24 Ways to Save Money Today

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A big part of successful frugality is the routine with which you live your day-to-day life. Here are twenty four little things that you can incorporate into your daily routines that just trim a little money away from your spending – and puts it into something more important to you.

1. Brush your teeth. An unclean mouth is a perfect place for unwanted bacteria and germs to take root. Good oral hygiene reduces the chance for bacteria to grow in your mouth. This reduces doctor visits, medicine costs, and productivity lost to illness – not to mention the time spent feeling awful.

2. Take leftovers to work for your lunch. If you have something left over in the fridge from a previous meal, pack it up and take it with you to work. If you choose to eat it there, it’s a double savings – you save in that you didn’t waste the food you made at home and you also save by not buying the overpriced food options at work (eating out or the food vendor).

3. Take a piece of fruit or toast with you as you leave. A simple high-energy breakfast raises your energy for the rest of the day, making you more productive. It also helps with alertness, helping to ensure that you make better decisions throughout the day.

4. Adjust your thermostat before you leave. In the summer, raise the temperature several degrees; in the winter, drop it several degrees. Don’t waste money controlling the environment of your home while no one is there.

5. Prepare a grocery list before you leave. Look in your refrigerator and cupboards to identify the things you actually need, then make a list from them. Look in the freezer, too, and make a rough meal plan while you’re at it so that you’re sure to be buying only the things you actually need and will use.

6. Turn off all possible electronic and electric devices before you leave. Devices left on that aren’t doing anything sap electricity which you pay for. Devices even as simple as toasters devour energy throughout the day. Turn off your television, your cable box, any gaming consoles, kitchen appliances, radios, and also don’t forget to turn off your lights. This can be made much easier by putting your home entertainment equipment on a switch, so you can simply flip it before you leave.

7. Take a new route to work (and do the same on your way home). Every six months or so, it’s worth trying an alternate route to and from work. Why? For one, there might be a better route for you to take due to new roads or simply a lack of earlier observation on your part. For another, traffic flow changes constantly based on road construction and new roads, often affecting roads not under construction, meaning a previously-discarded route that’s close may in fact be a much better route now.

8. Park far away from your office. Why? Two reasons. For one, at many workplaces, parking far away from the building is less expensive, because closer spots are often in restricted lots (this was the case in my previous workplace). For another, parking far away from the building requires you to walk much further to get in there, giving you a bit of exercise.

9. Wash your hands a few times a day. This works for similar reasons as brushing your teeth – it reduces your chance of getting sick, which saves on doctor’s bills, medicine, and lost productivity. Get your hands wet, get soap on them, and rub them together for the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

10. Use your work downtime to spell out in writing your personal goals. It’s far more valuable than just surfing the web or sitting idle. Make lists of your short term and long term goals, then flesh out how you’ll achieve each one. Come up with specific things you can do and write them down.

11. Eat lunch at your desk. Eating lunch at your desk is far less expensive than eating out, plus it gives you time to work on your goals (as mentioned above). Of course, this is even easier if you brought your lunch, as suggested earlier.

12. Drink water instead of soda or coffee. Water is virtually free and quenches your thirst more effectively than coffee or soda, both of which have adverse health effects (caffeine addiction, weight gain).

13. Invite a friend over. Make a plan for doing something social at your home. Inviting a friend over is far cheaper than going out with a friend and, even though you might have to spring for some costs such as food, it’s likely that such an invitation will be reciprocated later, giving you a free evening of entertainment.

14. Touch base with some people you haven’t heard from in a while. How does this save money? The more established relationships you have, the more likely it is that you can tap your social network for advice (and sometimes more), plus friends often drop each other useful things all the time. Friends are useful to have all around.

15. Meditate or pray. Meditation and/or prayer calms you, improving your health and making it easier for you to make better choices afterwards. Take some time near the end of your work day or the start of your post-work day to meditate for a bit or offer up a prayer in quiet solitude.

16. Try a generic product. When you’re trying to decide at the store which product you should pick up, consider giving the generic alternative a try. It’s almost always far less expensive and it’s often identical to the name brand – many times, they are the same item in different packaging.

