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This is a thread for your biggest overall money-saving tip. What's the one thing you do that saves you the most money? It can be general (keeping a budget, using a high-interest savings account), specific (shopping around for auto insurance, selling the kids for cash), or anything in between!
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1) Spend less than you make. Adjust attitude as needed.
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Mine has been learning to cook and bringing my own lunch to work. I used to eat out every day and I'm probably saving $250/month now.

Oh and of course...quit smoking.

6
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I'll second cooking. It costs DW and I about $50 a week total, is healthier (saving on medical bills), takes less time (because you don't have to go out to eat and you can do other things while eating), and is absolutely delicious!
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Driving fewer miles.

I patronize the public library I can walk to from the office, rather than the one I'd drive to from home.
I do the same with the card shop.
Recently switched eye doctors so I can walk there too.

YeilB
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sofaking, I too did both those things! Amazing how much money they can both set you back.
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"I patronize the public library I can walk to from the office, rather than the one I'd drive to from home."

That's awesome. I walk to the library, too. Ninety percent of the time I feel lucky to live in such a walkable area, but when it's raining or sleeting and I have books to take back, sometimes it doesn't seem like such a joy!

I'm often surprised how many people I meet don't use the library. My parents took me every week when I was growing up, so I guess I just see it as normal. I go to Barnes & Noble, write down the titles of all the books that look good, and then go request them from the library. (I guess I should hope not everyone starts doing this, or there won't be any B&N left to browse in!)
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Bring your own lunch to work. Bring a frozen meal, a can of coke zero, and a fruit cup and can eat lunch for less than $5 a day. People who go out for lunch every day easily spend $75 a week.

Fuskie
Who also clips coupons to squeeze out every penny from his grocery buck...
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The biggest money saver for me, over the last ten years, has been learning to cook and do meal planning. I didn't learn to cook growing up - my mother cooked every night, but she hated cooking and we had the same bad five meals over and over. So I had to learn from cookbooks, and from cooking shows on TV. But it's been a great money saver. I realized early on that I could take my meager food budget and spend it on cheap, not very satisfying take-out or restaurant food, or I could use it to buy groceries, and I could eat very well. As my budget has increased, I've been able to splurge on meals that I really enjoy (I occasionally make a short rib braise that probably equals the cost of a high-end restaurant meal) but it's so satisfying to make your own food - and it's easier to justify great ingredients that you love when you aren't spending money eating out.

After I learned to cook, I learned how to plan meals and grocery shop. This is something I did learn from my Mom. Read the grocery store flyers (they're mostly on line these days) and plan your purchases around sales. This goes hand in hand with being an adventurous cook - if pork roast is a great price, then buy a bunch and find a great recipe for cooking pork roast. A lot of my favorite recipes have come from thinking "hmmm, I wonder how you cook that ingredient - it's on sale at a great price!" Planning is also a must. I keep a list of what I have in my pantry and freezer, and I look at both the grocery flyers and what I have on hand to decide what to cook. If chicken is a great price this week, then that might be my big weekend meal of the week. And maybe I'll use up the perishable veggies in the fridge at the same time. But on the weekdays, I may be too busy to cook much, so I'll plan to pull some leftovers out of the freezer or make something quick. Since I've started planning my meals, I have much less waste and I enjoy cooking more, since I don't come home and think "what's for dinner".

Karen
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What's the one thing you do that saves you the most money?

---

Manage my own money.

In 2009 to maintain fiscal fitness, I won't pay a professional service. Especially one that told us for years to use index funds and not trust 'the wise,' but now thinks they're smarter than everyone else.
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Fuskie, I second the "bring-your-lunch-to-work" suggestion! I was a habitual fast-food diner (Chipotle, Subway, Chinese takeout, etc.) for quite a while, and it wreaked havoc on my budget. The problem was, though, I didn't recognize how much havoc it was causing at first; $5 here and there can seem so innocent, but it can surely add up!

(And, let's face it, by the time I ordered a sandwich, a drink, and maybe a bag of chips or a cookie, I was usually paying well over $5.)

I bring my lunch nearly every day now (TMFKabellen can attest to my fondness for my brand-new Thermos, which has already paid for itself in terms of usage), and I find that I can put the savings to much better use elsewhere -- like an E-fund. :)

Lucky :)
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My biggest is a toss up between 2 long time habits:

1) don't shop
2) don't carry (much) cash

I don't go window shopping, walk thru malls, etc. for entertainment. I shop when I absolutely need something (like groceries).

