Sometimes you have to get creative when money’s tight. You have to brainstorm new ways to save money when the old ways just aren’t cutting it.
But wouldn’t it be great if a list of the top 15 brilliant money-saving tips already existed? I think you can see where we’re going with this.
Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to save money on a tight budget that don’t involve moving back into your parent’s basement.
Whatever your circumstances may be, I’ve come across some pretty clever money-saving tips that will slash your spending and help boost your savings.
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I’m going to skip the boring, cliché advice you’ve heard a million times before. You already know how to save money by buying generic products, keeping your tires filled with the right amount of air, and stocking up on enough toilet paper to suffice for five families. Instead, I’ll share my top 10 money-saving tips that will not only save you money, but will actually make your life more fun.
1. Never Pay Full Price When You Shop
Even when money is tight, I still buy a lot of my everyday items online.
Don't go shopping until you sign up for Swagbucks and Ebates. More than anything, these two sites have been my best discovery all year.
You get automatic cash back for shopping online and buying things you’re already shopping for. Recently, they’ve even made a lot of your in-store purchases available for their deals, too.
Also be on the lookout for double-cash-back offers, and you’ll get 10 to 12 percent back.
One of my coworkers told me she gets over $100 cash back every quarter between the two sites.
2. Become an Urban Forager
Urban foragers gather fruit, nuts, berries, herbs and other edibles from city and neighborhood streets. Stay with me here. It’s not as weird as it sounds.
I first discovered urban foraging by accident. I was walking my dog while my father-in-law was in town, and he kept pointing out all the rosemary bushes that lined the sidewalks. Since I’m usually the type of person who buys those tiny, overpriced fresh herbs in the produce aisle of Whole Foods, I was elated by this massive money-saving technique.
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Since then, I’ve found public lemon trees, passion fruit vines, and even a few crops of cherry tomatoes. Urban foraging can save you a ton of money! But before you go out and start picking random leaves, I’d check out the book Browsing Nature's Aisles to make sure you don’t inadvertently pick a poisonous mushroom.
3. Read Your Mail
I used to throw my “junk” mail away without even looking at it, but over the past few years, I’ve noticed that companies have really stepped up their advertising game. From two-for-ones at the local organic juice bar to free pedicures with the purchase of a manicure, there no longer has to be shame in your coupon game.
4. Save Big With Groupon Deals
It seems like every local company has some sort of Groupon special. That means multiple companies in the same type of market are usually offering the same deal. And that can mean big savings for you for the same product or service, over and over and over again.
Here’s my most recent Groupon success story:
I love taking yoga classes, but studio prices are ridiculous. Luckily, I found out that most yoga studios have ongoing Groupon specials with deals ranging from 50 to 80 percent off. I decided to take advantage of a handful of these, since there were almost two dozen studios offering Groupons within a 10-mile radius of my house.
The result? I ended up getting a year's worth of yoga for less than half of the normal price. Plus, I got to sample a bunch of different studios before deciding which one I liked best.
5. Get a Better Bank
For years, I was annoyed with my bank. I was being charged a monthly maintenance fee, and I didn’t collect a cent of interest! Then I found Discover Bank. There are no fees, and they pay about 100 times more in interest than the other banks out there.
With just a little bit of money in the bank, I earned enough interest for several fancy cups of coffee at Starbucks.
In the last year that I’ve had an account with Discover, they’ve raised their rates five times!
It's by far one of the best money-related decisions I’ve made in a while and my absolute favorite item on this list of top 10 brilliant money-saving tips.
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6. Track Spending and Manage Your Financial Life With an App
We’ve all been told by well-meaning relatives that if we want to save money, we need to plan our spending and budget wisely. That's so boring! Seriously, who has time for that?
Luckily, there’s an app for that, and it’s pretty awesome. Mint makes creating a budget (almost) fun and it’s easy track, update and monitor all on my smartphone. And here’s my favorite part: You can even use Mint to pay your bills and get notifications about due dates.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been sucker punched a few times by credit card companies who charge anywhere from $25 to $35, even if you’re just a day late. With Mint, I’m always on top of things.
7. Do Your Own Cooking
I know, I know. Cooking is a major time suck, and by the time you go to the store and buy all the ingredients you need for a recipe, you’re probably not saving any money.
That was until Thug Kitchen came around and revolutionized the way people cook. Their no-nonsense attitude (that’s a polite way of saying they cuss a lot) is entertaining and makes cooking kind of fun. Their recipes are quick and inexpensive to make, too. Plus, if you double up the recipes, you can have leftovers, another money-saving hack.
