When my husband and I decided to pay off $127,000 of debt (mostly student loans) over just a few years, we knew we’d have to find creative ways to cut costs.
Over the past few years, I’ve found TONS of ways to save money here and there. Some of the tricks below saved us tens of thousands of dollars, while others may have saved us only $20. The little things add up though!
With all of the items listed below, we’ve saved a grand total of nearly $30,000!
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Here’s how we did it.
- Going to free yoga classes – Surprisingly, there are plenty of ways to find free yoga! I’ve gone to holy yoga classes, free outdoor classes held by nonprofit groups, and free trials at yoga studios, to name a few. Estimated savings: $1,200 (assuming $100/mo for a yoga studio package).
- Using the gym at work – I work for a fitness company, so it’s no surprise that there’s a fitness center in our building. Using it is free and convenient, since I can run over to the gym before work, after work, or on a lunch break. Estimated savings: $120 (assuming $10/mo for a cheap gym membership).
- Mall walking or walking outside – Another free way to get exercise (and some sunshine) is to take my pug for a walk. I If it’s too cold or snowy, I head to the mall to walk instead. Estimated savings: $0 (included in gym membership cost above).
- Attending free pet-friendly events – We’ve gone to several pet-friendly events with our pug and our friends’ dogs. This is a free way to have fun and allows the dogs to get some exercise and socialize with other animals…Herbie (our pug) has met dogs, cats, goats, pigs (that one didn’t go so well!), turtles, and rabbits. Estimated savings: $60.
- Earning gift cards with my health insurance – My insurance company is terrible overall, but I do enjoy their rewards program. I’ve earned over $200 in Amazon gift cards just by doing things I was going to do anyway, like tracking steps with my FitBit Flex, getting yearly exams, and working out regularly. Estimated savings: $210.
- Preparing meals in advance – On weekends, I prep all of my lunches for the week. This way, I’m not tempted to overspend on groceries. Estimated savings: $240.
- Switching to Wal-mart for groceries – I’m not a huge fan of Walmart, but their prices are unbeatable. Buying groceries there has saved us a bundle! Estimated savings: $1,500.
- Using Ibotta to earn cash back on groceries – I love the Ibotta app! It’s free and super easy to use. I’ve earned $134.98 in cash back with Ibotta. Estimated savings: $134.98.
- Cutting back on prepackaged items – I hate cooking, so I prefer to buy pre-made items, but that gets expensive quickly. I’ve cut back on some of my favorite prepackaged or pre-sliced items to save money. For example, instead of buying mixed fruit for $10 and chopped veggies for $15, I’ll buy apples, bananas, carrots, an onion, a cucumber, and tomatoes for about $8 total. Estimated savings: $1,000.
- Using Ebates to earn cash back – I don’t do much online shopping, but I’ve still managed to earn $150.03 with Ebates. I’ve earned cash back on hotel stays, Christmas gifts, and flowers that we sent to my hubby’s grandma when she was in the hospital. There are a ton of things you can use Ebates for! Estimated savings: $150.03.
- Packing food on road trips – We don’t go on a “real” vacations often, but we do travel to see my in-laws a few times each year. Instead of wasting money on fast food or tempting snacks along the way, we pack food to bring on the trip. Estimated savings: $100.
- Staying with relatives – when we visit my in-laws, we stay with relatives instead of paying for a hotel. We save money and we’re able to spend extra time with family. Win-win! Estimated savings: $300.
- Finding deals on hotels – As I mentioned before, we don’t travel much, but we did take a road trip to Chicago a few months ago to celebrate paying off my hubby’s last student loan. Hotels in the city can be crazyyyy expensive, so we found a great deal on a hotel in the suburbs instead. Estimated savings: $150.
- Ditching the iPhone/upgrading craze – When my hubby’s iPhone 6 died, we decided to replace it with a Samsung instead of an iPhone. It works great and it was much more affordable! I still have an iPhone 5 and I don’t plan to upgrade it anytime soon. Estimated savings: $300.
- Doing minor car repairs ourselves – My hubby is savvy with cars and he’s able to do some minor repairs himself. Once we have a garage, he’ll be able to do even more of this. Estimated savings: $300.
- Not going out to eat – Going out to dinner used to be my go-to idea whenever I wanted to get together with friends. When we got serious about paying off debt, we decided to do free things with friends instead. We’ve gone for walks, had board game nights, and attended free events. Estimated savings: $500.
- Bringing lunch to work – I always pack a lunch and bring it to work, which helps both my wallet and my waistline. Estimated savings: $2,000.
- Doing my nails myself – I never got in the habit of getting my nails done often, but I used to treat myself to a nail appointment on special occasions and every once in a while “just because”. Estimated savings: $160.
- Tweezing my eyebrows – When I was in college, I used to get my eyebrows waxed once a month for $20+. This seems silly since tweezing is free! Estimated savings: $240.
- Not dyeing my hair – My hair is one area where I used to really splurge. I would get my hair cut and colored once every three months at an overpriced salon for $200. My hair looked great, but was it worth $800/year? I don’t think so. Estimated savings: $800.
- Not paying for cable or a landline – There’s no need to pay for either of these things now since we live with my parents, but once we move out, we still aren’t going to pay for cable or a home phone. Netflix and cell phones work just fine for us. Estimated savings: $1,300.
- Not buying new clothes – I never buy full-price clothes anymore. When I buy clothes, I use gift cards or I buy super cheap clothes at garage sales. Estimated savings: $200.
- Using gift cards on essentials – I earn gift cards with Ibotta, Ebates, my health insurance, and credit card rewards. It would be more enjoyable to blow this money on fun stuff, but I usually use gift cards for essentials like groceries and dog food. Estimated savings: $200.
