The Best Times to Buy Anything:
|Department Store Merchandise||Y|
|Thrift Stores||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Show up on the day they restock|
|Yard Sales||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||After Christmas or springtime (varies by climate)|
|– Baby Clothes||Y||During pregnancy|
|– Kids’ Clothing||Y||Y|
|– Men’s Apparel||Y|
|– Designer Clothing||Y||Y|
|– – Dress Pants||Y|
|– – Lingerie||Y|
|– Winter Wear, Boots & Coats||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|– – Jackets/Outerwear||Y||Y|
|– Athletic Wear||Y|
|– Women’s Handbags||Y|
|– Flip Flops||Y|
|Perfumes & Colognes||Y|
|FOOD & DRINK|
|Groceries||Y||Shortly before closing time|
|– Frozen Foods||Y|
|– Plastic Wrap||Y||Y||Y|
|– Aluminum Foil||Y||Y||Y|
|Chocolates & Candy||Y||Y||Y||After Valentine’s/Halloween/Christmas/Easter|
|New Cars||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||near the end of a month|
|Accessories & Parts||Y||Y|
|Oil Changes||Early morning|
|Car Wash||First hours before opening|
|Airline Tickets||Y||N||Y||Y||Y||N||BEST: Tuesdays at 3 p.m. 6 weeks before flight|
|Outdoor Gear & Camping Supplies||Y||Y|
|Gym Memberships & Fitness Equipment||Y||Y||January is easiest to negotiate price|
|– Movie Theater||Y||Y||Y||Mornings and afternoons give matinee prices|
|– Broadway Tickets||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|– Bowling||Y||Y||Y||Off-hours specials, usually <10AM or >9PM|
|Toys & Games||Y||Y||Y|
|– Video Games||Y||Y||N|
|– Wedding Dresses||Y|
|– Outdoor Furniture||Y||Y||Y|
|– – Swing Sets||Y|
|Flooring & Carpeting||Y|
|Linens, Bedding, Towels||Y||Y|
|Mattresses & Box Springs||Y|
|– China & Flatware||Y||Y|
|Appliances||Y||Y||Y||Y||Holiday weekends, Black Friday, Cyber Monday|
|– Large Appliances||Y||Y||Y|
|HARDWARE & LANDSCAPING|
|Garden Plants & Flowers||Y||Y||Y|
|– Shrubs, Trees, Bulbs||Y||Y||Y|
|Hardware & Tools||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|– Power Tools||Y|
|– Garden Tools||Y|
|– Yard Equipment||Y|
|– – Lawnmowers||Y||Y|
|– Winter Equipment||Y|
|– – Snow Blowers||Y|
|Personal Electronics||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Black Friday, Cyber Monday|
|– Digital Cameras||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|– Cellphones||Y||Y||Valentine’s Day|
|– Computer Monitors||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Televisions & Home Theater||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Pre-Super Bowl, Black Friday|
Food & Drink
Eating out usually costs about five times more than eating at home.
Either the cost or the low-quality food will sabotage your willpower to save money.
Calculate your tip into what you’re paying.
Avoid the promoted menus since they tend to be much more than the standard items.
Don’t get dessert, fries, alcohol or soft drinks because it’s almost pure profit for restaurants.
- Even in combination meals, drinks and fries are rarely worth the cost.
Try to only eat with discounts.
- Use promotional sites like Restaurant.com or Groupon.
- Look in your mail for coupons.
- Take the customer survey on receipts to chain your discounts each visit.
- If you ask, you can almost always get a discounted children’s menu
If you must eat out all day, eat your most hearty meal at lunch since that’s when most specials run.
Buy what they’re likely to throw out.
- Call any pizza place and ask if they have orders people didn’t pick up, then negotiate a discount.
- Near closing, most food establishments are trying to get rid of their excess:
- If you’re courteous, you can often request more items for free in your order near closing time.
- Just before closing time, KFC sometimes throws extra chicken into the order.
- If you ask, most bakeries will give you a trash bag full of day-old bread.
Look for a small list of value items tucked in the corner of the menu.
- If you’re a senior citizen, browse their menu as well.
Combine cheaper menu items to make the same thing for less.
- Make an affordable combo by getting value fries with a $1 sandwich.
- Make a root beer float at McDonald’s by asking for a cup of ice cream topped with root beer.
Some restaurants have unadvertised promotions.
- You can download the app or join the email list to get free stuff, then use other devices and emails for the same.
- At Domino’s Pizza, ordering online is less than half the price of in-store.
- Five Guys gives extra bacon and extra cheese for free.
- Use the code 25OFF at Papa John’s online for 25% off.
- Use a Starbucks gift card five times for unlimited tea and coffee refills for a year.
If you have kids, only go where they eat for free.
