Introduction: 21 Ways to Spend Less and Save More Money

The key to reducing your spending is to cut back a little in every area. Start with simplifying your life. We fool ourselves by never thinking about the total annual costs of the things we spend our hard-earned money on. Spending $100 for cell phone service may not seem like much on a monthly basis, but that's $1200 in one year!

I want you to rethink your values, particularly those related to money. Focus on what you've determined is really important in your life and the lives of your family members. We get so caught up in our lifestyles that we fail to realize we're spending a great deal of our money on things that don't even fit into our value system.

This Instructable gives you 21 tips for simplification that might work for you. Perhaps they'll help you think of other ways that you can cut back financially, slow down, and enjoy the things that really matter. These tips will help you get started on a life-long journey of frugality.

(Photo: MissHarey)

Step 1: Stop Unnecessary Shopping.

I'm not talking about purposeful shopping for necessary items. I mean strolling through the mall, window shopping, or surfing online stores with nothing particular in mind, simply looking for great bargains and things that happen to strike your fancy. This kind of "shopping' is a very dangerous thing to do.

I'm not suggesting that you never buy anything again, but that your spending should become a planned act, purchasing the goods and services you need, not spur-of-the-moment, impulsive spending.

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Step 2: Pay With Cash Only.

Retailers are well aware of the statistics that prove that you will spend at least 30 percent more if you are in a store with a credit card, debit card, or checkbook than you would with "cold hard cash." A customer who carries cash is the last thing they want to see coming. Why? Because they know how cautious and non-impulsive the cash buyer is.

(Photo: Martha)

Step 3: Keep a Daily and Weekly Spending Record.

Seeing where your money goes keeps you from lapsing into a spending coma. A spending record makes you really think about your spending habits. It will provide proof of your challenges and progress. Plus, keeping a daily and weekly spending record is the first step toward establishing a monthly budget.

First, keep a daily spending record for thirty days or one month. This is simply a written account of the money you spend during a specific day. Writing it down is the only way to find out where all of your money is going. Each time you spend cash, write a check, use your credit card, or use your debit card--write it down.

Accumulate seven days of spending records for one week. Accumulate four weeks of spending records for one month. Then you'll be able to create your monthly budget based on what you've spent over the last month.

Print Daily Spending Record

Print Weekly Spending Record

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Step 4: Find and Buy the Cheapest Gas.

It takes only a few seconds to log on to to find the cheapest gas in your neighborhood the day you need to fill up.

Simply type your city and state in the "Search for Local Gas Prices" search box, click "Search," and you will see a list of the lowest priced gas in your area as of the last 24 hours.

As you can see, if you are a member of one of the major warehouse retailers like Costco, BJ's, or Sam's Club, you'll probably find cheaper gas than at the other stations like Exxon, Shell, or Citgo.

Step 5: Keep Your Car Tires Filled.

Check your car tires weekly to make sure they're properly inflated, holding the exact amount of air pressure as recommended in your owner's manual. In this particular manual, the recommended tire pressure is 35 PSI.

Keeping your tires properly inflated should increase your gas mileage by up to 10 percent.

Step 6: Grocery Shop With a List.

A grocery shopping list is your game plan. The food industry spends billions of dollars a year to weaken your resistance to spend more money with fancy packaging and compelling displays. Create your list according to the layout of your grocery store, only buying those items that you need.

Remember Step 1: Staying out of the store unless absolutely necessary will decrease your exposure time and your temptation.

(Photo: Bruce Turner)

Step 7: Be Brand Flexible.

Staying loyal to a specific brand might cost you a lot of money in the long run. If you're willing to go with what's on sale, the store's brand, or the brand for which you have a coupon, you're likely to keep more of your money in your wallet.

An 18-oz. jar of Jif brand peanut butter at Walmart costs $2.98. The same size jar of Great Value brand at Walmart costs $2.56. That's a difference of 42 cents! Imagine how much you could save if you switched all of your name brand products with the store brand.

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Step 8: Use Sale Ads.

Plan your meals and shopping list around what's on sale this week. Collect the sale ads that come in the mail and in the weekly newspaper.

Step 9: Plan Meals Carefully at Your Favorite Grocery Store.

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  1. You choose your meal plan according to your eating style, family size, and grocery store.
  2. Each week you'll receive your meal plan, complete with seven dinner recipes (including entrees and side dishes) and shopping list--directly to your email inbox.
  3. Take your shopping list that's coordinated with the weekly sales at your favorite grocery store and enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals at a bargain.

