How to save money without feeling broke

We’ve all read the stories about how multi-millionaire athletes lose all their money soon after retiring.  Developing good spending habits is essential, but no one wants to sacrifice a good life just to save a few bucks.  Here’s how to save money without feeling broke.  Yes, it’s possible!

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Some of these may not mesh with your particular situation.  Take those that you like, leave those you don’t.  I’ve made estimates below based on what we save in real dollars.

High-deductible insurance: Go back and count up all the money over the years you’ve spent on insurance, and then count up how much you actually got from insurance.  You won’t like what you see.  Since we are required to have health and car insurance, saving big here is very important.  It’s also very easy to do: raise your deductibles.  The differences between high and low price plans are usually very minimal.  Often they are exactly the same, with the only differences being your monthly payment amount and the deductible.

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t have a lot in savings just yet, which is why you want insurance to kick in after you pay $500 or so: because a surprise $2,000 bill would crush you.  But you pay a huge monthly fee for this, often several hundred dollars per insurance plan.  Play around with the numbers and watch how your monthly payment goes down as your deductible goes up (there’s typically a chart you can look at to compare).  Slowly increase your deductibles for insurance over time, making sure you can afford your current deductibles before raising them again.  When you are able to afford $5,000+ out of pocket for an accident, the amount you pay into insurance is minimal.

Savings – $500/month across health, auto, home insurance.

Buy in bulk: If you know that you’ll need something, buying it in large amounts will often get a discount.  For example, auto insurance gives a significant discount if you pay up front.  Our plan for two cars over 6 months was quoted at $850, but if you paid it up front it was $620!  Memberships to Costco or Sam’s Club pay for themselves by loading up on the essentials at great prices.

Savings – $100/month on stuff you were going to buy anyway.

Get rid of the car payment: Not only does this save $300-600 per month, but it also lowers your insurance as well.  I know it’s tempting to trade your old car in for a new one, but keeping your working vehicle for another year instead of taking on another $300/month payment comes out to $3,600 saved: that’s airfare and a month in Thailand for two people!

Savings – $300-600/month.

Preventative care: This is boring and un-sexy, but an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.  Getting regular checkups at the dentist and doctor is covered by insurance, but having to fix big problems isn’t.  It sucks, but get to the doctor.  If you want discount health and dental care, go visit a nearby university that lets graduate students work on you.  Don’t worry, licensed professionals make sure they do a good job.  And it’s much cheaper.

Ditch cable: Hulu costs less than $10/month and gives you 90% of what a cable package does, all for a fraction of the price.  For things you can’t get on Hulu, buy the season off of Amazon.

Savings – $100/month over traditional cable.

Outlet stores, Ebay for clothes: It’s the same stuff, just cheaper.  Look and dress nicely by wearing designer clothes are bargain prices.

Savings – $100/month.  More if you get a lot of new clothes, less if you don’t.

Buy last years’ model: Car, phone, computer, whatever.  It’ll be deeply discounted because people want the latest and greatest out there.  But do you really want to pay 30-50% more for effectively the same thing?  Think about your car: do you even know what has been improved over the previous year?  Most likely not.  Even if you do, was it worth paying several thousand dollars more?  Most likely not.  Computers and phones are notoriously bad with this.  Last years’ model is 90% of what this years’ is, but it costs a fraction of the price.  You’re still buying brand new stuff, just with a different year on it.

Savings – $1,000/year.  You’re not going to be buying big ticket stuff all the time, but when you do it’s substantial.

Amazon Prime: Before you buy anything, check Amazon first.  With Primes’ free 2-day shipping, you can get that thing you saw in the store quickly and for much cheaper.

Google Play: All the music you can handle for $10/month.

Grocery shop at 2 stores: Most stores will have things differently priced, and you want to get the cheaper items at each store.  For example, we buy a lot of produce, dairy, and basic foods at our local Target.  Then we buy the packaged meals and specialty items at Trader Joe’s.  For things like yogurt, Trader Joe’s is very expensive.  However, TJ’s is much cheaper with their heat-and-eat style of meals.

Savings – $200/month.

Buy generic food brands when possible: This TIME article says it best: “The foods [brand and generic] have been known to come out of the same factories, with the same ingredients inside and everything, with the only difference being the label. The result is that often, switching to a store brand is an easy way to save 30% or so, without sacrificing quality.”

Free to Play games or Steam Powered: Instead of that new Xbox game that costs $60, go onto Steam and download several games for less than $1.00 apiece.  Not just any games, award winning and massively popular ones.  Or check out F2P games like Candy Crush, World of Tanks, or Team Fortress 2.

Roku: We had an Xbox for streaming media to our TV.  The Roku does that for just $30 instead of the several hundred for the Xbox or Playstation.

Smartphones: Review your plan and reduce it if you aren’t using what you’re paying for.  Switch providers to get discounts on new phones or plans.  Often your old cell provider will reduce your plan to get you to stay.  If you think you use too much data and can’t downgrade, here’s a tip that will cut down 50-90% of your data usage: go into the settings and set all app background updates to “manual” or turn off that app’s cell data usage completely.  Instead of Facebook/Twitter/etc sucking data and battery all day, they’ll only update when you tell them to.

Savings – $100/month.

Loyalty programs: Get free stuff and discounts on things you were going to buy anyway.  For example, using our Target Red Card and Cartwheel saves us 10% on products we had to buy to live (food, household items).  Using our airlines credit card gives us double points towards the thing we like most: travel!

Do it yourself: Whatever you need to fix in your home, there’s a YouTube video showing you how.  For example, I save $80 by starting my sprinkler system up every spring instead of having the local company do it.  Instead of paying $2,000 to resurface our driveway, we did it ourselves for less than $600.  I’ve even changed my own brakes on my car with no problems and zero prior experience working on cars.  You can do it!

Travel: Fly during the week rather than the weekend saves 30% in airfare costs.  So instead of going from Sunday to Sunday, go from Wednesday to Wednesday.  Getting 30% off for effectively free feels like cheating.

Matinee movies: Same movie, half the price.

Summary

We’ve done all of the above for years.  Most of the above are pretty painless.  I mean, hey, who wants to spend more on insurance?  Literally no one.  Adding up the savings I made above, it comes to $1,500/month saved.  That’s $18,000 per year that you can get with some easy, easy, easy lifestyle changes.

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