50 Ways to Cut Costs

Cutting your own spending can seem daunting – but if you think outside the box, you can often find simple solutions to your money problems. Below are 50 tried and true ideas to save money, many of which will work for you. Read on!

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  1. Cut your own hair - Beginning to cut your own hair does not have to be just a fashion statement.  By cutting your own hair or having a friend or spouse/significant other cut your hair, you can save money that you would otherwise spend to have someone cut it.  It is easy to see the savings add up.
  2. Commute by Bike - Riding your bike a short distance to work not only saves you money that you would otherwise spend on gas or public transportation.  It also improves your health, thereby reducing healthcare costs that would later be incurred.
  3. Buy in Bulk -  There are a number of stores, some of which require memberships, that allow you to purchase items in bulk.  Buying more than you need at the current moment allows you to get a lower per-unit price.  This saves you lots of money in the long run.
  4. Change the Thermostat - Simply changing the thermostat 2 degrees (higher for the AC and lower for heat in the winter) allows you to save money on your utility bill.
  5. Eat In - This is one of the biggest ways families / individuals can save money each month.  Preparing your own meals at home instead of the frequent trips to the sit-down or fast-food restaurant can save you hundreds each month.
  6. Brush/Floss Twice a Day - Even the best financial experts fail to include this one.  Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once can help prevent future problems with your teeth.  Dental treatment is not only quite expensive, but often avoidable.  One cavity can cost you hundreds of dollars out of your own pocket.
  7. Go Vegetarian - I know there are more reasons than saving a few dollars to consider being vegetarian, but choosing to not eat meat for short periods or eating meat less often can save lots of money on your grocery bill.
  8. Coupons - There are numerous websites devoted to finding and/or providing up-to-date coupons.  You may be interested in looking into these.  I try to stick to the local sales.  Many people can get carried away with this, alphabetizing coupons or organizing them by date of expiration, etc.  I tend to use coupons in moderation, but more power to you if you can dedicate this much time to saving money.  Every little bit counts.
  9. Renting Movies - Instead of watching a movie in the theater when it first comes out, try forcing yourself to wait until it comes out in stores.  Instead of paying $20 for the movie to own it (and probably only watch it once or twice), rent it for $5 at your local movie rental place.  Better yet, create a Netflix account for $10 per month if you like to watch movies on a regular basis.  Instead of watching one movie in the theater for $30 (for only two people), you can watch 12 (one per week) with netflix for the same price at $10 per month.
  10. Water Bottles - Let the faucet in your kitchen save you tons of money.  Instead of buying bottled water, either drink water straight from the tap or get a filter for $20.  It is definitely worth the savings rather than buying outrageously priced water.
  11. Home Garden - Growing your own vegetable garden can save you lots of money in two ways.  It not only keeps you from buying the necessary vegetables at the supermarket or farmer’s market, but you will be amazed at how it turns into a hobby. Keeping yourself busy with free activities is a great way to save money.  My wife really wanted to start a garden this past spring.  I reluctantly agreed and we started our first garden.  We are currently renting, so we bought some pots (so that we didn’t have to dig up the landlord’s backyard) and started our vegetable garden. I have since taken over the responsibility of watering the plants daily because it’s so much fun to see what fruit is ready to be harvested.
  12. Become a Massage Therapist - Instead of forking over those coveted bills for an hour-long massage have someone close to you massage those tight muscles.
  13. Grow a Beard - Growing a beard can be a great way of saving a few dollars on disposable razors. You can buy an electronic trimmer that maintains your beard. If a beard isn’t your style, you can always settle for a rough shave look and still use the electric trimmer that will last for a long time.
  14. Cut Cable - With the transition to digital television, the antenna serves a greater purpose. The days where you had to wiggle the antenna around to get a clearer picture are long gone. Now they have digital antennas that allow you to pick up the major stations with great clarity. Some say that the new antennas gets better picture quality than cable. Getting rid of cable might be a sacrifice, but the savings can be significant.
  15. Public Library - The public library is a great tool to save you money.  Instead of buying new books, get a library card and borrow them for free.  You would be amazed at how much money you can save.
  16. CFL’s - This isn’t just any acronym. This represents the hundreds of dollars that you can save. Compact Fluorescent Lamps. My wife and I use these bulbs all of our light fixtures and it uses about 1/5 of the energy of incandescent light bulbs. They may be slightly more expensive, but you save more than the difference in price over the lifetime of the bulb.
