Learning “how to manage your finances will not only help you out personally, but can be a real benefit when it comes to business success as well. Most obviously, understanding how to manage your own personal finance helps you to understand how to manage not only business finances, but set goals and create fundamentals skills in planning and decision-making.”
This doesn’t include investing, contributing to your Solo 401(k) (or SEP-IRA), buying vs. renting — nothing like that. These are simple daily tweaks anyone can make to see their savings start to add up.
Here’s an inside look at a list of 60 tips and tricks for cutting spending and saving money based on my family’s actual savings figures in respect to our monthly bills and expenditures.
1. Turn the water heater down by 10 degrees. Scalding hot water dries out your skin anyway. Savings: $30 per year.
2. Wash your laundry in mostly cold water. Unless the water is literally boiling, the clothes aren’t getting disinfected. That’s why we use detergent. Savings: $200 per year.
3. Use your tea bag at least two times. Instead of replacing it with a brand new one each time you want another cuppa’ reuse it instead. Savings: $30 per year.
4. Shop exclusively at the commissary (if you are so entitled). We all know that the commissary is 30% cheaper than your average grocery store. Savings: $1,000 per year.
5. Buy simple fruit. In addition to being a finance ninja, I am also a health nut. You can be perfectly healthy if you stick to apples, oranges, and bananas most of the time. Definitely splurge on the occasional mango or pineapple, but don’t fill your fruit dish with too many exotics. Savings: $200 per year.
6. Use bar soap instead of fancy body washes. I know you love your brand name gel cleanser, but does it really do the job any better than plain ol’ Ivory bar soap? Savings: $50 per year.
7. Pack your own lunch and eat out less. Eat leftovers, make a sandwich, bring snacks. Limit your restaurant fare to once a week and you’ll really see the savings add up. Savings: $1,500 per year.
8. Make your own coffee. We are told this time and time again, but do we listen? Savings: $650 per year.
9. Turn down the heat and turn up the AC. Turn your heat down by 4 degrees. For every 3-4 degrees you turn the heat down, your energy bill decreases by 10%. Same goes with AC. Savings: $180 per year.
10. Cut cable. This one was really hard for us. We replaced our cable with Amazon Prime Instant Video and found that we aren’t missing anything. Savings: $860 per year.
11. Cut your cell phone bill. We switched from Verizon to a company called Republic Wireless. We have two smartphones with unlimited data for $38 per month. Our service is usually pretty good and we never have issues. The downside is that there are only three phones to choose from. We don’t care about stuff like that so this was an easy switch for us. Savings: $1,400 per year.
12. Shop for clothing from discount retail chains. You can find stylish brand-name goods at stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Century21 and more. Savings: $200 per year.
13. Sign up for a library card. Grab your favorite must-reads for free instead of buying e-books and hard copies. Savings: $300 per year.
14. Learn how to cut your husband’s (or wife’s) hair. For my husband, the “military cut” really isn’t that complicated and there’s no need for our men to pay to get it done. Savings: $360 per year.
15. Look for online promo codes and coupons. Search for discount codes before you buy anything online. You can search coupon sites like Retailmenot for discount codes offered at your favorite retailers. Savings: $100 per year.
16. Stop buying new dog toys. Every time Rufus rips the guts out of his latest Kong toy you likely throw it away and buy a new one. When my pooch destroys a toy, I take three minutes to stitch it up with some heavy duty thread. They last at least six months longer that way. Also, stop spoiling your pooch. Do they really need a BarkBox every month? No. Savings: $30 per year.
17. Make your own furniture. If you have some simple power tools lying around, work with your spouse to build a new bed instead of spending $3,700 at Pottery Barn. Savings: $350 per year.
18. Shop yard sales. This is a good way to meet your neighbors and save some cash. Savings: $50 per year.
19. Turn the lights off or use automatic light timers. Turn off the lights every time you leave a room. What is the purpose of leaving your upstairs bedroom light on if they whole family is downstairs. Not necessary. Savings: $60 per year.
20. Buy reusable cleaning cloths instead of paper towels. I really love the EnviroCloth by Norwex. It disinfects and cleans with just water. While a little costly upfront, you’ll never have to buy paper towels again. Savings: $20 per year.
21. Use old pillows to make your pooch a new dog bed. They’ll love it just as much and you can even customize it with hand picked fabric. They’ll never know the difference. Savings: $35 per year.
22. Eat simple and whole foods. People have this notion that eating healthy is expensive. Try shopping for just fruit, veggies, meat, and whole grains. Stay away from the expensive snack foods. Savings: $150 per year.
