18 Creative Ways to Save This Year

By Janeen Lewis

Whether you’ve recently lost wages, or saving money is a new goal, here are some out-of-the box ideas to help.

Be a cherry picker. I visit a grocery store in my neighborhood because it has great Buy One Get One free items (BOGOs). On average, the rest of the items in the store cost more. When cherry picking, buy the sales items, but save other shopping for less expensive stores.

Let someone else grocery shop for you. Grocery pick-up saves time, stops impulse buys, and keeps a running total during online shopping. If you go over your budget, uncheck unnecessary items before finalizing your order. I chose a pick-up service that takes coupons, and my coupon savings exceeded the fee.

Make restaurant-quality food at home. Dining out is a budget blower. Invest in a virtual cooking class, check out online cooking tutorials, or ask a friend who is a good cook for recipes.

Barter. One of my friends liked the character birthday cakes I made when my kids were young. She was good at creating videos from our family footage, so we bartered. Trade services with a friend and save.

Swap party! Get needed items free. Organize a safely distanced swap party online or on your patio. Decide on a theme. Be clear about how to rate the condition of items and how many items each guest contributes. Send a listing of items and agree on socially-distanced ways to make exchanges.

Find missing money. You could be missing money and not even know it. For example, if you moved and a utility company owed you a deposit and couldn’t contact you, the money went into an unclaimed property fund. To learn more, visit usa.gov/unclaimed-money. To search your name for missing money, go to missingmoney.com or unclaimed.org.

Give up the ghost. Standby power, or phantom power, is energy that household items use when they are off, but plugged in. Items with digital displays and computers with monitors and printers can be standby power hogs. Unplug everything at night for a month. Monitor the electric bill for a difference. For more information, visit standby.lbl.gov.

Round up savings. Trick yourself into saving money. Round up to the next dollar when you record a check. At the end of the month, you’ll have a surplus. Your banking institution may offer this feature, or there are round up apps.

Start a “kick it” jar. Unhealthy habits and shopping addictions like smoking or buying dozens of expensive shoes are costly. Start a “kick it” jar. When the urge to splurge strikes, put money in the jar. As you see the money grow, so will resolve to kick the habit.

Keep the change. Collect loose change in a jar at the end of the day. A mere 50 cents a day savings will add up to almost $200 annually. As a family, save to pay off a debt or make a fun purchase.

Cruise to savings. Set the cruise control within the speed limit on the interstate, and don’t speed on smaller roads. Not speeding is fuel-efficient, and tickets are costly.

Calculate your time. When you consider purchasing a non-essential item, calculate how many hours you have to work to pay for it. Is your time worth the purchase?

Don’t spend a bundle on your new bundle of joy. Babies don’t know what the Gap is. They won’t care how much that designer crib cost when they sink those brand new toddler teeth into the bed rail. Look for inexpensive, but safe furniture and gear. Keep them dry, fed, warm and loved. They’ll be content.

Shop seasonally. Specific items can be found at rock-bottom prices seasonally. In November baking staples are inexpensive. In January fitness gear and health food are a bargain. Make a list of what’s on sale each month, and then revisit the list each year to get the best prices.

Get a library card. Libraries have free, fun entertainment. Borrow magazines, books and videos for all ages. Tap into free digital resources like online magazines and eBooks. They also offer community classes, kids’ crafts and book clubs, a bargain for any family on a budget.

Celebrate a spending holiday. Choose a day, weekend or week, and don’t buy anything during that time.

YouTube it. Leaky toilet? Car repair that’s going to set you back hundreds of dollars? Look on YouTube for some DIY, fix-it tutorials. Even if you can’t fix it in the end, you’ll gain knowledge that will help you make the thriftiest choices when hiring help.

Embrace a giving spirit. This sounds counterintuitive to saving. But even when a bankroll is at its lowest, giving to someone whose needs are greater than yours helps grow an appreciation for what you have. Giving to others is also a motivator to save more so you can help others more.