Money 202: Tricks To Shave Down Costs

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Money 201: Wise Spending Concepts

Food & Drink

Eat out less

Eating out usually costs about five times the cost of eating at home

Calculate the tip into the cost of eating out

Not only does eating out cost more, but a lack of proper nutrition also decreases your willpower to pursue other money-saving habits

When you do go out, try to save

Avoid dessert, fries, alcohol or soft drinks

  • The profit margins for restaurants are exceedingly high for them
  • Drinks and fries are rarely worth the cost of the combination meal

Get discounts

  • Use promotional sites like Restaurant.com or Groupon
  • Look in your mail for restaurant coupons
  • Take the customer survey that comes on some receipts to get a chain of discounts every time you visit

Buy what they’re likely to throw out

  • Call any pizza place and ask if they have any orders that people didn’t pick up, then negotiate a discount price
  • Near closing, most food establishments are trying to get rid of their excess
    • If you’re courteous, you can often request additional items into your order for free near closing time
    • Visit KFC just before closing time to sometimes get extra chicken thrown in
    • If you ask, most bakeries will give you a trash bag full of day-old bread

Look for the value items tucked away in the corner of their menu’s presentation

  • If you’re a senior citizen, look at their menu as well
  • Try to combine cheaper menu items to make the same thing for less
    • Value fries can go with a $1 sandwich to build an affordable combo
    • Make a root beer float at McDonald’s by asking for a cup of ice cream topped with root beer

Some restaurants have unadvertised promotions

  • At Domino’s Pizza, ordering online is less than half the price as in-store
  • Five Guys gives extra bacon and extra cheese for free
  • Use the code 25OFF at Papa John’s online for 25% off
  • Use a Starbucks gift card five times for unlimited tea and coffee refills for a year

If you have kids, only go where they can eat for free

In a coffee shop, baristas will occasionally overfill your order if you get a medium drink in a large cup

At a bar, pay for your drink before you receive it instead of an open tab

Avoid vending machines as much as possible since you’re paying for convenience

  • If you do use one, insert the lowest-value coins first to ensure that the machine works
  • If your food is stuck, buy the item above it instead of the same one to knock it loose

Cook every meal possible at home

Create a weekly meal plan to make the time burden and spending decisions simpler

Find every possible way to avoid throwing food out

  • Items in the back of the fridge are likely older, so use them first
  • Find the best way to store each food to avoid wasting money on spoiled food
  • Cook and store large batches
    • Use the freezer, can them or repurpose them as ingredients for other meals
  • Turn any spoiled food into compost or pet food
  • Try to use every part of each vegetable for some purpose
  • Make “leftover meals” that combine the leftovers into a new meal
  • Supercook or MyFridgeFood let you type in ingredients for recipe ideas

There is a whole section later on how to cook well in the health section

Pack your lunches for work

  • Bring a drink
    • Make an ice pack for a cooler by freezing a water bottle
    • Make a bottle holder by running tube socks over the bottle
    • Turn any cup into a portable one with Press’n Seal wrap placed around the top
  • Make a lunch cooler
    • Soak a sponge or damp paper towel in a plastic bag and put it in freezer
    • Make packs that get cold but not hard by mixing one part rubbing alcohol and three parts water in freezer bags
  • Wrap a rubber band around a cut apple to keep it from browning
  • Make condiment storage containers by squirting into a straw, pinching with needle-nose pliers, heating to seal it, then pinching and heating the other side
  • Make individual coffee packs
    • Press coffee filter into 1/2 cup measuring cup and fill, cinch and tie with unscented dental floss, store in plastic bags

Drink plenty of water in between meals

  • Avoid paying a premium on bottled water by drinking tap water or getting a portable water filter
  • Adjust yourself to drinking water or tea over soda, milk or sweetened drinks

