104 Little Tips to Make and Save Money
Includes ranking to make these as actionable as possible
Note: Since this list is massive, if you want this in PDF, I’ll send it to you here.
- Introduction - How to Use This Guide - Difficulty & Impact Scale - Ideas 1-104
This grew out of my own desire to compile a list of ways to make and save money if I really had to — a stoic practice of mentally preparing for the worst case scenario. This is also an extension of the practice from Become an Idea Machine which is coming up with 10 ideas per day by Claudia A. Altucher, which is a great book and a practice I keep up daily.
How to use this guide:
Caveat #1: Not every one of these will apply to you. In fact, most will not. These are not intended to be bulletproof money-saving or generating tips, but more of a thought starter for you. If you can use 2–5 of these tips in your life to generate or save some extra money, then I have succeeded. The goal is to think outside the box.
Caveat#2: I wanted this to be exceedingly actionable which is why I included approximate annual impact to your wallet and difficulty. This way you can make quick calls as to whether or not something is worth doing. These ratings are NOT meant to be rock solid. Something may take more or less time than I estimate and may save you more or cost you more than I estimate. Please do your own due diligence when considering making any changes.
Caveat #3: I’m not a tax professional, CPA or lawyer. Please conduct your own due diligence regarding legality and tax implications for each of these tips, within your local municipality.
- Skim the whole thing (it’s long).
- As you skim, write down the numbers of the tips that sound interesting or applicable to you.
- Go through it again only reading the tips you want to, in depth.
- Optional: Grab a PDF of the whole thing for future reading here.
- Retire early, travel the world, buy all of the things, send me a $2 bill in gratitude.
- Another great way to filter for the best tips is to look for tips that have a at least a 1–2 star difference between the difficulty and impact. Anything that has fewer impact stars than difficulty stars might be another category you stay away from, especially if you have limited time or money resources.
Difficulty & Impact Scale
Some suggestions are more difficult than others and some will save/earn more money that others. I tried to detail that out underneath each idea — again, this is my best estimate so you can have an idea as to which ideas are quick wins and which are longer term wins. The sweet spot will be the low difficulty, high impact items.
🌟= Very easy, takes minutes or 1 step, one-time effort
🌟🌟= Easy, less than 1 hour or 1–2 steps to achieve, one-time effort
🌟🌟🌟= Moderate, takes repeated effort or multiple steps
🌟🌟🌟🌟=Hard, noticeable change to your life, repeated effort
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟=Very hard, big life shift, constant effort
…and away we go!
#1 Raise your auto insurance deductible.
Having a long stretch of no accidents and not getting tickets is a great way to convince insurance agents that you are a lower risk, but that isn’t always something that is within our immediate grasp.
Your deductible is the amount of money you contribute out-of-pocket before your insurance kicks in, in the event of a claim. You get to choose this amount when you sign up for insurance. The agent may try to sell you on a low deductible showing you how little you’ll have to shell out when something bad occurs, but they never highlight how much more this will cost you in the long run.
By having a low deductible , you are paying more per month for the convenience of not having to maintain a stockpile of cash in the event of an accident. A report from InsuranceQuotes.com says that you can save as much as 16% on your annual premium by raising your deductible from $500 to $1,000, which can equate to $300-$500 annually, depending on the state.
The only caveat is that you should maintain a cash reserve equivalent to your new deductible so you are ready to cover your deductible.
#2 Drink free coffee from work.
If your workplace offers coffee, drink it instead of buying your $4 beverage on the way in. Sure it’s not as delicious, but the cost savings add up over the year.
Let’s assume the average Starbucks drink order is somewhere around $3.25, (which is being generous because they will probably try to up-sell you a muffin or some other delicious treat you weren’t expecting). At 5 days per week, this is $16.25. If you do this 48 weeks out of the year, this is $780 annually. It won’t change your life trajectory, but it does add up over time.
#3 Learn to enjoy black coffee.
Having coffee at home is the cheapest way to enjoy it, besides using idea #2, but sugar and cream are extras that add to the cost of your beverage.
A 64 oz container of half-and-half is $3.84 at Wal-mart and is said to provide 64 servings. If you only used the recommended amount and half-and-half never went bad, you could get by with only purchasing 6 of these containers over the year at $23. But, you probably use more than recommended and/or drink more than one coffee per day. And if not, it’s probably spoiling after 3 weeks.
I estimate that you’d need one of these containers every 2.5 weeks due to usage and shelf-life. This would mean you need to purchase 21 of these containers per year at roughly $80+ annually.
Also, if you use any of those fancy syrups or flavored creams, those are much higher ticket items and can range from anywhere from $3 to $10+ per bottle.
Sugar is much cheaper at around $0.01 per tablespoon.
#4 Shop at thrift shops and Craigslist for clothes, shoes, furniture, exercise equipment, etc.
Buying used items from thrift stores can save you 95% or more from the original retail price of an item. Jeans, shirts, shoes, jackets all can be found for $5 or less at most Goodwill stores, items that can originally cost $40, $50, even upwards of $100.
The tough part is the selection. What they have is what’s for sale and if it’s not your size, then that’s too bad. Quality can vary wildly depending on where you are and what has been donated recently.
I wanted to build out my basement gym to avoid paying monthly gym fees. My safety during squatting and benching was the only thing stopping me from lifting heavy weights in my basement, so I looked on Craigslist and found a used squat rack for $150. This particular model would have been $500 brand new, all I had to do was go and get it.
I found a great Eddie Bauer hiking backpack to carry my kids in for $40 when the retail price was $200. I actually bought this because my son wanted to join me as I mowed the lawn and this was the only safe option I could imagine.
This is effective for one-off purchases and even better for recurring purchases like clothing. The more you seek out used items instead of new, the more you’ll save per year, on the order of $500-$1000+ annually.
#5 Downsize houses
Your mortgage or rent payment is probably the single largest expense you have every month. I won’t get into the benefits between renting or owning here as there are pros and cons to each. Reducing your mortgage or rent payment by moving can be one of the biggest changes you make to your life with a huge monetary impact that will result.
This is obviously not a decision you make lightly. You have to factor in the current state of the housing market, your current rental contract or mortgage note conditions, existing equity, schooling, work commutes, and other quality of life factors affected by where you call home.
Downsizing your housing can result in multiple thousands saved per year. Drastically reducing your annual fixed expense can open up other financial options not previously available to you such as real estate investing, early retirement or expanding your side business into something more permanent.
#6 Sell a car.
Your car is losing value, every day that you own it. If you need the car to get to work, it’s a cost that is justified. But what if you could ride-share, bike or run to work?
We moved to being a one car family last summer. I live close enough that I can use public transportation regularly. If I couldn’t, I would investigate biking or a ridesharing program.
The common objections here are the one-off scenarios such as “What if there’s an emergency at home?” I have Uber ready to go if I really need to get home quickly and the local police department has agreed to provide emergency rides for bus commuters if necessary as well. Constantly paying so that we have a safety net for an unlikely chance occurrence is not worth it for us.
You will free the cash from the declining asset, you will avoid maintenance and gas costs and you’ll avoid car insurance. This is truly like getting pay raise on the order of thousands per year.
#7 Install a programmable or smart thermostat.
Heating and cooling your home is the largest utility expense you will incur every year. Using a programmable thermostat that follows a certain schedule or using a smart thermostat that learns and adjusts the schedule automatically can significantly reduce your heating and cooling costs.
The U.S Department of Energy estimates that 10% can be saved per year by letting your thermostat turn down by 7–10 degrees for eight hours per day from the regular setting. This equates to hundreds saved per year with a simple one-time installation.
#8 Install a rain barrel.
Rain barrels are awesome because they save you can money in two ways. The first way should be obvious — you get free water for your yard or plants. This is a no-brainer especially if you are an avid gardener or prefer to water your lawn often. This can generate 1300 gallons of water during peak summer months
The second way is they can reduce your property tax bill. How? Your summer property tax bill include a stormwater charge. This is based on how much “impervious surface” your house and driveway make up. Impervious surface is simply the areas of your property where rainwater cannot naturally soak in through the ground: your roof, your driveway, any finished patio, etc. Rain that accumulates on your roof and driveway must be shuttled elsewhere, which ends up being your municipal stormwater system.
If you install a rain barrel, your municipality may allow you to deduct the area of the roof from your impervious surface calculation. Where I live, you can save anywhere from $12 — $50 per quarter by installing a rain barrel, which equates to $50–100 per year. In addition to the 1,300 gallons saved, which can cost up to $5–10, depending on where you live.
On top of the financial benefit, you are helping the environment by reducing the burden on the local rivers and helping your plants get naturally soft water.
#9 Grow your own vegetables and herbs.
It’s fairly simple and inexpensive to cut a garden into your yard or to build a raised bed and plant some seeds. You’d need to plant a significant amount to be able to displace some of your purchases, but some vegetables like zucchini or squash tend to produce a ton of food from every plant.
Growing your own vegetables and herbs takes some continuous effort and has a learning curve, but it can be worthwhile and fun for your family to be able to eat the food you grew in your own yard. Avoiding buying these vegetables from the store can save you tens — hundreds per year.
#10 Plan your meals before grocery shopping.
It’s so much easier to just eat out whenever you feel like or order take-out at a moment’s notice, but your wallet will suffer from that lack of planning. You also lose money by going to the grocery store without a game plan. You will save hundreds by planning meals and then creating a grocery list to match the plan.
With a list, you avoid the natural pull to buy whatever catches your eye. You can also avoid the tendency to overbuy when you can’t remember if you really need something.
For us, it’s not complicated — we really only need to think of 5 dinners. The rest of our meals are more informal or leftovers. Don’t make it harder than you need to or else you won’t do it every week, which is the important part to saving money.
Another quick idea here — repeat meals that you like. It’s okay. Striving for endless variety is stressful. Once you have a solid 5–7 dinners in your repertoire, repeat them often. Also, make them 2–3x larger than you need and freeze the rest. Freezer leftovers are amazing when you are busy.
