Thrifty Reader Tip Roundup

Readers submitted their tips for saving and making a small amount of money in the comments on “30 Ways To Save A Dollar Day (Or More).” We enjoyed them so much brought them out for all to see and benefit.

• Bag your lunch.
• Bring your own coffee/tea to work.
• No central heating? Bulk up on blankets and warm clothing.
• Using a debit card instead of cash can cut down on impulse buying. It also gives you a record to look at later.
• Turn off your computer at night.
• Find odd jobs on craigslist.
• Tear dryer sheets in two and only use a half per load.
• Drink tap water instead of bottled.
• Cut old pantyhose or trouser socks into rings, then snip into ties for stalking plants in the garden.
• Use teabags twice.
• For a good meal, buy an inexpensive roast from the grocer. Combine with cheap rice from a tube and baby carrots from a bag and you can feed four for $14.
• Shopping with a grocery list reduces impulse buying and cuts cost.
• Cook at home instead of eating out.
• Unplug your cellphone charger when not in use.
• Sell stuff you don’t need on Craigslist.
• Before buying something, post a wanted on freecycle.
• Grow your own basil.

What excellent suggestions. We’ve been making meals at home more often lately and it’s really easy and enjoyable. Last night we picked up some fresh fish from the store, threw it on the grill pan (gotta love the grill pan), boiled up some pasta and broccoli, chopped up a big fresh tomato. Easy, quick, healthy, tasty and cheap. — BEN POPKEN

(Photo: zieak)


Edit Your Comment

  1. mmmm… cheap. >homerlikegurglingnoise

  2. etinterrapax says:

    The cooking ones are always good, but even better would be: learn what to do with leftovers. It requires planning on the front and back end to make two or three different meals out of one original chicken or roast or pot of spaghetti sauce, but it’s sure better than facing a week of the exact same meal over and over again. The most expensive food there is, is what’s thrown away.

  3. zolielo says:

    Cooking at home this year to date as compared to previous year has saved $666.13. So about $222.00 a month in savings.

    So far I am quite happy about it for I am cooking up dishes which I have not had for years i.e. old family recipes. Lots of tasty and nostalgic food…

  4. formergr says:

    OK, most of those were good, but I draw the line at re-using a tea bag unless I’m misunderstanding. If I’m making tea for two people at once I will certainly only use bag, but to save it all wet and gross and then re-use it later just seems kind of icky, and I’m not at all germ-phobic.

  5. KatieKate93 says:

    I use some of these techniques and find them helpful. In addition, I check eBay and the rest of the internets before making any major purchases, and buy many things in bulk, on sale or both.

    Cooking at home is definitely cheaper in most cases, unless you are a “foodie.” What I spend on a block of good parmesan and some descent prosciutto could feed a family of six. And if ever I bought everything on my two-page list, I would surely be broke . . .

    Priorities :)

  6. AnnC says:

    These are good suggestions but if I want to save some cash what I do is SPEND LESS MONEY.

  7. Terminixsux says:

    OK, many of these are good ideas, but I have questions/comments about a few:

    Using a debit card instead of cash can cut down on impulse buying. It also gives you a record to look at later. ~I fail to see how this helps given that you can use these cards virtually everywhere with less hassle than pulling out cash.

    No central heating? Bulk up on blankets and warm clothing.~ And when your pipes freeze and burst, you save money how?

    Unplug your cellphone charger when not in use.
    ~Does this really use less power? I figured without anything drawing the DC, there’d be no draw on the AC. Any EE’s out there?

    Grow your own basil. ~ Why single out basil?

    I guess I really wonder about who needs a list like this to think of these things?

  8. HearsMusic says:

    The tip about using old nylons/socks in the garden is a winner. They are especially great for tomato plants because they will stretch as the stems/stalks get big and heavy.

    The guy who lives downstairs from me always tears the dryer sheets in half. I just can’t bring myself to do it – I want all the freshness, dammit!

  9. Saeculorum says:

    These sorts of tips seem a bit short sighted for the majority of consumers to me.

    Better tips: Don’t drive a new car. Get a good mortgage. Don’t overpay taxes.

    I’d rather save several hundred dollars a month on something trivial like these than do something like use $0.10 teabags twice.

  10. mrbenning says:

    I’ll iterate the cooking at home tip. When my wife and I go out to eat, not only are we eating three times as many calories as we need, but we spend between 24 to 35 dollars.

    A nice meal of grilled chicken with rice and brocolli at home might cost six or seven bucks and is a hell of a lot healthier.