In a coffee shop, baristas will occasionally overfill your order if you get a medium drink in a large cup.
Since you’re paying for convenience, avoid vending machines as much as possible.
- When you use one, insert the lowest-value coins first to ensure the machine works.
- If your food is stuck, buy the item above it instead of the same one to knock it loose.
Buy a large freezer to store food when it goes on sale.
Avoid one-item trips that waste gas and inspire additional purchases.
Never buy food on impulse:
- Make a list before you go.
- Eat right before you go.
- Go alone to avoid peer pressure to buy more.
Communicate with your spouse, partner or roommate about plans to prevent a double-purchase.
Buy produce through a food-sharing website or a co-op.
Some food is always over-priced for convenience or inferior quality:
- Bottled, prepared or powdered teas
- Boxed rice or side-dish mixes
- Frozen pre-formed meat patties
- Gourmet frozen vegetables
- Individual 100-calorie servings of anything
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Pre-mixed alcoholic drinks
- Salad kits
- Snack/lunch packs
- Spice mixes
- Girl Scout cookies (Keebler sells them year-round under different branded names)
Compare choices before committing to buying.
- Canned goods are sometimes more expensive than frozen or fresh.
- Canned store-brand items sometimes use more water than branded ones.
- Store-brand milk is sometimes watered down.
- Store-brand spices are sometimes ground together with inferior portions of the plant.
Engineer your grocery store experience to save money:
- Set a time limit to avoid buying more as your inhibitions drop.
- Get through the store faster by listening to upbeat music.
- Grab a smaller cart or a basket to avoid the urge to fill a larger one.
- Avoid the deli counter and fresh bakery.
- Time your visit for days the store stocks its fresh fruits and vegetables or clears its old inventory.
- Visit during the slow part of the day like late at night or late morning to avoid stress from other shoppers.
- Look at the price per ounce, not for the container.
- Store brands are usually far cheaper.
- Many brand coupons only mark their products down to store-brand price.
- grab quickly perishable items, like milk or eggs, from the back of the rack.
- Look in the clearance bins, discount areas, and meats on Manager’s Special.
- Don’t buy anything you don’t need just because it’s cheap, even with coupons!
Try all the stores at least a few times to find out which items are most affordable in each:
- Use the weekly online ads through the Sunday newspaper or services like LOZO to find things to stockpile.
- Find the weekly and seasonal pattern that your store sets sales and discounts by tracking on a spreadsheet.
- Look for in-store sales and specials.
- Note the expiration dates on the food, then come back a day or two before it expires to see it in the clearance rack
- Avoid buying anything at corner stores, gas stations, and convenience stores that design themselves for impulse buys.
- Try discount grocery stores where you rent carts and bag your own groceries.
Cook every meal possible at home.
Create a weekly meal plan to make easier spending decisions in less time.
Find every possible way to avoid throwing food out:
- Use items in the back of the fridge first.
- Learn the best way to store food.
- Cook and store large batches to freeze, can or repurpose for other meals.
- Turn spoiled food into compost or pet food.
- Use every part of each vegetable for something.
- Make “leftover meals” to combine multiple leftovers into another meal.
- Add ingredients into Supercook or MyFridgeFood to find new recipes.
Pack lunches for work:
- Make an ice pack for a cooler by freezing a water bottle or wet sponge/paper towel in a plastic bag.
- Make packs that get cold but not hard by mixing one part rubbing alcohol and three parts water in freezer bags.
- Improvise a bottle holder by running tube socks over a bottle.
- Keep a cut apple from browning by wrapping a rubber band around it.
- Make condiment storage containers:
- Squirt the condiment into a straw.
- Pinch the straw with needle-nose pliers.
- Heat one side of the straw with a lighter to seal it.
- Pinch and heat the other side of the straw.
- Make individual coffee packs:
- Fill a coffee filter with coffee or tea.
- Tie the filter with unscented dental floss or string.
- Store the filter bags in plastic sandwich bags for use later.
Drink plenty of water in between meals to cut down on how much you eat:
- Drink more water and tea than milk or sweetened drinks.
- Don’t buy bottled water and keep a portable filter or drink tap water.
Learn how to be a better cook to make better meals with less.
- Buy tougher cuts of meat and cook or slow-cook them on lower temperatures for longer.
Use more affordable staples:
- Eat less meat, more vegetables, and more rice.