  17. Cheap Wine - My wife and I have an occassional glass of wine. Some bottles of wine can be quite expensive. For a while, we would try the nicer wine for $15-20 per bottle. We found that we liked “Three-Buck-Chuck” just as much as these more expensive wines. You can’t beat $3 for a bottle of wine… unless you choose not to drink.
  18. Scratch the Newspaper - Let’s face it.  We all know the reason that we see newspaper representatives in the grocery stores handing out free issues of their paper.  With increased awareness to ecological concerns, less people are opting out of getting the newspaper and are receiving all the news via the internet.  This is not only good for the earth, but also the wallet.  The best rule of thumb for saving money is to not pay for a service that you can get for free.
  19. Reusable Grocery Bags - Many stores in their efforts to show customers that they are “green,” have embraced a automatic deduction on your grocery bill if you use reusable bags. The grocery store that I do most of my shopping at, credits us $.05 for each reusable bag that we use. This may sound like very little money, but when you are trying to cut costs, every little bit helps. This is also one area that very few people mention. Even if you save $12 a year and put that into an investment getting 8% each year, over 30 years, you would have almost $1600! Just for using reusable bags. This sounds like a great deal to me.
  20. Brown-Bag It - I know of several people who say that live paycheck to paycheck, but will spend hundreds of dollars each month by going out to eat for lunch. Why spend $8-10 for a lunch when you prepare a well-balanced lunch at home and bring it to work for 1/4 of the cost? This minor change can save you thousands each year. What would you rather do with that money? Travel? Invest for your retirement? The options are endless.
  21. Credit Cards - I have found that using my rewards credit card on most purchases helps save a little extra. The trick to actually making this work is not obsess about the rewards. I usually redeem my rewards once a year and save close to $400 dollars. If you want to read more details, read my article on Using Credit Cards to Your Advantage.
  22. Tupperware - Because I ‘brown-bag-it,’I have a special sandwich container that I bring to work. This saves me wasting plastic baggies every day. This isn’t only good for the environment, but saves the money that you would spend on those pricey bags.
  23. Getting Rid of Paper Products - When I was growing up, my parents got sick of doing all of the dishes that were required to keep up with three boys. As a result, we regularly used paper plates for dinners to cut back on dishes. What my parents failed to realize was both how much this was killing the environment as well as costing them in the long run. Whatever you do, don’t use throw-a-way plates, bowls, forks, etc. for the convenience of saving a few minutes with dishes. It’s not worth it in the long run.
  24. Buy Used - With how fast people go through items, it is so easy to find great deals in the classifieds. Craigslist is a great website for finding not only cheap items, but free as well. Free items can go pretty fast, but it is not too difficult of a task to find inexpensive used items like furniture, appliances, etc.
  25. Dinners from Scratch - There are many benefits from making your meals from scratch.  It not only saves you money by buying the less-expensive raw materials, but also in the health benefits. By putting in a little extra time to make it from scratch, you get rid of the middle man. Why pay someone to prepare part of your meal when you can do it yourself? Also, by preparing things yourself, you eliminate a lot of extra preservatives that are otherwise part of pre-packaged meals.  Who knows how much more money you would spend on health costs?  I don’t think it’s worth the risk.
  26. Discount Stores - Instead of buying clothes at designer clothing stores, consider buying the same products at outlet stores. They often offer significant discounts on all items in the store. Better yet, consider buying barely used clothes at thrift stores. You would not believe how many people never wear clothes for a variety of reasons and leave them in their closet for years until they donate their unused clothing.
  27. Drive Slower - As one who lives in the greater NYC area, I know the faced-paced environment all too well.  It seems like everyone has somewhere they need to be (right now). The faster you drive over your optimal speed (usually somewhere around 60 mph), the less miles per gallon you are receiving with your car.  As a yahoo finance article on slowing down to save money notes, “In a typical family sedan, every 10 miles per hour you drive over 60 is like the price of gasoline going up about 54 cents a gallon.”  Remember this statistic every time you complain about the increase in prices, and slow down.
  28. Take Advantage of the Radio - While you may hate listening to commercials, try using online radio stations like Sky.fm or pandora.com. When you consider how much you are saving by not buying the latest music albums, it is well worth listening to a 15 second commercial. I have used pandora for the past 4-5 years and have very rarely purchased a new music album. I don’t think I will ever go back to buying CD’s.
