Simple Tricks to Save Hundreds

by Kim on January 30, 2011 · 8 comments

Part 2 in a 4-part series on how to save money and make your dreams come true

In part 1 of this series I wrote about saving money to fund your dreams.  That post detailed the principles that Brian and I live by that enable us to save money so that we can quit our jobs and travel around the world. 

Today, I’m writing about ways to save money at home.  It’s likely that these are all tips that everyone already knows about, and that’s great.  My goal is to just lay it all out there with the hope that someone will read a tip, use it in their own life, and save a few extra bucks each month to fund their dream. 

4 Tips to Save Money at Home

Tip #1- Conserve resources and money

Conserving resources at home is good for your pocketbook and the environment.  Using less water and energy means lower bills and more money in your pocket. 

Save water and money

  • Install low-flow shower-heads.
  • Install low-flow toilets.
  • Install sink aerators.
  • Don’t water your lawn in the summer.  Brown grass is sexy (and natural!) when it’s 95 degrees outside.
  • If it’s brown, flush it down.  But if it’s yellow, let it mellow.

Save energy and money

  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescents.
  • Unplug your electronics when you aren’t using them, they draw phantom energy loads even when turned off.
  • Install a programmable thermostat that will automatically lower your heat when you’re at work or sleeping.
  • Don’t leave your porch light on overnight.  If you’re worried about safety, install a motion sensor light.
  • Weatherize your home in the winter.  Simple plastic sheeting over windows can save a bunch of energy.  Use a towel to block the drafts under your exterior doors.
  • In the summer, don’t use the air conditioning until it gets miserably hot.  Make conscious choices about heating and cooling your home instead of just letting the heat or AC kick on whenever it may.

Check your local utility to find out if you can get conservation devices for free.  My local Water Bureau gives away low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators for free and recently ran a rebate program for low-flow toilets.  Our electric utility hands out compact fluorescent bulbs like they’re candy.  Our electric utility will also come and conduct a walk-through of our house to show us where we can save energy (and money) by weatherizing or upgrading appliances. 

Remember that every cent counts.  Why waste money and resources unnecessarily? 

 Tip #2- Decorate on the cheap

Everyone wants to live in a space that feels comfortable and homey.  It’s hard to fight the urge to drop money on items that spruce up your home.  Here are some of my all time favorite low-cost decorating tips.

  • Instead of buying expensive prints, frame post cards and greeting cards as wall art.  A beautiful greeting card costs $5 but looks like a $50 piece of art once it’s been framed.
  • Scour vintage stores for unique and low-priced items.  We found a beautiful floor rug for $60 at a vintage store.  I found a hand-sketched drawing of a tree in a gold frame for $8 at the thrift store.  I’ve picked up flower pots, end tables, a magazine rack and a mirror all for $20 or less.  Hunt for the hidden treasures in the nooks and crannies of vintage stores, there’s no reason to buy new.
  • Fill empty glass jars and bottles with dried tea leaves, salt, seeds and spices. The jars act as storage and decor.  Keep your coffee in a glass canister on a shelf in your kitchen.  The deep richness adds color to your kitchen and takes the place of a worthless knick knack.  The result is both functional and beautiful. 

Tip # 3- Rent or borrow but don’t buy

I saw a kick-ass presentation the other day about ‘collaborative consumption.’  I’m not going to go in to it but if your interest is piqued at all, make sure you watch the video.  In the video, I learned that 80% of the stuff we own we use less than once a month.  There are seven times more self-storage units than Starbucks in the western world.  Clearly, we’ve reached a point where our stuff owns us.

Before I purchase anything, I ask myself how often I will use it and if I already own something that can accomplish the same task as the product I’m thinking about buying.  For example, a food processor and a coffee grinder are pretty much the same thing.  I’d probably make good use of an apple slicer but our knife cuts the apple just as well.  

Take advantage of local resources.  Brian and I get all of our books and music from the library.  We borrow our neighbors tools and they borrow ours.  Three of our neighbors share a lawn mower and a group of neighbors down the street all pitched in to purchase a cheap pickup truck, splitting the cost of insurance.  Maybe the theme here is know your neighbors and then borrow their stuff!  No really, they won’t mind.  Have you ever been mad when someone you like has asked to borrow your bread pan for the afternoon?  No!  It makes you feel useful.  We don’t all need to own a 30 foot ladder.  Borrow one, rent it or pitch in with your neighbors and buy one to share. 

Tip # 4- Don’t think of anything as trash

Brian and I try not to think of anything as trash.  In Oregon we have the bottle bill, and can return our cans and bottles for a $0.05 deposit (which we automatically put into the change jar).  Before you throw or even give something away, ask yourself, does it have some other use?  We sell our books online at Powells or Amazon, clothes can be sold at Buffalo Exchange or swapped at a Naked Lady party.  Sell your unused lawn chairs on Craigslist or swap them for something else you need on Swaptree.  Remember, you paid for it, which means it had value at some point.  If you find the right market, chances are it still does. 

Always remember that each and every dollar we don’t spend can be saved towards funding our dreams. 

How do you save money at home?  Leave your favorite tip in the comments below!