Finally, having ingredients at home to prepare all the meals in your week significantly improves your chances that you’ll actually cook at home, which is 2–5x less expensive than going out to eat. You can save thousands per year with this simple tip.
#11 Negotiate cable & internet rates.
I didn’t realize this was so lucrative until I found a handy little service called Trim which promised to “automatically negotiate my bills lower” while I sat and watched. I had to check it out.
I typed in my information and away the bot went, demanding via chat that:
“Hi. I’m trying to lower my bill. I don’t want to upgrade anything or change my plan at all. I just want to get the best possible rate for my area. Can you help?”
I watched as the support agent went through their typical downsell, upsell and transfer routine to avoid reducing my bill. The bot responded in kind but firm tones that we would not relent until the rate was reduced. Eventually, it worked! They proposed a change that saved me $15 monthly and didn’t change my service level at all.
I let Trim do the same magic with Verizon and saved $8 monthly there too. With my Comcast savings, that puts me at around $275 per year in avoided costs.
You can take the cue from them that it’s super effective to get on the chat and be relentless in demanding a lower rate. It is so easy since you don’t have to pick up a phone. Depending on your current bills, this can save hundreds per year or more.
Trim has grown a lot and offers a lot of other nifty services like price protection, cable service outage protection and subscription cancellation among others. Be sure to check them out.
#12 Use discounted cellular and internet service providers.
Freedom Pop offers many options for very low or free internet and phone service. The catch is that you cannot use endless amounts of data. But, if you want to unshackle yourself from your massive internet and phone bills, check out Freedom Pop for many affordable options.
Paying for only what you use can save hundreds or thousands per year, with no real added difficulty besides keeping track of your data or minutes.
#13 Turn hot water tank temperature down.
This is super-easy. Water heaters are commonly preset to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Most homes only need around 120 degrees to maintain temperatures warm enough for showers and laundry. For every 10 degrees you can reduce, you can save $12–30 annually, so you can save $24–60 by reducing by 20 degrees.
For a step-by-step instruction on how to do this for both gas and electric water heaters, refer to the Energy.gov website regarding this topic. Essentially, you want to test the hot water temperature at a tap, lower the dial and retest until you lower to the desired temperature.
Any changes will have to be monitored throughout your usual week of usage and modified. For example, I lowered our hot water tank temperature too far. I only found out because my family was complaining about running out of hot water during normal use, so we had to adjust it back up.
*If you have a suppressed immune system or chronic respiratory disease, this is not a tip for you due to the very slight risk for legionnaires disease.
#14 Turn interior temperature up during summer and down during winter
Keeping your home at a frosty 68 degrees in the dead of summer and a toasty 76 during the coldest days of winter is costing you money. Yes, it may be the preferred temperature in your household, but it’s not without consequences.
Keeping your home closer to the outside air temperature, even slightly, can significantly reduce the heating and cooling load in your home.
This will change based on where you live, but a good starting point would be to maintain a 78 degrees F in the summer and 68 degrees F in the winter, during occupied times. Letting this float higher or lower while you are away or asleep will add to your savings (see tip#7).
The impact to your utility bills will be obvious. You can save 3% of your total utility bill for every degree you move towards the outside air temperature which can equate to hundreds saved per year.
#15 Replace air filter in the furnace
This one sounds like a cost increase, so why is it included?
The filter in your furnace strains out all of the dust, hair and other nasty stuff from your home as it recirculates the air. After awhile, it gets loaded up and the fan has to work harder to push through the same filter.
Also, a fan that is pushing harder tends to wear out faster, meaning you need to replace or repair the unit, running you $300–700 or more.
Depending on who you ask, you should change your filter once per month up to twice per year. I believe every 4–6 months is adequate and that’s what we follow in our house.
The energy savings from a clean filter is approximately 2–5% of your HVAC energy costs every month. On a utility bill that is $100, that is $5 saved with clean filter. For a higher monthly bill of $200, you are looking at close to $10 saved in reduced fan horsepower or more. This all adds up to $60–120 per year of energy saved by having clean filters, not to mention the longevity benefit of allowing your fan to operate at a lower threshold. That more than pays for the filters and then some.
#16 Drain down hot water tank.
This only works on conventional water heaters, not the tankless. If you have tankless, you are ahead of the game here.
Repeatedly heating up and storing large volumes of water without a lot of mixing causes minerals like calcium and magnesium to precipitate out and collect near the bottom of your water heater tank. The bottom of your hot water tank is typically where the heating element resides. If there is a mineral buildup or other debris, the heat transfer between the heating element and the water will be poor, causing unnecessary energy waste.
Draining and flushing is a relatively simple procedure which can reap many rewards such as increased energy efficiency of your hot water tank and also improved longevity. Here is a quick how-to on draining your hot water tank.
This can save $2 per month and increase the longevity of your hot water tank, giving you savings of at least $24 per year.
#17 Close vents in areas of your home that aren’t in use.
Do you have a guest bedroom, basement, den or other space that is unused for most of the day or week? Why are you paying to cool or heat those spaces when it get’s used so infrequently?
If you keep the door closed and shut the supply vent to the space, you can avoid a portion of your heating and cooling energy being wasted on such a space.
The fan will continue to push air to the spaces where vents are not closed and the rest of the house will achieve the desired setpoint that much faster, letting your heating and cooling system turn off more often. This tip is NOT recommended for spaces that contain the only thermostat that controls your HVAC system, unless it’s a system like ecobee or something similar.
Consider this same strategy for closets and pantries keeping doors closed to avoid heating and cooling these spaces as well.
Prior to having our first child, we kept the soon-to-be baby’s room closed and unventilated, helping us save about 1–3% of our heating and cooling bill, or up to $100 per year. If you do have to use that space, it won’t be unbearable and you can always revert back to full ventilation if your needs change.
#18 Open oven to retain heat.
This only is useful in the heating season. Once you are finished using the oven and it is off, allow the oven door to remain cracked so the heat can be effective in your living space. You’ve already paid for that gas or electricity so you might as well use it!
*A safety note here — do not let children or pets nearby as this will expose a hot surface so be careful.
On the flip side, avoid using the oven during the cooling season if possible, using the stove top, toaster oven or grill outside to reduce that additional heat load.
The savings here is minimal on the order of possibly up to $10-50 per year, depending on how often you cook.
#19 Shop insurance and ask for discounts
Home, auto, renters are all offered by hundreds of different companies. There is no reason to stay with any one company.
I used to blindly stay with one company because it was easiest and I personally knew the agent. This is a mistake.
I signed up with Answer Financial, a company that shops every insurance company on the market and gives you the best terms possible. This resulted in a much lower annual cost for insurance, about $450 lower for both home and auto. (I have no financial ties to Answer Financial, I just really appreciate their service).
The other cool thing this company does is they keep track of your insurance needs and they update you if they find somebody offering a better rate.
This can lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars per year saved, especially if you’ve never pushed your insurance companies before. Give it a try because you have nothing to lose except for 15 minutes.
#20 Close blinds during cooling season.
Sunlight brings in an enormous amount of heat via radiation, which is not helping when attempting to cool off your home. Closing shades, blinds, drapes or whatever else you may have can help prevent heat from accumulating in your home.
Depending on your location, this can affect your utility bill in various ways. The longer the cooling season, the bigger the impact. Check out this article from energy.gov for more detail. This could persuade you to install new devices or to simply use the ones you already have in place.
In the sunnier portions of the country, consistent blocking of the sun in your windows should result in hundreds of dollars in avoided annual cooling costs. If it’s a bit shadier or cooler where you are, this may have a lesser impact.
#21 Carpool or take public transit.
Even if you have a car and aren’t thinking about selling it (tip #6), using a carpool or public transportation makes great financial sense. The IRS estimates that for every mile traveled in an automobile, it costs 53.5 cents in gas, maintenance and depreciation.
If you commute to work 10 miles, that is $5.35 each way, or $10.70 per day. In a year, this is almost $2,800 per year. A monthly or annual bus pass or carpool can be had at a fraction of that cost.
There are other benefits of carpooling or taking public transportation as well including a reduced environmental footprint, companionship, ability to work/read/relax on the bus or train, fewer traffic concerns and parking is not your problem anymore!
I take the bus to work daily and I appreciate seeing the same driver, the same people and feeling a bit more connected than if I drove my car in to work in isolation. It’s worth the extra effort and extra time for me. It saves me thousands of dollars per year in reduced maintenance, gas and depreciation on a vehicle that I don’t own.
#22 Investigate your bank fees.
Checking into the account register or looking at the monthly statement should be a regular activity. Banks tend to sneak things in without a lot of fanfare under inconspicuous names like Account Maintenance or Annual Fee. These fees may be something you are aware of or maybe related to a change in your level of service recently, but they are something you should be trying to avoid.
Anything you don’t recognize on your bank statement should be a cause for concern. Call your bank and discuss anything that could be a fee. Ask for it to be reversed if you don’t agree with it or take your business to a place where extraneous fees are not a part of the equation. Bank of America includes a $12 monthly maintenance fee for their basic checking account, $144 per year. Why pay that when there are perfectly good alternatives out there for less?
Some fees are a good thing — they pay for a level of service that you agreed to. I’m not saying that you should shirk your responsibility if it’s something you are aware of — but I am saying that if they are fees you don’t understand, weren’t aware of, or are excessive, consider asking for them to be reversed or move to a bank that is a bit more transparent.
Depending on the account and your use of it, you can incur bank fees into the hundreds per year if you aren’t careful.
#23 Learn which restaurants offer birthday specials.
This is fun because you can basically eat & drink for free or very cheaply, depending on where you live. In my area, I can get bagels, coffee, ice cream, meal discounts, cupcakes, and many other discounts just by showing up on my birthday.
Many other businesses like Salvation Army, car-wash shops and many others will have great discounts for the day or month of your birthday.
The key step is to check out discounts in your area BEFORE your birthday month rolls around by googling “birthday deals [your area]”. Sign up for whatever list you need to and prepare your birthday freebie plan.
This isn’t an earth shattering savings, leading to $10–100 or more worth of freebies every year, depending how crazy you get.
