When I'm on my game, I buy all my groceries over the weekend, make my own coffee in the morning, pack a tasty lunch, and bike home from work to cook dinner each weeknight. It feels great knowing I haven’t wasted money on the many delicious, but absurdly overpriced takeout options near my job, like the $7 breakfast sandwich, the $8 gelato, and the $10 grain bowls. And saving nearly $3 on subway fare is the icing on the cake.
Unfortunately, this almost never happens. Friends want to hang out, I forget to buy food over the weekend, or I sleep late and don’t have time to make lunch before work. And while I rarely regret time or money spent on friends, I almost always feel bad when I overspend because I’m in a rush.
It may not seem like a big deal, but spending money to save time adds up: All those drinks and snacks I bought at outdoor events when I could have easily brought my own, every time I took a cab because I didn’t want to wait for public transportation, and even bigger mistakes like not taking the time to look at how much I am paying in investment fees because I just couldn’t be bothered. That literally adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.
Sometimes I think the key to saving money is simply to slow down. Sure there will be times when that’s not possible, but more often than not, I’m just being impatient. I'm not the only one with this problem either: impatience is a key reason why people overspend when they get an unexpected windfall and tend to choose smaller gains now over bigger rewards in the future. We want what we want and we want it now.
One way to fight back against these self-defeating urges is to be aware of them and take a moment to think through your choices. Sure, cleaning the bathroom yourself will take 10 minutes now, but it will also save you over $60 that you can put toward college debt later. Self-imposing even a brief waiting period of as little as 10 seconds before you make a purchase can help put things in perspective.
With that in mind, here’s a list of 25 ways to save money simply by taking a moment either to do it yourself or decide if you really need it. Most of these things are mistakes I’ve made myself. And while it’s impossible never to waste money, everyone could use a few tips now and then. I sure know I could.
Save on services
Wash your own damn car
Clean your house yourself instead of hiring someone else to do it
Do your own laundry instead of paying someone to do it for you
Savings: at least $5 per load
Give yourself a pedicure instead of getting one at a salon
Savings: about $30
Save on food
Buy ice cream at the grocery store, not the ice cream shop
Savings: about $3 a scoop
Make your own avocado toast with some cheap grocery store avocados (yes, you’ll have to wait a few days for them to ripen, but the anticipation will likely make you enjoy it more later)
Savings: about $5
Make your own lunch instead of buying it
Savings: about $5 a day
Eat dinner at home instead of buying a restaurant meal
Savings: about $10 per person per meal
Use first-time discount codes on food apps like DoorDash, GrubHub and Seamless
Savings: at least $10
Save on transportation
Take the bus instead of Ubering it
Savings: about $10 per trip
Walk or bike instead of driving
Savings: up to the price of a gallon of gas depending on how far you can go with your own two feet.
Find the lowest-priced gas in your area with an app like Gas Buddy
Savings: up to 30 cents a gallon
Avoid toll roads and taking the long way home
Savings: up to $34 per road
Wait until September to book your flight (it’s still technically summer!)
Savings: up to 30 percent per flight
Buy tickets directly from the venue instead of paying an online “convenience” fee
Savings: up to 27 percent of the ticket price
Save money just by taking the time to ask
Call your bank or credit card company to ask for a late fee to be reversed instead of eating the cost. (Note: this usually only works the first time.)
Savings: about $35
Ask for a discount from a store or vendor on slightly damaged goods
Savings: often as much as 10 percent or more
Save on financial services
Use in-network ATMs instead of whichever one is closest. (Use the ATM locator on your bank app or website to find it.)
Savings: about $3 per withdrawal
Shop for low-fee mutual funds instead of ones that charge more than one percent annually Savings: $30,000 over 10 years on a $100,000 investment
Place a limit order on an ETF purchase instead of buying at the market price. (A limit order allows you to set the highest price you will buy at instead of letting the sellers set the price.)
Savings: varies depending on the asking price
Save money just by waiting
Skip the bookstore and reserve that bestseller from the public library for free instead
Savings: about $20
Write a list of things you need to buy before you shop—and not deviating from it
Savings: the total cost of everything not on your list
Compare prices online before you buy anything to ensure you’re getting the best deal
Savings: up to 35 percent
Use the 10-second rule before making any impulse buy to do a gut check on whether you will regret making this purchase an hour or a day from now. Ask yourself: Do I actually need this? If not, will it really make me happier?
Savings: the cost of whatever dumb thing you were going to buy
Step up to the 72-hour rule before making a modest purchase like a new pair of shoes or a small piece of furniture. While you wait, review your monthly spending to see if you’re on track. “By forcing yourself to wait 72 hours before making a purchase, you’re putting some space in between desire and action. Consider it a cooling off period,” Mrs. Frugalwoods writes on her blog.
Master the 30-day rule before any big purchase like a vacation or a car. This is where you need to crunch the numbers and figure out how exactly you are going to pay for this. If you don’t have a good answer, don’t buy it. Even if you can afford it, use the waiting period to do some comparison shopping to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere.
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