  29. Buy Used Cars - This is a quite popular frugal tip among personal finance blogs, but it will save you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime. Considering that cars depreciate an average of 15% when they are driven off the dealership, it makes much more sense to find used cars than to buy brand new cars. Is that new car smell really worth thousands of dollars? Because that is essentially what you are paying for when you buy new cars.
  30. Make your own Halloween Costume - It always amazes me to see the seasons change in department stores. Very soon you will see stores make room for the popular Halloween section. Instead of buying a new costume each year, try to reuse the same one from last year. Better yet, make your own Halloween costume. This can mean being creative with the everyday clothes you have in your closet or even go to thrift store and create your own for a couple of bucks.
  31. Don’t Own a Pet - To all of my pet-owning readers, I apologize. I know this will not be a ‘fan favorite’, but unfortunately owning a pet is a huge commitment and expense. The fees of owning a pet include: regular visits, shots, food, toys, etc. I am not suggesting that you just dump off your pet on the street corner if you have one. If you are considering getting a pet, however, make sure to evaluate whether it is financially worth it.
  32. Generic/Store Brands - Don’t get caught up in the fancy packaging. Almost every generic or store brand item is as good as the popular brands and they are a fraction of the price. If you purchase the expensive, popular brand you are telling vendors that quality doesn’t matter; only bright colors and expensive ad campaigns are important to you. Do the world a favor and resist this marketing scheme.
  33. Buy Fruit in Season - This one is pretty basic. If you really want strawberries when they aren’t in season, you are going to have to pay for that convenience. Discipline yourself to sticking with the fruit in season. It may be hard at times to settle for peaches after blueberries go out of season, but remind yourself of the money you are saving.
  34. Re-usable Journal Cover - My wife wanted to get a journal for her work. I offered to buy her a composition notebook for less than a dollar, but she said she wasn’t willing to bring that into meetings. It had to look professional. If we were to buy one of the more expensive moleskin noteooks, it would be $10-15 every time she needed a notebook (every 3-4 months). We decided on a compromise: she would use the composition notebooks and we would buy 1 re-usable cover for $15. This had a large up-front cost, but every time she gets a new composition notebook, I am reminded of how much money we are saving.
  35. Free Shipping - It is becoming more and more popular to purchase things online. Amazon is one of the top online retailers not only because they have great products at reasonable prices, but also because they offer free shipping when you spend $25 or more. This often forces people to spend money that they wouldn’t otherwise spend, so don’t fall for this trap. Wait until you need to buy enough merchandise to qualify for free shipping.
  36. Online Coupons - One of the easiest ways to save money is to search for online coupons before making a purchase online. For example, last winter I was commuting by train in the FREEZING weather. I was in desperate need of a new coat. I knew exactly the one I wanted, but before I went to the check-out, I did a search for online coupons. Not only did I find free shipping, but I got an additional 20% of this coat (that I wasn’t expecting). It was a heavy winter coat, so I ended up saving somewhere around $50.
  37. Livingsocial - Living social is a site that offers local coupons. Occasionally they will feature a great offer. The best part about it is that if you purchase the offer and share the link on Facebook or twitter and 3 other people purchase the same thing, you get yours for free. The most recent offer that I purchased was two tickets to a movie theater for $9. I was able to buy one offer, my wife bought one (off of my link), and then two other friends purchased the same deal through my link. My wife and I ended up with 4 movie tickets for $9.  That’s the cheapest I have ever spent on movie tickets and one of the movies was in 3D (normally $14+ per person).
  38. Rewards Cards/Programs -  Frequent flier miles are all too popular these days, but there are even more everyday-type rewards systems. There are discount cards at your local grocery store as well as other fast food chain stores. The grocery store that I go to offers a holiday promotion. If you spend somewhere over $250 over a four week period, you qualify for a free turkey or ham. For these types of offers, the best thing to do is not change your spending habits, but see if you can qualify by purchasing the same amount as usual. Another great example is a Subway reward card. My wife, for her work, frequently purchases multiple platters at the Subway by her work (and then is reimbursed). She started racking up points like crazy and now has enough points for 5 foot-long subs (free).
  39. Driving the same Car longer - I know all too well the temptation to upgrade your car. But, by driving your car an extra year or two, it can save you thousands of dollars (most times). It is always a juggling act and sometimes repairs can cost more than you would lose in depreciation for the upgrade, but it is worth considering before you upgrade.
