Many of us think the best way to save money is to squirrel it away. However, sometimes you have to spend money to save money.
If you’re willing to front the money, some purchases can help you salt away more cash in the long run. Here’s a guide to a bunch of purchases that can help you save money, if you let them.
1. Produce keeper
If you’ve ever had to throw away once-tempting strawberries or beans that dried up in your fridge, you may need a reusable container known as a produce keeper.
This gadget is different from regular storage containers in that it is designed to slow spoilage. An internal colander keeps the produce away from the container walls to promote air circulation, a carbon filter traps and absorbs ethylene gas and a vent maintains optimum humidity levels. You’ll get your money’s worth on produce — a fresh idea for sure.
2. Smartphone protector
Smartphones serve as cameras, web browsers, calculators, flashlights — oh, and phones, too — making them indispensable parts of our lives.
Drop one, and the day or so it takes to get it fixed may seem like an eternity. That’s why it’s worth protecting it with the thickest, strongest case you can afford. I like the sturdy OtterBox Defender series, but make sure it’s not too thick for your pocket or purse.
3. Window insulation kit
Try touching one of your windows on a cold winter day. If it feels like an ice cube, check out an indoor window insulation kit.
When applied correctly, this easy fix can lower your winter heating bills by making your home more energy-efficient. Cut the kit’s film to fit your windows, position it with the included mounting tape and use a blow dryer to remove any wrinkles. Hot stuff!
4. Electricity usage monitor
If you’ve ever dreaded opening an electricity bill, this solution is for you. An electricity usage monitor, like the simple-to-use Kill A Watt monitor, tells you exactly which appliances in your home are sucking away the most money.
Try it out on a bunch of your appliances. Maybe it’s time to toast your old toaster for something more economical.
5. Oven thermometer
Many ovens simply don’t report their temperature accurately, resulting in money wasted on burned or undercooked food.
Solve that problem for as little as $6 with a simple oven thermometer. It sits on your oven rack or hangs from it, giving you a true reading on the heat. Now you’re cooking!
6. Coupons for local deals
Printed coupon books have long been a source of great deals being offered by local and regional vendors, such as two-for-one meals, movie ticket bargains and specials on entrance fees for local attractions like aquariums and zoos.
These books still can be purchased through civic organizations as a means of fundraising. Alternatively, sign up for Groupon.com, the electronic version that allows you to quickly look up current discounts and deals on everything from spa treatments and concert tickets to dinners out and dog biscuits.
7. Insulated lunch bag
Brown paper bags are so passe. An insulated lunch bag helps keep that lunch you packed at 6 a.m. perfectly fresh when you finally get to it at 1 p.m.
Whether you’re stashing a well-balanced healthy meal or a frozen Lean Cuisine and a bag of chips, an insulated lunch sack will encourage you to pack your own meals and save money.
8. Vacuum food sealer
A vacuum food sealer may sound like something only restaurants and stores would have. But you can own one, too.
The machine vacuum-seals plastic around the food you want to freeze or store, allowing you to cook it on your schedule. Cut your food waste, save money and have fun using it, too.
9. Reusable water bottle
Don’t wash away money buying disposable bottles of water for every run or gym workout. The cost adds up, and the endless flood of plastic bottles is terrible for Mother Earth.
Get a reusable water bottle instead. Maybe spillproof is what you need, or a bottle with a built-in filter. Or, perhaps you just like a certain bottle’s good looks. They come in just about every shape, size and material.
10. Shower timer
Timing your shower sounds a little like summer camp or the military. But if you can wrap your head around the practice, you can cut water waste and pare down your hot-water bills.
Cut your water use and bills down to size with a waterproof shower timer. These little marvels come in all shapes and sizes, affix to your shower wall and often cost less than $15. Now, you can come clean about your water bills.
11. Wool dryer balls
Looking for a chemical-free, money-saving way to soften your clothes in the dryer? Replace fabric-softener sheets with wool dryer balls. You can reuse them for years, so there’s no need to buy softener sheets anymore. They’re fairly cheap — you can get six for under $20.
12. Multiple-use cooker
Who has room in their kitchen for a half-dozen small appliances? The much-raved-about Instant Pot and other electric multiple-function cookers can replace your slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker and more.
A multiple-use cooker allows you to make a wide variety of dishes at home, including bread and wine. Save money by cooking at home and buying tougher, cheaper cuts of meat that cook to fall-off-the-bone tender in these devices.
13. Rechargeable batteries
Single-use batteries are wasteful. And they can be pricey. So, consider using rechargeable batteries.
They may not be right for every item you own. Because their initial cost is higher than disposables, they are best for high-use items, such as video-game controllers. Charge!