  11. wonderskunk says:

    Freecycle is a great idea but… here in Toronto you can’t access Freecycle without creating a yahoo account. You can’t create a yahoo account without giving them your full name and date of birth and I won’t do that. Your date of birth is one of your most sensitive pieces of personal identification. ( They can always issue a new credit card number, but you just can’t get a new date of birth . )

  12. clementine says:

    I use an internet site like where someone else posts the local grocery store sales and combines it with letting you know when a coupon came out for the products featured in the sales. For example, if the store has XYZ shampoo on sale this week for $2.00, they will tell me to look in the Sunday coupon section from say perhaps January 7th to use the 50 cent coupon for it at the store this week. If the store doubles or triples my coupon, I reach significant savings. Every once in a while, this method will get you a free product. Every year using this site, I have gotten a free bottle of French’s mustard and a free jar of Heinz pickle relish.

  13. zolielo says:

    @Terminixsux: If you want to use cash making a simple list of purchases will tighten up spending and provide insightful stats if you are forming the list with the goal to tighten spending. I believe that the suggestion of using a debt card is on the similar concept that a list of purchases can tighten spending with the added “plus” of not having to write it down on the spot.

    I am an economist and a physicist not an electrical engineer however I think that I can field your question about power usage. Unless there is a physical break in the circuit there can be a power draw. For more see a recent post on lifehacker or the consumerist about tips to counter…

  14. KenyG says:

    cooking at home – yep, saves money – and noticebly too.

    used tea bags… ewww. Shit a box of 100 is like a buck. I mean there is saving money of then there is stupid.

    I did replace my outside lights with those compact flourecents – made a difference.

  15. Pelagius says:

    “Grow your own” is always an excellent money saving tip…

    On a more serious note: Start an automatic savings plan. Have a portion of your paycheck automatically sent from the checking account that already gets your direct deposit to a ‘rainy day’ savings account that you don’t touch – or touch only to divert the funds onto an investment account of some sort.

  16. AnnC says:

    @wonderskunk: Uhhh, wonderskunk, you can just make up the info for yahoo. I don’t think that’s illegal in Canada.

  17. VA_White says:

    Why would anyone give Yahoo their real date of birth? Just use 1/1/1960 or some such thing. They only need your real DOB in case you forget your password and to verify you are over 13 years of age.

    They aren’t going to show up at your house with a birthday cake or anything.

  18. rizeup says:

    Does a plugged in charger really draw power!?

  19. Elara says:

    I assume you mean “staking” plants in a garden, not “stalking.” There may, indeed, be those who creep around spying on their vegetables, but I haven’t met any of them yet.

    In all seriousness, I second the comment that that is a good tip- they are much easier on the plants as the hose is relatively strong, but will stretch enough to give and not damage fragile stems as they grow.

  20. MeOhMy says:

    On re-using teabags – Do not save them for a long period of time as they will become a haven for bacteria. However, if you’re drinking multiple consecutive cups, go for it. Many teas (although not your typical storebought orange pekoe) are intended to to be brewed multiple times.

    On unplugging your phone charger – This isn’t just for the cellphone charger, it’s for ANY “wall-wart” power supply. The circuitry in them always draws power, even when it’s not charging. Lots of electronics also go into standby and never truly shutdown.

    On these tips being trivial – These nickel-and-dime tips mount up to significant savings over the course of a year. It’s up to each person whether the effort/time spent doing these things is worth it for himself.

  21. wonderskunk says:

    @AnnC: Maybe not illegal, but morally dubious. Yahoo provides its services to not – for- profit community organizations like freecycle in exchange for being able to harvest data and sell adspace etc. That’s the deal. I can honourably accept that or decline that. There certainly are circumstances under which I will lie; this just isn’t one of them.

  22. mroach says:

    One of the best moneysaving things I do for myself is doing personal finance. It has prevented me from buying a lot of things for no reason other than I didn’t want to have to create yet another negative transaction against my credit cards or checking account. It also helped me recognize things like recurring services that I was being billed for and not even using. I had just been paying off my credit cards and not looking at the statements; bad, bad, bad. Never do that! Lesson learned.

    Also, whenever my incandescent lightbulbs die, I replace them compact fluorescent bulbs. They last a lot longer and use about a quarter of the energy. These days they’re pretty cheap. Maybe $4/bulb.

    For those of us that live in cold areas, having an automatic thermostat is a great way to save on heating costs. Unless you’re diligent and can turn down the heat before you go to work every day and/or go to bed, you’re wasting oil or gas by having the temperature maintained while nobody is home or while everyone is in bed.

    For food, pasta and pasta sauce is a great way to go for saving money. For $5 you can make 4 – 6 servings of pasta sauce and pasta. It’s really easy to make (can of tomatoes, oil, water, salt, pepper, garlic, basil) and will definitely taste better than anything you buy at the supermarket and usually even better than restaurants.

  23. clementine says:

    I also recommend going to the library to read the current magazines. Those are costly and unlike books, you have a hard time reselling them at a used bookstore or the like.

    I also work at a place where we have a mzagzine exchange box. People put in the magazines that they read and were about to throw out and pick up other people’s old magazines to read for themselves. We just put it in the mailroom and people can leave or take as many magazines as they wish.

