All about the challenges of Midlife Finance

50 Little Ways to Save A Buck or Two Next Year

What…you think you can’t save?

Well, you can, even if it’s only in small ways. (Some of these tips actually save a lot!)  Try a few, stash away the cash, and you’re on your way to a fatter nest egg.

Utilities:

1. Turn the thermostat down, and put on a sweater, instead. Even a few degrees makes a difference in your monthly utilities bill.

2.  Use a space heater to warm areas you’re working in.

3.  Use your oven for baking more in chilly weather.

4.  Taking a bath? Don’t drain the hot water until it cools. (You’ll be amazed at how much warmer your bathroom will be.)

5.  Wear socks or slippers, instead of shoes or boots in the house. (Some European homes actually furnish a variety of slippers for guests at the front door. I saw this several times in Austria and Germany.) Saves on floor wear, keeps your floors cleaner, and lets expensive shoes ‘rest’ in between wearings.

6.  Put a folded rug at your front door, to keep drafts out.

7. One word: weatherstripping.  (Caulking around your windows also helps.)

8.  Leaving a room? Turn the lights out.

9.  Look into energy-efficient bulbs.

10. When not in use, unplug or turn off energy drainers like computers. (Or at least set your laptop to “hibernate.”)

50 ways to save money

Going Out to Eat:

11. Take advantage of the $5 bonus: several restaurant chains, including Red Robin, Qdoba and Applebee’s, are offering a $5 gift card right now if you purchase a $25 gift card. (Or a $10 bonus with a $50 purchase.) Warning: these usually go away after New Year.

12. Collect coupons. Keep them in a folder in your car, and they’re ready to use at a moment’s notice.

13. Ask about the daily special.

14. Only drink water…or coffee/tea, if you must. (Refills are generally free.)

15. Take home half your entree, for a second meal later.

16. If you’ve got just a few bits and pieces, they can often be chopped up and added to omelets, soups and stir-fries. Meat, especially steak, is just too expensive to waste nowadays.

17. Don’t forget about the garnish, or side items. Kale makes a delicious “free” soup, when added with potatoes, sausage, onion and chicken broth. Rolls can be sliced thin and brushed with butter, then baked until crunchy.

18. Eat dessert at home. Even buying it at the grocery store is less expensive than a restaurant, unless you can:

19. Take advantage of the multi-course specials, if they’re offering them.

20. Going to a buffet? Stay away from cheaper carb dishes, like potatoes and rice. Stick to proteins, salads and fruits…especially in wintertime, when the latter are often more expensive.

Groceries:

21. Check the sale circular before you go in — and for best buys, combine it with:

22. Coupons — are you saving these from the newspaper? (Or check somewhere like Coupons.com.) Several grocery chains offer double coupons, saving you even more.

23. Look in the markdown bins — meat, canned goods and even flowers can still be in excellent shape, and a lot less.

24. Are your favorites on sale? Buy extra, and freeze it. (Helps during lean financial periods, too — kind of an extra savings account.)

25. Keep your beef intake down — prices for even lean hamburger are sky-high right now. Substitute ground turkey, chicken or pork, instead.

26. Company coming? Serve expensive proteins as a sauce over rice or potatoes. (Or serve soup first, before the beef roast.)

27. Watch items as they’re rung up — sometimes they’re priced wrong. (And the difference is rarely in your favor!) Some stores, like King Soopers, will give you the item free if they charge the wrong price.

28. Look for a dent-and-scratch store, or a chain, like Grocery Outlet, that offers loss leaders.

29. Use reward points or gift cards to buy luxury items. (Don’t forget about places like Amazon; their warehouse specials on food items can be outstanding.)

30. Buy whole milk, then add up to four cups of water for your own 2% or skim…better for you, and more milk in the long run.

50 ways to save money

The Other Necessities:

31. Buy in bulk. A six-pair socks package is cheaper per pair. Underwear, too. Buy the same color socks, and you’ll never have to worry about unmatched pairs.

32. Wait for seasonal sales. Bed linens and towels, for example, are often on sale in the fall, when college students head back to school, as well as January.

33. Look for a thrift shop in an upscale neighborhood. Donors often contribute much higher-end items to these stores. (Most of my cashmere sweaters were gathered this way.) Garage sales are more productive in these areas, too.

34. Buy winter items just before summer — and summer things when cooler weather’s coming. They’ll be marked down more.

35. Look for the best, especially in items that get a lot of wear, like shoes. Buy them on sale, if possible…but good quality will wear longer, and look better while it’s doing it.

36. Don’t be a snob. Check labels and quality, all right — but don’t turn down a bargain just because it’s at a dollar store. Speaking of:

37. Look for upscale brands of shampoo, lotion and cleaners at the dollar store first. They’re often on the shelves, mixed in with the dross.

38. Compare by the ounce, or square foot. Paper goods, like toilet paper and paper towels, are especially sneaky at this. They’ll list rolls — but conveniently forget to mention that the package contains 100 or so fewer square feet. Check.

39. Keep a list. Don’t make a trip to the store until you actually need to buy something. Keeps your impulse purchases down…and saves on gas, as well.

40. Buy presents all year round. You can take advantage of sales and clearance items — and there won’t be a shock at year’s end, under the Christmas tree. (Especially if you bought the paper and ribbon at a year-end clearance!)