#24 Clean or replace car air filter.
Your car’s air filter keeps out bugs, dust, dirt from entering your engine. Your engine needs clean air in order to create the right air/fuel mixture so it can fire and propel your car forward.
Over time, it gets clogged up (much like your home furnace filter) and needs replacing or cleaning. Once it’s clogged, your car’s engine performance gets reduced, leading to lower gas mileage, meaning more visits to the gas pump.
The general rule is to inspect & clean your air filter every 15,000–30,000 miles, but it’s so easy you might as well do it every 5,000 miles.
If your air filter is clogged, it can reduce your gas mileage by 7%. This means that if you normally expect 20 mpg, with a 7% reduction, you are now operating at 18.6 mpg. Over 15,000 miles, which is an example annual driving amount, this would cost you an addition 56 gallons of gas. At $2.50 per gallon, that is wasting $140 per year, so this ends up being worth real money.
#25 Ensure car tires are properly inflated.
Rather than chasing down the lowest gas price in your city, your time is better spent ensuring your car tires are properly inflated. Underinflated tires are common and can lead to a large amount of waste in terms of inefficient driving.
The EPA estimates that for every 2 psi that you are out of specification, you will incur a 1% loss of efficiency. If your car is 4 psi under the specified pressure, you will lose 2% efficiency. At 15,000 miles traveled per year and in a 20 mpg vehicle, this equates to roughly 15 gallons per year wasted, or an entire fill-up. At $2.50 per gallon, that is $37.50 per year.
#26 Turn off air conditioning or heating when outside air temperatures are reasonable.
This is taking tip #7 and tip #14 to the next level, turning your HVAC off altogether. We actually make a game of this in our house — How Long Can We Last into the Summer Without Turning on the A/C?
This can be useful in the shoulder seasons (fall & spring) where temperatures rarely hit the extreme peaks or valleys, but are more moderate. Of course, this depends on your location. Des Moines may have more opportunities for shutting down air conditioning than Austin, for example.
The savings here are obvious, electrical saved by the fan motor & condenser as well as natural gas or electrical for the heating portion. The amount saved will depend on how often you employ this tactic, but it can be in the hundreds of dollars per year easily if you are especially stingy with your heating and cooling.
#27 Clean your refrigerator condenser coils.
The condenser coil is typically located on the bottom or on the back of the refrigerator and it’s where the heat is rejected from the interior. Since it is readily available, it tends to collect dust and other junk. Over the period of months or years, the buildup of dust becomes thick enough that the refrigerator has to run longer to reject the same amount of heat. Basically, excessive dust makes the fridge work harder.
Cleaning the coils can be as easy as using a vacuum or a brush to knock the dust away and it can be every 6–12 months.
The impact here is small, affecting your annual electrical bill in the tens of dollars if that.
#28 Raise refrigerator to 38 degrees F and freezer to 5 degrees F.
(Or 3 C and -15 C)
Refrigerators are typically defaulted to 33–34 and 0 degrees F, which is excessively cold for what they are meant to do. You can safely raise the temperatures of both the fresh food and freezer compartment to keep the refrigerator from cycling as often.
The particular refrigerator model and your current settings will determine how much savings this will lead to, but modern refrigerators use approximately 500–1000 kWh per year. At $0.10/kWh, this is $50–100 per year. Raising the temperature setting will save approximately 10–15% of the annual energy costs, or $5–10 annually.
For specific energy savings and refrigerator replacement savings calculations, you can use the Energy Star website calculator here for a better estimate.
#29 Fill your freezer compartment with spare water containers.
The theory here is that with less air space to cool, the refrigerator has less work to do. Also, with frozen blocks of water, if the power ever went out, you have a mass that will keep the space relatively cool due to thermal inertia.
Everytime the freezer door is opened, warm air rushes in. After the door is closed, the refrigerator has to work hard to remove that heat. If the freezer space is relatively full, less air has the opportunity to rush in, saving energy.
Filling up unused space costs you space, obviously, so if you actually need the space, absolutely use it for food and toss the jugs.
#30 Buy in bulk.
Instead of single serving beans, rice, canned goods, nuts, potatoes etc, it makes financial sense to buy these things in bulk. The same goes for deodorant, toothpaste, paper towel and basically anything else that doesn’t go bad.
For every cup of cooked beans that we make, which is equal to about 1/8 lb of dried beans, ok into 1 cup cooked beans), I save $0.34.
This is just one example and it typically scales with the quantity of the initial purchase. A single unit is the most expensive per unit, 10 servings less expensive, 100 even less and so on. A 25 lb bag of beans will cost you less per serving than a 5 lb bag.
Consider the storage implications and whether or not you have the cash to afford the initial purchase. Other considerations are the prep time for things like dried beans vs canned. Sometime the cost of your time is not worth the savings to be had.
Buying in bulk can be a great tip. Get into the habit of calculating the “per-unit cost” of everything that you buy so you can optimize your decisions easily. It can easily be worth hundreds of dollars per year depending on what you buy and how often.
An additional benefit is the amount of packaging waste that would be diverted from a landfill if bulk purchases were the norm.
#31 Buy store brand.
If the ingredients are the same, why are you paying a 10% markup for the fancy brand owner by Unilever or Proctor & Gamble?
Most store brands are made by those companies anyway, so the actual product is identical.
Caveats here are to double-check the ingredients of something and confirm they are the same as what you expect in the name brand.
Things to try buying as generic:
- Water (but seriously, use tap water)
- Medications (FDA holds generics to be identical copies of the name brand)
- Baby formula (FDA does the same for baby formula)
- Sunscreen (look for broad spectrum, UVA & UVB 30 or more)
- Spices (freshness is the key here)
- Frozen produce
- Canned beans & vegetables
- Kitchen supplies like aluminum foil, bags, plastic wrap
- Baking staples like baking soda, sugar, baking mixes, vinegar
- Cleaning supplies
All of these may vary based on where you are and your preferences, but they are worth trying out at least. You could save tens — hundreds per year switching many of your regular purchases to generic/store brands.
#32 Pay annual payments instead of monthly.
Insurance companies, magazines, homeowners associations and many other organizations would gladly accept your cash early in exchange for a modest discount of 10–25% or more. Even if this isn’t offered outright, try and ask for it — there’s nothing to lose.
You can even ask for a multi-year payment discount. Just be sure that whatever you are paying for is something you really need and will have over the period of time for which you are prepaying.
I know of a lawn service that will take 15% off if you pay for the entire summer during the offseason. That’s real savings if you are going to hire them anyway.
Call up the companies you use and see what they can offer. It can be worth hundreds of dollars per year.
#33 Use a flip phone.
I think we’ve finally moved far enough with phone technology that what used to be called smartphones are now just “phones” and what we used to use are flip phones. Since the iPhone and Android smart devices are now ubiquitous in our daily lives, flip phones or “dumb” phones can be had at a massive discount.
You could even convince yourself this was a move toward fewer distractions and more productive time, using your phone as a phone for calls and SMS and nothing else.
These phones can be had for $5–20 and can be activated on almost any network for the minutes alone. You could reduce your phone bill by over $100 per month, leading to a significant $1,200 per year saved!
The big shift though will be to not have access to the internet or apps, which can be a daunting prospect. This would be a difficult one for me at first, possibly the hardest on the list.
#34 Shut down and unplug chargers & TVs
It’s called vampire or phantom load, the power that is drawn by electronic devices when the device is not actively in use, or powered off. The U.S. Department of Energy says on average, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.
DVRs are the big offender, costing you upwards of $30 per year. Many of the other items, like a phone charger will all be less than $10 per year. If you use the item weekly or even monthly, it’s probably not worth the effort to unplug and replug it in each time.
The biggest takeaway for me here is to unplug things that are not in any kind of frequent use OR to find a smart strip that reduces phantom load to near 0 when the device is not in use. Savings here will be in the minimal range unless you start unplugging your DVR, which would not be very beneficial for something that is meant to be always connected to the internet.
#35 Remove weeds near condenser.
The condenser in your air conditioning system does the bulk of the work keeping your house cool. It needs airflow in order to reject heat from the home. If there are excessive weeds, grass, trees or bushes crowding the condenser, it has to run longer and harder to do the same amount of cooling.
This can also shorten the lifespan of the condenser, needing to replace it sooner, costing big bucks.
Keeping those shrubs and weeds tamed saves in the hundreds per year depending on how bad it was before the clean-up.
#36 Run dishwasher when full only.
The water and electricity used to heat up and wash your dishes is not free. If you wait until your dishwasher is completely full before running it, you avoid dozens of dishwasher cycles each year, adding up to about $40 per year in avoided cost, according the the EPA.
There is not any added effort here, in fact there is probably less effort to do this. I do not like unloading the dishwasher, so doing it less often is a good thing in my book. I don’t mean overfull which is where you are stacking so many things in there that aren’t meant to fit and the dishes now have trouble coming clean. That is a waste as well as you have to handwash those pieces that come out dirty.
#37 Take 5 minute (or less) showers.
Bathing causes one of the greatest water uses in most homes around the world. The highest use is typically the washing machine and the second are the toilets. The average American shower leads to 17 gallons (64.3 liters) of water used and lasts for 8.2 minutes at average flow rate of 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm) (7.9 lpm).
By cutting down to 5 minutes, you can avoid 3.2 minutes of shower which leads to a savings of 6.7 gallons (25.4 liters). (Water is billed by the 100 cubic foot, or ccf, in the US. This is equal to 748 gallons or 2,831 liters. Each ccf is billed at different rates depending on where you live, but $5–8 per ccf for water and sewer can be used as an assumption.)
If you could save 3.2 minutes per shower, every day for a year, this would lead to:
6.7 gallons ✖️ 365 days per year ➗ 748 gallons = 3.27 ccf avoided each year
which would save $16-$26 per year, per person. If you have a household with 5 people in it, this can be a savings of $80-$130 per year, scaling up or down depending on how many people are in your house. Keep in mind as well, this does not account for the heating of the water, so tack on another $5–10 for the heating depending on your fuel source.
