Your Single Best Action For Saving Money

My colorful library by library_mistress on Flickr!Yesterday, I was doing an interview with a newspaper when the interviewer asked me “What’s your single best tip for saving money?”

You would think this would be a “softball” question for me, something I should be able to answer with nearly-automatic ease, but it wasn’t. I paused for quite a while, then came up with a pretty ordinary tip.

After the interview, that singular question stuck in my mind.

What’s your single best tip for saving money?

What does that question really mean?

My first reaction was to offer up a basic platitude like “spend less than you earn,” but that’s not something you go out and do. That’s more of a state of mind, not something you can directly take action with.

On the other hand, I believe that “stop spending to impress other people” is essential advice, but again, it’s more of a change in mindset than a direct action one can take.

What I’m really looking for isn’t merely my best money saving tip, but something else…

What single action was the most effective in your life for saving money?

What one thing have you actually done or specific change have you actually made, in an effort to save money, that has been the most effective in your life?

After all, psychological tips like “stop spending to impress other people” are powerful, but when they’re coupled with direct action, they become transformative.

For me, the single action that has had the strongest positive effect on my spending over the last few years has been discovering my public library.

Before I began to turn my financial life around, I used to spend tons of money on books and DVDs. I would often stop at the bookstore two or three times a week, plus I’d buy more books off of Amazon. Reading was a deeply fundamental part of my life, just as it is now.

When things started to turn around for me, I knew that my reading hobby was one that I’d really have to get under control. I also had a very negative impression of public libraries – in my mind, they were smelly places with poor book selections, and even if they did have your book, it would be beat up and almost disgusting to the touch.

That image, happily, was largely untrue. I was very happy to discover the Ames Public Library, which not only has an amazing book selection, they also have a powerful interlibrary loan system and a great online reservation system, too. I can pick out the books I want to read online and stop by and pick them up when it’s convenient for me.

The library – and I’m now member of several local ones – has saved me a tremendous amount of money over the last few years. Let’s say, hypothetically, it saved me the cost of two books a week (say, $20) plus the cost of storing those books – the shelves, the additional square footage, and so on.

That money seriously added up for me, and it’s drastically changed my spending over the last couple years. Saving $80 or so a month on an expensive book habit turns into $1,000 a year. Just on books.

So I turn the question to you: what single action was the most effective in your life for saving money? It might be something really momentous. It might be something seemingly small and trivial. Whatever it is, please share your tactic in the comments.

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242 thoughts on “Your Single Best Action For Saving Money

  1. laura says:

    If I could do it, it would be quitting smoking.

  2. Amanda says:

    I just quit going to Target whenever I had free time. And while I sometimes miss the feeling I got when I bought things to decorate my home with, I do not miss the constant outlay of money or acquisition of STUFF. :)

  3. Danyelle says:

    Best Action for saving money:

    Setting up automatic deductions from my paycheck. I put 10% to my 403b and 10% to my emigrantdirect.com savings account before I even see my pay.

    Since it’s automatic, I don’t have to worry about it.

  4. Momma says:

    Oh gosh, as a library & information consultant working out of the home, you just made my day with your comment about libraries!!!

    You ROCK!!!!!!!

    Momma
    Feature blogger at Engineer a Debt Free Life (check out all our great freebies and frugal tips!)
    http://www.engineeradebtfreelife.com/

  5. KC says:

    As a librarian I encourage you to make friends with your librarians in your home branch(es). These people sometimes make or influence buying decisions for the collection. I know at my library I’m responsible for some of the purchases, but more importantly we keep a log of titles (or subjects) that customers want, but we don’t have. These logs go in monthly to the collections development department (the people who are responsible for spending a million dollars a year on the collection). I’d say 95% of the time anything I put on that log gets purchased for my branch and usually a few copies for the entire system as well. Needless to say anything I want to read that we don’t own goes on that list – after all, I’m one of our best customers, too!

  6. gnorten says:

    Mine is trying to only carry as much cash as I might need.

    I do this using a variation on the envelope system.

    I get paid twice a month, around every 2 weeks, so on payday I take out my budgeted grocery, and daily spending cash, and put them in envelopes. One for grocery money, and split the rest in 15 envelopes. One for each day until next payday.

    Every morning I get that days envelope, and take out the money. If I don’t spend the money, I hold on to it, and add it to the next day, or put it in my “fun” envelope.

    If I want to buy something, but don’t have enough that day, I hold off, and try to spend less the next couple of days until I have enough.

    What I used to do was take out my weekly, or biweekly, budget and keep it on me. This led me to spending WAY too much early in the week leaving me to struggle later in the week, and usually take out some more money to compensate.

    So my tip: 1. Keep to a budget of course, and 2) space out your budgeted money so you don’t FEEL broke near payday.

    I find this keeps my spending far lower than it used to be.

  7. threadbndr(Karla) says:

    Kudos for your library tip. Since my dad was a librarian, that’s almost automatically my FIRST stop!

    For me it was learning to love cooking. My mom was a superb cook and I always felt intimidated and like it was a chore to be in the kitchen. Once I started really enjoying cooking as a hobby, and we started eating out a lot less, it really made a difference in the budget. Even with buying fresh and sometimes exotic ingredients, it costs less for a good (or even great) meal at home than cheap takeout.

  8. Darice says:

    I think mine is EITHER turning off overdraft protection and just watching my accounts more, leaving myself a little padding in each account for those times the bank charges their fees…

    OR

    taking more advantage of my ING Direct account and it’s cd ladders.

  9. Mike says:

    For me the best monetary change was finding a new job. Now I know what everyone will say, you found a job making more money. Truth be told, I took a job making a little less. However, my old job was in the city which required about a 3.5 hour round trip commute. On top of that, the train cost was about 200+ a month including parking. My new job is about 20 mins from home. The train station was 20 mins from my house. So I got about 3 hours of my day back which has allowed me to focus on so many other things. And the new job has opened up a few doors as well.

  10. Alan says:

    For it’s about making the saving automatic. I setup my online banking to automatically move money to my savings each time a paycheck is deposited. After a while I’ve learned to live without that much from each paycheck. Between that watching the balance grow, I’m encouraged to decrease my spending and be smarter about what I do spend. It’s easy to do and you can start with as little or as much as you can deal with.

  11. Ben says:

    Savings side
    - buy used whenever possible (cars/furniture/etc.)
    - don’t go out for lunch/dinner/coffee/etc.
    - watch out for “lifestyle inflation” when you get out of school or get a raise

    Income side
    - if you have the means, get an advanced degree in science/engineering or other professional field with good job prospects.
    - if you are being underpayed at your current position, get off your butt and find a better paying job elsewhere.

    If I have to pick one that is most important I would say education… that opens up a huge amount of opportunities.

  12. Lori VZ says:

    Mine was to quit smoking. When I first decided to follow Dave Ramsey’s plan to get out of debt I decided I would buy my cigarettes by the carton which was the cheapest way. Then I realized I was spending $100 per month to smoke (1 carton/wk). It wasn’t fair to my family and it didn’t make financial sense, let alone healthy sense. I decided to use the $100 per month to purchase the non-smoking ‘patch’ and it worked! I had tried many timese to quit but my urge to quit plus the addition of my motivation to become debt free was the absolute cure!!

  13. tomlinton says:

    Buying a Kindle

  14. jane doe says:

    The single action in my life that has been most effective for saving money has been to have money deposited directly into savings from each paycheck.
    This way I never get the money so I don’t think about it and certainly don’t spend it. In my opinion, this is the only way to save money.

  15. xepe71 says:

    Fill an enveloppe with the money you will need that month. Pay everything cash. Use ONLY the money in this enveloppe. No exceptions.

    At the end of the month, take, say 50% of the remaining money and spend it in whatever you fancy with. The rest will go to (any) savings account.

    Carpooling is also saving me above 300$ in gas.

  16. Sharon says:

    Just the simple act of rounding up my check book for each check I wrote and each debit transaction. It has saved me from having overdraft fees and gives me a small stash in case I need something extra in the way of groceries or gas before pay day. You will really see a hunk of change if you leave it alone for a year!

  17. Battra92 says:

    I would have to say my biggest way of saving money is to use what I have before I go off buying new ones.

    I used to be a big anime nerd. I still am now but instead of buying every series brand new I wait for sales and stuff. I don’t have Netflix but I did consider it for some of the series I wasn’t as interested in.

    First, though is to watch all the DVDs I have. After this I plan on going through all my DVDs and then selling or giving away all that I don’t want. I did that with my VHS collection and my goodness you wouldn’t believe how much I was able to get rid of! :)

  18. Ben in Indiana says:

    Dropping to basic cable saved us $30 a month, and we haven’t missed the channels.

  19. Sandy says:

    Eating out less often, no more than once per month, has helped our budget greatly. My husband, teenage kids and I have tried to learn to cook or bake most items we would otherwise have bought at a drive-thru fast food joint or in a restaurant – even pork fried rice that tastes like the local Chinese restaurant’s. Cooking in the kitchen, as well as eating our entrees, has become a nice way for our family to bond.

  20. Lisa says:

    I get the carry basket at the grocery store instead of a cart and leave when I can’t carry anymore. The list I take with is small but the small basket helps me from picking up extras. And I shop at the smallest grocery store for 95% of my food. The selection is smaller and so is the total bill.

  21. John says:

    I think the general answer to your library thought is “To find that thing that you love to do and you spend money on, and find ways to keep doing it without spending (as much) money on it.” Like you and your love for books. If you can turn that love into a money-making venture such as opening a book store or operating a website around books, that’s even better.

  22. Sta says:

    I think a good, simple piece of advice for a lot of people would be to drink water. Not bottled water. Just regular old water. Buy a $10 reusable water bottle, carry it with you wherever you go, and drink water. Don’t go to Starbucks. Don’t drink pop, soda, whatever you call it. Stop spending money on sugary drinks of all kinds. The results will not only help your pocketbook but your waistline, your skin, your energy level. You’ll feel better, look better and have more money. And you’ll help the environment because you won’t be filling landfills with all f your plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups. That’s it. Drink water.

    As for the book thing, I too have turned to the library to try and save a little. The only problem I have with it is that I deeply believe in supporting other writers. So if it is a writer I really love, I think it is important to buy their books.

  23. Carl says:

    For me, the biggest thing was physically writing down all of my expenses and totaling them up in each category. Yes, it’s not fun. Yes, you have to force yourself to do it. But, it really is an eye opener to do it for just a month or two. You may think you know how much you spend in different categories, but you will be surprised how much you really don’t know after you actually record the truth for a month or two! It very quickly allowed me to see where I was being dumb with my money and buying unnecessary stuff.

  24. Matt says:

    When we started seriously looking to buy a house we figured what sort of mortgage payment we’d be comfortable paying each month. After we’d decided on a number I started putting that much into savings monthly while we were still looking (this was on top of our existing monthly rent payments) to see if we could still live. Turns out we could. After we got our house we’ve just been putting the former rent payment into savings instead.

  25. Lauren says:

    Packing lunch and making coffee at home.

    Assuming I spent between $5 and $10 on lunch and $1-$2 on coffee each working day, and building in 10 days of vacation, that’s savings of $1500 to $3000 per year.

  26. Andrea says:

    Two easy ways to save.
    1. Stop looking at the Sunday ads. If you dont know its on sale, you dont know what you are missing, unless you really need it. I stopped looking at the ads years ago becuase I was rushing to Target or where ever to get this ‘must have’ item.

    2. Pay cash for groceries. I saved 30% on my food bill by making this switch, even as prices were going up. Before I leave home I estimate what each item on my list will cost. I put that + $10 in my pocket. If I find a truly incredible unadvertised item while at the store I have a little extra to cover it. If my estimates are wrong at home, I still have that little buffer in the store. Just compare what you are putting into your cart with the estimate on your list as each item goes in. As long as you are ‘under’ or ‘over’ just a little on each item you will have just the right amount at the check out. It really keeps the impulse buys WAY down.

  27. Lisa says:

    Stop looking at the ads unless there is something you need. I stopped and now I stopped thinking of all the “great buys” and “deals” and just buy what I actually need.

  28. Marie says:

    1. Be a one car family
    2. Ditch the cell phones
    3. No cable TV

    In order of how much they save us a month!

    Also with a third kid on the way I’ve had so many people tell us we NEED a minivan. Our camry can fit 3 carseats across (yes we’ve done it already) so why do I need a minivan? I got that a lot when I was pregnant with our 2nd but people tell me all the time I’m harming my children by “cramming” them into a car. I think its funny. The only problems we really incur are the irritations to my back problems but I find it saves us money as we stay home more. I think people are just afraid that if they see me not needing a minivan then they can’t justify their “need” that they couldn’t afford. I don’t know anyone else with this many kids and no minivan. And I refuse to stop being a SAHM just so I can pay the car payment.

  29. Richard says:

    To me the very best action to start saving money is to first account for it. This brings awareness to all aspects of your financial state, income/expenses/liabilities/assets.

    With this awareness, then making sound financial decisions, such as cutting costs, become much easier and measurable.

    There are lots of free software packages these days to do this with. I use gnu cash … as it handles my multi currency needs well.

    Love your site, thanks for all the great articles.