Eat less meat, more vegetables, more rice, and use more affordable staples

  • Breakfast – oats with raisins or a banana, milk, tea bags, 3-egg omelet with peppers and cheese
  • Lunch – peanut butter & jelly sandwich, banana, leftovers from dinner
  • Dinner – rice and beans, ground beef, cheese, avocado, homemade bread, homemade salad, pasta
  • Snacks – granola, carrots, produce

Learn unconventional replacements with Great Depression Cooking or find other affordable alternatives (many of them in the cooking section later)

  • Buy tougher cuts of meat and cook or slow-cook them on lower temperatures for longer
  • Don’t buy Girl Scout cookies, since Keebler sells them year-round under different branded names

Make your food when it makes sense for you

  • Baby food (all you need is a blender)
  • Bread (much more straightforward than it sounds)
  • Brewed coffee and coffee mix drinks (a coffee machine or even a pour-over cone improves the quality at a lower cost)
  • Frozen fruit bars (store fruit juice in the freezer with popsicle sticks)
  • Fruit (plant trees of what you want, more on this near the end of the guide)
  • Gourmet ice cream (mix your favorite candies into your preference of ice cream)
  • Granola (bake oats and your favorite fruits)
  • Pickles (seal cucumbers in a jar with vinegar and wait)
  • Tomato-based pasta sauces (mix tomato sauce with your favorite spices)
  • Trail mix
  • Sandwiches

Most food manufacturers place their expiration dates long before the food spoils

  • Early expirations dates are strictly to profit the manufacturers
  • Stores, however, still honor those dates and will sell it near the declared expiration date at close to half-price

Avoid junk foods and anything easy to binge on

  • High-sugar cereals
  • Chips
  • Frozen dinners and snacks

Keep easily-made meals available for days you feel lazy

Save when buying groceries

Invest in a good-quality freezer to store food when it goes on sale

Don’t buy on impulse

  • Make a list before you go
  • Make sure you’ve just eaten before you go
  • Go by yourself to avoid peer pressure to buy something else

Communicate with your spouse or partner about your plans to prevent a double-purchase

Avoid one-item trips, which waste gas and inspire you to buy more than one item

Get your produce from a food-sharing website or through a co-op

Some food is more convenient, but is highly overpriced or is a much lower quality

  • Bottled, prepared or powdered teas
  • Boxed rice or side-dish mixes
  • Frozen pre-formed meat patties
  • Gourmet frozen vegetables
  • Individual 100-calorie servings of anything
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Pre-mixed alcoholic drinks
  • Salad kits
  • Snack/lunch packs
  • Spice mixes

Compare your choices before committing to buying

  • Canned goods are sometimes more expensive than frozen or fresh
  • Canned store-brand items will sometimes use more water than branded ones

Engineer your grocery store experience to save money

  • Give yourself a time limit to avoid stalling and buying more
  • Listen to upbeat music to get through the store faster
  • Grab a smaller cart to prevent filling a larger one with unnecessary purchases
  • Avoid the deli counter and fresh bakery
  • Learn the days each store stocks its fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Visit during the slow part of the day such as late at night or late morning to avoid stress from other shoppers
  • Look at the price per ounce, not the price for the container
    • Store brands are usually drastically cheaper
    • Many brand coupons mark down the price to store-brand price
  • If an item is quickly perishable, like milk or eggs, grab from the back of the rack
  • Look in the clearance bins, discount areas, and meats on Manager’s Special
    • Avoid buying anything you don’t need just because it’s cheap

Try all the stores at least a few times to find out which items are most affordable in each

  • Find the pattern at your store for sales and what they discount
    • Track every grocery item’s price with a spreadsheet if you want to catch routine and seasonal trends
  • Look for sales and specials in-store
  • Avoid going to a corner store or gas station store for any food
    • Gas stations and smaller stores are expensive and designed for impulse buys
  • Visit discount grocery stores where you bag your groceries yourself and rent carts

Check the weekly online ads to see the best things to stock up on

  • Get grocery coupons through the Sunday newspaper or services like LOZO
  • Only use coupons for items you were already planning to buy

