Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Simple tips to save money (and still have fun) March 27, 2013

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 4:58 pm

When I left my job several months ago I certainly didn’t plan on being out of work for so long. As the days dragged into weeks, then months, I’ve done some serious evaluation of spending habits and how I can pinch pennies whenever possible (and yes, pennies add up!). I thought I would share some tips with you.

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This app lets you download library books.

Download library books with this app.

Borrow books from the library. I’m an avid (and fairly fast) reader so purchasing books would get really expensive! I love our local library and was a regular customer until Justin bought me a Kindle Fire for Christmas (yes, I have a great husband!). I downloaded the free app, OverDrive, which lets me connect to the local library and borrow free e-books from their collection (this app can be used with other devices). I love it! I still read paperback books borrowed from the library from time to time (I love the feel and smell of books). I’ve lost track of the number of books I’ve read during my time off.

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Clip coupons. I used to think this task was much too time-consuming and ruined my “in and out” motto of grocery shopping. But then I started noticing coupons for common items we regularly purchase and brought the coupons with me a few times. After saving quite a bit on my final bill several times, my husband and I try to shop with coupons more often than not. We’ll never be as savvy as some of the “extreme couponing” shoppers but I feel good saving what we can. Be conscious of sales that offer a greater savings than a coupon or those that require multiple purchases in order to save. Basically, become a smart shopper!

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Pack a lunch for work. Most people eat out almost every day of the week while at work. Not only does this cost a lot of money, it’s typically really unhealthy. I was fortunate my last employer was only a few miles from home so when possible, I went home for lunch. Not only did it save money on food, it also allowed me a nice, quiet break from the chaos of the office. When working full-time, I usually allow myself to eat out once a week (if I feel like it). Otherwise I pack a healthy lunch and bring a book or magazine to enjoy during the break.

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Plan a ‘night in’ with friends. Host a game night or movie night. Cook dinner or just enjoy drinks and snacks. This is less expensive than dinner and drinks at a restaurant or bar, plus often gives you greater opportunity to socialize and enjoy your company.

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Skip the Starbucks (or Caribou). Ok, ok I haven’t been able to accomplish completely cutting out my favorite nonfat Chai latte from

Warm chai latte at home

Warm chai latte at home

Starbucks but I have seriously cut back. I do enjoy my Chai so was very pleased to see the Tazo Chai concentrate at several local stores, including Kroger, Target, Wal-Mart and Costco (cheapest here as you can purchase in a multi-pack). Justin and I mix nonfat milk at home with the concentrate and it tastes….close. Not exact but enough to enjoy on a cold night and save lots of money!

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See a matinee at the movie theater. My older sister, with two teenage daughters, and my mom got me tuned into this money-saving option. It’s a fun treat for them to see new release movies, at a lesser rate. Rather than $9-$12 for an evening show, matinees (in metro Detroit) average $4-$6 per movie. Check to see if the theater offers student or senior discounts too. Plus the theater is usually less busy so not as much risk of chatty moviegoers.

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Pay yourself every week. Years ago I opened an online ING savings account (ING is now Capital One 360) to build an emergency fund. What I love best about this account is that it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ so I transfer money from my credit union account to the ING account. Since I don’t log in all the time and can’t walk into a building to withdraw cash, the total has grown over the years. I also own a small jar that I empty my wallet change into every so often. I count it once or twice a year, usually providing a surprisingly nice chunk of change for something fun.

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Look for free events in your community. The small cities around our home are always hosting special events, such as holiday parades and parties, festivals and movie nights. Cultural institutions sometimes offer free admission during certain times of the week or will post special offers on their websites. In metro Detroit, you can check out the Museum Adventure Pass from participating libraries to visit, for free, several local arts and culture organizations. The Detroit Historical Museum doesn’t charge admission, and Detroit Institute of Arts is free to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne residents (special exhibits may cost), while Cranbrook Institute of Science offers free admission on the first Friday of the month (through June).

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Yummy vegetables can be grown at home.

Yummy vegetables can be grown at home.

Plant a garden. You don’t need to have a green thumb to grow your own vegetables and fruit. Heaven knows I don’t have one! I started planting our favorite vegetables several summers ago – green and red peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini (ok, those were the ones I was brave enough to try and I admit, not all plants yielded vegetables. Some withered.) While I envy our friend, Dave’s, huge backyard garden, you don’t need a lot of space to grow your vegetables. Our garden was a small one along the side of the garage. I actually closed the garden last fall and grew new grass, thinking we’d be ready to move by now. My mom has great luck growing vegetables in big pots so I’m going to try that this summer. I love the idea of growing our own vegetables for several reasons. First, planting vegetables insures you know what you’re eating. No risk of pesticides or damage during travels. We eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit during the warm months so in the end, we’re also saving money.

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Enjoy free fresh air. Yes, I’ve mentioned visiting parks and trails in multiple past blogs but as an avid outdoor lover, I always feel the need to bring it up again! We love to bike so take advantage of the multiple trails around metro Detroit. If you live in Michigan, I encourage you to choose the $11 Recreation Passport option when you renew your vehicle registration every year. This enables you to visit all Michigan state parks, recreation areas and boat launches as often as you’d like. For a low, one-time annual rate, you can purchase a park pass to local parks. We are fans of Stony Creek Metropark so get an annual pass every year for our car. We can hike the trails, bike, canoe and just enjoy the fresh air as many times as we’d like.

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These are truly just a few ways to save money. There are TONS more creative and fun ways to save while having fun. What are some of your suggestions?

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