  30. Angelsong says:

    For me, it was “pay yourself first”. We never had any money left for saving after our expenses were paid, until I made it a priority to reserve even a small amount each month that I transfer to an online savings account with FNBO Direct before paying the other bills (which seem to expand to use the money available). I began with a small opening deposit just a few weeks ago, and have been consistently adding to it. It is very gratifying to watch the account balance grow.

  31. Bill says:

    Cutting out fast food.

    Making my own lunches during the work week saves me *at least* 100$ a month, and I feel a lot better eating healthier food as well.

  32. Barrett says:

    Utilizing the envelope system and packing lunches for work. Huge difference in our monthly outflow…

  33. Kris says:

    Stop carrying cash. The only time I will make a purchase is with my debit card. If the store where I’m shopping does not take debit cards, then I will not shop there. I spend so much more if I carry cash, it’s ridiculous.

  34. Best idea – direct deposit. Set up your savings account, investment accounts, etc. with no checking or ATM card privileges allowed. Cause your employer to send money directly to it from each paycheck. Or, set up automatic transfers from your main deposit account to the savings/investment account. If you don’t see it or have easy access to it, you won’t spend it.

  35. haapai says:

    If by “saving” you mean piling up cash, I’d have to answer “automatic transfers”. I’ve always had a problem with cash in my checking account. I sometimes call it the negative 10% interest problem. Once I see over a trigger amount in checking, I start to nibble on it. Having discretionary income direct deposited to savings or automatically transferred has done wonders for me.

    If you use a broader definition of “saving” that includes paying down debt, I’d have to answer “the library”. I’ve never been much of a book-buyer, so it wasn’t the expense-trimming that benefited me. It was the personal finance section. Discovering a whole shelf of well-read books that all postulated that money mattered was a life-changing experience. I took them home by the arm-load and studied them in private. I quickly discovered that some of them were unreadable and that others needed to be read with a lot of skepticism, but I tended to learn something from each. (Sometimes it was simply never to read anything by that author ever again.) Without the public library, I would never have been able to expose myself to so many different ideas and cobble together a debt reduction system that worked for me.

    In those early days, I was hyper-sensitive to any perceived slight and quite angry. I was not good company for anyone and pretty much immune to good advice that came via two-way communication. I needed books that didn’t know me and books that I could throw aside in disgust. It was several months before I could benefit from online financial advice, blogs, and message boards. Books put me over the hump and I found them at the library.

  36. Kandace says:

    I agree with Trent. The library is one of the goldmines in the community and which I am happy to devote a part of my property tax towards sustaining.

    My current big money saver is looking around my house to see what I have before shopping. the most influential book I’ve read in the last year, in terms of a money mindset is “Not Buying It” by Judith Levine. I’ve checked it out twice from the library.

    I “shop” in my closet for a new outfit. I create dinner from what’s on the shelves rather than find recipes and go out and buy all the ingredients to make the dish. I get perennials from my neighbors who is thinning hers. I walk if something is within a mile from home. I garden and can. My home, and what and who are in it, bring me the greatest satisfaction in life. I don’t have to look outside to find peace and contentment.

  37. Teri says:

    The library has been my biggest saver, for sure. Not buying books or renting movies is huge!

  38. BirdDog says:

    I quit eating out once or twice a day and started cooking. I also cook large batches of food and freeze meals so that when I have had a long day, I just pull something out of the freezer instead of hitting up the drive thru. I have limited myself to eating out once a week or only when I have guests in town. I’m single so it’s really easy for me to cook enough at one time to have a meal and then freeze three meals from the same batch.

    I have a weakness for Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks and last year I found myself giving into the temptation several times a week. I have limited myself to one latte per week as well. At just under $5 each, those really added up last year.

    The biggest change has been my mindset. I used to spend everything I made and then some. When I staretd paying down the debt, I was still living from paycheck to paycheck. Over the past few months, I have really evaluated my habits and now every purchase involves a lot of thought and nine times out of ten, I decide not to make the purchase. It feels great to see my emergency fund growing and not to worry about how I’m going to pay for Christmas.

  39. Jason says:

    I started using my French Press coffee maker at work rather than purchasing coffee everyday.

    Even at a modest cost of $1.75 per cup I was spending $861.00 per year (246 work days). Currently I purchase a $7.00 can of coffee about every 6 weeks and a $2.00 liter of milk every week.

    For a single year this saves $691.00.

  40. Bannon says:

    Bringing my lunch to work 3 days a week. I’m saving about $1500 a year!

    (Granted that’s starting from a wasteful $10-a-day habit, but improvement is improvement!)

  41. mary says:

    Someone famous said the best way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket! Seriously, buying older vehicles and paying cash has saved us a ton of money, no new car prices, no interest, and lower insurance rates.

  42. Missi says:

    @ Amanda.
    I too had a twice weekly Target addiction. I cut it out for one entire month which showed me I didn’t really need to go so often. Now I only go when I “really” need to which is 1-2 times a month. I cried a little inside when I added up how much I wasted on nothingness and home decor for so many months and years.

  43. kodijack says:

    The library has always been a treasure trove for me, being introduced to it as a child was one of the top five things my mother ever did for me.

    Paying into savings first is a huge savings thing for us, we are halfway toward our honeymoon fund and it came from savings being part of the budget.

    I just quit smoking so that is going to help immensely.

    But the greatest savings has probably come from putting on a sweater. We keep our house at 60 to 65 24/7 in the winter. We live in Colorado so it takes a little getting used to. We take advantage of diverting the dryer heat, the oven heat, etc..

  44. BethBeth says:

    I used to give in to whims all the time. I haven’t put any charges on credit cards in two years. If I don’t have the cash then I can’t buy it and my cards will be ALL paid off by April 2009.

  45. Molly says:

    First – It is mentioned already, but it deserves saying again – automated deposits into savings and investment accounts. I set these up to deposit on the same day that our paychecks are credited. We increase the amounts to reflect raises, bills we have paid off, etc.

    Secondly, I went to catalogchoice.org and discontinued a number of catalogs I was receiving. The ones I still receive, I throw in the recycling bin in our mudroom. I have been known to dig some out, but most stay in there and go to the curb (maybe it is time to visit catalogchoice.org again!). I do the same thing with weekly ads in the paper. Now, I shop only when we need something.

  46. Laura says:

    My family stopped drinking bottled water! I got an aluminum bottle for each member of the family and they go everywhere with us. We don’t spend the money on the bottles anymore, we have less garbage, and we drink soda and juice less. I guess that means less dentist and doctor bills in the future too!

  47. Lauren says:

    packing my lunch!

  48. Kimberly Ayscue says:

    No doubt my old standby phrase I ask before purchasing anything..use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without…

  49. Don’t go “shopping” if you don’t need something specific. Going to a store just to go, for something to do, for entertainment, is a sure fire way to spend money on something you don’t need and often don’t really want. This includes surfing sites like Amazon just to look.

  50. Kate says:

    The single best thing I’ve done to help save money is borrow a copy of my mother’s FPU CDs and conveniently played them while my husband was around. Listening to Dave Ramsey motivated my husband to do something about our debt and helped him take some action to help get us out of it. As anyone in a long term relationship knows, having your partner on board with your financial decisions is easily the most helpful thing you have happen.

  51. Planning menus is probably my #1 thing. It saves me money at the grocery store, and more importantly, it keeps us from eating out(and that saves us thousands of dollars each year!).

  52. DivaJean says:

    My biggie was learning to accept help.

    I have always been a “go it on my own” type of person, but this all changed with kids.

    I have learned to accept secondhand clothes and toys to loosen up our finances for other areas. My hubby is very good at sharing- and as a result, we have an elaborate system of recycling clothes and kid stuff through our friends and family.

    I have learned to accept the stipend we get from the state on our adopted kids- and use this as their college funding accounts.

    I am okay with accepting the WIC they are elgible for- to offset our overall food costs.

    I have learned to stop worrying about what the Joneses are up to and what they “have”- I instead have good sleep knowing my family has a good handle on things financially.

  53. Judith says:

    I used to eat out 2 times a day (breakfast and lunch) and also went out with my husband for dinner 2 or 3 nights a week. No more! I eat out one breakfast a week, and usually 1 lunch (I work full time, so I usally end up meeting for lunch with someone!). And my husband and I go out maybe once a week (to our favorite diner). That’s 3 times a week, not 16 or 17! Wow, have I saved money.
    I also brew my own coffee instead of picking it up; I just do more for myself and rely less on someone else to do it for me (in exchange for inflated costs!)

  54. Mary says:

    Going to grad school!

    More properly, leaving a job I hated in order to go to grad school, where I found good friends, intellectual stimulation, and the motivation to live on less money now in order to have more money for the future. Grad school also helped me get a great job, which is paying off in so many more ways than simply monetarily.

  55. Paul says:

    Trent,
    I’m really glad that at the end of the post you asked readers what saves them money. I think that was an excellent way to open up the post for comments, and I think it should be something you do regularly.

    I agree with the library suggestion in your post, and that does save me money also. But, for me, the single thing that has saved me more money than anything else has been ditching the cable. I have had nothing but amplified rabbit ears (they plug into the wall and get you a great signal) for several years now and I will NEVER go back. One day my wife asked me why we were paying for cable when all we ever watch are the local channels. I didn’t have an answer but since my cable company didn’t charge a termination fee, I decided to go ahead and cancel the cable. I figured I could always have it re-connected if we found we couldn’t live without it. That was somewhere between 3 and 4 years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

    A very close second money saver for me has been having a pre-paid cellphone. My bill used to be well over $100/mth. Now I spend $30 ever 2 or 3 months. Just be careful who you give your number to.

  56. Sara says:

    The single best thing I ever did to save money was become a conservationist. I worry about my waste output. That means I’m helping the environment as much as possible. I travel by car as little as possible, I try not to waste food. I don’t buy things that I’ll likely throw away into a landfill. I turn out the lights and use powerstrips, I even stopped using a dryer and switched to using drying racks. The long and short of it is that “going green” works not only makes for a healthier planet but also a healthier bank account.

  57. Phloyd says:

    Cutting out breakfast and lunch.

  58. Kat says:

    Losing my college scholarship during my sophomore year. I was too ashamed to tell my parents, and made up the difference from my own funds — it taught me frugality very, very quickly.

    Fortunately I got the scholarship back after improving my grades during my probation semester. Made me appreciate the scholarship more, too.

    Nowadays, the single thing that has saved me the most money is enjoying cooking at home. Dining out can get pretty darn expensive.

  59. trevor says:

    i chose to go off-grid instead of buying into the housing bubble, thus eliminating monthly mortgage and utility costs.

  60. Sarah says:

    Direct deposit and automatic savings transfers. Before we had an automatic transfer to our online savings account, it was all too easy to consider all the money in our checking account as available. Now we have an set amount leave our checking account once a month and go to savings.

  61. CF says:

    I was thinking of saying packing lunch and making coffee at home, using the library (we have a good online system too), or buying used cars, but the most impact is:

    Automate savings – after a few months, you never know it’s gone.

  62. Laurie says:

    I read you blog daily, but have never been moved to comment – until you asked this question. When I was 35, I decided to quit reading all women’s magazines, especially fashion magazines, after I noticed I would go directly from reading them to the mall to blow a couple hundred dollars. Naturally, I was heavily in debt.

    I got out of debt, started a 401K, and completely turned my financial life around. I am WAY too easily swayed by glossy advertising to subject myself to it.

    Keep up the GREAT work, and great success to you.

  63. SP says:

    Starting to make a budget, so I have a plan for spending and saving every month, and I know where every penny goes. I didn’t start making real inroads into my debts (school and car) until I had a budget allocation for them and was tracking them on Excel. I can’t imagine trying to operate without a budget now.

  64. Robin says:

    Mine is making a budget and knowing where all my money’s going. You really do feel like you got a raise, when you’re AWARE of where every penny is going.

  65. Scott says:

    Cutting back smoking. I went from 2 packs a day during summer 07, now I am at less than half a pack a day and I expect to be fully quit by Jan 1

    at $5 a pack it adds up fast

  66. Josh says:

    I believe it is to start the habit of saving to begin with. Putting away 10% of the money I earn before doing anything else.

  67. Finola says:

    packing lunch – not only do you save immediately but as Trent’s always pointing out, if you do it healthy style, you save longer term by being healthier.

    Aside from that, I must stop not filing things – I’m currently losing lots of income earning time looking for a contact I wrote somewhere and now can’t find – being self employed, that’s my, WAY the worst money waster.

  68. will says:

    i actually moved – from living in the city to living in the ‘burbs. It was a tough lifestyle change for me (and still is) – but w/ that I save almost 1k a month

  69. Noel says:

    For me it was putting the money to pay my bills in the checking account and paying online, then keeping the money for other spending out in cash. When its gone, its gone and I can look and see exactly what’s left. No overdraft fees for accidental overspending, and all bills paid ontime! We’ve even managed to save a little bit, for us that’s awesome!

  70. Lynette says:

    Developing the habit of drinking water. My water at home is excellent, so free. My kids drink it, we don’t spend money on drinks when going out or on wine or beer. Not only does it cost nothing it has saved on dentist bills and other health issues as water is so good for you.

