SAVE WITHOUT SACRIFICING
With so many demands on your limited budget, the last thing you want to do is spend money where you needn't. There are many small, hidden costs you can cut out with little hassle or fanfare. Then watch the savings mount.
Be sure to check the receipt after each purchase. Reviewing it may reveal items that were inadvertently scanned twice, savings or coupons that weren't credited, or prices that are just plain wrong. Erroneous overcharges happen routinely and can quickly add up, so it pays to review the receipt — especially before you leave the store or the parking lot.
While avoiding sales tax all the time is impossible, there are times when you can shop tax-free. Many states offer tax holidays at least once a year.
Infested with dreaded stinkbugs, spiders, or ants? Save money by forgoing commercial pest control and combatting the bugs using natural remedies. The results can be cheaper, less toxic, and just as effective.
Unless an ailment prevents you from tending your own yard, get out there and get to work. This is a chore that comes with owning property, and it's wasteful to pay someone else to do it. You may even find that you enjoy the exercise and being outdoors.
WAREHOUSE CLUB MEMBERSHIP FEES
Warehouse club membership has its perks, but you don't have to join to buy everything sold by Costco and Sam's Club. For one thing, anyone can shop online without being a member (although a nonmember surcharge may apply), the pharmacies are open to non-members, and in many states alcohol can be purchased without paying the membership fee.
These policies may seem a good idea (and fairly inexpensive), but chances are you'll never use the insurance — and if you do, a hefty deductible may apply. If paying for cellphone insurance makes you feel more secure, shop around and get the right package — one that covers accidental damage, including from water. Otherwise, this is a cell phone expense you can avoid.
THINGS YOU DON'T USE
We're all guilty of this one: making a purchase and never using the product or service. There are probably several things you can stop buying right now, such as a monthly subscription box of neckties or beauty supplies, specialty kitchen tools, and so on.
A checking account should be free of fees. If it isn't, stash your money elsewhere. ATM fees are also completely avoidable — just use your bank's ATM or go to the bank and work with a teller free of charge.
PayPal users can avoid fees by requesting money through the "Friends and Family" feature — meaning no fees are attached. Beware, however, that small businesses found using the feature for commercial purposes may have their accounts suspended. Better to download a free app, such as Venmo, to request and send money without fees.
When you're not sitting in a room, turn off the light. Not quite ready to jump in the shower? Don't turn on the water until you are. These are the basics, but many people forget these little things. There's no reason to pay for utilities you're not using. Take this one step further and unplug anything not currently in use.
Many software programs cost a pretty penny, but often there are open-source alternatives. Before buying, search online for free software. You'll be surprised by what's out there at no cost.
Is there a bigger waste of money than paying for bottled water? Consumers spend about 800 times more for bottled water than plain old tap water. And if you don't like the taste of tap water, buy a filter — it's still cheaper than plastic bottles.
Baby food is simple to make, and many gadgets designed specifically for the task are a waste. Just boil or steam whatever produce is in the fridge and blend or mash it up. Making homemade baby food is easy and far cheaper than commercial baby food — and you know exactly what's in it.
Eliminating a daily stop at Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts is an easy way to pocket a Hamilton or two each week. Skip the drive-thru on the way to work by buying a durable commuter mug and brewing your own cup of joe at home before heading out the door each day.
If you have a cellphone, do you really need a landline, too? Most mobile plans cover long-distance calling and offer unlimited minutes. And eliminating a dedicated fax line is a no-brainer. These days, it's easy to scan documents and email them, or send them to a fax machine over the internet using a free service such as FaxZero.
Many popular apps offer a free version that's funded by advertising. But in addition to ads, users often are subjected to offers for in-app purchases, especially in games. Resist the urge to unlock that extra feature. It's useless the moment you move on to the next trendy game.
PRINT NEWSPAPERS AND BOOKS
Many free apps let users read the paper on a tablet or smartphone at no charge. Countless ebooks are also free — and eco-friendly. Although others cost money, the price is typically less than the cost of a paperback. For readers who prefer paper, the local library is the place to seek out information and entertainment.
Sometimes there's no choice but to pay those dreaded shipping fees, but many ecommerce vendors offer free shipping, typically with a minimum purchase. For details, check out FreeShipping.org and search online for codes. If you still can't snag a free shipping deal, weigh whether you can save a few bucks — and get the product sooner — by buying from a bricks-and-mortar store.
Cable TV is a luxury, and cutting the cord promises to dramatically reduce monthly spending. If you can't live without TV, get your fix for less through apps or streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, and others.
After quitting cable, it's easy to turn around and spend that money on streaming services. Avoid racking up the equivalent of a cable bill by taking advantage of free channels.
Most people probably already own everything they need to get a nice clean home. Instead of buying expensive cleaning supplies, use everyday household items such as white vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, lemon, and old cloths to make effective DIY cleaning supplies for free.
Working out at home is an easy way to stay in shape and ditch the gym, along with the hefty monthly membership fee. For ideas, check out Cheapism's guide to calorie-torching outdoor workouts.
Skip the hefty baggage fees at the airport and fly with an airline that allots free checked luggage or learn to pack light and bring only a carry-on. Tips include rolling clothes instead of folding and choosing soft-sided luggage that can be squeezed into a baggage sizer or overhead bin.
Instead of shelling out tons of cash for gas every month, look for alternative and free (or cheap) means of transportation. Depending on location, public transportation may be a viable option, and in warmer months, commuters can ride a bike to work — either their own or one rented (for cheap) from a city bike-share program. Or, find a co-worker who lives in your neck of the woods and carpool to and from the office.
Skip the drive-thru at lunchtime. Making and taking your own food is almost always cheaper — not to mention healthier — than spending money to eat out.