  24. kerry says:

    @formergr: You’re missing out. If you buy high-quality teas you get some pretty good benefits of saving the leaves for a resteeping. Not only do you save money, but if you drink green, oolong or white tea you get a different flavor and body with each resteeping, and can generally steep a single serving up to three times, even more for some white teas. I make a bag of genmaicha green tea in the morning and resteep it twice during the day, leaving the wet bag in a little tray on my desk. Not at all icky, cheaper than making a new bag every time and provides a little flavor variety throughout the day.
    Also, if you save your black tea bag and resteep you get much less caffeine the second time around and avoid getting wired and jittery. Of course, if wired and jittery is what you’re after, make a new bag each time.

  25. kimsama says:

    I always cook at home using non-skanky food (those rice tubes, if you’re talking about Yellow Rice, are loaded with MSG and scary food coloring ingredients — much better to just put some chicken broth and saffron in and make your own rice).

    You can makes lots of things and never get bored if you know how to use leftovers to make new meals. Hell, lots of delicious foods require leftovers. Got leftover rice? Make fried rice (you need old rice for that). Got leftover tonkatsu? Make katsudon. Extra risotto? How about arancini di riso? Leftover lamb? Make pitas.

    This works great for my lunches, since it cuts down on the work I do when I get home from work in the evening — I can use what I made the night before to make lunch for the next day, and make something new all in about 30 minutes. Plus, I know exactly what’s in it and can make it as healthy or bad-for-me as I want. I buy organic and my lunches are STILL like $3-5 less than if I was eating some crummy sandwich from the deli.

  26. birdbrain says:

    For those who are questioning the wisdom of using debit and not carrying cash – it can definitely help save a few bucks. With the banking plan I’m on, I get charged 50 cents per transaction once I go over my monthly limit of 45 transactions. I rarely go over, but by not carrying cash and knowing that using debit too often will cost me, I can stop myself from impulse buys like a cup of coffee or something else I don’t really need. It’s easy to stop at a store and buy something for a few dollars if you have change on you, but sometimes people aren’t willing to charge such a small amount on their debit card, or sometimes stores have a minimum amount that you can pay by debit. So then you’ve just saved a few dollars that day.

    Obviously, the things that Saeculorum mentioned will save you lots of money, but if you’re a really poor student like me with no house and no car, even a few dollars here and there makes a difference!

  27. formergr says:

    @kerry: Huh, interesting. I now must admit to drinking the fairly cheap run-of-the-mill black tea from the grocery store, am not much of a connoisseur, so I had no idea the flavor changes like that. Will have to try it sometime, thanks for the tip.

  28. Shutterman says:

    what if the tap water is so rancid the dog won’t even drink it?

  29. puka_pai says:

    One of my officemates used to make a cup of tea every morning during the week to start the day and then put the used bag in the freezer. On the weekends, she took 5-6 used bags and made a pitcher of iced tea with them. Any off flavors (sometimes you get more of the bitter compounds from the second use) were masked by the ice, sugar, lemon, etc.

    Another good way to save money is to buy store brands. Most of them are made by the same manufacturers who do the name brands, you’re just not paying for advertising, packaging and product placement on the shelves. Some suck, it’s true, but it doesn’t take long to find out which ones are good.

  30. Daytonna says:

    For the record, any electrical device left plugged in will draw a small amount of power. Even Phone/elecrtic toothbrush/electric shaver/ etc. Any charging unit will draw a very small ammount of power. But not enough to make a difference if you leave a 60 watt bulb on in a room your not in for an hour.

    You kids turn of the damn lights! You will save much more energy just shutting lights/computers off behind you.

  31. SexCpotatoes says:

    I work at a commercial bakery, the local store brand breads are made there. We have our brand label, priced at 1.89 a loaf, and then we bag up to 20 different “private” or generic label breads and buns.

  32. ElizabethD says:

    Clearly this tip does not apply to areas with gross tap water. Luckily I live in a city with amazing water.

  33. TurgidDahlia says:

    wtf is a “dryer sheet”?

    Since I haven’t heard of it, and have had occasion to use a dryer, and none of my clothes have come out anything other than clean, warm and dry, I have to go ahead an assume that “dryer sheets” aren’t necessary at all, in any way. Bingo, just saved you even more.

  34. birdbrain says:

    Dryer sheets – like Bounce – are supposed to make your clothes soft and static-free or something like that. I don’t often use them either.

    But that reminds me – something else you can do to save a few dollars is not dry as many loads in the dryer, except for sheets and blankets. I try to hang up as many shirts, undies, pants, etc in my apartment to dry. This saves me at least one or two loads of drying a week, at $1.50 per load, you can put away $12 a month. Plus the dryer is really harsh on your clothes and wears them out faster, which could theoretically save you money in the long run too. I’ve also read about people who try not to wash their clothes either unless absolutely necessary – they just Febreze them and let them air out in the sun – not to save money but to save their clothes.