In Step 3 of Simple Steps for Frugality, we talked about getting the most bang for your frugal buck. What are the quickest ways you can slash your expenses so that you don’t lose momentum? Since everyone has different spending in different categories, here are several suggestions on ways you can simplify the madness, and find extra dollars to throw at your future.
1. Rent A Room: Make sure you have a written agreement that details out responsibility, chores, etc. (I consider this to be an easy cut because once you determine that it will happen, and find or create an appropriate roommate agreement, it doesn’t usually take any additional resources.)
2. Negotiate Your Rent To Market Rate or Move: If you’re renewing your lease, this is a no-brainer; if your neighbor is paying a couple hundred dollars less than you are for the same apartment, you need to ask for a market rate adjustment. The worst your landlord can say is “No” and the worst (or possibly best) thing that can happen is you move. If moving can save you even $100/month, that’s $1200 a year that I know you would rather have for other things.
3. Downsize Your Space: It only takes a single episode of House Hunters International to realize, at least in this country, we “need” too much space. I’m currently living with a husband and sixty pound dog in 484 sf., happily. As long as everything has it’s place, I relish the fact that our water bill is $25 a month, and our electricity hovers at $55. I also have far less to clean (although that hasn’t seemed to help it get done).
4. Upsize Your Space With A Roommate: When I first moved into an apartment, I lived in a one bedroom apartment by myself for $650 a month. Within six months I upgraded to a two bedroom apartment with my best friend for $850 a month. Since my share was only $425, I increased my space for less money.
5. Eliminate Electronic Vampirism: Anything that has a light, a blink, or is plugged in unnecessarily, adds to your electric bill. Putting all of your appliances on surge protectors, or just unplugging things that aren’t being used can save you watts and dollars. (FYI, lights can also interrupt your sleep patterns).
6. Turn Off The Lights: If no one’s in the room, who’s the light on for? Right now, I’m sitting with my laptop in a living room enjoying the wonders of…..wait for it…..NATURAL LIGHT!
7. Have A Candle Night: Candles provide a soothing (possibly romantic) environment with zero electricity usage.
8. Get Outside!: Seriously, go have a picnic, take your dog to the park, take a walk, leave the house! Just make sure you turn everything off before you leave.
9. Let Someone Else Pay The Bill: Here in Portland, it’s unusual to have the severe heat wave that we had in August. I traded spending time in my friends’ air conditioned house for watching their dogs. I’ve also spent time in the mall, the library, anywhere except my sweltering abode.
10. Watch Online: Many of the shows you watch on TV, you can find online. If it’s not on hulu, check out the network website.
11. Netflix: I know, there’s a lot of debate as to whether or not netflix is a “frugal expense.” However, the ability to watch instantly kicks it up a few notches for me. For as little as $8.99, you have access to TV shows, some on a brief delay through the season (Leverage fans anyone? Maybe Heroes?). Coupled with StarzPlay and the wide selection of movies, most of the regular and premium cable channels are replaced for me with this service at a savings of $30/month.
12. Utilize Public Internet: Find free wi-fi, use the internet at your school or library.
13. Don’t Bundle “Just Because”: Is it really cheaper to get cable internet, or would DSL be a better choice? (My husband the gamer, probably is shaking his head in disbelief at the thought that cable might not be a “need.”)
14. VOIP: Voice over internet such as Vonage, [email protected], can greatly reduce your monthly phone bill and eliminate the cost of long distance.
15. Go Pre-Paid: A monthly contract means you pay for minutes you don’t use, or may never use. I have a friend who’s rolled over enough minutes to talk for a decade.
16. Toss It: While your tween may not think so, a cell phone is a still new invention. Pay phones do exist, as do call boxes on the freeway.
17. Coupons: I know, I know, you hate cutting coupons. But with new features through companies like cellfire and direct on Safeway’s website, you can load the coupons directly onto your rewards card or cell phone. You won’t even hold up the line. So no more excuses.
18. Look At The Sales Flier Before You Leave: I usually check the weekly ads online so I don’t incur a newspaper subscription expense. By knowing where the more expensive items are on sale I can change which store I plan on going to, and diverse our menu.
