There are plenty of ways to save money—make a budget, spend less, cook dinner instead of doing take-out again—and if you’re trying to cut your expenses, you've probably tried (or at least heard about) them all. But even for those of you who’re already doing all the right things, here are a few more uncommon tricks to saving a few bucks here and there.
1. Make a Food Calendar to Stop Wasting It
Be honest: How often do you realize that you let your milk, leftovers, or veggies go bad? Your secret is safe with me, but know that every time you throw out that (gross, mushy, smelly) expired food, you're throwing away money.
If you do this often, I recommend putting a calendar on your fridge, with a pen tied to it for easy access. When you return from the store and put your groceries away, write down the date your milk will go bad (“November 27: Milk expires”) or how long you have to eat those chicken breasts. What I love about this is that it serves for good dinner inspiration—“Oh, I have to eat those mushrooms and that chicken" can lead to Thai Chicken Coconut Soup with mushrooms if I'm inspired, or a simple chicken breast with sautéed mushrooms if it's been a long day.
2. Use Ingredients That'll Grow Back
I know this might sound crazy, but instead of throwing out—or even composting—your kitchen scraps, look into what can actually regenerate. By putting the root of lemongrass in a glass jar with a little water or re-planting the end of your onions, you can (almost magically) end up with free food! In fact, there are at least 16 foods that'll grow back from the bits and pieces you have leftover.
3. Choose Your Heat Source Wisely
In the winter, use your oven as often as you can find the excuse to. It'll keep your home toasty, while reducing the need for another heat source (which you likely need to pay for). Conversely, in the summer, using your microwave instead of your oven will keep the temperature (and A/C bills) from skyrocketing.
I love soft fabrics as much as the next lady, but instead of spending money on all those expensive brands, you can make wool dryer balls that serve the same purpose. Two extra incentives to try this simple craft: You can pick whatever scent you want by adding essential oils, and you’ll cut your dryer time by 25-50%, cutting costs yet again!
5. Let the Internet Tell You When to Buy
Unless you're buying things at the last minute (which is almost always more expensive and gives you fewer options—so don't do it!), you have lots of choice as to what to buy and when. Try sites like Have to Have to tell you when clothing items go on sale, Kayak to get fare alerts on flights, or CamelCamelCamel to create wish lists and get notifications when items from Amazon are discounted. Why pay $150 for those boots if you could pay $90, right?
6. Get Your Car Into Shape
According to The Simple Dollar, “a clean air filter can improve your gas mileage by up to 7%, saving you more than $100 for every 10,000 miles you drive in an average vehicle." That just seems like a no brainer, especially how easy it is to clean your filter with just a vacuum cleaner.
And while you're in the get-more-mileage-out-of-your-car sort of mood, make sure to pump up your tires to the recommended level—for every three pounds per square inch (PSI) that your tires are below the recommended level, you lose 1% on your gas mileage. Most car tires are actually five to 10 PSI below the normal level, so you could be improving your gas mileage by up to 3-4%!
What uncommon ways have you found to trim your budget?