17. Hit the library. Libraries offer an abundance of entertainment options for free: books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, games, and countless other items are there to easily be checked out.

18. Air up your car’s tires. Filling your car’s tires up to the maximum recommended pressure once a month or so has an enormous positive impact on your car’s gas mileage. With some recent testing on my wife’s car, we found that it improved her mileage by four miles per gallon.

19. Wash your windshield when you stop for gas. A messy windshield reduces vision (which increases the likelihood for accidents) and can have a subtle negative aerodynamic effect on your car. Since it’s free and you’re just standing there pumping gas, wash it up!

20. Have something in the freezer for dinner. Instead of going out to eat or stopping by the grocery store to pick something out, take a look at what’s in your freezer. Likely, there’s something in there you’ve forgotten all about that will make a wonderful, cheap dinner.

21. Read a book for your evening entertainment. A book (particularly one checked out from the library) is an incredibly inexpensive way to entertain yourself. Turn off the television and the cable box (saving energy) and crack open a book instead.

22. Go for a thirty minute walk. Not only can it be a free form of entertainment, it’s also a great way to improve your physical fitness a bit, reducing your health care costs.

23. Do some of your morning routine the night before. Pack up your leftovers. Turn off as many of your devices as possible. Put the things you’ll need to take in the car. Why? Doing this now helps to ensure that you’ll do things more efficiently in the morning – and you’re more likely to remember everything, too.

24. Turn down the thermostat before you go to bed. Just drop the temperature five degrees or so. You won’t notice it until the morning, at which point you can raise it right back up when you’re still toasty warm from a long night’s sleep. This can easily save you a few dollars.

And a final bonus one… go to bed early. A well-rested mind is a more alert mind, more able to avoid marketing tricks and also more capable of helping you to get ahead in the workplace.

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47 thoughts on “24 Ways to Save Money Today

  1. Really enjoyed this article Trent. Thanks for all the good tips. I will be sure and share them.

  2. I especially like #23, there’s always time to pack lunch then instead of in the morning, and there’s nothing quite like an extra 5 minutes of sleep..

    “Drink water instead of soda or coffee.” – I do this, but I get soooo tired during the day. I would never drink coffee because of the taste, but what other alternatives are there to a little caffeine boost to help me get through the day?

  3. I like these tips, especially the high-energy breakfast one – although I wouldn’t count a piece of toast in that category. It’s all carbs. There’s better options. For example, a hard-boiled egg (and you can boil all 12 ahead of time!) would be a better choice if you’re in a rush.

  4. #8 is a great tip, and another added benefit, you won’t end up with as many (or better yet, no) door dings if you select a far away end spot. Fewer or no door dings means your car will look better longer, and you might even be able to sell it for little more when the time comes.

  5. “19. Wash your windshield when you stop for gas. Since it’s free and you’re just standing there pumping gas, wash it up!”

    This makes little sense to me for several reasons.

    First, I’m assuming that in Iowa, when you pump gas, you can “lock” the gas pump leaving you free to move around. In that specific situation, sure, this tip will work. However, I have only lived in one state where the gas pumps work that way.

    In NY, you have to hold the trigger the entire time. Meaning you would have to spend extra time cleaning your windshield when you’re done.

    In NJ & Oregon, you don’t even pump your own gas so I have no idea if they have windshield squeege’s available at the pumps.

    I realize that most of these are regional specific, but this one just seemed a bit too specific for me.

  6. #11 is a good tip in that it suggests an alternative to sitting down in a restaurant to eat out, but I would suggest eating somewhere other than your workspace if possible (break room, in a nearby park during nice weather, etc.). Having a clear separation between work time and personal/break time improves the quality of both, IMO.

  7. @Daniel: Have you tried tea? It’s cheap, healthy, and easy to make. Black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea all have caffeine in varying amounts. Red tea (rooibos) and herbal tea don’t, but you sometimes find them blended with black tea to make the flavor more interesting.

    Regarding caffeine addiction being an “adverse health effect”: If that’s the worst health problem you have, you’re doing pretty well.

