Are you ready to take your money saving to the next step and put money away in your savings account every month? I have 51 extreme ways to save money here for you, for those of you who are already rocking your personal finance and need a challenge.
Some of them are going to be strange, some will seem weird to you … or maybe you already do a lot of them!
Some of them are going to be strange, some will seem weird to you … or maybe you already do a lot of them!
These tips aren’t for everyone, but you’re a money-saving rebel and I’m sure you’ll find something that works.
One lesson I learned from my Old Order Mennonite friends – always buy the best quality that you can afford for the important things.
Beware of false economy, which means you buy cheap to save money but end up spending money on replacements, and often far more than you would have originally spent. That is NOT how to save money in the long run – it’s a way to go broke!
51 (Kind of) Extreme Ways to Save Money
Use a French press, re-use your coffee grounds and save extra to reheat later
In the morning, I fill our French press – that makes enough coffee for our two thermal mugs.
Then I lift the strainer, add one scoop of coffee (instead of four for a fresh batch), fill it back up with boiling water and let it steep four minutes. As for reheating coffee, I put it in a small pot on high heat, count to 30 and it is usually piping hot. It seems to take less time on the stove than in a microwave.
Another great option is to use a coffee maker that has a thermal pot. It will save you money by holding your coffee hot all day without any additional power use.
If you are a coffee snob, feel free to ignore all of this.
Re-use tea bags or loose tea
Just like coffee, you can get more than one drink out of it. Experiment and figure out what you’re comfortable with. EJ always uses his teabags twice.
Most of the items we know as disposables – from Kleenex to sanitary napkins to paper plates to cans of food – have permanent options. Recycling should be our very last step – reduce and re-use.
Use it up
Buy items that are guaranteed for long use, repair them when they break, or use them for other things.
Get new insoles instead of new shoes.
Put toe guards on work boots.
Learn to patch clothes.
Eat your garbage
From bones to vegetable greens, there is an incredible amount of delicious food going into landfills. Learn to make soup and broth. Basically, bone broth is made from leftovers, and it’s extremely nutritious. And definitely eat leftovers – some dishes are even better the second time around.
Ditch the TV
There’s nothing on it that improves your life.
Unplug the cable/satellite/whatever and save $60-150 per month. Using the internet, a commercial-free option like Netflix, or get DVDs from the library – all of these options allow you to control what you and your family watch.
If you want to own a movie, there are $5 bins everywhere – 90% junk, but keep an eye out for the 10% treasures. And if you’re only going to watch something once, just stream it and cut down on the stuff you’re storing.
Advertising really does work, so try to limit your exposure to it.
Drink tap water
How many places in North America have tap water that is truly undrinkable?
Most cities spend a lot of money – your tax money – making sure the tap water is safe and clean. If you feel the necessity, use a water filter.
But drink water – tap water – and make it your main beverage.
If you really do need a water filter and you’re looking for something that will last a lifetime and purify water in emergency situations, the industry best is Berkey. It’s less expensive than getting a filter added to your water tap, and it does a much better job than the little pitcher filters like Brita.
Seriously look at where you’re living.
Can you afford it?
When we lived in Kitchener (a fairly large city in Canada), small houses start at about $250,000, a rented townhouse is at least $1200 plus utilities, but apartments can still be found, with utilities included, for under $1000.
People looked at us askance when we moved to an off grid cabin in the woods, but setting aside money month after month felt great and led to us being able to buy my dream home in a sweet little village. Every time life seemed difficult at the cabin, I would think about our long term goals.
Stop letting other people tell you what you should be wearing! Thrift stores are full of clothes that were barely worn before they were “outdated”. Stick to solid colours and classic styles and, for heaven’s sake, don’t get anything that needs drycleaning. (Men’s suits being the only exception, in my opinion, but these days most men don’t even need one of those.)
Love second hand
There are always people who worry less about money and more about having the latest and greatest. Take advantage of their spendthriftness.
Lose the bad habits
You smoke? Drink? Gamble? Eat a chocolate bar and pop every day? You know you’re just tossing away money by the handful, right? Besides, none of that is anything close to healthy.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your treats (well, maybe not smoking – yuck) once in a while. Just make it a treat and not an every day thing.
Cook at home and cook from scratch
Do not stop at Tim Horton’s or Starbucks for “just a coffee”, or swing into McDonalds for a quick burger. It might only cost you $8 for that fast food meal but you know you could have made enough for the entire family for about the same price, right?
