Here’s 16 things that I do every day to save money while always getting quality stuff/experiences.
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First things first…
I may be debt free, but I’m still middle class.
If I don’t stay on top of where my money is going, I won’t have any. However, I learned quickly during my journey to becoming debt free that sacrificing quality only costs me more money. Cheap things don’t last. Thus, I learned some tricks to get the things I wanted without ever paying full price.
Here’s my tips that you can start right this minute.
These Banks Ain’t Loyal.
I have been utilizing the same credit union for all of my primary finances since I was 18 years old. They have my checking account, my first three auto loans, and my first credit card. However, they do not get to keep my savings account.
All financial institutions pay out Dividends: A sum of money paid regularly (typically quarterly) by a company to its shareholders out of its profits. Basically, it’s a small kickback for letting them have access to your money (hint: most banks use your deposits to lend out to people in auto, credit cards, etc., and make an income for themselves on the interest people pay on their loans).
My credit union offers something along the lines of 0.05% in dividends on my deposits, quarterly. I shopped around with MagnifyMoney long ago and found a savings account with another credit union that offers 5.13% on your first $1,000 every single month. That’s over $50 a year in dividends!
Girl bye. This fall makes 1 year with this savings account and it’s like finding a fifty dollar bill on the road, every year.
Stay home on Friday.
Almost every weekend for the last year, we’ve had people over at our house (whether we invited them, or they asked us to hang out). Why? Because going out to eat or hitting the bars has a way of completely destroying my budget in a single night.
We feed our friends, they usually supply the booze, and we kick it around the fire-pit, play games, have discussions, or do whatever.
To put a dollar amount of this, there’s two of us who live in my house. The average price of a single cocktail is about $8-$12 each for about 8.8mL of alcohol, so Jay and I are spending no less than $20 (with tip) on a single drink, each. The price of a 750mL bottle of booze to share with all of our friends? $8-$16.
We could have a single drink at the bar on one specific night, or have over 100 at home without needing a designated driver. That’s a no brainer.
Free tire rotations.
Do you know why you should rotate your tires every 6,000-10,000 miles?
The majority of cars are either “front wheel drive” or “rear wheel drive”, which denotes which tires your engine and transmission actually send power to in order to move your car down the road. The wheels that receive the engine’s power will wear down faster and need to be replaced more frequently.
By rotating your tires (moving your rear tires to the front, and vice-versa) regularly, you will give your heaviest-used tires a break….which prolongs the life of all of your tires, and spaces out how frequently you have to replace them. Cool, right?
Even cooler… I exclusively have Pep Boys rotate my tires. Why? Because it’s FREE. If you’re not taking advantage of this free perk, you’re literally throwing money on the street.
Check out my outfit in this photo (i’m the one holding the “single” sign). Cute, right?
- Shirt: This button down shirt is a Banana Republic brand shirt that retailed for $80. I paid $3 at a thrift store, and it didn’t need any repairs to be ready for use. For years I felt “against” buying clothes from thrift store…as if I didn’t own soap and a washing machine. This shirt is the article of clothing that cemented my new-found love for secondhand clothing.
- Pants: Old Navy pants that needed a button which I found at a thrift store for a dollar. Added bonus, they’re extremely form fitting. #StillGotIt
- Belt: I’ve had this belt for probably five years after finding it on clearance at Target for $4. If you see me in a brown belt, there’s nearly a 100% chance it’s this one. Jeans, shorts, slacks…it coordinates well and was a bargain.
- Bowtie: It was bought for $6 on clearance in 2015. It just so happens to be my wedding colors, too. Why? Because it was purchased for my wedding! We didn’t rent suits, but rather bought our outfits on clearance and reused clothing we already owned. Both of our outfits cost $70 combined, and I still wear every item of clothing from that day. Sidenote, if you want to know how we had a wedding for 70 guests with an open bar and didn’t spend over $2,000… find out HERE.
- Shoes: My old boss bought them on Amazon and it didn’t fit him right, so he gave them to me. I almost never say “no” to free things, so they’re now in my rotation! I question their lifespan because they are clearly knockoff, but they look fancy, so I wear them on special occasions only.
I used to willingly spend $35 for a nice shirt at the mall, but the entire outfit you’re staring at cost me $14.
Pro Tip: Hit the retail stores off season. In the fall, get your summer wear, tanktops, shorts, and bathing suits. In the spring, stock up on sweaters and scarves. Not only do you save 50-80% off the price, but you also get the pleasant surprise twice a year of opening your closet and finding the goodies you stocked up on, but forgot about, earlier in the year.
