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50 Creative Ways to Save Money

  February 13

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I’m always looking for creative ways to save money. As a busy mom and entrepreneur who is trying to pay down student loan debt and save for the future, I am constantly learning about new ways to save. I hear from many of my readers that sometimes, saving money in small ways doesn’t feel worth it. However, a saving a dollar here and a dollar there can definitely add up and have a big impact  over time.

So, below are 50 cool and creative ways to save money. Some you might have tried already, but with 50 tips, there’s bound to be one you haven’t heard of yet! Enjoy!

Creative Ways to Save Money on Your Bills

1) Invest in a programmable thermostat

Although there’s an initial investment, a programmable thermostat has the potential to save you hundreds of dollars each year. The trick? Set up the thermostat to turn down the heat or raise your air conditioning when you’re away.

The Nest can connect to your phone, and it automatically adjusts the temperature when you’re out of the house. You don’t really lose anything by doing this, and you could save hundreds of dollars on your utility bills annually!

2) Switch to Energy Efficient or Smart Bulbs

LED lightbulbs last longer and use less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. The price has gone down dramatically over the last few years, and it’s worth replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs as they burn out if you haven’t already done so.

If you want to invest in more tech, you can also consider smart light bulbs. These are expensive, though, and you’ll have to crunch the numbers to decide whether smart bulbs are really a better option than just…turning the lights out when you leave the room.

3) Buy Blackout Curtains

Not only do blackout curtains block light (helping everyone sleep better), they also reduce the thermal energy loss from your house by up to 25%. If you’re going to buy curtains anyway, blackout curtains are a great investment. You’ll reduce your utility bills and your carbon footprint, and sleep better too!

4) Turn Down the Water Heater

There are so many things people don’t tell you about home ownership! Did you know that many water heaters are set to heat water to 140℉ by the manufacturer? Most households only require water to be heated to 120℉ (to prevent buildup in the pipes and so forth).

You can save money on your utility bill by turning the water heater temperature down to 120℉. Turning down the temperature also decreases the risk of scalding, which is safer if you have young kids in your home.

5) Ditch Cable (but don’t oversubscribe elsewhere)

Cable is expensive! Usually it comes in a bundle with internet and phone service, and it can run $200+. With most of us streaming shows these days, cable might not be necessary in your house unless you’re really into sports.

If you drop cable, be sure to choose just one streaming service to pay for. If you find yourself subscribing to Amazon, Netflix and Hulu you may end up paying more than you would have for cable. So think about your viewing habits before you cut this cord!

6) Switch to a low-cost cell phone service

The major cell phone carriers tend to lock us in with the promise of “free” upgrades every two years, and other perks. Once you do the math, the lower cost carriers like Republic Wireless and Google Fi tend to be cheaper, even though you pay full price for the phone.

Google Fi has a seamless international call and text experience, which will save you a bundle if you travel internationally. If you’re unsure, pull your cell phone bills for the last year and calculate your monthly average data usage. Then use that number to compute the cost of a low-cost service plus a full price phone every two years. In my calculations,  Google Fi came out significantly cheaper.

7) Change air filters and clean vents regularly

Not only is it important to your health to change your air filters and clean your vents, it can also save you money! A clogged air filter can require up to 15% more energy. Professionals recommend changing your air filters once a month, so buy in bulk and do it on the first day of the month. You – and your budget – will breathe easier!

8) Install and Use Fans

If you don’t already have ceiling fans in your home, consider investing in them. The math is simple – air conditioning is a major energy hog, costing about 36 cents per hour to operate. Fans, on the other hand, require very little electricity – less than a penny per hour. You can save energy (and reduce your electricity bill) by using the A/C less and the fan more.

9) Improve your home’s insulation and windows, especially if you have an older home

A lack of insulation, especially in older homes, can allow energy to escape. Consider improving the insulation in your home’s attic and crawl space to reduce the amount of energy loss. Replacing or repairing old windows can also have a major impact on your home’s energy efficiency. A full energy audit would be a great place to start.

10) Run full loads

If you have a family, this is probably an easy one – be sure to run full loads in the dishwasher and laundry! You’ll save energy and water by doing one load instead of two or more. Like I said, if you have kids at home this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

Creative Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

11) Meal plan and make a list!

I can’t be the only one who aimlessly wanders the grocery store if I don’t have a list. The choices are overwhelming, and I usually end up with random stuff rather than a complete set of groceries for the week. Don’t make this mistake! Random purchases here and there add up.

