“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” So said Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, a man who knew a thing or two about frugal living.
From grocery shopping to impulse buys, the choices we make every day have a significant impact on our budget. With these tips, you’ll learn how to save money no matter the day or time of year. Incorporating as many of these hacks into your life as possible could be a real game-changer for your finances — especially since it’s nearly impossible not to find something new on this list that you haven’t tried before.
Everyday lifestyle tweaks
If you want to learn how to save money, look at your habits. The things you do every day can make a big difference in your pocketbook. Here are some of the lifestyle tweaks you can make to reduce your costs:
1. Introduce a ‘no spend’ day into your week
Want to take more control of your finances? Try introducing a no spend day into your week where you don’t spend money on anything (except maybe essentials, like a subway ride to work and back).
If this turns out to be tough, you’ll also get some useful insight into your spending habits.
2. Abide by the ’30-day rule’
If some intriguing but non-essential item catches your eye, wait 30 days before you buy. If you still want it after a month, then go ahead and take the splurge. In many cases, the wait will make you realize you can do without.
3. Replace beauty products with DIY alternatives
Beauty products can be expensive. Consider making your own from just a few ingredients. Coconut oil, for instance, can be used as a skin moisturizer, hair conditioner, and makeup remover. I’ve made my own dry shampoo with cornstarch, cocoa, and a few drops of an essential oil.
Look at natural beauty websites and YouTube for ideas and tutorials.
4. DIY cleaning products
While you’re saving money with DIY, consider making your own cleaning products. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish just using vinegar as the main ingredient in your home cleaning closet.
5. Brush and floss twice a day
How can brushing and flossing save you money? Dental care is mighty expensive. Take preventive action today to avoid big expenses in the future.
6. Take up biking
Apart from the initial cost of a bike, biking is a form of transportation that is 100 percent free of charge. Plus, biking has been shown to make people happier and healthier. Win-win!
7. Minimize your commute to work
Is your commute costing you a lot in subway fare or gasoline? Maybe your boss will let you work from home a couple days a week.
Alternatively, perhaps it’s time to move closer to your workplace, or even find a new job. Long commutes cost more than just money — a University of Waterloo study showed them to be a major drain on people’s well-being.
8. Carpool with a coworker
Do you have any coworkers who live nearby? If you drive to work, consider carpooling to save gas and money.
9. Find new routes to avoid temptation
Do you have a favorite bakery or boutique that you pass by all the time? If you can’t help yourself from stopping in, consider switching up your route to avoid temptation. Out of sight, out of mind.
10. Plan your errands
I like to plan my errands efficiently: I try to run all my errands on one day of the week so I’m not constantly out. The more you go out, the more likely you are to make impulse buys or find other ways to spend money.
Plus, I find when I have to take care of all my errands in one day, I need to stick to a list and keep things moving so that I’m on time.
11. Beware the ‘treat yo’ self’ mentality
We all love Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford from “Parks & Recreation,” but their “treat yo’ self” mantra could destroy a savings account.
Instead of treating yourself with fancy spas and “fine leather goods,” practice free self-care. You can try meditating, exercising, or writing in a journal.
12. Stop buying fast fashion
Each time I walk into a Forever 21, the clothes are completely different. Stores like these have a rapid turnover because their clothes aren’t built to last.
Fast fashion has a higher price tag than you realize. It encourages people to throw out clothes and shop continuously. Consider investing in higher-quality pieces with classic looks that will last.
13. Visit your local secondhand store or online consignment shop
Instead of buying brand new, look for hidden treasures at a secondhand clothing store in town or online. Buffalo Exchange, Tradesy, and eBay are always worth a look.
14. Strive for ‘inbox zero’ (at least for promotional emails)
If you like shopping, promotional emails can majorly disrupt a budget. To avoid temptation, unsubscribe from your favorite stores. Sales don’t save you money if you weren’t planning to shop in the first place!
15. Track down free events in your city or town
Check out your local newspaper, alternative weekly, or town website for free events. Even expensive cities offer free events, from music to plays to festivals to art shows. Saving money doesn’t have to mean you never leave your home!
16. Plan cheap, fun dates with your significant other
You don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a romantic date. Instead of dinner and a movie, look for free events, go for a scenic walk, or have a picnic with your special someone.
