Thursday, November 5, 2015

Six Tips: Saving Money [Painlessly]

Today I'm going to be talking about money!  Specifically- how to save it.  If you'll remember, a few months ago I did a post on how I create a budget (if you haven't seen that post click here to check it out!) This is sort of a follow-up on that post, where I'm going to talk about different ways to cut expenses and generally spend less money.  These are the tips that work for me (or things that I'm testing out), but I would love to hear how YOU save money!

Easy Ways to Save Money



Lower your Data Plan

This is actually a new trick that I'm trying out (so I'll let you know how it goes at the end of billing cycle!).  I decided to lower my data plan from 4 GB a month to 2GB, which saves $12 a month!  I luckily work in a building with wifi and have wifi at home, so I figured out that I was using up a lot of data and spending a ton of money for no reason!  In order to use less data, I came up with a few tips:

Lower cell phone bill easily

- Use "airplane mode" when you're in an area without wifi.  So many applications use data constantly (all of those annoying alerts, email refreshes, apps running in the background...).  While waiting for my bus or for the elevator, I would mindlessly scroll through Instagram, Facebook, and random other sites, which would just add up to a huge amount of data.

- Download music and podcasts.  When you're using wifi, feel free to download freely, so that you don't have to stream music and use up data!  Now, I listen to podcasts and really pay attention to the story rather than going through social media when I'm waiting around!

Money saved : $12/ month


Get Subscriptions (if it makes sense)

To go along with my previous point, I decided to get a Spotify Premium subscription earlier this year.  While it may not make sense to spend money to save money, in this case it did.  Pretty much every month, I was going over my data limit just by streaming music on Spotify, which cost at least $15/month.  If I wanted to download music, I would buy songs through iTunes, which can get really pricey!  I used to make a new playlist for each race I did, which could cost up to $50!  With Spotify, I saved the money on buying music and going over my data rate, because I could just have all of my songs available offline.  There are other subscriptions that may be worth it:

save money by spending money

- Amazon Prime offers free music downloads, free kindle downloads and rentals, free shipping, free TV shows and movies, and special discounts throughout the year.

- Target has a credit card that offers 5% off every purchase as well as free shipping and 30 extra days to return.  I opened one when I got my first apartment and have saved tons of money throughout the year, and always make sure to pay off my balance each month!

Money saved : $40/ month


Resist Email Temptation

"1 hour only- save 40%!"..."500 Bonus Points with any purchase today!"..."FREE Gift with Purchase!"
How many of these emails do you get in a day?  I used to get dozens, and a lot of the time I would be sucked in and end up spending hundreds of dollars a month just because a store was having (yet another) sale.  Did I need all those clothes?  Do I even wear them now?  The answer to both is, of course, no.  Unsubscribing to emails made a huge difference, because now I actually buy clothes when I need them rather than being tempted by a sale.  I used Unroll to unsubscribe in one fell sweep, and now my inbox is clean and my bank account is happy!  I do have a few tips for getting good deals though:

- Sign up for a money back program.  Some credit cards have automatic cash back, and some have deals if you shop online.  There are also sites that are specifically designed to give you cash back- for free!  My favorites are Ebates, which also gives you coupon codes when you search for your store, and Ibotta, which gives you rebates after you shop (and can be used in conjunction with coupons and Ebates!) even at grocery stores.  When I'm about to shop, I'll just check which site has the best cash back offer, and do my shopping.  Just make sure you follow all the directions or you could miss out on cash back!  (P.S. if you're not a member of those sites, the link goes to my referral page which gives both of us money, and I would appreciate if you used my link to sign up!)

That's right..you can get money for buying alcohol!

- Make a spreadsheet!  This is similar to "window shopping" for me- if I'm browsing the web and find something that I like, I save it to my shopping spreadsheet along with the current price and the URL.  I periodically check this price and update my spreadsheet.  Then, when I'm ready to make a purchase, I can figure out if I still actually want the product, and see if it's really a good deal!  There are websites that can do this for you, but I love Excel and prefer to do it myself!

Money saved : $50/ month


Run Commute or Bike to Work

This tip may not apply to many of you, but I wanted to throw this in!  I live about 5 miles from work and take the bus every day to work, but there's an amazing trail that runs from my apartment to downtown that tons of people use to bike or run commute.  I haven't biked to work yet (maybe next summer), but I have run home quite a few times.  Since I take the bus to work, I can bus in and run home to save the $2.50 fare and get in my workout for the day!  I typically will do this about once a week in the warm weather, which would save $10/ month.  Here are some tips on run commuting:

- Get a lightweight backpack, and pack a change of clothes.  Of course, you don't want to wear your running clothes to work, and I wouldn't want to run home in a dress!  I try to plan an outfit that's easy to pack away and bring clothes that are light weight and don't take a lot of room in my backpack.  The one I use works really well and doubles as a hiking bag when we walk with Selma! (similar, similar).