- Breakfast – oats with raisins or a banana, milk, tea bags, 3-egg omelet with peppers and cheese
- Lunch – peanut butter & jelly sandwich, banana, leftovers from dinner
- Dinner – rice and beans, ground beef, cheese, avocado, homemade bread, homemade salad, pasta
- Snacks – granola, carrots, produce
When it makes sense, make your own food:
- Baby food (throw whatever you want a blender)
- Bread (more straightforward than it sounds)
- Brewed coffee and coffee mix drinks (get a coffee machine or a pour-over cone for better quality for less)
- Frozen fruit bars (store fruit juice in the freezer with popsicle sticks)
- Fruit (plant trees of what you want)
- Gourmet ice cream (mix your favorite candies into ice cream)
- Granola (bake oats and your favorite fruits)
- Pickles (seal cucumbers in a jar with vinegar and let sit)
- Tomato-based pasta sauces (mix tomato sauce with your favorite spices)
- Trail mix
Most food manufacturers set expiration dates long before food spoils.
- Early expirations dates make more profit for manufacturers.
- Stores, however, still honor those dates and will sell it near the declared expiration date at close to half-price
- Instead, honor how the food smells and looks.
Avoid junk foods or anything easy to binge on:
- High-sugar cereals
- Chips and snack foods
- Frozen dinners and snacks
Keep quick-prepare meals for the days you feel too lazy to cook.
If you have a balanced diet, multivitamins are a waste of money.
Smoking and other tobacco products are prohibitively expensive and hike up health insurance costs.
If you need eyewear, buy glasses instead of contacts.
- Browse optical shops like Zenni, Warby Parker, and large department stores.
- When your glasses break:
- Apply clear nail polish to keep eyeglass screws from coming undone.
- Use craft glue to secure the frames when they bend.
- Invest in electronics tools to repair your own glasses.
If you use it, a gym membership or exercise equipment is far cheaper than a medical emergency.
- Negotiate with the gym for a better rate, a few free months or for them to waive the initiation fee.
Use generic prescription drugs whenever possible and price-compare between pharmacies.
- A 3-month supply is usually cheaper than purchasing month-to-month.
Unconventional health insurance alternatives:
Look into an HSA (Health Savings Account).
- An HSA pairs with high-deductible insurance policies as a tax-sheltered savings account for medical expenses.
- While an HSA rolls forward every year and gains interest, an FSA (Flexible Spending Account) loses unused money at the end of the year
Join a health care sharing ministry.
- Health care sharing ministries are voluntary charitable membership organizations that share medical expenses among the members.
- They operate almost the same as conventional health insurance with different terminology.
- Their rates are often half the cost of similar health insurance.
Purchase a short-term health insurance policy that lasts about 1-11 months.
Buy alternative insurance plans.
- They can be fixed-benefit insurance, critical illness insurance, accident insurance, etc.
- They give cash directly.
- If you do, max out medical and underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage to cut down on your health insurance costs.
If you need primary care more than a few times a year, join a direct primary care practice for a monthly fee.
Sign up for a telemedicine service where doctors answer simple medical issues via phone calls, email or video chatting.
When you must go to the hospital:
Visit cash-only doctors and retail clinics for primary healthcare.
Work with a medical bill negotiation service.
If you need surgery, use facilities that offer up-front “package” prices for self-paying patients.
Go to a local cosmetology school for pedicures, manicures, eyebrow shaping and most hair appointments:
If you’re nervous about your hair getting ruined, ask for a more experienced stylist trainee or request for expert supervision.
Learn how to cut your hair, color it, and paint your nails:
- Choose low-maintenance hairstyles.
- Buy used hair styling tools online and refurbished.
Get massages at local massage schools or cosmetology schools.
Use bar soap instead of body wash.
Save on hair products:
- Set the shampoo bottle upside down when you’re finished showering and it’s nearly empty.
- Discount and dollar stores sell good-quality shampoos and conditioners.
- Many stores offer hair sprays and lotions in the travel-size bins for you to test them.
Clothes & Linens
Don’t buy more linens, blankets, sheets, towels or comforters than you will use.
Only buy clothes that match everything and will stay in fashion for a while.
- Only get shoes with a purpose or associated outfit.
Trade clothing with friends or use Rent the Runway.
Get clothing larger than your size and learn how to shrink them.
- Shrink a leather jacket by wearing it in the rain or soaking it in water
- Since feet grow by about 5-10% during the day, shop for shoes in the evening.
- For shoes too big, carefully glue a piece of velvet flat inside the shoes.
Only buy handbags that still look good after a few scratches.
Maintaining clothes and accessories:
Stop a stocking run with clear nail polish.
Keep button threads from unraveling with clear nail polish.
If pants zippers keep falling down, flip it downward to “lock” it.
- Run a keyring through the zipper, then loop it over the top button
Rub stuck zipper teeth with a graphite pencil tip.
Repair broken flip-flops by slipping a bread clip under the hole.
When you think you’ve lost jewelry:
- Turn off the lights and shine a flashlight around the room to see it light up.