14. Warehouse club membership
Warehouse clubs, such as Sam's Club, are here to stay. Be smart about using your membership, and you’ll recoup the yearly fee quickly.
In addition to buying food and toiletries in bulk at discounted prices, these stores typically offer prescription deals, bargains on eyeglasses, travel packages, cheap gas and even discounted gift cards.
15. Food dehydrator
If you’re a huge fan of dried fruit or jerky, food dehydrators are a fun DIY money-saver.
Frequent campers use dried foods as easy and tasty supplies to pack for a hike or camping trip. Avid gardeners turn to dehydrators when apple trees overwhelm their pie-making abilities.
16. Reusable Swiffer-style pads
Swiffer mops and sweepers can be a wonderful way to keep on top of messy floors. After you’ve purchased the sweeper, however, it can be pricey to keep buying boxes of the brand-name wet or dry replacement cloths to use with it.
17. Tire-pressure gauge
Driving with properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage by up to 3%, the federal government reports. That saves you gas and helps your tires last longer as well.
Tire gauges come in both digital and analog. This is one purchase that won’t break the bank.
18. Basic sewing kit
Grandma knew how to do the mending, and you can, too. A simple sewing kit enables you to reattach buttons, fix small rips and tears, add a patch and perform other small clothing repairs.
Sew far, so good.
If you’ve switched from sugary sodas to sparkling water, good for you! You’re staying hydrated while avoiding heavy sugars or sweeteners.
A SodaStream home carbonation machine lets you make all the fizzy water you want, flavor it as you like and be kind to the environment by eschewing disposable cans and bottles.
These machines aren’t cheap — and you’ll need to keep buying carbonating gas cylinders to use one. But you can get started for around $100, and the long-term savings may be worth the investment.
20. Meal-kit delivery service
Meal-kit delivery services like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and Gobble send you boxes of ingredients — some even come pre-cut and measured — and instructions so you can make healthy meals quickly. The subscription fees seem pricey at first glance. But these services often can work out to big savings.
It’s tough to put a price on the relief of not having to plan healthy weekly meals — not to mention all that shopping — and it’s definitely less expensive than eating out.
21. Small chest freezer
Remember the warehouse-club membership (No. 14) and vacuum food sealer (No. 8) that we suggested above? You’ll save even more if you pair them with a small chest freezer (starting at about $190) for storing all the yummy bargains you purchased and sealed.
A good bike can save you money on gasoline, car repairs and parking — not to mention the benefits of improved health.
Commuting by bike isn’t practical in every climate, but if you are able to bike to work, it can be wheely fun.
23. Heated mattress pad
Electric blankets are nice, but strap a heated mattress pad onto your bed and you’ll find yourself counting the hours until you can sink back into your soothingly warm nest.
You’ll find heated mattress pads starting at under $100. Look for dual controls, so if he likes it hot and she prefers a less oven-like temperature, no one has to get their own room.
24. Solar holiday lights
The holidays are over, but it’s never too early to prepare for the next holiday season. So, try solar-powered holiday lights. They look like the familiar outdoor decorations, but instead of plugging into an outlet, they attach to a small solar panel.
The panel soaks up the sun’s energy during the day and uses it automatically to light up the night.
25. A better coffee maker
If you drink a lot of coffeeshop lattes, buying an espresso machine — a basic-model Nespresso, for instance — might eventually pay off. Just don’t forget to include the cost of coffee pods in your calculations for these single-serving coffee makers.
26. Drying rack or clothesline
Grandma and Grandpa didn’t need a fancy clothes dryer. They often strung their freshly washed clothes on a clothesline in the backyard, saving money and getting the added benefit of a sunshine-fresh scent.
If your area’s weather makes a clothesline impossible for part of the year, a simple indoor rack also will save you money, even if you don’t completely give up your dryer.
27. Low-flow shower heads
Pair a shower timer (No. 10) with a low-flow shower head, and splash your way to even more savings. A low-flow shower head can deliver about half the water of your old shower head, and you won’t notice the difference.
28. Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime gives members free two-day shipping on most items purchased at Amazon.com. But you also get plenty of additional perks for the $139 yearly fee.
You can stream shows and movies on Prime Video and music from Prime Music. You can also store uploaded photos for free with Prime Photos and listen to free content from Audible Channels.
29. Ceiling fan
When it’s summertime, the living is easy — except for air-conditioning bills, which can be tough to swallow.
Think about installing a ceiling fan. You’ll find them for under $100 (here’s one from Honeywell), and they use about as much energy as a simple light bulb while lowering your energy costs by 30% to 40%.