5 easy ways to keep $20 in your wallet

Wishing you could lower your expenses and have a little extra money in your wallet at the end of the month? In your quest to find big ways to save, don’t overlook the small things. Here are 5 small ideas that could could net you $20 of savings within a month.

1. How many gallon zip-top bags do you use each week? Instead of buying bags for food storage, simply shake the crumbs out of empty bread bags and use them instead. Reusing one or two bags a day can save you $1 or more each week.

2. Do you know how good a vegetarian meal can be? Serving just one vegetarian meal per week can save the average family $3 or more. Yummy vegetarian meal ideas: baked potato bar, (gluten free) sweet potato soup , beans and rice, homemade mac and cheese.

3. Do you use microwave popcorn?   Popping your popcorn in an air popper (check thrift stores for cheap ones) or on the stovetop instead of in the microwave will save you a dime or more per serving. For additional savings, instead of potato chips or other expensive snacks, once a week send popcorn in kids’ school lunches.

4.  Do you grab takeout pizza simply because you are too tired to cook?  Once a week try making a double batch of soup.  (Ever tried my Island Potato Soup?) Serve the first half of the soup on the day you make it, and stash the remainder of the soup in the fridge to serve later in the week when cooking feels like too much effort.  If this idea helps you resist take-out pizza or deli chicken even once in a month, it can easily save you $10-20.  And your family will be eating healthier too.

5.  How many times do you make an extra trip to the store just for a few random items?  If you live 4 miles from the store and drive a car that gets 24 mpg, that 8-mile round-trip is going to use 1/3 of a gallon of gas.  That’s $1.25 a trip at today’s prices.  By thinking creatively to use what you have on hand, and avoiding just one trip to the store per week, you will have saved a cool $5 by the end of the month.  And that doesn’t even count the impulse-buying you’ll avoid by shopping less often.

Now it’s your turn: if you have simple ways to save, please comment below and share how you keep more money in your wallet.

{ 34 Comments }

  1. I absolutely swear by the replace a meat-based meal (or three) with a vegetarian meal. This is a cardinal rule over here at Casual Kitchen.

    Also, I’d add a couple of other ideas: make a five-minute phone call to your phone provider and your cable provider, and ask if there are any discounts available to retain customers who are thinking of switching providers. Just ask. You’ll be pleasantly surprising how attentive many companies suddenly become when they risk losing a customer.

    And one more idea: build a good-sized emergency fund at your bank and link it to your main checking account so it applies to your overall balance at that bank. Save yourself forever from checking account fees and overdraft fees.

  2. Wow, it’s SO true how the small things add up! Here are a few things we do:

    1) Drink WATER. Having anything but water for beverage for meals and in-between meals is a big treat.

    2) Cut down on MEAT. We substitute beans for meat in lots of dishes. Tacos, etc. we do 1/2 hamburger or chicken and 1/2 beans. Spaghetti here is often a meatless meal. If that’s new for your fam you can cut down to small amount in sauce to ease into it. 🙂

    3) Check prices! It used to be “large quantity” saved you money. More often that not in recent months I’ve noticed the opposite to be true. I’m learning to check prices EVERY time, because this also fluctuates on the SAME items I buy regularly.

    4) Shop “off season” for kids clothing. Generally I can find my children’s clothing items at stores far cheaper than consignment shops if I pay attention to how the store rotates it’s clothing. During garage sale season, I always keep my eye out for clothing as well. I don’t mind shopping a year ahead for hard-to-find slim jeans that my one daughter uses. Big savings for later.

  3. Say no to juices, sugar drinks, and soda. Kids don’t need those calories, and get better nutrition from fresh fruit and veggies or homemade smoothies anyway. If you need something to get you through, sun tea/iced tea is a much less expensive drink than soda or juice (and can be made with decaf tea bags.)

    We also save the leftover coffee in the morning and make iced coffee for a refreshing beverage later in the day (for the hubby only, the caffeine is too much for me, unless the coffee is decaf.) Since you already made the coffee, this is practically “free” except for the sugar/sweetener or milk/cream you might add.