#38 Turn off A/C or heat in cars when driving.
Also, keep the windows closed since opening windows creates a tougher drag pattern causing your car to have to push harder against the wind.
This one feels extreme, especially if you live in a hot climate. This will help you eke out pennies from every trip you make with your car, so it will add up to dollars over the course of the year.
(If you really want to make a difference in your car’s fuel economy, see tips #48, #49 and #50 for much more impactful changes you can make.)
If you keep your A/C and heat off in your car, you can expect to save $10 or less over the course of a year, unless you drive upwards of 20K miles per year.
#39 Install timers or sensors to turn off lamps.
If you use lamps extensively throughout your home and tend to leave them on, timers can be a great, low-tech solution to saving energy. The savings will be relative to the number of light fixtures you control with the timers and the the return on investment should as well. Since mechanical timers are relatively inexpensive, the ROI should be fairly quick, within a year in most cases.
The model I’m thinking of looks like this, but there are all manners of new technology out there for controlling lights, even from your phone or home automation system, so let this section be a reminder to implement all of the light-saving strategies if they work for you.
Your savings will depend on the lights you connect and how often you were leaving them on without a system in place, but I would guess you could save up to $100 or more each year with not a lot of effort or expense up front.
#40 Insulate attic hatch opening.
If you live in a house with an attic or a crawlspace, there is definitely a hatch (or two) somewhere in a closet. This hatch can be a basic as a piece of drywall covering what’s called a “scuttle hole” or elaborate as a stairway that descends from the ceiling by pulling on a string. The opening is a place where there is a significant thermal break in the insulation and vapor barrier that separates your living space from the unconditioned attic space.
Leaving this hatch poorly insulated or unsealed can lead to a minor amount of air conditioning loss in the summer and heating loss in the winter. It can also lead to moisture from your living space seeping up into your attic where it can condense and cause mold or mildew.
Depending on your location and how much you condition your home, you could stand to save $25–50 per year in heating and cooling costs from insulating and sealing up your attic hatch.
#41 Close your fireplace flue.
**ONLY WHEN IT’S NOT IN USE.
**Seriously, be safe. Closing your flue when there is no fire is a great idea. Closing it when there is a fire will fill your house with smoke and you’ll all die.
**If you have a gas fireplace with a pilot light, leave the flue cracked when the pilot is lit to allow the products of combustion to escape safely.
The flue is an opening that allows smoke to exit your home safely. It should always be open when you’re having a fire, but it should be shut during all other times. Why? The flue is an opening to the outside, meaning cold air will sink down the chimney into your house when you don’t want it to.
You will also vent cool air to the outside during the summer when you don’t want to do that as well. Both the loss of warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer combine to cost you upwards of hundreds of dollars per year.
This is a fairly easy step, especially if you don’t have a lot of fires in your fireplace. If you do, then it’s just another 5 second step before and after every fire.
#42 Use Amazon Subscribe-and-save.
Do you hate lugging toilet paper into your home? What about dog food, cat litter, laundry detergent, soy milk or batteries? You can have them automatically shipped to you on a regular basis and by doing so, save 15–20% on them.
Diapers too. I hate buying diapers. Amazon subscribe-and-save let’s you save 20% on diapers, which is fantastic.
I know your first objection, because it was mine too. What if I don’t need it that month OR I need it before the shipment comes OR I want to change the flavor/type/color? Amazon is flexible about all three of these situations.
- If you don’t need it that month. You can adjust the shipping frequency by which the product gets shipped. Need it every 3 months? No problem. Every six months? Simple. Every 12 months? Piece of cake. If you’re not sure, set it up to what you guess it will be, and then you have until 10 days before it ships to bump it out another month, change the style or cancel altogether.
- If you need it before the shipment comes. No problem, just go into your subscribe-and-save dashboard and click Need it Now. It will ship at the normal price (no discount) right away. You can then adjust future shipment frequency to try and account for your new usage pattern.
- If you want to change the flavor/type/color. Amazon accounts for that and you can change the particular characteristics up to 10 days before the shipment is set to arrive.
Things I currently have automatically shipped monthly:
- Dog food (monthly)
- Baby formula (monthly)
- Diapers (every 2 months)
- Baby wipes (every 3 months)
- Toilet paper (every 2 months)
- Paper towel (every 3 months)
- Kleenex (every 3 months)
- AA batteries (every 6 months)
- Red zinger herbal tea (every 6 months)
- Lavazza whole coffee beans (every month)
- Nutritional yeast (every 3 months)
- Furnace air filters (every 6 months)
- Larabars (every month)
- Puracy Liquid natural dish soap (every 6 months)
…and I’m always looking for more things to add, because automatically shipping saves me time and money. If I have excess of something for awhile, it’s going to be something that will last, so there is no waste.
I save 15% on all of these items and 20% on diapers, so I estimate I save hundreds of dollars per year and it only takes less than 5 minutes per month to double-check on what’s coming. It would be easy to get past $1000 in annual savings depending on what you are purchasing regularly.
#43 Use Amazon Prime for (kinda) free shipping.
Until recently with Walmart jumping into the game, Amazon Prime was the only player in town in terms of free fast shipping. I won’t be commenting on Walmart here although their version of this drives a hard bargain because there is no annual fee.
Amazon Prime is the $99 per year membership that gets you access to free 2-day shipping from Amazon (among many other perks, including photo storage, prime video, cloud storage, etc). This was revolutionary in the age of Ebay and other online vendors where you’d pay based on the weight, how far you were from the seller and how fast you wanted it shipped. To pay $99 to not have to worry about any of those things and just get free shipping was a fantastic perk.
Side-note: Amazon is offering a 30-day free trial for Prime if you click here: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial
Now, it’s the norm. But it can still save you a ton of money. You can have an entire workout set shipped to you for no additional cost. Furniture, bulk food and other bulky items are among the other items where it’s beneficial to have an Amazon Prime account. I don’t think a 3-day period goes by where we don’t order something else on Amazon. The shipping and convenience has easily saved us hundreds of dollars per year or more.
You can share the benefit throughout your family and there are many other benefits, including Prime Video, that can help save you money in other areas, so be sure to check those out as well.
#44 Buy frozen produce in large quantities.
Nutritionally, frozen vegetables are no different from fresh, so why spend money on something that goes to waste? We still buy lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, but we supplement heavily with frozen because they are always ready to go.
Added health bonus: Part of the savings here is also increased health by being able to more regularly incorporate vegetables and fruit into our meals. Having fresh kale to dump into a fruit smoothie isn’t always possible, but if you have a few bags of frozen kale on hand, you are always prepared.
This is easy and takes virtually no effort, in fact, it will save you time because you can buy chopped vegetables and fruit.
#45 Use Amazon Kindle family library to share books.
Books are great. They let you download somebody else’s life experience without having to spend the time to live their life. You can learn anything you want by just picking up a book. Or a Kindle.
We share books across our household by using the Kindle family library. This lets us not have to share devices or buy the same book twice.
You actually don’t even need a physical Kindle device to read ebooks from Amazon. You can read them on the cloud Kindle reader app or on the phone or tablet that you already own (I use my phone and laptop more than my Kindle because I actually have it on me more often).
Save yourself on duplicating book purchases and spread the knowledge around. You can read the books at the same time and have a family discussion about what you read.
#46 Cancel cable and use Youtube, Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video.
Cut the cord! I went from spending $150+ each month on hundreds of channels I didn’t watch to spending about $40. Cable bundles are insane, and should you really be watching that much TV anyway?
- Youtube TV is $35 per month right now. It includes some many local channels and sports channels.
- Netflix is $10 per month right now. It has some of the most highly acclaimed original shows and hundreds of movies that you can choose from.
- Hulu is $6–$8 per month and has lots of options for good shows also. They have really stepped up their original content game as well.
- Amazon Prime Video is included with your Prime membership ($99 per year) and has tons of great content, including many original shows.
I only pay Comcast for my internet access right now, and it’s $20 per month. The download speed is just fine. I also pay Netflix, so all-in, I have internet access and plenty of content to watch for $30 per month, much better than the $150 per month I was paying before, an annual savings of $1440. This can be a lot higher depending on what your current bundle costs per month.
Added productivity bonus: Not having the “always on” TV experience requires you to put some thought into your TV viewing, which means you will watch way less TV. Instead of the default position of “TV is on and blaring” the default will be the “TV is off” and it will require some effort on your part to turn it on and select something to watch.
#47 Look for a free events page in your city (especially with kids).
The city you live in may have a tourism page or a visitors bureau. On this website will be dozens or hundreds of ideas for things to do, sights to see and other awesome city tips. There will probably be many things that cost money, but many of them will be free, whether they are talks given by experts, festivals you can attend, or story time at the library for kids.
We have benefitted from so many of these events and many of them are weekly events we attend.
Sometimes getting out of the house is an accomplishment with kids and going to see something at the park for free might be just what you need. Skip spending $12 per person at the local movie theater and opt for the free option to save money and meet new people.
#48 Drive slower.
65 mph on the highway. 55 mph is even better. No, this won’t make you any friends on the, so it’s best to stick to the right lane.
While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.18 per gallon for gas.
If you drove 60 mph instead of 80 mph for an entire year, over the course of 15,000 miles, you’d save $438 per year. This may be an extreme example, however. If you reduced from 80 mph to 75 mph over the same distance per year, you’d save about $137 per year. It’s worth it, especially if that only means arriving minutes later than intended.
Additional Safety Bonus: Observing the speed limit is also arguable safer, leading to fewer accidents and allowing for more reaction time in case of an emergency.
#49 Ensure tires are properly inflated.
According to the Department of Energy, tires can lose one to two pounds of pressure each month, even more in the winter months. Maintaining properly inflated tires can boost fuel economy by about 3%, equaling about 20 gallons of gas a year.
The pressure imprinted on the tire is the highest pressure the tire is rated to hold, not necessarily the correct pressure. On most vehicles, the recommended tire pressure is listed on the inside of the driver’s side door jam.
