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How I Save $17,000 per Year

Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.

Frugal living blog: How I saved money and had a great day!

Frugal living blog: How I saved money and had a great day!

Frugal Living for a Day

Today was an ordinary day for me, but I decided to look back through my day and write a frugal living article about the things I did to save money. If I had known that I would be writing about my day, I may have done some extraordinary things to save money so I could impress you. But since I just now had the idea to write about it, you'll get to read about the kind of ordinary things that I do to save money on a typical day.

Individually, these things don't seem to amount to much savings, but by the end of the day, the things I did to save money add up to over $17,000 of savings per year.

Coffee maker with cone filter and thermal carafe

Coffee maker with cone filter and thermal carafe

5:30 AM: Make Coffee for 60 Cents

Today was not totally ordinary—I had to get up a bit earlier than normal to take my son to a school event. I followed my normal routine, only everything was early. Coffee is important every day but even more important today since I was up early.

I make great coffee at home by grinding my own beans and brewing coffee in a coffee maker with a thermal carafe and a cone filter system. This may sound expensive, but it only costs me 60 cents to make 16 oz of coffee that is better than coffee shop coffee. If I wanted, I could make really cheap coffee for a few cents, but I find that having a good cup of coffee is worth the money to me—especially if it only costs 60 cents.

Savings: $1.50 per day by making my own coffee vs. buying coffee at a coffee shop

Get free TV with an indoor HD TV antenna

Get free TV with an indoor HD TV antenna

5:45 AM: Check the Weather Forecast on Free TV With an Indoor Antenna

Since it is the middle of winter in Iowa, a quick check of the weather forecast and a check for school delays or cancellations was in order. I turned on my TV and enjoyed a few minutes of the morning news with free high-definition TV from a local station. I use an indoor TV antenna to get HD TV. I saved about $120 per month by dropping satellite TV and using free TV and Netflix instead.

Savings: $4 per day by using free TV instead of satellite TV or cable TV

Wear cheap clothes from clearance sales!

Wear cheap clothes from clearance sales!

6:00 AM: Put On Cheap Winter Clothes

Today I was really glad that I found tons of cheap winter clearance clothes last year. I wore a name-brand button-up shirt that I got for $5 and a nice heavy winter fleece that I got for $8. I picked these items up at 80% off at winter clearance sales. The trick to finding the good bargains at winter clearance sales is finding the sale at the right time. The good stuff goes fast!

Choosing shoes every morning is pretty easy; I have black dress shoes and brown dress shoes. I also have tennis shoes, but tennis shoes aren't suitable for work. Today I went with the black dress shoes after moving my shoe inserts from my brown shoes. Using shoe inserts allows me to wear older shoes without hurting my feet.

Savings: I save about $1.50 per day ($500 per year) buying cheap clothes instead of full-price clothes

Bring lunch instead of eating out

Bring lunch instead of eating out

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6:15 AM: Pack a Healthy and Cheap Lunch

I packed my giant lunchbox for the day. I put a couple frozen ice packs in the bottom, then placed a Tupperware container of leftover pasta with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese on the ice packs. Next, I added some red grapes, clementines, and a container of Greek yogurt.

I also packed my breakfast: a Tupperware container of Golden Grams cereal.

Packing lunch can save you about $165 per month compared with eating out for lunch. Not only can you save money by packing your own lunch, but it is healthier than eating out as well.

Savings: $10 per day by bringing my own breakfast and lunch vs. eating out and buying food at work

6:30 AM: Drive to Work, Getting 40 MPG in a 12-Year-Old Car

It was time to drop my son off at school and head to work. Actually, my wife decided to drive my son the short trip to school, and I headed off to work in my 2002 Honda Civic. This is a car that I bought as a 7-year-old used car, and it has required almost no repairs or expensive maintenance. This car is paid off, so I don't have to make monthly car payments.

