10 Simple Ways to Save (When You Don’t Know Where to Start)

I often get asked how we can save. We all know we can and should save so why the questions? I hear the questions because I hear the concerns. How can I save money when my time is at a premium? How can I save when my energy is worn down by night the kids go to sleep? How can I save money when I don’t know where to start?

I’m here to attempt to answer that question with a couple simple ideas for you. As I recently said about frugal living, you must do what works for you. Of these following then ideas, I firmly believe that a couple of these can work for everyone. You may not choose to save in all ten ways but you can pick three or four to help you increase your savings.

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1. Shop the sales and stockpile.

If you don’t know where to start, start here. Shopping the sales is one of the simplest ways to save. You don’t even have to use coupons (although your savings increase when you do). Simply by buying the items you regularly use when they are on sale – instead of waiting until you run out – will save you money. Ask yourself two questions. What do you use on a regular basis and often do you need it? When the food item or toiletry goes on sale, stock up. Most items go on sale every 3 months, if not sooner. If you go through a jar of peanut butter every 2 weeks, buy 6 jars when it’s on sale instead of 1. Planning ahead and stockpiling will save you money.

2. Plan your menus based on the sales. 

This point ties in closely to the above point. Instead of planning your menus and going shopping, look at the sales and then plan your meals. If chicken and pork are on sale this week, plan your meals around those items. This allows you to prepare meals at a lower cost. It is a different mind set to prepare meals this week but if you do so, you will see dramatic savings. You can read more about how and why I cook from the sales here. 

If you want more tips on this and all things grocery budget, check out Crystal Paine’s amazing grocery ebook. It shares 25 great ways to cut your grocery bill! I know because this is exactly how I keep my budget so low. Learn more about her grocery guide here.

3. Bake from scratch. 

Convenience foods cost more than foods prepared at home. It’s a simple fact of life. I can bake a loaf of quality homemade bread for less than $0.50. To buy a similar loaf of bread in the store, I’d pay at least $2.50. I’ve started making my own yogurt in my slow cooker this year. I can make a quart of yogurt for around $1, where a store bought quart costs me $3. By making only these 2 convenience foods, I’m saving at least $12 a month in my grocery budget. Imagine how the savings can increase as you bake more from scratch!

Please know that I do realize the importance of time when it comes to baking from scratching. I had a huge frugal fail when I tried to make homemade graham crackers that taught me this. I also know that not everyone enjoys baking like I do. As always, consider the implications and do what works for your family!

Homemade Bread

4. Know your stock-up prices and seasonal sale cycles.

Whether you use coupons or not, it’s important to know your stock-up prices and seasonal sale cycles. Stock-up prices allow you to know when items are at their lowest prices. I am always watching for prices to fall to meet these prices. Sales also go in seasons and you can different deals every month. I have free printables available of both my stock-up prices and seasonal sale cycles that you can download to help you save.

5. Start a change jar. 

This is so simple to do! We don’t carry cash on a regular basis and still fill a jar every year with our spare change. It’s nice to know you have an “extra” $100 in savings that you painlessly accumulated. If you don’t have a change jar started, go get one from your cupboard and start saving today!

6. Wash your clothes on cold water. 

I researched this topic earlier in the year. Did you know that if you have an electric water heater and switch from hot loads of washing to cold washing, you are saving (on average) $0.49 per load? If you have a gas water heater, the savings are not as substantial but you still save. This one is really simple to do, too!

7. Sell something.

Have a garage sale. Post on Ebay. Use Craigslist or a Facebook page. Sell books at Half Price Books or with Book Scouter. Take your outgrown children’s clothes to a local consignment shop. Sell your clothes online at Thred-Up. Yes, these things take some time but you are cleaning your house of clutter and earning money at the same time. Since the money comes from something you already owned, put the money you make straight towards your savings goal.

8. Use Bing and Swagbucks. 

Both Bing and Swagbucks are search engine sites that all you to earn free rewards. Simply by searching, for only a minute or two a day, I earn a $5 to $10 in Amazon gift cards every month. It’s not hard to do. Anyone can do it. Plus, I love knowing that when Christmas comes around, I have at least $100 in free money to go shopping on Amazon!

Note: There are hundreds of other reward options at Bing and Swagbucks. Amazon just happens to be my favorite because it allows me to Christmas shop for free. You can also read how I paid for our Christmas with my online earnings. Wouldn’t you love to be able to have extra money in your budget because your Christmas shopping was all free?

9. Seek out and do free things.

Borrow books and movies from the library. Rent free dvds from Redbox. Request free samples and use them. Sign your children up for free summer reading programs. Go for walks in the neighborhood. If you’re easily tempted to spend money when you are out, try to stay home more. When you stay home, you’re not spending money on gas or entertainment.

10. Write a budget.

Did you guess that this one was coming? A budget doesn’t have to be complicated. I’ve tried different things but we still keep ours on a simple word document. Start with your monthly income and subtract your expenses. When you list it out, chances are you will be surprised by one area or more. Can you find something to cut? If your budget is already tight, can you find even $5 a week to allocate to savings? I’m a firm believer that every little bit helps.

Every little bit counts when you are trying to save. These are ten things that will help you begin saving – or save even more than you are currently. Do you have any items you would add to this list? Or do you have advice for others who are just starting in their savings journey?

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  1. I still have a long ways to go with learning how to save better, but I do quite a few of these things! I have never tried switching to washing with cold water, but I’ll definitely be looking into this. My husband gets pretty greasy every day (he works with cars), so do you know if it’s best to leave it on hot for really dirty clothes?

    1. Hmmm. I’d say trial and error with the hot water. Try warm and see how that goes, and then maybe cold? I still do my sheets and towels on hot, but wash almost everything else in cold and I don’t have an issue with stains. I toss in Borax on occasion and stain treat with Fels Napa soap. That stuff is the best bargain soap ever! I think that makes the biggest difference in my laundry…even with blow-out diapers!

  2. Great tips Kristen! I know many people that are in awe of my savings, and it is SIMPLE, if you just change your mindset! In number one you said to shop when there are sales, NOT when you run out! This is a hard thing to grasp when you have ‘xyz’ budgeted for weekly groceries and you think you can’t ‘afford’ to stock up, because you need ‘enough’ for that week. Long term thinking, planning, and starting ANYWHERE are keys!
    Fabulous tips, as always! Every little thing makes a difference, just start a few changes NOW!
    Happy Thursday! I hope Nathan is feeling better!

    1. You’re exactly right, Christina. It’s a change of mindset that allows us to save. When you are focused on stretching your pennies, you are always looking for more ways to save! And yes, Nathan is finally on the mend. Over the bronchilitis, ear infection, and even teething pain seems to have subsided. It’s nice to have my happy baby back! Happy Friday to you!

  3. Those are all great tips! I really like the selling things idea. It’s always nice to get money just for getting rid of things you no longer need. Plus, I usually am so much happier with my house once I get rid of items I don’t need. It just feels larger and more spacious.

    1. Thanks, Julie! Yes, indeed. Some things are easier than others to sell, but it’s always exciting when things do sell – and you have cash instead of clutter. I’m experimenting with Craigslist verse Facebook sales right now. Jury’s still out on which one works better…

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