To prepare for grocery shopping, plan your meals and snacks for the week. Then, check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you already have. Finally, make a list of what you need. When you’re at the grocery store, stick to the list!

12) Compare prices in your area – don’t just assume!

Justin over at Root of Good does an extremely detailed analysis of grocery prices every year. He prices a basket of commonly-purchased groceries at Wal-Mart, Aldi, Costco and more and shows you the breakdown. The surprise? Costco isn’t the cheapest.

These may not be your local stores, but it’s a worthwhile lesson. Don’t assume that the discount stores, like Costco or Sam’s Club, are automatically cheaper. In fact, you may end up paying more for bulk products that you may not use or be able to store.

13) Shop online for groceries

There’s a bit of an up-front cost, but hear me out! Shopping online can actually save you money and time!  By ordering your groceries on the store’s website and picking them up outside the store, you get some huge benefits. First, you can very easily compare unit prices. Second, you skip impulse purchases. Those cookies are much less appealing on your computer screen than in person. Third, you save time and don’t have to unload your children each time you go to the grocery store.

Most grocery stores that I’m familiar with charge about $100 for a yearly subscription to online ordering and pickup. If you go to the grocery store once a week, that’s less than $2/week! And there’s no limit, so you could go twice a week, or more, reducing the cost per use further.

14) Eat out less so you can buy quality

It’s important to save money at the store, but eating a diet high in sugar and carbs can lead to much more expensive long-term health issues. Instead of eating out, commit to buying healthy foods to cook at home.  You’ll spend less money while also eating a diet of quality proteins, fruits and vegetables. Your health, and your wallet, will thank you!

15) Shop the sales

If you’re not into meal planning and can be a little creative, consider shopping the sales. This will only work for people who can come up with recipes on the fly and who aren’t easily overwhelmed in the store, but it could be a huge money-saver.

The idea: rather than going in with a defined list of items, buy what’s on sale. Chicken thighs on sale? Cool! Scoop some up. Ground beef on super special? Taco Tuesday! If you can be flexible – without going overboard – you could find some great deals.

16) Buy an Instant Pot

My kids LOVE black beans and we eat them all the time. Cans of cooked black beans don’t seem that expensive, but they add up. We finally bought an Instant Pot last year and it’s amazing! We can now buy dry beans, rice and oatmeal in bulk and then cook them in our Instant Pot. It’s a huge money saver. Also consider making roasted chicken and chicken stock in your Instant Pot! This is much cheaper than buying a rotisserie chicken at the store.

17) Use a grocery cash-back app

If you’re not already using one, check out a grocery cash-back app like Ibotta. These apps will give you rebates for shopping at big retailers like Costco, Wal-Mart and more. Since you’re likely to be shopping at these stores anyway, the cash-back apps are a great opportunity to save on purchases you already plan to make.

18) Check Unit Prices

Most stores note the unit price of an item as well as the actual price on the tag. It can get tricky if the units of measurement are different, though, so pay attention! I’ve found that grocery stores can be pretty inconsistent with their units of measurement.

This is much easier when you order online, but it can definitely be done in person too. Exercise your brain with a little mental math to make sure you’re getting the best deal!

19) Keep a running list of food on hand

I can’t count the number of times I’ve bought more of some pantry staple because I couldn’t remember if we had any at home and I didn’t want to risk another trip to the grocery store. This is such a waste of money!

To save yourself the trouble, keep a running list of the contents of your pantry or – alternately – a list of common items that you’re out of. (I find the “out of” list much easier. I put it all in Trello so it’s easily accessible for my next grocery order.)

20) Do your own prep work

Grocery stores offer lots of convenient prepared foods these days, but there’s a price. At my local store, a whole bell pepper cost about $3/lb. On the other hand, a container of sliced bell peppers will run you $8/lb.

This one is obvious but there are sneaky examples too! Next time you go to the grocery store, check your list for anything you could be prepping yourself rather than buying prepared.

Creative Ways to Save Money as a Mom

21) Buy secondhand

Kids grow fast! If you can, buy secondhand clothes. The small sizes (baby and toddler) usually aren’t worn very long, so you can often find used clothes in good shape. Check out garage sales, consignment shops and big swap meets (usually held once or twice a year). Just make sure you have a good handle on the sizes and seasons you’ll need before purchasing. You don’t want to go overboard on 2T winter clothes, only to have your sweetie in 3T by November.

