By Leonora Epstein
1. Shave some extra cents off your gas costs by checking out GasPriceWatch.com to find the cheapest offerings in your area. For example, you’ll find that the Chevron on Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles is selling gas for 22 cents less than a Mobil station a few blocks down the road.
2. Nix name brands and start buying generic toiletries and cleaning products in bulk. Better yet, take shopping trips with friends to Costco so you can all split that bulk pack of toilet paper.
3. Join your local library. You might be shocked to find that its DVD collection is stocked and up-to-date (not to mention totally free). If you normally rent one movie per week from the video store or Netflix, you can save over $200 in a year!
4. Unplug your appliances like coffee pots, toasters, hair dryers, and computer cords when you leave the house. According to Energystar.gov, it costs you $100 per year to power appliances in standby mode (especially ones with features like clock displays). When you go on vacation, it’s a good idea (both for your wallet and the environment) to unplug large energy consumers like entertainment centers.
5. Cliché as it may sound, skip your morning Starbucks latte. You’ll save about 190 calories and $3 per day. You can still make your homemade coffee feel special by adding a pinch
6. Get cash back on your clothing purchases. It sucks when you buy a piece of clothing full-price, then see it on sale a week later. Hang on to your receipts, because larger chains like the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy will refund you the difference on items that go on sale as long as you present a receipt within 14 days of the original purchase.
7. Need new furniture? Before heading off to Ikea, check out Freecycle.org, a site where users list things they don’t want anymore. Or, try your local Craigslist.com listings for moving sales (oftentimes people are in a pinch and will sell items for “best offer” just to get rid of them).
8. Work out for free. Look up donation-based yoga studios in your area so you can pay what you can (instead of a normal $12-$20 per class). Similarly, many yoga, dance, and Pilates studios offer new student incentives such as two weeks of classes for only $20. Can’t afford a personal trainer? Check out iTrain.com, where you can download personalized workouts for your iPod for as little as $7.99 a session. Other cheap options: Go for a hike in the fall foliage, jog outdoors, or organize a game of touch football with friends (a great excuse to get them to invite single guys!).
9. Think about your cash. Always know exactly how much money you have on you. It will prevent mindless spending (and the shock when you realize you’re out). Also, plan out your day so you withdraw the money you need from your home bank, avoiding ATM fees.
10. Do your holiday shopping on the cheap by hunting down cool stuff at thrift and vintage shops where you can find heartwarming items for less than 20 bucks. Think music boxes, quirky costume jewelry, vintage postcards to frame, or collectors’ plates.
11. Bring the party home. Ask friends to come over with a bottle of wine for a game night on Saturday. Offering a simple, homemade dessert like cookies or a pie won’t cost more than a few bucks if you already have the basic ingredients on hand. If you absolutely have to get out, then organize a get-together at a bar with a happy hours special. Make the occasion more festive by creating a Facebook invite with a quirky theme like “International Talk Like a Pirate Day!” One more tip: check out Myopenbar.com, a site that lists events at bars with free booze in several cities including New York, Miami, and Chicago.
12. Do more research. It might be painful to actually look at the breakdown of your expenses, but it’s the best way to cut down on costs. Check out David Bach’s book, Smart Women Finish Rich, which explains savings strategies in a totally understandable manner. Another great read is Suze Orman’s Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny. (Hint: you can probably get both used or at your local library instead of paying full price).
Bonus tips: In a bind for some fast cash?
- Go through your closet and bring your unwanted items to a local consignment or thrift shop. Warning: You should prepared to be offered less than what you think the item is worth used. If that’s the case, try your luck on eBay.com, where you can set the minimum bid.
- Round up all that loose change and take it to the bank to exchange for cash.
- Do research on focus groups in your area by checking out Findfocusgroups.com. All you need to do is give your opinions. Depending on the group, you can make anywhere from $50-$200 for your time.