Does saving more money mean you have to make big sacrifices? If you are trying to find wiggle room in your budget to apply towards important goals like retirement or paying off debt, the first place to look is at the easy hacks. Where can you cut expenditures without drastically altering your lifestyle? Here are some ideas, all of which I have personally tried:
Spend less on hair and nails. I live in NJ, where big hair and gel manicures aren’t just something you see on reality TV shows. That kind of primping at the hair or nail salon is expensive.
Switch from coloring your hair to less frequent highlights and you can save $100 per month. Doing your nails at home can save another $40-$50. For guys, switching from a salon stylist to a barber can save you another $40.
Give up restaurant beverages. Drink water instead of soda or alcohol and you can save 10-20% on the cost of eating out. If you eat out frequently, including lunch at work, you don’t even have to do this all the time, just most of the time, to see big savings. Your employer doesn’t provide beverages at work? Bring your own from home instead of using the vending machine or corner convenience store.
Join the library. I once had a Very Serious Book Habit. I adore book stores, read voraciously, and could easily spend $150 per month or more on new books and magazines. If I didn’t like the book enough to keep it, I’d trade it in for store credit after I was finished reading it.
I reduced my book buying habit reluctantly. First, I gave up magazines in favor of the library copies and then I made a concerted effort to also read library copies of those books I was pretty sure I didn’t want to own. I now use an e-reader and buy fewer printed books, which has cut my book buying considerably.
Go from two cars to one or even none. Do you really need two cars? Maybe, but maybe you don’t.
Try living with one car for two weeks and see how you do. Can you take public transportation, carpool or catch a ride to work from your spouse? You may find it’s less painful than you expected. Giving up a car can save you as much as $700-900 per month. I know because I did it myself.
Shop for insurance. You may be able to save by changing your home and auto insurance. Every few years, shop around to compare coverage and prices. The right coverage could save you $100-$200 per month.
Host a swap party. Clothes, accessories, toys, holiday cookies, unopened gifts, books – almost anything could be swapped! What is unwanted to you could be valuable to someone else and vice versa. For more tips on hosting a clothing swap party, see this article. The same principles can be applied to any swap or exchange party.
Share babysitting. A reliable babysitter can cost $10-15 per hour in my area. Babysitting during a night out with your spouse adds $40–$90 to the total cost of the evening.
What can you do if you don’t have family to help? Form a babysitting club to trade nights out with your friends. You watch their kids one time and then they watch yours the next. Some friends I know took it a step further, forming a neighborhood group. Once a month, one family hosts a pizza/movie night at their home, while all the other parents get a night on the town.
Fill up at the cheapest gas station. Our neighborhood suffers from zip code inflation in gas prices. A favorite hack of my husband, Steve, is to take a certain route home from work that passes a less expensive station and fill up there. The result? He spends 30 cents less per gallon.
Quit the gym and mow the lawn. Another one of Steve’s hacks is that he thinks of yard work as his personal exercise program. Instead of paying a gym membership, he mows the lawn and chops wood, doing something every day as his workout.
He decided he wanted to do this on purpose, even though we planned for landscaping in our budget. Did I mention we live on top of a hill and have three acres and abundant trees? Needless to say, he is very fit, and our bank account is fatter.
Stock a snack box. How many times a week do you pick up a snack at a coffee shop or store? Those lattes and muffins can easily add up to $3-10 per day. Add in kids, and a quick trip to Starbucks is twice as much. Keep a well-stocked box in your car and your office with easy snacks.
Not ready to give up the coffee shop coffee? I don’t blame you. (I am a fan.) Consider ordering a less expensive version, such as an iced coffee instead of a fancy coffee drink. You can save 50-60% on each cup.
Fill a gift closet. If you have kids, you know that birthday party gifts can cost upwards of $100 per month. Plus there are always hostess gifts, teacher gifts, office gifts, etc. It’s easy to forget those expenses, but they can really eat into a monthly budget.
Set a maximum amount you’ll spend on them for the year and then shop in advance. We recently bought 8 ultra cool birthday presents on Woot.com for only $80! Stock up on inexpensive small house presents and interesting wines when you see them on sale so you’ll always have something to bring when you have dinner with friends. Better yet, shop for holiday gifts right after the holiday season has ended, often for 75-85% off.