  40. Buy Recycled Art - Have you ever walked past one of those art stores that sells a painting for thousands of dollars and wondered who pays those prices? I know that I have. When my wife and I were moving into our new apartment, we found a great painting at a rummage sale. It is now a favorite among our many guests. It was painted overseas in a remote village, but the best part of it is that we got it at an affordable price.
  41. Buy Last-year’s Model - Are you looking to upgrade? If it is an electronic device, odds are that there is a upgraded version every year. It is hard to keep up with the latest model. My wife and I needed to buy a new camera when our old one broke unexpectedly. We looked at all the new ones out there, but decided it was worth it to us to buy the 2nd-oldest model. It came with just a few less features than the latest and best on the market, but it was well over $100 cheaper (33% savings!). We all know the true cost of an iPhone.
  42. Say No to Phone Insurance - Have you ever had phone insurance? At $5-10 per month, it hardly seems worth it. This is one of the many gimmicks that wireless providers make all of their money on. If you are considering insurance for your phone, you may want to consider whether you should purchase that expensive of a phone that requires insurance.
  43. Stay with a Dumb Phone - Similar to the third tip, not having a smart phone can save you hundreds of dollars a year. If there are two or more people in your family, most likely it is costing you the equivalent of a mediocre vacation to have the internet on your phone, at a much slower speed than the computer that is just feet away from you most of the time. Is it really necessary to have internet on your phone?
  44. Don’t Use a Gym Membership - If you are motivated enough to lose weight or get into shape, why not discipline yourself to save a few bucks. Start running outside or get an exercise bike to shed those pounds. Most likely, you will be more motivated to stick with it if you don’t have to travel to work out anyway. Why not save money as well?
  45. Wash Your Own Car - When I first moved to the northeast, I hated how I could not find a “self car wash.” Because I was renting, I didn’t have a hose to wash my own car, like I did when I was growing up. Instead, I found only drive thru car washes which averaged about $15-$20. I couldn’t bring myself to do it more than once a year. Now, I live in a four unit home with access to a hose (Thanks GOD!). It is a good practice to keep your car clean to protect the paint, but don’t obsess about it and absolutely don’t pay those outrageous fees. Washing your car fewer times will not only save you money, but also reduce the use of water and protect the environment.
  46. Don’t Use Dry Cleaning - Okay, I may be a little extreme on this one, but I can’t even fathom how much people pay on dry cleaning. I have never used a dry cleaning service and will try to avoid it at all costs. I understand that some of the nicer clothes require it to preserve the clothes, but I would rather avoid buying the expensive clothes in the first place. While I often don’t admit this to people in public, I will wear clothes multiple times (especially work clothes) without even washing them. I think it is unnecessary to wash items after the first use. Well, some items as least. Under garments are a different story.
  47. Buy Items at the End of the Season - This is such a great tip, but it does take some expert planning. Buying a swimsuit or sweaters at the end of the season that you would need them can save you tons of money. At the end of each season, stores are looking to clear out their inventory and will sell seasonal clothing at discounted prices. The reason it takes planning is because there are not many people who want to buy a sweater in late spring. Or, when was the last time you went shopping for a swimsuit in the fall? My guess is not very many of you, but it is a great way to cut back and still get the items you need for next year. The only trick is to not wait too long. I have tried to buy winter gloves in the spring and failed miserably because they were already out of stock. *sigh*
  48. Sign up for Freecycle.org - Freecycle is one of the best things that exists. I don’t know if there is a network in your neighborhood, but it is worth looking into. It works like a huge network of people donating items directly to other people. You can submit requests for items that you are looking for or even offer up some unused item that you want to get rid of. Every item submitted is reviewed by a moderator and then all of the people in that network get a notification of all the items up for grabs. The only down side is that if you are looking for an item, chances are that someone else is too. So, if you really want something valuable (i.e. bike, furniture, etc.) you either have to be lucky or really dedicated.
  49. Shared Wireless - If you live in a semi-populated area, discuss with your neighbor the idea of splitting the cost the wireless service. The speed of internet these days allows for multiple users to take advantage of the same router at one time without noticing a difference in speed. Why pay twice the cost if you have neighbors that are willing to split the internet with you?
  50. Buy Based on Quality - 10 years ago I received a pair of sunglasses that cost $90. I am still using them today. While I can’t prove it, I highly doubt that a cheap pair of glasses would have lasted that long. The best part is that while I think they are showing wear, they should last another few years.

