For money-minded people, frugality can be more than a smart idea — it can be a way of life. Whatever your financial goals, being more frugal can help you save the money to accomplish them.
To get the best been-there, done-that frugal advice, GOBankingRates challenged some of the smartest finance experts and money bloggers out there to give their best money-saving tips in under a minute. Click through to see the smart money tips submitted to the #MoneyMinute Video Challenge and make sure to follow the embedded links to watch the full video and vote on your favorites.
1. Find Ways to Re-Purpose
Why chuck your stuff when you can re-purpose it and get more use out of it? As the Ultimate Cheapskate, Jeff Yeager has plenty of tricks up his sleeves to save money by re-purposing household items. In fact, one such trick is to actually re-use your sleeves. If you have an old button-up shirt, “Just cut off the cuffs, button it together, and you have a perfect coffee cup sleeve,” Yeager said. “They make great gifts, too!”
For pants hangers that come with clips, Yeager has found this creative new way to put them to use: “With this kind of hanger you can at least re-purpose part of it by cutting off these plastic clips and using them to seal bags or whatever,” Yeager said. “Pretty cool huh?”
2. Always Get at Least Three Bids
Jean Chatzky said that when it comes to getting a service, it’s best to shop around. “Though making time for multiple meetings can be a drag, it pays off,” Chatzky said. “Getting at least three bids will give you an idea of the general price range of any project. You can identify outliers. If a quote is too cheap it may be a red flag for shoddy work, if it’s too expensive you’ll know you’re being taken for a ride. Often picking the middle quote is your best bet.”
3. Buy Used to Get High Quality at a Low Price
Kristin Wong said that it can seem like to get high quality you have to pay high prices — but think again. “One way that I found to cut costs and still get quality is to buy used,” Wong said. Her collection of high-quality, secondhand items include a computer, coffee table, dress, vacuum cleaner and car. It’s a “simple, easy way to save a lot of money,” she said.
4. Repair Instead of Replace
Just because you have a wardrobe item that is worn out doesn’t mean it’s destined for the trash, said Aisha Taylor. When Taylor wore through the soles of a favorite pair of shoes, she decided to repair them rather than replace them. She sent her shoes to the cobbler and they came back good as new.
“This allows me to keep wearing the same shoes that I’ve already broken in, that I absolutely love, and they go with everything,” Taylor said. “And so my favorite money tip is: Repair, don’t replace.”
5. Add Up Your Loose Change
Ellie Hirsch said that her family’s favorite way to save is to pool their change together in a simple plastic bag. “While it just looks like change, it can actually be a lot of money,” Hirsch said. The last time she and her kids cashed in their change collection, it added up to $100.
“Then we actually opened up bank accounts for the kids,” Hirsch said. “It’s a great way to save money, and it’s a great experience to teach your child about saving money — that even though one penny is just one penny, when you add it all up it could be $100 or more.”
6. Pay With Cash
“To help prevent going over your budget, especially when shopping at a mall or store, use cash,” said Daniel Fayette in his one-minute money tip. If your bank account balance tends to get too close for comfort to $0 each month, this is a smart trick to keep your spending on track.
“Having to actually take money out of your wallet or purse helps remind you how much you’re really spending instead of just seeing a number in a bank account go down,” Fayette said. “You can even set a cash limit on your spending by only carrying the max amount of cash you want to spend for the trip.”
7. Get Free Admission at Museums and Zoos
Susan Kessler finds free ways to have fun. At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art near her, “It costs $15 for admission,” she said. “However, not if you come on the second Tuesday of every month” — then patrons get free admission to the museum.
This tip isn’t just for Los Angelenos, however. “This is true for many institutions across the country,” Kessler said, including the Bronx Zoo which doesn’t charge admission on Wednesdays. “Check out a wonderful website — MuseumFreeDays.com — to learn about institutions across the country and how you can save money just by changing your schedule a little bit.”
8. Use Half the Amount of Toiletries
Annie Logue said she has a simple trick “to save 50 percent on toiletries for the rest of your life.” She said her suggestion is to use half as much toothpaste, shampoo and half of just about everything else.
Often commercials or box directions will suggest an amount, but Logue said she has found she can often get away with using less to make her toiletries last longer. “You’ll find that half as much toothpaste will get your teeth as clean as you think,” Logue said.
9. Find Coupons and Deals Online
“Before shopping for anything, I always check Slickdeals online or through the mobile app for coupons and deals,” said Amy Chang. “I use coupon codes to get additional savings even when things aren’t on sale.”
Chang has had great luck finding online deals on items for her pet cats, including 25 percent off a cat lounger that her cats use daily. “Why pay full price when you can get everything at a discount?”
10. Spend Less on College Textbooks
According to Carole Fleck, college students spend an average $1,200 a year on textbooks. With a little work, college students can cut that figure in half. Fleck gave these five tips to follow:
- “Rent them through your college or through online booksellers like Campus Book Rentals and Check.
