When you’re living on a budget, the little things count. Here are some smart, crazy, frugal or quirky ways to save money. Hopefully some or all will inspire you. Enjoy!
1. Hanging My Clothes to Dry
I do almost 1 load of laundry every day because I have a child. He is dirty.
The alternative: Drying clothes in the dryer, $0.45 per load. My cost: $0. Savings: $0.45/day, ~$150/year
Amber blogs about paying off debt at Red Two Green.
2. Washing Clothes Only When They Need It
I’m a huge fan of the ‘smell test’. Or, since I have small kids, the ‘is-there-unknown-substances-stuck-on’ test. My shirts get washed after each wear, but my jeans can easily go several days. Not only do more frequent loads of laundry cost more, but they also wear clothes out faster, meaning I need to go clothes shopping more often.
The alternative: more laundry, more frequent clothes shopping. Savings: I-have-no-clue.
3. Making Coffee at Home
Occasionally I’ll splurge on a really good cup of coffee, but most of the time brewing Maxwell House at home is good enough for me.
The alternative: Starbucks tall brewed coffee, $1.85. My cost: $.10. Savings: $1.75 per morning, $638.75/year
4. Roast Your Own Coffee Beans
Roasting your own green coffee beans is a great way to save on store-bought coffee prices. It is easy, can be done with a minimal up front cost (less than $30), and costs half (or even less) of what buying roasted gourmet specialty coffee does at your local store.
The alternative: $90 for 10 lb of premium coffee (for 365 cups of coffee). My cost: $50 for 10 lb of green coffee. Savings: $40/year
Peter Anderson is the founder of BibleMoneyMatters.com
5. Making Breakfast at Home
Every morning, I take a little time to make a fried egg or two and a couple of slices of toast. Sure, not the full breakfast spread some are used to, but enough to get me going for the day. Skipping breakfast altogether would be even worse, since that would leave me vulnerable to endless snacking.
The alternative: Egg McMuffin, $2.79. My cost: $0.30. Savings: $2.49/weekday morning, $647.40/year
6. Drinking Water When Dining Out
I never order a beverage, alcoholic or otherwise, when dining out. I order ice water with lemon. Saves me calories as well as money. I’m a moderate alcohol drinker, so if I decide I want to have a “drink”, I would do so at home and save 75% of the cost.
The alternative: draft beer, about $4.00. My cost: $0.00. Savings: $4.00 per meal, dining out once per week, $208.00/year
Gary Weiner blogs about saving money and personal finance at supersavingtips.com.
7. Take Lunch to Work
I rarely eat out, especially during my work week. Instead, I take lunch to work. When I make dinner the night before, I make extra which enables me to have leftovers for lunch the next day.
The alternative: Eat out for lunch at work, $7.50 per day. My cost: $2.00. Savings: $5.50 per day (5 days per work week), $1,430/year
Jacob Merkley blogs about Personal Finance & Other Life Skills at PowerOverLife
8. Cooking Supper at Home (Mostly From Scratch)
Other than the occasional restaurant- less than once a month, all our suppers are at home. It takes a little more effort, but for us it’s worth the cost savings and knowing what is in your food.
The alternative: Pizza delivery or takeout, $7. My cost: $2.50. Savings: $4.50/day, $1,642/year
9. Buying Store Brand Products
I make a point of at least trying the store brand version of anything I buy. I’ve found a few duds, but for the most part, I stick with the store brand product.
The savings here really varies, but let’s assume that store brand saves me a measly 2% on my grocery bill. My portion of the grocery bill: $30/week. Savings: $0.60/week, $31.2/year
10. Taking Advantage of Frozen Vegetables
They’re just as healthy as fresh, they’re already chopped and prepped, and you don’t have to worry about them wilting and going bad in the fridge. They’re always on hand so you can add vegetables to any meal. (favorites: spinach, broccoli florets, corn)
Savings depends on how much fresh produce you typically end up throwing away!
