By Janeen Lewis
Saving money should be simple, right? Spend less than you earn, and save what’s left. If only it felt that easy.
Saving money requires the endurance of running a financial marathon, when most of us like to sprint. Whether you’ve lost wages during the pandemic, or saving money is a new goal, here are some out-of-the box ideas to help.
Stretch out fuel miles.
Use a gas app like GasBuddy or Waze to find the best fuel prices in your area. Properly inflate tires, change the air filter and go easy on the gas and brakes. Obeying speed limits conserves fuel and could save you a costly ticket. Remove bike and luggage racks when not in use – the air resistance uses more gas. Don’t carry sporting equipment or other heavy loads unless necessary. Join a warehouse club or gas rewards program. My grocery store bases fuel rewards on my purchases, and I get a discount almost every time I fill up.
Are you good at baking and decorating birthday cakes? Maybe you know someone who takes professional quality photos. Trade services with a friend and save.
Get needed items free by organizing a swap party online or in your home. Decide on a theme. Be clear about how to rate the condition of items and how many items each guest contributes. Send a listing of items and agree on ways to make exchanges if your party is online.
Find missing money.
You could be missing money and not even know it. For example, if you moved and a utility company owed you a deposit and couldn’t contact you, the money went into an unclaimed property fund.
Be a cherry picker.
Try some Buy One Get One free items (BOGOs). On average, the rest of the items in the store cost more. When cherry picking, buy the sales items, but save other shopping for less expensive stores.
Let someone else grocery shop for you.
Grocery pick-up saves time, stops impulse buys, and keeps a running total during online shopping. If you go over your budget, uncheck unnecessary items before finalizing your order. Most groceries have waived pick-up fees since the pandemic, but if they take coupons, those coupons can exceed the pick-up fee.
Make restaurant-quality food at home.
Dining out is a budget blower. Invest in a virtual cooking class, check out online cooking tutorials, or ask a friend who is a good cook for recipes.
Give up the ghost.
Standby power, or phantom power, is energy that household items use when they are off, but plugged in. Items with digital displays and computers with monitors and printers can be standby power hogs. Unplug everything at night for a month. Monitor the electric bill for a difference. For more information, visit https://standby.lbl.gov/.
Stop flushing money down the toilet!
The bathroom is where the largest percentage of water is used in most American homes. The average toilet guzzles up to five gallons of water compared to the 1.3 gallons used by high-efficiency tanks. Also, opt for low-flow shower heads and faucets. For more information on water consumption, go to EPA.gov and look for the WaterSense logo, or to figure individual household water consumption, go to CSGNetwork.com and then type in “Water consumption Calculator.”
Round up savings.
Trick yourself into saving money. Round up to the next dollar when you record a check. At the end of the month, you’ll have a surplus. Your banking institution may offer this feature, or there are round up apps.
Start a “kick it” jar.
Unhealthy habits and shopping addictions like smoking or buying dozens of expensive shoes are costly. Start a “kick it” jar. When the urge to splurge strikes, put money in the jar. As you see the money grow, so will resolve to kick the habit.
Keep the change.
Collect loose change in a jar at the end of the day. A mere 50 cents a day savings will add up to almost $200 annually. As a family, save to pay off a debt or make a fun purchase.
Calculate your time.
When you consider purchasing a non-essential item, calculate how many hours you have to work to pay for it. Is your time worth the purchase?
Be a Dollar Store hugger.
Dollar stores have party items like helium balloons, paper plates, napkins, cutlery and greeting cards cheaper than most discount stores. It also has great prices on school and office supplies, craft supplies, seasonal decorations, over-the-counter medications and plastic containers.
Leaky toilet? Car repair that’s going to set you back hundreds of dollars? Look on YouTube for some DIY, fix-it tutorials. Even if you can’t fix it in the end, you’ll gain knowledge that will help you make the thriftiest choices when hiring help.
Embrace a giving spirit.
This sounds counterintuitive to saving. But even when a bankroll is at its lowest, giving to someone whose needs are greater than yours helps grow an appreciation for what you have. Giving to others is also a motivator to save more so you can help others more.
Saving money can be challenging. Adopt a few of these strategies. Before you know it, that money marathon will start to feel more like a sprint — or at least a mini marathon!
About the Author:
Janeen Lewis is a nationally published writer and teacher. For nine years, she was a stay-at-home mom who tested money-saving ideas.