Make every meals from scratch and eat at home, and that includes school and work lunches. Learn to make bread and casseroles – you don’t need your hamburger “helper”, I promise. Classic Beef Stew can cook effortlessly in your slow cooker, while Food Storage Beef Stew comes together quickly. Take the time to learn how to do meal planning with your slow cooker.
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Eat more beans
Beans and grains are good for you, fill you up and are less expensive than some other foods. You can make homemade canned baked beans to keep in your pantry or again, with your slow cooker, make old fashioned baked beans.
If you make beans very often, you’re going to want a pressure cooker that also works as a slow cooker.
I highly recommend the Instant Pot because a) it’s Canadian and b) it’s the best. The price tag might seem off putting at first, but frugal cooks everywhere are discovering that it’s worth the investment. I can make beans in 40 minutes instead of boiling them on the stovetop for hours, and it doesn’t steam up my kitchen. Intensely rich bone broth that would take days is pressure cooked in less than an hour.
Cut back on meat consumption. If the recipe calls for 1 pound, try using 3/4 pound. Use 1/2 meat and 1/2 lentils. Increase the amount of inexpensive grains eaten. Focus your meals around the grain instead of the meat.
Or rather, boycott the commercialized version of Christmas that we have all bought into. Give homemade, heartfelt gifts to those who you truly love.
Find free things to do
There are many activities that aren’t going to cost you anything, from walking in the park to visiting with friends. And by visiting, I mean sitting in your (or their) living room for coffee, a home cooked meal, perhaps cards or a board game, and plenty of good conversation.
Always look for the ‘free’ version. You need to lose weight and get in better shape? Instead of a gym membership, start walking. Or turn on the music and dance with the children in the kitchen.
Take the kids
If you plan your activities so that they are family-friendly, you save the cost of a babysitter.
If you decide you need (or want) something, wait a week, or preferably a month, and then re-evaluate. This can sometimes be the hardest thing to do, because spending money is … well, easy. It’s very difficult to decide not to buy something when we really think we want it.
Cut back on toys
Children who aren’t exposed to daily advertising actually believe they can be happy with very few toys. Shocking but true! In fact, they can even make toys out of things around the house when forced to use their imagination.
Although there are times when it really makes a difference, many generic products are just fine. (Caveat: If you live in the US, you can probably “extreme coupon” to get name brand for better prices.)
Hand wash and line dry
While a lot more work, it saves laundry costs and reduces wear on your clothes, especially line drying. The more you work on increasing self sufficiency, the more money you’ll save.
Pay cash for everything
The only *possible* exception is if you get points back on your no-fee credit card and you are scrupulous about paying it in full each month. But even that’s not a great idea if you’re having trouble saving. Cash only and watch the number in your checking account grow!
And hey, find out from your internet or electricity service provider if there is a way to have your bills paid directly from your bank account each month. It’s what we do – it eliminates any worry about forgetting to pay the bills and incurring late fees.
If you are paying high fees at your bank, find another. It seems silly to have your savings goal derailed because all of your extra money is going to pay the bank fees! Credit unions are a great idea, as is ING Direct. Make sure that their banking methods fit your needs, and compare the interest rate they offer – it can often be much higher than a typical bank.
Buy local and/or in bulk
But know your prices and compare units instead of packages. If you haven’t already, start creating a Price Book so that you always know your lowest possible price. Buying in bulk, and especially buying meat in bulk, is very possible without wasting money.
Grow everything you can
If you can’t grow it, buy/barter directly from someone who did. You will pay less if you deal face-to-face with the person who grew your food.
Run the car into the ground
The moment you drive a car off the dealer’s lot, it takes its biggest depreciation hit ever.
Newer models can now get up to a million miles on them before being scrapped. This means that it loses at least half its value in three years – but it can stay on the road for 10-15 years after that. Take good care of your car and the repair value should stay far less than the replacement value. When a mechanic that you trust tells you that the repair cost is too high, get a new car.
When we needed a vehicle that could handle dirt roads, haul tractors and carry a family of six, the prices we saw made us want to cry. In the end, we found a fully loaded”Buy Back” Ford Flex for half the cost of a new basic one – a company had used it for a year and put just 8800 km/5500 miles on it. We got the perfect vehicle for our family and saved an incredible amount.
Use Swagbucks as your search engine
Really! Just for searching normally (which I do often), I earn $10-15 month in Amazon gift certificates! Go sign up – it’s awesome and doesn’t cost you anything. (Just remember to declare it on your income tax because it IS income. Don’t get in trouble for a few hundred dollars.)