This can lead to about $50 per year in savings if tires are kept at the correct pressure. Check the pressure once per month and adjust as necessary.
#50 Use cruise control.
Cruise control helps keep your speed steady. It’s extra convenient if you have the automatically adjusting cruise control that’s available now, a system that will automatically adjust your speed to maintain a certain distance behind the next car.
Drastic speed changes drag down your fuel economy. The car works most efficiently at steady-state, somewhere around 50–60 mph. If you can gradually get to that speed and then maintain it, you are using fuel very efficiently. Cruise control is just another tool to help maintain your speed with very low effort.
Using cruise control will save you a minimal amount of money every year, probably on the order of less than $100 per year, but it’s worth using, especially in conjunction with every other car savings tip which will add up to real savings.
#51 Grow broccoli sprouts in your kitchen.
This one doubles as a science project. You can buy and grow broccoli sprouts with a minimal initial investment, or you can fashion your own. Growing your own sprouts means you can beef up the nutritional density of any salad, stir fry or sandwich for just pennies.
Using a mason jar and a special lid, you just add water to the seeds you buy and let them grow. They do require some daily tending (rinsing and draining) but they will reward you with a huge nutrient-packed, not to mention delicious, punch. Growing them yourself will save you a few dollars per batch, or on the order of $30–40 per year, depending on how often you eat broccoli sprouts (which should be often).
Additional health bonus: If you thought broccoli was good for you, broccoli sprouts contain 50x the cancer-fighting properties and 1000x the nutritional value of mature broccoli, and for just pennies!
#52 Seal windows with plastic wrap.
Leaky windows are one of the biggest sources of energy loss in any home. Your heated or cooled air flows out and unconditioned air flows in. In the winter in cold climes, it makes a lot of sense to seal up those openings using a DIY solution to seal them up with plastic.
Many companies sell kits to do this. A typical kit costs $15 and will work on 5 windows. Depending on where you live, you could save up to $20 per window. The savings is higher if you have older, single pane windows and if you live in a colder area. It also goes up for the windows that face the wind more than other windows.
They only take about 15 minutes to install per window. It’s easy if you can use a tape measure and a hair dryer. In a typical house in the midwest, the payback can be 2–3 months, saving up to $100 per year.
#53 Bring your lunch (or skip it altogether).
Eating out costs you 2–5x as much as the same food would cost for you to make it yourself, so think of eating out as purely a social or entertainment need. I’m not saying don’t go out to eat, ever. I just try to make it a rare occasion or treat it as a networking cost instead of getting a meal.
To go even further, I have begun fasting while at work. This grew out of an interest in fast and my eventual weight loss of over 70 lbs. I find that my mind stays clearer and I feel more productive if I skip meals at work. This is, of course, something you need to investigate and talk to your doctor about on your own (if you want to read a great ebook about it, check out EatStopEat by Brad Pilon or read my Medium post about my fasting experience).
Not eating out can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. If you normally eat out 5 days per week (yeesh) and you spend $12 on average, in a normal work-year, that is over $3,100 per year in food, just for lunch! If you can fast or bring your own food for a fraction of the cost, you are saving anywhere from $2000–3000 per year.
Additional health bonus: Your food will naturally be healthier than if you buy it so you will reap many health benefits by not eating out daily.
#54 Make insurance payments via bank transfer.
I didn’t even know this until I was getting a new quote for insurance. The phone agent told me that I was spending an additional 3% each month just to use my credit card to make the payment. This is borne out of the fact that the insurance company has to pay the credit card a fee in order to charge you, depending on the card. They allow you to use your card and collect your miles or bonus points, but in return, they pass the fee on to you, possibly even marked up a little.
The bonus points on my credit card were not making up for the fact that I was paying an additional fee just to pay my insurance bill. I switched to an automatic draw from my checking account and my total bill went down by 3%. Not bad for 5 minutes on the phone.
3% for the year on your auto insurance bill can be $25–50 per year. It’s not huge, but still worth looking into to see if you are in the same situation.
#55 Eat vegetables, fruit, beans, and seeds.
I’m not saying don’t eat meat, eat whatever you want, but just recognize that eating plants costs less in general.
According to the Simple Dollar, beans start out around $0.05 per 100 calories, fish, eggs and meat start out around $0.18 per 100 calories, with whole grains around $0.09 per 100 calories. This tells me that meat is 3x as expensive as beans and 2x as expensive as whole grains, per calorie.
You can even use G-BOMBS as a simple acronym from Dr. Joel Fuhrman to remember what to eat (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries & Seeds). Another great reminder for healthy things to eat comes from Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen .
(For extra savings, see tip #30 about buying in bulk.)
Even reducing the amount of meat you eat every week can have a huge impact on your monthly food budget to the tune of hundreds of dollars per year.
Additional health bonus: You don’t have to sacrifice nutrition or health either — beans and whole grains are excellent sources of vitamin and protein and especially fiber, of which only 3% of Americans get enough.
#56 Use catastrophic/high-deductible medical insurance.
High deductible medical insurance is a great way to reduce your monthly premium burden. This works best when you are a younger and relatively healthy. Of course, you would need to have the cash on-hand ready to go in case of a catastrophe.
If you don’t use your insurance regularly, a high deductible plan can save you thousands of dollars per year. Depending on what your employer offers, you can also possibly pair it with a HSA or Health Savings Account. This allows you to save up money to use for your deductible in a tax-free account.
#57 Buy reusable napkins.
Paper products are a consumable product, something you need to buy, use up and then throw away. A way to save money is to buy reusable cloth napkins and use those instead of napkins and paper towel. This will add to your laundry load, but it shouldn’t significantly increase wash time, water use or detergent use.
This will increase your laundry load and also be something else to think about. Without a seemingly endless supply of paper napkins on hand, you need to be a bit more thoughtful as to how much you use each cloth napkin and how many you have on hand ready to go.
This will not save a ton of money every year, but it could be on the order of $100 per year, depending on the type of napkins you buy, if you buy in bulk and how many you use.
Additional sustainability bonus: I haven’t done the research here, but I’m fairly certain that reusing cloth napkins beats out paper napkins, even recycled napkins, for a smaller greenhouse gas emissions footprint.
#58 Compost food waste as fertilizer.
If you eat fresh fruit and veggies (which you should, ahem tip #55), you will have organic food waste. Banana peels, coffee grounds, grape stems and apple cores are all things that do not need to be put into a landfill — they will decompose nicely into something that is perfect for your garden, which you should have if you paid attention to tip #9.
The effort that will need to take place here will be to obtain a container of some sort and finding a place where you don’t mind if there is a bit of a stench, usually in the back corner of your yard or next to the house.
There is also some regularly tending that needs to take place, such as covering it with carbon-rich material and turning it over. Here’s a great guide here.
So, how does this save you money? Well, growing your own food is the first thing, but we’ve already covered that. Not having to buy fertilizer is how composting saves money. If you compost regularly and have a prolific garden, you can save upwards of $50 per year.
Additional sustainability bonus: Less going into the wastebasket means you are upping your sustainability game and helping the earth out.
#59 Let your insurance company monitor your car.
You can probably opt-in to a program that allows your insurance company to monitor your driving patterns. This can be done with telematics device that plugs into your OBD-II port or with your phone.
There are some privacy concerns about the security of the data and whether or not the information could be used against you if you made an insurance claim. I was not scared by the downside and tried it for myself with State Farm. I saved about 15% on my premium, amounting to about $200 per year. Not bad.
I also found that just by knowing somebody was “watching”, I drove a little bit safer, which isn’t a bad thing.
Depending on your driving habits, however, you might actually increase your premium. Your premium is based on information the insurer gathers when you request a policy such as the average annual distance you drive and where you drive. If the data sent back to the company does not jive with what you told them i.e. you drive much more than estimated or in a different area, you may bump your premiums up.
Also, hard braking, high speeds and even an inordinate amount of left turns may increase your premium. There’s a lot to consider here, but just know that it’s an option if you want to possibly reduce your auto insurance premium.
#60 Have furnace tuned-up before each heating season.
Tuning up your furnace annually will save you money in two ways:
- Improved efficiency from clean burners and better heat transfer. The less gas you use to heat your home, the less you will spend. This can be up to 20% per heating season, or $120, depending on where you live.
- Reduced likelihood of repair or catastrophic failure. Tuning up your system is a preventative maintenance measure, not a reactive one. You are spending money to have a trained professional clean and inspect your system. This means you can find out if something is about to break and replace it before it becomes more expensive, or worse yet, in the dead of winter when a midnight no-heat call will cost you 2–3x what it would normally cost.
A standard tune-up can run from $50–150, but will save you about that same amount yearly or more, especially with the reduced likelihood of a major breakdown which can enter the thousands of dollars easily. And it’s easy since all you have to do is make a phone call and set up an appointment.
#61 Buy large amounts of food staples.
Rice, beans, oats, flour, sugar , pasta— basically anything that will keep for a long time without refrigeration is a great thing to buy obnoxious amounts of, provided you will use it all eventually. The savings really kick in around the 5 lb mark and only increase from there.
Of course, you’ll need to consider storage. If you can’t accommodate 25 lbs of black beans sitting in your pantry, then this trick will not work.
Amazon, ThriveMarket, Nuts.com and Jet.com or your local grocery store are all great places to look for potential great prices on massive amounts of these staples.
Your savings will likely be in the 10–20% per unit for item you are buying. If you eat a lot of these staples, you should save 10s or 100s of dollars per year by employing this strategy.
#62 Caulk windows to prevent leaks.
This is similar to tip #52, but different in that the caulk remains year-round and not just during the heating season like the plastic wrap. This also involves going around on the outside of your house with a caulk gun and maybe a ladder. This saves you money if you have lots of gaps around your windows by reducing drafts and water infiltration. Savings will not be earth-shattering and will depend on the current status of your windows, but could amount to $10s of dollars per year, all with a $3 tube of caulk.
#63 Buy gift cards at a discount.
There are online retailers that buy and sell gift cards. This means you can buy a gift card to a store you like at a discount of what the actual card is worth. Who is selling these cards to these companies? People who would prefer cash than having a gift card, even if it means taking a hit on the overall value of the card.