(Photos: sixcherriesontop, A Pretty Rock, ihopeh)

Step 10: Use Coupons.

Use coupons only for items you'd buy if you didn't have the coupon. Always buy the smallest qualifying size when using a coupon.

If you are really serious about slashing your grocery bill, here are some web sites that can help you find good deals:

To organize your coupons, consider purchasing the CouponPro binder with coupon pocket pages, divider, shoulder strap, and built-in storage compartments.

(Photo: Hobbies on a Budget)

Step 11: Eat Lunch and Breakfast for Dinner.

There are two ways to switch up your lunch and dinner meals:
  1. When eating out at a restaurant for dinner, ask to see and order from the lunch menu, request the lunch portion of the entree you select, or eat half of the dinner portion and box up the other half for tomorrow's lunch. On average, you will save about 20 percent; plus you'll have a lighter meal and avoid overeating.
  2. Instead of cooking the typical meat and potatoes for dinner, try having "breakfast" for the evening meal instead. Bacon, eggs, and pancakes can be a delicious, time saving twist to the end of a long day.

(Photos: Orange County Girl, Guzzle and Nash)

Step 12: Find a Free Bank Account.

It may take some searching, but there are many banks and credit unions that offer free accounts with a minimum balance. Check out for help. They've compiled offers from more than 500 financial institutions to help you find the best checking account for your banking needs. It's easy:
  1. Enter your zip code.
  2. Select whether you are a Teen, College Student, Senior, or Everyone Else.
  3. Select your preferred institution type.
  4. The results will give you a list of qualifying banks in your area with their monthly and annual fees, if any.

SECU's annual fees are $0 for Choice Interest Checking; $60 for Standard Checking; and $108 for Premier Interest Checking.

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Step 13: Pay Your Bills Online.

Paying your bills online through your bank's or an independent bill paying site will save you a lot of time and money. You won't have to pay postage and you'll have an electronic record of your banking activity.

(Photos: Christophe Langlois, fiserv)

Step 14: Use Only No-fee ATMs.

Use only automatic teller machines (ATMs) that are networked into your bank's system and for which you will not be charged a transaction fee.

(Photo: Don Spaulding)

Step 15: Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water.

If you're like most families, the bulk of your laundry is only lightly soiled. Modern-day detergents clean clothes just as well in cold water as in warm or hot. Your colors will last longer too!

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Step 16: Ease Up on Your Dishwasher.

Save heat and water in your dishwasher by washing by washing only full loads and choosing the air dry option.

Don't pre rinse dishes.

Better yet, to save even more energy, hand wash your dishes in the sink.

(Photos: emilyd10, suscinogual)

Step 17: Lower Your Thermostat in the Winter.

In the winter keep your thermostat set to as low as you can bear (60 to 70 degrees F.) unless you are in poor health, elderly, or taking certain types of medication.

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Step 18: Do a Movie Switch.

Instead of going out to a movie and dinner, go to a bargain-priced matinee and dessert after.

You can even cut entertainment cost by renting a DVD from a vending machine.

(Photos: Atwater Village Newbie, Frankeileon, ensun)

Step 19: Escape to the Library.

You'll be amazed at what fun you and your kids can have at the library.

You can borrow DVDs, CDs, audio books, and of course--exciting books!

Some libraries even have story time, arts and crafts, and documentary film showings.

(Photos: mamamusings, USAY Yang San)

Step 20: Go for a Walk and Exercise in Your Neighborhood.

If you've never explored your neighborhood, take the time to find out what you've been missing.

Instead of paying for a gym membership, go for walks around your neighborhood for exercise.

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Step 21: Be a Tourist in Your Own City.

Go online and search your community or city as if you were a tourist coming for a visit. Many of the activities are free or highly discounted. Your local tourism bureau should help you find lots to do and see in your city and surrounding area.

For example, if you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Baltimore Tourism Association makes it easy to choose activities to fit your recreation needs.

(Photos: rarayanme, National US Museum)

Step 22: The Result Is That You Spend Less Than You Make and Save Money.

If you practice the steps of this Instructable, you will be a person who earns money and manages to hang onto it by spending less than you make.

You probably don't need to eliminate one area entirely, but rather cut back a little bit in every area.

Strive to get the very best value you can for each dollar and fully enjoy the things you have or make use of.

(Photo: doctorwonder)