Three Easy Ways to Save Money

Posted by in Saving, Spending, Tools

Earlier this year I launched an experiment to come up with easy ways save money.

What do I mean by “easy ways to save money?” Well, anything requiring meaningful change is hard…especially if you’re in a relationship and it’s more than just you changing.

People don’t like to change.

So, specifically, I set out to see if I could find way ways to save $1000 over the course of a year (in addition to all the other savings we do) WITHOUT making any changes to the lifestyle Andrea and I have grown used to.

Could I take a look at the things we regularly spend money and cut $1,000 of annual expenses ($83/month) without Andrea or I really noticing or feeling it?

The answer: YES!

Keep reading to learn the three easy ways we used to save money and how you can do it, too.

Why did I do this?

Four reasons.

1: To see if it could be done.

Andrea and I have a good system for managing our money. But just because we have a good system taking care of things for us automatically doesn’t mean we stop paying attention or looking for ways to improve.

2: For our own benefit.

An extra $1,000/ year isn’t anything to scoff at. It’s a romantic weekend away every year. It’s an extra date night per month (or more).

Or if you want to get really nerdy, it’s an extra ~$132,000 in our retirement accounts or paying off our mortgage quicker and saving ~$16,000 worth of interest payments in the process.

It’s whatever we want it to be.

The point is, having an extra $1,000 is better than not having an extra $1,000.

3: To help people who’ve never saved before.

Getting serious about our finances can be hard, especially when just starting out. There’s so much to learn, to do, and there are probably lots of changes to make. But the hardest part of all is looking at all we need to learn, do, and change…and then starting.

I wanted to help people get started in the right direction by offering them proven, easy ways to save money and improve their financial situation.

4: To help people with reluctant partners.

There are folks out there who want to improve their financial situation, but their partner might not be on board yet. I wanted to figure out what these good folks could do while waiting for their partners to come around.

Remember, when we talk about money, we’re not really talking about money. We’re talking about what money means to us…the values it represents…the lifestyle it affords us. So when we talk and, unfortunately, fight about money with our partners it’s not a question of math, but really a matter of values and lifestyle.

So if there are ways to improve our financial situations without making any meaningful changes disrupting our lifestyles…what’s there to fight about?

Three easy ways to save money

Let me just say this up front: personal finance is personal.

The life Andrea and I have built for ourselves is different than yours, so our finances will be different, too. We spend money on some rather specific things that you might not. So some of the specific things we did to save money might not work for you.

But please don’t dismiss the actions we took outright. Pay attention to the principles…the methods we used. We studied the things we regularly spend money on and looked for opportunities to save without making any meaningful changes to our lifestyle.

I bet there are things you spend money on that we don’t, so you’ll have your own opportunities to save money using these methods.

Easy way to save money #1: Buy from a cheaper source

Coconut Milk Savings: $141.05

I go through 1 to 1.5 quarts of coconut milk per week. (I told you my life would look different than yours, lol) I used to buy a particular brand of coconut milk from the grocery store for about $3.50/quart.

Then I found the same coconut milk online on Amazon.com for about $2.50/quart.

Then one day I saw the exact same stuff at Costco for $1.33/quart! That’s 62% LESS than what I was originally paying. Over the course of a year (~65 quarts of coconut milk), that adds up to $141.05 saved!

Cell Phone Savings: $540

I’m going to do my best to make a fair comparison here, so stick with me.

We had a big international trip planned (stay tuned to hear how we booked $32,000 worth of airfare and hotels for $600) and we were going to need cell phone service overseas. Our options seemed to be:

  1. Pay AT&T $20/day ($280 total) for an international plan
  2. Buy sim cards overseas
  3. Switch to a carrier offering international service included in a basic package (T-Mobile and Sprint now do this).

Option 1 would be the easiest, but by far the most expensive.

Option 2 would be the least convenient.

So I looked into Option 3.

At the time, we were paying $160/month for a mid range AT&T package. Upon closer inspection our actual phone bill was only $105/month, but AT&T had us on a 0% interest payment plan for our phones making up the other $55/month. (Guess we weren’t actually debt free after all)

It seems like this is how cell phone companies are locking people into plans now instead of holding them to contracts.

So, we paid off the balances on our phones and weighed our options.

At the time, T-Mobile was offering 2 lines of unlimited everything for $100/month. Even better, this plan included unlimited text and data service overseas for no extra charge. (Sprint now offers a similar plan).

A comparable plan on AT&T would’ve run us $145/month, without the international component. So we made the switch to T-Mobile and haven’t thought twice about it.

In doing so, we’re saving $45/month (on top of the $280 in AT&T international service fees we didn’t have to pay) for a grand total of $540 saved over the course of a year!

Easy way to save money #2: Buy a cheaper alternative nobody will care about

Dog Food Savings: $198

Andrea and I signed up for Costco about a year ago and haven’t looked back. 

If you haven’t heard, Costco is famous for taking big name brand, specialty products, sticking them in “Costco” containers, and selling them for significantly less than the exact same stuff inside the name-brand container.

For example, Costco brand Vodka is rumored to be Grey Goose and Costco Brand Scotch is known to be Macallan…minus the fancy labels and marked up prices.

Turns out, Costco does this with dog food, too, among other things.

We were paying $1.50/pound for a particular brand of highly recommended, grain-free dog food on Amazon Prime (and thinking we were getting a great deal). Then one day I stumbled upon Costco’s grain-free dog food.

A quick Google search seemed to suggest it was the exact same freaking stuff as what we were buying online, just in a Costco bag.

Seriously, they had the same ingredient lists, same nutritional info, the same flavors…heck…they even had the same graphic design on the back of the bag!

So I bought a bag for my dogs to try, fed them with it, and they didn’t seem to care about the switch. 

The only difference I could find? The Costco puppy chow was $0.55 less per pound. At the rate our pups eat, that adds up to $198 saved.

Easy way to save money #3: Negotiate a better deal with your current source

Internet Service Provider Savings: $240

When we bought our house almost two years ago, we had to switch Internet Service Providers. (So long, Comcast!)

A year later our promotional “new customer rate” expired and we started paying full price for internet service.

Then, just a couple months ago our Internet Service Provider gave everyone of its customers nationwide a no-notice price increase. Not cool!

Now, I work for a big-company and we’re pretty aggressive with our pricing programs. So I had a good idea what our Internet Service Provider was up to and how I might be able to work out a better deal with them.

After 5 minutes googling stuff and 10 minutes on the phone, I knocked $20 off our internet service bill each month. Those 15 minutes of work are saving us $240 over the course of the year.

Stay tuned, I’ll soon publish how I did it so you can too.

Total Savings: $1,119.05

I set out to save $1,000 and beat it by 12%. Best of all, saving all that money required exactly 0 meaningful changes to our lifestyle. Seriously, nothing’s changed except that we’ve got more money in the bank.

What would you do with an extra $500, $1,000 or more?

Would you pay off debt faster? Invest it and watch it grow? Would you have some fun upgrading a vacation or maybe even taking another one?

The choice is yours!

Take a look at what you regularly spend on and apply these easy ways to save money.

Anything I missed? What’s your favorite easy way to save money?