You can also find used baby gear, like swings and bouncy seats. Some babies like these items and some don’t, so there are many mamas out there with gently used baby stuff to unload. You can benefit! Check out the local Facebook moms’ groups for larger items. Specialty buy/sell/trade groups can be great for clothes, cloth diapers, baby carriers and more!

There are also some great apps for buying secondhand clothes. I like ThredUp because they have a large selection of kids’ clothes, but I’ve found some good pieces at Poshmark as well. These sites are especially awesome for expensive items like winter gear.

22) Sell your unused or outgrown items

Just as you can benefit from buying used gear, don’t hesitate to sell items that your kids have outgrown! Furniture usually wears well and can be re-sold for a significant percent of the original purchase price, as long as it’s safe and in good condition. Baby gear, like swings and bouncy seats can also usually be re-sold for enough money to be worth the time and effort.

Selling clothes may be more trouble than it’s worth, money-wise, so you’ll have to assess that trade-off for yourself. For clothes, a consignment store could be a good option because, although you’ll make less than if you sold it to someone directly, you’ll also save time.

Keep in mind that some baby items – like cloth diapers and some baby carriers – actually appreciate in value. If you have a Kinderpack or woven wrap on your hands, head on over to a Facebook buy/sell/trade group. You may be surprised by how much your item is worth!

23) Swap with friends and family

If you have family or friends with kids that are a bit older or younger than yours, consider swapping items. We’ve shared car seats, swings, Rock n Plays and lots of other baby gear.  You can often trade this stuff back and forth as you each have multiple kids! It’s pretty nice not to have to buy every single thing – and good for your budget, too!

24) Cloth Diaper

Looking back, I don’t know how we did it (because it took so much time!) but we cloth diapered our twins. Cloth diapering may be more economical since you won’t have the recurring cost of buying disposable diapers. However, the up-front costs of buying cloth diapers are higher. You also need to consider the increased cost of washing the diapers. Finally, if your child will be in a childcare setting, many daycares do not allow cloth diapers. This is one to really do the math on before committing, but it could help you save a bundle if you have the time and energy to deal with yet more laundry.

25) Don’t personalize

I was born and raised in south Louisiana, and both of my kids’ grandmothers have monogramming machines. So, my kids have a lot of personalized clothes they receive as gifts. I don’t buy them myself though because personalization means those clothing items only get one season of use. The same goes for Valentine’s Day dresses and Easter shirts. As much as I want to buy different clothes for every holiday with cute phrases on them, I resist and instead buy clothes my kids can wear longer.

26) Buy off season

The retail cycle means that there are fantastic deals to be had when you purchase clothes at the end of the season for next year. I recommend skipping this tip until your kids are in size 4T. Before that, they are growing so fast that you’ll have trouble predicting what size they’ll be in a year. Around 4 or 5, the growth levels out enough that you can probably guess future sizes better. So stock up on your favorites during end-of-season clearance sales! You’ll save some money and – bonus – when the first cold snap or heat wave rolls around, you won’t be caught off-guard.

27) Be intentional

I can’t even count how many baby and kid items have been billed as “essential” and just…aren’t. Instead of buying the gear you think you need for every stage, I recommend a buy-as-you-need-it mentality. For example, you might want to wait to buy a baby swing until you actually have a baby. Then borrow a friend’s or use one at daycare to see if your child likes it before purchasing. No sense in spending the money and floor space for something your kid hates or doesn’t care about.

This rule works for older kids, too. Do they really need a toddler bed? Maybe…but maybe not. Why not wait and see? Kids are different and their needs can vary pretty wildly so save yourself some dollars and angst by waiting to buy stuff until you need it.

28) Join a local museum

Local museum memberships are a fantastic way to entertain your kids on a budget. Our local children’s museum offers a family membership for two adults and two kids at $120. Alternatively, the price is $7 per person for a day pass, so a family of four only has to go 4 times a year to make the pass worth it! Plus you often get extra member perks, like reciprocity at other museums across the country.

To sweeten the deal even further, ask for a museum or zoo membership as a gift! You’ll think of the gift-giver every time you use the membership (hopefully often)!

29) Love your library

Libraries are the BEST. Not only can you grab some fresh books for mom, dad and kids, but most libraries have really neat kids’ literacy and arts programs. Check out your local branch for a schedule!

