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