If you’re like most people, you appreciate any and all advice on how to save a few bucks or even a lot of dollars. And there is no shortage of expertise or gimmicky strategies. But some of the best money-saving tips are the simplest. You’ll save money without feeling deprived. Best of all, many of these tips are also eco-friendly, a win-win situation!
Cut Your Utility Bill
Back in the day, many people never gave a second thought to utility usage or cost. They blithely left the lights on and the heat or air conditioner running whether they were actually occupying a room or not. Additionally, many people allowed the water to run full blast while they brushed their teeth. These days, most people are conscious about turning off lights when they leave a room or running water only to rinse while brushing their teeth.
Some of the most prominent energy vampires are appliances and electronics. Of course, you can’t turn off your refrigerator, but you can connect your toaster oven and coffee maker to a power strip that you turn off when you’re not using your appliances. You can do the same with your computer and television, both of which employ standby power, which allows them to respond immediately when you press the “on” button. Washing your clothes in cold water will get them just as clean while saving you a ton of money.
If you’re faced with an emergency, you often have no choice but to make a purchase right away. If your car transmission dies, you have no opportunity but to replace it – or learn the bus schedule. But even when dealing with an urgent purchase, you should still shop around within reason for the best possible bargain, including sale prices.
For purchases, you can anticipate, it’s smart to know when the best savings can be had. For instance, the holiday season is often a great time to buy pricey electronics, because merchants are anxious for sales. By contrast, January is a great time to buy furniture, carpeting, and air conditioners. Look for online resources that include comprehensive lists so that you can be sure you’re getting the best possible deal.
Used merchandise can provide huge bargains. Check out consignment shops for great deals on designer fashions. Refurbished electronics often carry similar warranties as new merchandise. Floor models or merchandise from a previous season represent great bargains for furniture or appliances. They can’t be sold as new even though they’ve only been “used” as demonstration models. In many instances, there are only slight cosmetic blemishes that are easily hidden or corrected.
If you’re thinking of buying bulk to shop strategically for you and your family, be sure to check out our Members Only Discount Deals guide.
Home Is Where the Savings Are
You can’t function without your morning coffee, but do you really need to pay $4 or $5 every morning for a concoction with whipped cream? You’ll save a ton of money by brewing your own coffee at home and taking it along in a commuter cup. Movie buffs can keep up with the latest flicks by opting for matinee shows or waiting a couple of months to buy or rent the hottest titles on DVD.
Shop your closet before you hit the malls. You may surprise yourself by discovering a really great accessory or an essential wardrobe staple. Or set up an exchange with a few of your friends – their cast-offs may be a perfect complement those hard-to-match items in your wardrobe. And with the money you save, you’ll have more cash available for that really great coat, sweater or pair of boots.
Save Your Receipts
One area where you can potentially rack up savings is during tax time. Deductions and tax credits can make a significant impact on your total tax liability. Keeping track of your receipts during the year makes it that much easier to rightly claim any tax credits or deductions to which you re entitled once April rolls around. Set up a filing or category system so that your receipts are automatically sorted as you collect them, rather than scrambling in a mad rush to meet the deadline.
It’s Only a Bargain if You Use It
You find a ginormous sale on toilet paper, so you buy enough to fill an entire closet. Even if you live alone, that’s not such a wrong move. You’ll use it eventually. On the other hand, purchasing an entire side of beef when you’re single and never have a company is not the best idea. You’ll have to freeze most of the meat to keep it from spoiling, and even then, you may eventually have to throw out a significant amount because of freezer burn. It’s even sillier to purchase items that you NEVER use. For example, formal attire when you never go out or expensive golf clubs when you hate the sport – just because there’s a sale.
No Deprivation Required
You’ll notice that none of these tips require ruthless deprivation. In fact, allowing yourself occasional splurges minimizes resentment and helps guard against uncontrolled buying sprees. If your necessities are taken care of and there is something that you really want to purchase – go for it! And if you can get it on sale, so much the better.
Audrey Henderson is a Chicagoland-based writer and researcher. She holds advanced degrees in sociology and law from Northwestern University. Her writing specialties are sustainable development in the built environment, policy related to arts and popular culture, socially and ecologically responsible travel, civic tech and personal finance.