16 Not-So-Obvious Tips for Saving Money

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If you’re a fan of money expert Clark Howard, you probably make a habit of scanning the internet for fresh money-saving tips. Sadly, most articles on the internet offer the same tired advice: “Lose that latté habit” and “pack a work lunch from home” come to mind.

As a personal finance writer, nothing annoys me more than clickbait articles that promise original content and deliver absolutely zero. However, every so often I come across a frugal hack that ventures beyond the obvious.

Try These Less Common Frugality Tips To Stretch Your Budget

1. Scoop Less

Many of us mindlessly fill the scoop that comes with our laundry detergent, which means we end up using far more product than necessary. Instead, remove the big scoop that comes with the product and replace it with a smaller scoop. I use the tiny scoop that comes with my knockoff OxyClean.

If you read the small print on your laundry detergent, you’ll see that the larger amounts are recommended only for truly filthy loads. You can always add more if necessary, but I’ve found that a small scoop of detergent does the trick for my family’s minimally soiled laundry.

2. Cut It in Half

Kitchen sponges and steel wool pads are both perfect candidates to get twice the use by cutting them in half. This is especially true of the steel wool pads, as they often lose their integrity after just one use. If it’s still in good shape after that, you can avoid rust by popping it in the freezer for later.

3. Choose the Inconvenient Parking Spot

Instead of burning gas by circling the lot, pull into a less desirable parking spot that cuts down on your driving and adds a few extra steps to your day. Save gas while increasing your exercise? Win-win!

4. Be Kind to Your Socks

If you find that your socks wear out too quickly, you may want to follow this tip: Keep your toenails clipped short and your heels soft and moisturized. Rough heels and long toenails are hard on socks, which decreases their life expectancy. Gross but true!

5. Fill Empty Space in Your Freezer

An empty freezer requires more energy to stay cold, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a bundle in the frozen food aisle. Instead, take clean plastic milk jugs and fill them 3/4 full to set in your freezer (the water will expand as it freezes). Screw the lids back on once frozen and enjoy the savings.

6. Become a Stain-Removal Scholar

The internet is rich with stain removal advice, but I’m a fan of the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda/Dawn detergent combination to remove even set-in stains. I’ve scored some stained but otherwise amazing items from thrift stores that just needed this TLC to bring them back to life. Don’t give up on fabric items just because they’re stained.

7. Switch to LED Lightbulbs

Gone are the days when energy-efficient LED bulbs cost upward of $8 apiece. Dollar Tree sells them for $1.25 each, and many utility companies offer them for free through state-specific green living initiatives. I even had someone tell me that their utility company gave them out for free when they paid their bill in person!


8. Find Your Local “Buy Nothing” Group

Buy Nothing groups have sprung up all over the world and are a boon to those looking to step away from traditional consumerism. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, these neighborhood-specific online groups can stretch your hard-earned dollars. Visit BuyNothing.org to find your local group.

9. Portion out Less to Small Children

Any parent will attest to the fact that little kids waste a lot of food. Make it a habit to serve less — with the opportunity for seconds — instead of portioning out full servings that inevitably get scraped into the trash.

10. Scope Out Your Local Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Sure, Habitat ReStores have random inventory, but they may still have the exact supplies you’re looking for. Since the cost of paint, stain or home maintenance supplies at ReStores are pennies on the dollar when compared to a traditional hardware store, you’re sure to stay on budget.

You can find your closest ReStore here. Plus, there’s the benefit that your money goes toward helping those in need.

11. Cut It Open

Whether it’s a tube of toothpaste, a bottle of lotion or a beauty product, chances are that you’re missing out on a significant amount of product because of the packaging design. You’d be surprised how much can cling to the sides of a bottle or tube even after it’s been turned upside down.

12. Check Out Your Local Library

You already know that libraries have free books, and you’re probably already aware that they offer e-books and various digital downloads as well. But you may not be aware of all the additional free stuff you can source for free. From cultural passes to toys, to kitchen supplies to SAT prep classes, your local libraries offer more than you know.

13. Track Your Spending

It’s easy to ignore small regular expenditures like lunches out or pick-me-up purchases, but writing them down makes it real. Budgeting not only quantifies your spending, it also gives a concrete incentive to undertake cost-cutting measures like cooking at home or avoiding mindless impulse purchases.

14. Unsubscribe From Retail Emails

It’s easier to resist temptation if you’re never exposed to it in the first place. Every commercial email should have an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom, which not only serves to minimize shopping temptation but also clears out your inbox.

15. Listen to Financial Podcasts for Entertainment

You probably already know that you can listen to Clark’s podcast on your favorite podcast app and device, but there are countless other podcasts that offer both ideas and inspiration to keep you on the financial straight and narrow.

Need suggestions? You could take a listen to How to Money or NPR’s Planet Money to transform your otherwise dull commute into a lesson in financial literacy.


16. Put Your Embarrassment Aside

This tip is easier said than done, but if you can be that person who plucks reusable gift bags from the garbage at work, accepts hand-me-downs and finds contentment from the simple things in life, you have the potential to save thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

Pride can be a significant barrier to living within your means. Set it aside and remind yourself that you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses — or anyone else for that matter.

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