Saving Money in Seven Uncommon Ways (and Eight Common Ones)

Saving Money in Seven Uncommon Ways (and Eight Common Ones)

One common goal of many Americans is to build up their savings. It may be to increase their emergency savings or for something specific like a saving for a vacation, a big purchase, or retirement. While our goals and intentions are good, everyday living impacts our choices and can make setting aside a few dollars very challenging. So, we put together a list of ways to save, that go beyond the traditional advice of using coupons, don’t shop when you’re hungry and stop buying a cup of coffee. (Note: All these things can save you money. And we know you know it, too.) We hope that one or two of these suggestions will help you reach your financial goals!

  • Visualize other ways to spend the money. Let’s say you are at the store eyeing a new chainsaw. It costs $250. Stop, think and visualize the other ways you could spend that money. That momentary break allows you to refocus and decide if this is where you want to spend your money. Do you think you’ll be happy about the purchase or would you rather wait for something else you imagined?
  • Clean something! Say what? When you are getting ready to buy something new, find something you already own and clean it. According to Jeff Yeager of the Ultimate Cheapskate, this helps you develop an “appreciation,” for the things you already have. This can also give you a moment to stop and think about whether this purchase is important to you (2012).
  • Question your spending: Let’s face it, sometimes we buy something and then think, “Why did I buy that,” or “I knew I shouldn’t have bought that.” At that point, make a physical / hard copy list of things you bought. Keep those reminders around. When you are buying something that was not planned, look at the list and ask yourself, “will this become one of those items?” If the answer is maybe, probably, or yes – don’t buy it.
  • Flee! Okay, not everywhere in life, but the places you really enjoy shopping. That may be online, your favorite department store or secondhand store, the hardware store or even a coffee shop. Anywhere you shop and get sidetracked by items you never intended to buy is a place to avoid or to practice entering and leaving without buying anything.
  • Ask for a better deal: If this is a purchase you need to make or are going to make, ask for a discount. You could say something like, “Gee that seems high, do you have anything for less?” If you are shopping for services, let the businesses know you are getting multiple quotes. This applies to cable, insurance, cell phones, construction contractors and more. If you are using credit cards, ask the creditors to give you lower interest rates. The worst thing any business can do is say, “No.”
  • Dump something – For some people getting rid of something is the first step in buying something. If you can sell it and get some money to offset the purchase, that is a win-win situation. Sometimes the requirement to get rid of something proves to be to difficult and the person makes the choice not to buy something new.
  • Trade and Barter – Trading and bartering for goods and services is a great method to save money. Have a lawn mower and rake? You may be able to trade lawn service for tax services. (The tax person will probably tell you that the trade is taxable, but don’t let that deter you.) There are groups across the country that create opportunities for a broader range of trades by letting people earn credit for their products and services. So, you can do the lawn maintenance on a beauty salon, but use your credits to buy a dinner, assuming the beauty salon owner and the restaurant belong to the same barter club as you do.

If you are looking for a more traditional way to save, these ideas may come in handy.

  • Look for free fun: Need an alternative to shopping, dining out, or going to the movies? Expand your options!  Talk a walk or bike ride with friends. Go for a picnic instead of eating at a restaurant. Have a clothing exchange party – everyone brings some things they no longer wear and you see if you can trade. Your friends may be relieved to hear about your less expensive alternatives for having fun.
  • Follow the crowds: While major department stores are hurting from the downshift in the economy, discount stores are holding steady. Look for discount grocery stores, clothing stores, and other discount chain stores such as Wal-Mart and The Dollar Store.
  • Save on food: Pack your lunch and avoid the latte factor. One latte at $5 a day works out to, approximately $1,825 a year. Treat yourself to one latte per week and tuck the savings away.  Also, when you go shopping make a list and stick to it!
  • Taxes: Don’t overpay your taxes – why would you want to loan your money to the government when you could be earning interest on it? It is better to accurately adjust your W4 so that you will only receive a minimal refund and save the extra you would have paid throughout the year. You can also save the smaller refund!
  • Raise your insurance deductibles: If it is viable for you to do this, your premiums will go down and you can save the difference! Average premiums drop between 8% and 17%. However, be sure you can afford to pay the deductible in the event you need to use your insurance.
  • Keep things interesting: Start saving all your quarters or better yet, your $5 bills. Pick a different unit of money every week or month and watch your savings grow!
  • Save extra or unexpected cash: When you receive a monetary gift, tax refund, raise or bonus, don’t be tempted to spend it – invest it. When you finish paying off a loan, continue investing that same amount of money into your savings or investment account. 
  • Save energy:  Turn off and unplug items you are not using; gradually replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs; switch to cold water for laundry; buy Energy Star certified appliances.

We will end this with blog with one final important tip. Look for savings opportunities: Track your spending for one month (or week) and determine what you spent on needs and what you spent on wants. Work to reduce the amount spent on wants. That may mean making tradeoffs like having easy dinners to make at home versus going out to dinner – but the money saved toward your goals will be worth it. You can also contact a counselor at American Financial Solutions to find solutions for your budget, debt and credit.