I recently discovered that my library offers e-books for checkout as well. If you like to read on your phone, Kindle or tablet, it’s amazing to get free library books without having to actually go to the library.

If your children are school-aged, encourage them to make use of their school library as well. They can usually check out a few books to bring home, which should freshen up their reading material. And the price is right!

30) Join rewards programs

Many grocery stores and child-focused brands offer rewards programs. Check them out! You may get coupons or free items. Every little bit helps!

Creative Ways to Save Money at Home

31) Learn basic fixes

Plenty of household repairs are pretty simple if you’re willing to learn. Enlist a friend or relative to teach you easy fixes, or turn to Youtube. Leaky toilets, squeaky doors and other minor household annoyances can usually be repaired for just a little money and time. You’ll feel accomplished and save yourself the expense of hiring a repair person.

32) Craigslist It

Craigslist and local buy/sell/trade groups can be treasure troves for furniture and lightly used home furnishings. It’s amazing how frequently some people redecorate! If you’re sensitive to smoke or pets, make sure to ask whether the items are coming from a smoke-free and/or pet-free home.

If you don’t have a pickup truck or large SUV, make sure to factor in the cost of transporting large items.  Sometimes the seller will deliver for an additional fee. If not, you may need to borrow a friend’s truck. You can also rent a truck or trailer from U-Haul.

33) Learn to update furniture

If you’re crafty and want unique pieces in your home, consider learning to update vintage pieces to match your style. Refinishing or painting can completely change the look of wood furniture. Even something simple like changing the drawer knobs can transform a piece.

34) Borrow items you use infrequently

Save money and make space in your home by borrowing items you use only a few times a year. Rather than purchasing a carpet steamer, rent one every six months. See if you can borrow yard maintenance items, like a leaf blower, from your neighbors. You’ll save money (yay!). Better yet, you won’t have to find space for yet more stuff, and you’ll save yourself the hassle of maintaining those additional items.

35) Shop your house

Every year or so, shop your house! Walk through each room and think about whether there are pieces that could be used better elsewhere. As your lifestyle and tastes change, you may find that rearranging furniture or decor items freshens up your house without costing a dime!

We have a couple of great pieces that we’ve repurposed. A storage ottoman that used to live in the nursery is now the perfect toy and book storage for the living room. A chair that previously sat, unused, in the bonus room is now in a reading nook in the master bedroom. It’s super fun to think about how you can use the items you already have in new ways! And if you find that there’s a piece that doesn’t quite fit anywhere, don’t feel guilty about donating it to a new family.

36) Find a realtor or builder for discounted furnishings

Realtors and builders often have almost-new furnishings for staging homes. Occasionally, they sell these items to make way for updated pieces. This is a great opportunity to buy almost-new home decor for a discounted price. You can be confident that the items haven’t been truly used and should be very clean.

37) Paint an accent wall

Paint is inexpensive and quick to apply. Painting an accent wall can pack a huge punch for minimal time and effort. Find a color that complements your decor and go for it! You’ll probably only need a gallon of paint, depending on the size of wall and how many coats you need and the project can likely be finished in a couple of hours. A color accent will brighten up your whole space!

38) Make your own wall art

Purchase inexpensive frames and make your own wall art! Frame your kids’ artwork and hang it on the wall. Not only is this nearly free, but your kids will be so thrilled to see their art displayed in your home.

You can also find inexpensive printable quotes and pictures for your frames. Choosing wall art that represents your personality does not have to be expensive – just be thoughtful about what you want your home to say about you!

Wrapped canvas can be both a fun project for kids and look awesome on the wall. I recently bought a few huge canvases at a local craft store for about $4 each, and I’m going to have my kids produce works of art for a large wall in our entryway. I can’t wait! I’m supporting local up-and-coming artists who happen to live under my roof!

39) Edit your home

Often, you can improve the way your home looks by subtracting furnishings! Think about stock photos – they’re almost always very minimal. Hotel rooms are always soothing because they’re so clutter-free. Go through your home with a critical eye, removing furnishings that aren’t adding value to the space. When you minimize your home decor, it will be much easier to clean and your home will look so much better. Bonus – it’s free!

40) Use slipcovers

If you have a comfortable couch, but the upholstery just isn’t working for you, consider a slipcover. You can completely change the look of a room with this simple change, and it’s usually much cheaper than buying a whole new sofa. An extra benefit – if you have children, you’ll worry a lot less about spills and stains if you know you can remove the slipcover and throw it in the wash! With little kids and pets, I’m all about inexpensive but comfortable furnishings. I don’t want to spend my time worrying about the sofa getting messed up!

