Cost savings ideas in 8 different categories that don’t require you to go without your next vacation. These are simple ideas you can incorporate into your everyday life but make a huge difference in your net worth!
We are often looking for ways to earn more money or to save money. But what if the answer was as simple as reducing our current spending? I’m not suggesting giving up your next vacation or canceling Christmas.
For most of us, our standard of living rises as our income rises. The problem with is when something unexpected in life happens, and our income decreases or our expenses increase. Whether that be divorce, the birth of a child, losing a job, caring for an ill family member, it is any situation that either causes our income to drop or our expenses to rise. At this point, we are accustomed to our current standard of living, and we don’t adjust it.
Most of the time, this is where we get into trouble. We begin trying to earn more money instead of merely cutting costs within our current budget. Once you take an honest look at your spending, chances are you will see the majority is based upon “wants” instead of “needs.”
Ideally, we would spend less than what we earn all the time. However, when we get that new job or big raise, usually the first thought is, “Finally, now I can afford ____.” You fill in the blank.
Taking an honest look at your current spending is time-consuming. However, most of us can cut our spending in many of the areas below without realizing it. It takes a little time, effort, and follow-through. I think that sounds better and easier to do than a side-hustle job that also takes time and effort but no guaranteed outcome. (Trust me, I’ve tried many myself!).
Live below your means but within your needs. ~Suze Orman
Cost Saving Ideas in Multiple Categories
Check out each of the categories below and see which of the cost-saving ideas you can adopt in each one. Take one category at a time and spend some time each one, researching and trying out new ideas. Cutting costs isn’t a sprint, the habits you adopt here will pay off for you in years to come, regardless of future income increases or decreases.
Cost Savings Ideas for Grocery Bills
The grocery store is one of the most significant areas for cost savings. However, it doesn’t have to include comprising your health to cut costs. Most recommended is to skip the meat section and not buy organic. While that will help you reduce your grocery bill, you have to weigh the effects of eating poorly. Poor nutrition leads to an increase in medication, doctor visits, and sick days.
I’ve learned this the hard way. I have suffered from a debilitating disease and more and more the research points to nutrition. Now, I make it a point to buy the best quality food for my family.
While this is a personal choice for each family, I urge you to consider the unknown risks of eating food that is built in a factory to save costs.
Here are some practical cost savings ideas for your grocery bill and keeping your health in mind.
- Shop less often. Make it an intentional event. Don’t run by the store each day after work and pick up something for dinner. Saving money at the grocery store will involve meal planning and fewer trips to the store.
- If possible, grocery shop without your children.
- It’s not necessary to watch the ads for all the grocery stores in your town then shop at them all. Be practical – how much are you saving when you figure the price of gas and your time spent running around time. Your time is valuable too. Instead chose your favorite grocery store and read their ad for the week to see what is on sale. Create your meal plan for the week around their ad as much as possible.
- Buy produce in season. Fruits and vegetables taste better when in season and since it’s more economical to grow and ship them to stores at their peak times, it’s cheaper for you too.
- One exception I make to the “one store” rule is shopping at a good quality discount grocery store before heading to my regular store. These stores, like Aldi’s, usually have high-quality produce and dairy, along with paper products that you will find cheaper here than you would at your local grocery store, even when it is on sale.
- Buying bulk when possible, and when it makes sense.
- Using coupons isn’t all about clipping them from a newspaper anymore. Your local grocery store most likely has digital coupons you can add to your loyalty card while you are shopping. Amazon now digital coupons as well and when you are checking out, you click to apply the coupon.
- Pay in cash. I never use my ATM at the grocery store. Go with a budget in hand (literally, your cash) and use the calculator on your phone to keep track of how much you are spending.
Cost Savings for Clothing
- Trade your clothing. Trade whatever clothing you don’t wear anymore and what your kids have out-grown. You can drop off your clothing at most second-hand shops and receive credit in return. Turning it in for money alone will probably be disappointing, as you won’t get much and you will get more in store credit. Even if you don’t want to shop at the second-hand store, most likely your children are young enough that they are growing out of their clothes each season anyway.
