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Financial planning and budgeting can seem about as much fun as oral surgery. It’s only money, but sometimes it feels like you need an advanced degree in calculus just to balance your checking account.
So, for once, let’s just keep it simple. Here are a dozen quick and easy tricks to help you save money — on videos, groceries, gas for your car and much more. Even if you’re already incorporating some of these tips into your everyday life, it never hurts to be reminded that keeping it simple can be the most practical path to saving.
1. Fill reusable bottles with tap water
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What are consumers doing, buying fancy water when it’s available for free out of your home tap? Don’t load up on fancy French waters in wasteful plastic bottles. Just pick up a solid, refillable water bottle and fill it with fresh, cold water before you head to the gym or out on a walk. It’s not just easier on your wallet, it’s better for your health.
Speaking of bottled water, that falls into a category we’ve written about: “From DVDs to Baby Shoes: 43 Things You Should Never Buy.”
2. Check out the library for movies and more
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We all know that libraries lend books for free. But you might be surprised by what else is available at your local branch. Depending on the library, you might be able to borrow movies, CDs and e-books, and even such surprising items as paintings, cake pans and free online language lessons. When Localpizzadeliverywalledlakemi.info founder Stacy Johnson visited the library he found free Wi-Fi, printer access, music downloads and tons more. As your librarian might say, “Check it out.”
3. Learn your ATM’s ABCs
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It’s so much more convenient to use an automated-teller machine than to find an open bank branch. But reading the ATM rules at your bank or credit union may help you avoid pesky fees. Some financial institutions have deals with other businesses. For example, I once banked at a credit union that allowed free use of ATMs at all 7-Eleven stores. Some financial institutions waive ATM fees if you maintain a minimum balance, or make a minimum number of transactions in a specific time frame. You’ll find your ATM rules at your bank’s website, or just call and ask.
4. Keep an eagle eye on automated payments
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Setting up an automated payment can be handy for recurring payments — to your gym, for instance. Or to online services for streaming entertainment or charitable donations. As the months go by, though, it’s easy to forget about the payment while money is being regularly sucked out of your account. Take a few minutes to log into all each of your financial accounts — including PayPal — to track down and cancel any recurring deductions you no longer want.
5. Sign up for grocery coupon programs
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Most grocery stores offer electronic coupons through their loyalty programs. These can be great ways to save on grocery costs. If you shop at the same chains often, signing up may be worth the effort. Often, the only membership identification you’ll need is your phone number. You may look for more savings by logging into the program’s website or app before you shop. There, you can find current store deals, select electronic coupons for favorite products and move the coupons to your card. Sites like Coupons.com are also a fantastic source of savings, and easy to use. Here are more “radical but effective” grocery savings tips.
6. Use reward points to save on gas
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Pump up the savings! Speaking of grocery stores: Many partner with gas-station chains in programs that let shoppers accumulate points for gas when buying groceries. Punch in your phone number or scan your membership card at a participating gas station, and you may save more than a dollar off per gallon, depending on the points you’ve piled up.
If gas is a major expense for you, consider getting a .
7. Be a coffee achiever
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Financial articles sometimes make it sound as if the road to riches involves simply giving up fancy coffee. Realistically, the occasional latte isn’t going to break your budget. If java joints are your soft spot, consider joining their rewards plans or picking up a punch card. At Starbucks, for one example, the “stars” you get for each purchase add up, and you can use them for free food and drinks. There’s nothing wrong with free lattes.
8. Stock up on Forever stamps
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This tip won’t make you a billionaire, but everything counts. When the U.S. Postal Service first issued Forever stamps back in 2007, each one cost 41 cents. In 2018, they’re 50 cents. Here’s why they’re called Forever stamps: You can still use those 41-centers today, saving 9 cents off the current cost. That might not seem like much, but every bit helps and this tip pays off especially when you’re sending lots of holiday cards.
9. Compare costs for paying annually versus monthly
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People and businesses like to be paid, especially in advance. By paying your balance due up front — on insurance premiums, for one example — you often can save. So compare costs before opting for monthly payments.
10. Stick to your grocery list
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Mmm, that cake sure looks good! Hey, is that a new cereal variety? You know to never shop for groceries while hungry. But do you also know not to shop without a list? It’s too easy to be distracted by a store’s colorful displays and tantalizing treats. If you have a list — on paper or on your smartphone — you’ll be a more focused shopper. You still might sneak those triple-choco marshmallow cookies into the cart, but you’ll be less likely to suddenly realize you’ve spent your entire budget and forgot to get the milk.
Check out: “The 27 Absolute Best Ways to Save on Food.”
11. Join a local giveaway group
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If you’re a Facebook user, perform a search for the name of your neighborhood. You’re likely to find a barter or giveaway group, in which neighbors offer each other used items. Some, such as the network of more than 1,000 groups, require all items to be offered for free. Others allow you to make trades or charge a small fee. Also consider this: If you’ve got a hobby, from tending fish to collecting Pyrex, seek out the Facebook fans who share your passion. They often know where to find the best deals, coupons and trades. Finally, learn how to join and use Freecycle, another source for freebies.
12. Plant a garden
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Grandma and Grandpa knew best: When it comes to fruits, vegetables and herbs, nothing tastes as good as home-grown. Think about what you love best from the local farmers markets, and assess whether it’s reasonable to grow those treats at home on your own. Plant nurseries, county extension offices and libraries often have classes and lectures on how to get started. Live in an apartment with no garden space? Those same experts often can tell you how to lease a community garden space. Give it a try: You’re sure to have a good thyme. Learn more about saving on food by gardening.
What simple strategies do you use most for saving money? Share with us by posting a comment below or on our .
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