Creative Ways to Save Money in Your Business

41) Track your Expenses

Small expenses can add up. Thirty dollars a month here and $99 a quarter there and suddenly you’re spending more than you realize. Track your expenses and review them at least quarterly. Assess each service you’re paying for to determine whether you’re still using it or not. For example, you might still be paying for PicMonkey, for example, even though you’ve switched to Canva. Be on the lookout for services you no longer use and cancel as soon as you can.

42) Check out tax deductions

If you’re based out of your home, as most online entrepreneurs are, there may be tax deductions you can take advantage of. Don’t miss out! Research the rules on the IRS website or work with a tax professional to make sure you’re including the correct deductions on your tax return.

43) Barter with friends

Have an entrepreneur friend who’s a whiz at graphic design, while you can knock out copy like nobody’s business? Consider trading work. By doing what you’re each best at, both of you will save time. And you won’t have to pay a VA or other expert to do the work for you!

44) Pay in full

If you’re very confident that you’ll want to continue using a specific tool or service, you can often save a bundle by paying for a quarter or a year in full. This savings is not worthwhile if you’re new to the tool or service. But if you’ve already used the service for a couple of months and you plan to continue, paying in full can be a great financial choice.

45) Protect yourself legally

Make sure to protect yourself legally. At a minimum, you’ll want to take steps to protect your content from plagiarism and to shield yourself from lawsuits. If you work directly with clients, make sure to sign a contract with each client to protect your interests. For just a bit of an up-front investment, you can save yourself a ton of potential time, money and angst down the road. Seek legal advice from a licensed attorney who has experience working with businesses like yours.

46) Find free ways to get the word out

Although it’s possible to spend a bunch of money on Facebook ads and promoted pins, there are many ways to market your business without spending a dime. Make friends with other entrepreneurs, and promote each others’ content on social media. Post in online groups that serve your ideal customer and share your content when appropriate (just don’t spam and make sure to pay attention to group rules)! When you’re willing to invest your time, you’ll find almost endless avenues for promoting your business without making a dent in your budget.

47) Volunteer to speak for free (and benefit from free marketing)

Many businesses and professional organizations host speakers. Find a company or organization that aligns with your business and volunteer to speak at their next meeting or professional development seminar. You’ll get a chance to hone your speaking skills and be able to market your business at the same time. This is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field and get the word out about your business all while saving money on marketing costs. 

48) Delegate clearly

Working with freelancers can be a fantastic way to save money on your business, but you can end up wasting money and time if you don’t give clear directions. When you work with a freelancer, be as specific as possible about what you want the person to accomplish. Make sure they know the context of their work (e.g. I would like you to make a chart to go along with a piece on salaries for different college majors).

Be as clear as possible about what you want the final product to look like, what the timeline is, and how much input you would like to have on the process. This will help the other person plan their time and avoid rework. If you’re still developing your skills in this area, don’t despair! You can definitely learn to delegate well but it takes time – and some mistakes along the way. Just keep delegating intentionally and soon you’ll be a pro!

49) Create an emergency fund

Save a small amount each month in an emergency fund. Your business will likely suffer some slow periods due to changes in the market or personal changes for you, and you’ll need some cash on hand to keep things going when that happens.

Although it would be nice to keep growing forever, that’s not the reality of most businesses or the economy as a whole. Those who don’t save when business is good may find themselves struggling to pay expenses during a downturn. Save yourself the stress and establish your emergency fund for that rainy day that is inevitably coming.

50) Spend carefully on training

It is SO EASY to spend hundreds of dollars on courses to help you improve your business. Try to resist! All of these courses sound – and probably are – amazing, but you can end up spending a thousand dollars in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful. Set a yearly training budget for yourself and stick to it.

While it’s important to keep learning, setting a budget will force you to prioritize your training. Choose the course that will help you take the next best step forward. This way, you won’t end up overwhelmed with training you don’t have time to complete, and your profits won’t be frittered away on activities that don’t generate income.

You Can Always Find Creative Ways to Save Money

Once you get into the habit of looking for creative ways to save money, you’ll find opportunities in every aspect of your life. These changes will add up, and you’ll soon be watching your savings grow and grow!

Do you have another example of a creative way to save money that I haven’t shared? If so, please leave it in the comment below!

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