I don't carry cash and rarely make ATM withdrawals. A $20 that I get back when buying groceries with my debit card will last a week or more.
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Biggest money saving tip: I try to never set foot in a shopping mall. If I do, I always end up with something unnecessary or my two DD find something---sure, good price, on sale, etc but STILL!
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Learn the difference between want and need.
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My biggest monetary saving tip is to create artificial financial scarcity. It works for me. Here's what I mean.

I try to increase my 401(k) contributions every year, and to see to it that most of the money from a raise or a promotion goes to the 401(k). This relieves me of the pressure to be actively engaged in saving money, cutting financial corners, etc. I create an artificial scarcity of money. (DW doesn't even know how much is going into the 401k.) The money never enters our household. We don't see it. And we don't miss it. With this artificial financial scarcity we can't even be tempted to use the money; it's gone -- gone into 401(k) savings.

It's kind of a psychological trick -- but it works.

Some people set their watches ahead ten minutes, trying not be be late for anything -- but that trick generally does not work because they just look at their watches when they are telling time and add the ten minutes right back in. On the other hand, with the 401(k), the money is gone and it can't be added back like the minutes on a watch.

Of course in addition to that, I try to LBMM, but maybe because I never did buy lunches out at work, spend money on cigarettes, fail to use coupons for grocery shopping, etc., etc. I find that I really can't save much money using the "live below your means" tips. But I like the 401k approach. Contributions started out pretty small. (Looking back -- too small.) But now, about 18% of my income goes into that. (Plus DW and I have other retirement savings ...)

--SirTas
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"What's the one thing you do that saves you the most money?"

We live by the following 2 basic financial credos:

- Other than mortgage, if you can't afford it for cash, you can't afford it.

- Your BEST credit is your own cash.
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The single thing that allowed me to save the most money was living with my mom when I moved back to a high cost of living area (Metro DC), even though I'd been used to living on my own for 10 years. If you have that option with family it should be considered. It's actually not that strange to anyone in a high cost of living area (most of my friends from college who were local to the New York City area moved back home for 5+ years after college to save money). Not only do I have money in the bank, but now that I have my own place again I really appreciate it, plus I appreciate the things I already do have since most of my belonging were in storage for 5 years -- it's almost like they're brand new again.

Second - a large portion of my salary is a annual bonus. Since I don't base any financial plans on this bonus (I even save for my ROTH IRA from base salary) I'm able to put most of it into savings -- I allow myself to spend 10% net. If I change jobs and get a total salary in bimonthly paychecks, I plan to right away put in savings the *extra* amount that I get at this job as a bonus, since I'm used to living without it all year long.

Third, I track my spending. I've been in credit card debt before, and knowing where my money is going helps me stay on goal.
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The single thing that allowed me to save the most money was living with my mom

Just curious -- did you pay any rent? Buy your own groceries? Help with your mom's housing costs, i.e., utilities? Help with running the household, i.e., chores?

~~ Alison, curious
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This is a thread for your biggest overall money-saving tip. What's the one thing you do that saves you the most money? It can be general (keeping a budget, using a high-interest savings account), specific (shopping around for auto insurance, selling the kids for cash), or anything in between!


Making so much money that I can't possibly spend it all.
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Just curious -- did you pay any rent? Buy your own groceries? Help with your mom's housing costs, i.e., utilities? Help with running the household, i.e., chores?

I didn't pay rent since the main point of living there was to save money, plus my mother has no mortgage. But I didn't have a full bedroom to myself -- I had use of a bedroom and about 1/3 of a small closet. If I were going to pay rent I would have expected more space. But I was saving money I otherwise would've spent on rent, I wasn't there to live a lifestyle I couldn't afford if I were paying rent. In 5 years I only took 1 vacation -- to FL to visit a friend and stayed with her.

I bought all my own groceries since my mom and I don't eat the same foods. I offered to help pay utilities, but my mom rejected that, since to her that was more money I could save. She doesn't clean her own house, she pays someone to come once a month. I didn't like the way he cleaned, so I usually cleaned the bathroom I used.

It benefitted her too, since she enjoyed having me there and doesn't always like living alone.