Beth is on a mission to help people save money AND eat well at Budget Bytes.
11. Checking Sale Flyers Before Grocery Shopping
There are apps now, like Flipp, that aggregates the fliers in your area so you can browse them quickly and easily in one place. Or, go to your store’s website to check the latest deals.
For a great collection of Beth’s recipes, check out her cookbook!
12. Buying Boxed Wine
Buying wine by the box used to be little more than a sad joke but the quality of these wines have improved tremendously over the years; you can buy the equivalent of 4 bottles of great tasting wine for about 17 bucks.
The alternative: $15 for a bottle of decent wine x 4= $60 for the equivalent of a box. My cost: $17 per box, Savings: assuming a box a month- $43 per box, $516/year
Jake blogs about finding value in life at Valuist
13. Skipping on Soda
Don’t really care for it. Figure it’s bad for me.
The alternative: a pop a day, $0.30. Savings $109.50
14. Drinking Beer in Extreme Moderation
I enjoy the occasional craft beer, and by occasional I mean about 2-5 per month. I also don’t buy drinks when I’m out to eat.
The alternative: a $1 beer a day, $30/month. My cost: $4/month. Savings: $24/month, $288/year
15. Charging My Phone/Tablet at Work.
With the knowledge of my bosses, of course, I always charge my Surface Pro tablet in the office. (I use it for work, so it makes sense!) I hardly ever charge it at home unless I’m blogging on the weekend!
The alternative: Charging at home, every night, $0.0268 per charge (assuming $.14 per kWh, 47.8W charger, 4 hour charge). My cost: $0.00. Savings, at 5 days a week, 49 weeks of the year, A whopping $6.57/year! In ‘Total Vigilante‘ mode, every $7 counts!
The Vigilante blogs about financial independence, unapologetic selfishness, and subversion of authority at I, Vigilante
16. Keeping our House Warmer in the Summer and Cooler in the Winter
I try and keep the heater and the air conditioner off as long as possible, but eventually I cave. In the summer, our thermostat gets set at 78, and in the winter it stays at 64 daytime, 60 nightime. I know there are some of you out there that go more extreme than this!
The alternative: 72 year round. Savings: guesswork here, but a rule of thumb is that you save 3% of your heating or cooling bill per degree moved. Since I’m heating 8-12 degrees below 72, that means my $200/winter heating bill is 30% lower than it could have been. That’s a savings of $85/year just on heating. The guesswork gets even more guess-ier when it comes to the air conditioning since the air conditioning is part of my overall electric bill. I won’t even go there…
17. Lowering our Electric Bill by Killing Vampire Appliances
Everything in our home, except the refrigerator, is plugged into a power strip. TV, DVD player, radios, cell chargers, computers, toaster, kettle, anything that goes into a socket is always turned off when not in use via the power strip. “Vampire” appliances use electricity even when they are “off” by going into standby mode.
Savings: While difficult to quantify exactly, we noticed our average power bill reduced by about 10%.
Keith Park, dividend blogger at http://DivHut.com
18. Using LED Light Bulbs
As the incandescent light bulbs in our house burn out one by one, I’m replacing them with 60-watt equivalent LED bulbs. Same brightness, lower electric usage, longer life. Clear win.
The alternative: Incandescent bulbs, $0.36/month per bulb assuming average of 2 hours of use per day. Cost: Since the higher cost of the LED bulb is more than covered by the longer life, assume no cost. Savings: 20 bulbs at $0.36/month each, $86.4/year
19. Skipping on Home Phone
Since we both carry cell phones, there’s no reason to spend on a home phone too.
The alternative: $20/month home phone bill. Savings: $240/year
20. Sharing Garbage Pickup With the Neighbors
Neither our neighbors or we produce much trash, so we’ve cancelled one of our garbage pickups and now split the bill.