23. Along the same lines, only ever buy whole chickens. Pop your chicken in the crock pot for 4 hours and you have a perfectly cooked “rotisserie” style chicken. Buying the chicken whole is way cheaper than buying it boneless. And you’ll have plenty of lean protein on hand for quick meals during the week. Savings: $50 per year.
24. Unplug your laptop. Your computer’s battery actually performs best if you only charge it when it is fully drained. Savings: $15 per year.
25. Get a cash back credit card. My husband and I have the Citi Double Cash Rewards card, meaning we get 1% cash back when we purchase and 1% cash back when we pay the card off every month. Essentially, it’s like getting a 2% discount on every purchase you make. Savings: $500 per year.
26. Go on lunch dates instead of dinner dates. I go on dates with my husband at least once a week. I think it’s important to the health of the marriage. We go out to lunch instead of dinner, which is usually half the price. Savings: $300 per year.
27. Create a paperless office and home. These days, it isn’t really necessary to have a “paper office.” Ink is expensive. Store your docs in the cloud and even sign things online for free using sites like DocuSign. Savings: $35 per year.
28. Drink less alcohol. If you go out to the bar every week, switch off booze for water every other drink. Wine, water, wine, water. We’ve become way too dependent on getting a buzz in order to have fun anyway. This way, you’ll actually remember your night and not wake up with a huge hangover. Savings: $150 per year.
29. Sign up for Dollar Shave Club. My husband gets 5 razor blades a month for $3. Savings: $100 per year.
30. Buy housewares at discount variety stores. Grab glassware and kitchen items at stores that sells items for $1 or less, like Dollar Tree. The quality is on par with Target in many cases and way cheaper. Savings: $30 per year.
31. Cut down on TV in general. The television sucks up a ton of your electricity bill. Cut back and read a book every now and then. Savings: $15 per year.
32. Create a meal plan and grocery list. Do this before every shopping trip to cut down on impulse buys. Don’t buy anything displayed at the checkout line. Savings: $40 per year.
33. Plan a girl’s (or boy’s) night in. Try inviting friends over instead of always going out. Don’t even get me started on going to the movies. Savings: $150 per year. Ditch the soda – always drink water. Savings: $110 per year.
34. Cook 90% of your meals at home. That $70 filet mignon you bought at Ruth’s Chris could probably have been made at home for less than $20. I’m not saying never go out to eat, I’m just saying to cut back. I know people who literally eat every single meal out! Savings: $500 per year.
35. Use LED lightbulbs. Savings: $180 per year.
36. Shop generic store brands. I know, you probably think they’re of lesser quality than their brand name counterparts, but trust me, they’re not. Why do you need Q-Tip brand cotton swabs anyway? Who needs Hefty brand trash bags? I just don’t see the point. Target and Wal-Mart have great store brands. Savings: $100 per year.
37. Don’t buy cleaning products. We swear by distilled white vinegar. Savings: $50 per year.
38. Stop buying music. With sites like YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify, there really isn’t a need for you to buy Taylor Swift’s new record. Set up playlists and jam out for free. Savings: $180 per year.
39. Use sites like AirBnB to book lodging instead of a hotel. This can be 25% cheaper than hotel chains. Usually the rooms are bigger and way more comfortable. Savings: $300 per year.
40. Close air vents in rooms you don’t use. Why would you pay to heat or cool a room you don’t use? That includes closets. Your clothes don’t need climate control. Savings: $15 per year.
41. Make DIY beauty products. Try making your own coconut oil hair mask or your own sugar scrub. It blows my mind how much people spend on beauty treatments. Savings: $15 per year.
42. Use half of a dryer sheet when drying clothes. You won’t even notice the difference. Savings: $10 per year.
43. Don’t use fabric softener. I never understood this one. I didn’t grow up with fabric softener and I’ve never used it before. My clothes always look and feel fine without it. Savings: $30 per year.
44. Wash your pooch at home. Because our dog is super furry, we pay to get her groomed every two months, but we don’t take her for baths in-between. Every time I take her in though, they ask if I want to bring her in for a bath and brush out in two weeks. Ha! My husband picks her up and washes her in the shower. Savings: $240 per year.
45. Enjoy free outdoor activities. Go on hikes, walk, ride your bike. Find something outside that is free to do. You don’t always have to spend money to take a class or be entertained. My husband and I have a standing walk-date every night at 6PM. I have more fun chatting and exploring with him than I do going out to the movies and sitting in silence. Savings: $150 per year.
46. Get a piggy bank. It blows my mind that people don’t save their change. It’s only a penny! Well I cashed in my piggy bank a few months ago and it had $85 in it. Savings: $85 per year.
47. Cancel your home phone line. Who still has a landline anyway? Savings: $240 per year.
48. Nix the manicures and pedicures. I know, I know! It feels so good to have pretty hands and feet. I’d rather save the money and get a massage every three months instead. Savings: $240 per year.