Observe the expiration dates on the food, then come back a day or two before it expires to see it in the clearance rack

Healthcare

Multivitamins are a waste of money if you have a balanced diet

Quit smoking: it’s expensive and can hike up healthcare costs

If you need eyewear, buy glasses instead of contacts

  • Look at online optical shops like Zenni or Warby Parker to update eyewear
  • When your glasses break
    • Invest in electronics tools to repair your glasses yourself
    • Apply clear nail polish to keep eyeglass screws from coming undone
    • Use craft glue to secure the frames when they bend

A consistently used gym membership is much cheaper than a medical emergency

  • Consider haggling the gym for a better rate, a few free months or to have the initiation fee waived

Use generic prescription drugs whenever possible and price-compare between pharmacies

  • A 3-month supply is usually cheaper than purchasing month by month

Look into an HSA (Health Savings Account)

  • An HSA is a tax-sheltered savings account for medical expenses with high-deductible insurance policies
  • While an HSA rolls forward every year and gains interest, an FSA (Flexible Spending Account) loses any unused money at the end of the year

Explore unconventional health insurance alternatives

Joining a health care sharing ministry

  • It operates the same as conventional health insurance with different terminology
  • Voluntary charitable membership organizations that share medical expenses among the membership
  • Benefits are often half the cost of similar health insurance

Purchase a short-term health insurance policy

  • Usually lasts 1-11 months

Buy alternative insurance plans

  • Can be fixed-benefit insurance, critical illness insurance, accident insurance, etc.
  • Gives cash directly
  • Cut down on healthcare costs by maxing out medical and underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage

Visit cash-only doctors and retail clinics for primary healthcare

  • If you need primary care more than a few times a year, join a direct primary care practice for a monthly fee

Sign up for a telemedicine service

  • Doctors will answer simple medical issues via phone calls, email or video chatting

When you must visit the hospital

Research the prices for various services with Healthcare Bluebook or Clear Health Costs

Work with a medical bill negotiation service

If you need surgery, use facilities that offer up-front “package” prices for self-paying patients

Personal Care

Get pedicures, manicures, eyebrow shaping and most hair appointments at a local cosmetology school

  • If you’re nervous about your hair getting ruined, ask for a more experienced stylist trainee or request for their supervision

Learn how to cut and color your hair

  • Choose hairstyles that require very little maintenance
  • Buy used hair styling tools online and refurbished

Learn to paint your nails

Get massages at local massage schools or cosmetology schools

Use bar soap instead of body wash

Save on hair products

  • Use the shampoo from the bottom of a bottle by setting it upside down in the shower when you’re not using it
  • Discount and dollar stores sell good-quality shampoos and conditioners
  • Many stores will offer hair sprays and lotions in the travel-size bins to allow you to test them

Clothes & Linens

Only buy clothes that match everything and can stay in style for a long while

  • Get clothing larger than your size if you know how to shrink them
    • Shrink a leather jacket by wearing it in the rain or soaking it in water
    • For shoes too big, glue a piece of velvet inside the shoes, taking care to avoid wrinkling
  • Trade clothing with friends or rent them with Rent the Runway

Only get shoes that have a purpose or outfit connected to them

  • Feet grow by about 5-10% during the day, so go shoe shopping in the evening

Only purchase handbags that can still look good after a few scratches

Mend and repair your clothes and accessories

  • Stop a run in a stocking with clear nail polish
  • Apply clear nail polish to button threads to keep them from unraveling
  • If pants zippers keep falling down
    • Flip a zipper downwards to “lock” it
    • Run a keyring through the zipper, then loop it over the top button
  • If zipper teeth get stuck, rub it with a graphite pencil tip
  • Repair broken flip-flops by slipping a bread clip underneath the hole

Don’t buy more linens, blankets, sheets, towels or comforters than you actually can use