17. Have an occasional night in
Similarly, you don’t have to go out every single weekend. Save money by staying in sometimes. Skip happy hour with your co-workers. Invite a couple of friends over to play board games instead of going to the club. It’s a great way to have fun without spending a lot of money.
18. Become a master Craigslist-er
People sell just about everything on Craigslist. Before buying new, check the site for any amazing finds. You might even get some freebies.
And Craigslist isn’t the only place to look. When my sister was getting rid of her loveseat, she asked on the family group text if any of us wanted it. I got a little extra seating downstairs for $0. Check Facebook, your network, and other resources before you shell out for a new, full-priced item.
Online shopping apps and strategies
One way to economize is to take advantage of different money-saving apps and strategies. Here are some of the best ways to save — as long as you stick to your budget and only buy what you planned.
19. Clear your browsing history and log out of social media accounts
You might be surprised to discover that many online retailers, including Amazon, use a trick called dynamic pricing to show you a higher price. It’s based on spending patterns and demand. You can get a less-biased price when you clear your browsing history (aim for getting rid of cookies) and log out of your social media accounts.
20. Abandon your online shopping cart
Looking to get a discount on a planned purchase? Abandon the cart before checkout. If you abandon a cart with items inside, some retailers will send you an email offering a discount if you return and complete the purchase.
For this to work, you need to log in to your account with the retailer and then leave your cart with items chosen for at least 24 to 48 hours.
21. Search for promo codes before checking out
No matter where you shop, there might be a promo code for that online retailer. Do a quick search before checking out. All you need to do is Google the store’s name, plus “promo code.”
I’ve saved money on shipping, as well as received anywhere from 10 to 35 percent off my purchase just by looking for promo codes before finalizing my checkout.
22. Use online rebate sites
There are plenty of online rebate websites that can help you save money and even get a little back. Ebates, Swagbucks, and others all provide you with a way to earn points and cash back on what you spend.
I regularly use Swagbucks. With the browser plug-in, I get points for what I spend at participating online retailers. It’s particularly helpful when I buy airfare or book a hotel stay. I redeem my Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards, since I do a lot of online shopping at that website.
23. Install coupon-finding apps
There are a ton of apps that find and apply coupons online. Honey, for instance, searches the web for the best discounts. RetailMeNot tracks sales from various merchants, while SavingStar locates grocery-store deals.
24. Use a stacking strategy for your rewards
Already mentioned above is the use of credit card rewards to earn cash back and save money on travel. When you combine your credit card rewards with online coupon and rebates apps, you can make your spending even more efficient. I also like to stack with loyalty rewards.
One of my favorite examples is how I book travel using Orbitz. Orbitz is a site that partners with Swagbucks and has its own loyalty program. So, when I book travel, I activate my Swagbucks earnings. Plus, I pay with a rewards credit card. This stacking strategy allows me to take advantage of three different rewards with a single purchase — one that I would have made anyway.
25. Check for Groupons before paying full price
Whether you’re getting a haircut, taking an exercise class, or going out to dinner, Groupon might have a discounted option. Before paying full price, check the site for great deals.
26. Take advantage of price-matching policies
You can take your online price comparison skills and use them in the real world. Did you know stores like Target and Walmart will price-match items? For example, if you find the same vacuum cleaner online for a lower price, those stores will match it.
Before you buy, look online for a discounted price. If you find one, ask the store to match it.
Food and drink
We all have to eat and drink, but we don’t all have to spend a ton of money on meals. Learn how to save money by paying attention to how you get your nutrition.
27. Make a grocery list, and stick to it
We’ve all been there — you show up at the grocery store hungry and start grabbing snacks off the shelves like you’re on an episode of Supermarket Sweep.
Grocery shopping while hungry is a recipe for overspending. To avoid this, make a grocery list of exactly what you need, and stick to it when you’re in the store. Make sure to eat beforehand, too.
28. Bring your lunch to work
Do you eat out for lunch Monday through Friday? Making lunch at home is a much more affordable option. You can still get away from your desk by eating outside or going for a walk after.
Just as daily lunches will eat up your budget, so will frequently eating out. Between markups on food and drinks, taxes, and tip, you’ll likely spend a lot more eating out than cooking at home.
