22 Ways : How To Save Money Without Living Like A Scrooge
Remember that tight fisted grouchy old man in “The Christmas Carol”? Yes, the one who would loom around his house in cold and darkness to save on coal and kerosene? And who would cook
gruel for himself instead of a proper full course meal?
A misconception about thriftiness is that while saving money, you’ve to deprive yourself of certain luxuries in life. Like in the case of Ebenezer Scrooge. He could well afford to heat and lit up his house or hire someone to wait on him but he chose not to.
But that’s nothing further from the truth. I don’t deny you’ll need to make some lifestyle adjustments and maybe some sacrifices at times. But with a little bit of careful planning, you can still save a bundle without suffering any significant drop in the quality of your life. Yes, it’s possible.
In a follow up to How to Stick to Your Monthly Personal Budget, let me show you 22 ways you can do just that. If you keep following these long enough, they’ll eventually form part of your lifestyle habits, serving you well for a long time.
(1) Food, Shopping & Entertainment
Brown Bag Your Lunch
To work or school. Though I’ve never done this myself, I must say this can be a very nutritious way to save! Since, you get to plan the calories or vitamins you want in your meal. Think of the time you trim down from the queues in crowded canteens, food courts or restaurants too. How’s that for an additional incentive?
Design Your Menus
… a week in advance so that you can consolidate the purchase for common ingredients. In the case of my family, if we’re having fried chicken fillet on Monday, my mum would buy a whole chicken at a better price and use the rest for brewing chicken soup on Saturday. You can do the same in your context. Such as buying bulk ground beef to prepare spaghetti one day and tacos on another. This helps stretch meals and prevents last minute impulse buying.
If you really need to eat out, try places that can help you save at the same time! For example, my sister usually goes to this food court where she can get a 10% rebate for purchases picked up with her membership cash card. Check if you’ve similar offerings in the eateries you frequent. Banks often tie up with restaurateurs to offer 1 for 1 credit card promotions so if you want to go for a sumptuous meal, consider those too!
I admit I did chuckle a bit when my friend used her coupons to pay for our Japanese dinner. Shaving 5% off a meal tab isn’t really a big deal but using it every month can save hundreds of dollars a year! Especially if you use them on essential items such as groceries, consumable products etc. Go through your local newspapers, cut out those coupons and put them in your bag. Or buy hundreds of coupons from eBay for a few dollars and fish them out when needed. Even if you don’t use all of them, you can still save at least 5 – 15% off your total bill!
The only things I’ve been buying online are personal development tapes and books. But I know some friends who’re buying clothes, shoes and even groceries from online portals. Due to its low cost maintenance, merchants are able to transfer the savings to consumers, give huge discounts and at times, free shipping.
For example, one can get almost 70% off store prices buying books from Amazon. Overstock is another online business that sells closeout items for real bargains. Half is great for buying or selling stuff on consignment. And not to forget eBay. Yes, you can get almost anything you need from that online auction place. Sometimes for pennies too!
Dollar Stores & Megamarts
One of my sisters was so thrilled to find a dollar store near her place that she told everyone about it. For a shampoo she frequently use, she got it there for 50% less. If you’re willing to spend some effort scouring your neighbourhood, dollar stores can be good places to get some real bargains. The same applies to Megamarts. Due to their economies of scale, Megamarts offer groceries, retail consumables and frozen food at slightly more competitive prices than what you can get at the grocery store nearby.
Smart Fashion, Off Season Shopping & Sales
If you’ve been spending a lot on clothes, try smart fashion. Buy separate coordinates, mix & match so that you get 6 outfits out of the 4 static pieces. Get a couple of plain basics and with creative use of trendy accessories and hairstyle changes, you can get a completely different look! And if you still need to buy, consider stocking up during the off season sales. For example, you can pre stock down jackets, scarves etc during the post Winter Sale. We don’t have such winter sales here. But I’ve just got 3 pairs of boxers for 20% less at a post Christmas sale!
Get Free Entertainment
Some great entertainment don’t cost much. For example, ladies can get free drinks and entrance to pubs and clubs during designated weekday nights. Some cities offers free special weekend concerts. Colleges and public stadiums may offer free group exercise workouts. There are story telling sessions for kids in the community libraries too. Some countries’ museums even have free concessionary access for citizens during a particular day of the month. Since these differ across countries and cities, it’s vital for you to check out your local community newspaper for the various options.
Rent DVDs Instead Of Going To The Cinemas
I’m not a big movie fan but I know many friends who are. Instead of rushing to the cinema the moment it’s released, rent the DVD for the same movie for about 2 to 3 months later. Prepare your own popcorn, soda and you can still enjoy a good movie in the comfort of your own home.
Go for Matinee Shows
If you really want to watch a movie in a cinema, go for the matinee or weekday shows. The prices are much cheaper and you can further depress your total cost by sneaking in your own snacks. Popcorns and soda are expensive there! The same applies to musicals and theatre shows. When the “Phantom of the Opera” musical came to my country, I saved $20 per ticket for the same seats during the matinee shows. And yes, the quality was just as good.
Look around your own backyard before you fork out thousands to travel overseas. Sometimes, going to another state can offer the same if not better experience. Regardless of your decision, always travel during the off peak seasons to take advantage of the lower airfare, car rental and hotel rates. It also make sense to check with your travel agent for any economical packages and possible concessions. For example, some places of attractions offer discounts for domestic travelers.
