Liz has spent the last year on a journey of doing more with less.
Sometimes, expenses can get out of control. Between wants and needs, costs can get wild. When saving seems impossible and spending seems unavoidable, it's time to step back and evaluate what we can do with what we have. Here are seven tips ways I try to lower my costs so I can save when possible.
1. Take Stock of What You Have
Sometimes, you have to clean the house and get organized to take stock of what you already have. Whether it is the large selection of soaps and lotions in the bathroom that seem to keep multiplying or the collection of rather similar shirts and pants hanging in the closet and folded in drawers, being aware of your abundance may give you pause when you're considering making another redundant purchase.
2. Go Green
The three Rs of going green are reduce, reuse, and recycle. While "green" products can sometimes cost more than their generic counterparts, these three pillars can actually help you save some green if you interpret them in the right way.
An obvious way to save money is to avoid buying things, but reducing goes well beyond that. Reduce energy consumption by turning off lights during the day or when not in a room. Weatherproof your home with insulation and window coverings. Save gas by biking or walking when feasible.
Cut water consumption by shortening showers and maximizing the amount of laundry for your wash cycle. When running water to let it warm, don't let it all go down the drain; collect it and use it to water pets and plants. When you do have to purchase something new (from appliances to lightbulbs to windows), aim for more energy-efficient versions. Look for the EnergyStar logo and compare ratings.
Find ways to reuse items rather than throwing them away. Save glass jars for storage or planters. Use old shoeboxes to organize closets or for art projects. Repurpose worn-out clothing as rags or to create new clothing and quilts. Old furniture can be refurbished and given new life.
When you are truly done with something, try to recycle it. Some communities offer free or reduced-cost recycling as opposed to paying for trash removal, and some recycling centers even pay for you scrap metal (think soda and soup cans, old appliances, and wires and pipes when remodeling). Cell phones can be refurbished for charity or resale or scavenged for parts.
3. Buy Used
Have you ever heard the saying, "They just don't make them like they used to?" In many cases, this is right. Except in the case of high-end furniture, much of the current furniture industry has moved away from durable, wood furnishings and toward inexpensive fiberboard.
According to a 2020 article on The New Republic, "Each year, Americans throw out more than 12 million tons of furniture and furnishings, according to the Environmental Protection Agency." Meanwhile, resale and antique stores are having a hard time selling wood furniture, resulting in incredibly low prices. The same kinds of things can be said for other everyday goods like cups and plates and clothing.
4. Buy Quality
There are some items that you only expect to use for a short amount of time and then throw away, like party supplies and children's toys. For items like this, you may feel comfortable shopping at a discount retailer or dollar store. For other items that you expect to last—like clothing, electronics, and furniture—do some research to find items that are made of better materials, have better consumer reviews, and will possibly prevent you from having to purchase the same item again too soon.
Also, don't forget to invest in quality accessories like surge protectors for your electronics and cases and screen protectors for phones and tablets. Low-quality accessories are more likely to result in electrical issues like fried batteries or unnecessary damage when your phone is dropped!
5. Use Loyalty Programs
Many retailers offer free loyalty programs to encourage repeat business, and in return for a customer's purchases, they are rewarded with points and coupons. Some programs also offer bonus deals for birthdays and anniversaries. These programs are very common for supermarkets, pet stores, and restaurants but may also be available at entertainment venues like movie theaters.
Be sure to watch out for any strings attached! Some programs may have fees, which may or may not pay for themselves depending on your usage. Some programs may be tied to credit cards, which is fine if you pay your balance off on time every month but may have high interest rates or late fees when you don't.
6. Use Coupons
While a coupon should not be the only determining factor when making a purchase, you should use them when you can. If you do not get the newspaper or want to dig through paper ads, there are now numerous websites, apps, and web extensions that provide printable coupons to use in-store or coupon codes for web use. There are also a few websites and extensions that offer cash back and rebates. Always use your resources to see how much money you can save.
- Rakuten (offers automatic cash back and has built-in coupons)
- Honey (offers points for money back and has built-in coupons)
7. Take Advantage of Your Credit Cards' Features
If you are going to use credit cards, do some research to see which ones are going to give you the most value. Beware of annual fees, late fees, and high interest rates.
While many cards offer points, cash back, and miles, some other perks that may be valuable include built-in extended warranties or insurance for items purchased with the card, cell phone insurance when you pay the monthly bill with the card, coupons/discounts with select retailers, concierge services for better travel deals or upgrades, rental car and travel insurance, oraccess to basic credit monitoring.
- 5 Thrifty Saving Tips to Help You Stay on Budget
By identifying your expenses negotiating discounted rates with service providers, and cutting items from your budget, you can save more money for things like vacations.
- 6 Old-Fashioned Ways to Save Money
Here are six old-fashioned strategies for saving money that still work as well in the 2020s as they did in the 1930s.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Liz Woodward
Lady Dazy from UK on May 17, 2021:
You gave us some good advice in this article, I am always looking for new ways to save money.