5 Easy Ways to Save in 2010

by Kate Luther on 25 December 2009 18 comments

If there's one thing we've all got on our list of New Year's resolutions, it's to save money. But we all know that's often easier said than done.

After all, it's hard to save when money is tight to begin with...and after this year, "tight" is putting it pretty generously. But even if you're living payday to payday, even if you think you've squeezed all the blood out of the proverbial turnip, there are a few ways to save that don't require any major lifestyle changes. Want to know what they are? Here's five easy ways to save some dough in 2010.

1. Reduce paper, save dollars.

In addition to killing the trees and cluttering up the planet, paper costs money. Maybe not large sums per purchase, but over time, it all adds up. The solution? Cut down your paper usage and keep that extra cash instead. For starters, try saving your online receipts and confirmations to your hard drive or a CD instead of printing them off. And while you're at it, use an online recipe service to store your favorite concotions instead of printing those off as well. Your recipes will be easier to find, and not only will you save on printer paper but you'll also save on printer cartridges too. And let's be honest...you'll reduce your clutter in the process. Another paper reduction tip — use cloth hand towels instead of the paper kind and rinse them out after each use to keep them fresher longer.

2. Change your thermostat setting.

In the winter, turn it down five degrees — in the summer, increase by 5. It may not seem like a big difference but you'll save a decent amount on your heating and cooling costs over the year. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests that you pay an additional 2% to 3% for every degree of heat and air conditioning you use.

3. Clip coupons.

No one wants to be the person who holds up the grocery line while they rummage through a wallet full of coupons, but a little smart clipping can go a long way. Start by making your list before your go shopping and then take only the coupons you'll need — not your entire stash. Here's another tip: be sure to compare the savings you get from the coupon with the price of the lesser, no-name brand to be sure you're really getting the most for your grocery bucks.

4. Eat out.

Yes, eat out. Not every night of course and certainly not at the pricier places, but there are some instances when it's cheaper to eat out than to make your own. For example, pizza can be a relatively cheap meal for a family of four with the right coupons, while making your own pizzas at home can get quite costly. Burgers on the dollar menu are another good example of eating out with your budget in mind. Yes, I know these aren't the healthiest choices but if you're planning on burgers or pizza anyway, then why not save a few bucks in the process? Other dishes such as spaghetti and steak are typically cheaper to cook at home so just do the math when you're planning your menu.

5. Enroll in the tax-advantaged plans at work.

If you've been putting off joining your company's Healthcare Savings Account, now is the time to reconsider. Tax-advantaged plans such as this offer immense savings for you and since it doesn't cost your employer anything, even the smallest companies can offer it. Depending on your company, these plans can cover everything from health care costs to child care expenses, education and even transportation. To enroll, you'll have to designate a portion of your income to be withheld each month but this money is taken out "pre-tax," meaning you won't pay taxes on the income and if you're right at the threshold of higher tax bracket, the deduction could be just what you needed to lower your bracket and reduce the amount of taxes you have to pay.

No, these five frugal tips won't make you a millionaire, but they will put a few extra dollar in your pocket and give back some control over your financial picture. And that, as the commercial says, is priceless.

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Guest's picture
Pauline

I'm SO in for this idea. But one thing has boggled my mind for months now - and how to combat it? We get these emails with fantastic coupons - which we have to *print out* and take to store. If we're all interested in saving paper, why are there so many "print your own" coupons. I don't want to waste a whole sheet of paper to print off one coupon; I don't want to waste ink! I tried taking a photo on my camera phone of an 'invitation' to a family-and-friends sale, 25% off, but they wouldn't accept that. Okay, I'm able to print off (reluctantly) but I'm wasting paper and ink, and I also think of others who perhaps don't have the money to buy more ink, or don't have a working printer, and they're denied the discount. This BURNS ME UP.

Guest's picture
Annie

Have you visited the website Shortcuts.com? You create an account with the website and link it to your shopper's card (I use my Kroger card). Then on the website you click on the coupons that you want to "clip" or add to your card. It's as simple as that!

When you go to redeem your coupons, you simply swipe your shopper's card at the register and your coupons should register on the receipt that they were redeemed. I hope this helps :)

Guest's picture

Eating out does not save money over making food from scratch. I make pizzas and burgers for my family for around $3, less than the dollar menu and less than using pizza coupons. I've looked into pizza coupons and usually you have to pair a deal with a regularly priced pizza, which makes the deal void.

Guest's picture
J.

For example, pizza can be a relatively cheap meal for a family of four with the right coupons, while making your own pizzas at home can get quite costly.

You're going to take a beating from Wise Bread regulars over this assertion. Scratch cooking plus careful shopping will put you out well ahead of take-out. In addition, I make my pizza with whole wheat flour, real olive oil, more reasonable (moderate) amounts of cheese, and lots of veggies. So my home made pizza is much healthier than Domino's as well.

Take-out is also extremely high in sodium. Even if someone made burgers at home, they probably would not add the amounts of salt present in fast food.

Plus, the coupon "deals" often involve free soda, which is not good for you and which you don't need.

If you want to eat out occasionally as a treat, or while traveling, go ahead. But don't justify it on the grounds of saving money, or convince yourself that the meal is just as healthy as what you would make at home.