29. Drink tap water, not bottled
Bottled water is expensive, not to mention unnecessary for lots of people. If you have clean, drinkable tap water, then opt for that over bottled water.
If you’re not sure about the quality of your tap water, you can get a drinking water test kit or invest in a water filter to help remove impurities.
30. Avoid soda
While we’re on the subject of drinking water, you can save money if you stick to your tap water instead of buying soda. This works whether you’re getting a drink to take with you or eating out.
Invest in a good water bottle and refill it as needed throughout the day. If you like a little flavor, use crushed fruit. I love adding cucumber and strawberries to my water.
Plus, not only can you save money by drinking water, but you’ll also be healthier. Regular soda drinking comes with an array of health risks, and that can increase your healthcare costs down the road.
31. Skip the brand names and buy generic
If you usually buy items with brand name recognition, consider swapping them out for their generic counterparts. The ingredients are more or less the same, so why pay more just for advertising?
32. Make drinks at home instead of going to the bar
Alcohol has a huge markup at bars and restaurants. You can buy the same cocktail ingredients, wine, or beer at a liquor store for a fraction of the cost.
You and your friends can alternate hosting duties at your homes, so you don’t sacrifice social time. You can also find local restaurants that let you bring your own wine or beer.
33. Organize a potluck with your friends
Love to meet friends for dinner? Try organizing a potluck instead of going to a restaurant. Everyone can bring one dish and collectively, you’ll have an amazing, cost-effective feast. Bonus points if each potluck has a theme.
34. Buy high-use items in bulk
Do you live near a Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club? Warehouse chains like these let you buy items in bulk with a lower markup than other stores.
While you might pay more money upfront, you’ll save in the long run with a bulk purchase of household supplies and non-perishable foods.
35. Plan your meals
One way to avoid going out more often (and to eat healthier at the same time) is by planning your meals ahead of time. Planning allows you to shop more effectively. You can do even better if you use coupons and sales flyers from local grocery stores to help you organize a low-cost menu for the week.
36. Go out to lunch instead of dinner
There’s nothing wrong with going out to eat now and then. When you do, though, you can save money by going to lunch instead of dinner. Much of the time, lunch costs less. That means a smaller bill and a smaller tip.
37. Seek out cheaper groceries
I love Whole Foods, but the saying, “Whole Foods, whole paycheck” exists for a reason: Where you grocery shop has a significant effect on your bill. Look for discount chains such as Aldi. Also, pay attention to the types of foods that are cheaper at different stores. One of my local stores is known for the lowest-cost produce, while another regularly sells meat at a discount.
You can also save on some items by going to the day-old store. When I was growing up, my mom used to go to a discount bakery with goods verging on being expired. She’d buy several items and freeze what we wouldn’t use immediately.
Groceries are a major part of many people’s budget, so finding the cheapest ones could save you a lot from week to week.
38. Grow some delicious veggies
Do you have a green thumb? If you’ve got a little space, you can grow tomatoes, kale, and other veggies. Produce doesn’t get any more local than your backyard. Pay special attention to vegetables that can be frozen or canned for use during the winter.
I also like to dry my own spices for use during the winter. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to buy basil, thyme, rosemary, or other herbs at the store.
39. Make coffee at home
Unless you need a latte to function, consider reducing the number of coffee drinks you buy out. As a replacement, make your own at home with a coffee machine or French press.
Those coffee runs to Starbucks do add up. Making coffee at home instead is one of the easiest ways to save money every day.
Who doesn’t love to travel? The good news is that travel doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of every travel dollar:
40. Stop taking so many taxis
Taxis are one of the most expensive transportation options out there. If you’re spending a lot in an area, consider alternatives, like biking, walking, taking the subway, or using a rideshare service.
41. Take an UberPOOL instead of an UberX
UberPOOL, where you share your ride with other passengers, tends to be cheaper than UberX. While you’ll need to set aside some extra time to reach your destination, you’ll cut the cost of your trip substantially.
42. Plan your road trip for gas usage
Love road-tripping? Use a gas calculator like the one from the U.S. Department of Energy to figure out how to plot a trip that is likely to save you money on gas.
