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30 tips to spend less and save more

We recently asked some of the nation's top personal-finance bloggers: What's your single best tip to save money?

By Stacy Johnson Oct 26, 2011 1:21PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News reporter Jim Robinson and I were recently asked to speak at a new event, the Financial Blogger Conference. Held in Chicago, it was a gathering of hundreds of personal-finance bloggers from all over the country with one thing in common: the burning desire to make a living (or at least part of one) by helping people spend less, save more, and otherwise improve their financial lives.

Never able to resist the urge to put people on the spot, we set up a camera in the hallway, stopped a few of the nation's top bloggers, and gave them 15 seconds to answer this simple question: "What's your single best tip to save money?"  Check out their answers in the video below, then read on for more tips from me. 

Since I put other people on the spot, it's only fair that I contribute my own tip: Commercials exist to convince you that material possessions are somehow related to happiness. This is a lie. Material possessions won't boost your ego. They will steal your ability to become financially free.
30 more tips to save
  • Stop buying things you can get for free. See "10 things people buy they should get free."
  • Do holiday shopping year-round, so you can buy your gifts on sale or clearance. Just keep track of who's getting what so you don't mix things up or buy too many presents.
  • Don't buy new when used will do. From cars to clothes to computers, help your budget and the planet by buying pre-owned.
  • Buy things out of season when they're cheaper. For example, shop for decorations after the holiday is over, winter wear in the spring, and patio furniture in the fall.
  • Create a "want" waiting list before making purchases. After 30 days, you might find you changed your mind or the item's price has dropped.
  • Don't shop when you're hungry or sad. In either case, you're liable to bite off more than you can chew.
  • Use a list. You'll save money by reducing impulse buys.
  • When you receive a windfall -- a raise, a tax refund, or contest winnings -- don't go on a shopping spree. Get ahead by paying down debt, investing, or saving for a rainy day.
  • Always take advantage of the competition. Get several price quotes (including fees and perks) and see who really wants your business.
  • You don't get what you pay for, you get what you ask for. If something's expensive, always haggle -- not just on cars and TVs, but on everything from your credit card interest to doctor visits.
  • Check for coupons online and in print before buying anything. But don't let a coupon, Groupon or other deal convince you to buy something you weren't going to buy anyway.
  • Before you buy something new, sell something old. It helps offset the cost and creates more space. (It can also lower storage costs.)
  • Get by with a little help from your friends. Swap movies, games and books to keep entertainment costs down. You can also share more practical things, from tools to carpools.
  • Avoid leasing or rent-to-own. You'll often pay more in interest and fees. 
  • Plan errands around your schedule to minimize travel.
  • Don't skimp on maintenance. When it comes to your car, house and body, small expenses now are better than giant ones later.
  • Bring food and drink from home. Whether it's going to work or going on vacation, what you can bring with you isn't just cheaper-- it's often better.
  • When you do eat out, get a to-go box. Spreading a meal over two sittings will make both the price and your waistline more attractive.
  • Book a hotel room with a kitchen. Better idea? Swap houses with someone else and don't pay anything for vacation lodging.
  • Grow your own food or shop at farmers markets to save on fruits and vegetables.
  • Try generic brands and ask for rain checks on out-of-stock sale items.
  • Be energy-efficient. Turn off lights and unplug devices you aren't using. Make cheap efficiency improvements like sealing leaks and adding insulation.
  • Invest in a solar clothes dryer -- also known as a clothesline. If you have to use appliances, use less detergent and tear fabric softener sheets in half.
  • Make your own cleaning supplies with cheap ingredients like vinegar. Find recipes in "How to make dishwasher detergent and more."
  • Make your owneverything else. Let imagination replace money by making greeting cards, decorations, Halloween costumes and gifts.
  • Don't pay for a pro unless you need one. You can get free do-it-yourself lessons at home improvement stores, and there's lots of information online. And don't forget other professional services. For example, you may not need a tax professional.
  • Get rid of services you don't need, like cable or your land line phone. Not sure about cutting the cable? Check out "3 steps to cut your cable bill 90%."
  • Learn how to find the best freebies for the least effort, because free stuff you have to work for isn't really free.
  • Everyone recommends a budget, but keep track of your savings as well as your spending. Seeing the reward alongside the restraint can keep you motivated.
  • Don't pay interest. Renting other people's money is expensive. Keep it to a minimum, unless what you're buying is increasing in value by more than what you're paying in interest.

That's my quick list. What can you add? Leave your ideas below.


If you'd like to read more from the bloggers we interviewed in the video above, here's where you'll find them:

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Nov 7, 2011 3:49PM
My suggestion is to move your accounts with BofA to a local bank or credit union. Bank reform needs to begin now before they "once again" mismanage themselves and, consequently, all of us into recession, joblessness...but they get bailed out to the tune of billions.
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