- Host a clothes swap. Invite your friends, and have them bring all their clothes, accessories, and shoes they no longer want and lay it all out for each other. Serve drinks and make it a fun evening. You can do this with kids’ clothes at the end of each season. Invite friends of friends, so you have a wide variety. The remaining clothes can be donated.
- Some bulk grocery stores, such as Sams Club, carry brand new clothing from big brands. The catch is two-fold 1) you have to have a membership (which may be worth it if you’re buying bulk) if not, go with a friend who has a membership 2) the reason they are receiving the clothes is that there is usually something semi-wrong with it. For example, my friend found an awesome pair of jeans for $19 instead of $89 regularly at the mall, and they fit her great. So she bought another pair, same size and same brand in a different color without trying them on. When she got home, she found out the sizes were off by the color, and the black pair were almost one size bigger.
- Invest in only a few staple pieces of clothing. Project 333 follows Courtney’s idea of wearing only 30 articles of clothing for 3 months – and no one even noticed!
- Forgo dry cleaning. Wash your clothes on the delicate cycle then lay it out to dry.
Cost Savings Ideas for Gifts
- Regifting presents you or children receive can save you a lot of money. I never had to buy my kids’ friends any birthday presents as a result. It’s only now that they are older and iTunes gift cards are the only item they want that I have begun buying gifts. You can regift your unwanted presents and all the overflow your children receive from others very easily and without looking cheap. Read more about the process here.
- Consider and plan out your gifts for the year. You’re always going to have kids’ birthday parties come up unexpectedly, but all the holidays you can plan. Is it necessary to give your kids a gift on Valentines Day, or would they be just as happy playing games?
- I’ve found experience gifts to be the highlight of my children’s Christmas. I don’t give them a huge, one-time experience gift. Instead, I give them coupons for different, smaller, affordable, activities to do with them throughout the year. Each month, we open the envelope and see what we will do. Experience gifts allow me to stretch my costs throughout the year, instead of putting a large down at Christmas. Some months, the activity costs nothing, but the kids look forward to spending time with me all year long.
Saving on Utilities
- Get the kids on board and start turning off lights every time you leave a room. Once I sat my children down and explained the budget and how they can affect our variable expenses, like utilities, they immediately began turning off all the lights in the house.
- You can get a programmable thermostat that automatically changes the temperature in your home when you’re not there. Most models are easy to install and set up. If your house is empty during the same times each day (weekends can be on a different schedule), then that is probably the most cost-effective option. If your schedule is all over the place, then turning it down (or up) at night by a few degrees can make an impact on your bill.
- Unplugging appliances you aren’t using can save you money on your utility bill. Even if you have your lamp, for example, turned off, there is power running to the lamp as long as the cord is plugged into the socket. I keep all my kitchen appliances unplugged when I’m not using them. Then when we go on vacation, we walk through the house real quick an unplug everything.
- Use wool dryer balls to dry your clothes instead of dryer sheets. It drys your clothes faster, and you only buy the dryer balls once every few years. If you miss the smell of dryer sheets, you can add a drop of essential oil to your dryer balls. If you experience static cling, some people attach a safety pin to one of the dryer balls. I don’t have any static and use 4 dryer balls, the same ones for over two years now.
- If you feel a draft in the winter coming in from the outside, you can place a doorstop under the door to help seal in the heat. Although resealing or even a new door is best, sometimes a simple doorstop is all you can afford and not only will this save your electric bill, you will immediately notice the difference. The cold draft will be gone.
- If you have a furnished basement, during the summer when your air conditioner is running, close some of the a/c vents in the basement and open all of them upstairs. Then in the winter when you are running the heater, do the opposite. Since heat rises, use gravity to your advantage instead of trying to compete with it. I was running the heater so much during the winter trying to keep the bedrooms downstairs warm while upstairs the house was way too hot. I had to run fans to cool it down.
Cost-savings for the Cable Bill
- You don’t need to pay full price for your cable bill. Call your cable provider and ask what the current promotions are. Tell them you need to reduce your cable bill. Five years ago I called the cable company with the full intent of canceling all my cable. They found a deal for me with the catch that it would expire in one year and then my cable bill would go back up to what it was. I made a note on my calendar to call back in exactly one year. When I did, they had another deal for me. I spend 30 minutes on the phone with the cable company every year on the same day, and each year can get my cable under $100, sometimes even $80.