43. Get strategic about buying airfare
There are some tried-and-true tactics when it comes to finding cheap plane tickets. You should use a price-comparison site like Skyscanner to find the best fare. You’ll also find the best deals if you keep your dates flexible.
44. Look for cheap lodging options, like a hostel or campground
Travel expenses can add up, but you can keep your lodging budget low if you avoid pricey hotels. Consider camping or staying in a dorm or private room in a hostel.
45. Pay attention to your travel destination
A couple of years ago, I spent two weeks in Canada, and the Canadian dollar was about 30 percent lower than the U.S. dollar. By paying for everything with my U.S. dollar credit card (and paying it off upon my return to avoid interest), I pretty much got everything at a discount.
Look for destinations where the U.S. dollar is strong relative to the local currency and plan your vacation accordingly. I spent some time in Hungary and the Czech Republic this past summer, where my dollars went further than I expected.
46. Use a card with no foreign transaction fees
It can get pricey when you travel abroad. Currency exchange fees can be a real killer. Plus, if you use a credit or debit card, you might get hit with foreign transaction fees.
But not if you use the right card. I like using travel rewards credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. It saves money on travel, letting you enjoy your destination more.
47. Travel during the slow season
You can travel during the off-peak season with your kids, as long as you’re careful about the timing and you make an effort to keep their schoolwork from suffering. Go on a trip during the school year, and you might be surprised at how much you can save.
48. Look for free passes
Don’t forget to look for deals and free passes while you travel. I like to check Groupon in the area I travel to.
I also like stopping at the hotel desk to see if they have deals. I once got two-for-one at a waterpark, just because I asked at the hotel desk for promotions.
49. Sign up for partner rewards
You can stack travel rewards when you use partner rewards. For example, some hotel partners come with extra points for my Delta SkyMiles program. I have a credit card that also provides points for certain purchases. By using my branded miles credit card at a partner hotel (you usually have to register it on the credit card website), I get extra miles. And of course, I also get my hotel loyalty points on top of that.
This strategy has worked for me with car rentals and even with Amtrak, for when I take the train and look to build my loyalty rewards.
Regular bills and subscriptions
Many of us have recurring bills we pay. From insurance costs to gym memberships, chances are you make regular payments to keep a number of services. Here’s how to save money on them:
50. Review your cell phone plan
Look at your cell phone plan to see if you can cut costs. Do you have lots of leftover data per month? Would switching carriers save you money?
Despite what salespeople might say, it’s usually cheapest to pay the full price for a phone upfront. The pricier option would have you get a free phone but also get locked into a multi-year contract.
Compare your options to find the most cost-effective one for your needs.
51. Get a family plan
While you’re looking at saving money on cell-phone service, consider a family plan. Sharing with a sibling or your parents can mean a lower overall bill for everyone.
Look at the total bill, and then split it among you. It might surprise you to learn how much you can save.
52. Consider a pay-as-you-go plan
For several years, I used an inexpensive Tracfone for my cell phone. My son’s first cell phone was a cheap touchscreen Tracfone that didn’t have contracts. You can find providers like Cricket and Republic Wireless that offer low-cost, pay-as-you-go options, along with inexpensive phone options.
53. Share a Netflix subscription with a friend or family member
“We love people sharing accounts,” said Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Sharing passwords isn’t a problem — in fact, the Netflix CEO encourages it!
Instead of paying for your account, share a subscription with one or more friends. Just look out for account limits.
54. Look for reduced prices on your prescriptions
Not all pharmacies charge the same amount for prescriptions. According to Consumer Reports, drugs can cost 10 times more at one store versus another.
Shop around for the best deal. If you’re paying out of pocket, check to see if you’re eligible for a FamilyWize discount.
55. Consider a Health Savings Account
If you can afford a high-deductible health plan, consider opening a Health Savings Account (HSA). You can save money on your taxes and prepare for unexpected health costs.
56. Save money on car insurance
If you have a car, then auto insurance is a major monthly bill. Comparison shop once or twice a year when your policy is up for renewal. Get new quotes and ask your current insurer to match (or beat) the best offer. You can use a car insurance website to generate quotes, or call a local auto insurance broker to help you find a lower price.