I’m not endorsing these companies and I’ve never used one, although the idea is intriguing to me — I may have to give it a try soon. It seems super easy and the savings is directly related to how much you use it. The sky is the limit.
#64 Move closer to work so you can bike/walk/bus.
If you end up going through with tip #5, then maybe combine it with this one. Otherwise, this is not an easy one to employ. You can’t always just pick up and move at a whim. Although, it’s something to consider in the future if a lease term is ending soon or a new house is possibly on your horizon.
Commuting carries a huge price, both mentally and financially. Commuting a long distance means wear and tear on your vehicle, extra maintenance and gas and mental strain when the traffic or weather decides not to go your way.
The savings here can be huge. Selling your car should (hopefully) bring a large windfall if you can do that. If you can’t, even just parking your car and taking public transportation or bike will save you dollars per day in gas and maintenance which can add up to multiple thousands per year.
Additional health bonus: If you are lucky enough to bike or walk, consider the added health bonus of all of those extra steps.
#65 Buy clothes & furniture at Salvation Army.
Clothes and furniture are 75–95% off of retail at second hand shops and you can find some amazing steals, things that are in great shape. The key is accepting that you won’t find everything in every size and the condition will vary drastically. If you can be open about what you are trying to find, you can get some great deals on clothes, furniture, appliances and other items.
This should go without saying at this point, but your willingness to buy in will directly affect your level of savings. Buying one shirt at Salvation Army will save you $25, but buying all of your family’s clothes there for the year will save you hundreds per year.
Additional sustainability bonus: Reusing clothes is a great way to lessen your greenhouse gas impact and keep items out of the landfills.
#65 Get 3 quotes for any major project.
I learned this when we did bathroom remodels in our house and got it reinforced when I had landscaping work to be done. Three quotes is the magic number because you never know who the outlier is and why they are farther away from the average cost than the other companies.
Also, sometimes companies don’t want the work, so they will add 20–30% as a buffer, either because they are loaded up at the moment or the drive is too far or maybe it’s just too small or out of scope for them. If they don’t get it, they didn’t really want it anyway. If they do, the extra money serves as a bonus to them, but a penalty to you. If you only get one or two quotes, sometimes you don’t notice who really doesn’t want the work or is trying to price themselves out of being considered.
I’ve done this for kitchens, bathrooms, basements, landscaping, carpentry, and many other kinds of projects. The key is to commit to getting 3 quotes, despite the scheduling hassle and having a clearly defined scope of work, written down, so all bidders have the same basis to bid against. This can easily save thousands of dollars per project, tens of thousands possibly over the years
#66 Write articles based on your expertise.
Everybody needs content (even Medium). There are dozens of places where you can sign up to write for different publications or even local companies. I know local service companies who would like to establish their presence and flesh out their blog, but don’t have the time to write articles to bring in the magic SEO juice. You can negotiate a rate anywhere from $0.10 per word on up to $1.00 and beyond, depending on the publication and the quality of the writing. You’ll make more negotiating your own deals, but finding those deals takes more time, so you’d have to find balance.
My recommendation would be to start with services that take a cut at first, prove yourself and establish a good track record, create a portfolio of your work and then use that to break out on your own.
This can be very lucrative, producing hundreds or thousands of dollars per week. It only works if you are writing and writing well so it’s not necessarily easy.
#67 Use good travel or cash back credit cards.
Being strategic about your credit card applications and rewards is a great idea. The sign-up bonuses alone can bring you hundreds or thousands of dollars in free travel, on top of the cash or miles reward for every dollar you spend.
The careful, intentional and strategic use of these cards in order to gain bonuses, cashback and miles is called “churning” on Reddit. A word of warning however; the only reason big banks offer these amazing incentives is because many people (enough to make it worth their while) will screw up. The Points Guy and Chris Guillebeau both are great additional resources for finding and making the most of credit card bonuses.
They will get behind, they will pay interest, they will overspend. For this reason, I only recommend going after credit card bonuses, miles and cashback if you are diligent and pay your balance off monthly. If you are not there yet, do not turn to credit cards enticing offers just yet — it’s a trap that ensnares many.
There are also many rules and requirements to follow such as spending a certain amount of money within a certain amount of time once the account is open, such as spending $7500 in 3 months to qualify for the bonus. Keep track of these rules so you don’t miss out on the bonus.
The potential upside is many hundreds or thousands of dollars per year in bonuses and cashback. The only effort you need to exert is to ensure you are paying in full monthly, watching for new offers and and keeping track of your hard credit inquiries to make sure you don’t accrue so many to where you negatively impact your credit score (check your credit at CreditKarma).
#68 Rent your spare bedroom on AirBnB.
The sharing economy is here and with it, the opportunity to take advantage of that extra bedroom in your apartment or house. This family in LA earns an additional $2,000 per month renting out a room for 10 nights per month. That’s an additional $24,000 per year, not too shabby, especially since you can start and stop at any time.
You compete with other local hosts based on reviews (feedback from prior customers), location (are you near a local point of interest) and amenities (do you have a room to use, a suite or an entire house?) so the rate will vary widely. But you can rise to the top by being a gracious host with a clean space.
Sharing a space with a stranger is a major life shift, even for a few nights per month, so I am listing this as on the more difficult end of the spectrum, especially because changing sheets and cleaning bathrooms would be added to your list of responsibilities.
#69 Drive for Uber and Lyft, shop for Instacart, errands for TaskRabbit.
On top of renting a room, you can drive, shop or run errands for people through apps like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and TaskRabbit. I have tried all of these apps from the requester side and I enjoy them all. Uber and Lyft are instantaneous transportation at the press of a button. Instacart takes the work out of groceries and it still seems like magic to me. TaskRabbit is a catch-all for tiny tasks you want someone to do such as install a ceiling fan or clean out your gutters.
None of these are set up to replace a full-time income, but are rather intended to supplement by trading a few hours for dollars. Your income is directly related to how many hours you want to trade, so it’s not an easy way to supplement your income, but it’s there in case you need it. Earning potential is in the hundreds per week to thousands if you are really hustling.
#70 Install Cross Media Panel to earn $150+ year.
Cross Media Panel is a way for Google to see how you use your phone, tablet and computer. For each device you connect up to 3, you get $1 per week. So if you connected a phone, tablet and computer, you could get $3 per week, or $150 per year.
You can redeem this money through a variety of online retailers in the form of giftcards — I always choose Amazon because we are always ordering from them.
This is super easy, it’s just an app you install on your phone or tablet and an extension you put on your Chrome browser. Is it creepy? Maybe a little, but I don’t care. It pays for my Amazon Prime membership.
#71 Ask for reimbursements at work.
Do you need things for work that you usually buy for yourself such as specialty shoes, clothes, memberships, or continuing education? Consider asking for reimbursement even if it’s not initially offered — the worst they can say is no.
I have asked for and gotten a Toastmasters membership reimbursed because I made the case that it helps improve my productivity, communication and leadership abilities at work — and it does! Most employers are more than happy to pay for things that help workers be safe, work more comfortably and excel at their work.
#72 Buy a refillable coffee cup to get a cup discount.
Most coffee places offer at least a “cup discount” if you bring your own cup and many offer a “refill” option where the price of plain coffee is cut in half. This will save you on the order of $10+ annually depending on your coffee habit.
My favorite reusable cup is here.
Added sustainability bonus: Reusable cups means you are avoiding adding to the waste stream.
#73 Use Trim as your financial assistant/watchdog.
On top of the magic Trim does in negotiating discounts (see tip #11), it has more tricks up it’s sleeve.
- Trim will watch your Amazon purchases for the following 90 days to see if any items you bought have significant price drops. If there are price drops, it will submit the paperwork to your credit card company requesting the difference be sent to you as a check. Yes, you don’t even have to do anything. Did you even know your credit card carries this protection? Most people are vaguely aware of it, but absolutely nobody has the time or inclination to keep an eye on all purchases and then to file the paperwork for the amount of money it’s worth. Trim does all of that for you. It’s amazing and I’m blown away everytime I receive an unexpected check for $2.50 in the mail. Each one is a delight.
- Trim will watch your internet/cable provider (in my case, Comcast) for outages in your area and will request a credit be added to your account if any outages are recorded. For this service, they charge you for 25% of the savings they got for you. I recently got an email notifying me that I was receiving a $30 credit on my cable bill and Trim was going to charge me $7.50 for that. I’ll take that trade every single time!
- Trim also gives you $1 back if your credit card is hooked up (there’s no point to any of this unless Trim is connected to your card) for everytime you make a qualifying purchase such as shop at a grocery store, eat at a restaurant and many others.
Seriously, get Trim. It’s awesome and I don’t think they are done adding amazing features.
#74 Buy produce in season.
When you aren’t busy growing your own (#9), buying it frozen in bulk (#44) or buying generic frozen produce (#31), you should definitely only be buying it in season.
What’s in season when? I knew you ask. Here’s a handy guide from the USDA and there are many other graphic guides that are nice as well. In our house, we have noticed what’s in season by joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) share meaning we pay a farmer in advance for a share of their crops every week. We also notice by visiting the produce area of the store and seeing what’s on sale or deeply discounted.
Also, trying to buy things out of season means they had to come from far away, sometimes as far as the opposite side of the world from you. This means the produce might look worn out or sickly. Just another sign to skip it until it’s bountiful and robust.
Savings will be related to your shopping quantity and produce consumption, however, in-season produce can be 20–30% cheaper than when it is out of season, especially if it’s been an especially good year for that crop.
#75 Ditch disposable razors.
Shaving your face or your body doesn’t need to cost so much. I can’t speak for women here, so I’ll only speak for men. Those 9-blade, lubricated, flex-blades with GPS technology carry such a crazy margin. You are paying for all of the nonsense. You can get just as close of a shave (and a more enjoyable experience, in my opinion) by using a safety razor. A safety razor is usually a hefty, metal handle upon which you place a $0.15 blade every so often, instead of one that costs over $3.00.