- Stretch pantyhose over a vacuum hose and secure with a rubber band, then vacuum areas the jewelry may have fallen.
Managing climate control:
Close the curtains at night to stop heat from escaping and use a draft excluder when necessary.
Set the thermostat timer to maximize savings:
- 70-78° F when waking
- 60-85° F when nobody is home
- 70-78° F when people are 15 minutes from being home again
- 60-85° F when going to sleep
In general, only keep the temperature within 5-10° of your ideal temperature when people are around.
- Keep the temperature as high in the summer and as low in the winter as you can withstand.
- Wear layers of clothes and keep your feet warm in the winter and wear loose-fitting clothes in the summer
- Only heat or cool the rooms you use by closing doors or using zone thermostat control.
- Close doors and windows while heating or cooling.
- Keep the drapes closed in the hot seasons and opened in the winter during the cold seasons.
- Keep the windows open at night in hot weather and during the day when it’s cold.
If you’re only using one room:
- Place a shallow bowl with ice or a frozen water bottle in front of a fan.
- Tape a fan to blow into a cooler filled with ice, then run a duct out of a hole on the other side.
Turn down the heater when using the fireplace and close its damper when not in use.
Turn off the furnace pilot light during the non-heating season.
Spray the drapes with water and spread them across the window to cool the house.
To get better air flow, place one box fan in a window facing outward and another on the opposite side of the house facing inward.
Tape aluminum foil facing outward on poster board onto windows that get a lot of sun in the summer
Saving with appliances:
Comparison shop for your utilities and research with sites like Allconnect
Turn off the lights when leaving a room.
Don’t run water when washing or shaving.
- Take shorter showers to use less hot water
When there’s a non-peak discount (usually 6PM-noon weekdays and all weekend), schedule to use your appliances on off-peak hours.
Turn off all appliances you aren’t using.
- Unplug appliances that go on “standby” like laptops, video games, and cell phones.
- Power off unused second refrigerators or freezers.
Research a fridge or freezer’s optimal fill level, then keep it at that level with containers filled with water.
Only open the fridge with a purpose in mind.
Prepare food with minimalism in mind.
- Prepare one-dish meals or several meals at a time.
- Only boil as much water as you need.
- Preheat the oven only when necessary
- Reduce heat once you’ve started cooking.
- Cover pots and pans to keep the heat in.
- Keep the oven door closed (repeated “peeking” wastes heat).
Run full (but not overfilled) washing machine loads.
- Run the wash on cold or warm water.
- 5-10 minute cycles are usually sufficient for normal loads.
Use only full dryer loads.
- Clean the lint filters after every use.
- Cut your dryer sheets into smaller pieces to make them last longer.
- Alternately, sun-dry your clothing.
Efficiently load the dishwasher and only run with maxed-out racks.
- Rinse off all the pieces of food from the dishes before loading.
- Load plates on the bottom facing the center.
- Place utensils with the handles facing down.
- Place anything with a rounded side on top facing down.
- Don’t place large flat objects like cutting boards against the front or it will block the detergent from dispensing.
- Use a good-quality dishwasher detergent.
- Disable any drying feature and use the “energy saving” setting.
Don’t preheat your iron.
- Press light garments as your iron warms and turn it off as soon as you’ve finished.
Keep pool cleaning and heating equipment clean and lubricated.
- Reduce the pool’s water temperature.
- Reduce the number of months you heat the pool.
Energy-saving household chores:
Open up all the vents (closing them increases energy costs).
Clean out heating and air vents.
Replace or clean all air filters every month.
Keep the furnace clean, lubricated, and properly adjusted.
Keep air conditioner coils clean.
Shade the windows and air conditioning condenser in the summer.
Spin the ceiling fan blades down in hot weather to create breeze and up in cold weather to distribute heat.
Pull the fridge back from the wall by at least 1 inch and keep its coils clean.
Lower the water heater temperature to 110°F (140°F if you have a dishwasher)
- If 110°F isn’t hot enough, don’t go over 120°F
Energy-saving household purchases:
Look for government rebates for low utility consumption or vouchers for new appliances.
Add foam pads and side insulation to water beds and turn the heat setting down.
Mist yourself with a spray bottle and buy electric fans you can move between rooms in the hot months.
Invest in plenty of thick blankets and jackets for the winter.
Install light switches that control the plugs or add switch-activated power strips
Buy power chargers that switch off when fully charged
Change out appliances for more energy-efficient ones that save money with a break-even analysis:
- Find the cost of the new appliance.
- Estimate your monthly or yearly utility expenses for the new and old appliance.
- Calculate out the future date when the cost “breaks even” and starts saving you money.
Add a time clock to your water heater so that it only operates on non-peak hours.
Buy an automated thermostat to simplify your climate control needs.
Cut down electricity from lights.
