If there was ever a time to be vigilant saving money, this appears to be the time.
I’m not an expert in Personal Finance and there are countless books and websites that could offer more detailed steps to get ahead financially, but I learned from a young age the importance of living within my means.
As a result, my entire life, I’ve worked hard to keep my tastes simple and my income larger than my expenses.
Given the economic period we are in, I want to share twelve simple ways we keep our personal expenses low. Here they are:
12 Simple Ways to Save Money
1. Order water at restaurants.
The first time I wanted to shed a few pounds, one of my first actions was to cut soda from my diet—even ordering water at restaurants. I was immediately surprised to notice how much that small change lowered the cost of eating out.
Now, whenever we eat out, I think to myself, “Why would I spend more money just to drink something that also makes me less healthy? It’s a lose-lose situation.”
*Note, when I leave a tip, I add the imaginary cost of soda to the bill before figuring the percent tip to leave. I don’t feel like the server should receive less just because I’m content with water.
2. Take your lunch to work.
I learned it from my dad. And other than specific meetings or a Friday lunch date with my wife, I always take my lunch to work. Sometimes it is leftovers, but usually I eat rotisserie chicken and salad.
3. Brew your own coffee.
Six days per week, I drink coffee. And six days per week, I’m brewing my own in a simple 5-cup Mr. Coffee Coffee Maker.
It’s cheaper. It’s more convenient. It’s warm whenever I want it. And I don’t have to sit in a Drive-Thru line on my way to work.
4. Give up alcohol.
This isn’t a financial decision for me primarily, it’s a personal decision. But given that some generations spend, on average, $300/month on alcohol, it’s a personal decision with significant financial implications.
5. Order off the value menu at fast food restaurants.
The value menu is less expensive and usually just as good as the more expensive options at fast food restaurants. It’s pretty much the only way I do fast food.
If I’m eating fast food (which I do like), I’m not looking for the culinary experience of a lifetime anyway. I’m just looking for something quick and enjoyable.
6. Wear the same style of clothing every day.
I’ve written before on the benefits of wearing the same thing every day. Not only is it easier to get ready and feel more confident, but the cost savings are also unbelievable.
Clothes still need to be purchased and replaced, but if you know exactly what you need and where to get it, you’ll save thousands of dollars in experimental clothing purchases.
7. Don’t buy expensive meats.
The other day my wife asked if I’d ever want a smoker. I said, “No, I’m pretty content with my gas grill in the backyard.” I continued, “I’m not really the type of guy spending tons of money on meat anyway. I’d have a hard time spending that much money on the types of meats you’d want to prepare in it anyway.”
I could live every day on chicken thighs, chicken breasts, and ground beef… heck, I practically do already. I don’t need to buy expensive cuts of meat if I’m content eating other things.
8. Don’t use expensive razors.
I’ve tried all sorts of different razors during my life and for a while, I thought I really liked the super-fancy Titanium, Pro-glide, Mach Fusion razors. But then one day, I went to replace the cartridges and they cost almost $40 for one package of blades. It just seemed ridiculous.
So I switched to a less expensive razor and blade that cost $2 per replacement cartridge rather than over $4. And I’ve never gone back—my shave is just as close and comfortable as the more expensive razors anyway.
9. Conserve home energy use.
Energy prices are increasing rapidly. Fortunately, I grew up in a home where we were always encouraged to put on a sweater rather than turn up the thermostat. :)
Now that I live in Phoenix, the focus is more on turning on a fan rather than the air conditioner, but the principle remains the same. There are cheaper ways to control your body temperature than turning up the heat or cranking the A/C.
And nowadays, programmable thermostats make climate control savings even easier.
10. Use the library.
There are a lot of books that I read and want to read—both fiction and nonfiction. And my wife reads even more than I do.
Every time, the first thing we do is check our local library. If they don’t have it, they can usually get it. On the off-chance they can’t get it quickly (I’m way more impatient than Kim), I’ll purchase the book. But the library is always the first place we check.
It helps that the local library is less than three blocks from where I work. But if you have a library close in any way, it’s a great way to save money and continue growing as a person.
11. Own less stuff.
Clothes, mugs, pillows, towels, decorations, furniture, Tupperware, linens, pots and pans. In almost any and every scenario, the fewer items you buy, the more money you will save.
We made the intentional change to own less years ago and were shocked to discover how much of our money was simply being wasted on things we didn’t need. In fact, according to the Math in this Reader’s Digest article, we’ve saved $15,000/year by owning less stuff.
12. Throw extra cash at debt.
The only way to save money by spending it is to spend it on paying down existing debt.
There are different strategies to accomplish this. Some say, “pay down your smallest debts first” because of the psychological momentum. Others say, “pay down your highest interest rate debt” because of the mathematical savings. Whatever works best for you is my recommendation.
I’ve never carried any debt other than a small student loan from Graduate school (that we paid off quickly) and a home mortgage. We’ve always made a habit of paying extra on our mortgage every month—and it should be paid off entirely next year.
Any extra dollars paid toward debt are fewer dollars that can be wasted. That’s how I see it.
There are big ways to save money, but there are also small, simple steps that we can take. If you’re looking for ways to save some these days (and who isn’t), I’d recommend any of the twelve above. Every single one has worked for us.