I remember watching an episode of Oprah as a kid, about how to save money. It included a lot of (in my opinion) bullshit tips like only getting your hair done professionally every second week instead of every week. Almost 20 years on, those kinds of tips are still equally useless to me. So here’s my money saving tips, for someone who is already a cheapo and wants to be even more so!
Grocery shop strategically
I’m by no means a pro at this, unlike my mum who seems to know the cheapest time place for everything. But there are a few easy things to keep in mind:
- Try to shop at markets or independent grocers as much as possible, rather than big supermarkets. It might be a little less convenient, but generally they are much cheaper (as well as less evil).
- Shop for things in season – if you must have asparagus and tomatoes in the middle of winter, expect to pay a lot more for an inferior product. Thankfully we’re quite lucky in Australia and a lot of warm weather veggies are available cheaply for most of the year.
- Cook from scratch as much as possible, because processed foods are much more expensive (and they sneak lots of preservatives and other nasties in there).
- Store groceries properly, and be sure to use up things that will spoil quickly first. I’ve found having at least a vague plan of what we’ll be eating for the week helps avoid over-buying and not using groceries before they’re past it.
- Eat less meat – this is hard, because Australian culture pretty much trains us to base meals around meat. But meat doesn’t have to be part of every meal, and definitely doesn’t need to be eaten in the quantities that most people do. Veggies are a lot cheaper, and most of us could probably use more of them anyway.
Shop strategically for everything else too
Our culture encourages us to always keep up with the fashion and the newest thing, but the new things come out so often that keeping up is expensive, and leaves a trail of old new things behind you. I’ve pretty much opted out of keeping up with fashion, with the view of mixing in the occasional new purchase with old things with some longevity. For big purchases, like tech, I try to really think through things before buying anything.
Questions to ask yourself before buying something:
- Why do I need it (“because it’s pretty” isn’t a very good reason. “Because I don’t have a pair of black shorts and they will go with most of my wardrobe and they make my legs look nice” is.)
- Does it actually fit well?
- Does it make sense and fit in with my lifestyle and current possessions?
- Do I have something else that does almost the same thing?
- Can I get it cheaper somewhere else?
- Will it last?
- Do I LOVE it?
Spend less on food and drinks when out
I’m actually pretty good at this, although it helps that I have flexible working hours that allow me to go home for lunch!
- Bring lunch to work instead of buying it every day – the costs add up really fast. Taking leftovers or doing a roast at the start of the week to make salads/sandwiches for lunches works well.
- Buy less coffee – admittedly I’m no coffee fanatic, but it confuses me why people will go and pay $4+ for a coffee (damn Perth prices!) when they have a coffee machine at work. Or have a nice, almost-free cup of tea.
- Drink less alcohol, especially in bars or clubs, especially in Perth where a glass of wine or pint of beer is more than $10. I’m still working on this, but I like to get something I can sip slowly over a long period of time like red wine, or offer to drive so I can’t have more than a drink or two.
- Do things at home – I’m lucky in that our home works reasonably well for entertaining, and most of my friends are happy to do a potluck dinner or tea and cake at each other’s houses rather than going out all the time. It also helps that I’m friends with some excellent cooks/bakers!
stingy smart at home
- Use less water by taking shorter showers and doing larger, less frequent loads of washing.
- Use less electricity by keeping curtains and windows closed during the day and opening up at night instead of using air-conditioning, and turning off lights when not in the room.
- Grow some simple herbs and salad plants instead of buying them.
- Walk or ride a bike instead of driving if possible.
I’m not saying that you have to stay home every night, avoiding alcohol and eating only unprocessed vegetarian food in the dark. But indulging less often just makes those moments more special, and small sacrifices can make big things possible. All of these things also have health and environmental benefits too, double winning!
Got any more good tips for me?