12 Money-Saving Tips From an Evolving Penny-Pincher
I have consistently tried to save money wherever and whenever I can. But I still consider myself a work in progress! I think my mom instilled in me a penny-pinching mentality — which included collecting coupons, reading the price-per-ounce labels at the grocery store, and stocking up on the essentials during a sale.
I have lived in Small Town, Arkansas, paying $300 a month for rent (and making just a tad more than that to get by!). I’ve also lived in Denver, where the rent for our one-bedroom apartment was the same as my sister’s five-bedroom house in Colorado Springs. Throughout my various financial conditions, I have tried to save as much money as possible. And now that we’re planning on buying a house within the next couple of years, we are watching every dollar (and penny!) that leaves our account. Although they may be minor, these small changes can make a big impact on your financial state!
1. Buy less.
That sounds annoying and obvious. But it’s true! Buying less things — clothing, knick-knacks, home decor — is one of the easiest ways to save money and even preserve your peace of mind. While I have my moments of weakness at the thrift store, it takes quite a lot for me to convince myself to buy something. And the money I have saved in the meantime is astonishing!
2. Minimize transportation.
Depending on your life circumstance, it’s possible you can get away with owning just one car between two adults — especially if you live in a more walkable area. Brandon and I share a car and it has significantly reduced our expenses, including car maintenance, gas, and the actual cost of buying a second car. I understand this is not possible for many people — and that it won’t be doable for us once we move to a less pedestrian-friendly area — but for now, we are embracing our shorter list of things to take care of.
3. Eat at home as much as possible.
If only I had kept track of all the money I have wasted in my short professional career by not taking some time to prepare lunch before going to work. If I had been smarter about this, I swear, I’d be in retirement by now (kidding, of course). But we have definitely improved in this area! We have been significantly wiser (but not perfect!) about eating at home and it has made all the difference. Creating a clear budget that outlines groceries and restaurant food makes this easier, as you become more careful and deliberate about the big “splurge-y” meals out on the town.
4. Sell high-value items you don’t use.
It can be tempting to donate items that you don’t use (and don’t get me wrong, donating is a great thing to do!). But if you go through a few extra steps, you can make some significant money by selling furniture, technology and other high-value items you no longer use or need. I need some serious help in this department, because dropping off my stuff at a thrift store is way more convenient than dealing with the selling process. A lot of people use OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and of course — the infamous Craigslist. Personally, I’m working up the courage (and time) to sell my Fitbit that I no longer use. (Anyone in the market for a Fitbit?!)
5. Simplify subscriptions.
It’s alarming how much the small monthly subscriptions can add up to equal one big hole in your wallet. Evaluate the ones that are truly adding value to your life and the ones you can do without. Also, there are a number of ways to still gain access to these services without paying for them. Am I telling you to mooch off your mom’s Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts? Yes, yes — maybe I am. But let’s be real: we all already are.
6. Go thrifting.
I have found some of my favorite pieces at a thrift store. Sometimes the most high-quality name brands wind up at your local Goodwill. It just takes a bit of patience and creativity to weed through the not-so-cute options to discover the golden nuggets. Plus, you can drop off goods you no longer use on your way in to ensure your closet doesn’t overflow.
7. Don’t waste disposable goods.
This is a tiny detail that can make a larger impact over time. I have a confession: I make the common mistake of wadding up a mound of paper towels to clean a tiny spill on the counter. If I was more frugal with the way I used paper products, cleaning supplies and other disposable goods, I would have to replace them less frequently. And over my lifetime, that can amount to hundreds of dollars saved. Plus, think of the positive impact this will have on the environment if everyone got on board.
8. Sign up for a credit card and use it wisely.
This seems counterproductive. But hear me out! If you can diligently monitor your credit card usage and pay off each bill on time, having a credit card can be a valuable asset. Not only are you building credit (in the right direction, hopefully), you can get some pretty amazing rewards, including free flights, cash back, and other perks. If you travel frequently, I would recommend getting an airline credit card to earn miles and potentially get free flights. In our case, we know we’ll be flying to Seattle at least once a year, so we just signed up for an Alaska Airlines credit card because they have the best route and prices for where we want to go. But again, don’t sign up for credit cards just because you feel like it! Research, plan ahead, and create a strategy to make sure you pay off your bill each month.
9. Get an at-home coffee system.
It is astonishing how much money many of us waste on coffee. While I am certainly a proponent of consuming coffee on the regular — and quality coffee, at that — there is a cheaper way to do so. Assuming you spend $3 on a cup of coffee per day (and that’s being conservative, because many Starbucks drinks are well over $4), that equates to $21 a week, $84 a month, and $1,008 a year! Buying a bag of coffee beans or ground coffee and brewing it at home at least a few days out of the week can cut that expense in half. While I venture to a coffee shop at least twice a week (to be a part of society, as a work-from-homer), brewing coffee at home has saved us quite a bit of money.
10. Buy the generic brand.
My penny-pinching mom taught me this trick. The generic brand at the grocery store is often just as good as the fancy ones. For us, this is the Kroger brand, but it may vary depending on where you live. It’s no secret, but they often have significantly lower prices than comparable brands! We also get a lot of products from Simple Truth, which feels like the Whole Foods of generic brands. Maybe it’s the green color that makes it feel more healthy and sophisticated, but the prices tend to be pretty dang great as well.
11. Save a set amount at the beginning of each month.
Setting aside a specific amount of money each month can be a daunting thought. One of the best ways to ensure this happens is by doing so before the month even begins. If you put money out of sight, you can pretend it doesn’t even exist and live life more frugally and wisely as a result. That way, you can treat it almost like a non-negotiable bill you have to pay and you won’t be tempted to dip into it when you see those shiny new shoes at the mall. It will be like it wasn’t even yours to begin with! Setting a saving goal for the year is one of the easiest ways to do this. If you know the exact number you’re striving for, you’ll be more diligent about setting aside money each month.
I am a major fan of investing money — you know, the big, scary stock market kind. But if you are looking for a more approachable way to invest money (and see tangible, measurable results), I can’t say enough good things about Acorns. This app allows you to automatically invest spare change through your debit or credit card. For example, if you spend $2.70 on a cup of coffee, Acorns will automatically invest 30 cents. It’s like a virtual piggy bank! Plus, you can manually add money or invest on a regular basis (even just $5 a month). If you sign up for Acorns through my referral code, Acorns will give us both $5! And once you create an account, you can pass your unique referral onto your friends and family and reap the same benefits.
What money-saving tips do you have?
I love talking about this subject — and saving all the pennies!