The alternative: $15/month bill. Our cost. $7.50/month. Savings: $90/year
21. Cut the Cord
We use a combination of Netflix, a TV Antenna (yes, I know it’s 2016, but they still work!), and the library for just about all of our TV/movie needs. My wife bought me an Apple TV that has a ton of apps with free content, even the networks have their shows on about a week after they air. Other than that upfront cost, all we pay is our monthly Netflix bill, and we don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything except a sports event every now and then.
The alternative: Cable/Satellite, $50+/month. Our cost: $10/month. Savings: $40/month, $480/year
Kyle blogs about his payoff journey at Steward and Slave
22. Using a Low Cost Cell Carrier
Our cell service is with Total Wireless, a carrier that ‘rents’ coverage from Verizon. We get the same service for a much lower price.
The alternative: $110/month plan from Verizon. Our Cost: $60/month. Savings $50/month, $600/year, or $300/year per person
23. Cut Your Own Hair
Cutting your own hair can easily save your family hundreds per year! Invest in a good pair of shears and some clippers and learn to cut your own hair at home.
The alternative: The average salon cut is $43 for women and $28 for men. A cut every six weeks for a couple adds up to $614/year – not including a tip! A good pair of shears and clippers: $25. Savings: $589/year
Sarah Hendrix blogs about budgeting and frugal living at MommysBudget.com
24. Dye Your Own Hair
Instead of going to the salon, I dye my hair at home. It’s super easy—you spread the dye all over the roots, relax for 30 minutes, jump in the shower and you’re all done!
The alternative: salon hair coloring, $83/month. My cost: $6/month. Savings: $77/month, $924/year
Taylor Milam writes about saving money at The Freedom From Money
25. Become a Secret Shopper to Get Free Oil Changes and Car washes
We like to get our car washed about once a month and we change the oil about once a year. A few months ago we signed up to become secret shoppers and have gotten both of those services free ever since (sometimes with an extra $5 reimbursement)! Bestmark has worked best for us.
The alternative: an $8 car wash each month and a $30 oil change each year, $126/year. My cost: -$5. Savings: $131/year
Ellie, a 20-something with $300k debt, writes about aiming for financial independence at The Chedda
26. Doing Our Own Oil Changes
Rather than taking our car to the shop, we just do our own oil changes. Our initial cost was $121.50 for jack stands, ramp, shop towels (for cleaning parts), oil filter wrench, funnel (get the one with the cage on top to catch things- you will drop them in oil), gloves (box of 50). Oil is toxic. Use gloves. Also, the ramps were a necessary buy. The first time we only used the jack stands, and I was convinced the car was going to fall down and smush me. We still use both the ramps AND the jack stands because I don’t really trust either to keep the car lifted! Anyway, the initial cost is significant, but pays for itself within a few oil changes.
The alternative: Taking our car to the shop, $70 per oil change (synthetic). Our cost: Oil and filter, $30 per oil change. Savings: $40 per oil change, 3 times a year, 2 cars, $240/year
There’s a big HOWEVER to add. Because we (and really, I mean me) know absolutely nothing about cars, we went through three oil changes for each cars without having them looked over by someone who knows what they were doing. Then my car started making strange squeaky noises and before we knew it we had a $1,200 bill for brakes, plus the electrical was weird, and a few other things needed to be looked at/replaced, just because we hadn’t been servicing the cars properly.
So, if you are going to do oil changes at home, the big caveat is that you still need to take your cars in to be looked over for other mechanical/electrical issues so that the problems don’t build up. It’s probably easiest to do it on a schedule (our plan is to do a check-up once a year, so that we’re paying $200 a year to maintain the cars, rather than $1,200 to fix things), but unless you actually know your way around an engine, get a professional to analyze problem areas.
Laying Down The Law Debt blogs about paying off law school debt.
27. Batching Errands
Since I work from home, I try to wait and do all of my errands at once. This saves me gas since I don’t have to go out and drive around as often, or waste gas back-tracking to get all of my errands done. It also saves me time and makes me more efficient. Time is money!
