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7 money-saving tips people often forget about

For the frugal-minded, a treat that happens every day is no longer a treat -- it's overhead. A review of some tried-and-true advice may be in order.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 5, 2013 1:27PM

This post comes from Kentin Waits at partner site Money Talks News. 

MTN logoThese days it seems everyone is exploring new and novel ways to save more money. But sometimes in our quest for fresh ideas, we tend to forget the basics that served us so well in the past. When that happens, it helps to take a step back and brush up on those tried-and-true methods that we may be neglecting.

Home garage sale (© UpperCut Images/SuperStock)

If you're in need a frugal refresher, here are seven classic money-saving tips that are worth another look:

1. Buy used

Let someone else take depreciation on the chin. Buying used cars, secondhand appliances in good working order, even gently used clothes and books is one of the single best money-saving moves a person can make.

But buying used takes some forethought and strategy. Don't wait until you need an item to buy it; instead plan ahead. Ask yourself, "What will my family need three months or six months down the road? What should I keep an eye out for now so I don't have to pay retail when it's crunch time?"

Scour thrift stores for great winter clothing bargains during the dog days of summer. Pick up a used patio set from the classifieds in autumn. Understanding what your future needs will be makes buying used a whole lot easier.

2. Lighten up on the utilities

I'm a child of the '70s and I distinctly remember the first energy crisis. It seemed like overnight the country developed an energy conscience, and stickers started appearing around every light switch in my school -- "Conserve! Lights Out!" Those little labels made a big impression on me back then (as did my parents' own long-standing house rules).

I still watch the utilities closely today -- turning off lights when I leave a room, using dimmer switches, and keeping the thermostat set at reasonable temperatures as the seasons change. It's an easy thing to forget in the mad dash of modern life, but keeping utility costs in check is an immediate way to save money and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time.

3. Skip the latte (sometimes)

A dear friend of mine has an interesting habit. Even though he considers himself frugal, he likes to treat himself to small pleasures every now and then. Trouble is, "every now and then" has recently turned into every day. It goes something like this: On his way to work he'll tell me, "I think I'll treat myself to a latte this morning," and $4.35 later, he'll stroll out of the coffee shop, treat in hand.

Now, don't get me wrong: What fun would life be without a little indulgence? But for the frugal-minded, a treat that happens every day is no longer a treat -- it's overhead. Would the treat be any less delicious if he made it at home and skipped the retail markup and the long lines? We all have our own "latte factor" in life, and remembering to keep our treats in line with our budget is always a good thing.

4. Buy in bulk

It's easy to forget just how much savings can be gained through buying in bulk. Rather than focusing on sale prices for individual items, compare prices per ounce or per unit. Just keep three things in mind when buying in bulk:

  • Buy what you have room enough to store (or share).
  • Buy only those products you're sure you'll use.
  • For perishable items, make sure you're not buying so much that you won't have time to use it before it goes bad.

5. Ride a bike or carpool

It might sound like a cliché, but getting in the habit of commuting to work by bike a few times a week or using a bike for local errands is a great money-saver. Besides avoiding the expense of fuel, wear and tear on your car, and parking, biking is a free cardio workout. Over time, you'll build stamina and muscle, work off stress, rest better and maybe even make fewer trips to the doctor's office.

Though carpooling isn't necessarily heart-healthy, it can be budget-friendly. Explore joining or setting up a carpool program where you work and sharing commuting expenses with co-workers who have similar schedules. Sharing the cost of fuel, parking, tolls, and other expenses helps everyone and helps the planet too.

6. Learn a money-saving skill

What if everyone decided to learn one money-saving skill every six months? How much money could we save individually and collectively? If you're focused on frugal living, explore hobbies and activities that can help your bottom line and be enjoyable too. Learn to plant a vegetable or herb garden, try your hand at basic car and home repair projects, or learn to refinish furniture. Over time, your portfolio of skills will not only add to your Renaissance appeal, it’ll help save you some serious cash.

7. Save the raise

Believe it or not, raises still happen from time to time. If you can make ends meet on your pre-raise salary, consider pocketing the extra and putting it toward your retirement savings or another interest-bearing investment. Not allowing each salary increase to carry a commensurate standard-of-living bump is a relatively painless way to save. Try the same approach with your tax refund or quarterly bonus.

What do all of these money-saving tips have in common? What's the universal theme? That the details matter. Small expenditures are easy to overlook as we focus on big expenses like mortgage payments, student loan debt or credit card bills, but it all adds up.

It's worth remembering: Being vigilant in all areas of our financial lives -- from the big stuff to the small stuff -- can make a real impact on our bottom lines.

More on Money Talks News:

Sep 5, 2013 3:40PM

So, in other words, use your common sense. Something that appears to be lacking in today’s society

Sep 5, 2013 5:36PM

I do try and buy things used it does seem to lower the cost a bit, presuming that you can find the items used. I have found it difficult to find the reading books that I wish to read, they might show up 5-7 years after they are published. and when they do they cost about 5-10% less then a new book, as well as being nearly in tatters, so that I might get 1 read through out of the book.


I do tend to keep the A/C and heat at temperatures that are different then I am told to by most. in summer We cool the house to about 78 and in winter (in the Midwest) have it set to about 64. The interesting thing is that it saves us nothing at all in the utility bill. Changed over to the CFL, and most of the time have one light on in the whole house. we are still near the top of the energy users in our area per the company. I wonder if the cooking at home, using the oven and dishwasher are costing us in the apartment we live in more then it is saving us in the cost of eating out.


I do try and buy in bulk, but is difficult when there are only two of us, with limited storage space.


As to riding bus or carpooling- In the cities that I have lived I would be lucky to take the bus to and from work. and in many cases I would have had to start for work by being on a bus an hour or more before the buses started to run for the day. I also would not get home till it was time for me to turn around and head back to work on the bus.


I do save the raise when possible, however I have noted that the costs just to stay even have gone up more then the percentage of the raise. So what do you cut to save the "extra" money. do you remove the one night out every two months, or do you not pay some of your utilities bills?

Sep 8, 2013 4:08PM
I bought a used washer and dryer that was in good working condition.  Ended up losing $450.00 - the washer lasted 6 weeks and the dryer conked out at 2 months.  Would have been much cheaper to have bought new which I ended up doing anyway.  It doesn't pay to buy used appliances - they don't make them to last like they used to.
Sep 8, 2013 3:38PM
The save-your raise doesn't work, if you are like most working people today, Your raise doesn't even keep up with inflation.
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