When you think you’ve lost jewelry

  • Turn off the lights and shine a flashlight around the room to see it light up
  • Stretch pantyhose over a vacuum hose and secure with a rubber band, then vacuum around areas the jewelry may have fallen

School

Get textbooks online for free in PDF form instead of buying them

Use a free office suite instead of Microsoft Office

Use your local library or the internet to learn what you need or want to know instead of paying for classes

If a pen’s ink has dried out, expose the tip to an open flame

Put a blue ink cartridge inside of a red pen casing to keep it from getting stolen

Utility Consumption

Make new habits

Close the curtains at night to stop heat from escaping and use a draft excluder where necessary

Make changes to your heating and cooling

  • Set the thermostat timer to maximize efficiency
    1. 70-78° F when waking
    2. 60-85° F when nobody is home
    3. 70-78° F when people are 15 minutes from being home again
    4. 60-85° F when going to sleep
  • In general, save wear on the HVAC system by keeping the temperature within 5-10° of operating temperature only when people are around
    • Keep the temperature as high in the summer and as low in the winter as you can withstand
    • Heat or cool only the rooms you use by closing doors or using zone thermostat control
  • Wear layers of clothes and keep your feet warm in the winter and wear loose-fitting clothes in the summer
  • Turn the heater down when using the fireplace and close the damper when not using the fireplace
  • Close doors and windows when heating or cooling
  • Use unconventional tricks to save on air conditioning
    • Place a shallow bowl with ice or a frozen water bottle in front of a fan
    • Tape a fan to blow into a cooler filled with ice, then run a duct out of a hole on the other side

During the day, keep the drapes closed in the summer and opened in the winter

  • Spray the drapes with water and spread them across the window to cool the house down

Keep the windows open at night in the hot season and during the day in the cold season

  • Place one box fan in a window facing outward and another on the opposite side of the house facing inward to get better airflow

Save on electricity drain from appliances

Turn off the lights when leaving a room

Don’t run water when washing or shaving

  • Take shorter showers to use less hot water

Time your appliance usage for off-peak hours when there is a non-peak discount

  • 6 p.m. to noon on weekdays and all day on weekends

Turn off all appliances you aren’t using

  • Unplug appliances that go on “standby” like laptops, video games, and cell phones
  • Power off unused second refrigerators or freezers

Research a fridge and freezer’s optimal fill level, then keep it at that level with water-filled containers

Only open the fridge with an intended purpose in mind

Prepare food with minimalism in mind

  • Plan one-dish meals or prepare several meals at a time
  • Only boil as much water as you need
    • Reduce the heat once you start cooking
    • Cover the pots and pans
  • Preheat your oven only when necessary
    • Keep the oven door closed, repeated “peeking” wastes heat

Run full (but not overfilled) loads in a washing machine

  • Run the wash on cold or warm water
  • 5-10 minute cycles are usually sufficient

Use only full loads in the dryer

  • Clean the lint filters after every use
  • Cut your dryer sheets into smaller pieces to make them last longer
  • Alternately, sun-dry your clothing

Efficiently load the dishwasher and only run on maxed-out racks

  1. Rinse off all the pieces of food on the dishes
  2. Load plates on the bottom facing the center
  3. Place utensils with the handles facing downwards
  4. Place anything with a rounded side on top facing downwards
  5. Don’t place large flat objects like cutting boards against the front or it will block the detergent from dispensing
  6. Use a good-quality dishwasher detergent
  7. Disable the drying feature if it has it and use the “energy saving” setting
  8. Run the dishwasher after 8 p.m. when there is a non-peak discount

Don’t preheat your iron

  • Press light garments as your iron warms and turn it off as soon as you’ve finished

Keep pool cleaning and heating equipment clean and lubricated

  • Reduce the pool’s water temperature
  • Reduce the number of months the pool is heated

