If you spend about 5 minutes on Pinterest, you’ll see 3,285 pins about ways to save money, but how many of them are you putting into practice?
Creative Ways To Save Money
Saving money does not have to mean living on rice and beans; in fact, it can be achieved with just a few simple lifestyle tweaks.
So here it is, a collection of nine creative ways to save money.
We’re not talking about extreme couponing here; in fact, most of these tips take little effort or a small amount of work in the beginning and will really pay off over time.
While it might take some work on the front end, consistent meal planning not only saves you a ton of time (once the planning and shopping are complete), but it can also save a substantial amount of money.
When you are randomly walking the aisles and grabbing your normal staples (plus whatever happens to catch your eye at the moment), you may end up sticking to your budget, which is great, but the odds are when you’re making dinner, most nights you’ll realize you’re short an ingredient or two.
When this happens a few times each week, those extra trips to the store add up, and before you know it, you’ve blown your food budget.
Another good way to combat this is to do your food shopping online (See #9 below.) Some local grocery stores offer this option on their websites, or you can use large online grocers such as Thrive Market or Amazon Fresh.
If you are already an Amazon lover then Amazon Fresh will give you the same awesome service you already know and love on another level with the lightning-fast delivery you’ve come to depend on. Get a free trial of Amazon Fresh.
Taking the time to plan your meals in advance allows you to head to the store (or the website) with a clear “plan” of attack.
You won’t wander; instead, you’ll be focused, buying only what you need, saving you time, and you’ll be amazed when you might even come in under budget.
You can see how I often meal plan and shop for a month at a time. Again, this takes more effort up front, but then I know what I’m making for the whole month…it’s almost like a vacation.
Sure, you’ve likely thought of doing this, but maybe you worried you would be missing out on something.
After a small adjustment period, you’ll likely be unphased by the lack of TV options, and now, a few years later, there are a ton of free streaming services.
Seemingly sports is what holds a lot of people back from canceling their cable, but there are a ton of other options out there now to subscribe to different sports packages without your typical “cable.”
Buy in Bulk
If you belong to a warehouse club, you can save a good chunk of change buying your groceries in bulk. When price comparing, ensure you’re looking at the unit price so you’re comparing apples to apples. This means when looking at a case of soda, divide the total case price by the number of cans in the case to determine how much you’re paying per can. This allows you to see how much money you’ll save by buying in bulk.
One thing to note is that if you find yourself purchasing items you rarely use, it’s not necessary to tie up extra money in purchasing groceries and other household goods for them to sit in your panty all year
Using Cashback and Coupon Apps
These have really been gaining popularity in the past few years, and while each app might have a slight learning curve, once you know how to use them, you can become efficient and really save.
The reason Fetch Rewards is so cool is that you do not have to spend time browsing the app looking for specific deals, you simply scan your receipt, and if you have purchased anything that is currently on the app as a deal, it will automatically give you the extra points you’ve earned.
The other great thing about Fetch Rewards is that you can scan receipts for any purchase from anywhere.
If your grocery store carries mostly brand names, then you have to start using Ibotta. Simply browse the Ibotta app to see which items are available for cashback rebates, then scan your receipt into the Ibotta app after you purchase those items.
If your purchase qualifies, the rebate will automatically be added to your account. Once you reach $20, you can cash out for money or gift cards. Ibotta also now offers “Pay with Ibotta,” which is a shop in-store option where you can link a debit or credit card and earn cashback when you use your Ibotta app to pay for your order.
You might have heard of this app before, as it was called Ebates for years. It recently changed its name to Rakuten, but it’s the same great app. It’s great because you can use it on your total purchase at many online stores (plus they’ve added an in-store feature, too) to earn actual cash. Rakuten will pay you via PayPal or mail you a physical check each quarter.
Sign up for an account, then when you’re shopping online, go to Rakuten first (they have a super handy Chrome extension you can add to your browser to ensure you never miss an offer when shopping), then search for the store.
Rakuten will take you to that store’s regular website. You shop and check out as you normally would. When your purchase is verified, Rakuten will deposit money into your account. It’s seriously that easy!
Sign up here then you’ll be given your own referral link to post on social media or share via email or text. When your friends sign up, you’ll get paid, and they will earn a $30 bonus, also.
Use Credit Card Points
If you’re able to charge responsibly, using a credit card for the majority of your purchases can earn you credit card points you can redeem for gift cards, free travel, or statement credits – this is free money!
Check your statements: Check every open credit card account (regardless of the balance). Look for your points balance. If you can’t find your balance, then call the company and ask them what your rewards balance is and how you can use your points.
Use your points: Cash those bad boys in! Redeeming your points for gift cards is usually the best route, but it doesn’t hurt to check out the other options. Sometimes you can even find discounted gift cards.