- Make sure you eat enough and hydrate all day.  I could never figure out why I felt so bad every time that I ran after work, then I realized that I wasn't hydrating properly and was running fasted.  I make sure to bring a snack to eat about 2 hours before I run, and drink tons of water throughout the day.  I also bring along a handheld water bottle which really helps!

Money saved : $10/ month


Pack a Lunch- and a Coffee

Even though this is a tip that everyone shares, I need to mention it!  I never realized how much packing actually saved until I worked on this post, and tallied up how much I was spending.  I have to admit that I've been pretty lazy about packing since I started working full-time, but now I'm going to make it a priority to meal-plan on Sundays and have a lunch packed every day.  When I added up how much I was spending to bring a lunch vs. buying a lunch each day, it really stunned me.  To give you an example of one month of lunches, I made a table adding up a typical lunch (sandwich, side salad, fruit or cottage cheese).  All of those components cost a total of $42.35 for the month:


If I go out to eat, I spend an average of $10 on fast food, or $15 for a sit-down meal.  I would spend about $200 each month.  I still occasionally have lunch with a friend or with my team (maybe twice a month), so I'm saving over $130 each month, and eating a lot healthier!  I wrote a post on lunch ideas if you'd like some suggestions.


Another huge saving that I've seen is bringing my own coffee to work.  Luckily, my team has a Keurig that we all use, but I've also seen tons of people bring a thermos of coffee to work.  I typically have one coffee a day, which costs $2 at my favorite coffee shop.  I also got Starbucks once a week, so my total coffee budget was over $50!  My team shares K-Cups, so I typically buy a box every other month, and buy coffee creamer once a month.  This equals about $7 per month.  Huge savings, plus you don't have to wait in huge lines every day!

Money saved : $180.65/ month


Mini Tips

For my sixth tip, I want to share a few "mini tips".  These are tiny things that I've been doing for a few years that really make a difference in the long run!

- Don't spend it if you don't have it.  This is a rule that my parents always taught me and I've followed my entire life.  This is also the number one reason why I have never had any credit card debt- if I don't have the money right now to pay for something, I don't buy it!  I make sure that I can always pay off my credit card bills, because fees can be very high and keep adding up over time.  The average credit card debt is $5700, and credit cards charge around 10% APR, so you could be spending an extra $47.50 each month just for spending what you don't have!

- Auto transfer to savings each paycheck.  This goes along with the previous tip- if you don't have the money, you can't spend it!  I auto transfer a set amount of money each paycheck to go in my savings, where I can't touch it right away, and it also makes interest!

- Eat at home as much as possible, and don't order alcohol when you do go out.  As much as I love going out to restaurants and ordering a drink, it gets really expensive!  Dan and I used to go out at least once a week, and we would spend at least $50 on dinner.  We rarely eat out now, so it makes those dinners a special treat.  We also save money by only drinking at home, and ordering water at restaurants.  Money saved : $150/ month

- Get rid of cable.  I got rid of cable over a year ago, and have saved a ton of money, as well as realized how much time I wasted watching TV!  I did get a subscription to Netflix and Hulu, so I watch shows that I care about on demand, while having more free time to be productive rather than sitting in from of the TV.  Money saved : $30/ month


What are your tips to saving money?
Have you ever heard of Ibotta or Ebates?

linking up with Amanda and Blonder Side of Life
Joining Julie's new linkup!  This was my top viewed post of November.

54 comments:

  1. Well done! This seriously is awesome. I'm with you on bringing my lunch. I maybe go out to dinner twice a month and I'm embarrassed to say that in those cases, my boy friend pays for it! So even though I spend a small fortune buying quality food at the grocery store, I know I'm still saving and am much healthier for it!

    My dad is a financial planner, so I grew up thinking credit cards were evil. After college, though, I realized that they can be abused, but they can also get you pretty great rewards if you use them correctly! So I finally got one and have already made $400 off of it! But you hit the nail on the head by saying never ever go over it. I couldn't imagine spending more money than what I have!

    I don't use ibotta or ebates, but I mooch off of my mom's amazon prime for a lot of things and use my parents on demand to watch TV laptop.
    Haha does this make us absolute millennials?

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    1. I'm so glad you like this Margaret! $400 is a huge deal, and I agree that credit cards CAN be evil..but if you use them wisely they can be a wise decision :) No shame in mooching..I do the same!

