Fall is a busy time of year for many people, and it’s easy to find yourself spending a lot of money on trips and entertainment when the weather gets colder. No matter what season it is, you can get smart about saving money. Rein in your spending this fall by trying these simple money-saving hacks and tips.
Related: 51 Holiday Savings Tips
1. Don’t Stay at a Hotel When Traveling
Booking an expensive hotel room isn’t your only option when traveling. Airbnb is quickly gaining popularity but is still unknown to or untried by many travelers. This site allows you to rent someone’s house, apartment or even one room inside their property. If you really want to get frugal, you can try Couchsurfing, which matches you with people who have an open couch or air mattress.
2. Rent Your Place Out While You’re Gone
While you’re renting someone else’s place, why not make that money back by renting your place out? Instead of letting your apartment or house just sit there empty while you’re out of town, turn it into a source of income by listing it on Airbnb.com or a similar service. Make sure doing so is legal in your area and according to your lease or homeowners association.
3. Travel in the Offseason
It doesn’t take an expert to figure out that you’ll pay top dollar if you rent out a hotel at the beach in the middle of the summer. Save a lot of money on lodging by visiting attractions during their offseasons. Fall is an especially great time to head to the beach, for example.
There are plenty of East Coast destinations from Cape Cod, Mass., down to Myrtle Beach, S.C., that offer beautiful scenery, outdoor activities and more. If you’re on the West Coast, try Cannon Beach, Ore., or head south for warmer California weather in places like Laguna Beach. In addition to saving money, you’ll also avoid the summer traffic and long waits at popular restaurants.
4. Shop Around Before Booking a Flight
Take advantage of the many airline options and flight booking sites to find a great deal on plane tickets, especially when looking for Thanksgiving flights, which tend to be pricy. Don’t buy a plane ticket without researching price differences between flight times and airports. Sign up with sites that will notify you when prices drop, and be as flexible as you can when it comes to travel days and times.
5. Travel With Food
Any time you head out of town, you’re way more likely to eat out. While breakfast and lunch at fast food restaurants don’t seem expensive individually, they can quickly add up. Think about what foods are easy to pack and bring those with you. Muffins and yogurt for breakfast, and sandwiches, pretzels, and apples for lunch can make saving money easy. This trick saves frequent traveler Caty Gordon a significant amount of money when she heads out of town.
“Whenever I travel, I have a strict food budget and keep extra snacks on hand to prevent me from overspending,” Gordon said. “I typically pack a few bags of nuts, granola and dried fruit to have on hand in case I get hungry. They travel well, even on planes and over long distances.”
Once at her destination, Gordon likes to prepare her own food. “Even just a loaf of bread and block of cheese make a good meal on the go,” she said.
6. Buy Food in Season and Store It
Fall is a great time for many fruits and vegetables, and buying ones that are in season will save you money. Apples, which can be expensive year-round, are an obvious fall treat. Head to a local farmer’s market and load up on enough apples to make applesauce, apple pie, apple cider and anything else you can think of. Other in-season treats include pumpkins, grapes, mushrooms, figs, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and winter squash.
Learn the best way to store specific foods to ensure they last long enough for you to use them instead of having to throw them away. There are numerous food storage guides available for free online that tell you whether your favorite fruits, veggies and other foods should be left out on the counter, stored in a loose paper bag or stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
7. Become Best Friends With Your Crockpot
Crockpots are beloved by many people and for good reason — they make cooking and cleanup easy, provide leftovers and can be used to make pretty much anything. They are also most popular in the fall and winter when people are more likely to want warm, hearty meals. It will be much easier for you to avoid spending money eating out when you know you have a delicious stew or chili waiting for you at home.
8. Save on Meals Out for Your Kids
Many restaurants offer free meals for kids on certain nights. Do an online search or use apps and sites like OuttoEatWithKids.com to find deals in your area. Plan your meals out ahead around these deals instead of going out spontaneously when it will cost you more money.
9. Skip the Alcohol When Dining Out
A few fancy mixed drinks at dinner can more than double your final bill. Not only are you paying for each drink, but you’re paying for the extra tax and tip as well. Same goes for appetizers and desserts. Sticking to just an entree will save you a lot when the tab comes.