- Replace standard light bulbs with energy-saving fluorescent and LED bulbs.
- Put timers on lights.
- Install dimmer switches.
Calculate if solar energy, a windmill, propane or other alternative energy sources can save you money
If it makes sense for your situation, get a radiant heat floor
Insulating weak points:
The exposed water heater pipe
Doors and drafts
- Energy-efficient glazing around window frames
- Insulated curtains, plastic or blankets over them
- Insulation shutters
Under the floorboards
Between floors and skirting boards
Attic access, basement trap doors, and walls
Water heater blankets (the government gives them free)
Plug leaks in the HVAC venting system
Plug gaps around pipes, ducts fans, and vents
Swap out electrical receptacle and switch boxes with foam gaskets or fiberglass insulation
Fix leaky plumbing and try to conserve water.
- Install low-flow shower heads and faucets.
- Install flow restrictors.
Cheaper cell phone bill:
Try a cell phone plan with a third-party carrier (e.g., Boost Mobile).
- While it sounds counterintuitive, primary carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.) charge more than third-party carriers that rent the cell tower use.
- Talk to a store representative in-person to negotiate the price down.
- Negotiating over the phone might be easier, so experiment and research.
- Haggle for features you want like headsets, waterproof covers, routers, etc.
- Pay close attention to long-term phone contracts you sign, especially cancellation fees.
Buy a phone outside the wireless plan and bring it into the arrangement.
- You can often purchase the phone for less outside the plan
- Unlocked phones let you keep your phone if you decide to change plans.
Look at how much data you use monthly and bring that into your decision, but watch for overage fees.
Get rid of telecom services you don’t use.
- Get rid of your cell phone entirely and only have a house phone.
- Get rid of your home phone that came bundled with the cable and Internet bill, especially if you’re not running a business with it.
- When overseas, use a video chat service instead of a cell phone plan.
Housekeeping & Furniture
Instead of paying for high-end interior decorations, learn to make your own with Pinterest.
Avoid buying new furniture:
Don’t buy more dishes than you need for a nice meal with family and guests.
Either buy dollar-store cleaning supplies or create at-home alternatives:
- Make alternative cleaning supplies.
- Try using melamine foam (branded as the Magic Eraser).
- Though it’s counterintuitive, detergent pods space out how much laundry soap you use to make it last longer.
Don’t buy premium electronics or ones that offer convenience and simplicity for a much higher cost (e.g., Apple).
Always buy technology at least two years old.
Maintaining your tech:
Keep laptops from overheating by placing two identical forks underneath it.
Keep video game consoles from overheating by putting 20 oz bottle caps underneath the console.
If keyboard feet break, use binder clips.
Protect your chargers by running the cord through an old pen spring.
Protect your mobile device’s screen from water by putting it inside a plastic bag.
Blow the dust out of your computers at least once every six months.
Extend the battery lives of computers:
- Turning off flash on a phone’s camera improves battery life, even when it’s unused.
- Turning on and off a phone burns more battery than just putting it in airplane mode.
- To extend a laptop’s battery life, keep the battery between 40% and 80%.
- Use your phone only when it’s not charging to keep the battery from getting ruined.
Store batteries in the freezer in sealed plastic bags to double their lifespan:
- Even if you don’t store them in the freezer, put them in the fridge for a day before using.
- Rechargeable batteries will charge a little inside the freezer.
Test your batteries before throwing them away:
- Drop the battery six inches above a flat surface: it’s still good if it barely bounces but is dead if it jumps a few times.
- Lick your finger and place on one end, then put your tongue on the other, if it tingles there’s still a charge.
You can occasionally substitute a different battery:
- If you only have one battery, use a steel screw on the other side to close the circuit
- To use an AAA battery in an AA battery slot, put a small wad of tinfoil on the positive side of the AAA battery
If you ever lose your phone or tablet:
- Ring, erase or lock it remotely with Android Device Manager, which even works in Silent Mode.
- if you lost an Android OS phone and it’s on vibrate, you can tell it to ring from the Google Play Store.
- You can also Google search “find my phone” to locate your Android.
- Apple customer support can often find your phone if you call them.
Play Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to test all the sound ranges for a blown speaker.
Improvising electronics accessories:
Make a hoodie into a laptop case:
- Center the laptop on the jacket.
- Wrap the bottom of the jacket over the laptop.
- Close the hood over the top and tie the strings together.
- Tie the hands together to make it into a sling.
Reuse a glasses or sunglasses case as a phone accessory case.
Use a can warmer to hold a portable hard drive.
Make an armband for a music player out of a tube sock.
Extend the length of your phone or laptop charger with Christmas lights.
Make a phone/tablet stand:
- Cut a groove into the packaging the device came in.