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  2. Emails are my biggest source of temptation! I'm all for a good deal so when I see "extra 50% off" I have to browse.. and when browsing turns to buying I'm in trouble. I've started unsubscribing from email lists just to save my bank account.

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    1. Same here! They know exactly what to say to get you to shop...evil emails!

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  3. great tips--really creative ones too. if my internet wasn't through my cable, i'd give that up asap!

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    1. That's too bad! Getting rid of cable is one of the best decisions I've made in a long time!

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  4. Last yr I switched my dataplan and I'm saving almost $30 a mth just by doing that.

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  5. I upgraded to 4GB when I got my new phone since I could up it for free. I went over my 3GB in August and have no idea how I managed that. I'd never gotten close. Now I do use Airplane mode more often, especially when I'm at work or sleeping.

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    1. Wow that had to have hurt...I wonder what ate up all the data?

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  6. I do my best to ALWAYS grocery shop on Friday evening, or Saturday mornings. Weekends are my biggest temptation to eat out, or grab fast food. But, if I know I have something just as good (and quick) at home, I can resist. Usually that means a frozen pizza, since I love them, but hey, $4 at the store, vs $10-15 for takeout?

    Since Christmas is coming up, a lot of places will offer gift card deals, like if you buy $25 you get a free $5, or a free burrito, whatever. If it's a place I go often I will buy myself the GC and get some free $ out of it as well.

    Like you, I unsubscribed from lots of emails. And, if I am ever going clothes shopping I try to make a list of what I need to fill gaps in my wardrobe, rather than falling in love with a piece very similar to things I already have.

    Good tips. Saving $$$ is a mini obsession of mine, because it means I can go on crazy vacations whenever & wherever I please.

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    1. That's funny because for me it's the opposite- I'm much more likely to eat out on weekdays! I love that idea of buying gift cards. I have some friends who do that if they're planning on doing a bunch of shopping, or have home renovations coming up. So smart! Thanks for sharing that :)

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  7. Love this! I think my biggest ones are not eating out, not having cable, and NOT spending money I don't have. I almost always try to pay with cash because it becomes way too easy to spend more than you mean to if you pay with plastic.

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    1. We're money twins it sounds like :) Good habits to get in!

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  8. Great tips! Packing lunches is such a money saver - I did that all the time in grad school when I was on a small stipend and it allowed me to eat healthy meals and have room in my budget for fun things.

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    1. It seriously saves so much money! Plus time...I waste so much time walking to a place to eat and waiting for the food!

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  9. I could talk about money and budgets and saving all day long. When I got divorced and had to do the whole single mom thing on a Starbucks employee budget (how did I ever survive those years?!?) I used cash for everything. I had cash in an envelope for gas, one for groceries, etc. Andrew makes a lot of money, so when we got together I had to teach him a whole lot about not mindlessly spending money on takeout, etc and he taught me a lot about not being extremely uptight about every single cent. We both help each other out, for sure and I still spend way too much money on Starbucks.

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    1. Post idea for you! I would love to hear your tips..especially since you had to survive a tiny paycheck with a kid..can't even imagine!

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  10. Very good tips! I am a big fan of packing lunches for work for both myself and my fiancee. It saves so much money, not to mention make life a lot healthier.

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    1. True!! Luckily Dan's always been good about packing. he has the same thing every day which would drive me crazy, so mine takes more planning!

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  11. I've heard about Ebates and Ibotta but I'm the worst about using them. i am such a failure.... face palm.

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    1. I forget a lot of the time too..then I remember how much money I've made from using them...and try to not forget again!

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  12. Packing a lunch makes such a difference! I have definitely fallen off the wagon a few times when it comes to packing instead of buying though. I have heard good things about Ebates so I will have to check it out!

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    1. I've been lazy too..but seeing the numbers now makes me more motivated to keep it up!

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  13. Also wanted to mention that there should be a function on your phone to turn off data/wifi/internet whatever so that you don't have to use airplane mode. Airplane mode is definitely quick since it's one button you can get to from the swipe up menu (well...on apples) but then you can't send and receive text messages. Love the idea of turning off the data when not in wifi though so I'm not tempted to just scroll through stuff.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing that Stephanie!! I forgot all about that. Just switched it off, and that's better because now I don't have to go back and forth in airplane mode..plus I get texts! You're the best :)

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  14. I'm a sucker for coupon/deal e-mails. I've slowly been unsubscribing from companies but I swear... once you get in it's so hard to get out!!

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    1. That's true...it's so much effort to unsubscribe that I find myself putting it off all the time!