  71. Claire says:

    My biggest money saver is to keep track of every single purchase, whether it’s our mortgage or the $5 run to the grocery store. This lets me really SEE how much I’m spending and helps me to keep it under control better. My biggest downfall before was all the little trips to Target or the grocery store, but now that I’ve learned that (by tracking my spending) I make sure that they don’t happen anymore.

  72. David says:

    Definitely eating at home (or coffee from home) vs. purchasing at a restaurant.

    Trent–your figures treat the cost of the books as an expense. Really, they are an asset–they have a long(ish) useful life and residual value. If you can sell them on to the next reader (or PaperBackSwap them, as you do now), you recoup some of the cost. Contrast this to food, coffee, or my favorite–beer–which we just rent.

  73. Aya @ thrive says:

    Apparently, the library is the new “it” place; there have been countless blog posts and articles about going to the library these days. I have to agree, libraries aren’t the first place I want to go for a book, but they are pretty well stocked with popular and rare books alike.

  74. Michelle says:

    Stop carrying credit cards with me. If I want to buy it, it has to come directly from the checking account. I think a lot more about purchases when I have to pay for them immediately.

  75. onaclov says:

    Although I don’t use the Library as much as I should, I do have to agree that the library is GREAT, I actually voted yesterday in FAVOR of Library improvements, as well as funds for purchasing more books etc… I think it’s WELL worth the investment.

  76. Beth says:

    Definitely budgeting for gift giving throughout the entire year. So if I find something in February for my brother-in-law for Christmas and it’s within my budget for him, I buy it then because I already have money in the account for Christmas. This makes me look for gifts throughout the entire year so I can really find the deals! I also add in wedding, graduation, and shower money into the gift giving fund. This helps for those summer months where it seems we have a function every weekend!

  77. Penny says:

    I think there’s a difference between “helps you not spend money” and “helps you save money”. If you save $30 a month by not going to Starbucks, but don’t actively save it, it’s somewhat less effective.

    For me, I find it helpful to total up how much I “saved” over the week (for example – if I bring lunch one extra day per week, I saved $8) and then move that into my ING account on the weekend. It encourages me to keep saving, because I see the actual fruits of those sacrifices.

  78. eaufraiche says:

    eat beans!

    becoming (practically) vegan has really trimmed the food bill!

  79. Tyler says:

    Not buying crap that I don’t need. By just thinking about every purchase a little longer, I’m able to make better decisions about what I buy.

    Keeping a budget helped too.

  80. partgypsy says:

    Get rid of the tv! (kinda). We have basic cable so PBS comes in ok, but we primarily use the tv to watch dvds from netflix (I heart netflix). That way we all avoid the commercials and me the shopping channels.
    Get rid of the catalogs. Be aware some magazines are practically catalogs in diguise.
    Shop at the fun stores ala Target only when you have accumulated a list of needed items.
    I still am prone to impulse buys off the list, so I do the game take one away at the checkout counter. Of my impulse items I ask which item do I like the least/am ambivelant about? I then give that one to the cashier to not ring up. Rarely do I regret or even remember what the item is later on.

  81. Jill B. says:

    My single biggest savings hint is to stay out of the stores. I only shop if I need a particular item (other than food). I go in and get that item and bring it to the cash register. Then I am out. If I have nothing in particular to get, I don’t go to a store.

    This saved me lots of cash last winter and spring.

  82. Alison Scott says:

    A big vote for ‘making my own lunches’ here, combined with not buying those super-expensive coffees (I buy cheap staff restaurant coffee, or take a flask). Probably more than £100/month, just from that.

    Honourable mention to ‘stopping going shopping for fun’. That’s saved a packet, too.

  83. DigitalNinja says:

    Google Notebook

    This allows me to search for stuff I feel I need, then save the page in GNb, rather than taking the decision to buy at that moment.

    Once a month, I look through the stuff I would have bought before, and purge 99% of the links.

    I have only got 5 buyer feedbacks from eBay in the past 3 months doing this!!!

    It also helps if I’m searching for presents for peeps, I save all of the ‘great deals’ avaliable, for an item, and then buy from the cheapest.

    It works for stuff for me aswell. The ammount of times, I’ve been happy with a purchase, and then 2 or 3 days later found it cheaper or a better version elsewhere.

    It provides that neccasary buffer.

  84. Johnny says:

    I think of my dream, of being financially independent.

    Then I take the amount in question and compound that amount (based on my potential portfolio performance) out until the date I retire. From that number I calculate how long purchase will delay me from my goal after income taxes.

    Example: $8 beers -> $30 away from goal [in X number of years] = push back financial independence by a couple hours.
    Or $20,000 car -> $75,000 away from goal = push back financial independence by a couple years.

    Putting things in terms of the time left in my life is somehow more real than dollars to me.

  85. Reading instead of watching TV.

  86. Troy says:

    By far the best for our family:

    1) ELIMINATE ALL CREDIT CARDS. Cut them up. Light them on fire. Never play that game again. Ever. Save $3-4K per year

    2)PAY CASH FOR CARS. No car payments ever. Saves 6-7K per year

  87. Maureen says:

    I would say that not caring about peer pressure anymore.

    My parents left me financially dependent from the age of 13 so I started working. Since the income wasn’t enough I ended up borrowing sums of money from my mother. Then I realised that I felt bad that her wages were going (eventhough I was paying her back) towards things that other people cared about. I began to realise that fashions change and peoples attitudes change so you can never win, if you give in.

    I have just read your article on The Millionaire Next Door and I wholeheartedly agree that the way to learn is to be cut off financially from your parents as soon as possible. It’s the only way you see value in money.

  88. Maureen says:

    * I meant to say financially independent not dependent. Afterall why would I be here in the first place?

  89. I completely agree with making your own lunch to take to work!
    Also, take a coffee plunger to work and don’t buy coffees.
    My work discretionary spending when it is bad can cost $50-$80 a week!

  90. The biggest physical action that I have done has been to use Dave Ramsey’s envelope plan, combined with Robert Kiyosaki’s pay yourself first plan. I have a savings envelope along with all my other bill envelopes. So on payday I make sure I put my set percentage for savings into the “savings” envelope before I put any money anywhere else. Once I reach a thousand dollars in the envelope I put it into my savings account. Since everything I do is paid throughout the month, I can stick to the envelope plan pretty good without touching the money in the envelopes. It’s active budgeting and sticking to it.

  91. Trent says:

    Awesome stuff, guys! This has gone even better than I hoped. I may actually tabulate the results in a few days to make a list of what you guys suggested.

  92. Mai says:

    The single thing it was writing down a monthly budget at the start of every month. Just doing that brought a level of consciousness in how I was spending my money and on what I was spending it on. That awareness was what defined or shaped my spending and saving behavior.

  93. Allie says:

    For me, it’s been a few things that all are like one thing in my mind:

    1) I quit smoking on days I don’t work (I work at a bar), and now I only smoke at work when I can get a cigarette from a customer.
    2) I stopped buying books.
    3) I started putting ALL my change in a jar. It’s my unobtrusive “savings account.” Once a month I roll all the coins that can be and put them in a cooler. Even when I’m broke enough to dip into my normal savings, I never dip into this.
    4) I started doing my own laundry at the laundromat instead of paying someone to do my laundry. This is saving me ~50/month.
    5) I don’t eat out most of the time anymore.
    6) I use Blockbuster online (like Netflix) instead of going to movies, buying DVDs and TV seasons, and using iTunes to download shows.
    7) I take my lunch to school with me, and to work.

  94. Carolyn says:

    Setting up automatic transfers to ING.

    I got an email from my boss congratulating me on my one year anniversary with the company that happened to coincide with a payday. As I checked the deposit it hit me that I had made $45,000 (my starting salary) yet my checking account still had the same balance it carried as when I was in college. That realization REALLY kicked my butt into gear, and now (1.5 years later) I’ve worked my way up to sending 20% of my net pay directly into savings. It truly is painless when you ease into it and treat savings like a bill.

  95. Bethany says:

    for me it was moving to a new apartment where I can take the bus to school. Especially since fuel prices have gone up and because campus parking is up to $20-$40 a month, I save a lot, and only drive to the grocery store and church.

  96. Sarah says:

    Using my FSA this year saved me roughly $700, and the only “cost” was spreading out the contributions over the course of the year. Of course, the amount saved will depend on your marginal tax rate, but who wouldn’t benefit from even a 15% reduction in cost on health care?

    I hope everyone who is singing the praises of their local library realizes that the public library is an example of a service provided by the evil government and paid for by those confiscatory taxes!

  97. Susan says:

    @ Marie: too funny, your story about 3 kids in the Camry! Good for you! Talk about not caving in to peer pressure. When I was a small child, my parents had 3 kids and a 60′s VW Beetle. Ok, they did trade up to a station wagon when the fourth child came along, but still, it can be done. No car seats way back then, though.

    The library savings are a great idea, I used to spend a fortune on books as well. Now I stay out of bookstores.

  98. Balfour says:

    Automatic deduction of pretax pay that goes directly into my 401K-type retirement account. I don’t even notice it and I don’t have to decide paycheck to paycheck to make this payment. Plus, I get a small employer match.

  99. Jillian says:

    I agree with the library thing, although I can’t say it’s helped me cut back on spending, because I’ve used it all my life. I love books, and I still can’t get over the fact that I can walk into a huge room of books any time I like and walk out the door with an armful of them without paying anything – FREE BOOKS!

    Our library website has a great online reservation system, and also a feature that lets you recommend books for purchase (and then automatically puts you on the waiting list for them).

    As for the thing that’s saved me the most money? I think it’s got to be working from home – no transport costs, no need to buy fancy clothes and makeup, more time to prepare cheaper, healthier meals, and fewer people I feel the need to impress. Plus I’m naturally going out less, so there’s less of a temptation to stop in at the shops and buy things I don’t need.

  100. Buck Weber says:

    My single best was to pay off the mortgage on our house and then deposit the same amount monthly into savings that we had been paying on the mortgage. We lost the tax advantage but gained that extra amount each month in savings. We try to avoid anything that we would have to pay interest on and focus instead on things that will pay us interest.

  101. George says:

    I look at total cost of ownership and avoid signing up for anything involving a recurring fee: no cellphone, no magazine subscriptions, no newspaper subscriptions, no cable, no satellite, no guru, no health club, and no movie rentals.

    Yes, we have a fast internet service, which replaces a lot of the above items. Yes, we have a yard & neighborhood that we get out & about in. Yes, we buy DVDs because we may move waaaay out in the country and we’re prone to watching the same things over & over anyway (a pair of DVD changers each holding 300 disks gives you an idea of how much TV we’re capable of watching, but it has proven to be cheaper than cable TV for the past decade).

  102. Brandon says:

    Buying things when they are a good deal. I’m the guy who buys 10 of whatever item is on sale and saving it for later.

  103. Bertha says:

    The biggest money-saver I’ve had was making weekly menus, carefully planning my grocery list around them, and sticking to my list when I go to the grocery store. I used to blow a lot of unnecessary money buying impulse items because I didn’t have a clear idea of what I actually needed.

  104. Christian says:

    Although it’s risky, the single best way to save money for me has been to get married. My life has calmed down, we’ve got two incomes, and somehow our life attracts so much more abundance.

  105. Matt says:

    For several reasons, planning weekly menus. It cut down on the number of times we go out to eat per week, cut down the number of trips to the grocery store and the accompanying impulse purchases, ensured that we had lunches, and eliminated the purchase of items that had no planned purpose (like buying five pounds of potatoes at a time).

    Without menus we were going out to eat for three meals a week, at somewhere around $35 a meal. We were also spending nearly the same amount every time we went to the grocery store. Weekly food costs for two people were somewhere around $210 per week. With menus we’ve basically cut that in half. It could be cut further if we planned the menus around what is on sale, but we’re happy with where it is for now.

  106. michelle says:

    planning a menu, cooking at home, and stop eating lunches out and only drinking alcohol at home. Saves on overpriced drinks and taxi rides home. Sometimes when I am grocery shopping I cant believe how expensive certain things are, $6 for a small bit of cheese, $5 for a bunch of grapes? Then I remind myself that if I was in a restaurant right now I would be saying only $6 for a margarita, what a bargain! So it really shows me how my thoughts of what is expensive changes depending on the setting even if the items are the exact same price. This is why I try to stay out of restaturants.

  107. Anna says:

    @Marie #14: you said “I think people are just afraid that if they see me not needing a minivan then they can’t justify their “need” that they couldn’t afford.”

    You have made a very wise statement, which applies to a whole lot more than minivans.

  108. Helen says:

    My money-saver was giving up eating lunches at work almost every weekday. I was always too busy (or lazy) to pack a lunch to take with me each day – and I still am. So now, every few business days, I spend a lunch hour at the nearby grocery store, stocking up on things I can keep in my desk drawer or in the office fridge. Then when lunch time rolls around each day, I can put my lunch together based on my little work pantry – it’s like making my brown bag lunch right at work! My second-biggest money-saver was investing in some decent cycling gear that will enable me to keep riding my bike to work through the winter months – I previously biked only in the summer.

  109. tambo says:

    Meal planning. It’s saved us TONS in grocery bills.

