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Finding ways to save money on everything is great. But finding easy ways to save hundreds of dollars per month? Now I’m listening! If the way to get ahead is to spend less than you make, then the more ways the better. Here are ten insanely simple ways to save money every day that’ll give you an instant raise.
Go out for dessert rather than dinner
We’re so used to living in a super-sized society that we go out to dinner and spend $25-$30 on a huge entrée. Add in appetizers, drinks, and dessert and you’re walking out of the restaurant $100 lighter.
Try making something other than food the focus of your night. Then go out for a drink and appetizer, or coffee and dessert or even hot chocolate on a cold night. Or visit that little ice cream place you’ve been wanting to try.
Take 10 minutes to adjust your withholding tax
Do you get a large tax refund each year? Like a few thousand dollars? It’s nice to get a windfall of money once a year. But if you’re struggling every month, you may be better off taking 10 minutes to adjust your W4 form and give yourself a raise.
Your annual refund won’t be as large, but if you’re trying to eliminate debt or build some savings it may be better to have the extra cash each week.
If you’re not sure how to adjust it, here’s a simple calculator that’ll help.
Reconsider that expensive gym membership
When you consider the cost of a gym membership, it’s easy to justify around $30 per month. I mean it is for your health right? But you’d be surprised at the annual cost of a gym in money and time over one year. Traveling to and from a gym 2-3 times a week costs you the equivalent of about 4 work weeks in time! Not to mention the membership cost.
So, consider the opportunity cost of traveling to a paid gym several times a week. What else could you have done in the equivalent of four work weeks?
There are loads of free videos on YouTube and tons of free phone apps for anything from cardio to resistance training. Or you can borrow some from the library.
For some great alternatives, check out my post: 30 Reasons Not to Go to the Gym.
Give store brands a try
I grew up on Jiff Creamy peanut butter. Not Skippy, not Peter Pan. Jiff Creamy. Always. But it’s funny how once you’re the one who shells out the grocery money each week, those store brands don’t look so bad.
It may not seem like much of a difference spending a dollar more for your favorite brand of peanut butter or anything else. But suppose you’re spending a $100 per week on food. If you can mix in some store brands to save 15% on your total bill, you’ll be saving almost $800 for the year. You know, that generic peanut butter’s not so bad after all!
This is especially true with medications. A ten-pack of my favorite allergy medicine, Claritin is usually priced at over $1 per pill. But the generic store brand has the exact ingredient, 10 mg of Loratadine and is priced at $2.25 per 10.
So, reconsider those store brands and you can save $1000 or more on food each year.
Related topic: How to Be Frugal Without Being a Cheapskate
Re-think your idea of a night on the town
We live about an hour from NYC and to drive there for a night out it’ll cost around $75 in highway & tunnel tolls and parking! And that’s just to get there! Add tickets to an event and dinner and you could easily spend a week’s pay!
There are loads of things to do closer to home. Local concerts, minor league games, local festivals. Check the websites for any colleges around you, your town or county website, any athletic clubs, and you’ll find plenty of scheduled events.
Stop Using Credit Cards
If you’re trying to move past the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, then buying things like furniture on credit is one of the worst things you can do. Spending $2000-$3000 on a new living room set may give you a small amount of satisfaction.
But again, the payments aren’t the only thing hurting you -it’s the opportunity cost. Making minimum payments for 2-3 years on a high-interest loan prevents you from doing other things. Like building an emergency fund, an IRA or even a vacation fund. You’d be better off doing some kind of side hustle to accumulate the cash for big purchases.
Here are some ideas on how you can generate some more cash every month without a lot of experience:
Save a Bundle by Eliminating Cable TV
In many areas (like mine), cable TV has had a monopoly because fiber has never been installed. So, the cable company continues to raise prices year after year, and gouge you for renting cable boxes, DVRs, modems, and remotes.
Streaming boxes were an alternative, but they lacked the ability to deliver local network channels. Not anymore. Check out services like Hulu, where as of May 2017, they offer pretty much the same content – including local channels for a reasonable price. And you can eliminate the monthly equipment rental charges. We were paying almost $40 per month just to rent their cable box and other equipment.