Add foam pads and side insulation to water beds and turn the heat setting down

Make minor adjustments to your home

Bring your heating and cooling costs down further

  • Clean out heating and air vents
    • Open up all the vents, since closing them increases energy costs
    • Check all air filters and replace or clean them monthly
    • Keep the furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted
    • Keep coils on air conditioners clean
  • Shade the windows and air conditioning condenser in the summer
    • Tape aluminum foil facing outward on poster board onto windows that get a lot of sun in the summer
  • Buy electric fans in the hot months you can move from room to room and mist yourself with a spray bottle
  • Turn off the furnace pilot light during the non-heating season
  • Invest in plenty of thick blankets and jackets for the winter
  • Spin the ceiling fan blades in the correct seasonal direction
    • In hot weather, push air downward to create a breeze
    • In cold weather, pull air upward to distribute heat

Pull the fridge back from the wall by at least 1 inch

  • Keep the coils on the back of the fridge clean

Lower the water heater temperature to 110°F (140°F if you have a dishwasher)

  • If 110°F isn’t hot enough, don’t go over 120°F

Install light switches that control the plugs or add switch-activated power strips

Buy power chargers that switch off when fully charged

Make larger improvements and repairs

Insulate your house at all of the following weak points

  • Exposed water heater pipe
  • Doors and drafts
  • Windows
    • Energy-efficient glazing around window frames
    • Insulated curtains, plastic or blankets over them
    • Insulation shutters
  • Under the floorboards
  • Between floors and skirting boards
  • Attic access, basement trap doors, and walls
  • Get free water heater blankets from the government
  • Plug any leaks in the HVAC venting system
  • Plug any gaps around pipes, ducts fans, and vents
  • Swap out electrical receptacle and switch boxes with foam gaskets or fiberglass insulation

Change out appliances for more energy-efficient ones

  • Do a break-even analysis to ensure the cost is worth it
    1. Calculate the cost of the new appliance
    2. Estimate your monthly or yearly utility expenses
    3. Figure out the future date when the cost “breaks even” and starts saving you actual money

Add a time clock to your water heater so that it only operates on non-peak hours

Buy an automated thermostat to simplify your climate control needs

Fix leaky plumbing and try to conserve water

  • Install low-flow shower heads and faucets
  • Install flow restrictors

Cut down on electricity from lighting

  • Replace standard light bulbs with energy-saving fluorescent and LED bulbs
  • Put timers on lights
  • Install dimmer switches

Calculate if solar energy, a windmill, propane or other alternative energy sources can save you money

If it makes sense for your situation, get a radiant heat floor

Comparison shop for your utilities with WhiteFence

  • Look for government rebates for low utility consumption

Housekeeping & Furniture

Instead of paying for high-end interior decorations, places like Pinterest provide numerous ideas to make your own

  • Restore your furniture and improve your decor instead of buying new furniture (much more on this later)
  • Buy furniture used at yard sales
  • Never get cheap particle board furniture that will break apart in a few years

Don’t buy more dishes than you need for a nice meal with your family and guests

Either buy dollar-store cleaning supplies or create at-home alternatives (much more on this later)

  • Try out melamine foam (typically known as the Magic Eraser)
  • Even though it may seem counterintuitive, detergent pods space out the usage of laundry soap and make the soap last longer

Personal Electronics

Don’t buy premium-grade products that offer convenience and simplicity at a cost (e.g., Apple)

Buy the latest technology of at least two years ago

Make your cell phone bill cheaper

Try a cell phone plan with a third-party carrier

  • Buy your phone outside of the cell phone plan
    • You can often purchase the phone for less outside the plan
    • Unlocked phones give the flexibility to keep your phone if you decide to change plans
  • It sounds counterintuitive, but primary carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.) charge more
  • Look at how much data you use monthly and bring that into your decision, but watch out for overage charges

If you feel you must stay with a mainstream provider, stop into a store in person and negotiate the price down

  • Negotiate for features that you’ve wanted like headsets, waterproof covers, routers, etc.
  • Pay attention to long-term phone contracts you sign, especially regarding cancellation fees
  • It’s often easier to negotiate over the phone, so experiment and research