The alternative: leaving the house to run one errand at a time, lots more gas. Savings: Not sure, but I know it adds up. 🙂
Kayla Sloan blogs about living and spending mindfully at Shoeaholic No More
28. Driving a Small Car
This is not a new car vs used car issue to me- we bought one of our vehicles new and the other very used. Rather this is not buying a bigger, more luxurious car than I need. I wouldn’t get much more enjoyment out of driving a Lamborghini than my Hyundai Accent. And I don’t need both my vehicles to be the size of a Yukon. What we’ve settled for is a Hyundai Accent as a commuter car and a Dodge Caravan as a kid hauler. The comparisons could be endless here, so to keep it realistic, I’ll just compare our 2016 Hyundai Accent to the larger 2016 Hyundai Sonata.
The alternative to my 2016 Hundai Accent: 2016 Hyundai Sonata, $28,797 5 year True Cost to Own. My cost: $24,082 5 year True Cost to Own. Savings: $4,715/5-year, $943/year
For fun, check out the TCO on the Hyundai Equus- my savings would work out to $8,637/year.
29. Biking to the Grocery Store
There is a WalMart less than a mile from my front door. Recently, I became disgusted with the idea of cranking up my 15-seater passenger van (I have a lot of kids) just to make this short trip a couple of times a week, so I resolved that “I don’t take the car to WalMart“, and I’ve stuck to that resolve since.
The alternative: Driving to the store 2-3 times a week. My cost: $.0. Savings: gas is at $2 a gallon and my van gets 12 MPG, it’s negligible since the store is so close. $40/year
But for me, the money savings is not entirely the point. The point is to stop automatically doing the easy, convenient thing. As a frugal person who is trying to increase her personal badassity level, I want to make convenience my enemy. I want to look for ways in my life that I’m attempting to solve a problem by throwing money at it instead of applying muscle.
Bonus: my teen son bikes with me, so it becomes a relationship-building exercise. It’s also good for our physical and emotional health. Because we carry the groceries in our backpacks, we’re weight training. We’re enjoying the beautiful weather and feeling more in tune with the natural world. We’re subtly encouraging others in the community to bike short distances instead of always taking the gas guzzler.
Carrie writes about raising 7 kids and homeschooling frugally, developing good habits and being a minimalist, wanna-be French girl at CarrieWillard.com
I try to walk as long as the distance is not too far. This little bit of exercise is not much, but it really helps when you spend most of the day sitting down. For me personally, after taking the train to work, I will walk the last bit myself and save on the bus ride.
The alternative: riding the bus, $1.60/day, 5 days a week. My cost: $0. Savings: $416/year
Contributed by The Tireless Worker
31. Drive Your Car For <$1k Depreciation Per Year
A personal challenge for me has been to keep my car costs below $1k per year, focusing on depreciation (the largest expense!). For example, I bought a Miata for $18k, drove it for 8 years, and sold it for $11k. Mission Accomplished ($7k depreciation/8 years = $875 per year). It sounds easy, but it’s NOT, and it helps you keep a focus on buying older cars and driving them for a long time.
The alternative: owning a new Miata for 5 years, $2937/yr depreciation. My cost: $875/yr depreciation. Savings: $2,062/year
Fritz writes @ The Retirement Manifesto, with the primary goal of “Helping People Achieve A Great Retirement”. God willing, he’ll be retiring at age 55 in 2018, and writes about his personal experience as he prepares for the transition.
32. Taking the Shoe Leather Express (Not Owning a Car At All)
I walk to work every day–rain, shine, or snow/wind/freezing temperatures! I also frequently walk to the bank or the store (and back). I’m a graduate student, but I live off-campus, and it’s about a 15-minute walk to my office. I could buy a car, or I could pay more for a closer apartment…but those wouldn’t be very Froogal things to do!
All this walking has vastly improved my cardiovascular endurance, not to mention my confidence in my willpower and Mustachianism (though Mr. Money Mustache would surely recommend biking, which is more efficient). And, of course, it’s saved me buckets of money!