    My kids don’t “miss” juice or sugar drinks because we just don’t have them around.

  4. Wash dishes by hand! I stopped using the dishwasher after Christmas last year and noticed a nice drop in the electricity bill. Surprisingly, it seems that kitchen chores go faster, too, now that we are doing it by hand.

    • I noticed out dishwasher is taking two hours to wash a load. It is only 5 years old, but seems like we are losing a lot of water & electricity there.

  5. Emily Nz says:

    One way we found to save money was to buy our kid’s car seats at a local car dealership.

    Sounds odd, right?

    Once a month the dealership hosts a car seat check day. There’s a non-profit org (http://www.safekids.org/) that checks to see if the seats are installed properly and if it’s the right size for the child. They sell all size seats larger than the carries for dramatically reduced prices. We paid $25 for a reversible car seat (15-35 lbs) and $18 for a bigger kid seat (30-45 lbs). The same car seats were going for over $60 and $50, respectively, at Wal-Mart.

    • My Boaz's Ruth says:

      You might check and see where they are getting their seats for — often seats at seat checks are in limited supply and paid for by grant money — intended to be used by those who can not afford to buy their own seats. if you can afford to pay the higher prices, then doing that and leaving the lower price seats for those who would otherwise have NO SEAT AT ALL is the way to go.

  6. My grocery store often cooks too many rotisserie chickens during the day. In the late afternoon, they sell the now cold extra ones for a few dollars off which is also cheaper than buying a whole, uncooked chicken. If I’m shopping that day, I buy what they have, shred them, and freeze the pieces for use later.

  7. Make your own pizza–it does not take long and you can control the sauce and toppings. Sometimes I make extra dough and freeze it for another time. Sometimes I make a whole bunch of smaller pizzas, par-bake and freeze. Then we have our own frozen pizza for those quick meals when needed.

    I second the vegetarian suggestion. We love lentils (more than we love beans) and they cook faster, too.

    Brown bag lunch in re-usable containers. I hardly ever buy baggies anymore.
    Make your own tortilla and pita chips. Cut corn tortillas or pita into wedges, brush with olive oil or spray with cooking spray–salt and season to taste (my kids love garlic pita chips). Bake at 400 for a few minutes. They are healthier, cheaper and taste much better and fresher than store bought.

  8. Sue from Buffalo says:

    Oh, I love the idea of going only once a week to the store. That is always what I shoot for. You know, besides the gas expense it’s also the time. There’s just too much to do and not enough energy (laugh) for me to keep going to the supermarket.

    And we always have a totally meatless day on Friday. It’s a religious thing for us but it does save money, too.

    Now if only I can use all the leftovers in my fridge before they go bad. (laugh)

  9. I wasn’t able to go to your affordable food session at the OCHEC convention in Tulsa, but did get the MP3’s so that I could listen to the ones I missed at home!!! I just listened to it, great ideas!! Thanks for coming!!!

  10. One idea that I learned several years ago is to just use less of everything. Your laundry doesn’t need as much soap, your teeth will get just as clean with less toothpaste and on and on it goes. Look around your home and see what you use, can it be done with less. Does half the amount of dishwasher soap do the job? Does half the shampoo or hair product do the same thing? It is amazing how much difference these things make. Now if I could just figure out how to get my kids to apply this to the toilet paper.

    • Great point, Wendy!!

      Mary

      • This is an excellent point. I watched one of my close friends pump expensive Bath and Body Works hand soap THREE times into her hand once and saw almost all of it slide off her hand as soon as the water hit it and it went down the drain.

        Using a lot less is really a no brainer for me–my parents taught me I didn’t need that much and I taught my kids. It really struck me watching my friend waste so much soap that maybe not everyone thinks that way!

