Financial planning and budgeting can be tough. So, for once, let’s keep it simple.
Here are a dozen quick and easy tricks to help you save money — on videos, groceries, gas for your car and more. After all, keeping it simple can be the most practical path to saving.
1. Fill reusable bottles with tap water
What are consumers doing, buying fancy water when it’s available for free out of their home tap?
Don’t load up on fancy French waters in wasteful plastic bottles. Just pick up a solid, refillable water bottle and fill it with fresh, cold water before you head to the gym or out on a walk.
Speaking of bottled water, that falls into a category we’ve written about: “43 Things You Should Never Buy.”
2. Check out the library for movies and more
We all know that libraries lend books for free. But you might be surprised by what else is available at your local branch. Depending on the library, it’s possible to borrow movies, CDs and e-books.
Some libraries even offer such surprising items as paintings, cake pans and free online language lessons. As your librarian might say, “Check it out.”
3. Learn your ATM’s ABCs
Reading the ATM rules at your bank or credit union may help you avoid pesky fees. Some financial institutions have deals with other businesses. For example, I once banked at a credit union that allowed free use of ATMs at all 7-Eleven stores.
Some financial institutions waive ATM fees if you maintain a minimum balance, or make a minimum number of transactions in a specific time frame. You’ll find ATM rules at your bank’s website. Or, just call and ask.
4. Keep an eagle eye on automated payments
Setting up an automated payment can be handy for recurring payments — to your gym, for instance, or to online services for streaming entertainment or for charitable donations.
As the months go by, though, it’s easy to forget about the payment while money is being regularly sucked out of your account. Take a few minutes to log in to all each of your financial accounts — including PayPal — to track down and cancel any recurring deductions you no longer want.
5. Sign up for grocery coupon programs
Grocery stores typically offer electronic coupons through their loyalty programs. These can be great ways to save on grocery costs.
If you shop at the same chains often, signing up may be worth the effort. Often, the only membership identification you’ll need is your phone number. You may look for more savings by logging in to the program’s website or app before you shop.
6. Use reward points to save on gas
Pump up the savings! Many grocery stores partner with gas-station chains in programs that let shoppers accumulate points for gas when buying groceries. Punch in your phone number or scan your membership card at a participating gas station, and you may save more than a dollar off per gallon, depending on the points you’ve piled up.
If gas is a major expense for you, consider getting a credit card that earns extra reward points at gas stations. You can search for one by stopping by our Solutions Center and comparing credit card offers.
7. Be a coffee achiever
Financial articles sometimes make it sound as if the road to riches involves simply giving up fancy coffee. Realistically, the occasional latte isn’t going to break your budget.
Still, there are ways to cut down coffee costs. If java joints are your soft spot, consider joining their rewards plans or picking up a punch card.
8. Stock up on Forever stamps
This tip won’t make you a billionaire, but everything counts. When the U.S. Postal Service first issued Forever stamps back in 2007, each one cost 41 cents. In 2019, they’re 55 cents.
Here’s why they’re called Forever stamps: You can still use those 41-cent ones today, saving 14 cents off the current cost. That might not seem like much, but every little bit helps and this tip pays off, especially when you’re sending lots of holiday cards.
9. Compare costs for paying annually versus monthly
People and businesses like to be paid, especially in advance. By paying your balance due up front — on insurance premiums, for one example — you often can save.
So, compare costs before opting for monthly payments.
10. Stick to your grocery list
Mmm, that cake sure looks good! Hey, is that a new cereal variety?
Never shop without a list. It’s too easy to be distracted by a store’s colorful displays and tantalizing treats.
If you have a list — on paper or on your smartphone — you’ll be a more focused shopper. You still might sneak those triple-choco marshmallow cookies into the cart, but you’ll be less likely to suddenly realize you’ve spent your entire budget and forgot to get the milk.
Check out: “The 27 Absolute Best Ways to Save on Food.”
11. Join a local giveaway group
If you’re a Facebook user, perform a search for the name of your neighborhood. You’re likely to find a barter or giveaway group, in which neighbors offer each other used items.
Some, such as the network of more than 1,000 Buy Nothing groups, require all items to be offered for free. Others allow you to make trades or charge a small fee. Also consider this: If you’ve got a hobby — from tending fish to collecting Pyrex — seek out the Facebook fans who share your passion. They often know where to find the best deals, coupons and trades.
12. Plant a garden
Grandma and Grandpa knew best: When it comes to fruits, vegetables and herbs, nothing tastes as good as home-grown.
Think about what you love best at the local farmers market, and assess whether it’s reasonable to grow those treats at home on your own. Plant nurseries, county extension offices and libraries often have classes and lectures on how to get started.
Live in an apartment with no garden space? Those same experts often can tell you how to lease space in a community garden.
What simple strategies do you use most for saving money? Share with us by posting a comment below or on our Facebook page.