How to Save Money Every Month – 10 Things I Do

How to Save Money - 10 Things I Do

If you’re like me, you don’t mind spending money, within reason, on good food, experiences, and things that are more valuable to you than their price tags. I’m not a very frugal person, although I do have a Frugal GPA of 2.7. However, I try to save money whenever the cost of what I’m buying doesn’t provide the value I expect. I’m always interested in learning how to save money every month. These are 10 things I currently do.

How to Save Money Every Month – 10 Things I Do

How to Save Money - 10 Things I Do

1. Pack a Lunch to Work ($100 Savings)

My favorite TV show (when I used to watch TV) was Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Call me a foodie, food fanatic or food junkie. I love food so much that I’m happy thinking about, talking about, writing about, looking at, smelling, and eating food.

It doesn’t bother me to eat out a few times a week because I can afford to. As long as my overall monthly eating-out expense doesn’t go into 4 digits, I’m okay. I’m tempted to classify eating out as an entertainment expense!

If I really needed to, I would stop eating out and pack a lunch for every work day. That would save me an additional $70 per month but I wouldn’t be able to socialize with my colleagues, try out new places, and take my food pics! 🙂

My colleagues and I eat out for our weekly team-building lunch which typically costs $12. I’ll pack a lunch from home for 3 days of the week. Since a home-made lunch only costs me $4, I save $24 a week or approximately $100 per month.

2. Drink Water ($25 Savings)

Drink water? WTF? Yes. What do you order to drink, when eating out? How much does that beer, wine, tea, or soft drink cost?

Honestly, I drink water more to limit how much sugar I consume than to save money. Every once in a while, I’ll allow myself to enjoy a soft drink. More than 90% of the time; however, I’ll order water (not bottled) with my meals.

Since I eat out at least 10 times a month, I’m saving $2 to $7 each time. Just to be conservative, I’ll say I’m saving $25 per month by drinking water.

I’m also making room for dessert! 🙂

3. Don’t Drink Alcohol … Much ($100 Savings)

I’ve never been much of a drinker. Even when I tried to drink a lot when I was younger, I doubt that I ever had more than six beers in any 24-hour period. If I had three beers right now, I’d be drunk.

Occasionally, I will have a good beer with dinner. My favorite, currently, is Xingu Black Beer.

I might drink one beer a week at home or when I eat out. My alcohol expense for the month is $10 which is no more than the price of a 6-pack of good beer. I know many people who drink much more than I do and some who spend over $1000 a month on expensive wines. Wine makes my head hurt, especially when I look at the price.

How much am I saving? In 2014, Katherine Muniz of the Motley Fool wrote in USA Today “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American consumer dedicates 1 percent of all their spending to alcohol or about $1 of every $100!” I’m saving $100 a month by not drinking much alcohol.

4. Don’t Use Tobacco Products (Life Savings)

I started smoking shortly after I joined the military. Smoking helped me connect with others since most people seemed to use some form of tobacco: cigarettes, dip or chew. I was a “field” smoker, someone who only smoked when he or she went on a field-training exercise, which was often. When I deployed overseas, smoking became my stress-reliever. It took forever, but I finally quit, completely, several years before I retired.

A pack of cigarettes costs approximately $6 (more or less depending on where you live). I only smoked an average of one pack per month but I know my health is far better now that I no longer smoke.

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US. Yet more than 55.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, according to the “National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” As of 2013, there were also 12.4 million cigar smokers in the US, 8.8 million smokeless tobacco users (chewing tobacco and snuff), and 2.3 million who smoke tobacco in pipes.

Source: American Cancer Society

5. Brew My Own Coffee ($50 Savings)

Every day, I drink the equivalent of two tall-size drip coffees. If I had to meet someone for coffee, it wouldn’t be at Starbucks. There are so many better coffee establishments that sell better tasting coffee.

If I were to buy one cup of coffee outside, I’d pay about $2.50. I would only do this on weekdays so I’m saving at least $50 per month by making gourmet-coffee at home.