  11. I like buying whole, un-frozen chickens. I buy enough for 4 meals at once. I cut them up when I get home and freeze them by pieces. Breasts in one package, legs & thighs in another, and wings in another. I leave one (now need two) whole for roasting. Then after I have those roasted chickens, I boil the carcasses and wing pieces and make my own broth. Freezing the broth in small containers means I have what I need when I need it and the fat is easily removed from the top.

    • Often times, your grocery store may do this for you…I asked at Safeway and they did that for me at the Whole Chicken price…

  12. 1. Save all those papers sent home from school that have no writing on the back, rip into quarters and use for scratch paper by the phone. The same with all the envelopes your bills, etc. come in; keep them and use for scratch paper.
    2. Locate all the places within 100 miles of your home to visit for free saving you the cost of admission.
    3. When buying syrup, try diluting a bit without the kids seeing; this can also be tried with shampoo; be sure and put water in the final usage of the detergent bottle and shake around and use one last time before throwing out.
    4. Splurge on a cup of hot chocolate or coffee from the coffee shop or convenience store once a week but the rest of the week make at home and put in the rinsed-out store cup. Also buy lunch out once a week but bring from home the rest in washable containers.
    5. ‘X’ out the back of paper after reading information and then put back in the printer to use the other side, will save you hundreds on the cost of paper.
    6. Use only vinegar to clean, saves hundreds of dollars on cleaning products a year.
    7. Use all those flyers, political ads, etc. in collages. Kids will have a ball cutting up names, flags, furniture, etc. and then give the final project to grandma and grandpa or a favorite aunt.
    8. For windows in the winter put ‘rope caulk’ around them in the inside, drafts disappear and comfort increases dramatically. It is used like embroidery floss, as thick a thread as you need–great invention!

  13. Tiffany says:

    I buy whole, uncooked chickens and cook them in a crockpot. Then I pick the meat off and freeze it in servings of two for my husband and I. Then I take the bones, return it to the crockpot with water and the juices and make broth. Also, when chicken breasts go on sale, I stock up. They are usually huge and I use one breast for my husband and I. I make it seem like more by pounding it out or cutting it thinner.

  14. Melissa says:

    I recently took inventory, by category, of all the food in our home and meal planned with that inventory list. I was shocked when I realized just how much food we had here, like eight different types of cheese! I managed to get two weeks worth of meals out of it easily, with only a need for milk and a few other small items. This, of course, means I’ll be making some homemade bread, cornbread, etc. But I am excited to see the meals I can create out of what we already had in the house. God is faithful to provide all that we need!

  15. Great tips, any way to save these days is a big help!!

  16. Kate in NY says:

    I started line-drying about 50% of the laundry for our family of 6. I use the dryer for towels, socks, rags and underwear – and line-dry just about everything else. I was absolutely amazed at the immediate savings on the electric bill – in the area of $40 per month! Best of all are the sheets – they smell so good when I put them back on the beds – and there is something lovely and uplifting about the sight of clean laundry blowing gently in the wind. Only my younger son, adopted from Ethiopia when he was 7, is not a huge fan of the clothesline. The first time he saw me hanging clothing, he gasped and said: “Oh my gosh, Mama. Are we poor now?” I guess his associations with clotheslines are less romantic than my own.

    • We do this too, Kate. We have a couple of long rods in the laundry room, so that we can even hang dry jeans and sheets and blankets in the winter time.

      • I love doing this as well.

        I bought six packs of 25 plastic hangers from Target and now carefully hang all shirts on them wet from the washer. I hang everything in our furnace room from fall – spring–it’s warm and dry in there. We have very big closets in our house, so every single top is hung except thick sweaters. Saves me a lot of folding time too! I have a rack for jeans, pants, bras etc., but the rest is all on hangers.

  17. I started making my own laundry detergent a few months ago in an effort to start cutting back on the chemicals in our home. Come to find out, it’s also incredibly easy and very inexpensive (a little bit cheaper than what we used to buy at the discount store and waaaaaaaay cheaper than any store bought “organic” detergent). You can find lots of different recipes online and find one that works for you.