For example, if there is a $100 Lowes gift card on sale for 20% off, then you only have to use $80 in points to purchase it; plus, you can use a Lowes coupon or buy items on sale at the store…now that’s how you save money.
Bring Your Own Water
We don’t go out to eat often, and when we do, it’s usually just a quick lunch or grabbing Chipotle (our favorite) on the way home from running errands.
I almost never purchase a drink at these places because I almost always bring my own water. Two reasons: first – I’m a bit of a water snob! It’s basically all I drink, and I’m picky about the taste (and yes, I can taste a difference ), so while places like Chipotle or Panera will usually give you a cup for free for you to fill with water from their soda machine, I don’t like the taste. That leaves me spending an additional $2 for a bottle of water.
I always have a bottle of water in my car, so if we are dining in, I just throw it in my purse and bring it in. I’ve never had any place give me an issue, and usually, they don’t even notice. Don’t worry… at a normal restaurant; I won’t be so tacky. And yes, I’m also that Mom who brings her own food and water to the movies too.
Shop Your Pantry
We get so used to food shopping each week that we feel we can’t get through the week without going to the store and stocking up! When you’re shopping weekly (or whatever schedule you use), even if you’re meal planning and making good use of all the items you purchase over time, things still begin to accumulate.
Maybe you ran out of time one evening and ordered out instead of making the meal you had planned (and shopped for). Eventually, you notice less room when you’re putting the groceries away. This is a great indicator that you should shop in your pantry instead of the grocery store that week.
Sure, you’ll still have to get to the store for your fresh items, but otherwise, take inventory of your pantry, freezer, and cabinets and put some meals together using those ingredients. You will likely be surprised by how much food you actually have sitting around.
This is a great way to save money because you will be way under budget for your groceries that week, plus you’ll be rotating through your canned goods and other pantry staples before they expire, eliminating waste.
Find a bunch of items you know you’ll likely never put to use? Set them aside to donate to your local food pantry You can do this as often or as little as you feel is needed. Plus, you might even find some new meals your family enjoys.
Try a Spending Freeze
This might sound scary, but a spending freeze will not only help you save money, but it is a fun way to challenge yourself too.
A spending freeze is just as it sounds; you freeze your spending, meaning you don’t spend money. If you and your spouse/significant other are competitive, make it a competition to see who can spend less.
This is a super simple way to save money and maybe even add some extra to your cash envelopes while you’re at it. We love to do a spending freeze to get back on track after all the holiday spending chaos.
You don’t have to do much to prepare. In fact, if you prep too much, you’ll spend a bunch of extra money to “prepare for your freeze,” which would be counter-productive.
Try this for as little as a week or as long as you want. You’ll start to evaluate your everyday purchases even after the freeze ends, which will likely result in even more savings.
Sometimes online shopping can be a slippery slope. If you are someone who gets sucked down the rabbit hole every time you get near your computer, then this might not be the best option for you. But if this is not an issue for you, then shopping online can definitely save you money.
When you shop in the store, it is way too easy to toss everything in your cart and justify the “need” for it. Target, for example, hell yes, I “need” almost every. single. item. at Target, it was a rare occasion to get through that checkout for under $100 a pop, right?
When I shop online, I can keep an eye on my shopping cart and my total. I also have the luxury of comparing prices faster and easier from the comfort of my own home. I often find myself removing things from my cart that I realize I don’t need. If it’s a bigger purchase, I’ll fill my cart and then walk away for a few hours or even overnight to avoid impulse purchases.
The one caveat is shipping charges. I loathe paying for shipping and will do just about anything to avoid doing so when shopping online, which is why we do most of our online shopping through Amazon or Target.
If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you get free 2-day shipping on almost anything they sell. We order anything and everything from Amazon, and I love not having to leave my house.
Many stores now offer a ship-to-store option that lets you avoid shipping charges. You purchase online, pay for the item, designate which store location you would like to pick it up at, and then you’ll be notified when your item is ready to be picked up.
Our local Walmart even lets you skip the line for most “pick up in-store” items now. When you place your order online, you’ll be sent your receipt and pick-up instructions via email. Once you receive the notification that your item is ready, you head to the store, where you’ll find a huge store pickup tower.
It can be slightly intimidating your first time, but you just step up to the Walmart kiosk, follow the instructions, scan your phone, and it pulls your item and sends it right down to you. It’s really quite amazing and allows you to grab your item and run for your life before you blink and your cart is overflowing with additional items you “need.”
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Kristin Stones is the owner of Cents + Purpose, an online community dedicated to sharing practical personal finance content. Her mission is to equip women with the necessary tools and knowledge to take back control of their money and live a more purposeful life. She creates actionable content to help her audience achieve financial wellness using her simple approach to managing money - all learned through her personal experience of paying off almost $55,000 of debt in under two years.