If you are anything like me, you are constantly on the lookout for ways to save money that will make a difference, but also aren’t hard. Now that we’ve whittled our budget categories down to where we think they should be (at least until our next budget checkpoint in a few months), I’ve been looking for little things that can help our savings grow.
My goal is to spend nothing, 0, zipola on weekdays when I’m stressed and more likely to buy things I shouldn’t. We do our shopping deliberately on weekends with lists to prevent bad spending (intermittent spending, anyone?).
Here is a list of things I came up with that you can try to save money on any typical workday. Can you think of any others?
How to save money: 10 things to start doing NOW to save cash
1. Master your thermostat while you are away from the house
Why heat or cool the house when no one is in it? If possible, turn off your heat or AC all day while you’re at work. If you live in extreme temperatures (like us here in AZ in summer), set the AC or heat to run only so your pipes don’t freeze or you don’t bake your electronics and house plants.
Then, have it change to a more livable temperature by the time you come home. Instant savings without you doing a thing. One of the first tasks I did when moving into my home was to install an electronic thermostat.
If I can do it, so can you 🙂
2. Ride your bike, carpool, public transit or take your most gas efficient car
Most of us actually have to drive to work (unless you scored an awesome gig like Steve and work from home). Pick the most money efficient way to get there. I’m not saying everyone should bike or walk, but if you can, do it! If there is a bus, take it! Pick one day a week to take public transportation. Or at the very least, take the most fuel efficient car possible. Every little bit helps.
3. Do not purchase coffee; get it for free or bring your own from home
I understand coffee at work may not be the greatest brew in town. But it is most likely free. Take advantage of free stuff! I don’t drink coffee but I do love my tea. I have a stash of nice loose leaf teas at home, but when at work, I drink the free bagged kind. It’s good enough. And did I mention it’s free?!? Free tastes pretty darn good.
4. Make and bring your own breakfast
Cafeteria prices are killer and the food is almost always sub-par. I swear the only reason people buy food there is because it’s their only option (and most cafeterias know this). Except it’s not. Bring your breakfast from home, even if it’s prepackaged from Costco. You will know what the quality is like and it will be a lot cheaper.
5. Make and bring your own lunch
See #4. Seriously.
6. Do not shop on your lunch break (no Amazon, etc.)
Technology is wonderful, but it makes buying things way too easy. Resist the temptation to spend money online while at work. No searching eBay or Amazon on your lunch break. If it’s something you really truly want (or, better yet, need) wait until the weekend to purchase it or at least until you get home. You never know – you might change your mind and think better of it.
7. Avoid the vending machine…your pocketbook and waistline will thank you
Have you heard of the “Eat the Machine” challenge? Ugh. Not at all tempting, thank you. We all get hungry. We all want snacks. Can you guess where I’m going to tell you to bring them from? HOME! My husband is a sweetheart and makes me bags of airpopped popcorn to bring to work, but even the same snacks you find in the vending machine, if bought wholesale, will save you money!
8. Plan after work running around to minimize driving
If I need to stop on the way home for any reason, I plan my route ahead of time. Need to drop by the library to pick up that book and get gas? Where is the cheapest gas station? What’s the most direct route between work, the gas station, the library and home? If there isn’t one, can one of the two errands wait until tomorrow?
9. If you hadn’t guessed it, make your own dinner and drinks.
Everything is cheaper if you make it at home. Like to have a beer after work? Great! Stock your fridge. Same with your personal bar. If you’re going to enjoy a cocktail, it makes it that much more enjoyable knowing that you are saving money as you sip. Same with dinner. There are a LOT of cheap amazing dinner options that don’t take a lot of time. Check out Budget Bytes if you haven’t already. We cook a lot of recipes from there. Also, think about investing in a crockpot. We often set our crockpot up in the morning and come home to a delicious almost complete meal. It makes the house smell amazing, too.
10. Evening Entertainment: So many options to choose from at home!
You don’t have to go out to enjoy yourself once you get home. You could read a book from the library, or a few of the many blog posts from amazing authors sent to you that day, or watch a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime, or take a walk with your loved ones, or play a card or board game, or have a deep discussion over deep topics over a drink or dessert, or relax and watch the sunset.
I hope these 10 ideas help inspire you to find ways to save money during your workday! If you think of another idea I missed, please let me know in the comments. As I said, I’m always looking for more ways to save.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.