10. Know When to Buy Generic
Buying generic usually means buying cheaper, but some generic items just don’t stand up to their name-brand counterparts. Research smart generic buys and you might be surprised about what you find. Many generic items, such as medications, diapers and cereal are just as good as the name brands and come with big savings.
11. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk will almost always save you a good amount of money. Just make sure not to get too excited and buy a trunkful of items you won’t use. Think about things you constantly use as a couple or household — anything from granola bars to toothpaste — and stick to those items.
12. Split WiFi With Your Neighbor
If you live in an apartment building and are on good terms with your neighbors, why not split your WiFi bill? Doing so could save you both a considerable amount of money each month and maybe even help turn your neighbors into your friends.
13. Save on Cable
If you call your cable provider and ask to cancel your service, chances are the customer service representative will be able to offer you some discounts or the company’s current promotional rate to try to keep you as a customer.
14. Make Your Gas Go Farther
For people who drive every day to work, gas expenses add up quickly. Get more miles out of your gas tank by making sure your tires are inflated with the proper tire pressure and don’t drive around with extra junk in your trunk. Soft tires and added weight in your car cause it to use more gas.
15. Sign Up for a Cash Rewards Card
Numerous credit cards offer cash rewards. If you spend most of your money on groceries and gas or travel, find a debit or credit card that gives higher rewards for those specific costs.
16. Take Advantage of Holiday Sales
Holiday decor is drastically marked down after the holiday has passed. You’ll save a lot of money if you buy Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and supplies the day after each holiday. Plus, you’ll get a head start on your planning for next year.
17. Trade Babysitting Nights With Friends
Any parent knows that getting a kid-free night every once in a while is a great way to keep sane, but babysitters don’t come cheap. Instead of fretting about how much money you’ll owe the babysitter when you come home, make deals with your friends who have children to trade date nights. Take turns watching each other’s kids so you’ll get the night out without the added babysitting expense.
18. Take Advantage of Free Events
Instead of buying pricey concert or movie tickets, hit up a free festival or other community event. For Gordon, who lives in New York City, free events are critical to having fun in an expensive city and are a great way to meet people.
“I rely on my local magazines and newspapers to give me a roundup of events happening in my area that are low-cost or free,” Gordon said. “Plus, several websites will send daily newsletters to subscribers letting them know about upcoming free events.”
19. Rent Movies for Free
If you’re not taking advantage of the free movies, books and books on tape, magazines, and events at your local library, you’re missing out. Instead of spending several dollars on a movie rental or dropping $20 on a best-selling novel that you might stop reading after one chapter, check the latest releases out for free.
20. Invite Friends Over
When you haven’t seen a friend in a while and want to catch up, your first thought might be to go out for lunch, dinner or drinks. Think twice and invite them over instead. You’ll save a lot by buying food and drinks at the grocery store. Plus, you’ll be able to catch up without distractions or noise that often come with busy restaurants, and you’ll avoid gas and parking costs.
21. Start Buying Holiday Gifts Early
The winter holidays will be here before you know it. Instead of buying all your gifts at once during the peak shopping season, start now. You’ll be able to find better deals and take more time finding the right gift instead of being rushed and having to buy whatever is left on the shelves to get your shopping done.
22. Make Your Halloween Costume
Halloween costumes from the store can cost a pretty penny, and you’ll likely only wear them for a few hours. Save yourself some serious money by making your own costume. Find clothes from your friends’ closets to get your perfect costume, or try a DIY idea like taping green or purple balloons to clothes to turn yourself into a bunch of grapes.
In addition to being cheaper, homemade costumes will get you noticed more, said Peter Panepinto, who has made his own costumes for years. “One year, I was a bathroom and just decorated myself with a lot of things found in a bathroom,” Panepinto said. “It sounds random, but it was easy and different, and everyone loved it.”
23. Put a Limit on Holiday Spending Now
Whenever you start buying holiday gifts, it’s easy to go overboard and spend more than you anticipated. Talk to family members and close friends and agree on a spending limit for gifts. Setting a limit can inspire you to get more creative and put more thought into your purchases in terms of how meaningful they are and how they’ll impact your budget. Your friends and relatives might be just as relieved as you about being able to save some money while still enjoying gift swapping.
Use the fall season to create some new habits and try new money-saving tactics so that you can enjoy this time of year without worrying about what your finances will look like at the end of the year. Plan ahead so that you can start 2016 with money in your pocket instead of with extra debt.