Many of us would like to be thin. And lots of people try to be more attractive by wearing the latest fashions and perhaps even splurging on cosmetic surgery. Most of us also aspire to be wealthy. Easier said than done, right? Well, one way to become rich, at least, is to become cheap. Read some of the many books and articles out there on millionaires, and you'll learn that quite a few of them have always shopped with coupons and looked for good sales.
There are plenty of people out there who are, let's say, frugal. They appreciate the value of a dollar. On the new Chris Rock show Everybody Hates Chris, for example, Chris' character's dad is upset when a beverage spills: "That's 49 cents of spilled milk dripping all over my table." He expects someone to drink it, so that the money isn't wasted.
You're probably already familiar with the usual ways that we're encouraged to save money. Skip that $3 coffee you buy each day, for example, and you can save about $1,000. Here are some other more money-saving ideas. See which ones will work for you.
From cradle to grave, you can save
From birth to death and every event in between, there are ways to shave costs.
- If you have a baby, make baby food yourself. Why spend big bucks for tiny little cans of mush when you can pulverize nutritious food on your own with a food processor?
- If you're getting married, do it on a Wednesday morning in a public park. You can probably save thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands, this way. (Get more wedding tips here.)
- Once you have children, get some chickens. They're cute, they're fun for your kids, and they'll give you fresh eggs. (Of course, I hear they can be a bit noisy sometimes. The chickens, that is.)
- Socializing is a vital part of life. Invite friends over for potluck dinners. Offer to supply something inexpensive, like soda or napkins, and then enjoy a tasty meal provided by your friends!
- Steal from yourself throughout your life. Recognize that you probably have several different financial personalities sharing space in your head. When the prudent one is at the helm, grab some money out of your wallet and zip it over to a savings or investment account. When the spendthrift is in charge, she might find only enough money to spend on a burger, instead of two new pairs of shoes.
- Make your own coffin. That's right -- who says you have to buy that $5,000 casket from the funeral home? You aren't required to. You can probably be buried in a paper bag, if you want. But if you want to be classier, you or a loved one might build a simple pine box inexpensively. (More money-saving funeral advice is here.)
Screen your routine
Just look at your daily routine, and you'll find other ways to save.
- Smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. Yes, you read that right. If you smoke two packs a day and you cut back to one pack, you'll save somewhere around $5 per day. That's $150 or so per month, and nearly $2,000 per year. Over just a decade, you'll net some $18,000 -- and probably much more, since the price of cigarettes will likely keep rising. (Of course, if you're a nonsmoker now, smoking a pack a day isn't going to save you very much.)
- Why fork over $20 or $50 for haircuts every month or two? Learn to cut your own hair. Or at least the hair of your children. Or someone's children. You may even develop a regular side income if you do that!
- Drive like a 90-year-old man. Or close to it. Speeding increases your car's fuel consumption, and these days, that's more painful than ever. If you obey the speed limit, you'll not only avoid speeding tickets (and save some money right there!), but you'll also be able to take out a smaller loan to pay your gas bill.
- Avoid buying bottled water. Why pay for something you can get for free -- or almost free? If your water is just too unpleasant, an inexpensive water filter can get that yucky taste out. If you like to carry bottled water around throughout your day, buy one bottle of water and then keep refilling it each day with water from your tap or filter.
- Get to know places like eBay
(NASDAQ:EBAY). You'll probably be surprised to learn about just how many kinds of things you can buy inexpensively online. Want an electric toothbrush? Check Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN). Thinking of renting the last season of The Sopranos? Consider just buying it online, watching it at your convenience, and then selling it back. If you lose a few dollars, they'll correspond to the cost of the rental, and if you're a shrewd bargain-hunter, you might even make some money on the deal.
- Don't give money away for no good reason. If you just take a few seconds to examine each receipt you get when you pay a bill, you'll likely discover some errors not in your favor. Point them out and save some dollars. (There's lots of free money lying around -- learn more here.)
- Volunteer to pay more. Yes, this may not sound too sensible, but hear me out. I'm talking about insurance. My home insurance plan doesn't cover earthquakes, but I'm thinking about adding that to my policy, and it will cost me extra. Yes, I'll pay more, but if an earthquake does damage my home -- which is not likely, but it is possible -- I'll be happy I spent several hundred dollars over several years on the insurance instead of being out several hundred thousand dollars. It's also smart to increase your deductible on some policies, to $500 or $1,000. That gives you lower premiums. If, after a car accident, the repair costs aren't much more than your $1,000 deductible, you may just want to pay for it yourself and not file the claim. Doing that can keep your rates low. (Get more insurance tips at the Fool's Insurance Center.)
- Learn to fix things around the house by yourself. Not everything requires an electrician's license. You'll find handy lessons at your local Home Depot
(NYSE:HD)and Lowe's (NYSE:LOW), and you may soon be saving a bundle by doing your own painting and toilet installations.
- Invest in cheap entertainment. Why rent movies night after night or go shopping all weekend? Instead, you might buy a few good board games and play them with friends and family in the evenings. During the day, get friendly with some monkeys and warthogs at the local zoo. Buy an annual pass -- you can go as often as you want, and it will feel like it's free. Your pass may even allow you to bring a friend.
Scruples? What scruples?
Then, for those who aspire to extreme savings from extreme measures, there are less scrupulous ways to save. Not that we're recommending them, but check out these tips from The Motley Fool You Have More Than You Think: The Foolish Guide to Personal Finance, penned by Motley Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner:
- Take a few pennies; don't leave a penny. When you're at a cash register and you see the little dish with a few pennies in it that invites you to take or leave some, take them all. If you net just five cents at five different registers in one day, that's 25 cents. In a work week, it's $1.25. In a year, more than $60.
- Borrow your friends' books and sell them.
OK, maybe you're realizing that you need a lot of nerve to pull off some of these tips. Let's move on to some other possibilities, shall we?
Share your own ideas
Every little tip that's acted upon can add up. Save $3 here and $4 there each day, and you'll net some $200 per month, or $2,400 per year. You can probably do even better than that.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to saving money. On our vibrant discussion board community, our Living Below Your Means board features more than 650,000 posts (with a good number way off-topic, but still). Here's a long directory of tips the board contains.
What are your favorite tips? Share them with your fellow readers on our boards -- or just drop in to see what others have suggested.
Selena Maranjian's favorite discussion boards include Book Club, Eclectic Library, and Card & Board Games. She owns shares of eBay, Home Depot, and Amazon.com. For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written: The Motley Fool Money Guide and The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens . The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.