1. Eat a large meal BEFORE going shopping.
What happens when you go to the store feeling extremely hungry? Your eyes are bigger than your stomach and your brain is less considerate of your bank account, leading to a shopping cart full of excessive groceries. If you stuff your face in advance, you won’t feel the urge to try that random new flavor of Pop Tarts or purchase three different kinds of cereal because you couldn’t narrow it down and decide on one. Seriously — I once bought five boxes of cereal in one trip, and while my taste buds thoroughly enjoyed the next few weeks, my budget was like, “Dude, inconsiderate much?!”
2. Stop using ATMs that are going to come with fees.
$2 here or $5 there may not seem significant in the moment, but think about how that adds up over time. This is such a scummy way to swindle people of a few dollars, so we should refuse to use any ATM that’ll cost us, no matter how convenient it would be. Even if you can afford it, it’s the principal, which is why I’ll go to great lengths to find another method of acquiring my money, even if it means using $2-5 worth of gas to drive to my bank.
3. Eliminate your use of plastic water bottles.
Not only are those plastic bottles awful for the environment (taking an average of AT LEAST 450 years to decompose) they’re also more expensive than buying yourself a quality water bottle that can be refilled time and again. Even if you’re not a fan of tap water, investing in a filter is a much better deal than weekly 24-packs of Dasani.
4. Make use of grocery store bags instead of buying trash bags.
Everybody has a collection of what seems like thousands of plastic grocery store bags stashed aside somewhere, so it’s time to put those flimsy things to work. Obviously they fill up a lot faster than a 20-gallon bag, and they don’t have the resistant, heavy-duty material of a brand name trash bag, but they also come with our groceries at no charge. It’s a way to make sure they aren’t entirely going to waste, and who wants to buy trash bags anyway? If you knew while you were at your job that the past hour of hard work will finance some trash bags, how disappointed would you be?
5. Entertain yourself with cheap or free methods.
Cable and satellite are as unnecessary as ever these days. Between Netflix, Redbox, Hulu and piracy (which I don’t encourage or condemn), there’s nothing you can’t find for incredibly inexpensive or put on the internet’s tab.
6. Make a constant, conscious effort to recognize the difference between wants and needs.
You WANT that random Zune you stumbled upon on eBay, but you need to save that $140 for groceries. The whole nourishment for your body thing is slightly more important than the iPod’s wannabe, reject cousin who isn’t even related by blood.
7. If possible, be your own barber or stylist.
All complicated cuts aside, there are simplistic ways to buzz or style one’s own hair with a basic pair of clippers or scissors, and a whole lot of bravery. The plus side of giving yourself a haircut is that if it turns out bad, you’ll save additional money by not ever going on dates, or to public places in general.
8. Knock an expensive habit.
It’s so much easier said than done, but if you smoke a pack a day, imagine the money you’d save from quitting or even rolling your own cigs. Drink Starbucks daily? Buy a coffee maker and get your java fix at pennies on the dollar. Again, for some it’s not that simple, and it certainly won’t be a cakewalk to break an addiction, but if you can get the ball rolling, that extra cash will be quite an incentive.
9. Pack your own lunch.
I’ve seen many adopt the method of preparing multiple lunches at the beginning of the week, leaving them set for Monday-Friday. What are the benefits of this? You don’t pay for unhealthy grub out of a vending machine or a gas station, and you’re not cramming fast food down your throat. Sure, there are some tempting dollar menus, but all things considered, homemade lunch is always the better option.
10. If you’re going to go out and you desire alcohol, PREGAME HARD.
As enticing as $9 beer night is, why not buy yourself an entire case for that price and be thoroughly intoxicated upon arrival?
11. When the opportunity arises, buy used products over new ones.
The significant difference in cost is worth the risk, and the warranties that typically come along with refurbished, secondhand goods makes the purchase risk free.
12. Do some type of unique, cash saving plan.
Try to pick one that’s fun, or as fun as not spending money can possibly be. A popular concept that I recommend is the 52-week money challenge. It requires weekly saving but by the end of the year, you’ll have stashed $1,378. That’s a nice chunk of change, and perhaps you could treat yourself with some of it on, I don’t know, maybe a used Zune?