50 ways to save money

Travel: 

41. Kayak.com — or another comparison site that lets you compare airline, hotel and rental car prices. Just bear in mind:

42. Some of the really discounted airlines, like Spirit, aren’t generally listed on these sites. Check them, as well.

43. Start a membership in Travelzoo; it’s freeEvery Wednesday, a Top 20 list lands in your e-mail box. Bargains galore on this site.

44. Plan ahead. That way, if a big sale comes up for tickets to Miami or elsewhere — you can move quickly to take advantage of it. (These big sales are often for only 24-72 hours. Not much time.)

45. Megabus — a fairly new chain whose vehicles are comfortable, quiet — and incredibly cheap.

46. Flying into more popular areas, then taking a connecting flight (or a bus or train, instead) may be far cheaper than flying direct. Sometimes the connection is affected by an airline special — in recent months, Iceland was cheaper to fly to, then on to Europe, rather than going directly to London or Paris. (Go figure.) You won’t know until you check.

47. Go to two meals a day. Sleep later, and make your noon meal a brunch. Or eat a hearty breakfast and lunch, and snack for the third meal. Take advantage of the local grocery store or farmer’s market for some of your meals, and save even more.

48. Look for coupons to popular attractions; they’ll often be at hotels and the airport.

49. Take advantage of every reward card you can. They don’t seem like much — but these points will often add up to an extra flight or hotel night.

50. Arrange your own day trips. The Internet is a marvel, and lets you make reservations everywhere from Costa Rica to Hawaii. (Use a credit card that protects your purchase, and lets you contest it if anything goes wrong.)

50 ways to save money

Little savings here and there add up. Big-time. What better way to start the new year?

30 Responses to 50 Little Ways to Save A Buck or Two Next Year

    • Don’t give up yet, Glen! Keep that receipt, and the next time you’re in the store, stop by Customer Service. I’ll bet you, dimes to dollars, that you can still get that $3.50 back.
      I’ve done it — several times.

      Thanks for writing.

      • Reconstituted cows….?? 🙂

        I bumbled onto it for a simple reason — we were running out of milk, and I needed a certain amount for a recipe. I added a little water, and it still worked just fine. That got me to thinking — 2% and skim milk had the same basic ingredients as whole milk – just a lot less per glass. And what could you add that would do the same thing? Water!

        All I know is — it works. Our milk bill went down by at least a third after I started doing this.

        Thanks so much for writing.

    • I lived in Austria for a summer back in college, and have a vivid memory of going to friends’ house for dinner. Right at the threshold was a huge basket full of felt slippers in various sizes. The friends never said, “Put ’em on, please,” but the pile of shoes already there, and the hint, were too broad to ignore. And their hardwood floors were beautiful!

      Thanks so much, everyone, for writing. Glad these tips were of help!

  1. You have a lot of great tips and we do a lot of them already. The travel tip to use alternate airports is a good one. Flying into Little Rock is about $400 less than flying direct to Memphis from the West coast.

      • This works for us in Colorado — we live in Castle Rock, which is almost exactly halfway between both Denver and Colorado Springs. We’ll drive to whichever airport is cheapest — usually, it’s Denver, but not always…

        Thanks for mentioning this!

  2. My dad grew up in a remote part of South Dakota, with rare access to any kind of store. He grew up literally being able to fix machinery with wire, bits of wood and whatever else he could find laying around.
    His example reminds me that you can ALWAYS figure out a way, even if no one else is doing it. And in the long run, that attitude pays off.
    Thanks so much, all of you, for writing.

  3. Great tips! I was just in the dollar store and was blown away with the name brands they have in not only shampoos but also toothpaste, and other household items. The size of the containers seem a little smaller but for the price it is hard to beat.

  4. All great tips! I’m pretty good about energy efficiency though we have to keep the house a little warmer than we normally would this winter with a little baby so I suspect to see a slight increase in our electric bill.

    • We did the same last year. 🙂
      This year the boy is much more active and he doesn’t need the place to be that warm. Our temp is around 65 degree and he’s OK. He’s always running around anyway.

  5. Great tips! We never wore shoes inside when I was growing up and neither did my husband’s family, so it is just natural for us. Now, I often wonder how messy other homes must get when you track in all the dirt and wet when you wear your shoes inside.

  6. […] out some ways to save that extra cash. (Some of the earlier posts on this site can help, like 50 tips that save a buck or two…but add up to a lot more than that.) Don’t let the big amount scare you — it’s irrelevant. All you need is a 20-spot […]

  7. When something breaks, look it up in youtube or the internet to see if you can fix it yourself. Once I called the plumber and he charged me over $200 to unplug the toilet. I could have bought the same tool he used for $50 and done it myself.

  8. The Brick and I have been learning to do this, Boris — and most of the time, we can fix the problem ourselves, with a run to Home Depot or Lowe’s.

    The hard part for me is doing without until The Brick has time to fix the item in question. Usually that means waiting until the weekend, when he’s not at the office. We’ve gone without using the bathroom sink for more than a week because of this…it’s no fun, trying to brush your teeth in the kitchen sink, instead. But it worked out.

    Thanks so much, all of you, for posting.

  9. […] needs, give yourself extra peace of mind by beefing up cash reserves. Use one or more of these 50 tips to save a few (or more) dollars each month. (More ideas are here, too – don’t skip the comments.) They’ll come in handy for […]

  10. […] football on a laptop screen, not the television. (No cable for more than a year — one of the small ways we cut back to save for more important things.) And our current set not only isn’t HD, but it won’t connect to the […]

Leave a reply