Unusual Ideas to Save an Extra $100 a Month

By Carrie Smith on 10 March 2015 5 comments

We all know the traditional ways to cut spending, but have you ever tried more out-of-the-box means of reducing your costs? I talked to real people who took an unconventional approach to saving money. (See also: 9 Ways to Earn Extra Cash When Money is Tight)

Here are ten unusual money-saving ideas I learned from them that will put extra cash in your pocket this month.

1. Live by These Five Words

The reality of saving money is simple — just spend less. But that's often easier said than done. In order to actually achieve your goal of saving extra cash each week, aim to avoid the consumerism trap that spending brings.

Lena, from What Mommy Does, saves thousands each year through living by these five words: "Did I need this yesterday?" Even small buys that only cost four or five dollars can add up over the course of the year, so before purchasing anything out of the ordinary, or anything that's not a necessity, ask yourself this question.

"Did I need this yesterday?"

It's a simple, easy-to-remember statement that will put your spending priorities in check.

2. Try a No-Spend Challenge

Sometimes the usual money-saving tips can get a bit boring, so why not spice it up with a fun challenge? Sit down with your family and challenge each other to a no-spend challenge for 30 days. Or, take it a step further and start a year-long shopping ban like my friend Cait from Blonde on a Budget.

You're only allowed to buy the absolute necessities during this no-spend challenge period, so unless it's on the approved shopping list, make a vow not to purchase it. This alone could save you hundreds of dollars over the course of the challenge.

3. Make Dinners for $10 or Less

A different spin on a no-spend challenge is to do a pantry purge where you make meals with only the things in your pantry or freezer. My husband and I are currently in the midst of a pantry purge ourselves.

We took everything out of our pantry and put it on the kitchen table. Then, we used the list of ingredients we already had to come up with new meals for the week. We only purchased new items at the store that were needed to complete the meals, like cheese, seasonings, and chicken stock.

In addition to using ingredients that are already stocked in your house, try using a service like 5 Dollar Dinners to create inexpensive meal plans for the week. Another resource we use to cook healthy, but cheap meals is the Budget Bytes recipe book. Each of the meals comes with its own grocery list, the total cost, and the cost per serving.

4. Buy Wine Online

Whether you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, or simply use it to cook with, purchasing quality vino isn't cheap. You could opt for the inexpensive stuff, but it doesn't always do the trick.

Instead of purchasing your wine at a local liquor or grocery store, check out an online service like Club W that cuts out the middleman, leaving you to reap the savings. They even have a friend referral system that rewards you both with free wine.

"I hardly pay for wine anymore since using Club W," says RM Harrison. "I simply share a referral link with my friends, and because I'm a customer, they get two bottles free and I get one." It's a smart tip that saves everyone money on wine.

5. Replace Traditional Beauty Products

You probably don't realize that coconut oil isn't only a healthy cooking oil — it can also be used as part of your beauty routine. Instead of buying traditional beauty products, like an expensive facial moisturizer, spoon out a small amount of organic coconut oil and rub it between your hands until it becomes warm. Then spread it on your face as a natural moisturizing substitute.

Coconut oil is a favorite of LaTisha Styles, blogger at Young Finances, who uses coconut oil for everything from lotion, lip gloss, and hair conditioner in addition to cooking with it. She also explains that when a bottle is nearly empty, she "cut[s] it open to use every last drop."

Kara Stevens, owner of Frugal Feminista, uses the aloe directly from an aloe vera plant as a replacement for body lotion. "Instead of a costly night lotion, I buy actual aloe vera, cut it in pieces, and apply to my face at night. It's great for acne and my wallet," she says.

By finding alternatives to your expensive beauty routine, you'll be able to buy products for a fraction of the cost of their traditional beauty counterparts.

6. Opt for a Staycation

Thanks to falling gas prices, it's a lot cheaper now to take a family road trip or weekend getaway. But even that can cost several hundred dollars if you plan to stay in a hotel and dine out everyday.

Instead of spending money on a regular vacation, opt for a staycation and explore events and outings locally. There are likely tons of things you can do that don't cost much, such as museums, parks, or outdoor concerts and events.

7. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

This idea isn't as hard as you might think, and it's often as easy as opening your kitchen cupboard. For example, simply combine a few ingredients, like water, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and essential oil (optional, but adds a nice smell), and you have a completely natural and non-harmful window cleaner.

Likewise, you can create other types of all-purpose cleaners, DIY detergents, and many other cleaning products from items you already have in your home. (See also: How to Clean Everything With Just 3 All Natural DIY Cleaners)

8. Get Discounts on All Your Services

One of the best ways to instantly save money each month is by requesting a discount or better deal from your current service providers. It only takes a few minutes on the phone (or via online chat) with customer service.

Simply call up your cell phone provider, electricity company, or cable TV vendor and let them know you've been a loyal customer for so many years and want to know you're getting the best deal. Then listen to them as they sell you on what deals and discounts they have available.

My husband just did this last week with our Internet provider while chatting with their online customer service. After a three minute conversation we were able to knock off $40 from our bill! Companies would rather lose a few bucks than lose you entirely as a customer, so don't be afraid to negotiate.

9. Relocate to Reduce Rent

It may sound crazy, but reducing how much you spend on housing by relocating or renting out extra rooms can potentially save you hundreds of dollars each month. Housing is one of the most expensive lines in our budgets, but it could be a smart investment to spend a few dollars upfront for moving expenses in order to reduce that monthly cost.

Mark and Lauren relocated their entire family in order to reach their goal of getting out of debt. "We relocated and moved from our 3,200 square foot custom home to a 800 square foot dumpy townhouse. All for the sake of being debt free," Lauren says.

Moving to a less expensive city, or simply downsizing in town, can save your budget a good chunk of money over the long-term. (See also: This is How You Downsize a Home and Start Living a Better Life)

10. Repair Your Own Clothes

Lessons on nearly everything can be found on Google or YouTube, so whether you need a tutorial on how to sew a button or hem a pair of jeans, you can easily find it on the Internet. Instead of throwing out your clothes, or taking them to a seamstress (which can cost a pretty penny), try doing small repairs on your own clothes. (See also: 7 Basic Sewing Tricks That Will Save You Money)

What's an unconventional money-saving rule you live by? Do you have another idea to add to the list?

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Guest's picture

Great article, thank you! We do quite a few of these, and took the relocation idea seriously enough to move halfway across the country!

Our somewhat unconventional money "rule" is: No Monthly Payments! We don't belong to gyms or pay for cable, our streaming internet service is Amazon (which is paid annually), and all of our insurance premiums are paid in lump sums. We even buy our (used) cars for cash now. If we can't afford to pay for something all at once, we wait and save until we can. Living like this has meant that we've had to give up some instant gratification, but four years of practice has gotten us debt-free, a fully-funded emergency fund, and ready to buy our first house this year.

Carrie Smith's picture

Oh yes, that's another smart money rule to live by! I might have to enact that one for my family. :)

Guest's picture
Matt

Good article, overall I would say good tips but just be careful you don't want to spent all your time trying to reduce spending when spending a 1$ or 2$ can save you hours of time. Finding the balance is key.

Carrie Smith's picture

That is absolutely true, Matt! I like to find ways to save money but also increase what I bring in so I strike a good balance of both. Thanks for pointing that out!

Guest's picture

I love the idea of a staycation. When gas prices were super high a couple summers ago, everyone was doing them. The kids think it's special when we camp out in our back yard so that's our special no-cost fun thing to do!