As a woman completing the last semester of my undergraduate degree, I’ve had to deal with the responsibility of becoming an adult. These responsibilities often take the forms of goal setting and maintaining my own home. The new year has brought a lot of change for me and a lot of dedication to follow through on my resolutions to be a responsible adult who still can have an exciting lifestyle.
Along with losing weight and getting organized, saving money is always one of my New Year’s resolutions. I lose track of the voices telling me how I can meet these goals without having to work very hard when, in reality, I know each of my worthwhile goals are going to take a lot of effort. While dropping pounds takes a lot of work, I’ve actually found a few easy ways to keep more money in my pockets this year. Today I’d like to share some of the easiest tricks I’ve used to saved money without feeling the pain of a drastic lifestyle change.
10 Ways to Cut Costs Without Affecting Your Lifestyle …
1. Compare Prices
I am in my final semester of my undergraduate degree. Recently, I bought my very first car, which means I had to think about something I really didn’t want to think about: insurance. However, in the process of shopping around I realized buying different services gave me power. Industries ranging from insurance to utilities are becoming more competitive, which means you have more power as a consumer. It only took me a few hours to do some comparison shopping, but the benefits were worth the time. When you find a better deal, call your current provider first — many companies would rather keep you as a customer at a lower rate than lose your business altogether. If they don’t want to negotiate, take your business elsewhere. I lowered my insurance rate the same way I lower prices at a yard sale.
2. Shop Off-Season
It may seem counterintuitive to buy a down coat in May or stock up on Christmas supplies in January, but shopping off-season can be a huge money saver. My favorite time of year is springtime, when all of my favorite winter clothes go on sale. The best part is I don’t have to curb my shopping habit — I simply adjust my timing. My plan of attack for shopping off-season is keeping a list of items I want to purchase and taking it with me when I hit the end-of-season sales. That way I can think about winter needs, even when the sun starts shining.
3. Get a Water Filter
In 2012, Americans spent almost $12 billion on bottled water. My mother is a bottled water fanatic. Growing up we had two fridges, one for our food and one for our water. Growing up that way I’ve learned I like bottled water as much as the next guy, but beyond the bottles’ environmental effects, they also have a huge effect on my bank account. When I have student loans to pay off and rent due every month there isn’t much room to indulge in bottled water. I’ve learned I can cut that cost by investing in a water filter instead. Sometimes when I just can’t resist drinking water from a bottle though, I buy reusable containers that are friendlier for the planet and my bank balance.
4. Cancel Unused Memberships/Subscriptions
Alright, I know how hard I am striving to maintain a healthy physique but that old, unused gym membership that came out of my bank account every month was just money down the drain. The same can be said for my subscription to Seventeen Magazine I picked up about seven years ago or other subscriptions I don’t use anymore. Take it from me, many sources of money are lying around your house that you aren’t using. Review all your automatic payments and cancel the ones you don’t use. Then automatically deposit what you were spending every month into your savings account instead. You can start growing your nest egg at the same time without even feeling it.
5. Go to Happy Hour
Half price sushi at Shogun on Saturday nights with free karaoke has been my saving grace over the years. The college student lifestyle was never my cup of tea so I became a pro at knowing the greatest happy hours around town. Social interaction is a basic human need and I found there’s no reason to become a hermit just because you want to save a few bucks. Find out if your favorite restaurants or bars offer any regular specials. There’s even an app to help you find local happy hours. Depending on the size of your town, you might be able to find a good deal for every day of the week.
6. Change Services
During my first years of college I didn’t have a television. I didn’t think it was that bad because I wouldn’t have to deal with the TV distracting me from homework. However, as time went on I started missing having my favorite shows and having a story to look forward to each week. That is when I discovered the secret to keeping my entertainment cost low: bundle your Internet and television.
Television and Internet services come in many packages — just because you’ve always used cable doesn’t mean you need to stick with it. Take a page from tip number one and compare providers. Even though cutting the cord wasn’t an option for me it is still worthwhile to look at alternative TV sources, including satellite and streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu. Then you don’t have to give up your favorite source of home entertainment.
7. Sign Up for Rewards
You probably would laugh if you could see my wallet full of rewards cards from all of the stores I frequent. Macy’s, bareMinerals, Victoria’s Secret, American Eagle Outfitters and so many more take up space in my life and my wallet and I’m not willing to give them up. Many stores offer loyalty programs for customers. If you’re a Walmart shopper then try their Savings Catcher program. It gives you back money you already were willing to spend! If you haven’t signed up for these programs, do it. You won’t have to change where or how you shop, you’ll just start saving or getting paid back for the money you’re already spending.
8. Change Your Lightbulbs
I am passionate about saving money and being environmentally friendly. Changing my light bulbs has been a way for me to kill two birds with one stone. Swapping out regular light bulbs for energy efficient LED or CFL bulbs can save anywhere from $20 to $75 per year in energy costs. Take it from me, it has made a difference. These bulbs use less energy and last longer than regular bulbs so the one-time investment I made has paid off. You’ll save every month on the power bill and spend less replacing burnt-out bulbs.
9. Buy in Bulk
Calling all Costco fans and Extreme Couponers, here is the section where you probably already excel. Although my food storage is not as large and maintained as I wish it was, when I find an opportunity to buy in bulk, I go for it. You don’t have to be part of a large household to benefit from buying staples from warehouse stores. I live with my sister and we don’t necessarily seem like the type to buy in bulk. However, it makes a difference when it saves us from spending unnecessarily on food and non-perishable items. It might be tricky to figure out where to store 36 rolls of toilet paper. Yet beyond the convenience of not making weekly toilet paper runs, the per-unit price is lower. Compare unit prices for items you regularly use and buy in bulk if the savings make sense.
10. Raid the Pantry
My secret to getting out stains is baking soda. My secret to cleaning grease off the stove is salt. Do you need to sanitize your cutting board? Rub it down with half a lemon. Instead of splurging on expensive cleaners, go old-school and start using traditional cleaners such as vinegar. Many pantry items clean just as well as fancy products and cost pennies per use by comparison.
We all want more money in our bank account — and there’s no reason we can’t have it. With these easy tips we can see our bank balances rise without feeling the pinch of deprivation. If I didn’t have to change my lifestyle you shouldn’t either.
What types of things do you do in your life that help you save money without feeling deprived? I’d love to know!
Sarah is a young professional with a passion for writing and business. She loves traveling, music and spending time in the great outdoors.
I have a rule to never pay retail for anything. I use grey market stores (this might be a UK thing), where they sell things at a fraction of the price because the packaging will have an expired coupon or competition on it. Or it might have Halloween themed products in spring. It’s a great way to get food cheaper.
Great article! We’ve implemented a lot of the same ideas! Now that we’re doing our major downsize and moving into our Airstream RV this week I may have to rethink the buying in bulk one though….
Another idea is what I call a capsule kitchen or in other words meal planning. If we’re going to cook something with unusual ingredients we need to figure out enough recipes that week to use those ingredients up before they go bad. It makes us be creative but also not waste food, especially if it was something special that cost a little more. Food thrown away is money thrown away :)
Great tips! I’m always looking for ways to cut back without having to change much.
I became a fitness instructor about 15 years ago. Most gyms offer a complementary membership for instructors and I get paid to exercise. The initial cost of the course and annual recertification fees have been recouped many times over!