12 Ways To Save Money Without Scrimping

Some economists think we’re starting to pull out of our not-recession. For those of us who believe them and want to save without putting too firm a dent in our wallets, consider these twelve tips endorsed by the Wall Street Journal.

1. Spend less time feeling poor.
Flipping through catalogs and going to the mall will make you feel like you need things, Ms. Gurney notes. Sure, you can afford some of that stuff, but the main message is: Most of this is out of your reach. Instead, do things that offer a sense of well-being. Invite friends over. Walk in the park.

2. Retrain your brain.
Depriving ourselves of current pleasure is nigh impossible if we’re not driven by a sense that the future will be more fulfilling, says Ms. Gurney. When you start to feel that “I’m deserving so I’m buying” feeling, visualize a smaller credit-card bill or higher savings-account balance.

3. Look around you.
Are you happy with what your hard-earned dollars bought? If not, shift your spending to those things that bring greater long-term satisfaction, including retirement savings.

4. Choose your extravagances.
Here’s mine: I eat out about once a week. An extravagance I do without: Cable television.

5. Assess weaknesses.
“If you were thrifty, how would you look different?” says Gary Buffone, a financial psychologist in Jacksonville, Fla. Identify what you want to change; then shoot for specific targets, such as a six-month hold on buying new tech gadgets.

6. Make trade-offs.
Substitute small, free pleasures for those that cost. Have a movie night at home with friends — you’d be surprised how many people are equally eager to cut costs.

7. Set goals.
Meet weekly with family to discuss the spending plan (don’t call it a budget) for the months and years ahead. This may involve tough choices, such as forsaking a family vacation. But think of the guilt-free trip you can take after saving the necessary cash. Good memories last longer, Ms. Gurney notes, when not trammeled by large credit-card bills.

8. Resist your children.
They’re going to find it hard to change their expectations. How can you help? Stand firm. The next time they clamor for the latest videogame, remind them of the bigger prize (that family vacation), and tell them their choices here and now are, say, a picnic or a movie rental. Offer options, but don’t give in to their push for more consumer goods.

9. Enlist other people.
Many people are reticent to talk about money worries, but almost everyone has them, so open up and tap your allies. Hold a contest with friends to see who can save the most in a month, or agree with your spouse to talk before spending more than $100, Mr. Buffone suggests.

10. Post it.
Remind yourself by putting post-it notes on your wallet, mirror or steering wheel with the mantra of your choosing: “I want to go to Hawaii in January.” “I want to pay off credit-card debt.”

11. Automate it.
Divert money monthly from your checking account to savings. It will force you to budget, based on what’s left in your checking account.

12. Rethink rewards.
What are some of your happiest memories? Those are the true rewards. Next time you’re about to buy something because you deserve it, ask yourself whether there isn’t something you deserve more, such as time at home cooking with your teenager, or a stroll with your husband or best friend.

If this advice is too effete or ethereal to slow your spendthrift ways, consider these ten tips that can directly impact your monthly bank statement.

Ways to Make Saving a Habit [WSJ]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. sisedi says:

    Here’s another for tech specific purchases, keep your tech in clean and excellent working condition. Then when you’re finally ready to trade up to the new model / version, sell your old one on eBay and lessen the burden.

  2. Angryrider says:

    No cable? Gasp! You don’t have to stoop that low.
    Then again I don’t have it either…

  3. forgottenpassword says:

    11. dont care what others think of your money-saving techniques.

    SOme people will judge you up & down just out of jealousy alone… because you are saving money while they are drowning in debt.

  4. nikkomorocco says:

    @forgottenpassword: i get this from my brothers all the time. “lets go to the bar! i dont see why you never want to go out!”

    meanwhile they’re all working 2 jobs to try to cover for their credit card debt and putting in a regular 40 hr workweek and just relaxing.

  5. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    13. Use the library:

    The library is a good place to find newspapers, magazines, and movies/CDs. It is also a good place t socialize.

  6. jamesdenver says:

    Sell your car. Get a bike. Or become a one car family.

    My household has two bikes, both equipped with gear for storage and one Saturn. We get groceries, do errands, go to movies, out do dinner all via bike. We use the car only if going out at night in winter and for weekend road trips.

