Many people are striving to save more money. In some cases, it’s because they’re dealing with a tight budget, so seizing any opportunity to reduce costs is a necessity. In others, it’s mainly due to a frugal mindset, simply preferring to avoid spending more than absolutely necessary. Regardless of the reason, there are plenty of unique pathways to explore. Here’s a look at 15 creative ways to save money you may not have tried before.
1. Learn to Garden and Can
If you want to cut back on your grocery costs, growing your own produce and learning to can makes a difference. Many types of fruits and vegetables are surprisingly easy to grow at home, either in a backyard, in window boxes, or in indoor container gardens. The same goes for many fresh herbs.
By learning to garden, you can significantly reduce your need for store-bought produce. Focus on options with larger yield and low learning curves if you’re a beginner. Additionally, choose plants that start producing during the first year, as those that take longer won’t benefit your budget as fast.
Canning gives you a way to store what you grow. Plus, it gives you added benefits. For instance, you can use veggies you grew to create magnificent sauces, ensuring you have what you need for a future spaghetti nice or similar meal. If canning is further than you’d like to go, that’s okay. You can also freeze most kinds of produce, allowing you to enjoy fruits and vegetables you’ve grown well after the season ends.
Before you start storing anything in the freezer, research the right process, as some produce may require blanching. Just make sure you have what you need to store everything properly. For example, you might want to invest in a vacuum sealer to prevent freezer burn.
2. Say “No” to Marketing Emails
If you have a tendency toward impulse shopping, then it’s time to hit “unsubscribe” on marketing emails. Essentially, it lets you avoid any unnecessary temptations, particularly if the advertisements focus on non-necessities in categories you typically shop in for fun.
In most cases, you won’t end up missing out on any deals you actually need. While some emails contain special discounts, most simply advertise sales that are available to everyone. Since that’s the case, you aren’t paying more just because you’re avoiding the daily shopping reminder.
3. Make Cleaning Supplies
Cleaning supplies are surprisingly expensive. Fortunately, there are affordable options that you can make using common household ingredients. Vinegar is often a cleaning powerhouse. With a mixture of white vinegar and water, you can handle most kitchen and bathroom surfaces, as well as many kinds of flooring.
Baking soda is excellent when you need a scrub. It can tackle the inside of toilets, for example. Plus, if you need to refresh your sink drains, it can work wonders. Sprinkle some baking soda, slowly pour in white vinegar, and then flush with hot water.
Those are just some of the options available. If you have a specific cleaning need, do some research to find homemade cleaning supply recipes for that purpose. That way, you can reduce your spending without sacrificing cleanliness.
4. Learn to Sew
Sewing skills can help you save money in a number of ways. If you go the extra mile, you can learn to make your own clothing, allowing you to avoid high-cost retail alternatives. However, even knowing how to sew on a button, hem a pant leg, or other basics can make a difference.
By knowing how to sew, you can repair your clothing if it gets damaged. Plus, you can make the most of thrift store finds that need a little TLC, allowing you to turn an item that needs some attention into a wardrobe staple.
5. Use Several Apps Together
For many people, using rebate or other savings-oriented apps isn’t anything new. However, not everyone realizes that you can take advantage of several apps to get cash back or other benefits at the same time.
For example, you can scan a single receipt into receipt-based apps like Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, and Receipt Hog for points or cash back. Couple that with loyalty apps through retailers and rebate sites like Rakuten, and you can get a lot of rewards from a single purchase.
6. Try Bartering
If you have a skill that other people could benefit from, you could trade it for cost reductions on services you need. For example, if you’re a hairstylist and have a long-standing relationship with a babysitter, you may be able to trade a fresh cut for a night’s worth of childcare.
Generally, this only works if you and the other person have some professional flexibility or autonomy. However, small business owners, freelancers, and similar people might want to explore this option.
7. Explore Grocery Clearance Items
Many grocery stores slash prices on bakery and meat department items that are about to cross their sell-by date. Since that’s the case, you might be able to score some bargains. Look for products you can either use immediately or that freeze well. That way, you’re getting a deal without risking running out of time.
8. Do Math While You Shop
Often, it’s hard to tell which product is the best deal at a glance. While it’s easy to assume that an item on sale or the largest container option offers you the lowest price for that specific volume of product, that isn’t always the case.
If you want to save money while you shop, get comfortable with basic math. By calculating the per-unit price, you can easily compare costs between products, even if they have different volumes.