Try other unconventional phone solutions

  • Get rid of your cell phone entirely and only having a house phone
  • Get rid of your home phone that came bundled with the cable and Internet bill, especially if you’re not running a business from it
  • When overseas, use a video chat service instead of a cell phone plan

Extend the life of your technology

Keep laptops from overheating by placing two identical forks underneath the laptop

Keep video game consoles from overheating by putting 20 oz bottle caps underneath the console

If keyboard feet break, use binder clips

Protect your chargers by running the cord through an old pen spring

Protect your mobile device’s screen from water by putting it inside a plastic bag

Extend the battery lives of computers

  • Turning off flash on a phone’s camera improves battery life, even when it’s unused
  • Turning on and off a phone burns more battery than just putting it in airplane mode
  • To extend a laptop’s battery life, keep the battery between 40% and 80%
  • Use your phone only when it’s not charging to keep the battery from getting ruined

Store batteries in the freezer in sealed plastic bags to double their lifespan

  • Even if you don’t store them in the freezer, put them in the fridge for a day before using
  • Rechargeable batteries charge inside the freezer

Test your batteries before throwing them away

  • Drop the battery six inches above a flat surface
    • If it barely bounces, it’s still good
    • It’s dead if it jumps a few times
  • Lick your finger and place on one end, then put your tongue on the other, if it tingles there’s still a charge

You can occasionally substitute a different battery

  • If you only have one battery, use a steel screw on the other side to close the circuit
  • To use an AAA battery in an AA battery slot, put a small wad of tinfoil on the positive side of the AAA battery

If you ever lose your phone or tablet

  • Ring, erase or lock it remotely with Android Device Manager
    • Ringing will even work in Silent Mode
  • if you lost an Android OS phone and it’s on vibrate, go to Google Play>Android device manager>’Ring’
  • You can also Google “find my phone” to locate your Android
  • Apple customer support can often find your phone if you call them

Play Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to hear all the sound ranges to test for a blown speaker

Avoid buying electronics accessories

Make a hoodie into a laptop case

  1. Center the laptop on the jacket
  2. Wrap the bottom of the jacket over the laptop
  3. Close the hood over the top and tie the strings together
  4. Tie the hands together to make it into a sling

Reuse a glasses or sunglasses case as a phone accessory case

Use a can warmer to hold a portable hard drive

Make an armband for a music player out of a tube sock

Extend the length of your phone or laptop charger with Christmas lights

Make a phone/tablet stand

  • Use the packaging the device came in and cut a groove into it
  • Bend a paperclip into a stand
  • Use an old cassette tape case

Make a spiral cord by wrapping a cord around a pen and blow drying it for 5 minutes

Create amplifiers instead of buying speakers

  • Amplify a laptop’s speakers by cutting a plastic cup in half and putting it over the keyboard
  • Attach plastic cups to the ends of a toilet paper or paper towel roll and cut a hole in the roll
    • Prop your phone up with push pins
  • Make a tablet speaker amplifier by cutting a slit into half of a tennis ball

Save on software

  • Find free software alternatives with AlternativeTo
  • If you need to upgrade your computer, try out Linux (get Ubuntu if you have no computer skill whatsoever)
  • Download the Free App of the Week even if you don’t use it to ensure that you have it if you ever need it

Pets

Adopt your cats and dogs from shelters instead of paying a retail store or farm

Learn about animal biology to understand what animals ought to eat

  • Look for more affordable options than premium pet food
  • Avoid gourmet pet food, which is usually not worth the price tag
  • Avoid generic or discount pet foods, since they can lack nutritional value for your pet

Train your cat to use the toilet with a relatively simple and affordable kit to save on cat litter

Brush your pet a few times a week and bathe them when possible to reduce grooming costs

  • Many places like PetSmart or PetCo will groom them for far less than a boutique

