When working on saving money, there is a lot of advice out there that seems stale, impractical, or just plain out of reach for the average millennial (and I’d bet often the average non-millennial, too). I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to get one of those massive binders like the moms from extreme couponing shows. You don’t need to stockpile macaroni and Gatorade in your huge basement. You also don’t need a huge basement. You don’t HAVE to buy in bulk, and you don’t need to sign up for every single rewards program you can find. Lots of small, everyday choices you make can have a measurable impact on your finances over time.
Here are a few random frugal tips you may not have thought of yet, and how they can save you a ton over time.
1. Stockpile gift wrapping supplies.
Whether you realize it or not, those mad-dash CVS trips to grab a gift bag before a birthday dinner can EASILY add another $10 to the cost of your gift. Instead, gift bags like these come out to about 50 cents apiece. Buy some bags, some cute tissue paper, and ribbons (save these from gifts other people give you!), and keep them together in a box. Then, next time you have a last-minute gift, you’ll be able to wrap it on the cheap and save yourself the stress.
2. Stockpile greeting cards.
Just like the item above, boxes of thank you cards or birthday cards aren’t just for 1950s moms and the newly-married. And not only does this tip save you money (maybe more than you think — most cards at stores cost $5 each) — it saves you time and energy as well. With cards on hand you can take two minutes to send a thank you note to your friend when you remember, all without leaving the comfort of your own apartment.
3. Don’t automatically buy your way out of every problem.
When something you own breaks, or Instagram ads convince you that you need an item, take a moment to consider your available resources before immediately going out and buying something. The other day I was organizing (#KonMarieLyfe), and I wanted a box to put in my makeup drawer. I picked up my phone to check Amazon, but then realized my friend had just sent me a “will you be my bridesmaid” gift in a beautiful, gold box. I emptied it out and it fit perfectly in the drawer — free, gorgeous, and functional. If this sounds like I just got lucky, try it for yourself — you’ll be surprised by how often things serendipitously work out when you need them if you pay attention and use your creativity.
4. Stop buying cleaning products.
And no, I’m not advocating for dwelling in your own filth. But most cleaning products are a scam! Full stop. They are expensive, filled with chemicals that you probably don’t want in your home (especially if you have children or pets), and at least half of them are not necessary. Here’s what I use for 90% of cleaning solutions: a gallon jug of distilled white vinegar ($2); water; spray bottles (see if you can reuse ones you already have from products you’ve used up!); and a can of Bon Ami ($1.50!) for the spots that vinegar can’t get off. Mix a 4:1 batch of water and vinegar in the spray bottles and use it to clean windows, floors, countertops, stainless steel, sinks, and surfaces. Use Bon Ami and water for everything else. Oh, and ditch the paper towels — use rags. Your house will be sparkling clean for pennies.
5. Get enough sleep.
Studies show that impulse control is severely affected by sleep deprivation. If you’re trying to make healthier choices, a lack of sleep can throw a real wrench into that. Sleep also reduces stress, which leads to healthier choices; we can exercise more willpower when we don’t already feel at the end of our ropes. Next time you’re in an anxiety-induced online shopping fugue late at night in bed, close your laptop and get some shut-eye. I promise a full night of rest will make you feel better than another batch of 5 for $25 underwear ever could.
6. Be grateful.
At the risk of sounding too Pinterest board-y, cultivating gratitude is THE most powerful antidote to our consumer culture. Appreciating and valuing the items you already own will make you feel fulfilled and squash the worries you have about keeping up with everyone around you. Yes, you’ll probably never have every material item you’ll ever want, but chances are you have plenty to appreciate already. And be grateful for yourself, too! Take time to appreciate yourself for the efforts you’ve already put into bettering your finances. You can do it!
So, there you have it! Six random tips that could save you money without extreme couponing or line-drying all of your laundry. Hopefully, you find these tips useful, and let me know in the comments what random frugal tips you incorporate into your life.
Emily is a writer and researcher living in the Pacific Northwest. You can follow her on Instagram.
Image via Unsplash