 

8 Responses to 50 Ways to Cut Costs

  1. CF says:

    Hmm I do a lot of those things but I don’t think I could cut my own hair! Fancy cuts and colors are one of my few splurges and I’m much too vain about my hair to risk messing it up!

  2. moneystepper says:

    Go vegetarian is an interesting one. I am still dubious about the health benefits, but the cost benefit is clearly there. I think I might try this out for a couple of months and see how it goes for me from a health and energy perspective.

    Thanks for the tips.

  3. Micro says:

    Huge fan of cutting your own hair and have been doing it since college. I can understand avoiding it if you have a complex cut that you go for but I’m a simple buzz cut person. A pair of clippers only costs$30-$50 depending on the quality. With a haircut running $15 a pop, only a couple of cuts start to save you money. I like the quick return it brings.

  4. We do just about all of these except for LivingSocial. I’m definitely interested in that! Those prices for movies are great! We don’t usually go to the movies (we use Netflix), but it would be nice to go now and then for cheap.

    Thanks for a great round-up of tips!

  5. Great list! I do a lot of these things already. I don’t think I could cut my own hair or go vegetarian though. Sometimes, I just need a cheeseburger! :)

  6. Untemplater says:

    I do a lot of these! I’ve cut my own hair for gosh more than 10 years. I also use reusable bags (they charge for plastic bags in SF), try to eat vegetarian, don’t have a gym membership (so many free and fun things to do outside!), and keep the heat off unless I really need it.

  7. Good suggestions. I’m so fond of #2, I sold my car 3 years ago and have been a bicycling warrior (even in a snowy climate) ever since.

    As for renting movies, If you are even a little more patient, you can get them for free from many public libraries. I haven’t rented a movie since the VCR era and never regretted it.

  8. D. Henry Lee says:

    Many stores such as Krogers, Walgreens and even Walmart have clearance or discount sections of items that are either damaged or they’re wanting to get rid of. I find many usable things and pay very little. Ask the store where do they have this section. Also, Sam’s Club will discount their meat when it gets close to code date.

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