This is a guest post from Trent Hamm who writes about personal finance at The Simple Dollar.
As soon as people hear the word frugality, they often respond by saying “I don’t have time for that!” The perception is out there that frugality always demands hours of doing things like cutting coupons and mixing up batches of homemade laundry detergent. While those projects save money, they’re only one avenue towards trimming the financial fat in your life.
In fact, many of the best frugal tactics not only require no upkeep time, many of them actually save you time, adding hours back into a life that’s highly compressed. Try these three tactics on for size.
Tactic One: Better Choices
One efficient way to improve your financial situation is to simply make better snap decisions. We’re faced with hundreds of little choices every day – simply resetting your mind to make a few better ones each day can save you a bundle of money. Here are four approaches.
Don’t shop for entertainment’s sake Want to go have a good time with friends? Don’t choose to go shopping just for fun. Instead, think of something else – almost anything else – to do. Shopping for entertainment’s sake is just an excuse to spend money on stuff you don’t need. Don’t leave behind the social occasion, just sometimes choose to do something besides shop for fun.
Grab the generic option instead of the name brand when shopping When you’re strolling through the store, grab the generic option instead of the name brand option of the food item you’re buying. It’s usually almost identical in quality and will quickly add up to some serious savings if you do it regularly.
Reduce your time commitments instead of taking on more Got a schedule so packed full of things to do that you simply don’t have time to eat at home, bringing on the expense of eating out? Spend all your time burning gas flying from activity to activity? Cut out a few of the more peripheral things. You’ll save gas money and maybe be able to eat an inexpensive meal at home sometimes instead of eating out expensively.
Eat a better diet Instead of choosing unhealthy options at the grocery store, choose healthy ones. Buy skim milk to drink. Buy fresh vegetables to eat. While it won’t make a ton of difference at the checkout, it will improve your immune system (making you less likely to get a cold and thus less likely to spend money on cold medicine, doctor’s visits, lost income, etc.) and help with your long term health.
Tactic Two: One-Offs That Keep Saving Money
You have an hour to spare right now. How can you save some money over the long haul? Here are some ideas that you can set up once and they’ll keep slowly saving you money.
Install a programmable thermostat Stop by the hardware store, buy a programmable thermostat, and install it yourself. Then program it to not run the air conditioning or the heat during the hours you’re at work, only kicking on in the hour or so before you arrive home. Automatic energy savings – you can walk away and it’ll just work its magic, trimming your electricity and/or gas bill.
Air seal your home Use this useful guide from the Department of Energy to caulk and weatherstrip your home, preventing air leaks and drafts from causing you to lose cool air during the summer and warm air during the winter. Do it once and you’ll save money on every energy bill thereafter.
Set up automatic bill pay Use your bank’s online bill pay service (it does have that, doesn’t it? If not, consider switching) to set up automatic payments of the monthly bills you have with a fixed amount. Not only will this save you on stamps, it’ll also help you avoid late fees and also save you the time of writing out that check each month.
Prepare a bunch of meals at once Spend an hour preparing supper – but prepare three duplicate meals at the same time and pop them in the freezer. Later on, you’ll be able to just grab a meal out of the freezer and pop it in the oven (or in the microwave) – saving you time in food preparation and money because you’re now able to eat at home instead of going out.
Tactic Three: Toss Out Bills
Trimming the excess from your monthly bills means fewer bills to worry about – a time saver and a money saver! Here are four places to look.
Toss out the cable box and go with a digital TV receiver If most of the programs you watch are on the non-cable television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and PBS), toss out your expensive cable bill and instead just get a digital TV receiver. You’ll still have a bunch of channels, get all of your old favorites, and it’ll cost you nothing each month.
Toss out your land line and go with only a cell phone Have both a land line and a cell phone? Find yourself rarely using the land line at all? Get rid of it.
Toss out your unused club memberships Got a gym membership you never use? Haven’t been to the country club in years? Haven’t returned a Netflix movie in weeks? Just cancel your unused memberships and you’ll immediately save money each month.
Toss out unread magazines (and their subscriptions) If your table has a big pile of unread magazines sitting on it, that’s probably a clue that you’re not keeping up with your subscriptions. Toss them out and cancel those subscriptions, saving you more money and eliminating some clutter, too.