As many of you know, I’m constantly trying out little lifestyle changes and tweaks just to see if they’re something that actually saves money and if they’re something that integrates well into my life.
I’ll usually try out these tactics for a while and then do my best to assess whether or not it’s actually saving me money and whether or not it’s affecting my life in a positive or negative (or neutral) way.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: I have no interest in being miserable just to be cheap. For me, the ideal frugal tactic is one that doesn’t alter my lifestyle in a way that makes me uncomfortable, but it does save me money. That’s what this list is all about – simple money hacks that have added up to genuine savings over the years without introducing much “negative” to my life at all.
What do I mean by “simple” here?
One, it’s something that doesn’t require a lot of additional effort. I don’t like tasks that require me to spend a bunch of additional time and effort. I don’t mind spending a few minutes here or there on a money-saving task, but I am not a fan of spending hours on these kinds of tasks.
Two, it’s something that doesn’t result in a negative quality of life. If something makes my life worse in some significant fashion, it’s not something I’m going to stick with forever. I want things with a neutral or, if I can, a positive impact on my time, my energy, and my enjoyment of my day-to-day activity.
Three, it’s replicable. Other people can do this exact thing and also experience savings over the long haul. Obviously, there are some of these tips that you’ll likely already have as a part of your normal routine – skip those and focus on the other ones.
Let’s dig in.
1: Start Using a Grocery List and Coupons
It’s a simple strategy. Before you walk into a grocery store, make a list of the items you intend to buy there, and check online for any coupons that may be available for those items. Take a look at the Simple Dollar Coupon Finder for hundreds of daily coupons and coupon codes for grocery and pharmacy items. The trick is to make sure you’re only printing and using the coupons you need–don’t buy extra useless items just because they’re on sale. When you get to the grocery store, just stick to the list you made while you’re at the store. For every minute you spend making the list and checking for coupons outside of the store, you’ll save two or three minutes while you’re actually in the store because you’ll be heading directly to items you need and won’t spend any time wandering, so it’s actually a time saver.
The real kicker is that it saves a significant amount of money, too. A grocery list directly cuts down on impulse buys. You know what you need, so your eyes aren’t wandering down the aisles to find unnecessary things. Your cart is filled just with things that you’ve thought about and planned for outside of the walls of the grocery store. Coupons allow you to become more deliberate and creative with your meal planning- buying and replacing items that are full-price with alternatives that are on sale.
How Much Did It Save? I started using a grocery list long before I started tracking my spending too closely, so recently I tried an experiment. Over the course of two months, I alternated between weekly grocery shopping trips with a grocery list and without one. I tried to control for everything else – I used the same store and skipped weeks with exceptional meal requirements. On average, a grocery list saved me $21 per trip. Add an extra $5 for savings using coupons per trip and that adds up to about $1,200 per year – no joke.