Here’s exactly what we were able to save: The Game Changer – Why It’s Finally Time to Ditch Cable TV
Brainstorm Cheap Date Ideas
It’s nice to splurge once in a while, but it can also be fun coming up with ways to go out for a day or a night without worrying about how much you’re spending.
- Try a new recipe at home. Better yet, visit a local farmers market together and pick or buy fresh ingredients for it.
- Pick a town or an area of the city and take a walking tour.
- Visit a new park.
- Pack a picnic lunch for a day trip.
- Have a game night.
- Live near an airport? Grab a comfortable spot and watch the planes take off.
- Pick a cool place to take a hike.
- Go see the sunrise.
- Visit a local winery.
- Any drive-in movies near you? Check it out before it’s gone!
- Go canoeing or kayaking.
- Have a bonfire and roast marshmallows.
- Have a movie night based on a certain actor, director or some other theme.
It’s nice to splurge once in a while. But whether you’re dating or married, it’s also nice to know that spending time together is enough without having to spend a lot of cash.
Food Shop with a Plan
I’m sure you’ve heard that planning your meals can save a lot of money, and it’s true. You can immediately slash your food budget by at least 25% by planning a week of meals!
But, who has time for that, Martha Stewart?
I never even considered planning meals until I read about $5 Meal Plan. Here’s how you’d use it:
Once you load the app, just enter a number of meals you need. It’ll suggest complete meals, along with your own shopping list and directions. If you don’t like a particular meal, just reject it a pick another.
By using $5 Meal Plan you’ll eliminate:
- Extra trips to the store, where you spend a lot more than you intended.
- Emergency take-out orders because you have nothing planned.
- Any confusion about what to buy, and bringing home duplicate items.
- The frustration of having to think about a meal each and every night.
Wouldn’t it be nice not having to scramble to come up with dinner every night, and not having to make extra stops on the way home?
Just by eliminating the extra last minute trips and last minute take-out, we immediately reduced our grocery budget by about $200 per month.
Here are some more great tips on lowering your food budget: 12 Keys to Drastically Reducing Your Grocery Budget
Do You Really Need That Name Brand Jacket?
It may be hard at first, but if you can limit the temptation to wear only name brands you’ll easily save hundreds of dollars. Spending $150-$200 on a light jacket, or $40-$50 on a t-shirt because it has a certain logo on it is sabotaging your budget.
True, some brands are really good quality, but if you can limit the name brands – you know which ones – and mix in some basic off-the-shelf items your wallet will thank you.
It’s a nice feeling to buy that great bathing suit in May, but if you can reverse your shopping you’ll save a bundle. Buying winter clothes in January and summer clothes in September can save up to 50%.
If you feel trapped in a cycle of paying bills and never getting ahead, there’s is a way out. It’ll require you to adopt a different mindset to get yourself out from under debt and then steer clear of it in the future.
But you don’t have to live like a monk.
Ridding yourself of that, “I want it now” mentality and paying cash for things can be tough at first. But if you can use creative, low-cost ideas to spend your spare time, it’ll free up money to eliminate debt that much faster.
Once you see debt starting to melt away, it’s a great motivator to come up with even more ways to save. Or take it to another level and start generating a side income.
Try creating a goal for yourself, like eliminate X amount of debt this year, or put X amount into an emergency fund. It can also be motivating to write down your goal and check off the progress each week.
How about you? Have you been able to eliminate a lot of debt or improve your situation by changing some of your spending habits? How did it work out for you? Let me know in the comments below.
Have you considered starting your own blog?
Working for someone else is fine to pay the bills. But starting a blog gives you the potential to far surpass any salary you’ll make – working from home. I knew nothing about blogging until starting earlier this year. I spent about $59 to get up and running. That’s for the entire year. And I’ve been blown away by the results in less than a year. It’s also something you can do at your own pace. If you’d like to check out my step by step tutorial, it’ll walk you through getting your own site up in about 20 minutes.
I tossed around the idea of starting a blog about 5 years ago but I never followed through. After seeing the results from doing this for only about 7 months, I wish I had started then! So give it some thought. You can work for someone else or you can plant the seeds to work for yourself.