Guest's picture

Nice article. I don't know about saving paper because paper is cheap but I like the your idea about eating out. To save even more money my wife and I split meals when we eat out because they give so much foof that we brind it home and then it sits in the fredge.

Kate Luther's picture

Okay, maybe I'm just not shopping in the right places or maybe I'm not making it as "from scratch" as my readers.

I agree that homemade is going to be waaaay healthier than anything you'll buy from the pizza chains but if we're talking strictly cost here, I usually come out cheaper buying the pizzas ready made...

If anyone has some inexpensive recipes they'd like to share, I for one would love to add them to my recipe box (yes, I still have that hideous thing from Jr. High home ec class!) or better yet... I'll follow my own advice, save the paper and store the recipe on a notepad file instead :)

Andrea Karim's picture

Yeah, I find Costco pizzas to be a really good deal (or Sam's Club, for that matter) in terms of feeding several people. I guess if I tried really hard, I might be able to create the equivalent from scratch for under what I pay at Costco (which is, what, $12?), but the cost of the cheese and tomato sauce alone almost puts me over the top.

I love take-out pizza, mind you, so I might be biased.

Guest's picture
tbone13

$12 for costco? it's 9.95 here in socal and it will easily feed 4-5.. not the best in taste but it is the best bang for you buck

Guest's picture
wildgift

1/4 sack of flour - .75
1 pack yeast - .70
1 - 2 tsp salt - nearly free
water - nearly free

Mix, let rest in covered container for at least one day. 1.5 days is better.

1/2 bottle of Ragu pizza flavor spaghetti sauce - 1
1 ball Precious Mozzerella - was on sale for 2.50 w/ coupon
3 Tbs olive oil - .25 ?
running the oven - .50 ?

Knead the dough. Let rest, stretch into circle on a pizza pan (kind with holes in it). Let rest to rise.

Turn up the oven to 500F. Coat dough with olive oil. Add shredded cheese and sauce in desired proportions, with desired layering (or omit either). Bake until done. Brown cheese in the broiler.

Cost is $5.70.

Guest's picture

I used to be sceptical about coupon collecting and used to laugh at my wife when she was cutting them out of magazines. However since losing my job I have completely changed my mind and my wife and I now have competitions as to who can collect the most!

Guest's picture

I always thought that planing trips was one of the easiest ways to save money, keeping my money in my wallet and not the gas pumps. Now surprisingly I think your paper idea is awesome, I print off way to much. As well I use a whole sheet of paper just to wright down a little information then throw it away when I'm done. Thanks for the great tips!

-Matt

Guest's picture
Guest

Coupon clippigs - checked
Eating out less - checked
Good Bye Verizon's pricey monthly bill, hello Straight Talk - checked!

Guest's picture
Bonnie

I disagree with tip #3. I see this tip everywhere - make a list, stick to the list. I live in Phoenix, and almost all of the stores I shop at - Super Target, Fry's, Safeway, Basha's - have clearance sections. There are many times I have found a product that I regularly buy on clearance and I have a coupon. If I had left my coupons at home, I wouldn't be getting such an amazing deal. Instead, don't buy things that you would not use just because they are a "great price." Know the general price of things and stock up if something that you do use is well priced.

Guest's picture
IlyceGlink

Eating out to save money is an interesting idea.
One of my friends mentioned to me that she found buying her child's lunch through the school's food service program was cheaper than packing a lunch for him. The child was excited to have a new type of food every day, rather than the same old sandwich, and she saved money and time too!

Guest's picture
IlyceGlink

Eating out to save money is an interesting idea.
One of my friends mentioned to me that she found buying her child's lunch through the school's food service program was cheaper than packing a lunch for him. The child was excited to have a new type of food every day, rather than the same old sandwich, and she saved money and time too!

Guest's picture
IlyceGlink

oops! sorry! Didn't mean for this to post twice. The website prompted me for my CAPTCHA again, so I think re-completing that again caused the site to post it twice.

Guest's picture
Lauren

Here, you can get great deals on carry-out pizzas: a large one-topping pizza from Papa John's for 4.99 any Tuesday, a large one-topping from Domino's for $6.99 any day, a Little Caesar's hot-N-ready pizza for $5 any day. That's definitely a frugal choice to feed a family of 4, in my opinion. My time is worth more than the buck or two I could save by making it myself.

Guest's picture
Susan

I'm in Australia, so maybe the numbers are different, but we have been having pizza every Friday night for the last two years. We make it ourselves almost every week, and I've crunched the numbers.
On the odd occasion we buy a pizza (from Eagle Boys, because they are much better value than Dominoes) we have to get two pizzas, and usually there isn't any left, depending on which toppings we get. Sometimes we are still hungry. The minimum that will cost is is $12. $12 will get us two basic pizzas, but we usually get ones with more than just ham and cheese. We expect to pay around $18 for two pizzas with vouchers. Plus we have to drive to the pizza shop to pick them up because it costs extra for delivery.
On the other hand, I make my own base (2/3 cup warm water, 1 tsp yeast, pinch sugar, 2 cups plain flour, 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tsp salt) and chock it up with toppings. For example, mushrooms, capsicum, salami, olives, sundried tomatoes, ham, cheese. It usually costs under $15 to make the one pizza, $12 is probably average, and we only ever eat three quarters of it, so there is always some left for lunch the next day. And it tastes far more awesome, and doesn't cost us anymore in time than if we bought pizza.