Drink more water.
Not only is water the best way to hydrate, maintain your health, and keep those doctor/medicine costs down, but if you drink a glass of water before each meal…you stay “fuller” longer and ultimately eat less.
I never order sodas at restaurants, only water. Why pay $2.50 for a drink when water is better AND it’s free?
If you don’t drink very much water currently, you’re probably like I once was and said “it’s just so hard“. Nah, boo. You’re stronger than that.
What I did was started with iced flavor water such as those powders or liquid that you can put in your drink to add whatever taste you like. After a while, I dropped the flavoring. Eventually, I dropped the ice.
Bam. Now I can drink water in any condition, or temperature. It makes no difference to me.
I feel better for it, my health/skin looks better, and I can manage to get out of a restaurant much cheaper now.
Frugal fast food.
My husband and I almost never buy a meal from fast food restaurants unless we find a coupon, because a mean is hella expensive!
It’s hard for me to justify spending $5.99 or whatever for a Big Mac meal when I could spend two more dollars and get a better quality, larger meal at an actual sit down restaurant. So back when my husband and I were living on minimum wage, we flipped the script and started a new habit that we still do, to this very day, anytime we have fast food.
- He orders a sandwich.
- I order a sandwich.
- We split a medium side (french fry).
- We skip the drink, or use a water bottle that we brought from home.
We still leave full, don’t overeat, and rather than walking away with a bill of $14+ for two people, we almost never break $8.
Pro tip: Brown bag your lunch to work, the park, or even the beach. Eating out every day is crazy expensive and you can save $50+ a week by bringing your own food. Remember, if somebody made it easy for you to do (fast food)… you’re paying for it.
You’d save money by doing it yourself.
Baby turn the lights down low.
I have a couple of lamps around my house on timers ($3 at Lowes) that come on at dusk, and go off at bed time. This keeps the popular areas of the house lit at night, stops us from forgetting to turn off a light, and ends the practice of conveniently flipping a switch and turning on a bunch of overhead lights that illuminates 3-5 bulbs at a time. If you have kids, this is my best “kid friendly” trick to stop Junior from leaving lights on.
If we aren’t in the room, the lights aren’t on.
Also, get some LED or Compact Florescent Lightbulbs. They run cooler (keeping your house cooler), last longer, and use a quarter of the energy that a traditional bulb uses. If you live in an area covered by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), do an at-home energy audit online. It takes a few minutes, and they will send you some free stuff like lightbulbs, a thermometer, and an aerator for your faucets. Find it HERE. If you aren’t covered by TVA, talk to your local utility company. Most know of a similar program.
I forget about this one because I’ve only lived in one place that didn’t have one of these…and it was a 700sq apartment.
How it works: You replace your old thermostat that you have to physically turn on/off. The new thermostat can be programmed to turn on and off based on your schedule, and regulate the temperature in your home.
I have mine set to run about an hour before we get home from work (so the house is heated/cooled when we walk in the door), and it turns off at bed time. Shortly before we wake up in the morning, it turns back on. After we leave for work, it’s off.
My favorite part is that it’s turns off at night. I don’t need my house to maintain the “perfect” temperature when i’m asleep, because I have blankets and fans for that–plus, I’m ASLEEP. I won’t notice if the house a couple degrees warmer or cooler. However…my old thermostat was running for those 7-9 hours every night, 365 days per year. That’s a lot of money.
You can pick them up at a hardware store from as low as $70 to $250+.
Buy it “nice”, or buy it “twice”.
Although I’m Frugal and Bougie, I’m also no fool. Anytime I buy anything that costs more than $300… I do my homework.
Flights. Electronics. Cars. Appliances. Flooring…..everything over $300.
There’s certain items that I will gladly go cheap on (silverware, socks, pens) but there’s others I will always pay for quality:
- Appliances: All my appliances are name brand, higher end models without those gimmicky features that become obsolete quickly or are expensive to replace. Why? No-name brand appliances don’t last as long, and I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars and deal with a hassle that I don’t have to.
- Cars: I study Consumer Reports heavily before I buy a car, and I always advocate having a mechanic inspect any car that you want to buy pre-owned. Some models are more reliable than others…and some YEARS of the same model are better than others. I got burned by not researching my car once ($3,400+)…so now I do. Researching also tells you things like if the car takes regular vs premium gas, if tires are expensive to replace, or how often the light bulbs burn out.
- Clothing: My husband loves H&M because they have cute styles for cheap. I’m not as sold because I have bought a few items from them that worn down quickly. However, my favorite pair of Calvin Klein dress shoes that I picked up at a secondhand store five years ago are still going strong, even with almost daily use.