- Bend a paperclip into a stand.
- Use an old cassette tape case.
Make a spiral cord by wrapping a cord around a pen and blow drying it for 5 minutes.
Create amplifiers instead of buying speakers:
- Laptops: cut a plastic cup in half and put it over the speakers.
- Attach plastic cups to the ends of a toilet paper or paper towel roll and cut a hole in the roll.
- Tablets: cut a slit into half of a tennis ball.
Make a phone holder with push pins.
Save on software:
Download the iOS Free App of the Week to get it for free even if you don’t plan to use it.
Adopt your cats and dogs from shelters instead of paying a retail store or mill.
Understand your pet to save veterinary bills on easily fixable animal problems.
Learn animal biology to understand what they must eat:
- Look for more affordable options than premium pet food.
- Avoid gourmet pet food since it’s usually not worth the price tag.
- Avoid generic or discount pet foods because they’re usually nutritionally deficient for your pet.
Train your cat to use the toilet with a relatively simple and affordable kit to save on cat litter.
Brush your pet a few times a week and bathe them when possible to reduce grooming costs:
- Large pet stores will groom pets for far less than a boutique.
Don’t buy pets expensive toys, since they’re more likely to play with the box.
Stay on top of routine veterinary care to avoid massive bills later.
Research with an open mind about the cheapest way to get anywhere:
- Night travel is less busy and usually cheaper.
- For long distances, it’s more affordable to sleep on a sleeper train than get a hotel.
Use a ride-sharing service like Uber instead of a cab service.
Don’t buy premium gas.
- The quality difference is negligible or nonexistent.
- Additives are cheaper in the long-term.
Join gas station rewards programs.
- Track your rewards with AwardWallet.
Avoid unnecessary wear on your car by driving slower and more carefully.
Stay on top of preventative maintenance.
- Wash your car yourself.
- If you use an automatic wash, the Basic is just as good as the Deluxe with a different color of soap.
- Even when they have a coin slot, gas stations usually offer air and water (for the tires and radiator) for free.
Increase fuel economy on highways with cruise control.
Increase fuel efficiency and tire lifespan by keeping the tires inflated.
Consolidate errands to save gasoline by traveling less.
Try alternate routes to navigate around traffic.
- Change your work hours to avoid rush hour.
Find driving alternatives:
- Find people you can carpool with.
- Research if routine trips are cheaper in a bus.
- Consider riding a bicycle or smaller motor vehicle.
- Telecommute if your work allows it.
Try to time when you get tickets.
- The prices usually change about three times a day.
- Book the flights 330 days before you plan on going to get the cheapest seats.
- About 6-8 weeks before the flight dates, the prices will drop.
- Avoid Sunday flights if possible.
Pay close attention to the myriad fees.
- Don’t book your flight with a phone call.
- Avoid canceling or changing your reservation.
Always search in Private/Incognito Mode in your web browser because flight services increase their prices each visit to create a feeling of urgency.
- Whenever possible, use lower quality or local-only budget airlines.
Consider direct flights (one stop flights) versus adding a stopover with the same or a different airline.
Sign up for airline newsletters and airline promotions
Use a service like SeatGuru to find the most affordable seats on a plane.
Saving at airports:
Pack items you’ll likely need:
- Food (make sure it doesn’t have a strong odor out of consideration for everyone else).
- Empty water bottles you can fill after getting through security
- Enough entertainment or reading prepared for the trip
Use a coupon service like Groupon for discounts on airport parking or have a friend or family member drop you off and pick you up later.
- If you didn’t pay full price for the ticket, don’t expect to get a free upgrade with the ticket agent
- Travel without a checked bag or mail it via parcel service to your hotel if you must bring one.
At the terminal:
- Don’t buy any of the high-priced items at the airport shops.
If you’re gracious to the steward during the flight, you can ask for anything free you need:
- Children’s activity packs
- Dental hygiene kits
- Earplugs or a sleep mask
- First aid supplies
- Leftover meals from first-class
- Slippers or socks
- As many refills of your drinks as you want
When flying with kids:
- Buy the infant-on-lap ticket.
- Get a bassinet seat.
- Ask for a courtesy bag for car seats.
- Carry your luggage in a stroller.
- Ask for children’s snack packs.
- As long as it’s not disruptive, you can always ask for a tour of the flight deck and meet the pilot.
Hobbies and pastimes:
Don’t kill time at the mall or a shopping center to avoid the temptation to buy something.
Cancel subscriptions and memberships:
- Get rid of cable TV and switch to watching free videos.
- Stop subscribing to magazines and newspapers and use the Internet.
- If you can’t find what you want online, visit your local library or use apps to “check out” library items.
- If you must subscribe to a magazine, pull the discount cards out from waiting room or library copies.