    Scaling down to one car can save you a ton on car payments, registration, and insurance – -and if you have a conflict you can always rent a car for a week or weekend – still at far less than you’d pay monthly.

    Also I make all my lunches in advance on Sunday afternoons. Grill some chicken, rice, and veggies – tupperware it up and pull it out of the fridge whenever you want a meal.

    james [www.futuregringo.com]

  7. landsnark says:

    Best not-recession ever hooray!
    [blows into clasped hands to keep warm]

  8. bohemian says:

    I just keep reminding myself that more of our restaurant experiences are bad than are good. Remembering the last time we paid $40-$100 for a mediocre meal and lousy service really takes the desire out of eating at restaurants.

  9. ironchef says:

    buy in bulk.
    pack a lunch.
    clip coupons.

    saves me gobs of money.

  10. Charred says:

    In addition to our interest-bearing savings accounts, my wife and I convert a set amount of our petty cash into coins (of the same denomination) each month and throw it into an old milk bottle we keep in our room so we can have a visual representation of our “nest egg’s” growth. When the bottle gets full, we “chip up” to the next denomination, replace the coins in the bottle and resume filling at that denomination.

    Our only problem is that we didn’t decide what to do when we hit the end of the cycle, and it’s nearly full of Susan Bs and Sacajaweas.

  11. theysaidwhat says:

    @sisedi: You can do that with spouses these days? Who knew?

  12. redkamel says:

    heres some more: drink water from brita filter, dont take money/credit cards when you leave the house to hang out, share a netflix account with three friends and cancel your cable.

  13. Trade chores with friends. You watch their kids for an evening (instead of hiring a babysitter); they petsit for you when you go out of town. They help you clean, you cook them a meal. Trade books and movies. Etc.

  14. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    I’ve found one of the easiest ways to save money is to buy food in bulk and cook/freeze it into meal-size portions, so on those days when you are tempted to just pick up something because you are tired, there will be something you can easily just throw in the microwave, or in the oven for a short period and you have a meal ready. For example I buy whole pork loins for $20 each, and cut them into pork chops and pork roasts. The last loin I got made more than 30 chops! I’ve seen packs of just 4 dinky pork chops for $10 in the store, so thats quite a savings. I also buy long sleeves of lean ground beef and mix up big batches of spaghetti sauce, or beef and rice (to stuff peppers or squash with) etc…sure it takes a bit of time up front, but it does calculate into some significant savings in the long run. Those who have the means can also buy a whole or half a cow already butchered/packaged for a fraction of what you pay in the supermarket.

    If you live in a place where you pay deposits on bottles/cans – make sure you don’t toss them in the garbage! Save them and when you have a big garbage bag or two take them to the recycling depot to get your money back.

    If you can, burn wood instead of using electricity/gas to heat your house (most usable in winter but its never too late to start stocking up).You have to invest some sweat in this kind of thing but in the long run your electric bill will be slashed. I go out one weekend a month to the wood lot near me and get a truckload of wood and by the time winter rolls around I have enough to last the season. A couple years ago I was injured and unable to do this, and relied on electric heat through the winter, and man did that hurt the pocketbook!!

  15. Melsky says:

    I agree about the library, and the one car thing.

    Most libraries let you order books, dvds and CDs online from any library in their system and have them sent to you. It’s like shopping online except you don’t have to pay.

    Being a one car family is good too. We picked out a house where my husband can commute to work on the bus or walk. I’m looking for a job downtown so I can do the same thing. At the place I am working now I figure I spend about fifty dollars a week on gas – that’s more than a dollar an hour I lose.

  16. SavageATL says:

    I especially love tip # 7: Don’t call it a “budget!” Don’t you dare do that!
    Well, as long as people continue to be in denial that you make $x per month and can only spend $x-y to keep afloat, then they’ll continue to have $ problems.
    I agree with Neecy and also would like to point out that one of the easiest ways to save $ is to make-it-yourself. All the pack your own lunch tips are GREAT for saving money. Instead of the overpriced dinner out, look up some recipes online and have some fun being creative and making it. Learn how to make your own curtains, replace your own spark plugs, whatever, it makes for adventure and fun and a real sense of accomplishment you can’t get by buying something from a store. For the tech gadget tip: pull out all of the old tech gadgets you have that you bought but no longer use and give yourself some time to reacquaint yourself with them instead of going after the latest-and-greatest. Or- find a broken one on Craigslist and try fixing it! If you haven’t used the thing in a couple of months, buying a fancier one isn’t going to help. I also agree with the friends-at-home tip v. going out, it’s way too expensive to go to bars, and you don’t miss anything by staying at home.