  18. Every time chicken breast quarters are on sale, I stock up. When I get home, I debone the breast and the tenders to freeze, then boil the bones. I pick off the meat from the boiled bones and freeze in one cup servings for chicken salad or casseroles. Last, I freeze the broth in ice cube trays to use as needed. I usually pound the chicken breasts before freezing so they are ready to use. You can come up with very quick meals with little effort if you have these items in your freezer. 🙂

  19. Along with lots of other “saving ideas”, I make my own salsa and package it for the freezer in 1-cup amounts. That’s so much better than throwing away that half jar of salsa that gets forgotten. And making your own costs very little.

    I also cook my own beans. And I have a supply of several different varieties in the freezer at all times. I read somewhere that they are better tasting and much less expensive. The article said that a 1-pound package of beans is equivalent to 4 cans of prepared beans. And another bonus is that you know exactly what’s in those beans. I freeze them in packages that are the same size as a can of purchased prepared beans. And with those beans, you can make lots of different meals and even your own hummus – big savings

    • I also have begun freezing beans, but I am not sure if I like the way they turn out. Do you freeze them in the liquid that you cook them in?

      • I use some of the liquid. But not a large amount. Sometimes the instructions indicate a shorter time to cook them. I use a crock pot, and if by some chance, they get
        “too done”, the beans make great refried beans. Just check out a recipe on the internet.

  20. I like to make my own cakes and cookies from scratch, but instead of just making one batch I mix up the dry ingredients for one batch and store it in a glass jar with the directions written on a piece of paper taped to the jar. Then I make what I was planning on. This gives me some “quick” mixes to use that are healthier than buying the ones at the store with all the additives.

    I also try to save leftovers that could be a lunch or part of another meal in the freezer, that way they don’t go bad sitting in the fridge, where I might forget them. My husband really enjoyed having a homemade burrito for lunch, I just gave him one from the freezer and all he had to do was heat it up at lunchtime.

    • I do something similar with cookies…I make up a super batch of dough. Then I scoop them with a pampered chef scoop, a spoon or an ice cream scoop. I set them on a silpat on a cookie sheet and flash freeze them. When they are hard, I toss them into a bag with baking directions. When ready to bake, we set them on the cookie sheet to thaw and bake as directed. I loved doing this because then we were not having cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner or everytime we passed by, but we could have fresh cookies at virtually a moments notice.
      While Silpats are expensive, I find they are worth their weight in gold…no spraying the cookie sheet, no parchment, etc…

  21. Oh, my other big thing… we switched to a credit union that has free online bill pay. I can pay virtually any bill from my checking account without a stamp! Considering the utilities, doctor’s bills, hubby’s professional memberships, etc, I can easily save $5-10 dollars a month!

  22. You can make popcorn in the microwave by putting popcorn kernels into a brown paper bag with a little peanut oil. Just use the same setting you’d use for the premade bags and stop when the popping stops. No need to buy another gadget, and no need to buy the premade bags of microwave popcorn.

  23. Annette says:

    (1) Buy your spices in bulk, especially the ones you use rarely. Our local WinCo sells most every spice you would ever need (except turmeric, sadly!) this way. You can buy 20 cents worth of curry powder, or 13 cents worth of nutmeg – compare to the glass jars in the spice aisle and you could be saving $5 or more for a couple of ounces! Plus, when you buy smaller quantities they’ll be fresher when you use them (or at least you won’t fret as much when you toss them out after they’ve been in your cupboard for a couple years.)

    (2) Refill a foaming hand-soap dispenser (i.e. Dial) with about 5:1 water:regular liquid soap. I like to do this with relatively expensive castille soap (like Dr. Bronners), but it should work with a standard hand soap too. It foams up just the same, and for only pennies!

    (3) Make your own Chai tea mix from sweetened condensed milk and spices (http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/61/Chai_Tea_Concentrate61492.shtml)
    A couple of bucks will make you 20-30 servings.

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