Don’t buy pets expensive toys, since they are more likely to play with the box

Keep up with routine veterinary care to avoid massive bills later

Traveling

In your car

Don’t buy premium gas

  • The quality difference is negligible or nonexistent
  • Additives are cheaper in the long-term

Join gas station rewards programs

Drive slower and more carefully to avoid unnecessary wear on your car

Avoid stepping unnecessarily on the gas pedal with cruise control

Keep the tires inflated to increase fuel efficiency and increase tire lifespan

Consolidate errands to save gasoline by combining locations

Try alternate routes to navigate around traffic

  • Change your work hours to avoid rush hour

Try alternatives to driving

  • If possible, find ways to carpool
  • Research if the bus or a car is cheaper for a routine trip
  • See if you can ride a bicycle or smaller motorized vehicle
  • Try telecommuting if your work is open to it

Book more affordable flights

Timing

  • The prices usually change about three times a day
  • Book the flights 330 days before you plan on going to score the first cheapest seats
  • About 6-8 weeks before the flights are scheduled the prices will drop
  • Try to avoid scheduling a Sunday flight

Pay close attention to the myriad fees that may come unexpectedly from not paying attention

  • Don’t book your flight with a phone call
  • Avoid canceling or changing your reservation

Flight services increase their prices every time you visit their site to make you feel a sense of urgency, so always search in incognito mode on your web browser

Visit secondary markets that sell underpriced tickets to fill the plane (e.g., Priceline or Skiplagged)

  • Use lower quality or local-only budget airlines whenever you can

Consider direct flights (one stop flights) versus adding a stopover with the same or a different airline

Sign up for airline newsletters and airline promotions

Use a service like SeatGuru to find the most affordable seats on a plane

Be prepared to avoid needless spending during your flight

Pack items you’ll likely need

  • Food (make sure it doesn’t have a strong odor for everyone else’s benefit)
  • Blankets
  • Take empty water bottles and fill them up after getting through security
  • Have enough entertainment or reading for the trip

Use a coupon service like Groupon to get discounts on airport parking

Checking in

  • If you didn’t pay full price for the ticket, don’t expect to get a free upgrade with the ticket agent
  • Travel without a checked bag
    • If you must bring a checked bag, mail it via parcel service to the hotel you’re staying at

At the terminal

  • Don’t buy any of the high-priced items at the airport shops

Ask for anything free you need during the flight

  • You can usually get what you need if you’re gracious to the steward
    • Children’s activity packs
    • Dental hygiene kits
    • Earplugs or a sleep mask
    • First aid supplies
    • Leftover meals from first-class
    • Slippers or socks
    • You can have as many refills of your drinks as you want
  • As long as it’s not disruptive, you can always ask for a tour of the flight deck and meet the pilot

At your destination

  • Ask the front desk of your hotel if you ever lose your phone charger, since they often have extras that other people have left

Recreation

Find cheap or free hobbies and pastimes for yourself, your date, and your family

Avoid going to the mall or shopping center to kill time to avoid the enormous temptation to buy something

Cancel your subscriptions and memberships

  • Get rid of cable TV and switch to streaming Internet video
    • In Hulu, select “cancel my account” to receive a free month of credit
  • Stop subscribing to magazines and newspapers and use the Internet
    • If you can’t access what you want over the internet, visit your local library or use apps that you can “check out” library items
    • If you insist on subscribing to a magazine, pull the discount cards out from waiting room or library copies
  • Cancel a gym membership you’re not using
    • Get home workout equipment
    • Make workout equipment with a duffel bag, contractor’s bags, truckers’ bungees, and pea gravel
    • Make an obstacle course with rocks, ropes, and other common household objects
  • Cancel your satellite radio
  • If you want to keep your subscription, research current specials and negotiate for the advertised rate
    • Many times being newer with a competitor will give big discounts
    • If they refuse, then politely reason that you can leave and come back to get the discount
    • If the rate climbs after a grace period, offer to renew if you can get the prior year’s rate

