Personal finance is simple. It comes down to four main factors: spend less money than you earn, save and invest that difference, eliminate then avoid debt, steer clear of lifestyle inflation.
Below is an (updated) list of unique money saving ideas that range from crazy to brilliant, but if implemented they will help you out with two pieces of the formula: spending less than you earn & eliminating debt.
What’s Your Debt Elimination Strategy?
Let me ask you a question: What are you doing right now to reduce & eliminate your debt? The answer to this question is your current strategy for solving your debt problem. If your answer sucks, then so does your strategy.
In the list below you might find 10 solid ideas that you’ll want to try out, but unless you actually implement those ideas into your life and then apply the saved money towards your debt, then you’re just wasting time and aren’t solving your problem.
Money Saving Ideas
Are some of these unique money saving ideas ridiculous? Yeah, probably. But so is debt and if you don’t have a strategy for attacking and eliminating yours, then nothing should be off the table, even if it might sound ridiculous.
It’s also helpful to remember that changes you make today to save money and get out of debt don’t have to be permanent. So don’t start to hyperventilate quite yet. Just because you’ve given up cable TV and sold your second car today doesn’t mean you can’t go right back to them once you’ve solved your debt problem.
Unique Money Saving Ideas
Without further ado, here are 83 (plus more in the comment section) wild, crazy, unusual, stupid, whatever ways to start saving money today:
- Move somewhere cheaper
- Downsize your living quarters
- Move back in with mom & dad
- Get a roommate to share your housing expenses
- Keep your home cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer
- Set your programmable thermostat
- Close vents in rooms you don’t use
- Keep blinds/curtains closed in the summertime; use blackout curtains
- Don’t leave the lights on
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs
- Unplug electronics when you aren’t using them
- Buy energy efficient appliances (they use as much as 65% less energy than standard models)
- Lower the thermostat on your water heater
- Check/clean/replace your air filters – this will improve the efficiency of your system and reduce costs
- Run your washer, dryer, and dishwasher at night when energy rates are lowest
- Wash your clothes and dishes using cold or warm water, not hot
- Wash your clothes and dishes on a shorter cycle
- Slow the flow; replace your shower head
- Take faster showers; set a timer!
- Take colder showers (this will also help you take faster showers!!)
- Re-use your bath towels multiple times
- Same for your old jeans – re-use them! The CEO of Levis agrees
- Skip the pricey cleaning supplies and make your own instead (tips from Good Housekeeping)
- Do your own home repairs
- Change the oil in your car yourself
- Same goes for the brakes on your car (not hard, watch a how-to YouTube video)
- Drive the speed limit for better gas mileage
- Keep the tires on your car inflated
- Skip the automatic car wash; do this at home if necessary
- Shop around for cheaper car insurance
- Increase your insurance deductible
- Pay your insurance annually, not monthly
- Sell your second car
- Ride your bike places instead of driving
- Take the bus; use public transportation
- Sell your “toys” if you have them (boats, RVs, campers, jet skis, etc)
- Skip the family vacation this year. Do a staycation instead
- Eliminate your home phone
- Use VOiP if a home phone is necessary
- Cancel cable or satellite TV
- Install an over the air antenna if TV is necessary
- Downgrade to a slower internet package
- Cancel your subscriptions (Netflix, Xbox live, magazines, websites, gym, etc)
- Downgrade to a cheaper cell phone plan; skip the data plan & rely on WiFi connections
- Make your current phone last longer before upgrading
- Upgrade to a used phone, not new
- Avoid restaurants & cook at home
- Brown bag your lunch (goes for kids’ school lunches as well)
- Eat leftovers; don’t waste food
- Fast one meal per month (or week if you want to be aggressive)
- Skip Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and drink the free coffee at your office instead
- Brew your coffee at home
- Reduce your grocery bill (hamburger, not steak; chicken, not salmon; generic, not name brands, buy nonperishable goods in bulk)
- Drink less alcohol
- Stop drinking alcohol altogether
- Drink water – it’s free!
- Quit smoking
- Cut out soda and other unhealthy habits
- Mow your own lawn and cut it less frequently
- Water your lawn, garden, & plants less (plants will develop a healthier root system)
- Shop for clothes at second hand stores
- Organize a clothes swap with family or friends
- Have your kids wear hand-me-downs
- Save on razors and grow a beard, or shave less frequently
- Get your hair cut less frequently or cut your own hair
- Paint your own finger/toe nails; no manicures or pedicures
- Put your student loans on deferment
- Public school, not private
- Visit the library, not the movie theater
- Invite friends to your house for a potluck, don’t meet at the bar
- Ask for discounts when you shop
- Use coupons
- Exercise outside or at home (healthier you = less medicine, fewer Dr. visits, co-pays. “The first wealth is health!”)
- Eliminate the gym membership
- Pay your bills on time; set up automatic payments (avoid late fees)
- Avoid ATM fees
- Avoid checking account fees
- Leave your credit and debit cards at home when you go out
- Insulate your home better to rely less on your heater and air conditioning
- Winterize your home
- Opt-out of all marketing emails that you receive to avoid making impulse purchases
- Question every single purchase you make and ask yourself “what do I want more, the debt that I’m shackled to, or this thing I’m about to buy?”
Crazy or Brilliant?
As I already mentioned, some of these ideas might seem totally ludicrous. That’s fine. This isn’t a prescription from your doctor which you must follow. Just pick and choose whatever you think might be useful, but remember: if you’ve got a debt problem then nothing should be off the table. Get crazy and don’t be afraid to push yourself.
My Favorite Money Saving Ideas
And just for fun, while I’ve personally tried nearly every single one of the ideas listed above, here are my top 5 favorites from the list:
- Deferring student loans (hassle free from my lender and super easy to do, deferring my loan was a quick way to immediately free up a decent chuck of cash that I was able to apply to a higher-interest debt. Because my student loan interest rate is so low, I’m wasn’t concerned by extending life of this debt)
- Eliminating the second car. While I technically didn’t sell my second car, I didn’t replace it when it died either. The savings and other benefits have been great!
- Brown bagging it at work. I used to be the guy that ate out every single day during the work week. At $8 per day x 260 days per year that’s over $2,000. Now I bring my lunch which is cheaper and healthier.
- I very rarely get coffee outside of the home, don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke.
- Of all these ideas, the last one might be the most powerful for me. When I’m ready to make a purchase I ask myself ‘what would I rather have, this item I’m about to buy, or the cash that it’s going to cost?’ Its a great way to separate the wants from the needs and I find that very often I put the item away and keep the cash in my pocket.
What’s your best money saving tip? What’s missing from the list?