  8. I don’t think eating lunch at your desk is always a good idea. I work at an IT helpdesk and if I’m having lunch at my desk, people will still walk up to me, even if they see me with a fork in my hand, and ask me to come over to their desk to help them. My lunch gets cold or I lose my appetite. I’ve found that if I want to enjoy my lunch, which is usually a left-over anyway :) I need to go sit somewhere else. Sometimes an empty office or sometimes even in the lobby of my building. I’ll also read a book while having lunch to decompress a bit from my day. I think taking a break from your day is really important.

    I think having a bit to eat before leaving is a great idea. I used to stop at a Speciality’s bakery and grab a pastry and some coffee before heading to work. I’ve switched to whole-wheat toast and “PB” before leaving in the morning. It’s certainly a lot cheaper and only takes 5 minutes to make. $4/day x 5 days =$20/week just on pastries.

    Here’s another tip to save some money and eat something better. I make my own “PB” at home. I don’t use peanuts though. I buy 8 oz of raw almonds and raw walnuts from the bulk food bins at the grocery store. I toss them with a little salt and roast them for 15 minutes. I put them in the food processor with a little bit of honey and a few minutes later I have a homemade “PB” that is way better than the overly-processed stuff out of a jar. The smell alone is incredible. It may be slightly more work, but it’s totally worth it.

  9. @ #2 Daniel

    do you take a multivitamin? ive started recently and found im sleeping a little better and have more energy.

  10. Thanks guys!

    @Johanna A few months ago, I told myself I was going to drink tea, but I completely forgot about it. Now that you got my attention, I’m going to try it!

    @Brad My girlfriend takes multivitamins and swears by them. I’m a little hesitant to take pills every day, but maybe I’ll give it a shot. Are there any adverse effects?

  11. For trying a different route to work (#7), take your GPS with you if you have one. For one, you won’t get lost when you try a new route, and also the GPS will sometimes suggest brilliant shortcuts that you would never have thought of.

    If you have the chance to ride your bike to work, you can save even more and forget about tips #8, 18 and 19.

  12. RE # 2 & 12 Daniel: Be sure you’re eating enough calories & protein early in the day instead of skimping on breakfast and/or lunch. Also, if you are not outside very much, try taking Vitamin D supplements instead of the multi- (or get outside in the sun for a half hour every day – though if you live in the northern US, that still may not be enough without supplementing). I was tested & also found to have very low B12 levels, so I just take those 2 specific vitamins. And after a month I feel MUCH better. The standard multivitamins don’t have very many possible adverse effects, except that your body excretes the excess water-soluble vitamins – so if you don’t have a deficiency, it’s literally wasted $. There is a tasty cereal that provides 100% of the RDAs too, which would be a less expensive alternative to vitamins + breakfast.

  13. Daniel (2)–I’m completely with you on caffeine, I have a noticeable drop in energy level in the afternoons when I don’t drink coffee.

    Some additions to the list:

    1) tap water is cheaper than bottled water (which is often tap water anyway)and sends fewer plastic bottles to landfills where they’ll sit for a thousand years

    2) you can save over $1000 a year bringing a container of coffee from home to work rather than stopping at Starbucks for a latte every day

    3) taking item 21 a step further, the less TV you watch, the fewer commericals you’ll see, and–just a guess here–the less money you’ll spend in the course of a year. Few people realize how TV propagandizes us, particularly with spending and consumption. And it isn’t all in the commercials either! TV makes us want things we don’t have, and usually don’t need.

  14. #12 Daniel

    no sir. what you take in depends on what brand you use, but pretty much across the board the ingredients will be simply viatmins and minerals. i use AST Multi Pro 32X, a multivitamin geared towards active people. you can look it up (and articles about multi vitamins) on bodybuilding.com. i take one in the am and one during the early evening. alot of the vitamins and minerals we need are water soluble, which means the body doesnt store them for later. thats the reason i take two a day, so my body has a constant supply.

    and price may put you off (i got 200 capsules for 26 bucks, not really sure what more standard stuff like centrum runs), but its just a matter of how bad you want it. i dont mind putting down the money because im trying to gain muscle and its harder to do that if you arent getting all the items your body needs for proper functioning.