    We’re a single income family and get paid bi-weekly and the middle of every payday week I go through the cupboards and check the freezer to see what we have on hand abd go through the grocery store ads and coupons. With that information in hand, I mark up a calendar page with what we’re having for supper every day for the next two weeks (there are lots of free calendar sites online, btw, so you don’t even have to buy a calendar) and make a list of needed stuff that I do my darndest to stick to – I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it. Meal planning has just about cut our grocery bill in half and my family really seems to like knowing what’s for supper. Woohoo! Tacos Tonight!

  110. Fostermamas says:

    Cooking from scratch has been our single best action for saving money. It has become a wonderful hobby & has opened doors for new passions (cheesemaking and gardening)It also influences our other spending choices as well – we’re now looking at moving to a cohousing situation.

  111. Eric says:

    1. Packing lunch.
    2. Paying bills online (no stamps!)
    3. Cut off my landline and use just the cellphone (Get a plan with free incoming calls, then have people call you back)
    4. Reduced my energy consumption by 2/3 with a few simple things:
    A) Use the clothesline. It cost me about $30 in supplies to make mine, and the clothes smell better. Once you bring them in, throw them in the dryer for about 15 mins to fluff them up.
    B) Stopped using my AC and bought a few fans. You sweat a bit more, but the savings are fantastic.
    C) Turn off my hot water heater except for an hour each night, enough to heat up a tank of water for the next day’s shower. (I do dishes and laundry on the weekends) Even then, I have the temp as low as the heater will allow.
    D) Turned the temp in my fridge down as low as it would go without cutting off.

  112. Joan says:

    Not having a mortgage.

  113. Ellen says:

    Learning to cook and having a plan for WHAT to cook each night.

  114. Carmen says:

    For me, the library can be quite expensive. I have a bad habit of returning things late and end up paying quite a bit of fines.

    But there are two things that have made the biggest things for us:

    1. Cooking from Scratch and eating (primarily) food we cook.

    2. Turning down the Thermostat

    We have saved ~$150/month on our Electric bill. We have cut out ~$700/month on food related expenses ($300/month dining out and $400/month grocery shopping).

    So those two changes put an extra $850/month into our budget (which we needed to pay for pre-school!)

  115. Liz says:

    For me, starting to seriously pay attention to where my money went made a huge difference, much like your realization of how much you spent on books (me too). Being aware of where my money is spent has made me re-think a lot of small purchases throughout each week.

  116. Anne says:

    A note about cutting the cable and PBS. Cutting basic cable actually got my parents a better signal (still working that one out) and more channels after we got their new digital converter box set up. PBS stations seem to be leading the charge in multiple digital channels.

    I guess my biggest one has been to actively fight against lifestyle inflation. I lived on $12k/yr in grad school so I’ve been trying to find a good balance between comfort (I like not living on ramen anymore) and necessity.

    I love Marie’s Camry story! The one in my life lately is the iphone. I don’t need one. After calculating the real costs, I don’t even want one. But everyone who owns one seems to really need to talk about theirs. A lot.

  117. Sticking to a monthly budget religiously, always, no matter what happens. (Well, 28 of the past 30 months isn’t bad ..)

  118. Jamie says:

    Tracking every cent that I spent…Awareness is a powerful choice!

  119. The most valuable “tip” in my life has been to have as much control over my food as possible.

    For me that means many things, such as being able to cook very, very well. Thus I’m almost never tempted to dine out or by convenience foods. I know I can make better food at home.

    It also means gardening extensively, which saves me money on the grocery bill and with less gas spent on running to the store.

    It means having four hens who supply me with more eggs than I can eat. So I sell a dozen per week to a family member. That $3 per week covers ALL my costs of keeping the hens; so our eggs are “free.”

    It also means canning foods, baking all our bread, owning a chest freezer, and keeping a price comparison book so that I know a good deal when I see it. When I do, dozens of said sale item may end up in the chest freezer.

    On top of saving a *lot* of money, I eat really, really well, and healthfully too.

    I posted about my experiments at spending no more than $50 per month for two adults. I came close several times.

    http://livingthefrugallife.blogspot.com/2008/09/50-monthly-grocery-challenge-how-it.html

  120. joanie says:

    Most public libraries will have access to thousands of magazines and journals online through their databases. You never have to buy another magazine or newspaper! Many reference sources are now online, many specialized encyclopedias, etc. You can access these from home and email articles to other people as well. So many people do not realize how many resources are available in local public and academic libraries for them to use. (Besides the books and dvds, etc.) These are paid for by local taxes, but the library may also receive state and federal grants as well. Also, ask for guidance from librarians about searching for specific topics. Some libraries have extensive digital collections for you to access online and each library offers lists of useful trusted website links on many subjects. Just take a look at Librarian’s Index to the Internet http://www.lii.org and the Internet Public Library http://www.ipl.org for a few examples.

  121. jcard21 says:

    Only Mary, Sarah, Josh, and Carolyn hinted at “Your Single Best Action For Saving Money”.

    Everyone else missed the boat! :-) Everyone else’s thinking is backwards… they put the cart before the horse.

    “Your Single Best Action For Saving Money” is:

    1) PAY YOURSELF FIRST!

    If you pay someone else first, your are saying that person, company, etc is more important than you.

    Whatever your income, set aside 10%, 20%, 30% or more. Your savings % rate is YOUR CHOICE … NOT based on your bills and what is left over.

    This becomes your working “capital”.

    2) PUT YOUR CAPITAL TO WORK!

    Not in a savings account; not in a CD, where the bank is making the profits.

    Invest it and/or start a business (without a loan) so you will earn the profits, not your boss or a bank.

    This is what the rich do. Do what the rich do.

    PS: NEVER borrow to pay for anything (houses, cars, boats, TVs, ipods, etc.)

    DEBT = SLAVERY… ALWAYS!

  122. Sara says:

    Maybe this is too much of a “mindset” thing, but I’d say my best money-saving action is a waiting period for almost all purchases. I don’t really have a specific number of days, but rarely do I buy something on a whim. If I see something I want, I make a note of it, add it to my wish list, and start looking for a good deal on it. Whenever I am about to buy something, I ask myself, “Why do I need this? I have lived without it for this long.” Most of the time, I talk myself out of buying things, and when I do buy something, it’s because I have made a thoughtful decision that it really is worth buying.

    My other one is Virgin Mobile. I pay $5/month for my cell phone (which is my only phone, as I don’t have a landline), and I get free minutes from Sugar Mama. Most people I know pay upwards of $50/month for a cell phone and/or landline.

  123. Laura says:

    I sold my car.

    I moved from a rural area to Chicago after graduating from college. In looking for a place to live, I made sure my apartment was near public transit for both work and fun. I’ve been here 6 months now and the only time I miss the car is when I want to go buy used furniture for my place!

    Besides cutting back on used furniture purchases, I don’t have to worry about paying for insurance, gas, repairs, or parking. Probably totals $200/month in savings, plus the $2500 I got for the car.

  124. Balfour says:

    Hands down: automatic, transfer of pre-tax pay into 401K-like retirement plan at work, with a small employer match. Don’t even notice it because I don’t have to make the decision every pay period to move the money. It adds up really fast. Even though it’s taken a huge hit from the economy, I consider myself fortunate to finally have this and it’ll come back up.

  125. Jill says:

    My visa card is frozen in a block of ice in the freezer…also say no to fancy coffee that puts ya back 5 bones each!

  126. Jill says:

    I almost forgot to tell you….sold the car last January…it has almost been a year!! Woot!Woot!

  127. Jenzer says:

    Buying VERY few pieces of brand-new furniture to furnish our house. DH and I combined two apartments when we moved in together, so between us we had most of the basics already (kitchen table, loveseat, couch, easy chair, dressers, two beds, etc.) All of these items, with the exception of one of the beds, were hand-me-downs from family members.

    In the eight years since, we’ve acquired additional pieces from flea markets, estate sales, assemble-it-yourself furniture catalogs, and overstock stores. I stick to the same wood stain colors and basic styles/lines so that it all doesn’t look too mis-matchy. This means I’ve sometimes gone months (or years, in the case of our bedroom nightstands) before I find a piece I need at a price I’m willing to pay … with cash, not credit.

    Back in 2003 we took a week-long vacation to Hawaii that cost us $3500 in total. Shortly after we returned home, I was thumbing through a “lifestyle magazine” and spotted a new leather armchair that was priced at $3500. My immediate thought was, “You can keep the new chair — I’ll take another vacation to Hawaii for that kind of money!”

  128. rb says:

    Ppack my and the kids’ lunch everyday. At nearly $6 a meal for their school it saves a ton of money.
    Plan my meals carefully, cook from scratch, shop loss leaders for meat and fruit, and use coupons – but for only items I use to cook from scratch with.
    Order water for the family when eating out once in a blue moon and use a coupon from the Entertainment book.
    Track grocery items with a log book to see if it really is “on Sale”
    Work clothes are quality items with classic styles. I can wear them for yrs and still look professional and not trendy. Same goes for shoes. I hold out for Nordstrom’s sale in July and inventory my closet months ahead of time.
    I drive a 10 yr old car while my coworker physicians make fun of me and anyone who has close to 100K miles on the car. Oh well.

  129. Mom of 3 says:

    Sitting down with my youngest (age 20) and point blank telling him that our “bank is closed”. No more saving him from late bills, spotting him for gas, nothing. His debts to us probably won’t ever be paid, but at least I don’t front him any more money and he has to live in reality. He needed that conversation. His older siblings were too proud to live off of us, but he needed that nudge to grow up.

    I can’t believe how much more money I have in the bank now!

  130. BikeChick says:

    Mine was getting rid of my car too. Unheard of in Southern California. One of my aunts even bought me a car because she didn’t like the idea of me bike commuting. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

    Not owning a car for the past 4 1/2 years has helped me pay off all $35K of my debt, start an emergency fund and savings accounts, contribute 5% more to my 401K, AND build up a one month buffer so that I’m no longer living paycheck to paycheck. Woo!

  131. Becky@FamilyandFinances says:

    Definitely not watching tv!

    This wasn’t a purposeful thing for us, we just didn’t want to pay for cable, we’re too cheap. We seem to be in a valley in our neighborhood, because bunny ears just gets us about 2 very snowy channels. Net result? We don’t watch tv at all. No tv = no commercials = less gimmee’s :)

  132. Holly Hansen says:

    1. Buying a cheap, older model, fuel efficient car…paid for in cash. No car payment, lower insurance, good gas mileage. It’s not flashy but it’s comfortable, drives well and gets me where I need to go. I bought one that was well maintained with low mileage (considering it was 10 years old) and I haven’t had problems with it. When I hear my friends saying they fork over $200-400 a month on their LEASED car, I’m shocked.

    2. When my promotional rate on “family” cable ended and my bill went from $50 to $75 a month, I got rid of all except the basics (basement apartment so rabbit ears didn’t work so well here) and got a netflix subscription. Both of them together cost less than $30 per month and I enjoy it a lot more than whatever was on cable when I actually had time to watch it! Plus I can rent all the great TV series’ that were on the expensive channels I never wanted to pay for like Showtime and HBO, and I don’t even have to stay up late!

    3. Using reusable things whenever possible instead of disposable. Using rags or washable cloths instead of paper towels, wipes or swiffer cloths. Using tupperware instead of plastic bags. Using a reusable and washable water bottle I fill at home instead of buying bottled water. It help saves the planet too! Disposable stuff is literally throwing money away.

    4. Make it yourself instead of getting the “convenience” version. Homemade soup is much cheaper than canned. I learned how to make “skillet” type meals like you can buy in a box or frozen-those are just frozen veggies or pasta with a sauce! Why pay $2 for a half pound of pasta when you can pay $1 for a full pound? I bought an iced tea maker ($20) and now make iced tea at home for about 75 cents per 3 liters, a lot cheaper – and healthier since I use much less sugar – than store bought mix or ready made. If I used cheaper tea bags it would be less, but what can I say, everyone has some indulgence right? ;o)

  133. spaces says:

    Not drinking alcohol with dinner unless it’s a special occasion or an upscale dinner has saved us a ton. The spouse and I both like red wine, and while there are plenty of excellent cheap/er wines, the costs add up.

    Driving our cars into the ground (250k+ miles) has also been fab for the budget.

  134. karen says:

    “Going green” with a vengeance. It’s certainly possible to spend an astounding amount of money on green technology if that’s your bent, but a philosophical shift that has me using less of just about everything from gasoline to diet soda and seeking to reuse whenever possible (my own stuff or something preowned by someone else) has had a truly significant impact on my budget.

  135. Aric says:

    For me, the biggest money saver has been cooking at home. I now pack my lunch everyday instead of going out to lunch.

    The next biggest is not buying books unless I find them important enough to keep as a reference. Other than that, I use the library.

    Cheers!

  136. Cary says:

    Left a bad relationship with girlfriend, she was only happy after a couple of drinks among other problems. So far saved about $2k, not buying her dinner and drinks.

    I haven’t been this happy for a couple of years.

  137. Carly says:

    As a librarian, I have to agree with you on the library! It is a fabulous resource. It addition to saving money on books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, etc., check out the programs at your library. There are programs for every age.

    For us, planning our shopping trips and couponing has been a great tool for saving money. I also think meal-planning goes along with this.

  138. Art says:

    Driving a used BMW. My 1998 740i will turn 270,000 trouble-free miles tomorrow.

