23 Money-Saving Items Everyone Should Own

By Damian Davila on 30 June 2014 (Updated 17 September 2014) 4 comments

Can I get this cheaper?

This is a question that all thrifty shoppers ask themselves before opening their wallets. And well they should: Less expensive is good. But what about items that actually save you money over time? (See also: 101 Ways to Save Money Around the House)

It's time to pile savings on top of savings with these 23 money-saving items that everyone should own.

1. Rechargeable Batteries

Remote controls, wall clocks, cameras, toys, smoke alarms. There are just too many items that take batteries around the house. Instead of shelling out big bucks for new batteries every month or so, invest in a set of rechargeable batteries. Not only will you stop wasting time running to the store, but also you will avoid the frustration of finding out that stored batteries have no charge. Just make sure to unplug the battery charger when not actively charging your batteries. Battery chargers continue to draw electricity even then.

2. Efficient Showerheads

Showering accounts for about 17% of residential indoor water use. High efficiency showerheads optimize the amount of water that needs to flow through your hot water heater. By installing efficient shower heads, the average American family can save about $70 on water costs per year and more on water heating costs. Look for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense label to ensure satisfactory showerhead performance. (See also: The 5 Best Showerheads)

3. Outdoor Solar Powered Motion Activated Lights

Outdoor lights represent a challenge in many ways. By being on for several hours, they use a lot of electricity. Also, you need to remember to turn them off the next day or they keep ramping up your electricity bill. Harness the power of the sun and motion sensor technology and get solar powered motion activated lights. The lights draw energy from the sun during the day and activate only when they sense nearby movement.

4. Energy Star Washing Machine

The average American family does about 300 loads of laundry every year. An Energy Star certified washing machine uses about 20% less energy and 35% less water than conventional ones. If your washing machine is over 10 years old or a top loading model, you need to take action! It is estimated that if every household in the U.S. switched to an Energy Star washing machine, we would together save about $250 million every year! (See also: The 5 Best Washing Machines)

5. Energy Star CFLs

  • Change a single bulb for a CFL (compact fluorescent lamp), save $40 or more over the lifetime of the bulb
     
  • Change 5 bulbs for CFLs, save $200 or more over the lifetime of the bulbs.

Use this savings calculator to get a more accurate estimate on how much you can save based on your local electricity cost and desired type of bulbs. (See also: The 5 Best Energy Efficient Light Bulbs)

6. Baking Soda

At just a bit over $1.50 per pound, this is the ultimate household tool. With baking soda you can:

  • Wash produce.
  • Clean your grill.
  • Freshen up rugs.
  • Remove hard stains from clothes.
  • Wash your teeth.
  • Clean the dishwasher or coffee machine.
  • Treat throat infections.
  • Deodorize a cat litter box.
  • Fight dandruff.
  • Melt icy sidewalks.
  • Clean toilets.
  • And many more fantastic uses!

Think about how much you spend on products for each of these uses. Switch to baking soda and start saving money.

7. Foam Roller

Chiropractors and massage therapists are expensive. The average rate for a massage is about $60 per hour. This doesn't mean that you should totally give up on taking care of your body. You can take care of your pain points and "knots" on your own with a foam roller. Starting at about $5, a foam roller is the most budget friendly way to take care of tight muscles and prevent common injuries. From hardcore runners to couch potatoes, everybody can benefit from a foam roller. (See also: Turn Your Home Into a Spa With These 5 Frugal Stress Relievers)

8. Grocery and Shopping Bags

Stop wasting money on trash bags and reuse the bags that you get from grocery stores and retailers. Reduce and reuse. Grocery bags are perfect for bathroom trash cans, and bigger bags can be used for tall kitchen cans and certain diaper pails. Small grocery bags are perfect for keeping smelly kitchen residues, such as onion and garlic, contained. You save money and do your part in helping the environment.

9. Reusable Water Bottle

Stop your plastic habit! If you buy a $6 water bottle case every week, you end up spending over $300 per year. This is before redemption fees and applicable taxes. Switch to a reusable water bottle and use those savings for a credit card payment. (See also: Stuff We Love: A Lifefactory Reusable Glass Water Bottle)

10. Herb Garden

Cooking at home is always cheaper than dining out. Fresh herbs are great to give your dishes that extra "oomph." However, buying fresh herbs, such as mint, basil, and parsley, can be quite expensive. If you have a spot that gets about six to seven hours of daily sunlight, such as a ledge on a kitchen window, you can have an indoor herb garden. You can pick only the amount that you need and let the rest double as a nice kitchen accent piece. (See also: How to Store Herbs)

11. Olive Oil

Besides being great for cooking, olive oil helps you:

  • Moisturize your skin by drinking it and adding it to warm tub baths.
  • Preserving extra fresh herbs for later use.
  • Untangle your hair and moisturize damaged hair.
  • Prevent hairballs from your cat by adding a teaspoon into your cat's food.
  • Free stuck zippers by dipping a cue tip into olive oil and swabbing the zipper's teeth.

12. Canning Jar

Attention wine drinkers: Save leftover wine for up to a week by storing leftover vino in a canning jar. It preserves the original flavor longer than just a cork and bottle, a method that only keeps the original flavor for a day or so. This tip is especially useful to prevent that $30 wine bottle from becoming vinegar in just a few days.

13. Mouthwash

At Walmart you can get a whole 1.5 liter bottle of mouthwash for around $5. Here's how to stretch that bottle even further:

  • Use as an antiseptic if you have no nearby alcohol.
     
  • Make a 50/50 solution of alcohol-based mouthwash and vinegar and treat nail fungus.
     
  • Treat athlete's foot with the same 50/50 solution.
     
  • Apply alcohol-based mouthwash to a cotton ball to your face as an astringent lotion.
     