My car gets 40 mph overall with my mix of about 15% city and 85% highway driving. Back in 2002, cars with manual transmissions got better gas mileage than automatic transmissions. When it was time to pick out a car, I reviewed the fuel economy ratings for cars I was interested in driving. The Honda Civic with a manual transmission had one of the best fuel economy ratings for that model year and was highly rated for reliability as well.

Most people spend a lot of money every month on gas. Driving a fuel-efficient car saves you money every day. Most people spend a lot of money every month on car payments. If you can find an older car that is affordable and reliable, driving an older car that is paid off can save you money every day.

Savings: $16 by driving a small car with no car payments, and $13 per day by not making a car payment ($400 per month), plus $3 on gas per day vs. driving a bigger car or SUV

Driving an older, reliable car can save money. My 12-year-old car gets 40 mpg!

Driving an older, reliable car can save money. My 12-year-old car gets 40 mpg!

Workday: No Extra Driving Around

One way that I save money every day is by minimizing extra driving around. I got to work early, found a great parking space, and left my car parked all day. You can save wear and tear on your car simply by driving it less. You can also save gas by avoiding unnecessary short trips during the workday.

Since eating my lunch that I brought with me took only a few minutes, I had plenty of time to take a walk. Since it was below zero outside, I walked inside. Walking is a great activity that you can do for free without any special equipment.

Savings: Short trips can easily use $1 or $2 of gas every day. I included the gas savings under another section.

Used books can be of great value.

Used books can be of great value.

After Work: Stop at Library

I stopped by the library on the way home to check out the rack of books for sale inside. Of course, you can check out books and movies for free at the library, but sometimes I like to buy used books to keep for a while.

At my library, you can buy used paperback books for 25 cents and used hard-cover books for 50 cents. I didn't find anything today, but last month I found a used book at a half-price bookstore on JavaScript for $5.99 and taught myself to make interactive calculators on how to save and make money. My favorite: a millionaire calculator that shows how to make a million dollars through small investments.

Savings: $5 per day. Small impulse purchases, such as buying a book, movies, or computer games, can add up. You can greatly reduce this expense by avoiding stores or by going to libraries and thrift stores instead of more expensive places to shop.

Dinner: Buy Pizza With a $5 Coupon

It was Friday night, and everyone wanted pizza. I carry pizza coupons in my wallet at all times to help handle this situation. You can certainly make dinner at home for less than buying a carry-out pizza, but sometimes it is nice to bring home a hot pizza. A $5 coupon certainly makes it easier to get a pizza without spending a lot of money.

We ended up with leftover pizza that will make a great lunch on Saturday.

Savings: I saved $5 with my handy coupon!

Evening: Enjoy Free Hobbies and Entertainment

After dinner, I watched some free HD TV with my family. It happened to be the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I also read a free Time magazine. I was able to get six free magazine subscriptions by cashing in some frequent flyer miles from trips for work that were about to expire.

Next, I worked on my free hobby: blogging. You can write a blog for free and with minimal computer equipment. Not only can you write a blog for free, but you can even make money if you work at setting up passive income streams from online writing and blogs.

Savings: $5 per day. Hobbies can be expensive, especially if you buy a big "toy" that you have to make payments on. I'll estimate $5 per day of savings by having a free hobby.

Total Savings for a Day of Frugal Living

Individually, the small amounts of money saved by choosing simpler options don't seem like much, but the savings add up quickly.

Frugal OpportunitySavings: One Day

Make Coffee at Home


Free TV Instead of Satellite TV


Wear Cheap Clothes from Clearance Sales


Pack Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks


Drive Fuel Efficient Car without Car Payments


Avoid Small Purchases


Use Coupons


Cheap/Free Hobbies and Entertainment


Total Savings: One Day


Total Savings: One Year


As you can see from the table, I found a number of ways to save a small amount of money every day. My savings from a typical day was $48. Over a year, if you can save $48 per day, this adds up to over $17,000!