  139. Jessica says:

    Like many people, cooking is a HUGE money saver for me.

    So is hanging my clothes to dry instead of using the dryer, or similarly, air drying my hair.

    The library is also a good one!

    I would also include, ONLY buying clothing that’s on sale or very cheaply from outlets.

    And because I travel a lot, researching flights online and comparing that with my travel agent.

    I know you said just one but I couldn’t help myself! Great post, great blog!

  140. RH says:

    Thanks for the excellent library tip. I not a heavy reader, but I go through a few novels a month. I guess I assumed that the library wouldn’t have much for me since I read mostly obscure fantasy. However, you post inspired me to see if my area library had an online site. It turned out that they do and their entire catalog is internet searchable. I now know that they not only have books that interest me, but they have the one I’m reading right now and the next two in the series. Looks like I’m going to be heading down for a library card later this week.

  141. Kim says:

    I instituted a No Starbucks September. My rules where that I would not buy Starbucks for the month. Other people could buy it for me, but I would not buy it to break my twice a day habit. It was really hard at first, but I made it really public what I was doing. My boss thought it was amusing, but he encouraged me and gave me pats on the back when I stuck to my guns.

    I stumbled a few times, but determined not to let that stop the whole effort.

    I am proud to say that I have not resumed my former habit. Although my current status is probably more than most SD readers would approve of, for me I am proud to have broken my habit.

    I had planned to do a No Shop November, refusing to purchase anything but gasoline and groceries for a month, but I didn’t plan well for it, and have decided that I need to push this out to January or February to get a handle on all unnecessary shopping. I forgot to plan for things like birthdays, and dealing with family expectations (and my own emotional shopping.)

    Once I deal with that I need to start my month of eating in. One thing at a time.

  142. Lou says:

    I made saving automatic. My paycheck, after deductions, always looked like “mine’ and mine meant mine to spend. At my parents advice, I signed up for payroll savings bonds at my first job. I cashed those bonds for the down payment on our first house.

    When i was 30, i went to work for a company that offered a 403(b) plan (like a 401(k)). They matched the first 5% of my contribution to the plan. I reasoned that they would be getting away without paying me that 5%, unless i signed up. Every so often, whenever i got a 5% or greater raise, i added 1% to my contribution & kept 4%.

    When I was suddenly disabled at age 59, i had enough money to live on. That single decision – not to let my employer hire me for less than they were willing to pay- was the single most important financial decision of my life.

  143. Jesse says:

    The first answer that popped into my head was similar to “spend less than you earn”, it was “to maximize the gap between your earnings and expenses”. Even though this in itself is an action, I believe the actual prime mover for me was reading “Your Money or Your Life”. Thanks for the recommendation Trent — and for all of your great posts.

  144. Terese says:

    Two big things:

    1- We automatically transfer money into accounts that keep us honest: down payment fund, Roth-IRA, “Independence Fund” (The first 5K is considered emergency, everything after that is more like the saving we do to build our wealth, and luxury/travel fund (gifts, trips, special treats come out of here). Our primary account is called “In-and-Out” and that is where we pay all of our bills/receive all of our paychecks. My husband and I each have a separate “fun money” account where we can do whatever we want with our month’s allowance.

    2-We put gas/medical copays on our credit card (always paid in full) and pay cash for groceries/petty expenses/entertainment. We give ourselves a low amount to spend (about $420 on all three), and although we sometimes go over by a bit, we are spending about $1300 less a month than when we didn’t set such a challenging limit.

  145. Karen says:

    1. We don’t eat meat or dairy products.

    2. We shop in thrift stores as a first choice place to look for something “new”.

    3. My kids have not been rewarded or bribed with treats to make them good when we’re shopping. By eliminating impulse junk purchases to make a kid happy, I think I saved a ton of money over the years.

  146. Patrick says:

    When saving up for a deposit on a flat, I sold the car and my wife and I started making our own lunches. We save upwards of GBP500 / month after having saved nothing for years.

    I’ve been car free ever since and won’t consider working somewhere that I can’t get too either on my bicycle or by public transport.

  147. moneyclip says:

    Paying off debt on the double step. The savings alone in interest brings a smile to my face every time I think about how much interest charge would have went to someone else had I not paid off a large amount of debt by doubling and eventually tripling payments to cut interest down to the bone.

  148. conny says:

    many of the above, like lunch box, don’t own a car. But the single most effective is the 30 day rule. Don’t purchase before you sit down and think

  149. slowfit says:

    Some things come to mind, on the saving money side:
    -not having children
    -library & Netflix & fast internet
    -no land-line
    -no car payment
    -no junk food
    -no credit card debt
    And then on the income side:
    -working hard and sacrificing happiness for many years to have a moderately high paying occupation; this can’t be underestimated since what I save by avoiding gross consumerism is much smaller than the increase in earnings. A middle class life, even without overconsumption, has become quite expensive in the population dense areas of the USA. Not looking forward to the coming tax increases, though.

  150. Naomi says:

    Great Ideas – for me the most effective way is to not walk into a shop. Except to buy food of course, and with a list, and cash only.

  151. Debbie says:

    Mine is having 15% taken out of my paycheck to fund my retirement. Money is out of my hands before I can even get to it.

  152. tim says:

    Cycling to work instead of driving.
    Its saved me on petrol money, gym fees, and car insurance. If I had been able to sell my car, it would have saved even more. Ideally I think it is best to rent a vehicle for those rare, long distance journeys. I say vehicle because if you are renting, you can choose the best mode of transport.

  153. Alright, can I add mine- thinking.

    My best story illustrating this as a money saving tip is to pick on my wife (but I admit to this habit as well). Each year, she has to make a special treat for Christmas, and each year she pulls out a list to buy the ingredients. About of the third of the items she buys are not used, so she hides them away for next year. Sometimes, we make purchases because we are not sure that we have something, or it is easier to buy than find it in the storage shed, or because we do not make it ourselves. By stopping to think, we could save much.

  154. Kim says:

    Our biggest money-saving decision was the one we made 25 years ago not to have children.

  155. Andie says:

    Trent, I have been reading your blog religiously for the past couple of months. This is my first time posting. Keep up the excellent work, Trent!

    A few big things have really helped me save $:

    1-Eight months ago I quit drinking. That may seem extreme because I am only 25y/o, and no, I didn’t have a drinking problem. :) (I do miss beer from time to time, but I have a strong will!) This has saved me a tremendous amount of what little cash flow I have. Quitting drinking has also kept a lot of people I know (mostly coworkers) from asking me to hang out. Because we all know that sober people are no fun. (nooooooo, that’s not sarcasm :) )

    2-In the past two years or so I have cut out the people in my life who are *no good* for me. This includes people who claim to be a friend but are truly selfish in nature, people who dislike themselves so much that they badmouth everyone around them, and people who are frankly just not good people. This has saved me $$ because now I don’t go out with these people who for the most part only wanted to go out to-you guessed it-drink. And speak badly of others, etc. Taking out the bad in my life has left me so much more time to cultivate the relationships with people who are truly important to me. Why would I want to spend what little time I have with people who aren’t good for me? Now I feel like I am making the most of my time. And it feels good!

    3-I only watch TV when I visit my parents. I use Netflix and my local library. I do my best to stay away from any kind of commercial advertisements because I am the type of person who, when I see something and I really want it, I am going to get it, no matter what. I used to be so bad that I didn’t care if I overdrew in my checking account. Eek! But no more temptation! No commercials, no magazine ads, minimal media influence.

  156. Ladia says:

    My single tip for overspending for books is
    http://www.bookfinder.com
    I use it a lot for purchasing rare and sold ot books. My copy of Your money or your life came to me also from bookfinder.
    I live in eastern europe and I found my english writen american sold out book about rammed earth houses in south germany second hand book store.
    Bookfinder is Great.

  157. Ladia says:

    to kim
    Childern are not a money thing question.
    If you consider not having childern as money saving tip, then you probably did well not having them.

  158. Eric says:

    For me, it was setting up an automatic withdraw from my checking account into my high-yield online savings account every payday. So every payday, there are 2 transactions in my household checking account; 2 paycheck deposits (my wife’s and mine) and a $100 transfer. It’s automatic and we never miss the money. It was a one-time set up. “Fix it and forget it.”

  159. Angelsong says:

    Another way I save money is by making my own cleaning supplies. I use white vinegar, baking soda, borax and dishwashing liquid (for hand washing dishes) to mix my own cleaning solutions, and they work better than any of the pricey commercial ones as well as being better for the environment.

  160. Karen says:

    For me, the old adage “A stitch in time saves nine” is the best way to save money. We have a small farm, and have spent more time and money replacing items we can’t find and need right now, and fixing big problems we should have fixed when they were tiny, etc. Repair something when it needs to be repaired. Put things away where they should go so you can find it. Store items properly so they last. That’s the “stitch in time.” The corollary for saving money is “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Think wasted leftovers!

  161. Gilora says:

    For me it was eating at home rather than restaurants. During our dating and early marriage days, my husband and I were typical DINKs (Double Income No Kids). We both worked hard and most nights did not feel like cooking. As a result, we ate out some 5-6 nights per week. Nothing fancy, usually a diner or takeout, but it really added up. Now that we have two small children, going out to eat is a chore rather than a luxury and we typically eat home cooked dinners every night. Even though my husband now works part time and we have some $1350 per month in day care expenses, we are actually saving more money per month by eating at home and generally being more frugal.

    Great post Trent!

  162. jan says:

    Stay home!
    Really, stay home.
    We are making less money and having more because I stopped working outside the home and my needs are few!

  163. Bella says:

    My best recommendation is not only to cook at home, but to host parties (each person in a group gets their turn, or everyone splits the bill) at home instead (suppers, after work reunions…)
    Plus, everyone could cook togheter and have fun.
    Try it: open a wine bottle over various cheeses, and snack while cooking!
    Cooking, and doing every chores in the house ourselves saves money on a maid and restaurants AND uses up time we have that we would use to entertain ourselves costly.

    On the other hand, I have a hard time to understand comments like:
    - Don’t have children
    - Have a high paying job that you hate
    To save money

    Might as well Hate your whole live! Why live?
    For me, any job I don’t like is costing me more because I will spend on entertainment to survive and try avoiding the life I dislike (roughly 1/4 of your life working, more than 1/3 of you awake life) thrue altering my reality thrue drugs, alcool, and other addictions (costly addiction).

    Plus, having a family helps staying at home, cooking for the whole family, spending quality time with people, and caring for what is important in life.

    Of course, this means that family is important to someone… Often, people that don’t want kids have a hard time taking care of themselves in the first place, and can’t imagine taking care of others.

    If anyone start being honest from a Johneses to another, they will realise that they have emprisoned themselves into a lifestyle they can’t control and can’t see how they can overcome anymore, so they keep running from paycheck to paycheck indefinately, and, hopefully, when retirement arrives, the will have saved up enough to live on to have AT LEAST their working salary, because that kind of lifestyle don’t slowdown anywhere, except if undertaken with discipline. Retirement is only more free time to spend around!

  164. Lisa says:

    I suppose the latest big step for us has been cutting out restaurants. File that under meal planning and grocery planning so that there is always something quick and easy to eat. And I can grill a steak far better than any of the area restaurants (who want $25-40 for it).

  165. One car if you can get away with it and keep it as long as you can. When shopping for another car, remember: the most affordable car out there for you is the one you already have.

  166. JimmyDaGeek says:

    The best thing anyone can do for themselves is to challenge their beliefs when it comes to savings and spending. This is better than simply saying spend less than you earn, because that is simple math. It doesn’t change us.

    One way of challenging ourselves is to reevaluate our wants. We all need food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical care. How much we spend on each is our choice. Let’s take caffeine, for example. Aside from saying that if we got more sleep, we wouldn’t need caffeine at all, we can control how much we spend on it. We can get our caffeine from soda, coffee, tea, etc. Do we buy name-brand or store-brand products? Do we stock up at home on sale or do we buy it each day on the way to work?

    Making these kind of changes can reduce the money we spend.

  167. J says:

    For us, it was having a written budget and sticking to it. A very close derivative is that we use cash in envelopes for lunch money, takeout and personal spending, which we take out at the beginning of the month.

    Before this, we would use the debit card for the above expenses, and would invariably blow the budget. With cash, it’s obvious when you are out of money.

  168. Rae says:

    My biggest step was taking a friend’s challenge to not buy any new clothes for a year. Before that, I used to shop at the mall every few weeks, but after the year was over, I found I didn’t return to my old ways at all. I was much more careful about only buying what clothes I needed, and by paying attention to that it started spilling over into everything I considered purchasing.

  169. Ro says:

    I’ve always hated to cook, but I am learning to actually cook rather than relying on processed crapola and eating out. I can’t say I’m naturally talented at it but I am hopefully improving, and it is so much cheaper. I’m also trying to get better and better at meal planning in advance.

  170. Lanette Mumford says:

    Quitting smokinng (7.5 years ago) has allowed me to pay off my credit card and establish an emergency savings account. The other biggest money saver in my life is making up a 7 day menu before I go to the grocery and referring to this menu during the week. I am never tempted to go out to eat because I don’t want to think of what to have for dinner.

  171. Amber C says:

    Giving up diet coke and chips. Keeps me from going to the store everyday.