57. Cancel the gym membership
Do you actually go to the gym? According to NPR’s Planet Money, only half of those who belong to a Planet Fitness use their memberships.
If you’re among them, one of the easiest ways to save money each month is to ditch that useless gym membership. Get an accountability buddy and workout at home or outside.
58. Cut the cable
You knew it was coming. But it’s just so easy to get rid of cable and save money each month that it can’t be left off any list that tells you how to save money. Replace cable with a streaming service and rake in the savings.
59. Identify and stop unused subscriptions
Other subscriptions might be holding you back. Maybe you signed up for a free trial and forgot to cancel. Perhaps you used to read that online magazine, but it’s no longer a priority. Review your bank and credit card statements to identify unused subscriptions and cancel them.
60. Review your insurance coverage needs
One of the keys to saving money in the long run is making sure your assets are properly protected. Review your home, auto, life, and health insurance needs.
If you want a lower insurance bill, you can increase your deductible. Be careful, though. A higher deductible leads to lower monthly premiums, but you have to be prepared to pay more out of pocket. A good emergency fund can help you cover these costs.
Also, do you have adequate coverage? If not, you might need to make adjustments. This is essential if you want to reduce the chances of an unexpected disaster wiping out your finances.
Energy and automobile savings
What you spend heating and cooling your home can add up over the course of a year. Along those same lines, how you manage your car can also have a big impact. Use the following tips to reduce what you spend on energy and car use.
61. Remember to turn out the lights
If you leave the lights on, you’ll end up with an inflated electric bill. Remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room to save money and help the environment.
62. Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
Replace your old-school light bulbs with LED or CFL light bulbs. These bulbs use less energy, which helps to lower your bill. Plus, they often last longer. You might need to fork over a little more upfront, but these bulbs can more than pay for themselves over time.
63. Use a smart power strip
Plan the way you use your appliances by getting a smart power strip to manage your electricity consumption. TVs, computers, and other items can suck away some of your power as “vampires” and drive up your bill. Plug those appliances into a smart strip you can flip off overnight, and you’ll see some savings.
64. Don’t blast the heat
Anyone who lives in a cold climate knows how high the heating bill can climb in January and February.
Just like the lights, remember to turn the heat down when you’re not in your apartment or house. Reducing the heat at night can help save money too.
65. Seal your windows with plastic
Turning down the heat won’t help much if it’s all escaping through your windows.
If your windows aren’t the best, try the old trick of sealing them with plastic during the winter to prevent heat loss and lower your bill.
66. Get a free home energy audit
Check to see if you can get a free energy audit in your area. Experts will show you ways to go green and save money on electricity.
67. Have your furnace serviced regularly
An efficient furnace will work better and save money on your heating bill. Make sure to service the furnace and also switch out the filters regularly.
68. Use fans during the summer
Go as long as possible without the air conditioning. Use low-energy fans during the summer to circulate the air.
Another trick is to open your windows and use fans to send air through your home during the night. In the morning, after the house has cooled down, shut the windows. With this method, you might get well into the afternoon before you need the air conditioner.
69. Avoid using the stove and oven during summer
Plan meals that won’t require you to heat up the house. I grill outside a lot during the summer.
It’s also possible to eat more cold meals, use a crockpot or instant pot, and use the microwave to keep from heating the house (and turning on the air conditioner to cool it down).
70. Remember to change your car’s oil regularly
Along similar lines, you should take care of your car with regular oil changes. The small cost of an oil change pales in comparison to the cost of extensive auto repair.
71. Check to see if you actually need premium gasoline
According to car website Edmunds.com, not every car needs premium grade gasoline. You might be spending more money than you need to with each fill-up. Check to see if your car really needs it, and then if it doesn’t, switch to a lower grade that can save you money.
72. Use gas apps to help you find lower prices
You can save on gas by using a free app that plots out gas prices. Get the best prices every time you fill up.
73. Drive defensively
Drive the way we teach our kids. Accelerate gradually and brake slowly as you approach lights. Practice different defensive driving skills, and don’t speed, so that you’ll get better gas mileage and save on gas.
Eliminate fees and interest charges
One of the best ways to save money every day is to focus on fees and interest you don’t need to be paying. Check out these everyday tips to save money and start plugging the leaks in your daily budget.