- Winning free tickets – My hubby earned free tickets to an air show event that we attended this summer. It was an interesting experience and we didn’t have to pay a dime! Estimated savings: $35.
- Work perks – My hubby’s company offers discounts on a wide range of items and experiences, including home appliances and vacations. He’s also able to earn “appreciation” points that can be applied to purchases on a variety of items. Estimated savings: $200.
- Buying drugstore shampoo – I used to buy a big bottle of $60 shampoo from the overpriced salon I went to, but now I buy a huge bottle for just $5 at the drugstore. Estimated savings: $110.
- Buying shoes at garage sales – My old running shoes were completely falling apart, but I didn’t want to spend $100+ on a new pair. Instead, I bought brand new Asics at a garage sale for $10. Score! Estimated savings: $90.
- Buying furniture at estate sales – We need furniture for the home we’ll be purchasing this spring, but we didn’t want to spend thousands. We bought a couch and a love seat at an estate sale for just $150! They’re in great shape (almost new). Estimated savings: $1,200.
- I’m on a four year spending ban – I make exceptions occasionally, but for the most part, I don’t buy extras. Estimated savings: $1,500.
- We live with my parents – This is by far our biggest money saver. We are so grateful to my parents for allowing us to live with them. They are the reason we were able to pay off $127,000 of debt! Estimated savings: $12,000 (assuming $1,000/mo for a studio apartment).
- I drive a 19 year old car – My car is full of rust, dents, and scratches. It’s not pretty, but I love not having a car loan! Estimated savings: $2,400 (assuming $200/mo for a car payment).
- Using Spotify instead of buying new CD’s – I love Spotify! Estimated savings: $40.
- Having game nights with friends – Game nights are one of my favorite things to do with friends. They’re so much fun and they’re free! Estimated savings: $0 (included in previous item).
- Coupons for free stuff – When I get coupons for non-essentials, I skip the “spend $100+, get $10” crap and stick with the ones where I can get stuff for FREE without buying anything. I’ve used these coupons to get several pairs of underwear and perfume or lotion 100% for free (okay, sometimes I’ll pay 50 cents for tax or something, but I still count it as free). Estimated savings: $50.
- Buying photo prints on Amazon – One non-essential I do splurge on a little is scrapbooking. I do Project Life, but I’ve found ways to keep it cheap. One way is using Amazon to print my photos. Of all the photo printing services I’ve tried, Amazon is the cheapest (10 cents per print) and it’s by far the best quality (Costco’s is pretty good too if you don’t like Amazon Prints). Estimated savings: $80.
- Buying Project Life items on sale – In addition to photos, completing Project Life also requires buying albums, album sheets, and scrapbooking cards. These are a bit expensive at full price, so I always buy them on sale or I stock up on them when I have Amazon gift cards. Estimated savings: $50.
- Cutting out coffee and booze – I no longer spend money on occasional Starbucks trips or alcohol, which benefits my health and my budget. Estimated savings: $200.
- Monitoring my credit – I regularly monitor my credit with free websites (that don’t impact my score). Keeping an eye on my credit allows me to know when I’m doing well and when I need to work on improving my score. This is important because I want to get the best mortgage rate possible when I buy home. Estimated savings: Hard to say, but it could add up to thousands of dollars if we get a lower interest rate on a mortgage.
- Budgeting – Sticking to a budget definitely saves a ton of money! If you have no clue where your money is even going, it’s hard to save. Estimated savings: Priceless ;)
- Buying dog toys on clearance – I don’t normally buy dog toys because of my spending ban (and my dog has plenty of toys already), but occasionally I’ll buy him a toy on clearance for a few dollars. Estimated savings: $20.
- Reviewing bills for accuracy – I never pay a bill if I think it’s incorrect or I don’t understand it. I’m that annoying person who will call up the insurance company multiple times and argue with them until they finally refund me for the $20 they overcharged me. It may not be much, but I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s error. Estimated savings: $60.
- Reading the fine print – I’m probably a nightmare to salespeople because I actually sit there and read the entire contract before I sign it. I’ve learned the hard way what happens when I sign something I don’t fully understand, and that’s not a mistake I’ll make again. Estimated savings: Priceless ;)
- Not getting extra warranties – Salespeople love to add extras (gotta increase that commission), and additional warranties are one scammy way of driving up your bill for no good reason. Many items come with lengthy warranties already and adding an extra one typically isn’t needed. Estimated savings: $200.
- Ignoring upselling – When I worked in food service years ago, I never upsold (even though I was supposed to) because I can’t stand upselling. It’s obnoxious and it’s not good customer service, especially when people are excessively pushy about it. I have never once bought something just because someone tried to upsell to me. Estimated savings: Priceless ;)
- Not ordering dessert/apps/drinks – When I go out to eat for special occasions, I don’t order dessert or appetizers. I also opt for water instead of paying $3+ for a beverage. Estimated savings: $40.
- Saying “no” – Whether it’s to a friend who wants to do something expensive or an obnoxious salesperson trying to upsell, sometimes simply saying “no” is necessary to save money. Estimated savings: Priceless ;)
- Living below our means – Could we buy a big house, two fancy cars, and a whole bunch of other stuff we don’t need? Sure, but that wouldn’t align with our financial goals. Estimated savings: Priceless ;)
- Not keeping up with the Joneses – If we competed with other people, we’d end up buying all sorts of dumb stuff we don’t need. Estimated savings: Priceless ;)
- Not caring what other people think – If we listened to the advice of broke people, we’d be as broke as they are. Estimated savings: Priceless ;)
- Paying off debt early – My hubby and I paid off $127,000 of debt in four years. This saved us a ton of money in interest. I haven’t calculated the exact amount, but we know it’s a lot. Estimated savings: A lot ;)
Ready to save money this year? Hopefully this list gave you some ideas!
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