- “Buy or rent eBooks through Amazon and other sellers.
- “Buy used books.
- “Ask if your school offers a buyback program.
- “Ask your professor whether a previous and cheaper version of the textbook would be okay to use.”
11. Skip the Gym Membership and Exercise for Free
Alyssa Windell said that she has a favorite way to exercise for free: “I like to call it ‘frunning,’ because it’s frugal, it’s fun, and you’re running!” Sure there’s a multi-billion-dollar fitness industry out there, but you don’t have to buy into it. You can stay fit with a simple workout like running. “So ditch those expensive gym memberships, get outside, do some fun work, get that work in, enjoy the sun,” Windell said.
12. Shop With a List
“Food is such a big part of any budget,” said. Alan Slagowski. That’s why it’s crucial to “shop for food with a list and stick to it.”
“People who shop with a list and buy little else spend much less money than those who decide what to buy when they get to the store,” he said. Other easy ways to trim your food budget include bringing a lunch to work so you eat out less often.
13. Have a Meal Plan
A grocery list helps you buy less, but Keri Houchin said making a meal plan is her key to using the food she buys to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. It helps her spend just $300 a month on groceries for her family of four.
“To make weekly meal planning easy, I made a meal-planning binder,” Houchin said, which includes 30 or more meals her family loves printed on sticky notes. “Pull out your sticky notes, plop them on the days” of a calendar, “and make a list of what you need for those meals.” Having meals planned and knowing you’ve stocked up on the ingredients you’ll need will encourage you to cook at home so you can avoid the high cost of eating out.
14. Buy Staples When They’re Half Price
“How would you like to have your pantry, fridge and freezer filled with half-priced groceries?” asked Teri Gault. The trick, she said, is a savings strategy she calls “investing.” Keep an eye on those grocery and pantry staples that you always go through, especially the higher-priced items. “Whenever it’s on sale, instead of buying just one, ‘invest’ in two, four, or more.”
This can lead to great savings on produce. “‘Invest’ in frozen fruits and vegetables when they’re on sale and then shop the fresh produce sales only each week,” said Gault.
15. Split a Meal When Eating Out
“My husband Kevin and I love to eat out, but this can be difficult when you’re living on a tight budget,” said Stephanie Bills. “We have found we can usually save about $10 to $20 a meal simply by sharing food.”
Bills said she and her husband typically order an appetizer and entree to share, and it’s usually plenty. “If you’re worried about this not being enough food, you can always add extra sides at a lower price,” Bills said. “My favorite is to add a side salad. When we do this, we find we get to try more options the restaurant has to offer, and save money in the process.”
16. Spend Less On a Night at the Movies
It doesn’t have to cost a lot to catch the latest blockbuster. You can save money at the movies when you follow these tips from Lorrin Forester:
- “Buy tickets at Costco or any wholesaler.
- “Go on cheap nights — usually once a week — these tickets are usually half price.
- “Buy concessions at the grocery store — even the dollar store has candy!
- “Avoid popcorn. If you must have it, get a small one. You don’t need a large bucket.
- “Wait for the show to begin before you eat or drink your concessions. This way you will only need to buy small portions, which are cheaper.”
17. Use Free Refills to Save More
Ted Jenkin said that his favorite way to save at the movies is to bring a couple of Ziploc bags with him. Then, “When you go into the movie theater, you’re going to order one large popcorn,” Jenkin said. “And at all movie theaters, guess what they’ll let you do? They let you refill the popcorn.”
Knowing this means that instead of buying everyone their own popcorn, you can simply buy one and get enough to share. “Take that large popcorn, fill out the quart bags for the kids and yourself,” Jenkin said. “Go back and get a refill. You’ll enjoy the movie, and you’ll cut your price in half.”
18. Use Less Energy
With her MoneyMinute video, Brittney Nielsen showed that saving money on electricity is so easy even your kids can help. Her son knows how to save energy at home with small actions, like line-drying clothes instead of using an electric dryer, closing the fridge when a younger sibling leaves it open, turning off lights when they’re not in use and turning down the thermostat.
19. Be Your Own Handyman
Elle Martinez said that when her family went from renting to owning a home, she faced many home maintenance costs that she hadn’t encountered before. By being willing to do some of the work on her own, she has helped keep her spending under control.
“Things like unclogging toilets, fixing the garbage disposal, painting, fixing dents around the walls — those can be done yourself,” Martinez said. Plus, getting familiar with home maintenance and repairs will also help you get a good price when you do have to call in a professional for major repairs, she added.
Michelle Jackson suggested looking everywhere in your life for opportunities to do-it-yourself. “We have boxed ourselves into always having to purchase stuff because we don’t know how to do anything anymore,” said Jackson. “So basically my tip is this: Learn how to do things so that you can decide later if you want to purchase a good or service or make it yourself.”