Another bonus tip : scour online classifieds like Craigslist or eBay for deals to buy unused frequent flyer mileages. Tickets redeemed from such are often less restrictive. Who knows? You may well find yourself flying with a premier airline you probably wouldn’t get to travel at the same price!
Some online websites provide freebies in return for your completion of a survey and some related offers. Such freebies can include trial membership subscriptions, sample travel sized products, coupons or even dollar value gift cards. For example, if you’re based in the US, you can get the following free stuff by participating in the respective programs :
(2) Utilities, Telecommunications & Transportation
Monitor how utilities are being used at home will save a great deal. In my family for example, my mum will usually switch off the lights in the dining area as we gather in the living room after our meals. Where possible, try to use natural light or air. You can do this by leaving a parent to control the room temperature while making use of air from open windows or doors to cool or warm the house.
This has to be complimented by proper insulation and precautions to be optimal. Such precautions include ensuring no drafts coming from other windows, fireplace etc. At the same time, invest in an energy efficient washing machine, hot water heater – if you can afford it – and you’ll be surprised how much the savings will eventually pay for the cost itself.
Telephone / Mobile Phone
Stick to having just 1 phone line in the family unless it’s absolutely necessary to have multiple. Depending on your usage patterns, you may even want to consider dropping the home telephone and just stick to your mobile for communication purposes. And if you need to make overseas calls, try to use Skype‘s free services (computer to computer) or cheap credits (computer to phone). I tried skyping my mum from Pakistan once and I must say the reception was pretty clear!
Some Internet Service Providers offers free internet access so remember to sign up for those. Otherwise, go for the plan that offers payment by usage if you use internet only for checking emails. As it may be more cost effective than going for the unlimited plan. Should you’ve multiple computers and use high speed data at home, setup it up as a home network so that you’ll only be charged once for the internet access and probably a supplementary charge for each computer. By doing this alone, my family saves $50 a month!
The simplest way to save gas? Make sure your car’s properly maintained and its tires inflated to the right pressure. According to studies, a car that’s poorly tuned use up 10 to 20% more gas. At the same time, multi-task your errands. Prepare your to-do list in advance and plan your route so that you’ll reach each destination without unnecessary detours. Use affiliated credit cards to pay for the gasoline too as it can get you 3 – 10% rebates, depending on the credit card company.
A bonus tip – especially if you staying in temperate countries – buy your gas in the morning or evening as it’s denser in colder temperatures. That means, you’ll get better gas price economy. And if you’ve got neighbours who work in the same area as you do, consider carpooling. This works very well for smaller cities like mine.
(3) Financial Interests, Charges & Products
Pay Your Bills Promptly
There was once I missed out on my Credit card payment and I was charged a hefty late payment charge. Luckily my credit standing was good and the bank waived it after I called them. To avoid unnecessary mishaps like that, send in the cheque 5 to 10 days earlier than the deadline. And in the event you do get penalized, call in and ask for a waiver. You’ll never know unless you try, right?
Save on Interest Charges on Your Credit Card & Mortgages
Avoid using your Credit card unless it’s absolutely necessary. Interest rates are ridiculously high and by paying the minimum sum off a $1000 balance, it’ll take you years before the debt is cleared since the money goes toward the interest payments. Not the principal sum. You can try calling your bank to ask for a better interest rate if you’ve got good credit standing. Or simply roll over the residual balance to another card that offers a lower rate.
Unless you can get a higher rate of return on other investments than your credit card interest rate, always channel any excess funds (such as your annual bonus payouts) towards your credit card debt.
The same applies to your mortgage. By making a lump sum payment or an extra installment with your excess funds, you pay off more of the principal. This will gradually reduce the tenure of your loan and allow you to own your property faster.
Consider your needs and research the various options, discounts you’re entitled to before making a decision, bearing in mind that it’s a long term commitment and can adversely affect your cash flow. One rule of thumb : no matter how reliable your agent can be, always do your own homework before signing on the dotted line. And read the fine print. I’m speaking from personal experience. 3 years ago, I swapped an investment linked policy for term insurance and suffered a major penalty. Trust me, it does hurt.
Open the account that’s suitable for your needs so that you don’t incur unnecessary expenses. For example in my country, checking accounts have a monthly administrative charge. I know in some cities, there are numerous options for people who write a good number of cheques versus those who don’t, so find out your alternatives from your banker before you commit.
Off the Counter Medication & Home Remedies
Keep a first aid kit at home where off the counter drugs are kept. In the event you’re down with a slight fever or headache, popping a pill first may well save an expensive trip to the doctor. There are also some well known home remedies good for common ailments such as sore throats. Do check out with your family on the ones they’ve been using and share it around. If they don’t have anything to contribute, maybe getting a resource like this may help.
Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
Both my niece and nephew’s clothes, toys and even prams were hand-me-downs from their cousins. But you know what? Those stuff looked so spanking new that I wouldn’t have known they were second hand! Instead of throwing away some of the older things you’ve been using, try recycling by either giving it away or sell it to Cash Converters or eBay for some extra cash. One man’s junk is another’s treasure. You may be helping another person to save just by doing this deed alone!
In addition, unless you’re going for the occasional picnic or cook out, avoid using disposable utensils such as those plastic forks and spoons. Yes, even for family get-togethers or birthday parties. Those small costs add up and besides, they are not really that environmental friendly, are they?
Just a note : At all times, the above cost cutting tips should be followed with a structured savings plan. Such as enrolling in a 401(K) if you’re based in the US or having a Pay Yourself First fund strategy.
** Photo By Delgoff