  172. just an opinion says:

    OK, good theme. DEFINITELY, my number one is automatic payroll deduction. If you have a matching 401k plan of any kind and you dont maximize it you are just flushing money down the toilet. Consider, for example: My company matches 75% of your contribution, (capped @ 6% of your gross pay). This means that even though the stock market just took one of the worst beat downs in history, I STILL have all of the principle that I myself put in… In essence, the matching dollars disappeared. I realize that this is in some sense sophistry, but it makes it a lot easier to stomach hanging in for the long haul.
    2) Library is great, but even @ that I bet I pay them $150 a year in fines!!! Of course, at any given moment I have 6-10 items out.
    3) Trying like hell to cutdown coffee & lunch expenses… So far failing miserably
    4) This oughta be interesting – I saw a blog that recommended a self administered haircut device, and in fact this device was highly acclaimed in amazon ratings, so I am going to try to CUT MY OWN HAIR… I feel like I am about to self administer an appendectomy! However, if it works I calculate that the $30 purchase will save me about $500 bucks over the next 5 years, and very little in life will offer you that kind of ROI, so pray for me !!!! I will report back how the barbering/butchering project goes…

  173. Michelle says:

    My husband is an accountant and keeps spreadsheets of our budget for each month…that way we know what’s coming in and what’s going out down to the penny.

    We also each get our own weekly money to spend on whatever we want. $30 each. He spends his on eating out a couple times and scratch off tickets. I spend most of mine on food or save it for a larger purchase. This way we aren’t tempted to dip into our paychecks. If we can’t buy it for our weekly money, we have to save for it until we have enough to buy it.

  174. todd says:

    Clarify the difference between “needs” and “wants.” Focus on meeting your needs and cutting out your wants until your needs are met. For example, of the estimated 50 million people that don’t have health insurance, roughly half could get it if they just went out and bought it. They choose not to, but they have cell phones, cable tv, broadband Internet, etc. Somehow, much of our nation seems to think they are entitled to all of these things. And when they “can’t afford” health insurance, it’s the government’s fault?

  175. J says:

    For me, it’s definitely bringing lunch to work. I’ve always been a saver and I had automatic deductions sent into my ING accounts set up for a good long while, but when I decided to see how much more I could save, I stopped being lazy and eating lunch (and often breakfast) out every day. Spending 7 dollars a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks out of the year…that’s $1,750!

    Also, I’ve recently switched to the “No ‘Poo” lifestyle and I’ve saved money that I used to spend on shampoo and condition by washing with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. And the best part, my hair actually is in much better condition! It isn’t no dry and it doesn’t get oily in a day anymore!

    I also bought a trimmer and trim my dogs’ hair myself. It’s super easy, saves money, and keeps them from getting as nervous as they would get going to the groomer.

    I’m a recent convert to the library as well. Before when I would finish a few books, I would buy a few more. Now, I trot myself over to the library and check a few books out instead.

    I also cut down on taking cabs to work. I never took them every day but before, I would decide to sleep later in the morning and I would call a cab to get me into work on time. Now, that is a rare occasion. I use my transit pass which I pay for with pre-taxed money through my job.

  176. Seasongs says:

    Two things (one will be controversial):

    1. Just have one credit card, and pay it off every month. Deduct each amount you spend (using your credit card) from your checkbook, and you’ll have the amount ready for payment, when the bill comes. Hard? Most definitely. Worth it? Most defiinitely.

    2. Eat out a few times a week. When I count the cost of my time to shop, prepare food, energy for heating, water for washing dishes, and more time to clean up, I find that it is well worth the money to enjoy a meal with my family. I am also helping the economy by supporting folks in the restaurant industry. I use restaurant coupons 80% of the time, and for our small family this results in large savings.

  177. Noel says:

    To Marie # 14, I have 3 kids and our family car is a VW Jetta. As an added bonus it’s a TDI (diesel) so I get about 45 mpg. I only have 1 in a car seat, but we all fit just fine. The trunk is big enough to store the full size stroller and diaper bag and make a trip to the grocery store. I haven’t missed my minivan at all since I got my car, and I love it. People ask me how we all fit, but in reality, I have just as much “seat space” as my husband’s Explorer and get about 4 times the mpg. It’s way more fun to drive than the van ever was!

  178. Julie says:

    The best thing that I have done lately that saves me money is to keep a running tally at the grocery store. That way I know when I’m getting close to my budget amount. If I am over, I can start putting back any impulse buys that may have hopped into the cart when I wasn’t looking. :)

  179. Kevin says:

    My best action (actually 2 combined) is continuing to show value to my company thus getting better than average raises each year and then avoiding lifestyle inflation with the extra money.

  180. Lynn says:

    I frequent the library and love the online request system along with physically checking out the items myself…no line, no interaction with the library staff…very cool. Secondly, using power strips for all my electronics [computers, televisions, electric heaters, etc]. This really cuts down on the cost of energy.

  181. Carol says:

    Hello all,
    I second the person stating *stay home*. Savings all the way around – no gas needed, no impulse purchasing, etc. Getting my house organized to the max – pitching every single thing not needed and getting underwear drawers organized into neat compartments. This kind of stuff is saving me tons.

  182. Tony says:

    Best savings habit? 401(k) !! I automatically contribute thru payroll at maximum affordable level plus matching funds from employer. Then the good part-all raises and bonus go directly to the 401(k). I closely monitor and manage the account using a strategy appropriate to my age and retirement target. Any moneys over the maximum contribution and stray cash is deposited into a very similar portfolio and just as diligently managed. Works for me!

    BTW, great news letter. Thanks

  183. pete says:

    Quitting smoking and coffee saved me about $15/day. That’s about $105/week or $5460/year!

    Also – riding my bike to work has saved me quite a bit in hard costs. Though the soft-cost savings [long-term maintenance on my car/myself and general happiness] definitely outweigh the gas savings in my book!

  184. Vanessa says:

    I agree Trent – the library for me has been a money saving find this year!! I can’t believe I didn’t try it before… I used to buy alot of books but now I borrow for free… and the internet tool for my library is fantastic! I just type in what book I want, place a hold and indicate which location I would like to pick it up at and when it’s ready I get a phone message. Brilliant!

  185. Rejjii says:

    Reading The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn has helped me save thousands of dollars, and achieve many goals on my “maybe someday” list. The other main benefit was learning how to save money without feeling deprived.

  186. Kevin says:

    Troy in #45 – how exactly does paying cash for a car save you $6-7k a year? Are you talking about car payments – cause that doesn’t really count since you’re still paying the principal with the cash you saved.

  187. Kate in Canada says:

    A few things for me: I bring lunch to work from home; I NEVER NEVER shop without a list, and ONLY get what’s on the list; and from day one I taught my daughters to love Value Village! (and other thrift stores, but that’s our family favourite)

  188. Lisa says:

    The biggest thing I’ve done is to start paying attention to what it is I’m spending on. I’m far from perfect (we spend a LOT on groceries, for example), but now I weigh every purchase for its value.

    The second is to make many small changes. For example, my office provides coffee for employees, so I no longer buy it on weekdays. I’ve also discovered the local library with its online reservation system; now I try new authors before committing to owning new books. We lined all of our ‘winter curtains’ with polar fleece, you can’t see it, but our heating bill dropped more than $20 the first month we tried it. I take the bus 2 days a week, cutting auto expenses dramatically (its 22 miles door to door). I workout at home using 2nd hand DVDs and videos from the half price bookstore. I’m also taking advantage of my company’s ‘education benefit’ to get certification in my field, which increases my value and makes me more valuable if I need to look for a new job. All its costing me is time.

    Many small changes add up to big savings. More importantly, they create a better mindset for supporting the overall strategy of ‘sepnd less than you earn’.

  189. Cutting out TV. Not paying for cable gives me extra time and extra money in my pocket. I listen to football games on the radio or watch at a friend’s house and all my favorite shows are online, mostly through Hulu.

    The biggest tip I can give for most people is to read blogs like Trent’s here and/or start your own like I did. The community motivates everyone.

  190. almost there says:

    The #1 most important way to save $$$: Stay married. Work on your relationship with spouse daily. Be content with what you have and not pine for what you don’t have. I carry little cash and put all expenses on my charge card, so I weigh if I can pay off the charges when they are due before I make a purchase.

  191. Chiqui says:

    Reading PF blogs.

    From it, I learned a lot how to save, been motivated by other savers, learned other financial tips etc.

    Next to that is tracking my expenses. I created my own expense db and it helped me find ways how to decrease my monthly expenses. That’s when I started reading PF blogs.

  192. steve says:

    1) When I see or think of something I want, I make an entry for it in my “wants” notebook and spend some time thinking about whether I want it enough for it to be worth the cash outlay. Usually I end up deciding not to get it. There are actually very few things that I need to buy, given the possessions I already have that can be put to use. In most cases (except for food) shopping has more to do with entertainment than necessity, and I get at least as much entertainment out of using my “wnats” notebook and just thinking about the things and the pros and cons of buying/not buying them as I would by going out and purchasing them. Most recently, through this exercise I decided to NOT buy an 8′ Chef’s knife that I had been considering and instead just resharpened all of my existing knives on my SHUN waterstone. Realistically, I am unlikely to NEED a knife in this lifetime as the ones I have will surely last the next 40 years or so, and I know how to keep them *very* sharp. I also stopped myself from buying a higher grade (much finer grit) sharpening stone, because when I really looked at it (I write out the pros and cons in my book) I realized it was more out of entertainment need than anything else that I wanted it. My existing sharpening store will easily last my lifetime and already get my knives sharper than I actually need, and if I do buy a natural Japanese waterstone, it will be consciously as a hobby purchase. Right now, I decided not to spend cash on hobby purchases, so that fancy natural Japanese waterstone stayed right on the list for now.

    2) I have a biweekly or so period of 2 or 3 days where I don’t shop for food and cook only from what’s remaining in the fridge (even excluding my pantry as much as possible, also eating any leftovers (until those are gone). This is a handy gimmick that helps me cleans out the fridge and to use those leftovers and tired vegetables that I would likely pass over and allow to spoil if I had “fresher” food to eat. Typically this will mean running out of one or two staples (no milk for my tea today!)for a couple of days but it’s bearable and cuts WAY down on food waste.

  193. you know, i think one of the biggest changes i made – this may sound silly- was to NOT be afraid of my finances anymore. i could barely stand to look at my bank balances. i had NO desire to know how much we owed.

    when we started getting out of debt we also had to get out of denial. and that meant looking at those balances, monitoring them, checking them every day. now, nine months in, our accounts are barely even scary. the number one thing that helped us change was to just acknowledge what was going on.

  194. SuSu says:

    -Marrying someone with the same environmental/frugal mindset as myself has probably saved me the most over time. We both get excited when we save money/reduce waste. Neither of us is tempted to spend money recklessly. We research and consult each other about most purchases. We also avoid buying new whenever possible and prefer to repair/reuse/recycle.
    -Having “productive” hobbies. My husband’s hobby is homebrewing, and all the initial outlay for brewing equipment has been recouped by getting cheaper, better quality beer that we can enjoy and share with friends/family. I am a sewer/quilter, and by repairing clothes, making my own home decor, and making gifts for others with my hobby I have easily paid us back for buying a very nice (but used) sewing machine 8 years ago.
    -I agree with many who say that getting rid of TV is a big step. It gives you so much more free time (especially to implement more cost-cutting measures in your life) and also draws you away from the materialistic influence of commercials and TV programming. I don’t miss it at all.
    -Talk to people about what you need: Friends, family, coworkers, even the lady at the checkout counter. It’s amazingly simple, but it works. If you just communicate and put that “need” out there, often times you can find someone who has that very item they don’t want anymore. (If you don’t have a good social network, try Freecycle.org. It’s the same concept.) Also be willing to give away to others what you no longer need/want.

  195. I both quit smoking and stopped drinking alcohol completely. As a recovering alcoholic I am amazed at how much I was able to spend on drinking.

    If you are addicted to any substance I would probably say your number one saving tip and number one health tip should be overcoming the addiction.

  196. friend says:

    I had a revelation in the grocery store one day;

    “Eat what you already have.”

    If I use the veggies already sitting in the fridge, I don’t have to buy more right now! And I don’t have to throw out nasty unused stuff — I just use it before it gets nasty!

    I guess this is the long way around of saying, make a meal plan and cook at home.

    And, question for Sara on Virgin Mobile: How do you pay $5 a month? I do the $90 a year “service preserver” that boils down to $7.50 a month, thought that was the lowest I could go.

  197. Zannie says:

    Not to be undertaken lightly, but the best single cost-saving measure I have experienced was moving in with my boyfriend. I moved from a large studio by myself to a small 1 bedroom with him (and he moved out of a roommate situation). The rent for the new place is barely over what I was paying for the old place, so my share of rent was cut nearly in half. Same with utilities. In my particular case, I’m lucky enough to have a boyfriend who works from home and loves to cook, so I now come home from work to a delicious home-cooked meal most days–and though I don’t have numbers, I suspect I’m spending a lot less on food because of it.

    Number two would have to be selling my car.