Be careful with where you get your reviews, though. Some sources just boast and fluff about the product and don’t actually say anything beneficial that should sway your decision.
Do your own car maintenance.
Yeah, yeah. “I don’t know anything about cars”. The funny thing about humans is that we are born knowing how to do very few things, but we all manage to learn.
Lucky for you and I, we live in the age of YouTube. From tiling a shower, to repairing a computer…there’s so much I have learned on YouTube.
I change my own oil for about $20 (retail: $40+). We do our tune ups for about $30 (retail: $69+). Jay and I have installed a tow hitch for $130 (retail: $300). The two of us have also diagnosed issues with our cars, installed a sub-woofer in my car, and learned new features on our cars… for free
If you want to learn how to do something… you’ve got 2 tricks up your sleeve.
- Search “How to do [blank] on a [insert year/make/model]” on google.
- Search “[make/model] forum” on google.
Click on the links, read around, and keep more of your money.
I also keep a spreadsheet that I can refer to anytime I need to know when I last did something to my car, and I record each and every thing that I do to it. As a bonus, when I sell the car, I suddenly have “all maintenance records” which means I can sell the car more easily and for more money.
Don’t neglect your maintenance, either! A well maintained car runs better for longer, and costs you less in repairs.
If you’re going to get credit or apply for a loan, shop around for the best just like you do when you want to buy gasoline. Never just “go” with whatever offer somebody has given to you…see if you can beat it.
My first job in finance was working for a car dealership and I saw dozens of people who would gladly take interest rates of 8% – 24% on their cars because they never shopped around. We like the most convenient options, but I personally don’t make enough money to throw away $500+ per year on a higher interest rate just because I didn’t “feel” like shopping around.
When I got a job at a credit union, I reached out to a few of my friends who I worked with previously and encouraged them to refinance. I helped one guy refinance his car from 24.99% to 1.99%. That’s a serious savings.
Holiday shop all year long.
Let’s apply some logic, here. We know that stores hype up Black Friday because it marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season where they make the most money all year. The name actually comes from accounting…as many stores operate in the red (taking a loss) all year long…and turn their first profit on Black Friday. It’s such a major thing that retail lobbied the US government (and WON) to make Thanksgiving fall on the third Thursday of November so it wouldn’t shorten the holiday shopping season.
With all of that being said…what makes you think that you’ll find the best prices for gifts in the winter?
The majority of my holiday shopping is done in the summer, or when items go on sale and clearance throughout the year.
No crowds, no lines, no pressure, and no freaking “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on repeat, either.
Lowkey kind of love that song, though. Don’t judge. It’s a banger and a certified classic.
Stop tempting yourself.
Anytime I “browse” Target, I end up spending $80. It has happened to me so many times that I could set my watch to it. So, I stopped going because I recognized that I wasn’t strong enough to get in/out of that store without overspending.
If you can recognize that doing a particular activity always leads to you doing a behavior that you wish you could stop… well… stop doing that activity.
I live 3 miles from my favorite Target store, and I never go.
You can do this.
Rent out unused space in your home.
My basement has a bathroom, a living space, a bedroom with a closet, and exterior door onto my bottom deck. By renting it out, I am earning some extra money that will be used to fund other projects and goals of mine.
I’ll admit, it’s going to be a little weird having somebody living somewhere in my house because I’ve lived alone with my husband for almost a decade, but just like I did with my debt free journey, sometimes you’ve got to make drastic changes to advance your life to the next level.
Plus, the extra money in exchange for somebody using space I already had but was under-utilizing is a win/win.
Organize your debt.
One of the most motivating websites I ever used to keep track of my debt was Unbury. It spelled out the exact date I’d be debt free, and how much money I would save depending on what approach I went with.
I could have just picked a point on my financial tornado and said “let’s start here”, but strategy wins wars…not guesswork.
If you want a refresher on my $40,000 to $0 debt journey, find it here.
Check out free events in town.
My city has a great website that tells me what’s going on around town. Likewise, there are dozens of great parks such as basketball, tennis, gold, Frisbee, and hiking all around me. If you want 100 free things to do…check out this blog for ideas.
Having fun doesn’t always have to mean going to the store, bar, or restaurants and spending money. Remember the pioneers and our ancestors who didn’t have big box retailers and Reddit?
Get in touch with your community. Do the touristy things. Check out your museums. Walk through nature. Volunteer your time.
There’s a plethora of options and activities that we’ve just forgotten how to recognize.
See what you can come up with that is totally free.