  17. Jevia says:

    Now that the weather is warming up, I put up a clothesline in the backyard from a fence post to our storage shed and I hang laundry there to dry.

    Our library charges $1.50 for DVDs/Video, but still cheaper than Netflix or other rental places. My library has a deal on Fridays where you rent one adult DVD, get a child’s DVD/Video free.

    Go to Children’s consignment stores for toys/clothes, especially for younger children.

  18. Manok says:

    I haven’t had cable for almost two years. I don’t miss it one bit. It’s crazy how expensive it has become and the only thing on tv is house flipping and motorcycle/car building shows.

    I watch all my network shows on the internet and rent movies from redbox.

  19. ShariC says:

    There’s a lot of good advice here and I’ll also reinforce using your local library for all it is worth (and remind people that inter-library loan can get you nearly anything even if your local library doesn’t have what you want).

    I’d add that it’s worthwhile to try and break the habit of admiring other people’s possessions or buying into the thinking which attaches status to new, shiny purchases. The “glow” of a nifty new item lasts for a very short time and it rapidly just becomes regular “stuff”. If you keep this in mind when you’re seriously tempted by a new item, you can more easily hold off on buying as you know the shiny and exciting is a step away from becoming as mundane as all the other crap you own.

    I force myself to only buy when something is broken beyond utility or undeniably obsolete.

  20. deadsalmon says:

    If anybody has actually scrolled all the way down this far…


    Really. From the start, my wife and I decided that any purchase in excess of $40 — less than the $100 suggested here, but I’m on a youth minister’s salary and she’s a student — had to be discussed between us first. We’re pretty good with living within our means as it is, but that kept things in check when one of us wanted to go a little further than we should’ve. At the same time, it really made the more expensive things we bought more enjoyable.

    It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, funny as it sounds. As Dave Ramsey frequently mentions, financial problems are one of the top reasons that couples split up.

  21. SteveBMD says:


    …you rent one adult DVD, get a child’s DVD/Video free…

    Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have adult DVD’s. So, for my adult pleasures, I have to pay for online services at a rate of about $29.95/month, with automatic renewal. Ouch.

  22. ginnylavender says:

    Don’t watch HGTV or any shows resembling what’s on that channel. It’s just a way to make you believe that what you have isn’t good enough.

  23. Javert says:

    Ez things:
    1. Pack lunches.
    2. Brew coffee @ home.
    3. Library!!!! <– Big one. I have a Borders about 20 feet from where I work, I go in, jot down the books I want to read, go back to the office, log in to my library account and simply request the books. It is almost magical.
    4. Avoid alcohol outside the home. I only have a brew with friends, at a home. If we go out, H2O for me.

  24. inboulder1 says:

    Step 1. Use your intelligence and tenacity to generate wealth

    Step 2. Don’t waste your life sacrificing time to ‘save money’

  25. Astos says:

    Resist your children is a good point but one that is so hard to do. Supermarkets are diabolical and deliberately put out chocolates, sweets etc at strategic points that even the best behaved children will have trouble resisting.

    Astos Green lasers rulz

  26. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @inboulder1: Yes, agreed. It gets to a point where my time is worth more to me than saving a few cents.

    And how has no one already posted the three steps:
    1. Collect underwear.
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

  27. mammalpants says:

    keep all of your change. put it in jars at home at the end of every day. youll be surprised how quickly it adds up.

  28. azgirl says:

    #57- Go to slickdeals.net everyday and learn how to get free stuff with coupons. ALOT of free stuff. I will never pay for drugstore items again. ( I currently possess 15 free toothbrushes and boxes of deodorants and shampoo- and yes, at the end of the year, or when I run out of space, I donate what I don’t need.)

  29. azgirl says:

    #58- Put your money in the bank- in cd’s, so you get a little bit more money out of it.Don’t take the money out. For a long time.

