I hear people all the time saying that it takes too much work to save money and that they would much rather buy what they want when they want it rather than seeking the best deals on items. This got me thinking about if there was any truth in that and if so, have I been wasting precious time over the years being frugal? So I sat down one afternoon and wrote a list of all of the many ways that I save money that take little to no extra time out of my day. After looking at my list, I would say at least 90% of my frugal habits take zero additional time out of my day and I cannot even begin to think how much they have saved me over the years. To prove my point, I will be giving each of the ways I save money a ranking of zero to five on an effort level scale. So if you are one of the people who thinks that saving money is too hard, maybe I can change your opinion…and save you a few dollars in the process!
1. Credit Card Rewards
This is probably the most profitable and easiest way that I make (yes, I said make) money each year. My credit card company offers 1% cash back on all purchases during the year and 5% cash back on selected purchases on a month to month basis. I usually average between $200 and $300 a year simply by using my credit card to pay for any and all purchases that I am allowed to use a credit card for. I use my credit card to pay for groceries, gas, plane tickets, hotels, doctor visits, bills, presents, church offertory, etc.**Of course the only stipulation is that you must pay off the balance every month or the interest charged will totally negate any cash back rewards (x100!)
Effort level: 0
2. Blood Donation gifts
Another great way to get a variety of freebies year round is to donate blood. Our local blood bank gives food coupons, movie tickets, t-shirts, flashlights, coffee mugs, Amazon gift cards, etc. to thank blood donors for their contribution. This is a great way to get a few fun (and free) things, while doing something wonderful for your community.
Effort level: 1 (you do have to give a pint of your blood after all!)
If you love to read, watch movies, and take your kids on fun educational outings, you really must visit your local library. I cannot remember the last time that I actually bought a brand new book for myself over the past few years. I can almost always find the book I want at our local library or on their eBook loaning site. I also get almost all of our supplemental books for homeschooling at the library as well. This saves me hundreds of dollars every year and helps me to keep clutter to a minimum on our book shelves.
Effort level: 0 (especially if you download books to your kindle)
4. Thrift store
I love, love, love our local thrift stores! For the past several years, I have challenged myself to try and buy used items first before I resort to buying them new and have developed a true love of secondhand stores. We have found so many wonderful things at the thrift store over the past few years that I cannot even begin to tell you how much money it has saved us. It also makes me so happy to know that I am saving good, useful items from being tossed into landfills. **Another perk is knowing that the money I spend goes to help people in need in our community, so that is always wonderful.
Effort level: 1 (only if you have to make multiple stops at the thrift stores looking for a special item, otherwise it is a zero, because you have to go shopping either way.)
5. Borrowing items
I am lucky to have a large extended family nearby, so borrowing items that I rarely need from them is a great way to save money. For example, one time I needed a meat grinder, but it did not make sense to buy one because it was only for a special occasion. Luckily my mom and dad had one that they were happy to let us borrow. We have borrowed cars, trucks, appliances, tools, etc. over the years we have lived here and saved a ton of money in doing so.
Effort level: 0
6. Cleaning concentrates
I stumbled onto the wonderful world of cleaning concentrates three years ago and have been saving a ton of money ever since. Do you know that you pay for watered down cleaning supplies, every time you buy a new bottle? Why yes you do! Three years ago, I bought a bottle of Mrs. Meyers cleaning concentrate at Publix for $7 and have just this past week, used the last of it to make a new bottle of cleaning solution. That means I have only spent $2 a year on cleaning supplies. It takes just an 1/8th of a cup (roughly 1 fluid ounce) to make one bottle of cleaner and the rest is simply water…I find that simply amazing! **I have had to buy new bottles over the past couple years because my bottles tend to break after about ten refills, but still that is a pretty amazing savings.
Effort level: 0 (you do have to make up a bottle of the solution, but you do not have to drive anywhere to buy it)
7. Use less
This is a great way to save money while spending no extra time. Do you know how much shampoo and conditioner you really need to wash your hair? It’s roughly half of what most people think. Less detergent, cutting fabric softener sheets in half, pouring smaller servings of beverages, etc. will all save you a lot of money over time.
Effort level: 0
8. Shop in your home
This idea sounds a bit weird, but how many times have you bought something that you already had at home and simply did not know it? I have done this countless times. One year, my son had outgrown his shoes and I could have sworn I had bought a pair the previous year and stashed them in his closet. But I simply could not find them! So I ordered a new pair online and what do you know….I found the other pair two weeks later! It really pays to stay organized. Besides being organized, a lot of times you can make do with what you already have. I will sometimes feel the need to rush out and buy a new outfit for a special occasion, but if I were to simply look in my closet first, I can almost always mix and match what I already have into an appropriate outfit. **It has taken me 38 years of my life to realize that no one even cares what I am wearing!!!
Effort level: 0
9. Use coupons
Yes, paper coupons can be a big pain in the tush, but they do save you money. The easiest way I use coupons nowadays is going the digital route. My favorite stores to use digital coupons are Kroger and Dollar General. It literally takes you only a few minutes to click on which coupons you want to load on your card and then you can head to the store. So easy!
Effort level: 0.5 (you do have to make a few selections on your phone)
10. Kohls cash
I have a love/hate relationship with Kohls. I love their prices when they are running sales, but then I hate their inflated prices when they are not. Lucky for Kohls (and me) they offer Kohls cash throughout the year. There are two ways you can earn Kohls cash: you either have to spend money to get a voucher for later or they will sometimes send you some in the mail for random reasons (like Christmas or your birthday) if you have a Kohls charge card. I of course love it more when they just send it to me:) Last year, I used my Kohls cash to buy six brand new towels and two fluffy pillows for my household for zero dollars out of pocket.
Effort level: 0
***Stay tuned for Part Two coming up next week.