatively.

  1. I never ever pay ATM fees by planning ahead and only going to my bank’s ATM. The only times I’ve paid ATM fees in the last ten years were in England and Italy, when I didn’t have a choice to use my bank but also didn’t want to haul that much money around for the whole trip.
  2. I always take the restaurant leftovers home and eat them.
  3. I force myself to keep calling the cable company etc. when they randomly raise prices. I inspect the bill.
  4. I put everything (even car insurance, dental bills, charitable donations for larger/distant organizations) on credit cards with cashback, and shop through the credit card’s site to get additional cashback.
  5. I pay off my credit cards EVERY month. I don’t finance any larger purchases unless through a 0% APR and even then I pay it off within two months to be safe. Come to think of it, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve used one of those deals at all.
  6. I use coupons eagerly (especially at places that double them), but only for items I would buy anyway.
  7. I go to the store where my item is cheapest (based on ads or everyday pricing), but not if the amount I’ll save is not enough more than the fuel and effort it would take to make the extra trip. When my favorite items are on sale I stock up, and of course I combine errands when I’m out and about.
  8. I keep track of all my spending and income in a spreadsheet. Several years of data give me a great handle on where the money goes.
  9. I purchase lots of things online, after comparison pricing and getting free shipping, which also saves me a trip to the store and sales tax. During the holidays I saved several hundred bucks on gifts I already planned to buy just by watching slickdeals.net and shopping carefully online. I also used wishlists so we’d get what we would actually use and our recipients would actually want/use what we got them.
  10. I stopped getting the newspaper when the coupons weren’t good enough to warrant it (not a lot of plant-based, whole foods items… it’s all unhealthy packaged crap and household products that were tested on animals). However, I just got another offer in the mail from the paper to get Thursday and Sunday papers delivered for cheaper than my buying just the Sunday paper at the store, which I sometimes do. Hard to decide!
  11. I have friends save their papers for me to use in my litterboxes. If I can’t get enough that way, I’ve been known to take papers from central recycling boxes (but I prefer to avoid looking like I’m dumpster diving!).
  12. I have a lot of pets and I don’t compromise quality when I feed and house them. Instead I buy really good foods but in the largest bags with coupons and with a discount I get through organizations I belong to; I go in with others to buy local baled farm hay instead of pet store bags or shipping it in; I buy 40# bags of wood stove pellets at home centers to use as bunny litter.
  13. I don’t use all my cell minutes, I have rollover and free nights/weekends, and I have a cell plan that has the right number of minutes for my needs. I get a discount on my cell plan through my employer. I generally wait for my cell phone to die before I get a new one and enter another contract (the last two lasted three and five years). I don’t have a text messaging plan and I turned off my phone’s internet access because those features were just costing money.
  14. My home phone is the cheapest basic plan with no long distance carrier at all. I use the cell for long distance. We would ditch the landline but right now it’s important for our alarm system and we live in the hood.
  15. I don’t buy new clothes until mine wear out. (Yes, I’m fashion backwards–frugalit makes a good supporting excuse!)
  16. I take or buy used items from family and friends if they have something I need rather than shop for it.
  17. I use discount cards at restaurants (buy one get one free entrees, discounted gift certificates) and a $5 movie ticket card.
  18. I use the gym memberships my employer provides.
  19. I changed veterinarians to one who is awesome with our dogs but closer and lots cheaper.
  20. I reuse water bottles, filling them from coolers at work or from our tap which has a filter. I put the bottles in the dishwasher to make them last longer (and be less nasty).
  21. I always run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads. I set the washing machine temperature one setting colder than the way I grew up doing laundry.
  22. I will always try the generic brand and I will keep buying it if it’s as good as name brand. But I won’t make us eat crappy foods or use inferior products; quality, health, longetivity, environmental impact, and animal welfare all play into my purchases and frequently trump absolute cheapness. I go in with a friend to order bulk versions of some of these so we can still save money yet have organic/safe/responsible products.
  23. I change my own oil. (I would so love to use coupons and pay someone else to do it, but my car is weird and can’t go to the quick places. That’s what I get for purposely getting an especially fuel efficient vehicle.)
  24. I order water instead of other beverages when I go out to eat (95% of the time anyway).
  25. I use my company’s 401(k) match, watch Suze Orman (warning! her website has annoying autoplay music), and have started working with a financial advisor to help me save long-term.
  26. I use mail order prescription services for my maintenance medications. If I need an acute Rx, I’ll use a new/transferred Rx store coupon to get a gift card too. I’ve saved a lot on my taxes through FSA, too.
  27. When possible, I buy nice boxed wine (on sale of course) instead of bottled wine. A box contains the same amount as four bottles and is nicer to the environment, too!
  28. I check current fuel prices at gasbuddy.com (indygasprices.com locally) so I don’t overpay when I fill the tank. I’ve even learned tips like when price spikes are likely to happen and which stations in town go up last.
  29. I do my own taxes online, keep good records, and make an effort to understand the rules so I can keep as much of my earnings as I can. All year long I save receipts and track mileage for my charities so I don’t forget to claim them later.

3 thoughts on “25+ ways I save money

  1. Oh, you’re good! My family was not frugal – my parents were not (ARE NOT) savers, so it doesn’t come easily. I’ve been accustomed to just buying what I want, when I want it, though I have never bought a lot of stuff on credit… I usually pay cash.

    I tend to sort of sit back and wait for savings to just “happen”, and I’m starting to realize that I’m going to have to actively look for ways to save, rather than just accidentally happening upon them. I may have been lucky to find deals in the past, but I don’t think I can count on being lucky like that in the future.

  2. Excellent suggestions, I wish that I tracked expenses like you do! I have found a major way to save money is to limit eating out or avoid it entirely.

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