  30. Jim says:

    #9 is a good tip, but it’s only half of it. The little things kill you quickly. I used to spend $5-$10 weekly on iTunes, all within our “unapproved expenses” limit of $50. You still need the budget to watch the little things add up.

    We do #11 in reverse. We direct deposit to our Money Market account and withdraw to checking as needed. We’re limited to 6 withdrawals monthly, so we have to plan them to coincide with bill due dates.

    It’s much harder to pull out money that is already growing than it is to blow the extra laying around in the checking account. If we did it #11’s way, I’m sure we could justify spending $20 or $30 “extra” in the checking to go to a movie or something, rather than transferring it. But, if you have to pull that out of your savings to go to a movie, the library becomes much more attractive.

    We’ve also done a lot of math to see how much little things cost our 60-70 year old selves. Buying a DVD today costs me a lot of fishing equipment when I’m an old man.

  31. RandomHookup says:

    @mammalpants: That doesn’t really save you any money. It just ties up more of your cash.

  32. highmodulus says:

    No cable, that’s crazy talk. Then again, I don’t eat out once a week- so I guess I have the reverse of the author. No cable, but Netflicks and going out to movies ($$$$) is no savings either.

    Eating out makes you a fatty if you are not supremely- the portion sizes are out of control, and the calories/fat per dish are often most if not all of your daily allotment.

    Not to mention the insane markup on drinks.

  33. t0fu says:

    no cable??!?! That’s a pretty big scrimp. While we’re at it, lets just cut internet and AirConditioning out too

  34. Gann says:

    Plant a garden. Take a look at what you eat alot of and grow it yourself.

    It will cost a bit up front, but it has several benefits:

    -You will get a higher quality product at a lower price than what you will find at the supermarket.
    -After the initial cost, maintaining a garden is an inexpensive hobby and can be considered cheap entertainment.
    -It will encourage you to cook, spending less money at restaurants.

  35. Thorkel says:

    What a load of c**p. Not one mention of anything that would actually reduce your debt or help you save. But of course what can we expect from the WSJ? They are owned by people who have a vested interest in feeding us feel-good psychobabble that keeps us spending instead of saving. These “tips” are about as useful as a fishnet raincoat.

  36. AMetamorphosis says:


    WOW ! I’ve been doing this for ages … GREAT suggestion and one I have profited from as well.

    Heres a Dryer / Heat tip:

    For about 12 dollars you can get a little plastic box that goes between your dryer hose and the outside vent. During the winter turn the flap so the excess heat generated from the dryer is pumped back in the house and not outside. The added benefit is additional humidity and that combined with an automatic thermostat has reduced our heat bill by about 30% !

  37. lowercase says:

    Life without cable is not half as bad as people think- I get the important channels over the air (in HD no less), and if there’s a must-view show running on a cable channel it can be found online or eventually on DVD. The only thing I kinda miss is Comedy Central’s late night shows and a little bit of live sports on ESPN, but even so, there’s loads of football and baseball on free TV.

    We’ve also been trying to be on a “use what you have” kick. Yeah, that new game/phone/restaurant looks good, but the stuff in the house already is still fun/useful/edible, and already paid for.

  38. RandomHookup says:

    @azgirl: That’s me as well (though I used hotcouponworld these days). I have enough cheap/free toothpaste to take care of me until 5 years after I’m dead.

  39. CumaeanSibyl says:

    The best extravagance is entertaining your friends. Back in college, everyone was very careful to make sure that people were contributing equally to the cost of whatever, which made for a lot of running around trying to make change and complicated financial calculations (okay, he brought the chips, but I brought the beer, so he owes me five bucks but he can give that to Jerry to buy pizza and…)

    After all of that business, it feels terribly extravagant to have people over and just throw food and drinks at them without worrying about collecting money at the end of the evening.

  40. Redred says:

    I think this is actually pretty good advice from the WSJ, because it addresses the mental side of budgeting. I can read articles about packing my lunch until the cows come home, and while I do pack a lunch, at some point I need some new thrifty ideas.

    Changing your mindset about money, and focusing more on activities that are free (i.e. spending time with friends and family) is a good way to make the budgeting feel less like hard work. And then the thrifty habits are more likely to stick around.