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  15. I can always use a good money saving tip! I actually love saving money but the hubs, not so much ;) I have unsubscribed from SO many retailers, I honestly don't know how I got on all of the listings to begin with. It removes the temptation of "needing" to check out a sale. One of my favorite ways to avoid temptation!

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    1. Luckily Dan and I are really similar in our money philosophy! We both believe it's there to be enjoyed and spent, not just saved away. All within reason though- we set aside money each month and pay our bills...then play with the rest :)

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  16. I LOVE Spotify premium. I now spend $5 a month with the student price instead of buying all my music on iTunes, which definitely adds up. While making my own coffee does save money I still buy mine once or twice a week. Some days I just don't have the "oomph" in the morning to make it!

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    1. Good point...some days I need a special treat too :)

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  17. These tips are so good! I lowered my data plan to the barest minimum...as in nothing. Now I just use my phone as a phone and use wifi when it's there. These days, there is wifi everywhere, so I don't see the need to add data.

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    1. I'm going to see how this month goes, but I might lower it even more! Let's see how low I can go :)

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  18. Great post! This really comes in handy this time of year when spending can get crazy. My best kept secret is that I'm actually the queen of saving...seriously! 15 years ago I bought the Smart Couples Finish Rich book, which is all about living below your means so you can retire early and/or wealthy & have been following it ever since. One of the big concepts of the book is to think of what really matters to you & spend in that area & scrimp on everything else. For me, what really matters to me is running, which is why my only extravagance is workout clothes. I haven't bought work clothes in years, except for one or two things a season and even then I only buy clothes if they're at least 40%off. As for cell phone, I saved $65/month when I switched from Verizon to Virgin Mobile, which has unlimited data & calling for $35 a month. I did a year-long experiment in how to save money at the grocery store & still use a lot if what I learned. And finally, one specific tip I use is that I never pay for drinks. Water from a fountain is free, and I bring my own water bottle everywhere.

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    1. Wow- I had no idea Virgin Mobile was so low! I might have to switch as well. I have that book but haven't actually read it..whoops!

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  19. Great post!
    I think I was really lucky to have lived in the UK - people rarely eat out, most folk bring their own lunch to work and school and mobile data is really cheap!
    My tip would be to take one month and write down everything you buy week in week out - then you can see where the bulk of your money (excluding bills) really goes - and from there you can see what you actually need to buy and where money is wasted.

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    1. That's a great idea Jen! I think I would be shocked (and a bit embarrassed) if I wrote down EVERYTHING. There are so many things we don't even think about buying but it adds up!

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  20. Packing a lunch was HUGE for me for not only eating healthier but saving so much money!

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    1. That's great to hear!! Great job Kristin :)

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  21. These are GREAT tips, Gretch! Eating as many meals at home helps me SO MUCH. I've had bad months where I've spent $150 or more on eating out....like HOW??

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    1. Crazy how quickly it adds up without even realizing it!

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  22. we saved a ton of money cutting our data down. do you have an iphone? i can tell you how to turn the data off for things so it only uses wifi, if you want. we only have 1gb between the two of us, so it's really not that hard! plus it totally makes you more 'in the moment' because you're not on your phone all the time in public. email me (seeyouinaporrigeblog@gmail.com) because i won't get a notification if you respond here :)

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    1. Thanks for the tip Kristen! I learned how to do that but thank you for the offer :) I should have added a little tutorial in case others don't know how... but I think I can lower even more next month! I'm 1/4 of the way done with this cycle and only used .1GB so far...not too bad :)

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  23. Oh my gosh I love this so much and it WILL be featured next week because everyone needs to read this like now! I already pack m y lunch and coffee but I need to go clean out my inbox from email subscriptions!!

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    1. Oh wow..I really appreciate that!! Thanks Kels!!

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  24. This is so awesome and thanks for sharing. Packing lunch and coffee is something I've been trying harder to work on. I definitely cannot say I'm perfect though, especially with the coffee.

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    1. I'm glad you liked this Hollie :) Thanks so much! I think we can all work on something in our life, so at least you know what you're not perfect about!

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  25. SO many great tips! I do quite a few of them. We have subscription plans, and I used unroll.me to put all the darn shopping emails into one that I hardly open! I also always packed a lunch and pack the husband one daily. Great idea to lower the data plan! And cutting cable.. we did that and save over $70 a month now!

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  26. Great tips. It's usually those small mindless indulgences that add up!

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  27. Great tips. It's usually those small mindless indulgences that add up!

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  28. Thanks for linking up! This is such a great post! Shared on twitter :-) #bestofblogs

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  29. So much of practical information here. I am glad I found this blog as I am planning long road trip, these days I am searcing for different and innovative methods to save money. Thanks a lot for sharing!

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