  15. Is it worth it to turn down the heat before you leave if you are only going to be gone for an hour or so, or would the extra energy used bringing the temp back up to normal cancel out the savings?

  16. The appliances that draw energy while off are the ones that are always on standby for instant on, such as TVs, or an ongoing digital display, such as DVD players, or that recharge batteries, such as laptops. A regular toaster doesn’t draw energy while not being used.

  17. there is a fine distinction between tolerance/dependence and addiction. while caffeine is certainly an abused drug in a subpopulation of users, it’s incorrect to say that a side effect of ANY caffeine use whatsoever is addiction.

  18. Leftovers has helped me big time. If I have extra dinner I use it either for lunch or dinner the next night and save money.

  19. I disagree with the idea that coffee is expensive and will make you gain weight. If you buy it at the store and brew it yourself you will NEVER put in as much cream or sugar as you get in Starbucks, and it’s really quite cheap.

  20. @12 daniel

    ellen makes some good points, but again it comes down to what you want to do with the stuff. unfortunately, the rda shouldn’t be a be all end all guide. this was pulled from wiki

    “At that meeting, several speakers stated that the current Dietary Recommended Intakes (DRI’s) were largely based upon the very lowest rank in the quality of evidence pyramid, that is, opinion, rather than than the highest level – randomized controlled clinical trials.”

    there are alot of people who feel the dra doesnt give you enough, especially if you are an active individual.

    when it comes to health, there are a million different places to find a million different views. given enough time i could find 5 articles supporting me and 5 supporting ellen.

    in the end it comes down to what works for you personally. just experiment and see what you like/what works for you. you certainly wont hear me argue against eating breakfast in the morning and im sure ellen won’t protest you making sure you get everything you need and more through a high quality mutli.

    what a happy family we are.

  21. @ Chelsea

    I think that depends on how you like your coffee!

    I love mine with a LOT of cream and sugar, chocolate and caramel, and I still put whipped cream on top. It is much cheaper at home, but I’m pretty sure it’s just as unhealthy.

  22. #11 – While brown-bagging it is a great idea, I recommend not eating at your desk. That suggests to others you are “at work” and they may cut into your lunch hour. We NEED this break for our minds to recuperate. Don’t let people take away that time.

    On the other hand, you can still be productive (but maybe just away from the desk). Benjamin Franklin used to spend his lunch breaks brown-bagging and reading books–he had to self-educate.

  23. I agree that a daily vitamin can be beneficial. I absolutely hate taking pills and found the adult gummy vitamins. Those taste great, easy to chew and now I never miss taking them! I buy the big generic variety from Target so they are reasonably priced.

  24. “The Shopping List” = with a magnet on the fridge door, started on return from a shopping trip. First, the items you couldn’t find/didn’t get on this trip. Add to as the days pass when you see smt. is finished, or soon to. I write items according to the geography of the store; you don’t want to walk 500 miles back and forth. Use the list, i.e. don’t buy other stuff and don’t shop when you’re hungry. Use your market’s newsletter; you may find a sale on something you really use. Check the cashier tape whe you get home – mistakes do happen.

  25. @Dan – I completely agree. Go find a bench and get away from the office for a little while. I found a small park nearby where I sit when the weather allows it. There’s nothing like getting completely away from everything for 45 minutes. It does such a great job of splitting up my day that it’s more like two 4 hour periods than one long day.

  26. A dirty windshield can affect aerodynamics? What? Can you provide a source for this information? I can see how a mosquito on my windshield is going to increase drag enough to have any affect on aerodynamics.

    Keeping your windows OPEN increases drag…but a dirty windshield? Source, please.

  27. I cook up a pot of whole grain spaghetti on a Sunday night and eat it during the week for lunches, snacks, etc. I like it with butter/margarine and a sprinkling of grated cheese. My youngest son also likes it. He eats every couple of hours and having prepared nutritious food cuts down on empty calories, trips to the convenience store for slurpees, etc.

    I think your suggestion to clean my windshields each time I put gas in my car is a good one. Although I live in a part of the world where the nozzle must be held when filling, the wash liquid is free. As a full time working mother with three children who recently completed a Master’s degree, I am fortunate that my life is not so busy that I have to forgo this opportunity due to time constraints. I realize this is not the case for everyone.