74. Avoid ATM fees
The average ATM fee for withdrawals is a considerable $4.57. Some ATMs even have double charges, one from the machine and one from your bank.
I found that out the hard way after using an ATM at my nearby grocery store. The ATM took out $3, and my bank charged an additional $3.50. When I realized I was paying $6.50 to take out $20, I quickly stopped using that ATM.
Look for fee-free ATMs, or use the ATM at your bank. Some grocery stores also let you get money back when you pay with a debit card. Use that as a way to get cash without worrying about ATM fees.
75. Use your credit card strategically
If you have a credit card that offers cash back or travel points, remember to use it in ways that maximize your rewards.
Some cards have rotating cash-back categories. One month you’ll save money on gas, and the next you’ll save on shopping at Amazon. Don’t change your spending habits, but pay attention to your purchases to get the best rewards from your normal expenses.
76. Pay off your credit card each month
Every time you carry a balance, you run the risk of paying interest on your credit card. If you really want to save money, then you definitely need to avoid interest. Pay off that credit card every month.
77. Be intentional about which payment method you use
Do you find yourself spending more freely with a credit card? You’re not alone. In fact, a long list of studies over the last couple of decades indicate that consumers spend more when they use plastic. That means you are more likely to carry a balance — and be stuck paying the interest.
If using a credit card encourages you to spend more money, save it instead by using a different payment method.
78. Open a free bank account
Does your bank have account fees? If so, consider switching to one of the many banks with free checking accounts.
You shouldn’t be paying fees for savings accounts either. Pay attention to the types of fees charged by financial institutions, and do your best avoid them.
79. Avoid convenience fees
When you pay $1.50 here and $3.00 here in the name of convenience, you might be surprised at how it all adds up.
Whenever possible, look for ways to avoid convenience fees. For example, sites like Fandango and Stub Hub charge a fee for completing purchases. Look for apps that won’t charge you these fees. It’s one of the best ways to avoid getting nickeled and dimed.
80. Just say no to food delivery fees
If you like to order in, try to avoid food delivery fees. You can easily filter your options with a site like Grubhub or Foodler.
81. Watch out for credit-card convenience checks
It’s tempting to use that convenience check from your credit card to pay a bill or even get cash. However, once you use that convenience check, you might be stuck paying extra. Even if you get a promotional 0% APR, you might still be subject to a fee that reduces the efficiency of the convenience check.
82. Extended warranty fees
Do you really need that “protection” plan? An extended warranty might mean an additional fee that you probably don’t need to make.
Check your credit card benefits to see if you get free extended warranty coverage before you accept an unnecessary cost.
83. Baggage fees
Many major airlines charge baggage fees. However, you can avoid these fees by traveling light and using a carry-on.
It’s also possible to get a break on baggage fees when you use some credit cards, or when you fly with certain airlines.
84. Shipping fees
Watch out for shipping charges. When you can avoid these costs, you can save over time. Many online stores offer free shipping when you spend a certain amount, although it’s also important not to buy extra items just to avoid the shipping fees. Carefully plan your purchases so that you can get free shipping.
With some retailers, it’s also possible to get free shipping to a local store, where you can then pick up the item. This can be a good solution if a local retailer doesn’t have the item you want.
85. Late payment fees
Make an effort to pay your bills on time in order avoid late payment fees. Just about any service provider can charge a late fee. My cable company charges a fee of $25 if I pay more than five days late.
Make sure to send your payments well ahead of time, so they get there as expected. Setting up an automatic bill pay can also help you avoid late fees.
86. Overdraft fees
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), revenues from consumer overdraft and non-sufficient fund fees total as much as $17 billion each year. If you’re among those who get charged these fees, it’s important to take a step back and do what you can to avoid them.
Pay attention and track your spending. It’s especially important to do so, since one of the dirty tricks banks use to charge you fees is to apply debits before applying credits, no matter the order of the transactions. That can really add to what you pay in fees.
Consider this: The CFPB reports that the majority of debit card overdraft fees occur on tractions that amount to $24 or less — and the median overdraft fee is $34. For a three-day “loan” on that overdraft fee, said the CFPB, that amounts to an APR of 17,000 percent. Yikes!