This usually requires using a different kind of shaving lather, as the typical ones are not effective for this type of shaving (I’ve tried…). The Art of Manliness first turned me on to safety razors, so I will link that post here.
Skipping the modern razor technology for a more old-fashioned approach can save you $20 per month, or $240 per year.
#76 Batch trips and use bike or public transportation.
We are so used to getting everything we want at a moment’s notice, but if we really stopped to think “do I actually need this right now, or can it wait until I go to the store,” you may find taking fewer trips throughout the year.
You can increase your savings here too by walking, taking a bike or riding public transportation. You may think that jumping in the car to head to the mall 25 minutes away is basically free, besides the gas, but you have to consider all of the costs of owning a car: the purchase price, maintenance costs, taxes, insurance, registration. It all adds up to about $0.34 per minute of driving. For a 25 minute trip to the mall, you are really paying $8.50 each way for a trip total of $17.00.
Eliminating one of these trips per week by batching or taking a different form of transportation can save $17 per week, which is almost $900 per year.
#77 Buy beans dry in bulk and cook instead of cans.
This is very close to #61, but more specific. Eating beans is a great idea — they are delicious and healthy. If you want the absolute cheapest beans possible with no possibility of BPA (or BPS or any other “safe alternative”), you need to cook your own.
A can of beans at 12 oz varies between $0.50 and $1.50. If you bought beans in bulk and cooked them yourself, you could have this same amount of beans for $0.05 — $0.20. That’s a big discount and it adds up if you eat a lot of beans. If you don’t and you prefer the convenience of prepared beans, this isn’t the tip for you.
#78 Survey apps.
I use the OnGo survey app, Google opinion rewards, Quick Thoughts, and earn upwards of $50 per year. Some surveys are easy and some are not. Some net you $1.00 and some earn you more.
Quick Thoughts is the most reliable in terms of always having a survey for you — even if you don’t qualify, you normally get $0.10 just for trying.
OnGo is a good one for easy surveys, but they are more location-based. If you enable location-tracking and wander into a local pharmacy, you can make upwards of $5 or $10.
Google Opinion Rewards is usually just 1 or 2 questions and is related to where you just visited, again location-based. This is usually good for accruing a few dollars in Google Play money so my next app or movie is free.
There are others out there so look for survey apps with good reviews.
#79 Be a Turker.
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a place where automation meets humanity. Any size task can be outsourced to an anonymous “turker” for pennies. To increase the size of task you qualify for, there are certain system requirements you need to achieve, such as completing a certain number of HITs or Human Intelligence Tasks and with a certain feedback rating.
Some of the common entry-level HITs consist of reading scanned in images and translating them into text and numbers. These can pay $0.01 — $0.10 per HIT.
There are a variety of forums dedicated to working the system to your advantage such MTurk Forum and TurkerNation. These sites are where turkers gather to discuss the best HITs and the best strategies for maximizing your earning potential.
There are other platforms like this, but none as large or as well-known. Look for others in addition to Mechanical Turk if you enjoy this type of earning. Average earning is around $1.50 — $5.00 per hour, well below the average minimum wage. Look for growth in this micro-task space, especially with the ubiquity of smartphones and apps.
#80 Do $5 tasks on Fiverr.
Fiverr is a fantastic place to get help with online projects, images created, websites built, basically anything you can imagine that somebody can help you with online, you can get it done via Fiverr. Services start at $5 but scale up from there depending on the total scope.
If you have drawing skills, voice over talent, writing ability, song-writing expertise SEO experience, website building proclivities among many other highly sought after services, you can start to make some cash on Fiverr. Your storefront presence directly influences how much you can earn so delivering high quality services and getting great feedback is key at Fiverr.
Like many other tips, the harder you hustle, the higher your earning potential will be.
#81 Put up trees to block sun.
Much like tip #20, the more sunlight you keep out of your house, the lower your cooling load will be. Trees and shrubs are a step better than blinds because the heat doesn’t have the opportunity to get stuck inside your window. The lead time on this can be a bit longer though, especially if you plant a young tree — waiting for it to be large enough to provide shade will take many years.
#82 Compare Amazon to everybody else.
Amazon is everywhere and they are usually the most convenient option, but that doesn’t mean they have the best deals. Many people have found that taking the best reviewed or first option when searching on Amazon can lead to overpaying.
There are other competing online sites such as Jet, ThriveMarket and brick-and-mortar stores that are taking aim at Amazon’s dominence like Trader Joe’s, Costco and Walmart.
Look at the things you buy from Amazon regularly and do a sanity check every so often.
Walmart recently launched free 2-day shipping to take aim directly at Amazon’s Prime Membership. That’s a $100 per year savings to get the same service you get from Amazon.
The key here is to know that what you trade for convenience may not be worth the added cost. Stay vigilant in your quest for the lowest price.
#83 Operate ceiling fans and open windows.
A central air conditioning unit uses about 3 kilowatts which costs about 36 cents per hour. A window air conditioner uses 1.2 kilowatts, or about 14 cents per hour. A ceiling fan runs on 0.03 kilowatts (30 watts), only 1 cent per hour.
Running with these assumptions, a month of central cooling is about $130. A month of using a window air conditioning unit costs $50. Using a ceiling fan all month would cost about $1.20. That’s a stark difference and adds up to real money, if you can tolerate it.
In our house, we delay air conditioning as long as possible and only use it when not using it would adversely affect everybody’s sleep and/or mood — just during the hottest, most humid days of summer. This can easily add up to hundreds of dollars per year.
#84 Place jug of water in toilet tank.
This is one of my favorite tips because they are so easy and so effective. This only works on older toilets as newer ones are more water-efficient and only use what’s needed to get everything down the pipe and out of the house.
You’ll want to make sure it’s steady and does not affect the moving parts in the toilet. You can save 10–18 gallons of water per day, or 3,650–6,570 gallons per year. At roughly $10 per ccf (1 ccf=100 cubic feet= 748 gallons), that is an annual savings of 4.9 ccf — 8.8 ccf, or roughly $49 — $88 per year.
#85 Run washer on cold water setting only.
If you wash on hot and rinse with warm water, your average laundry load will use 4.5 kWh, which can cost up to $0.60 per load. If you wash on cold and rinse on cold, you will only use 0.3 kWh per load, or $0.04 per load.
Many will argue that hot water is necessary for fighting bacteria and stains. But conversely, hot water also is the most damaging to your clothes, causing them to wear out sooner. I don’t believe our clothes are riddled with enough dangerous bacteria to warrant the hottest water setting. The exceptions would be reusable diapers, scrubs after a day at the hospital, etc.
The savings on the table, if you do 3 loads per week on average which is ~150 loads per year, is 150 x ($0.60 — $0.04) = $84 per year, so it’s not huge. But if you’re consistent, it can add up over the years, especially in reduced wear and tear on your clothing and linens.
#86 Hang clothes to dry.
Switching from an automatic gas or electric-powered dryer can save the average household around $200 per year. The added bonus is reduced wear on clothing and linens.
Added sustainability bonus: You’ll also significantly reduce your carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds of carbon per year.
Of course, the added inconvenience of hanging laundry and then taking it down is enough to deter most people from enacting this strategy.
#87 Buy a silicone popcorn bowl.
This is one of the coolest little kitchen gadgets I’ve found. We eat a ton of popcorn because it’s relatively low-calorie and very satisfying for the kids. I was a little bit leary of the heavy doses of oil and salt they were getting, so I wanted to start popping our own popcorn. I set out to look for a little air-popper, but Amazon, knowing what’s popular, suggested this little silicone bowl to me.
It’s amazing. You put in 1/8–1/4 cup of raw popcorn kernels with the little top set down inside it and you hit 2 minutes on the microwave. When it’s done, you remove the top and enjoy! You can season it however you want, but you don’t need to use oil or anything if you don’t want.
It acts as a bowl so you don’t even need another bowl to serve it in if you don’t want! And it cleans up nicely.
I’m calculating savings if we had kept using paper bagged popcorn vs our silicone bowl method. If we have popcorn 2x per week with paper bags, I’d spend:
52 weeks x 2 bags / week x $0.75 / bag = $78 per year
You can buy 5.75 lb of raw kernels for less than $20 ($17.28 at the time of this writing). Each hefty (massive) serving is roughly 4 tablespoons, or 1/4 cup of unpopped kernels. If 5.75 lbs is $17.28, and each pound is 32 tablespoons, each serving is $0.38.
52 weeks x 2 servings / week x $0.38 / serving = $39.52 per year
The savings will be $38.38 per year. The bowl, which costs $15.90, will pay for itself in just under 5 months.
Additional savings bonus: With this bowl, making 1/4 cup of popcorn at once is a lot. I usually make half of that, about 1/8 cup. The additional controllability allows for less waste and more savings.
Additional health bonus: Since the popcorn is unflavored to start, adding salt and butter takes a little (tiny) bit of additional effort, meaning you are more likely to learn to enjoy it plainer. AND if you do add butter, oil or salt, you have direct control over how much you add.
#88 Donate plasma.
Your blood and plasma are valuable commodities that many will pay you for. The average payout is between $20 and $50. You’ll need to be between 18 and 69 years old over 110 pounds and in generally good health. You can donate repeatedly too, about once every 28 days. Some will let you donate more often, as often as every 7 days, which is how some companies get away with saying you can earn $300 per month donating plasma.
Donating plasma takes time, about 1.5 hours, so it’s not a quick procedure. They draw your blood, filter out the plasma and then return the blood minus your plasma back to you.
The every seven day theoretical cap you could achieve is $3,600 per year, but once a month is probably more realistic around $600 per year.
#89 Stop using conditioner.
This is aimed at men or people with shorter hair. Conditioner is one of those products that I was taught I needed, but didn’t really understand why. Conditioner was created to treat your hair, moisturize and ensure the ends don’t dry out and split. If you wear hear shorter than 6 inches though, your hair doesn’t last long enough to dry out and split. My hair is barely 1 inch long at the longest, so it’s never getting old enough to dry out and need any conditioning before I get it cut again.