Oh, yes, getting more things for free counts as one of my favourite ways to save money!
Stockpile what you know you use when they’re on sale. When a child is ill and you need Motrin, you can be sure there will be no sale.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
They will clean almost anything – even your teeth (just baking soda, please) and hair – and they’re far less expensive than any other cleaner.
If zoning allows, get a few chickens and a rooster.
These fun “pets” will give about an egg a day each (not the rooster!), eat bugs and weeds in your yard, replace themselves (with the aid of the rooster), and when they stop laying, they make good soup. The first step to that is buying or learning how to build a chicken coop.
Grow it out
Whether or not it’s fashionable, letting your hair grow long saves a lot on haircuts. (I can’t remember when I last had mine cut – I think it was before my surgery in mid-2008)
Simplify your wardrobe
That will look differently for everyone, but fewer clothes means less laundry and more closet space.
Revive the bowl cut
Okay, maybe not, because that was pretty awful, but it is certainly possible to cut hair at home, especially for children under five. We have six people in our home – it’s important that I find ways to save money while still having decent hair.
Dim the lights
Not only should you be scrupulous about turning off all lights that aren’t need, but install new lightbulbs.
Put LEDs (2% of the energy of an incandescent) in your closets and little-used hallways and use CFLs (25% of the energy of an incandescent) everywhere else.
If you really need intense light, use an incandescent in a spot lamp, but try to stay away from them. Buy them when they’re on sale.
(or whatever grocery store you have). The grocery store, other than the occasional loss leader, is the worst place to buy your groceries – more expensive for you, less profitable for our (valuable, wonderful, hard-working and under-appreciated) farmers. Go directly to the farmers, whether privately or through a CSA and discover how wonderful local seasonal food can be.
Buy ‘seconds’ and put up your own fruits and vegetables whether by drying (most cost-effective), canning or freezing (least cost-effective). You can also get a pressure cooker and learn how to can meat at home. That’s another great way to take advantage of great sales.
Especially during and just before holidays, stay out of the stores. The more time you spend in them, the more money you’ll spend.
Shop with a purpose
Know what you’re buying, go in and get it, and then get out. Stop using shopping as therapy. You can start saving right now by deciding that retail therapy is just not a good idea.
If you decide to give gifts, make them. Almost everyone appreciates food gifts, for example. As the economy worsens, storebought gifts are becoming passé – show you care by investing time. And try to make clutter-free gifts, like food or soap or candles.
Leave Dad at home
It sounds terrible, but retail experts know that fathers with children are likely to spend more, especially on treats and toys. EJ is usually extremely frugal – until he goes grocery shopping with the children and comes home with bags full of treats.
Regardless of who the impulse shopper is in your household, don’t let them put anything in the cart.
Rugs on the floors, layers of blankets on the beds, throw blankets on the couch, slippers and socks and cardigan sweaters – it is cheaper to warm up your body than to warm up the entire house.
Soap, water and plain razors
Simplify your beauty regime. When your electric shaver breaks (and it will), replace it with a good quality razor. Wet your face (or legs or whatever part you shave), lather up with soap and shave.
Use space heaters
If warming up your body is not enough, warm up the immediate area.
There are two categories: 1) Necessities and 2) Non-necessities. Do everything you can do to decrease spending in the first category and work at eliminating the second. No matter your income, spend less than you bring in. Take the time to create a family budget and learn to keep within your budget.
Read More: Is Lifestyle Creep a Problem?
Pull the cord
Unplug appliances when they are not being used, or turn off the power on the power board. Many appliances turn on quickly because they are only powered down instead of completely turned off.
Read more: Can you really unplug to save money?
Use wind-up clocks, either the old-fashioned kind or modern crank clock/radio/flashlight combos. If you have a smart phone, it has a clock and alarm built right in – you don’t need to have another clock that’s plugged in all the time.
Lego my Lincoln log
Let your children exercise their imaginations with toys that don’t have batteries – lego blocks, wooden blocks, Lincoln logs, wooden trains and trucks, stuffed animals and dolls. There are so many! Puzzles and books, board games, colouring books …
Stop the wind
Line your curtains with flannel, use draft foam and the put up storm windows or cover the inside with the plastic film.
Your mother always said it
If you’re cold, put on a sweater. And socks! No one is allowed to complain about the cold in our house if they’re running around with bare feet and shorts.
Block it off
Close off rooms that you don’t use, especially any uninsulated rooms. Don’t try to heat the outdoors.
Now you have a long list of ways to save money. How many can you put into effect today?