- If you have a Smart TV, then you probably have Netflix or Hulu. If that’s the case, do you need all those cable tiers? Or do you watch enough Netflix or Hulu to justify keeping it?
- If you Internet and Cable are on the same bill, find out from your provider what tier they have you on for Internet coverage. If you aren’t teleworking or streaming movies, you may not need the fastest, highest package.
Cost Reduction Ideas for Entertainment
Your local public library can entertain your children (and you) for more than just books.
- Check out what classes they offer from computer learning, book clubs, to letting kids read a book to therapy dogs, there can be a ton of activities that are free to the public and available at all hours. Get a copy of their monthly calendar and see what interests you and your children.
- Our library has a bookmobile. Even though the book selection is considerably less than the whole library, they tend to carry the best sellers on the bookmobile. For some reason, looking for books and movies on a “bus” is very exciting for kids. They consider it an outing.
- Rent your movies from the library. You’d be surprised at the variety they have.
- Check out the audiobook apps your library has. My library has 2, and I use them all the time. One of the apps has a limit of 12 books per month, while the other doesn’t. If I want a book that isn’t available through the app, I request it, and the app notifies me when it’s ready. I never have to leave my house.
- Get your children a library card. They will feel bigger and want to go to the library and check out books and movies themselves.
Save while eating out
- Sign up for the birthday club at your favorite restaurants for everyone in your family. Most likely you’ll eat there on someone’s birthday anyway. The restaurant will probably send you other coupons throughout the year as a result. You can set up a different email, so your regular email isn’t flooded with offers. And so you aren’t tempted to eat out every time a new email is sent.
- You can buy gift cards for less than face value online. Check out giftcardnanny or cardpool for deals.
- Get takeout instead and eat your favorite restaurant meal at home. Takeout will save approximately 20% when you figure in the cost of drinks and the larger tip.
- Of course, cooking at home is always cheaper. Make it fun so it doesn’t feel like the same thing. You can have theme nights (Taco Tuesday or Breakfast for Dinner) or make pizza as a family.
- Explore a National Park Site. There are 417 national park sites in the U.S.
- Take the kids to a Children’s Museum. They can spend hours there for about the admission of a movie.
- Visit Groupon regularly and check out the coupons that are offered in the entertainment section for your city.
Saving on Car Maintenace
Car maintenance is a necessity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get smart about it.
- Instead of blindly getting all the services suggested by the mechanic, consult the manual for your car. What services must be done and when for your make and model? Along the same lines, check to see when should the oil be changed.
- Get a few different quotes for car insurance. Getting a quote is good to do if you’ve had your same insurer for a long time. Even if you don’t want to leave your current insurance, it will give you something to bargain with and let you see if you are overpaying.
- Wash your car at home. Have the kids help, tell them you’ll spray them with the sprinkler, or pay them with ice cream.
- Consider a AAA membership. If your car is older or if you drive a lot, the cost of having your vehicle towed or the tire changed will outweigh the yearly fee of a membership. Plus, it’s peace of mind with children in the car.
Save at the Bank
- Make sure your bank isn’t charging you for overdraft fees when you have a savings account. Your savings account should cover your checking overdrafts without a fee – within a reasonable limit. Additionally, find a checking account with no monthly fee. There are a ton of banks and credit unions out there all with different rules and charges depending on the type of account you have open. Do a little research on banks in your area to find one that won’t charge you.
- On the same lines, watch your checking account to make sure you aren’t overdrawing. The best way to ensure this is to pay cash for everything and not use your ATM card to withdraw cash.
- Have your mortgage auto-drafted from your checking account every month. This will ensure you never miss a bill. Your mortgage is a fixed, non-negotiable expense, so there’s no reason to deal with it each month. Tip: have it set up to withdraw every 2 weeks – this will have you unknowingly make an extra house payment each year.
That was just 44 ideas to reduce your spending in 8 categories. There are unlimited cost savings ideas out there. But what’s important is that you live below your means. For more money saving ideas, check out Saving Money as a Single Mom here!