Saving money can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re already tethered to a fixed income, or if you’re looking to chip away at sizeable debt. Even if you’re relatively comfortable financially, saving money is important in planning for your future and for any unexpected curveballs life may throw your way. Read on for 10 simple hacks to help you start saving today.
1) Prepare Your Own Meals
Whether you’re stopping in for sandwiches at the café near your office each weekday, or are going out to dinner more than once a week, you’re likely shelling out quite a bit of dough for meals. While it’s fine to go out occasionally, eating in more regularly than out is a simple (and easy) way to cut back on some major spending. You don’t have to sacrifice taste, either. There are thousands of awesome, easy, and inexpensive recipes available for free online. You can even start a garden with berries, vegetables, and herbs to add a bit of homemade flair to your dishes.
2) Insulate Your Windows
If your windows aren’t properly insulated, your money is pretty much flying right out of them. This is particularly relevant in older homes, which are more likely to lose up to 40 percent of heat, whether the windows are open or not, according to the Department of Energy. You can insulate your windows, and door frames, with weather stripping. It’s easy to apply and pretty cheap too. You can also place clear plastic over the pane to seal in heat without the need for heavy curtains that could decrease natural light.
3) Insulate Your Water Heater
If your water heater is a newer model, it’s probably already insulated. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to add some insulation yourself to cut down on utility costs by ensuring it stays at a consistent temperature. You can call your utility company to inquire if they offer insulating blankets, or purchase your own for about $20 at a local home improvement store. The Department of Energy website also offers instructions on how to make your own.
4) Host Social Events at Home
Like eating out, going out on the town or to the movies is great for a once-in-a-while treat. But if you’re heading out to happy hour on the daily, you’re likely to rack up a pretty hefty tab by month’s end. Instead of going out on Friday night, invite your friends over for a BYOB get-together. Break out some of your favorite party games, and provide some homemade snacks or ask guests to bring a dish to share (like chips or hot dogs for the grill).
5) Exercise at Home
Depending on where you live, you could be spending anywhere from $50-100 or more a month for gym access or workout classes. If you’re doing personal training sessions, that number likely is exponentially greater. Staying fit and healthy is a great way to cut down on healthcare expenses, and increase your overall quality of life for the long-haul. However, there’s no need to break the bank to do so. There are a ton of exercise programs available online, many of which are free. Set up an at-home routine and incorporate more outdoor runs and living room aerobics. If you don’t trust yourself to stick to your routine without the gym setting, go over your membership details and make sure you aren’t paying for any unnecessary extras you don’t use, like 24-hour access or tanning. If possible, cut it down to a lower-level plan, paying for the minimum of services and not all those add-ons.
6) Buy in bulk
Buying items in “family size” or bulk will almost always get you more bang for your buck. If you’re not used to buying more at once, the initial sticker price may seem off-putting; but a good way to ensure you’re getting the most for your money is to check out the price per unit, or price per ounce, if it’s something like cereal, grains or dried fruit. Shops like Costco are great in this regard, as are online retailers like Amazon. However, even your everyday local grocery store purchases will be more fruitful if you keep an eye on the unit price.
7) Start a Rainy Day Fund
When you’re living paycheck to paycheck it can seem impractical, if not impossible, to set any money aside for later. But starting a rainy day fund is a great way to encourage yourself to save more and spend less. It doesn’t have to be much; you can start by saving spare change, or your single dollar bills. Plop them into a mason jar or a decorative tin and place it in a prominent place like your entryway table or on top of your dresser to remind yourself to squirrel a little away whenever possible. Once the jar is full, count up your savings and treat yourself to something special like a new pair of shoes or a date night.
8) Learn to Mend and Launder for Yourself
Basic sewing and laundering skills can go a long way when it comes to stretching your dollars. If you’re someone who typically tosses clothes once they’ve lost a button or have a stain, you’re probably washing away quite a bit of money overall. There are a ton of free online tutorials on how to mend basics, like buttons and seam-line rips. Likewise, you’d be surprised at how many household ingredients can be used to remove stains, even red wine and coffee. Learning a few tricks like these could end up saving you hundreds of dollars in the long-run.
9) Reduce Fuel Consumption
Between gas and regular maintenance, even more fuel-efficient vehicles can end up gargling a significant chunk of your income if driven daily. If feasible, riding your bike to work is one of the best ways to boost your savings, as well as your health. Taking public transportation or arranging a carpool are also great ways to save money — and the environment.
10) Keep Track of Your Spending
Ultimately, to save money, you’ve got to know how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on. Although keeping track of finances can seem tedious, it is essential to establishing and maintaining a reasonable budget. Once you’re aware of where your dollars and cents are going, you can pare down where needed to work toward attaining your financial goals.
From small tweaks like saving spare change, to lifestyle changes like biking to work, there are plenty of easy ways to save money on a day-to-day basis. Have some savings tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments!