Creative Ways to Save Money

It seems everywhere we turn these days we find a story about how to save money. I bite every time, only to find that most of the ideas shared (take your lunch to work, trade your car in for a less expensive model, shop the clearance rack) are things I’m already doing. I work from home, making it a no-brainer to eat lunch at home, my car has been paid off for two years, and I am the queen of the clearance rack at Target. But what about the next level of saving money, the level where the little things add up to big savings?

I used to receive a daily email that offered frugal tips, but when the day’s tip instructed subscribers to scrape the remaining deodorant out of an almost-empty canister, set it aside, and add to it with each used stick of deodorant, I knew these tips were a little TOO frugal for me. To give balance, I’d like to offer my own creative ways to save a few pennies. As the familiar adage goes, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and my mother still reminds me to, “Waste not, want not.” Try a couple of these ideas and see if you can’t save up a little vacation fund from your savings.

Beef Up Beauty Treatments: Extend the time between expensive beauty treatments with some expert tips on maintaining your hair color and manicure. If your roots give you grief after even three weeks, ask your colorist if she will do an interim coloring just along your part, allowing you to go closer to eight weeks between full color treatments.

To prolong the life of a natural nail manicure, put a top coat over your color at least every three days — this simple step could give you up to an extra week! Postpone the next fill on your acrylics by massaging oil into your cuticles and nails every night. This will keep your natural nails from separating from the acrylic and keep them on your nails longer.

Skip the Soda: Try ordering water with lemon when dining out rather than ordering a Diet Coke or iced tea. Most restaurants now charge upwards of $2 for a soda, which can end up being 25 percent of your total lunch bill! Save the beverage indulgence for cans at home or the office, and you also will experience some added health benefits from drinking more water.

Java Justification: If you simply can’t bring yourself to give up your daily $4 latte, try bringing your own mug. Many coffee shops give a discount for bringing your own, and it saves all those extra cups from their landfill destiny. A 10 cent discount each day for a month will save you almost enough for a free latte, and Mother Earth will thank you.

Go Green with Gifting: Rather than buying expensive wrapping paper or gift bags that ultimately end up in the garbage anyway, take a look around your home for creative wrapping ideas. The Sunday comics make whimsical wrapping paper, or if you have kids, enlist their help in making your own. Simply open up brown paper shopping bags with a couple quick cuts, and have your kids decorate with paint for personal and fun gift wrap.

By exercising a little creativity, it is easy to trim another $50 or so from your monthly spending. Tuck that money away in a savings account and soon you’ll have a sizable nest egg!

A version of this post was published in the Cincy Chic column “Cents & Sensibility” on November 9, 2009.

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