All you need to do is divide the price by the number of units – such as ounces, grams, or pounds – in the package. For example, if a 24-ounce jar of spaghetti sauce costs $2, the per-unit price is about $0.083 ($2 / 24). Then, you can use the same formula to compare that price to jars or any size, allowing you to find the real bargains.
9. Get a Bulk-Buying Buddy
In some cases, the main reasons people don’t buy in bulk is because they either can’t store the items or they won’t use them all before they go bad. However, others may not be able to afford the higher total price during a shopping trip, even if it represents a per-unit bargain.
If you’re in either boat, consider partnering with a friend, making them your bulk-buying buddy. Essentially, when you find a great deal on a bulk purchase that benefits you both, you’ll split the cost. Then, divide the package up between you. That way, neither of you is overwhelmed by the amount of stuff or the price. Plus, you’re still getting the best deal.
10. Shop When New Flyers Release
Many people shop based on what’s in the latest sale flyer. The issue is, if you aren’t among the first to hit the store, some of the best deals might get scooped up before you get a chance to buy.
Ideally, you want to head to the store at opening time on the day the new flyer goes into effect. Not only will you increase your odds of getting the best deals, but it’s also usually quieter earlier in the day, too.
Otherwise, try to shop near close on the first day of the sale. If the store had any more of the products in the back, they might be making their way to the floor then. Also, since the store is quieter, you may have an easier time finding an employee who can retrieve items from the back, suggesting they’re available.
11. Adjust Your Thermostat When You’re Gone
Turning your thermostat up or down (depending on the season) several degrees has a significant impact on your utility bills, even if you don’t leave it up or down all day. For example, if you increase your home temperature by five to ten degrees during the summer while you’re at work, you could potentially knock quite a bit off of your electric bill.
Often, this works best if you have a smart or programmable thermostat. That way, you can move the temperature to a more comfortable point before you arrive home. However, if you’re focused on saving, you could make the adjustment after you arrive.
12. Consider Strategic Volunteering
Many organizations use volunteers to help manage their costs. While the main reason to volunteer is to support causes, that doesn’t mean you can’t get more out of the experience.
Local art museums, small community theaters, and similar places often turn to volunteers to ensure they can make ends meet. By volunteering there, you can potentially get some perks, like free access to exhibits or shows. If you volunteer at a soup kitchen, you may get to have a plate yourself during a break, reducing your food spending.
Now, it’s not appropriate to volunteer for an organization solely as a way of landing a perk. Instead, only go this direction if you’re giving the position your all. That way, it’s a win-win.
13. Pay Debts Off Based on Interest Rate
If you want to save the most money while paying off debt, you need to use the right strategy. First, make only the minimum payment on every account. That way, everything stays current, ensuring you avoid late fees and hits to your credit score.
Then, direct any extra cash to the debt with the highest interest rate that also doesn’t have any kind of early payoff penalty. That way, you reduce what you owe on the debt that’s costing you the most money over time faster, resulting in a net gain overall.
If the highest interest debt comes with early payoff penalties, you have two choices. First, you could see if tackling the debt early and avoiding interest payments lets you save more than you lose through the penalty. Often, you can use a debt repayment calculator to compare how much you’d spend in interest if you speed up repayment versus waiting. Then, see if the savings significantly outsizes the penalty. If so, it may still be worth focusing on that debt.
Second, you can check the debt with the next highest interest rate. That option is usually solid if the interest rate difference between the two highest costs debts is small or the early payment penalty on the first debt eliminates most of the savings. In the end, you’ll still come out ahead, all because you’re paying off a debt faster.
14. Negotiate for More Than Pay
Negotiating a salary is always a smart idea. However, it’s not the only point you can try to get a better deal on when you land a new job or are aiming for a raise. Bonus plans, retirement plan matches, tuition reimbursements, and several other benefits are potentially negotiable, too.
If your current or prospective employer won’t offer a higher salary, let the manager know you’re open to alternative forms of compensation and see what they present. That way, you can find out if there are other paths worth exploring.
15. Turn Saving into a Game
Money-saving challenges work well for many people because they feel like a game. If you need extra motivation to set cash aside for the future, then consider trying a savings challenge to keep you focused and committed.
There are options that work for nearly any budget and timeline. So, do a little research and find one that works for your budget. Then, find a buddy to do it, too. That way, you have someone on the journey you can celebrate wins with, making the process even more fun overall.
Have you tried any of the creative ways to save money above and want to let others know about your experience? Do you have any other unique solutions that people may want to try? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.