Saving money is easier said than done. When you look at your expenses, it feels like every purchase has a purpose—or at least an excuse. Even when you know which expenses are creating the biggest problems for you, it is hard to see an alternative.
Thankfully, when it comes to saving money, even little changes can make a big difference over time. Here are 7 tips to help you cut some of your regular costs.
1. Wait 24 hours before making a big purchase.
Everyone has a different threshold for what they consider a “big purchase.” Think about the purchases you regularly make. What amount makes you hesitate? Maybe it is anything over $20. Or $50. Or $100.
Whatever that dollar amount is, do not spend it on a whim—wait a day. If you are shopping online, you could leave it in your cart. If you are in a physical store, leave it on the shelf.
The next day you will have had more time to think about how important that purchase is, what life without it is like, if it is worth a separate trip to the store for, and, ultimately, if it is worth spending an unusual amount on. You might even realize that you totally forgot about it (in which case, you probably don’t need it).
Hopefully you will find yourself making these purchases less frequently and providing better reasons for the times when you spend more than you want to.
2. Use alternative transportation.
If you fill up your gas tank once a week driving to work, that adds up fast. Even if you do not sell your car and stop paying for car insurance, using alternative transportation regularly can significantly reduce the amount you spend on gas.
A bus pass is probably going to cost you a lot less than what you would spend on gas. And if you already have a bike, all that will cost you is some sweat and time. Neither of these forms of transportation are as convenient as a car, but they will both get you from Point A to Point B for less money.
3. Shop at discount grocery stores and thrift shops.
Unless you are an extreme couponer, it is tough to save on groceries. You likely already have some awareness of how prices vary from store to store in your area, and you think carefully about where you shop.
Discount grocery stores are often overlooked as a way to save money on dry goods and food that you will consume in the next couple of days. They sell food that is close to or past the expiration date but still safe to eat. You can find name brand foods for a fraction of the price. You probably do not want to buy a week’s worth of produce, but these stores are a good place to get food that is meant to last a long time.
Depending on the kind of food you eat, it may mean making more frequent trips to the grocery store to get food that does not last very long. But those trips will cost you less.
Similarly, thrift shops are full of hidden gems if you are willing to look for them. People get rid of clothes and other items for all sorts of reasons; and while everything at a thrift store is “used,” some of the items you will find there are basically new for a fraction of the price. A number of apps and online options also exist for people to sell "like new" clothes from their closets.
If you are the kind of person who enjoys shopping and you feel the need to treat yourself frequently, a thrift store or digital alternative lets you fulfill that need without messing up your budget.
4. Use workout apps instead of going to the gym.
Gyms give you access to equipment and expertise, but you can work out anywhere. Motivation and good habits are what make exercise happen. You can find all kinds of free workout routines and videos online, and your friends or family can be your workout partners.
For some people, spending money on a gym membership is the only thing motivating them to exercise. But if you are motivated enough to exercise at home or somewhere else, you can skip the gym membership and save a little more every month.
Fitness apps help you set goals, stick to routines, and track your progress. Plenty of them are free, but even a premium fitness app is usually a cheap, one-time purchase. (Whereas a gym membership can cost hundreds of dollars per year.)
5. Take good care of the things you have.
If you take good care of your car, you might not need to buy one for a decade or more. Basic maintenance like changing your oil or replacing lights can cost twice as much to have someone else do it. You are basically paying for the convenience of not doing it yourself.
When you need more extensive work done, keep in mind: a lot of mechanics do free inspections. When are not sure what maintenance your car needs, get an inspection, get a quote, and then see what it would take to do that work yourself.
This tip applies to a lot more than cars though. Taking good care of your possessions ensures that you have to replace them less often. It will also help you be aware when things are starting to break down or wear out, so you will have fewer surprise costs.
Quality products cost more, but they often last longer. If you are trying to save money long-term, you also need to think about how long it will be before you have to buy something again.
6. Go an extra month between haircuts.
The average cost of a haircut is about $28 for a man and about $44 for a woman. Haircuts may not be a monthly expense for you, but if you get them regularly, it adds up. And think about this: if you get a haircut once a month, waiting an extra month in between each one cuts the amount you spend in half. Even if you only get four haircuts per year, that extra month in between means one less haircut every year.
If your haircut is not complicated, you may also consider investing in a quality set of trimmers or other tools to cut your hair yourself (or have a family member do it).
Achieving financial stability is a gradual process, brought on by a shift in your perspective and practical strategies.
7. Get your books at the library, not the bookstore.
Books are not cheap. And some people are addicted to accumulating them. If you buy books several times a year and you are trying to save money, it might be time to think about reading those books for free. This is another area where many people are essentially paying for a convenience.
You can find the exact same books at the library. It just takes longer to get them sometimes, and you eventually have to give them back. Many libraries also offer digital loans if you like reading on a device instead.
A sobering thought: of all the books that you buy every year, how many of them do you reread or loan to someone? If the answer is zero and your bookshelves are slowly taking over your house, it is probably time to get yourself a library card.
Save money with small changes.
A lot of times, achieving financial stability can feel like climbing a mountain. From the bottom, it is daunting. But just as you do not climb a mountain in one giant leap, you cannot expect yourself to flip a switch and become financially stable. It is a gradual process, brought on by a shift in your perspective and practical strategies.
We are all stewards of God's resources that He has entrusted to us. Remembering what stewardship means how how it applies to each of our lives is a great place to start.