- If you want to keep a subscription, research current specials and negotiate the advertised rate
- If they refuse, politely reason that you can leave and come back to get the discount.
- If the rate climbs after a grace period, offer to renew if you can get the prior year’s rate.
- Many times competitors give big discounts for switching over.
Cancel your gym membership:
- Get home workout equipment.
- Make workout equipment with a duffel bag, contractor’s bags, truckers’ bungees, and pea gravel.
- Make an obstacle course with rocks, ropes, and other common household objects.
Learn a new language or create one.
Find new recipes or become a better cook.
Get better at chess.
Grow a garden.
Take onpne courses through organizations pke Coursera affordably or free.
Get textbooks onpne for free as PDFs instead of buying them.
Use a free office suite and editing software instead of Microsoft Office or Adobe products.
Use your local pbrary or the internet instead of paying for classes.
Start blogging, writing or creating videos.
Read more online articles and free e-books.
Use the library to find books to read.
Instead of buying audio books on Amazon, it’s cheaper to buy the Kindle book and add the audio book to it.
Only go shopping when you’re not bored, upset, lonely or unhappy
Movies & TV
- Bring an outside snack to theaters, but don’t make noise from wrappers.
- Rent movies or stream them at home online.
- Theaters run free and inexpensive films during summer months.
- Avoid the discount movie bin unless it’s a movie you’ve had on your list to buy.
Organize a self-guided tour around town.
Keep your experience unplanned and wander around.
Get a tourist card for huge discounts and free offers on attractions and transportation.
If you’re willing to look, your town may have many low-cost venues:
- Most cities have free concerts.
- Schools and junior theaters with affordable or free plays and productions.
- Museums and monuments often have free days and times.
- Many guided tours in large cities are free.
- Look for free entrance days at national parks and beaches.
- Hike in a local park since most of them are free or low price.
- Find a local community swimming pool to swim for free or cheap.
- Local colleges often have affordable rates for using their pools.
Look into local tourist promotions in your area or get an Entertainment book.
Bowling promotions are extremely affordable.
During the holiday season, drive around and observe the Christmas lights
Many venues have discounted group rates if you can get friends involved.
Fun with kids:
Plan for the expenses and event in advance.
- Children’s activities have countless expensive add-ons (e.g., amusement park food, gift shops, etc.), so thoughtfully consider what the real experience entails.
Many craft and hardware stores have free children’s workshops
Save on childcare costs:
- Recruit the help of extended family.
- Find a college student pursuing teaching or nursing that needs work experience with children.
- Look into employer-provided childcare.
- Send the kids to day camps or overnight camps.
- Send them to sleepovers with their friends.
- Start a babysitting co-op to give freedom to you and several other sets of parents for multiple weekends of the month.
- Some gyms and theaters give free childcare while you’re at the facility.
Find friends who share your values about money.
Create a mastermind group to achieve your goals together.
Invite others into your low-expense lifestyle with local community events or holiday festivals.
Host affordable events with family and friends:
- Invite everyone over for tea.
- Make a movie, board game or card game night.
- Visit a bookstore and read or share experiences with each other.
- Start a neighborhood block party.
- Have video game nights.
- Hold Scrabble competitions.
- Have LEGO nights with children.
When your friends or family make much more or less than you, search for activities you can both do.
- If you make less than them, boldly let them know you don’t want to do something because it interferes with your financial goals.
- Try to avoid borrowing money but if you must borrow then establish a concrete deadline and draw up a contract with an interest rate.
- If you make more than them, keep your thoughts to yourself and only loan money when you expect to lose it.
If you ever loan something to a friend and want to be sure you get it back, take a photo of them with the item when you give it to them
If you’re willing to take the time to learn, you can do many professional services yourself:
- Home repair
- Lawn care and landscaping
- Pest control
- Minor auto repair
For many services like law, accounting, or insurance, educate yourself with a basic understanding of that industry and its idiosyncrasies to prevent a service provider giving you an unnecessary product.
If you do need professional services, only hire experts for that particular niche:
Even if someone unexpected gives you a gift, stick to your gifts list.
Make more meaningful, less expensive gifts for others.
- Homemade gifts never risk making people feel the gift was too elaborate or valuable.
Artistic gift ideas:
Busy board decorations
Homemade cards, letters or notes
Picture framed of you with them or a scrapbook/photo album
A personalized T-shirt
An “I appreciate you” jar
Self-made works of art like stories, poems, paintings or sculptures
Jams or jellies
Soup mixes or cookie mixes in decorative jars
Baked cookies or snacks
Homemade sugar scrubs
Lotions, bath oils or scented candles
A blank recipe book with your favorite recipes written in the first few pages
Tea or coffee
Coupons for you to do things for them
Silly inside jokes between the two of you
Wrap your gifts in tie-dye newspaper or cut-out paper grocery bags turned inward
Use the 4-gift rule with children at Christmas
- Something they want
- Something they need
- Something they wear
- Something they read
When giving flowers:
Buy flowers other than roses or the season’s most popular flower.