The alternative: buying and driving a car. Savings: several thousand/year
Froogal Stoodent blogs about saving money, investing, personal finance, and occasionally about deals on consumer electronics at http://froogalstoodent.blogspot.com
33. DIY Home and Car Repairs
Do you own minor home and car repairs by watching Youtube. You can usually get the part for pretty cheap and there are an abundance of videos that will show you exactly what to do. It can save hundreds on a repair visit and then additional costs of parts. (Recent example, we replaced our fridge’s thermostat for the cost of a $20 part. It would have cost well over $200 to have a repairman come on-site.)
Savings: Depends, but typically $100/hour of labor
Submitted by Rachel Palmer
34. DIY Dog Toys
We have an older dog who’s fairly gentle on toys and loves plush animals, so we get toys typically $0.50 – $1 from Goodwill. In some cases, the toys are fine to use as-is, but often we’ll make minor modifications to remove plastic eyes or noses to prevent choking hazards (which has the side effect of making the toys look delightfully creepy). And for dogs that aren’t so gentle? Make soft rope toys or animals for free, once your clothes are at the “washing the car rags” state.
The alternative: buying traditional (flimsy) dog toys from the store, $5+. And toys that are meant to be durable for big chewers? Oof da, that’s a lot of cash, ~$150/year. My cost: ~$15/year. Savings: $135/year
Felicity blogs about personal finance, food, and happiness at Fetching Financial Freedom (also dog pictures. So many dog pictures.)
35. DIY Dog Grooming
Doing our own dog grooming for our shihpoo saves us a ton of money each year! Initially, I spent about $60 on clippers and nail trimmers.
Alternative: Bath and nail trim, $55, 6 times a year. My cost: $60 clippers have lasted 2 years so far, so $30/yr. Savings: $300/year
Amanda is the creator of Centsibly Rich.
36. Borrowing Books from the Library
If your whole family reads a lot, buying books adds up, and borrowing e-books from the library is just as easy and convenient as buying them from Amazon.
The alternative: buying books from Amazon, $10/book. My cost: $0, Savings: at just 2 books per month, $240/year
Erin blogs at Journey to Saving
37. Homemade Pixar Cars
Homemade Pixar Cars cars. We use white nail polish to paint a regular Matchbox car windshield, then after its dry, we use fine point sharpies to draw the eyes. Our twin toddlers love them – a fun complement to their “real” Cars.
The alternative: buying Pixar Cars, $6 ea. Our cost, $1 ea. Savings: $5 ea.
Abandoned Cubicle blogs about leaving the corporate gig behind.
38. Credit Card Signup Bonuses
We use credit card signup bonuses to pay for Christmas gifts and travel budget.
The alternative: using our own cash. Savings: $2,000-$3,000/year
Submitted by Full Time Finance
39. Frugal Outdoor Living
I love collecting outdoor equipment from my local goodwill or craigslist for cheap! We have found great bikes, snowshoes, XC skis, backpacks, ice skates, and roller blades for pennies on the dollar. We love to explore nature as our date days (free), and stay in great physical and mental shape without needing expensive gym memberships. We rarely have big entertainment expenses, since nature is open 24 hours a day and always free!
Cost savings: I’ve incurred about $500 of set up costs over the last 2 years collecting quality gear. But because of this investment, we probably avoid a $50 date night every 2 weeks, and our local community center membership is $600 per year. So over the first 2 years of our marriage, we’ve saved around $4,000 exercising, and having our date days in nature for free! Roughly $2,000/year
Check out our adventure to find wealth and happiness at Wealth Well Done
40. Insurance Shopping
By the end of 2015, we had insurance policies with different companies before we started to systematically assessed and compared the services and fees of some insurance providers.
By comparing insurance policies, consolidating with one company and (re-) negotiating fees, coverage and services, we saved $395 per year.