I find it funny that a lot of people are quick to ask "did you pay rent" -- but then they might have had circumstances where a parent paid thousands in wedding costs, or outright gave them money as a wedding gift or home downpayment. And somehow that's more acceptable to help a grown child start off their life, over giving them a place to stay so they're saving their own downpayment instead of paying another landowner rent.
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I find it funny that a lot of people are quick to ask "did you pay rent"

As I said, I was curious. Lots of young folks in this area have moved back home with parents -- expensive area, less-than-ideal economic times, etc.

I don't think it's unreasonable for a parent to want the more-or-less grown-up offspring to help with the running of the household in one way or another. For example, there are kids who move back, live rent-free, don't pay for his/her food, use water/electricity -- that doesn't seem right to me. And of course, I don't know everyone's circumstances, but I think it should be a mutually agreeable arrangement.

It benefitted her too, since she enjoyed having me there and doesn't always like living alone.

Sounds like it worked out well for both of you.

~~ Alison
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Don't lie to yourself.
Learn to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
Chose the right spouse/partner.
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This is a thread for your biggest overall money-saving tip. What's the one thing you do that saves you the most money? It can be general (keeping a budget, using a high-interest savings account), specific (shopping around for auto insurance, selling the kids for cash), or anything in between!

What do you mean by the biggest? Total amount saved or percentage saved?
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"What do you mean by the biggest? Total amount saved or percentage saved?"

Personally, I think percentage saved might be applicable to more situations, since incomes and expenses vary so widely. But I'm sure opinions differ. Either would be helpful!
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The best thing I did [almost 30 years ago] to save money was to write down EVERYTHING I spent for 2 months. That means everything IN DETAIL - every item from the vending machine, every beer after work, every magazine, everything. I even broke down "groceries" into food/necessities then each non-essential was listed separately.

Yes, it took some time but it was only for 2 months.

When done, I reviewing and summarized the list. I was amazed at the unnecessary things I was buying and how much they were really costing me. Even before I summarized things it was becoming obvious where some of the issues were. That changed my spending habits permanently. (OK, they got a little lax over the years but I'm pretty sure I have more to spend now as a result of that one exercise.)
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Hi Folks,

I just stumbled in here from the Fiscal Fitness '09 series ;)

I'm long-time-newbie Fool, having just joined TMF last April (so many parts to the Fool, so little time :)

The best thing I did [almost 30 years ago] to save money was to write down EVERYTHING I spent for 2 months.

Why did you stop there? I've been doing that for 15+ years now :)

As for my single money-saving idea? Paying myself first.
I've max'ed out my 401(k) contributions since the very first day I had one. For more than 15 years, I've contributed the maximum amount possible allowed by the IRS or my employer, whichever was in effect at the time (some employers have capped the percentage artificially low :(

But even after this funky market we're in, and being down about 24%, I supposed have more saved for retirement than most people within 5 years of retiring!

The other biggest thing is, I'm lazy and cheap :)

- I don't spend if I don't have to.
- I take very good care of my stuff.
- If it's broke, I fix it. (I've given myself a good education in the trades this way :)
- If I can't fix it, I'll try and make a replacement with "stuff" around the house.
- If can't make one, I live without if possible.
- If I can't live without it, I'll try and find a used free one on FreeCycle or a cheap used on on CraigsList.
- If I really need a new one, I shop around or...
- I pay for a good quality one that will last so I don't need to deal with this again.

I've spend about $2-3K on some landscaping recently. This is a savings of over $11-20K I receieved "free estimates" for. I learned to do it all myself. I took my time, I read a lot, and I talked to everyone I knew who ever did anything similar.

Of course, the trade-off is time. The landscaping project that would likely have been done in less than 2 weeks if I had paid the $11-20K has been ongoing for 3 years now :)

As for the Library, I can't remember when I last bought a new book.
The greatest thing is our Library is a member of a regional library consortium, which in turn is part of the state consortium. So I can get books on Inter-Library Loan from any library in the state. Additionally, it's all on-line. I make lists of books I want to read, and when I know I'll have time to read them, I surf on over to the library's site and order them. When they're ready, I get an e-mail letting me know they're in. Then either I or my wife picks them up the next time we're out in that direction. Free books, no wasted time, no extra trips, no wasted gas!

Paul - who thinks that's enough for a first post :)
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TMFKabellen can attest to my fondness for my brand-new Thermos

It's true! The woman loves her Thermos. I don't blame her. I'm jealous of it myself.
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I refinanced my mortgage.

This reduced my monthly mortgage payment by $359.51, an annual savings of $4314.12.
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