Change a few habits in your life, and you may suddenly see your bank account begin to swell. For starters, stop giving your gerbils dollar bills to chew on.
Apart from the obvious, there are many other profitable tweaks you can make to your lifestyle. The long list below is just a beginning.
- Take stock of your common activities and note which ones cost you money and which ones don't. Be aware of what you're spending on various activities. Change those habits a little. Perhaps shop less and play board games more.
- Develop new hobbies and interests that don't eat up too much money. You might take up hiking, for example, or gardening. Start a book club. Or go with a friend to an orchard and pick fruit there instead of buying it at a supermarket. Some activities that seem costly, such as golf, don't have to be, as long as you spend carefully. If you buy a few inexpensive clubs and play on affordable public courses, you'll save money.
- Consider developing hobbies that can actually produce some income, such as woodworking or freelance writing.
- Use your local library more and bookstores less. Start a book exchange at work, where colleagues bring in and trade books.
- Rent movies instead of seeing them at expensive first-run theaters. If you want to see something on the big screen, go to matinee showings, which are usually discounted.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle. You can often get some money back when you recycle some things. Reducing and reusing can also save money.
- Evaluate your TV viewing habits and, if you don't watch cable TV too much, consider dropping your cable TV subscription. At the very least, you might drop one or more premium channels.
- Read more.
- Think about every dollar you spend. Make yourself wait a month before you make most purchases. A month later, you might not want some things quite as much. Maintain a wish list of things you want. Delay purchasing to see if the urge passes.
- Create and stick to a budget. (It doesn't have to be a punishing one. Budgeting is mostly just about planning where your money goes.)
- Try bartering. You may be able to negotiate free haircuts in exchange for building a website for your local hair salon, if you have Web skills, for example. See what your friends can do for you and what you can do for them. Perhaps a lawyer friend can draft your will in exchange for babysitting. Maybe you can do some typing for someone in exchange for some time at her beach house. Think about what you can offer and what you can use.
- Reduce some of the complexities in your life. Do you really need call waiting, caller-ID, and voicemail on your land line? These all add up. For some people, they're not necessities and even cause extra stress.
- Toss out those advertising supplements that pad your Sunday paper, unless you really need to buy something. Otherwise, you may end up buying things you don't really need.
- Don't buy magazines regularly at the newsstand. Subscriptions are much cheaper. Better still, read magazines at libraries or online.
- Eat before you go to the movies so you're not tempted to mortgage your house to pay for a tub of popcorn.
- Negotiate. Foolish shoppers have asked salespeople, "Do you have any discounts or sales on this item?" and have received many discounts -- such as 10% off. This can work on things as common as stereos and car washes. One Fool was buying sheets that were due to go on sale in a few days. She explained that she needed them today and wondered if she could get them at the sale price. The salesperson talked to her manager, and a deal was struck.
- Shop around and find the long-distance company that offers the best plan to match your calling habits. You should be able to get most long-distance carriers to meet or beat the best deals offered by competing long-distance carriers.
- Call your credit card company and negotiate a lower interest rate. If they balk, tell them you'll be happy to take your business elsewhere.
- With shampoo, lather up, rinse, and then don't repeat.
You'll find many more handy tips where most of these came from -- on our Living Below Your Means discussion board. (Share your own tips there, too!) The board's directory of tips is especially handy. Once you've saved some money, put it to work for you -- learn more in our Savings Center.