Financial Shaper blogs about personal finance from the perspective of an employee and investor.
41. Wearing Clothes Until They Wear Out
I hate shopping for new clothes, so I will wear my clothes until they have holes in them. As they progressively wear out, they get downgraded from ‘good clothes’ to ‘around the house’ clothes to ‘working in the yard’ clothes to ‘washing the car’ rags. That’s right- I’m too cheap to toss them until they’ve been used as rags. This is also why I’m trying to learn to buy clothes that last.
The alternative: frequent clothes shopping, $infinity. My cost: $less-than-infinity. Savings: $infinity
42. Buying Baby Clothes At The Thrift Store
My wife loves designer baby clothes. She thinks dressing our son up in preppy outfits and looking like a baby model from Ralph Lauren is one of life’s great joys. Spending money on brand-new baby clothes can get expensive.
To save money, my wife shops at local thrift and consignment stores. She has been able to find great items for only $.75 each (thanks to Salvation Army extra savings on Wednesdays).
Of course, she always checks the condition of the clothes, and typically, they are really in excellent shape. Even if they are not in perfect condition, for $.75, we don’t mind imperfection. It is a win/win for me. She is able to have a preppy baby, and I am saving beaucoup bucks on items that she may have otherwise been bought at a much higher price.
The alternative: The average cost for baby clothes is about $360 for the first year of a baby’s life. Our cost: My wife has been able to spend about $1 an outfit which means we have only spent $120 this year. Savings: $240/year
Submitted by Mustard Seed Money
43. Buying Car Seats Used
Not everyone is comfortable with this but a new seat can cost $200, and a used one can usually be found on Craigslist for $50 or less. As long as you trust the person who says it hasn’t been in an accident, and as long as it isn’t expired, you can save lots of money, especially if you have multiple kids, two cars, and kids who outgrow their seats quickly. We currently have 6 car seats and I think we paid a combined $300 for all of them.
Alternative: New car seats at $200 each. Our cost: used car seats at $50 each. Savings: $150/car seat
Submitted by Rachel Palmer
44. Shopping Garage Sales
Sometimes I only find junk at garage sales, but sometimes I strike gold. If I’ve got nothing better going on a weekend, I’ll hit the garage sales to see what I can see.
Savings: no idea!
45. Drying Out Your Razors
This can extend the life of your razor for a very long time, especially if you do a good job drying it and don’t store it in the shower. True diehards swish it in rubbing alcohol before storing. I’ve been doing this for years and only switch out razor heads every 6-8 months.
Savings: I don’t even know how frequently people go through razor blades but I know they can be stupid expensive.
Submitted by Rachel Palmer
46. Putting 100% of our Pay Raise into Savings
The real challenge is avoiding lifestyle inflation over the following year by enjoying the modern day luxuries of living in the 21st century.
Set up our next pay raise to automatically go into a retirement account. Some might think it’s crazy to not reward ourselves with at least a small piece of that money, but we prefer to buy an extra slice of security and freedom with each new paycheck!
Savings: ~10% raise = $5,000/year
Matt is the founder of Distilled Dollar
47. Last, but Definitely not Least… Taking Full Advantage of Your Payroll Benefits
Right now we have about $700 coming out of my wife’s paycheck to max out our Dependent Care FSA contributions for 2016. She just started working for the government, and the second we heard we could put up to $5,000 towards this (effectively saving us $1,500 as it’s not taxed!) we jumped on it. Making her paychecks literally around $600/mo, haha.. (we’ve also made sure to get the free matching in her TSP account, as well as incredible health insurance benefits so we don’t have to spend $1,000/mo anymore from being self-employed). Government benefits are pretty good!
Savings just from maxing out the Dependent Care FSA: $1,500/year
What About You?
Hopefully some of these ideas inspire you to save a little here and there! If you’ve got any that haven’t been mentioned, feel free to share them in the comments section! And if you haven’t already, check out my original post ‘Crazy (or not so Crazy) things I do to save money.’