  198. Gretchen says:

    #1 thing: buying my husband a $1,500 kayak. Keeps us married. (I am sure a divorce costs much more than that!) He had to give up his old kayak when we got married 8 years ago and I haven’t stopped hearing about how much he misses it since. Buying the kayak showed I cared about him. Aside from 3 vacations during those 8 years we hadn’t really purchased anything extravagant so this was an exception and much appreciated I think. :)

  199. Kyle says:

    The best action I ever took for saving money was putting a budget together in Excel for 6 months in advance. It lets me see how much I had at the moment, see how much I would have a few months from now, and track all my spending.

    It really helped me set weekly spending goals that I try to meet or exceed and, most importantly, helped me develop a bi-weekly payments to an ING savings account. Now, instead of spending money and then trying to put whatever I have left into savings, it’s the opposite way around. Not exactly financially secure yet, but a tangible budget helped me save, and I know that about 6 months from now, I will be.

  200. Zannie says:

    @14: When I was a kid we would take road trips with my two grandparents, my mom, my two sisters and me in a station wagon. It wasn’t comfortable, sure, but nobody was harmed by it–though, granted, there weren’t enough seatbelts to go around, which I would not recommend.

  201. Jim says:

    My biggest way of saving is automatic deposit to my 401K. ($800/month + 30% match from employer) It’s been my biggest way of losing money lately though! It’ll turn around.

    Day to day, packing my lunch for work ($10/weekday). $20/weekday for wife and me.

  202. anna says:

    1. No alcohol. My friends spend tons on drinks when we go out. I wish I could join in, but I physically can’t tolerate alcohol! I’m such a cheap date ;)

    2. No meat. I realised I didn’t miss it and my grocery bill was cut in half.

    3. Cooking myself and eating the leftovers for lunch the next day. Saved me a ton, as the others have estimated. Let’s take that $3000 per year savings by bringing lunch to work. Over the span of 12 working years, it adds up – $36,000! I bought an apartment for cash this year and this sum definitely contributed to that.

  203. BonzoGal says:

    Hate to be a kiss-a**, but it’s reading this site on a daily basis. It’s a constant reminder to keep my eyes on the REAL prize. Plus the tips others give in the comments are so helpful! I guess that boils down to having a community (in this case an online one) of like-minded frugal people!

  204. Jay says:

    1. No meat- like the commenter above, I simply stopped eating it for a while, realized I didn’t miss it, and have been meat free for a year now. I still eat fish, but only at restaurants and maybe twice a month.

    2. No TV- The Internet and Hulu.com are all I need, so why pay $500 for a TV and $50/month for cable?

    3. Focusing on the fixed costs. I’m moving soon, and I’ve realized that there isn’t a large mental difference between a $400 apartment and a $600 apartment. When I think of it as $2400/year, however, or as a % of my pay, or as the equivalent of paying 50% more at the store, it becomes a big issue. My goal is to commit myself to as few fixed obligations (rent, loans, contracts, services, etc) as possible, because those are far harder than other items to cut back on when the going gets tough.

  205. Brandon says:

    One I thought about while I was at home on my lunch break today. I bought a nice lawnmower (self-propelled). It set me back $300 this summer, but I mowed my yard 12 times with it, and at the going rate of $30 a pop from the local kids, it’s paid for itself.

  206. BonzoGal says:

    I’d also like to drop in a pitch for “Friends of the Library” type clubs. We who love and use the local library can do a lot to help them by joining and sending in donations of money, used books, and volunteer time. Our local Friends of the Library holds an annual sale of donated books and gives the proceeds to help buy books, furniture, and computers for our little, sadly underfunded library.

  207. BonzoGal says:

    @Bella, comment #94, said: “Often, people that don’t want kids have a hard time taking care of themselves in the first place, and can’t imagine taking care of others.”

    Maybe so, but there are some people who don’t want kids just because they don’t want kids. It has nothing to do with “not being able to imagine taking care of others.”

    There are happy, unselfish, fulfilled people out here who just plain don’t want kids. I’m happy for others who want and have them, but I’m also happy with my life as it is.

    (And as for the ‘higher taxes’ that might come with the new administration- I’m happy to pay those taxes so we can have good schools for other peoples’ kids, because I want to live in a country with well-educated youth as my neighbors!)

  208. brooke says:

    My single MOST FUN money saving action is- to agree with Trent and previous posters- to use the library more. I find books listed on The Simple Dollar and request them from the library. I save money on entertainment while enriching myself and y habits. So, actually, its an investment! My latest good habit is to get personal finance
    audiobooks and listen to them to and from work- it helps control my urge to stop off somewhere and spend.

    But, to answer the question most accurately, the single biggest money saving action I have found is to use up the perishable groceries in my kitchen. I used to honestly throw money away because I overbought, cooked to much, got sick of eating the item, etc. I don’t buy pre-packaged foods or frozen meals, so what I usually had on hand was fresh food. And that is a “use it or lose it” situation. Now, I work really hard to only buy as much as I think my husband and I will eat for that week and plan our meals realistically (thinking ahead to who will or won’t be home for dinner). And if I have leftovers from dinner, I make sure I finish them before cooking anything else. I have cut our grocery bill in half this way, and am improving on this all the time.

  209. Wesa says:

    Weirdly enough, it was quitting my job that helped us save money. By not having my own funds to buy clothes after a bad day at the office or splurge on big lunches or happy hours, my husband and I have been able to get a handle on our spending. Now, even though I am a full-time student, we are putting aside a large amount each month in savings. As we’ve watched it grow, we’ve continued to watch our spending so the amount will grow into a large down payment for a home within the next few years.

  210. Tracking my spending! It has made a huge difference in my life. The conscious intention it takes to enter all my spending into my spreadsheet every day has focused me like nothing else.

  211. Terese says:

    @Kim and @slowfit: It does cost money to have kids, but if is is only the expense that is keeping someone from having them, it’s a poor choice. That would be like going to a shoddy heart surgeon to save money, or choosing to have no friends so you don’t have to buy them birthday gifts, or being homeless to save on rent. Some things are worth far more than the sum total of their expenses. I only have a 3-month-old son so far, but I can already say that there is a lot of truth to “a baby fills a whole in your heart you didn’t know was there.” Having children is one of the most incredible, fulfilling parts of many people’s lives.

    Obviously, if you’re not cut out for parenthood, the savings are a nice incidental. But I cringe when I hear people choosing to have no kids/fewer than they want because they prefer money. I would rather be extremely poor than forego the joys of motherhood. This is one area where you can be “penny wise and pound foolish.”

  212. Terese M says:

    @Kim and @slowfit: It does cost money to have kids, but if is is only the expense that is keeping someone from having them, it’s a poor choice. That would be like going to a shoddy heart surgeon to save money, or choosing to have no friends so you don’t have to buy them birthday gifts, or being homeless to save on rent. Some things are worth far more than the sum total of their expenses. I only have a 3-month-old son so far, but I can already say that there is a lot of truth to “a baby fills a whole in your heart you didn’t know was there.” Having children is one of the most incredible, fulfilling parts of many people’s lives.

    Obviously, if you’re not cut out for parenthood, the savings are a nice incidental. But I cringe when I hear people choosing to have no kids/fewer than they want because they prefer money. I would rather be extremely poor than forego the joys of motherhood. This is one area where you can be “penny wise and pound foolish.”

  213. troy says:

    Kevin #109

    Not having a $500 car payment saves 6K per year. Paying cash for a car usually results in spending less on the car.

    So, if the average person has 6K for a car, most will use that as a down payment and finance the rest. By not financing a car, you are forced to only spend what you have. Same principal with CC

    Rather than financing a newer $30,000 car, which is easy to do, we paid $10,000 cash for a more used model. That was 5 years ago, and I still drive it. Best financial move I ever made.

  214. This is a great post with some great ideas. I also experienced a kind of “awakening” with the public library and cooking more was a big one for me. But I think the biggest one was reading Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Sure, he annoys the hell out of me and I can’t stand anything he writes today, but that book got me started on reading a whole bunch of other books that made me a PF writer, blogger, and got me my current job. Props are given where props are due.

  215. Chaturon Wattaporn says:

    1. Not having any debt, including mortgage debt. (May mean working tripletime to save up the cash, though! See #4.)

    2. Buying nonoffice supplies at Staples.com, such as water, toilet paper, paper towels, and buying them in bulk. For example, 96 rolls of toilet paper can be had for less than 50 cents each.

    3. Finding and using online coupons for online purchases.

    4. Work for yourself. Self-employment is a veritable goldmine of deductions. (And you can earn substantially more.)

  216. A says:

    We already do most of what is written here so I will just add maybe a few things:

    1. We use the cable for internet and phone bundle service. After the first year, the initial introductory offer went up -as expected from $40 to $50/mo. Then, the cable company increased our bill twice ($10 each time) in a few months with excuses of adding new options to our phone service -which we did not ask for- and increasing our connection speed again which we had not asked for. Each time we had to fight with them to get it down and we ended up right now with less than $50/mo and how? because we are paying for a much lower connection speed (DSL equivalent, 768 kbps) but we cannot notice the difference in speed! (We did check the speed through http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/) We use the internet frequently but not for downloading and uploading very big files so it works for us.

    2. Our library has free daily passes to museums, aquarium, zoo etc. You need to book in advance so some planning goes a long way.

    3. With a two-year old, I carry snacks in my bag all the time so I don’t have to buy on the road (and I have juice/milk with a cooler bag with an ice pack in the trunk. Think minibar :)

    4. About the prepaid phones, before we had kids we used T-mobile prepaid service. We paid $25 for three months (to buy 90 min) each but my husband and I did not use phones much at the time. Besides when we did use it, we text messaged each other and found it was free! On top of that, the unused rollover minutes from previous month do not expire for one year so after we stopped buying minutes from them, we continued to use the phone and gave it to relatives visiting us to use for short calls for one whole year!!

  217. Kevin says:

    troy – I see what you’re saying, but your logic is flawed. If I pay cash for a $10,000 or finance it, the only difference is interest. You still outlay the same amount of cash for the actual car, whether it comes monthly or a one-time hit from savings. It is a choice to finance a more expensive car, vs. paying cash for a cheaper one. You’re not “saving” $6-7k by paying cash for a car, you’re saving that money by choosing to buy used, instead of new.

  218. Sandy says:

    Several things over the years include:
    1) Breastfeeding both of my children…free food for a year or so for the new people in our lives. That also had the side benefit of fewer Dr visits, and no braces!
    2) Learning to cook from scratch: in particular pizza and a variety of soups. I buy the cheese in bulk, and freeze, so every Friday, I know what’s for dinner. And for soup, a big pot of soup can be made with $1-2 worth of ingredients.
    3) Buying a smaller house than “they” said we could afford. We have also prepaid extra nearly every month, and will be done with payments in just a few years (hopefully, in the 12th year of a 30 year fixed). Saves on energy bills, no big lawn to mow, and less time spent cleaning and maintaining.
    4) Driving used cars and driving them a long time.
    My minivan is going on 10 years, and we are thinking about buying another vehicle. But we’ve
    had 6 years with no car payment!
    5)Distinguishing between wants and needs.
    6) Utilizing thrift stores. Especially when the children are very young. My teen however, is quite picky, and we’ve discovered a store in the mall that she likes. It being her teen years, and all I’ve NOT spent on her over the years, I figure we can spend more during these years.
    7)Public Television….low advertising=less children’s “NEEDS”
    8)Gardening….saves hundreds over the course of years. Also, learning to preserve. I have a lot of Rubbermaid containers that I use to freeze garden items, and also leftovers. Feels like free food toward the middle of summer! Also, don’t forget winter gardening…we’ll be picking kale and swiss chard for the next several months, as they love the colder weather!
    9) Seeing savings as a challenge rather than as something “I have to do…ugh!” It’s fun to score a deal, or do something like grow your own food or make something rather than buy it. It’s really a creative process, and I prefer it to just buying new or processed every time.

  219. Amy says:

    1. Bringing my lunch to work. I started this habit my first year of work when my husband and I didn’t have much money. Now I actually prefer to bring my own food, rather than buy, and I get upset when I find myself in a situation where I’m forced to buy (ie. I didn’t bring anything b/c of lunch plans with a friend and then the friend cancels). I keep cans of soup in my desk now so that I’m always prepared.

    2. No cable. We were paying about $80 per month for cable. Cancelled it over a year ago and don’t really miss it at all. So in the past year I’ve saved almost $1,000 right there.

    3. My old car. I’ve driven my car for over 10 years. I love it and I will drive it as long as I can. The thought of getting a new car with a payment makes my stomach turn.

    4. Gardening. We had our first garden this year and I loved it. Not only for all the fresh vegetables but also the actual act of gardening. I found it very relaxing, it’s decent exercise, and it kept me so busy that I didn’t have time to shop! The freezer is also stocked for the winter.

  220. Mary Jane says:

    Mine: opening an ING savings account and making deposits weekly. It worked for me because it takes a few days to transfer money out of ING, so it wasn’t readily accessible. Also, I never had a savings account before. Now, everything extra goes in there: birthday money, spare change cash-ins and whatever I can spare after paying bills and budgeting for gas, groceries etc.

  221. Troy says:

    Hi Kevin:

    I am not really sure why you are concerned with my “logic.” The reason for the post was to offer up actions that have worked for us individually. So, I did. You wanted clarification so I answered.