  • Clean your windows.
     
  • Deodorize your toilet with a cup of mouthwash and let it sit for about 30 minutes before flushing.
     
  • Mix 4 parts of water to one part mouthwash in a spray bottle to help plants affected by mildew and fungus.

14. Spare Change Jar

Avoid the coins-in-couch cliche and get a spare change jar to keep all those coins around the house. In just a couple of months, you will be surprised how much you can save without even trying. Encourage your whole household to chip into the spare change jar. (See also: 20 Smart Ways to Spend Your Loose Change)

15. .edu Email Address

Ok, so this one isn't really an "item", but still. Current college students and past graduates that keep their .edu email active can often:

Some high school students may be eligible also for .edu email accounts so check with the student's educational institution.

16. Cash Back and Reward Credit Cards

Competition among credit cards is constantly increasing. There is no need to be tied to a card that offers neither rewards nor cash back offers. With cash back credit cards offering up to 2%, it is amazing how some companies will pay you to use their credit cards. If cashback is not your cup of tea, then there are also gas rewards cards and air miles programs.

17. Vacuum Sealer

This is one of the kitchen gadgets that can save you the most money. A vacuum sealer allows you to buy items in bulk and not have any of them spoil. Think beyond meat, poultry, and seafood. How many times have you bought a two-pound basket of strawberries at low prices during the summer, only for over half of it to spoil? With a vacuum sealer, you can seal half and freeze it for later use. Zero waste.

18. Blender

Some people gotta have their daily Jamba Juice fix. With the cheapest smoothies starting at $4, this habit can cost you about $120 per month. Save money by making your own smoothies at home with a blender. With $20 or less you can get a blender. Not only you save money, but you can control the amount of sugar and extra calories that go into your drinks.

19. Electric Toothbrush

My wife has the most beautiful smile. Every time that she goes to the dentist, she passes the checkup with flying colors. Her secret is that since she turned 29, she followed the advice from her dentist to switch to an electric toothbrush. Ever since that switch, she has been able to minimize the amount of additional necessary dental work during her visits, which lowers our medical bills. (See also: The 5 Best Electric Toothbrushes)

20. Twitter Account

Another non-item item,Twitter is not only for catching up your friends and the latest news. It can be a major tool for savings. (See also: 3 Easy Ways to Save With Twitter)

  • Several retailers release Twitter-specific flash deals, giveaways, and coupon codes.
     
  • Customer service reps are under pressure to give outstanding service in this public format.
     
  • Some companies are willing to sync your Twitter account to its online platform for perks and special services.

21. Square or Paypal Here

How many times have you tried to collect from a friend who owes you money and she gets away because she doesn't have cash on her? Fix this problem by using your smartphone as a credit card processing machine with the Square or Paypal Here apps. Both companies ship you a credit card reader for free — nothing else is needed. Square and Paypal do take around a 2.7% cut but a payment in hand is better than an IOU.

22. Whatsapp

If you have friends and relatives abroad, sending text messages is very convenient but gets expensive quite fast. Even if you sign up for an international SMS plan through your cell carrier, you're looking at about $0.25 per SMS, depending on carrier and country.

The reason why Whatsapp is superior than other international messaging apps is that the app is designed for virtually every smartphone. Even though my Mom uses a Blackberry and lives in Ecuador, my sister uses a Nokia and lives in Germany, my wife uses an iPhone, and I use an Galaxy S3, we are all able to text with each other from our own phones. I used to spend over $50 in international SMS and now I spend zero. That's four of us not spending a dime while keeping in touch across the world.

23. Crockpot

A crockpot is a lifesaver for busy people. You know that eating at home is cheaper, but often there is just no time to prepare a meal. With a crockpot you just need to chop up your ingredients, throw some spices, and you are good to go. You can leave a crockpot running before leaving for work or overnight to have a meal ready for you when you come back from work or to take there for lunch. (See also: The 5 Best Slow Cookers)

What is your favorite money-saving item?

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Noah Boardwalk Savers

Crockpot has really helped me save money and time for food. I also want to add that rain barrels are a great way to save on your water bill. It pretty much stores rainwater that can be used to irrigate your yard later. Another useful item is waterbroom. A waterbroom uses less than three gallons a minute vs. a hose that uses eight to twelve gallons a minute. Helps the environment and keeps your home clean.

Damian Davila's picture

Thanks for the tip Noah! I had seen a hack of taping a hose to a broom to create a water broom, but I wasn't aware that some stores would sell it as well. I am definitely checking one out the next time.

Guest's picture
Guest

It is dubious savings to spend relatively large amount of money for much later returns. Many of these suggestions are for long term savings but will not save anything, and actually cost you money, if you have to change address within few years. Here are just few comments.
2. It's the taps that adjust the flow of water, the shower heads only distribute the water. While the more expensive shower heads might give you finer mist at lower water flow it is the setting of the taps to lower water flow that saves you money.
5. CFLs are dubious savings, they usually don't last as long as advertised, apart from the fact that their brightness is uneven, starts low and then gets brighter over few minutes and only the very expensive ones are dimm-able and dimming the lights saves you money. I say use the bulbs you have, instead of needlessly spending money to replace bulbs that still work. If you want to save energy remember to always turn them off when you leave the room instead of actually using more lights because you have such an effective bulbs.
9. Regular water bottles are reusable, you don't have to purchase special glass water bottles. Rest assured that there are far less chemicals leaching from the plastic than there are already in your drinking water.
19. Electric toothbrush will not make your smile nicer or save money at the dentist, regular brushing does.

Damian Davila's picture

Thank you for your feedback Guest. Regarding CFLS, you can find out more info at http://www.energystar.gov/?c=cfls.pr_cfls_savings. The estimated savings are provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.