  28. @Daniel

    I have a suggestion that I know you will dismiss, but hear me out on this: If all you are looking for in soda is the caffeine, why not take a caffeine pill? I know I know, I hear the screams not because it is a pill, but what is the difference between getting your caffeine from a pill or dissolved in a drink? Soda also comes with sugar and chemicals. Try eating better and vitamins by all means, but a bottle of off brand caffeine pills is only a couple bucks.

    If that makes you nervous, you might want to give a second thought to drinking soda or tea for their caffeine content.

  29. @Des: My only experience with caffeine pills was when I was in college pulling the occasional all-nighter, but from what I remember, the dose of most pills is very high – something like two strong cups of coffee per pill. Subjecting your body to that kind of dose on a regular basis will raise your tolerance quite a lot. So that’s a reason to save the pills for emergency situations, like the aforementioned all-nighters, rather than for your day-to-day caffeine fix.

  30. #30 Des

    there’s a certain stigma/taboo to taking pills i think.

    and the difference is this, if you take a caffeine pill, you’ve got two cups of coffee worth of caffeine in your system all at once. that’s not quite the same as sipping on a mountain dew for an hour.

    additionally, im not sure the ‘a is in b so concentrated a is ok’ is a valid argument.

  31. I’ve heard that eating an apple during that afternoon slump or morning wake up works as good as the caffine at getting your mind moving. And as they always say an apple a day…
    Plus fruit is a good substitute for those ‘sweets’ cravings. I know if I bring food I tend to snack on it all day at my desk so I suppose carrot or celery sticks would be better to pack to get me through the day.
    Yes…more water!

  32. Just a turn the thermostat down disclaimer for those people who use heat pumps to heat their homes: if you’re going to do that on a regular basis, you should buy one of those programmable thermostats that is designed specifically for heat pumps.

    Letting the temperature dip down too low and then cranking it up when you’ve gotten home or up for the morning can cause the system to want to cycle on the insanely expensive to run auxillary electrical heating system to kick on, and that can send your power bill sky high. The programmables for heat pump systems are designed specifically so that the back-up heating system does not kick in, and will instead do a lot better at getting the temperature back up while using the heat pump proper.

  33. If at all possible, eat your brown-bagged lunch away from your desk.

    Not only will you not be interrupted (and you will be interrupted, even if you did, as one co-worker, post a sign that says: I’m at Lunch. Not available.)but you’ll hopefully shift/rev up your energy by removing yourself to another place.

    If you can, you should get outside at least 10 minutes or so a day. Especially in the winter. We need air, but we really need light/sun exposure.

    I remember one place I worked where even staffers who never drank coffee took a quick break to get outside and walk down the street to Starbucks just to get some air and light.

    You need to get up and move around at your desk during the day. It helps your energy level (and mental focus) and it protects you from developing blood clots, which come from sitting for extended periods of time–something a lot of office workers now do. Yes, office workers can get DVT!

    Do some stretches at your desk and get up and down every 15 minutes or so. It will make a difference.

  34. @Steven #28 –

    I too find this a bit of a stretch. Mythbusters did a test on the drag of dirt on a car… And it took a LOT of dirt to affect drag enough to the point of a 3 MPG difference. It’s so subtle that you’re never going to notice it among the other things….

    Just keeping your car’s windshield washer fluid level topped off ought to keep you from needing to clean it that often. Rain-X is highly recommended here, worth the extra pennies. ;)

    One note on the tires — Do NOT fill it up based on the PSI on the tire’s sidewall. That lists the maximum pressure the tire can take, not what you should be putting in there. On the inside of the door jamb is a sticker, that will tell you the recommended PSI level, among other things. (Mostly stuff you won’t use other than PSI and maybe paint code.) This is going to give you more of an impact that cleaning your windshield, which should be done anyhow IMO.