There are many other opinions also about whether you need conditioner or not even with longer hair. I will leave that to you to decide. Just be aware of products, like conditioner, that you’ve been taught you need. Do some reading, conduct an experiment where you go without it for 30 days, and come up with your own conclusion. You could save hundreds per year in expensive hair products (and save about 30 seconds in the shower).
#90 Stop using fabric softener.
In the same vein as tip #89, I’m convinced that fabric softener is a legacy product from our early experience in laundry and it’s something that is no longer necessary in our daily lives. “We use is because we’ve always used it” is not a good reason.
Try living without it — what happens? Our clothes were no less soft and usable. All that happened was we stopped buying something that we didn’t really understand.
Read up on this, try it as an experiment and decide for yourself whether or not fabric softener is worth it.
#91 Use solid soap instead of liquid soap.
Liquid soap is mostly water and you tend to use much more of it than you need, by design. When washing your hands with liquid soap, you tend to use about 3.5 cents worth of soap. Using a bar, you’d use 0.4 cents worth or almost 10x less.
This same savings translates to shower soap as well. Liquid soaps tend to include moisturizers that take more time to rinse off. Every extra minute in the shower leads to about 5 gallons more of water going down the drain.
#92 Have friends/family cut your hair.
Haircuts don’t have to be that difficult — you can learn anything via Youtube. I used to have my neighbor come over to cut my hair and pay her directly instead of the haircut shop she worked for. I would win with a cheaper haircut and she’d win by pocketing more money.
If you have family cut your hair, it can be free. Maybe go for a simpler haircut that is easier to complete or get your haircut less often. A typical men’s haircut at a chain or barbershop can cost anywhere from $15–30. A woman’s haircut ranges more wildly but can be had for $45 on up.
Men might get around 17 haircuts per year x $25 which equals around $425 per year. Women might get around 10 haircuts per year x $50 which equals around $500 per year. Getting your friends or family to give you free or discounted haircuts can save you hundreds of dollars per year.
#93 Stop drinking alcohol & soda.
According to Gallup data, 63% of Americans drink alcohol, men drinking 1 per day and women slightly less than 1 on average. An alcoholic beverage, whether at home or at the bar after work, can run up to $3.75 per serving. Avoiding this would save you somewhere between $50 and $110 per month, or $600-$1,320 per year. One bottle of soda at a cost of $1.50 will cost you $45 per month, or $540 per year.
Putting these two together, the average American who drinks alcohol and soda is spending $1,040-$1,860 per year. Reducing that by 25% could save up to $465 per year.
Added health benefit: Reducing alcohol and soda will cut hundreds of empty calories out of your diet. Adding in water will help displace those calories with much needed hydration, improving your overall health.
#94 Participate in paid studies.
You can earn hundreds-thousands of dollars to participate in different studies. Where can you find these studies? Start with google. Search “paid studies near me” and you will most likely find a litany of options.
If you are near a University, they will typically have a portal organizing all of their studies showing what’s required, who can participate and how much they will pay you for your time. You might even be able to sign up for alerts when studies are available or let study organizers search for you based on your criteria.
#95 Offer to house-sit, pet-sit.
People go on vacation or on business trips and need trustworthy people to take care of their homes and pets while they are away. Luckily, there are many apps and websites available where you can build a brand and easily find people. And if those don’t work, there’s always trusty ol’ Craigslist.
Some options for you:
The more you hustle on these websites, the better your ad will do and the more business you will get.
#96 Switch to LED lights.
LED lights use very little energy in comparison to halogen, incandescent or fluorescent lights. Your lighting energy can usually be reduced by 50%-80%, depending on what kind of lights you are using currently. LEDs can last 3–25 times longer also, saving you money on replacement down the road.
If you went from a 60-watt incandescent lamp down to a 12-watt LED lamp, you would be saving 80% of the energy and extending the life by 25x.
To use this single lamp for 2,500 hours per year, at a utility rate of $0.11 per kWh, it would cost:
2,500 hr/yr x 60 watts x 1 kW/1000 watts x $0.11/kWh = $16.50 per year
To use the LED version at 12 watts, it would cost:
2,500 hr/yr x 12 watts x 1 kW/1000 watts x $0.11/kWh = $3.30 per year
This is a savings of $13.20 per lamp. If you have 10 similar applications in your home, this simple conversion can save your home $132 per year which scales higher with more lamps and lighting usage.
#97 Replace all or part of your lawn.
Mowing your lawn, watering your lawn, filling your mower with gas and oil, aeration, fertilization, etc are all costing you time and money.
There is a large environmental push to reduce our footprint of water-intensive and maintenance-intensive turf. Sprinkler heads typically flow around 4 gallons per minute. Multiply that by how many sprinkler heads you use and by the amount of time they run and your water costs can add up quickly.
If you have a zone with 10 sprinkler heads in it, that will be using 40 gallons per minute. If that zone operates for just 10 minutes, you will use 400 gallons during that single zone irrigation. If you have 4 other similar zones, you could be using 2000 gallons per entire irrigation period.
If you irrigate every other day during the spring and summer, 26 weeks x watering 3.5 times per week, means you irrigate 91 times per year. At 2,000 gallons per irrigation, that means you use 182,000 gallons per year on your lawn.
If one ccf (100 cubic foot, equal to 748 gallons) of water costs you $10.00, then:
182,000 gallons / year x 1 ccf / 748 gallons x $10.00 / 1 ccf = $2,433 per year in water costs alone.
Now tack onto that the gas for the mower — figure 25 gallons x $2.50/gallon = $62.50 in gas. If you aerate or fertilize your lawn, the costs just go up from there.
There are many options with full or partial lawn replacements that can use little or no water. Low-water plantings, rock landscapes, or artificial turf allow you to reduce your water usage for grass.
There are many other lawn tips such as:
- mulching your lawn instead of bagging to reduce water evaporation
- reduce zone irrigation times
- install a rain sensor to automatically turn off irrigation when you get enough precipitation
- cutting your grass a bit higher to reduce evaporation
- aerating regularly to support robust root growth
- easing up on fertilizer to help grass survive on less water
- inspecting your irrigation system regularly to prevent leaky heads and pipes from wasting water
#98 Ask your dentist for lots of floss.
We should all be flossing every day. Whether or not you do is a personal choice. When you go to your regular dentist appointment (1–2x per year), I’m always asked if I need any supplies such as toothbrushes, floss or chapstick. I always say yes, especially to floss.
Floss can run about $3, depending on the size, brand and whether or not it’s waxed or mint-flavored. I believe we use 3–5 floss containers per year, costing us $9–$15 per year. If we only used free floss from the dentist, we’d save that much per year.
#99 Participate in a meat share or CSA.
I no longer eat meat, but when I did, I strongly considered participating in a meat share. A meat share consists of supporting a farm by buying meat in bulk, in advance of harvesting.
There are two kinds: all-at-once or weekly. All-at-once means you will get a large shipment of meat wrapped up and will need to store it to last through the next few months to a year. Weekly means you will get a shipment every week, which you can use that week or store for the future.
Both of these can lead to significant savings, either because you are buying in bulk or you are agreeing to get whatever cuts of meat the seller deems best. You can beat the retail meat price by 20–30% by following this tip.
#100 Make your own hummus, salsa, dressing, dip.
You are paying for convenience when you buy prepared hummus, salsa, dressings and dips. Instead of a large tub of hummus for $5.99, you can make the same amount using 2 cans of beans x $0.69, 2 tablespoons of tahini x $0.10, 1 lemon x $0.75 for a grand total of $2.23. Since you made twice as much hummus, you are saving $3.76 (and you are also able to make your hummus healthier by cutting out the oil). Don’t forget the salt and garlic!
This same idea is repeatable with any kind of dressing, dip or salsa, saving over 50%.
#101 Get the junk out of your trunk.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that for every 100 pounds of excess weight in your car, you are reducing your mpg efficiency by 1%, which equates to $0.03/gallon. Consider the toolbox and entire wardrobe in your trunk to be taxed at a rate of $0.03/gallon.
Most people don’t have hundreds of pounds of junk in their car, so the savings will be some fraction of $0.03/gallon, but it all adds up and this serves as a reminder to only keep in your car things that will be immediately necessary.
#102 Avoid modem rental fees.
I looked at my cable internet bill recently and once again asked the customer service web chat person if I could reduce it any way. They reassured me, after much pestering, that I was in fact receiving the lowest rate they could scrounge up. I tend to believe them, at $30 per month. But they did have one suggestion for me, which I’m surprised they even told me, that I should buy my own cable modem and stop renting theirs for $10 per month.
After some brief googling as a sanity check, I found that this is a valid tip that many others are using as well. You can pick up an inexpensive, but highly reviewed, cable modem for around $100. If this allows me to cancel a $10/month fee, my payback period is 10 months. After that, I will be netting $120 per year in avoided costs. Not bad.
Additional peace of mind bonus: I learned in this process that Comcast uses your modem as a public wifi serving other people nearby who want to login and use the internet. What?? I’m sure this is in the terms of service somewhere, but no. That is crap. I read that you can opt out, but I feel too weirded out to even trust that they would turn that off. (Using my modem as a hotspot has got to be worth some minimal electrical usage per month, too.) Good riddance.
#103 Avoid car idling.
Idling costs you 1/4–1/2 gallon of gas per hour, depending on your car and if you are running the air conditioning. That’s $0.63 — $1.25 per hour. If you idle for 30 minutes each morning before work (there are roughly 261 work days in a year), that can lead to:
0.5 hour/day x $1.25 wasted/hour x 261 days = $163/year
Additional environmental bonus: You avoid putting hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by avoiding idling.
Avoid idling if you can help it and save some cash and help out the environment.
#104 Invest in a Swimming Pool Cover.
Invest in a swimming pool cover to limit evaporation. This single step can save thousands of gallons of water each year and reduce the cost of heating your pool. You can save 30%–50% of the makeup water, reduce chemical consumption by 35%–60% and significantly reduce cleaning time by proactively keeping dirt and debris from entering the pool.