It always interests me to see how others spend money. When I go on a girls’ trip with friends, it quickly becomes clear that everyone has their little habits. I try to travel with friends who are at least on a similar budget to my own, so nobody feels pressured to overspend, and nobody feels like they’re having to deprive themselves for the group. Honestly, that’s one money-saving tip right there: if you’re going to go out, do so with friends on a similar budget as your own. I’ll still pick up on these things my friends do though. I’ll learn from them. I’ll also have, “Oh my I would never spend like that moments.” Money is a funny thing. You can make tons of it, but if you’re bad with it, somehow wind up with little of it. Or you can make little, but if you’re great with money, save and save. When we were applying for our mortgage and learning about the importance of debt-to-income-ratio, our broker told us just how many people come to her who make way more than I do, but qualify for a much smaller mortgage, because they just spend so damn much every month. When all was said and done, they put aside less than me each month, because of their lavish spending habits. Isn’t that wild? It’s all about those little things. On that note, here are small spending changes that can result in huge money saving.
Coordinate spending with card rewards
Before you’re going to buy anything – anything at all, from tools for a DIY project to a blow dryer to camping gear to a gift card to a restaurant – check the current cashback offers on your various cards. You may find that a vendor in the category you were about to shop is offering anywhere from five to 15 percent cash back when you use that card right now. So if you go spend, say, $100 at that particular outdoor gear store with that card, you could get $15 back.
Go early to find free parking
Wherever you’re going, arrive 15 minutes early to give yourself the chance to look for free parking, and walk a little if that free parking is a few blocks away. When we arrive late, we’re always pressured into valeting the car, or paying for the pay lots near the venue. Our tardiness can cost us money like that.
Calculate hours worked to buy it
When deciding whether or not to buy something, don’t think about how much it costs elsewhere or how much you’ll enjoy it. Think about how long you’d have to work to pay it off. If you realize you’d have to work half a day to pay off the expensive brunch you’re considering enjoying, you may think twice, and just make an omelet at home.
Dine in, drink out
Dining and drinking out gets very expensive. At some places, the cocktails are as expensive if not more expensive than the food. Then you have spots where a simple appetizer of chips and guacamole costs $12. You just wanted something to snack on because your booze made you hungry. If you want to enjoy a night out, consider eating in, and then just going out for drinks.
OR drink in, dine out
You can also flip that last tip. Have drinks at home, and then go out for dinner. Skipping the booze at dinner can instantly save you a lot of money. When restaurant bills start to add up, you can get into a mindset of, “Well, screw it, we’re already ordering so much, let’s just get more.”
Keep weird portions of leftovers
Never throw away good food. Even if it’s just three ravioli. Half a cup of chili. One ounce of steak. A few tablespoons of mashed potatoes. Three crowns of steamed broccoli. Hey, put that all together, and you have a whole new meal. By eating that, instead of cooking or buying something else, you just saved yourself money.
Make all coffee at home
My partner and I go through a generic, large tin of coffee from our local grocery store about every two weeks. It costs $6. So that’s $3 a week for each of us as a couple. That’s $1.50 per week for each of us as an individual. That’s around 22 cents a day for me to drink coffee. Think about that next time you buy your daily $2.75 coffee from a coffee shop.
Prioritize ambiance when dining out
Sometimes you want to dine out. Your city has many wonderful restaurants that you want to patronize. And you want to try foods that you don’t know how to make. You want an experience. So, think about that: the experience. Prioritize that. Next time you’re at a hotel pool where the club sandwich is $19, ask yourself if it’s worth it to eat just a sandwich, hot and sweaty in the sun, getting splashed by kids, for $19. When you could just run to the grocery store across the street and get a $5 sandwich that you eat in the shade. Save your money for that nice rooftop dinner later.
Buy multi-purpose groceries
Buy ingredients that you personally know how to use in several ways. We, for example, always buy ground turkey, because with it we can make turkey Bolognese, turkey tacos, or chili. If you buy something that you only know how to use in one way, but don’t feel like eating that recipe this week, that ingredient may go to waste.
Never buy the soda or ice tea
These things are so astronomically overpriced at restaurants, it’s painful. You pay $3.75 for a glass of orange juice. You could have gotten a whole carton of the stuff for less at the store. If you always add the soda or the juice or the iced tea when you dine out, or even when you pick up sandwiches at a deli for lunch, that really adds up.
Cut back on these self-care habits
Do you really need to shave your legs (or whatever else you shave) every day? Probably not. Especially on days you are wearing pants. What about washing your hair. You don’t need to do that daily. Also, instead of wearing an expensive face sunscreen every time you walk your dog, consider investing in one UV-proof hat.
Never shop without checking for coupons
Never, ever buy anything without first checking for coupons. The Internet is a beautiful thing in that it can pull these all up at once. And if you have rewards programs through your grocery store or pharmacy, download their app, and see if there are currently coupons running for the items you’re about to buy. Add those coupons to your card.
Have more picnics
If you just want to eat away from home, but don’t really care where – it’s the getting out part that matters most – just have more picnics. Pack food you have at home, and take it somewhere pretty. A park. The beach. Botanical gardens. There are times you can get ambiance without buying a $22 pasta dish to go with it.
Drink less to Lyft less
Drinking less alcohol saves you so much money instantly. When invited to an event, don’t immediately order a Lyft or cab, to give yourself the chance to drink. Get in touch with your body. Do you need to drink tonight? Maybe you don’t feel like it. So drive, and spare yourself the cab money.
Look for used first
Always see if you can buy something used, first. There are some things you don’t do that with, like mattresses and shoes. But what about TV stands? Couches? Desk chairs? Side tables? Artwork? There are so many things that you can get at a fraction of the usual cost if you just go used.