  35. Brad and Johanna, you guys are my best friends right now.

    @Des, I have to agree with them. The reason I don’t drink coffee or soda is because I wanted something natural. Caffeine pills sound anything but natural. Water is good, but doesn’t keep me alert enough. Tea may be perfect for me. I was hesitant to try the vitamins, but since you’ve all assured me that there are no side effects, I’m going to try that.

  36. I agree about not eating at your desk for the reasons already listed by other commenters, and because eating in front of a computer screen is as bad as eating in front of the TV when it comes to mindless weight gain.

    Taking a break from the computer is also a good idea to prevent eye strain (computer vision syndrome) which causes headaches and fatigue. Many people are more productive if they get away from their desk than if they worked straight through lunch and breaks.

  37. Tip #20 – have something in the freezer for dinner – is right on (ok, the other ones are too).

    Last weekend we were out of town and early this week we were way too busy to go grocery shop. So instead we (actually, I) scrounged around the pantry and creatively used leftovers for 3 days.

    Then today I realized that I didn’t have even the most basic ingredients to cook dinner with (unless I was going to try something weird like pumpkin-refried beans caserole). I was almost resigned to get some kind of take-out or something from a freezer section.

    Which reminded me to look in my freezer. Sure thing, I got some beef stew there – just enough for dinner! Will be going grocery shopping tomorrow, no way around it. So I’m off to writing down my grocery list.

  38. Also good for an energy boost: 5-hour energy drink- but the decaf version. Hard to find, but it’s out there. The decaf one is just like getting a b-12 shot. Real energy that wears off naturally without a crash. Pricy, though, about 3 bucks/dose, so its for “up all night with a sick kid and have to present at a conference” type scenarios.

    I used no-doze in college and it nearly killed me. Too too many.

    Caveat with any of these- don’t take if you have high blood pressure. It can make your heart race.

  39. Drinking soda is costly in other ways, too. It literally leaches the calcium from bones — and it is so acidic it is really bad for teeth (a fun experiment is to put a really tarnished penny into a cup of soda -like Coke- and watch how shiny it becomes after just sitting in the soda.) Needless to say, drinking soda daily is not good for one’s health and could lead to medical payments one could possibly avoid.

    To add to the tea discussions above, green tea actually has properties that are thought to protect from bacterial growth. Try organic if possible though as tea crops are pretty heavily sprayed. So in addition to an afternoon boost, you could also be helping prevent decay.

  40. I like the idea of starting your post workday with a quiet prayer. I think I’ll try that and even extend that into doing a little quiet reading. That sounds like the perfect way to unwind from a long day.

  41. While I agree with tip #1, you also need to floss. Flossing will leave your mouth cleaner. It’s the stuff that builds up between your teeth that causes halitosis and flossing will help with that. If you really want a super clean mouth, investing in a Water Pik. Even after brushing and flossing, it finds debris. It also promotes healthy gums, warding off gingivitis.

  42. Great suggestions, Trent. Here’s another idea: cut your own hair. Of course this depends on how fussy you are about your ‘do, but if all you need is a trim, you can get a hair clipper for less than the cost of two visits to the barber. We bought a clipper when we were first married, and it has served both of us and all our kids beautifully–for fifteen years. People are amazed when they learn my wife cuts her own hair. If everybody gets just one home haircut per month, that saves us over $1500 a year! (We have a big family.)

  43. @leslie
    @Susan

    That’s interesting. I didn’t even know there were states where you have to hold the gas nozzle while you’re filling up–or can’t even fill the tank yourself. (I assume it is to reduce the chance of a spill, correct?) I’ve always lived in the Midwest, and I’ve only been in taxis when I’ve traveled to the coasts. I learned something new today.

  44. I love to visit Oregon. (and NJ) NO GAS pumping for me! It’s so strange to be forbidden to pump your own gas. It probably saves somebody’s job. I assume that’s why they did it.

  45. For #6 people may want to try a smart power bar that allows one outlet to control the powers of the others. The one I have on my entertainment unit turns off my PS3, XBOX, Wii, and Stereo components when the TV is off. Three “non controlled” outlets on the same bar allow me to keep my DVR running so it will do recordings.

    I have a similar thing set up for my computer that turns off things like monitors, modems, and external hard drives when the computer is off (or in standby and taking less power).

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