    You then tell me my logic is flawed. Actually, your assumption of my logic is what is flawed.

    My logic is when paying cash, you eliminate the “option” of buying something more expensive than you can actually afford through financing.

    It has nothing to do with new vs used. It has to do with eliminating temptation.

    I am aware of the interest difference between between paying cash and financing the same priced vehicle. That was not my point. My point was when faced with a purchase price, financing allows one to overspend. Allows, not forces. That overspending creates payments

    On the other hand, paying cash does not give you that option. If forces you to stay within your means, because those means are all you have. No payments.

    Not all actions apply to all people.

    Have a great day.

  222. Trent, you are so right — the public library is the best deal in town. When I look at my tax bill, I see that I am paying the equivalent of purchasing 6 hardcover books to support my local library. And the benefits my family derives from the library exceed that cost in any given month! As a librarian in a public library, I am a bit biased in favor of libraries : ) but even so, I cannot help but marvel at the benefits they provide to their citizens. I strongly recommend everyone check out the local library and pursue some happiness there.

  223. Sara says:

    I pay $5/month for my Virgin Mobile service by using auto top-up, which allows you to top up with $15 every 90 days (instead of the $20 every 90 days required if you don’t use auto top-up), so it averages out to about $5/month… Actually, that doesn’t include tax, so it’s really more like $5.39/month.

  224. Lori E. says:

    I stopped shopping for entertainment and now only buy what I need, which is very little.

  225. Debbie M says:

    The single biggest saver may have been my decision to never get another degree unless someone else was paying for it (either directly or with promised raises). Now I just audit classes (almost free) and read books (free from the library).

    But really, how many degrees would I have gotten? So maybe the real biggest saver has been to realize how great used cars can be. My first car was a two-year-old car in a model with average reliability. My second car was a ten-year-old car in a model with excellent reliability. That second car lasted more years and more miles, broke down less often and costed less when it broke down. Also, I don’t have to buy collision insurance because I can always pay cash (I save $50/month towards my next car). Another benefit is that I have no incentive to be paranoid about little dings or about people eating in my car!

    Or maybe I save more by having a paying roommate. This wasn’t a change, though–I like coming home to someone without having to make an appointment first. I just kept doing it long after the college years were over. (And it’s really only a housemate, not a roommate.) I understand that I’ve been really lucky with roommates though–no crazies or dangerous people or people who ruin stuff or who never pay their rent for 2.5 decades now.

  226. Mr Porter says:

    A few things:

    - Moving out of the city into the deep suburbs has saved tons on rent, city prices for groceries, and the vast array of fun expensive (but ephemeral) things to do in the city. That, and…

    - … still not purchasing a car. The town I moved to has a commuter rail station, and lots of necessities within walking distance. So, even with winter approaching, I find myself playing a game of put-off, relying on my bike for anything I can’t walk to. So far it’s working, and it’s also keeping me healthy.

    - Believe it or not: Target. Although the bane of many people’s budgetary discipline, it’s helpful to have one store where you can get everything you need in one shot. The Target in my town has a supermarket in it, so I just pedal up to it with two constraints: a dollar amount to spend, and the size of the large canvas backpack that everything will go home in.

    And the big thing I have yet to work out:

    - Keeping my aging parents financially independent: Neither of my (separated) parents has anything in savings, and the years are a-passin’. At some point, I’m going to be catching some of the fallout, so I’m putting thought and energy into finding ways for them to earn more, save more, and keep physically healthy. Some investment now will save a ton of effort later.

  227. Jon says:

    I have my wife cut my hair. I have long hair so it’s easy. I don’t know how much money I’ve saved over the past 7-8 years as I don’t remember how often “shorthairs” get a trim. :)

  228. Moon says:

    For those who just can’t give up smoking, a great way to cut costs dramatically is to make your own. I put in a monthly order to http://www.cigarettetobacco.com (I looked long and hard to find a supplier this good) for enough tobacco and tubes to make about 6 cartons, and even with shipping it runs me $66 – that works out to $11/carton, or $1.10/pack. The machine that I use to inject the tobacco into the tubes cost me $25, and I figure it paid for itself after the first carton. I began saving $120/month the day my first shipment arrived, and that has ballooned to about $150/month at today’s store prices. Worth mentioning is that I no longer ever have to run to the store merely to pick up cigarettes; that’s another aspect of making the switch that saves me money. Plus the fresh tobacco makes a better-tasting and less chemically-infused smoke, and having to spend a few minutes making them every so often has helped me to cut down a bit.

  229. ginai says:

    Ok, now while I am a fan of ‘saving money- via buying ‘used’ or non brand names (on some things) thrifting and such… my biggest money savings has come in the form of me STOP living on eBay! I was spending over 1000 a month there and didn’t even realize it because I was ‘saving’ money by buying used.
    I LOVE ebay! but just by cutting it out for the past couple of months, I now have Christmas money.

    I will continue to buy on ebay… but just not as much.

    Happy Holidays everyone!
    Ginai

  230. LuciaElena says:

    GREAT website! Tons of good information!

    My best tip = watch out for leeches. Anything that regularly siphons money out of your pocket, especially if it seems small enough to be tagged “harmless.” I find them in several categories.

    1. Paying for stuff you don’t have to (LATE fees on credit cards, out-of-network ATM fees)

    2. Paying for stuff you can get for free (your Library suggestion! ditch cable TV for broadcast + download your must-see episodes on the internet)

    3. Daily Habit Leeches (even if you drop from the $4 Starbucks to the $1.19 gas station cappucinno, that still adds up to real money after six months)

    4. Rewarding Myself Regularly Leeches (you had a great post on how buying 2-3 books and 1-2 DVDs every week just for getting through was blowing a hole in the budget, and to seriously think about commercial/material rewards).

    5. Collections (sure, all those whimsical dragon figurines or Franklin Mint plates are sweet, but very few retain resale value, and they DO start hitting you at an emotional level where your craving can outweigh your budget sense.)

  231. AnnJo says:

    Putting out a cigarette 31.5 years ago and vowing it would be my last.

    In direct costs (cigarettes, smoker’s surcharge on health and life insurance premiums) and indirect costs (clothes cleaning and wear, extra teeth cleaning, breath mints, repainting smoke-stained walls, damage to and extra cleaning of carpets and upholstery, time loss and medical bills from more frequent respiratory infections, transportation to buy cigarettes), not to mention the big ticket items like lung cancer or heart disease treatment, emphysema supplies, burning the house down, or the like, this has to have saved me well over $100,000, and it took less than two seconds to do. Pretty darned good pay rate!

  232. Violetta says:

    For me the most important step was to quit eating out, incl coffee. When I look down at my credit card bills over last few years I am amazed by the amount of money spent just on coffee…

  233. Don't Click My Adsense says:

    Having home cook breakfast and dinner whenever possible.

  234. Kathy says:

    I took up gardening this Spring. I am amazed at the savings. I chose to go organic so I paid a bit more for organic seeds. I did go with all seeds and didn’t buy any plants. Instead of buy expensive seedling trays with the 6 pack inserts and plastic covers I bought just the trays for one dollar each and used 3.5 oz. plastic bathroom Solo cups which I stacked a dozen high and quickly drilled three holes in the bottoms for drainage. Borrowed a tiller from a friend, got free manure from a friend who has a farm. Bought two cheap 55 gallon plastic drums for $10 a piece to catch rainwater so it won’t cost me to water my garden. I did pay a bit more for organic potting soil for the vegetable seeds too but that was my choice. I feel healthier being outside more, sleep much better, and I don’t spend money going shopping. It’s much more fun to beautify your home environment with flowers and just go out in the back yard and pick your salad.

  235. jim says:

    Never buy name brands ;) especially in food.

  236. bobby says:

    maybe I could quit drinking so much pop!

  237. Ruth says:

    I grew up in a family where after all the bills were paid there was only $15 left over for food, gas, etc. I’m not saying it was easy, but it can be done. Having grown up in a low income home, I believe I am better equipped to handle myself in today’s economy. Here are a few things I do to help my own little family stay afloat.

    ~I make my own scouring powder from vinegar, baking soda and dish detergent to clean the stove, cabinets, tub, etc. This helps alot since I’m pregnant again and the fumes are really harmful.
    ~Knowing how to sew is priceless. I make my toddlers play clothes.
    ~Everything gets used at least once. The plastic grocery bags are our trash bags. Our empty water bottles are refilled from the sink. Old clothes are either cut up for cleaning rags. If they can be fixed, I patch them up.
    ~I plan our meals 2 weeks in advance. I make sure to cook at least twice what we need and freeze all leftovers. This also means we rarely eat out.
    ~I clip coupons religiously. And I only clip the ones we use. I’m more apt to buy something I don’t need if I have a coupon for it.
    ~I check the local groceries ad papers on Wednesdays. I try to find what is on sale based on what I have down for the menu. If I see a better deal on something, I revise the menu to accomidate the sale.
    ~I buy frozen vegetables instead of canned. I’ve heard that the frozen is better for you because no nutrients are lost from being precooked. Also, there is more in the bag than the can because the can contains so much liquid.
    ~I know what days the local grocery puts out it’s reduced meat. I can find REALLY nice steaks and roasts for about $3 a piece. It’s nice to have a little treat once in a while.
    ~I use what coupons I can at Kroger because they double and triple a lot of them.
    ~I go to the discount bread store for a loaf of bread. It may be a day old, but it won’t last long enough to go bad.
    ~My dad grows a huge garden every year and gives us what he doesn’t use. He also raises rabbits to butcher. We get lots of lean protien from rabbit from him as well.

    I think I will end this here. I could go on, but I might put some of you to sleep. I just figured some of this might help someone later down the line.

  238. Matthew says:

    I have always opted for automatic savings from my payroll. I have 35% automatically deposited to savings. Then I do my second of three saving actions, I deposit another 35% manually into my account. Then on the last day of the month, I see if I can sweep anything into savings.

    Once into savings,it becomes capital and I never touch it. I never use credit for anything. I use my debit card only.

    I always increase my annual savings target by the amount of my raise. I also always feel great joy in banking my bonus. I might buy something small and celebratory, but the reward is being able to bank it.

    I paid cash for my car, my condo, and holidays. Credit is something I avoid at all costs. I find it very ironic that I do not show up on any credit reports and Banks frown on this. IF I wanted a loan I would face problems. The thrifty are not recognized very well by the loan industry.

    I have always “saved up” for anything I wanted to buy. My Mother was orphaned during the great depression and getting value for money was instilled into me at early age. I am so grateful for these values. By following these “rules”, I have avoided debt and seen my networth grow considerably.

    I invest in index funds, annuities and cd’s. I do not believe in real estate as an Investment. It is shelter. I do all my net worth calculations excluding my home.

    I shop only at outlets for clothes. And for entertainment, I go manage to go out several times a month on “business dinners” which are free. Otherwise I prepare my own meals from scratch. packaged prepared meals are costly and home cooked tastes better.

    I think the “secret” is to love saving more then spending, and to live on less then you earn, bank the surplus, retain and protect it.

  239. Lynn says:

    As a Christmas present to myself I disconnected my cable service. $120 a month (average). This included my internet service, which I’ve replaced with Clear.net here in Portland, OR & share my service with my next door neighbor through a router. Cost of my internet habit now: $30/month.

    I watch all my TV & movies on the internet (Graboid.com) per month. Cost of my TV/movie habit now: $14.95/month (cancelled Netflix, too). Amount of TV watched when I had cable: 40 to 50 hours a week (at least! I was a committed channel surfer!). Amount of precious time spent watching ONLY the shows I really like: about 10 hours per week. I’ve always been a voracious reader but have read twice as many books this year than ever before (I’m over 60).

    I will never go back! Total that I pay for my “entertainment” is $44.95 compared to that $120 or so a month (and that was when I avoided pay-per-view-which wasn’t often!). And it’s inspired me to start making cuts elsewhere (why drive the one mile to work when I can walk?).

  240. Fawn says:

    After a long, hard day at work, I used to go to our Wal-Mart and unwind. I would end up buying so much stuff I didn’t need, and never used. I was living with my parents then, and wanted to move into an apartment in town with a friend. I had a major reality check when my finances were short all the time. I have come a long way since then. But I do have to work on my impulse spending. That is my weakness. I know how to save, and spend less, it is the mental side of it I am having a hard time with. I have a journal that I am keeping my financial goals and tips in. I have a monthly goal for money to go towards my emergency fund, and retirement, which will go into a savings account that I will mail a check to. I will have no debit or checks for these accounts. And I have a savings account I can auto transfer money to, and then my debt. If I stick to this, I can have all my debt paid off in 23 months!(Plus a little in the above accounts) Which is amazing for me since I have been paying on my cards for almost three years(and not using them.) and have hardly made a dent. Thanks for everyone’s ideas and strategies. :D

  241. Piggy Bank says:

    Making our own bread has saved us a ton of money. Growing up I ate bread at every meal. My mother made homemade wheat bread for the family. For a wedding gift my mother gave my wife a Bosch mixer. She has been making our bread ever since. The bread tastes better and cots less than half per loaf.

  242. Kelly says:

    I quit smoking 2 1/2 years ago and according to quitnet.com I’ve saved over $9,000.00.

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