“You may find that it’s cheaper to make it yourself than to purchase it — and it probably tastes better if it’s food. Learn to do so that you have a choice and you’re not boxed in by convenience.”
21. Make Your Own Cleaning Products
To spend less on household items, “I stopped buying a lot of those commercial cleaners and started making my own,” said Amrita Singh.
“My all-time favorite thing requires only two ingredients that I know you have at home right now,” anti-bacterial dish soap and baking soda, said Singh. “Mix this up well so it’s like a paste,” then “store this cleaner in an airtight container and use as needed.”
22. Or Try Using Vinegar
Vinegar is cheap, especially when bought in bulk, and it has a variety of uses. Tracie Fobes’ favorite cleaner replacement is vinegar. “You can also use it to clean your windows and your mirrors and your toilets,” Fobes said.
Fobes also loves using vinegar to make her own sauces or dressings, instead of buying pricier premade products. “You can use it in your dressings, you can use it in all kinds of different ingredients, as a spice, to bring interesting flavors to your barbecue,” Fobes said. “Vinegar’s great!”
23. Cut Your Budget to the Bone for a Month
Joseph Hogue suggested giving yourself a money challenge for a month to cut spending. “Instead of going to a restaurant, plan a picnic or a family cooking night,” said Hogue. “Skip the expensive gym membership and go jogging with friends.” Look for ways to cut out every extra expense.
“At the end of the month, you’ll have saved a ton of money and will be surprised at some of the things that you really didn’t miss,” Hogue said.
24. Skip the Bottled Water
“We all know that we should be drinking more water, but the price of bottled water may be an unnecessary expense,” said Money Saving Pro. “Ban the bottle. Save yourself some money and start drinking from the tap instead.” Or opt for a filtered water pitcher. Even with the price of filters, you’re still saving a ton of money every year.
Linsey Knerl’s saving trick is her four-acre home garden, which she tends with the help of her husband. In just one day, she said, she can pick enough green beans to fill 50 cans of the vegetable.
“Gardening is something that takes a lot of planning and work on the front end, but you cannot put a dollar value on the nutrition, the freshness, the ability to just walk out and pick what you want and then put away food for later,” Knerl said. “We all know that food security in times of economic stress is invaluable. So I say start a garden — that’s how we feed our family of eight!”
26. Pay Less Interest
You probably already know about staying out of debt — that’s the best way to avoid the added cost of interest. But if you already have debt, you can get a better interest rate by consolidating debt or refinancing a loan.
PenFed Credit Union, for example, said that its members could refinance to get a lower auto loan rate to save as much as $2,000 on new car loans. “Now, I know I can think of plenty of ways to spend $2,000,” said a PenFed representative. “What would you do with an additional $2,000 in your budget?”
27. Cut the Cable Cord
Peter Anderson’s money-saving tip is, “Just to get rid of your expensive cable TV package and become a cord-cutter.”
“These days there are a ton of free, over-the-air content options, as well as streaming online options,” Anderson said. He said having a DVR like a Tablo TV DVR will help you record your shows so you can watch them anytime.
“Second, get a video streaming device — something like the Amazon Fire TV Stick, which is my favorite, for $39 dollars,” said Anderson. “Third, subscribe to a video streaming service,” like Sling TV, Netflix or Hulu. “Once you’re set up, you’re going to be saving about $100 dollars per month, and who wouldn’t want an extra $1,200 dollars per year?” Anderson said.
28. Commute With Public Transportation
Sam Walker said that public transportation is cheaper than most car payments. He lists these ways taking public transit can help you save more:
- “Avoiding traffic prevents you from wasting not only time, but also gas, which means you save.
- “No more paying for gas. Less money spent on gas equals more money in your wallet.
- “No maintenance costs of owning a car. No insurance costs.
- “Stop paying for parking and wasting gas driving around to find a parking space.”
29. Only Buy What You Need, When It’s On Sale
Bekah Jorgensen has some simple money rules her family follows to help them stay frugal. Even her daughter, Natalie, knows what they are.
When Bekah asked her daughter, “Natalie, when we go to the store, how do we save money?” Natalie answered, “We only buy things on sale,” and “We only buy things that we need.”
30. Teach Your Family About Money
“Do you have any financial vampires in your life that are sucking the savings out of your money and your budget?” Brian Brandow asked.”I do — I have three to be exact: my kids. It took me a while to figure out what to do with them. Education was the key.”
When it comes to being frugal, Brandow said it needs to be a family effort. “Having educated children goes a long way to saving you money and better preparing them for their financial futures,” he said.
About the Author
As a finance journalist and editor with GOBankingRates, Elyssa Kirkham covers finance news, consumer savings and deals, and banking. Kirkham’s work has appeared on major sites like Huffington Post, MSN, Investopedia, CU and CB Insight, The Motley Fool and a range of major local newspapers.