No matter what you do on a day-to-day basis, there are times of year that are budget-busters. Holidays, back-to-school, and other seasonal events can cause problems. You can minimize the damage with the following tips:
87. Shop your closet for last year’s school supplies
The last two years, I haven’t bought new school supplies for my son. Why? Because I got organized and realized there were usable notebooks, colored pencils, pens, and folders from years past.
Before spending on back-to-school, see what you already have. You might be surprised.
88. Back-to-school clothes year-round
There’s no reason to spend a ton of money for back-to-school clothes. Instead, shop clothing sales year-round, as needed. Consider buying clothes one or two sizes bigger so you can purchase them during end-of-season sales. Just buy two or three fresh pieces for the kids’ wardrobes at the start of the school year, and then plan the rest throughout the year.
89. Buy when items are on sale — not around a season
You might be surprised to discover that Memorial Day sales, Presidents’ Day sales, and other shopping events aren’t always the best deals. Instead, track items you know you’ll buy and pay attention to their lowest prices. Buy at that point, and don’t get caught up in the hype.
90. Buy Halloween candy a little bit at a time
Start buying Halloween candy two or three months ahead of time. Look for sales, and buy a little at a time so that it doesn’t break your grocery budget in one week. Your only concern is not eating the candy before the end of October.
91. Don’t fall for Black Friday myths
Black Friday isn’t always the best time to make purchases, and you don’t want to fall for the hype. Make a list, be clear about your goals, and don’t get distracted by “deals” that might not really be the best price.
92. Consider a homemade holiday
Encourage your family members to do homemade holiday gifts rather than spending a lot of money buying things.
93. Use a gift drawing
Rather than buying gifts for everyone in your circle, see if you can do a drawing. Everyone draws a name out of a hat and gets a present for that person. That way, you don’t end up overwhelmed by all the gift-giving.
94. Create rules for holiday spending
One of the best strategies is to create rules around holiday spending. Set a limit, or put away the credit card. When you sit down and create rules, you are more likely to reduce what you spend.
95. Plan finger foods for holiday entertaining
Rather than having a big sit-down dinner, plan finger foods for holiday entertaining. Let people mingle and munch on small plates. You can even plan a potluck so you aren’t on the hook for all the food and drink costs.
96. The dollar store is your friend
My mom introduced me to the joys of the dollar store. You can get decent serving platters for a buck apiece. Package of small paper plates? $1. Streamers? Wrapping paper? Other decor? Simple and low-cost. I still couldn’t believe it when I walked out with everything I needed for a holiday (except food) for less than $12.
97. Set aside money year-round
Don’t scramble to create a budget last-minute. Instead, use your spending as a guide for what you’ll need next year. Then, each week or each month, set aside some money in a high-yield account.
For example, if you know you’ll spend $700 during the holidays and $500 on back-to-school, set aside $100 a month. You can even break it down to a weekly savings or try strategies like the 52-week plan to boost your ability to save for seasonal budget-busters.
You’ll build up the reserve you need to draw on, rather than feel like you need to turn to credit cards.
98. DIY holiday decor
Look for ways to create low-cost holiday decor. I have an abundance of vases from flowers delivered to me, so I fill those with pinecones from the yard, or with extra ornaments. It’s quick and easy. There are plenty of ways to make holiday decor simply and inexpensively.
99. Use decor year-to-year
There’s no reason to buy new decorations each year. Use the same decorations as long as possible. It saves you money, and your home still looks festive.
100. Shop after the season is over
If you must shop for holiday decor, wait until the after-holiday clearance sales. These can help you freshen your look next year for cheap. I also find that I can buy next year’s holiday cards at a steep discount by shopping at after-season sales.
101. Sell or return unwanted gifts
Finally, make sure to sell or return unwanted gifts. Even if you don’t have a receipt, you might be able to get in-store credit — to get something that you can use. If you get desperate and no one will take the gift, donate it to a thrift store and help someone else save money. (If you itemize, it could also be a tax deduction.)
How to save money every day: Final advice
By tracking your habits, you’ll know exactly where your money is going. That way, your balance won’t be a surprise when you check your bank account.
Try incorporating some of these everyday tips to save money into your life, and notice how your savings grow.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.
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