Buy flowers at supermarkets instead of professional florists.
Avoid giving flowers on holidays that use plenty of flowers:
- Mother’s Day
- Valentine’s Day
Research what that person enjoys.
When in doubt, get a card for something universally helpful like a grocery store, hardware store or large department store.
Shop gift card resell sites that offer used or unwanted gift cards at a discounted rate.
Nobody turns away cash.
When receiving gift cards:
- Treat the card as if it was money in the store and buy items on sale or marked down.
- Avoid reckless spending from the extra degree of emotional separation from the cash.
- Buy a gift card from a different store with that gift card.
- Sell your card online or re-gift it by reloading the balance to round it out.
Keep track of the family members you want to gift to.
- Consider sending a card for extended family members.
Casual friends don’t expect Christmas gifts, so don’t get them anything elaborate.
If your kids give to someone in a classroom, they should give to everyone.
- It doesn’t have to be extravagant and can be as simple as taping a candy cane to a handmade card.
Coworkers don’t expect gifts, even if they give to you, but you should formally thank them.
Cut out the stocking stuffer tradition.
Skip the family portrait Christmas cards.
Valentine’s Day gifts:
Instead of giving an extravagant gift, put the money into an IRA in their name.
A handmade gift is usually more meaningful than expensive items, especially if your partner shares your attitude on finances.
Buy standard-priced high-quality chocolate bars instead of the heart-shaped boxes.
Save diamond jewelry for a more meaningful day (e.g., an anniversary).
Try a non-holiday time of year to fly out to family or have them fly out to you.
Make decorations yourself whenever you can.
Throw out bad or worn-out decorations, but keep the portions still intact for repurposing.
Buy decorations and supplies for the next year’s holiday immediately after the holiday ends.
Sell or gift unwanted decorations to others.
Make Christmas parties more informal to save on costs.
If you enjoy lights, mind how much you decorate with them.
Get an artificial tree instead of a pine tree.
Find free ways to take vacations:
- Raise funds for a worthy cause.
- Get a travel scholarship.
- Take up a challenge and get sponsored for something intense.
- Enter a contest.
Saving on lodging:
Use the same hotel or chain frequently to occasionally get promotions or discounts.
You can save hundreds of dollars by choosing somewhere half a mile away from the city’s central tourist region.
Request a corner room to get a more spacious room for the same price.
Call the hotel directly
- The 1-800 booking site often goes to a corporate office with fixed prices
- Hotels can pay a commission of up to 30% to online booking sites
- Keep their adjusted price when directly negotiating a price with a hotel
- Direct negotiation has risks:
- Booking directly with a hotel loses the leverage a good intermediary may give you if something goes wrong
- Cheap customers are the first people to lose their room if the hotel overbooks
Try to use independently owned hotels because they’re the highest-quality in the world and are far more likely to give you a discount.
Hotel tipping is mostly out of style but if you do leave one, put it under the pillow and leave a note to clarify who it’s for.
If you ever lose your phone charger, ask the front desk of your hotel because they often have extras that other people have left.
Alternative lodging arrangements:
Only get a timeshare if you’re budgeting a vacation every year for decades.
Rent out your home while you’re away.
Rent a local guest house instead of a hotel.
- Try renting from a local host through a site like Airbnb.
House-swap with someone in the classified ads for where you want to stay.
Pack a tent and camp in someone’s garden.
Look at renting a portion of a monthly classified ad property if you’re staying there for more than two nights or have a large group.
Try a work-for-rent arrangement.
- It’s usually not as bad as it sounds, especially if you do it for a few months.
- Go organic farming through WWOOF.
- Crew a yacht or cruise ship.
- Work at a hostel.
- House-sit for someone advertising it online.
Track your spending in a small notebook to avoid going over budget.
Be courageous when haggling everything, especially when you’re not in the West.
Only collect souvenirs you intend to use as decorations when you get home.
In foreign countries, eat at local establishments instead of familiar places:
- Ask around for the best places.
- Outdoor vendors often have the most affordable food.
Visit anywhere that serves alcohol during happy hour (which varies based on the country).
Depending on the country, you may be able to rent out a kitchen.
Depending on the region, you can walk or hitchhike.
Keep track of all your receipts to dispute strange fees.
Look into whether a country has a weekly or monthly tourist rail pass.
Try an unconventional transportation solution like touring overland on a motorbike.
Rent a car if train tickets are expensive.
If you want to learn more about managing money, read my guide on it.