A Day With a Penny Pincher

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the ways that I saved money on a typical day. None of the things I did to save money today require much effort or special skill. If you put a bit of thought into the things that you spend money on every day, it is easy to find alternatives that are cheap or even free. Part of the fun of being a penny pincher is the satisfaction that comes from living efficiently without all the extra stuff that you don't really need.

© 2014 Dr Penny Pincher


Fin from Barstow on August 09, 2018:

a lot of this stuff is easier said than done especially with impulse buying. it does add up though..

coffee is a good idea but you still have to purchase a coffee maker, get your beans, spend time cleaning and get creamer etc.

but its nice to get feedback and see the numbers. I'm trying hard myself, but it can be difficult.

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on January 25, 2016:

HD, I think most people would be surprised by how much those little expenses can add up! Thanks for your comment.

Heather Darnell from Quad Cities on January 23, 2016:

Great article, seeing your overall savings just by changing simple everyday activities is a huge savings. Some people don't even make $17,000 a year and they continue to eat out and spend money and wonder why they are always broke. If those people were to see this article, I'm sure it would be a great go-to guide for those needing to change spending habits.

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on February 04, 2015:

I was worried about missing football without cable/satellite TV, but you can actually find a lot of games broadcast free over-the-air on BBC, FOX, ABC, and CBS. You won't be able to get ESPN or NFL chanel with an antenna, though. You could give an antenna a try to just return it if the reception is not good at your house. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Teri Stohlberg on February 04, 2015:

I do many of these things already, the library, the lunches, the coffee. I will definitely have to try the antenna idea. There are many trees around my house so I am not sure if it will work, but I will give it a try. I think I could live without t.v., but I am sure my husband would protest not being able to watch football! Thanks for the great article.

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on December 01, 2014:

Novalee, Groupon sounds like an interesting way to try new things at a significant discount. I'll have to check it out- none of the things you mentioned are on my shopping list... if there is a deal on furnace filters, I'm in! Thanks for reading.

Novalee on December 01, 2014:

One word... Groupon. I just started this app like sometime this year but was always afraid to do it because I usually don't put my account info online but finally this last July I bought these Demi Lovato tickets in Reno and I totally could see the stage. I was extremely impressed since I only paid 60 bucks for 2 tickets, and one was more than that. This last few days I've saved over 1200 dollars buying cool stuff. A couple more expensive ones was this 550 dollar muscle pulse thing that alleviates pain for like 40 bucks and then I bought this ISO beauty 5 barrel hair curling iron for 250 bucks for 60. I am always going to use this app. Frugal to the max!!! Super excited to track my packages!!!

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on February 08, 2014:

Victoria Lynn, I think people sometimes fall into habits and get used to eating out and drinking coffee in coffee shops. I have gotten used to making my own coffee and lunches, to the point where I prefer that over eating out. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on February 08, 2014:

Writer Fox, it is hard for me to give up a car that runs and is paid for! Thanks for your comment and vote up!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on February 08, 2014:

I love always looking for ways to save! I can't imagine buying coffee at a coffee shop or eating out every day for lunch. The times I eat out per year I could count on one hand. It's not a way I like to spend money. Frugal is my middle name. LOL. Nice article. I always enjoy yours when I catch them. :-)

Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on February 08, 2014:

Your tips really add up to a lot of savings! The biggest savings, of course, is not to buy a new car every couple of years. I've never understood why people feel the need to do that. Great article and voted up!

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on February 07, 2014:

Kidscrafts, I like your comment about having a table with the total savings for the day at the end. This would be a nice conclusion, I'll see what I can put together. Thanks for reading and commenting!

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on February 07, 2014:

Great tips as usually! It's good to make a journal of your day to see where you saved money.... it's like writing what you eat when you are on a diet! I was expecting a table at the end with the total of your savings for the day :-)

As you said, those things that you did today don't require much effort or special skill but at the end of the day... or the year they add up! Good for you!

Have a great weekend!

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