Learn more for less

  • Try to learn a new language or create one
  • Find new recipes
  • Get better at chess
  • Consider classes at a community college over more expensive options like private classes
    • Take online courses through organizations like Coursera for affordable or free online learning
  • Grow a garden (more on how later)
  • Anything else that takes focus and effort but doesn’t cost much

Make alone time affordable

  • Practice meditation
  • Start blogging, writing or creating videos
  • Read more online articles and free e-books
  • Use the library more often to read
  • Instead of buying audiobooks on Amazon, it’s cheaper to buy the Kindle book and add the audiobook to it
  • Only go shopping when you’re not bored, upset, lonely or unhappy

Movies & TV

  • Bring an outside snack to theaters, but make as little noise as possible from the wrappers
  • Rent movies or stream them at home online
  • Theaters run free and inexpensive films during the summer months
  • Avoid the discount movie bin unless it’s a movie you’ve had on your list to own

Parks can be even more affordable

  • Look for free entrance days at national parks and beaches
  • Hike in a local park, since most of them are free or very reasonably priced

Try domestic tourism

  • Many museums have free days, depending on your city
  • Many guided tours are free, especially in larger cities
  • Many schools and junior theaters have very affordable or free plays and productions
  • Look for free concerts in your area
  • During the holiday season, drive around and observe the Christmas lights
  • Look into local tourist promotions in your area or get an Entertainment book

Swimming

  • Find a local community swimming pool where you can swim for little to no cost
  • Local colleges often have affordable rates to use their pools

Kids’ extracurricular activities

  • Plan for the expenses and event in advance
    • Consider what is truly necessary for the experience, since children’s activities have countless expensive add-ons (e.g., amusement park food, gift shops, etc.)
  • Many craft and hardware stores have free children’s workshops
  • Bowling promotions are extremely affordable

Save on childcare costs

  • Recruit the help of extended family
  • Find a college student pursuing teaching or nursing that needs experience caring for children
  • Look into childcare provided by your employer
  • Send the kids off to day camps or overnight camps
  • Send them to sleepovers with their friends
  • Start a babysitting co-op to give you and several other parents freedom multiple weekends of the month
  • Some gyms and theaters provide free childcare during your time at the facility

Find friends who share your money and lifestyle values

Create a mastermind group to achieve your goals together

Invite others into your low-expense lifestyle with local community events or holiday festivals

Have affordable events with family and friends

  • Invite everyone over for tea
  • Make a movie night or board game night
  • Visit a bookstore and read or share experiences with each other
  • Go rummaging together through a thrift store
  • Start a neighborhood block party

Find creative ways to spend time with others affordably

  • Video game nights
  • Scrabble competition nights
  • LEGO nights
  • Card game nights
  • Group rates at various locations

If your friends or family make much more or much less than you, search for activities you can both do

If you make less than them

  • With your financial goals in place, be unafraid to let them know why you don’t want to do something
  • Be careful borrowing money, but if you absolutely must
    1. Make a concrete deadline
    2. Draw up a contract
    3. Pay interest on it

If you make more than them

  • Expect to lose money when loaning to your friends
  • Keep your unsolicited advice to yourself
    • If you must share something, bring up a situation in your experience similar to the one you see

If you ever loan something to a friend and want to be sure you get it back, take a photo of them with the item when you give it to them

Professional Services

You can do many professional services yourself if you’re willing to take the time

  • Home repair
  • Housekeeping
  • Lawn care
  • Pest control
  • Minor auto repair

If you do need professional services, only hire experts for that particular niche

  • A bankruptcy attorney will not be naturally skilled at navigating an estate
  • You may have an audit CPA as a friend, but they will not do as well as an experienced tax CPA or proficient EA
  • Referrals for the best contractors are often from reputable friends that have had good experiences with them
Next: Money 203: What To Do With Your Freed-Up Money