I used to go out to dinner every weekend for “date night,” but after a while, I got tired of the limited restaurant selections in my neighborhood. And the overpriced cocktails and side salads weren’t too thrilling, either. I decided to stay in a little more frequently, and date night became a fun activity of experimenting with new recipes while saving money.
8. Use a Slow Cooker
You didn’t think I was done talking about cooking yet, did you?
Truth be told, I resisted getting a slow cooker for years. My parents had a Crock-Pot, and it was brown and ugly. So the thought of me actually using one made me feel about a hundred years old. It didn’t help that my domesticated friends started raving about crockpots incessantly.
Cook the latest Chicken Verde recipe? I’d rather stare at a wall of paint chips at Home Depot.
But then Buzzfeed started posting slow cooker recipes, and I decided to try some. I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious everything turned out, and I even found that I saved a lot of money by using up things in my refrigerator that were getting close to expiration and would otherwise be thrown away.
9. Eat Healthy for Less With Thrive Market
If you’re trying to eat healthily, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that organic food is really expensive. Thank goodness for Thrive Market! For a modest membership fee you can save 25 to 50 percent on healthy, organic food, cleaning supplies, supplements, beauty products and even pet supplies.
You also save time and gas money by not having to battle the crowded, and often savage, Whole Foods parking lot.
10. DIY Beauty and Cleaning Products
Have you noticed how expensive beauty products are these days? They say you get what you pay for, but if you look at the ingredients of a lot of what’s out there, the first one listed is water. That’s some pretty expensive water!
By making everyday essentials like shampoo and laundry detergent, you’ll save a lot of money while also using healthier ingredients.
My first DIY beauty product experiment was with shampoo. I combined liquid castile soap, coconut milk, coconut oil, and essential oil to make a moisture-rich shampoo that both my hair and wallet thanked me for.
11. Use Your Network to Barter
This tip is my favorite because it combines good karma with saving money.
It takes a bit of organization and coordination, but if you have a solid group of friends, this can make your life a trillion times better. Here’s how it works: Each person in your circle of friends offers up a skill or resource that they’re willing to provide, and then you barter.
For example, let’s say that I walk dogs for a couple of hours per day, and some of my friends need a dog walker at lunch. I can walk their dogs for free, which saves them money. And let’s say one of my friends is an acupuncturist. I happen to love acupuncture, but it’s not always in my budget. So if I walk her dog three days a week, I can get a free acupuncture visit. Or something like that.
The possibilities of bartering are truly endless. Plus, it can also be a really fun way to learn more about your friends and what they do.
Make sure you figure out how to make the exchanges equitable from the start, so no one develops any resentment or feels taken advantage of.
12. Get a Library Card
A lot of people have forgotten that there’s a large building in every town with free books! It’s pretty amazing.
As an avid book reader, I used to buy a ton of books. Many would go unread if I got busy with other things. Or worse, the book would be terrible and I’d discard it halfway through. Now, if I’m interested in a book, I’ll check it out from the library first. If it’s truly a book I love and plan on reading again in the future, I’ll actually purchase the physical book.
I guess you can think of libraries as a way to test drive books!
13. Get Your Dog’s Clothes at Thrift Stores
This doesn’t work for my dog because he’s big and hates wearing clothes. However, a friend of mine has a giant wardrobe for her adorable Bichon Frise, George. I’ve seen him in Harvard sweatshirts, NFL t-shirts, and even designer sports gear.
It turns out that George isn’t getting his clothes from the fancy pet boutique; his mom goes to the kids’ section at thrift stores and buys all of his wardrobe pieces for less than a dollar.
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14. Cold-Water Laundry Hack
I originally started washing my clothes in cold water to help prevent them from fading, but I also noticed a drastic decrease in my electricity bill. Now I wash everything in cold water and then hang dry most of my items rather than use the drier.
The benefit: I save around the house with lower electric bills and by not having to replace clothes as frequently.
15. Coin Redemption Without Commission
If you still use cash (there are some of us out there!), you probably have a jar of coins sitting in a closet somewhere. And if you’re like me, you’d like to cash them in at some point. But those Coinstar machines take a ridiculous 11.9-percent commission.
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You can get around it if you decide to redeem your coins for an Amazon gift card, but there’s an even better way to pocket the cash: Find a local credit union with a coin machine that’s free to use. You may have to call around to find one first, but if you live near a Navy Federal Credit Union, you can start there because theirs is free.