49. Wash your own car. Again, it blows my mind that people pay for things that they can easily do themselves in less time. Savings: $240 per year.
50. Don’t buy lottery tickets. All those $5 Power Ball tickets add up, and you probably never win. Savings: $30 per year.
51. Work out at home. That gym membership you never use? Get rid of it. Companies like Beachbody offer virtual fitness coaching and at-home DVD programs. In fact, I love them so much I’ve signed up to be a coach myself. I love being able to exercise without having to leave the house. Savings: $200 per year.
52. Use online sites to send event invitations. Use sites like Facebook, e-Vite, and Eventbrite to send invitations. Honestly, these days people prefer electronic communication because they can add events directly to their calendars. Hard-copy invitations are nice and all, but totally not necessary anymore. Maybe for a wedding. But that cookout? Nah. Just send the eVite. Savings: $25 per year.
53. Visit museums and national parks with free admission. National parks are free to military members and their dependents, as are many museums and galleries. Savings: $50 per year.
54. Bring your own grocery bags. If you live in California or another place that charges for grocery bags, bring your own! Savings: $10 per year.
55. Wash your hair every other day. Cut your shampoo costs in half. Savings: $40 per year.
56. Don’t buy bottled water or sign up for a water service. Unless your city issues a warning that the tap water isn’t safe to drink, you don’t need to spend extra on this. Savings: $60 per year.
57. Put spending limits on gifts for family and friends. We have about 15 people who we regularly buy gifts for. Birthdays, holidays, graduations, baby showers etc. We used to spend $100 per person per gift. We decided to cut back a bit and have a limit of $50 per gift. The money that we would have spent goes to our church. When did people get so materialistic anyway? Savings: $1,500 per year.
58. Also, don’t give your spouse expensive gifts. I’ll be perfectly honest … my husband and I never give each other gifts. We don’t think it’s important. We’ll surprise each other every now and then with something small, but we prefer to go on a vacation or a weekend trip instead. I know how much my husband loves me and I don’t need him to buy me a car or jewelry to show it. Savings: $250 per year.
59. Don’t buy pet insurance. Seriously, it’s a huge waste of money if your dog is normal and functioning well. Savings: $250 per year.
60. Buy old records and albums at the Goodwill. We recently bought a record player and found that vinyls cost up to $30 on Amazon. At the Goodwill, we found boxes and boxes of old records for $1 a pop. Savings: $50 per year.
61. Shop around for gas. Yes, the Shell down the street is only $0.02 cents cheaper per gallon, but why would you spend more for the same product? Savings: $20 per year.
62. Buy grower’s choice flowers. We send flowers quite a bit since we don’t live near family. We never purchase the $75 bouquets. Instead, we pick the “grower’s choice” from ProFlowers.com. They deliver a beautiful arrangement for $19.99. The downside is that you don’t know what you’re getting. Savings: $100 per year.
63. DIY your own pest control. My husband’s old co-worker was in pest control before he joined the military. He told us that you can buy the exact same chemicals at Lowe’s which we did and we’ve had no issues thus far. Savings: $150 per year. Total Savings: $15,230 per year .
64. Request a credit card rate reduction. “If you’ve got a fairly large balance on your credit card, call up your credit card company and request a rate reduction. If you pay your bill on time every month, they may be willing to negotiate. If they won’t go for it, get a 0% balance transfer onto another card.” Total Savings: Variable.
65. Pay yourself first. “Don’t save what is left after spending; spend what is left after saving. This might be Money 101, but it’s a lesson a lot of people don’t consider.”
Isn’t this crazy, frugal and cheap?
You probably think I’m crazy, overly frugal, and cheap. And I don’t disagree. The idea here is that every dollar you save adds up. You already know that, but have you ever sat down and really looked at how much you spend each month?
I recommend signing up for a free, web-based personal financial management service like Mint where you can track every dollar you spend. Take a look at the last year of your finances and identify areas in your life where you can cut back.
It doesn’t matter if you can afford the items on this list. Sure, I can probably afford to leave my computer plugged in overnight. I can splurge on my favorite products every now and then. However, the question is whether you should.
Living below your means and within your needs is the fastest way to save money.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Brooke Cline, a first generation blogger and finance ninja, owns and operates a full service accounting and bookkeeping firm, Emergent Advisory LLC. She has spent the last six years in the accounting and finance world, providing services to government entities, real estate empires, and Silicon Valley startups. She is passionate about helping businesses grow from the ground up. She and her husband live in Georgia with their Wheaten terrier, Lucy. Connect with @starr_cline on Twitter.
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