19. Have A Menu Plan: Even if you just plan your meals out for the next week, it allows you to fully utilize leftovers, take better advantage of sales, etc.
20. Don’t Be Afraid To Stray From The Menu When Appropriate: I have a solid menu plan for each week, but if I stuck to that I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of great deals on seafood at the butcher.
21. Get Happy!: Happy hour is a great way to enjoy your favorite meals at a huge discount.
22. Trade Dinner For Lunch: Lunch menus are generally cheaper than their dinner companions. The portions are also better if you’re watching your waistline.
23. Turn Dinner Into Tomorrow’s Lunch: Every time I go to Olive Garden, I end up too full to finish my entree…so it becomes the next day’s lunch. I really don’t mind as most dishes taste better after they have a day to infuse with the spices.
24. Bring Your Food With You: Sorry, I had to include the obligatory “bring your lunch to work” frugal tip. But it doesn’t have to be lunch. When I was working in Corporate America, I was very good at watching the lunch dollars, but those darn vending machines drained my pocketbook. Packing my own Cheez-its would have saved me, well I once calculated they would’ve saved me the equivalent of two lunches a week.
25. Eat In: A potluck with friends and a movie is an excellent way to have a great group meal without the cost of restaurant service. And if you’re really lucky, the payment for hosting is leftovers for the week.
26. Spend Time In The Park
27. Keep Track Of Free Fun: Each year museums and national parks open for a free day/weekend. Keeping track of these events can provide free quality entertainment.
28. Kill Bad Habits: I know it’s dumb and you probably already know, but bad habits like smoking and heavy drinking can raise your premiums. It’s not worth it for your health, or your pocketbook.
29. Take Bids: You didn’t know you can get bids on your health insurance. Of course you can! Oh, but you get insurance through your work. I don’t care, get the quotes anyway. At one point, health insurance provided through my work cost me $100 a month, but once I added my husband, it spiked to near $250. When I checked online, buying private insurance gave us a quote of $175. It pays to check around.
30. Take Advantage Of Generic Deals: Many places are offering $4 for a month’s supply of generics, $9 for women’s health (birth control pills). Make sure you can use a generic and that you aren’t allergic to any of the inactive ingredients that often change between brand names.
31. Make Money From Your Prescription: $25 gift cards and 10% off discounts aren’t uncommon for transferring your prescription.
32. Check The Fine Print Before You Search: I once got stuck with a larger loan than I wanted, and more car than I needed because of the constraints of the loan. (Must be newer than XXXX, must be a minimum amount, yadayadayada). I realized in hindsight that I could’ve just taken a smaller personal loan, bought a smaller car, and had it paid off by the time I figured my mistake.
33. Don’t Be Afraid To Refinance: If it cuts your interest rate, go for it! Many people can’t because their car is “underwater” the moment they drive it off the lot, but you can find out if your vehicle would qualify for refinancing by calling your bank or credit union, before you apply.
34. Be Conscious Of Deductibles: If dropping you from a $1000 deductible to a $500 deductible will increase your premium $50 a month, you’re not making a wise decision. You could bank the money and have $100 additional at the end of the year.
35. Get Quotes Through Associations: Many group associations, unions, etc. offer better deals on insurance. It never hurts to get a quote.
36. Get Quotes Regularly: Insurance is not like a credit report; you don’t get dinged for checking your rates. Since I have a six month policy, I get insurance quotes every six months. I learned my lesson when I found that my current insurance policy was rewarding my loyalty with monthly premiums that were $100 more than their competitors.
37. Utilize Public Transportation When Appropriate: If you have a decent public transit system, use it! In PDX we even have something called “Fareless Square” that offers free public transportation in the downtown district. When you add gas and parking fees, it starts to add up.
38. Consolidate!: You can do it online, it generally reduces your interest rates and certainly streamlines the payment process.
39. Community Service: For teaching, or participating in government programs, a portion or all or your loans can be forgiven.
40. Leave Your ATM Card At Home: If you don’t have your ATM, your less likely to use it on the go, and less likely to have these random cash receipts with no idea what it was spent on.