I’ve written this before and I’ll write it again. I love coffee, and I don’t mean Taster’s Choice, Folgers or Maxwell House. I love me some good gourmet coffee like Illy or Lavazza, just to name a few.

6. Don’t Play the Lottery ($45 Savings)

In the U.S., people spent over $80 billion playing the lottery in 2016 even though the odds of winning are less than one in a million. The lottery is one of the biggest scams in the U.S. Its purpose is to generate revenue, but where do the millions of dollars generated actually go? Who benefits?

I don’t believe rich people buy too many lottery tickets. That means that people who can’t afford to are buying lottery tickets with delusional dreams of winning millions of dollars. Since there are approximately 147 million people employed in the U.S., I’m estimating that employed people are spending at least $544 each year on lottery tickets. That’s about $45 per month that I’m saving by not buying into a fool’s dream.

7. Don’t Watch TV ($100 Savings)

I love sports, especially Big 10 college football and my World-Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs! In the past, I even paid to watch several episodes of the Walking Dead–I’m a big zombie fan.

But my love of sports and zombies isn’t enough to consume my limited time and money. The average monthly cost of cable TV is $100.

Read How Much Does Cable TV Cost In Missed Opportunities?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, the average user age 15 and above watched 2.73 hours of TV per day. In a 30-day month, that’s 83 hours!

Watching TV is so time-consuming! I’ll watch some cartoons with my kids and some Korean karaoke shows with my wife and kids from time to time, on YouTube, of course. However, my time is limited so I refuse to waste more than about 3 hours a month (83 hours saved – 3 hours = 80 hours saved).

By watching almost no TV, I save $100 (and 80 hours) each month.

8. Pay Credit Card Balances in Full ($125 Savings)

By paying my credit cards in full every month, I do not pay any interest. My credit cards reward me approximately 2.75% in cash back and travel rewards points. I’m only using two credit cards for the majority of my purchases and bills. Unfortunately, I have to pay my mortgage payments, credit card bills, and one utility bill with my checking account.

In order to qualify for the best rewards credit cards, you’ll need very good credit.

Read the Ultimate Guide to Improve Your Credit Score before applying for the best credit cards.

I save $125 each month by paying my credit cards in full, not including how much I would save if I paid interest (never)!

9. Use Affordable Cell Phone Service ($50 Savings)

I recently upgraded my phone to a Moto Z Play after I broke my Moto X while playing with my kids at the playground.Broken Moto X

The Moto Z Play (unlocked) was rated at 4.4 stars and only cost $350 on Amazon. I don’t buy premium phones. I buy good mid-tier phones that will do everything that a premium phone will do at half the cost. Since it’s difficult to capture total cost of cell phone ownership including cell phone price, accessories, etc… I’m only referring to cell phone service.

Read my review of Republic Wireless.

I might as well work for Republic Wireless. I’m a big fan. I recently upgraded my plan from 0.5 GB to 1 GB of data with unlimited talk and text messages.

How do I use so little data?

I primarily use data only when WiFi is available. Emails and text messages use up very little data. In my car, I use the Waze app to get me where I need to go on time. Surprisingly, that app doesn’t use much data either.

The average user pays $75 a month for cell phone service because most people want unlimited data or as much data as they can afford. My cell phone bill is only $25 a month including taxes and fees!

10. Cut My Own Hair ($50 Savings)

I’ve been cutting my own hair since I was 15. At first, I did it because I didn’t want my mom or dad to cut my hair. The first haircut I gave myself looked like a mix between a mohawk and a mullet. It wasn’t pretty and I’m sure glad we didn’t have smart phones back then.

How to Save Money Every Month - Cut My Own Hair
Cutting my own hair in August 2017

When I served in the military, I needed to get a hair cut every week. After serving for 21 years, I averaged four hair cuts a month and must have had at least 1000 hair cuts. I only went to a barber if he or she was good and affordable, so I cut my hair 90% of the time.

These days, I cut my hair twice a month. If the average hair cut with tip, gas, and time is factored in, I’m saving $25 per hair cut, at the very least, for an average monthly savings of $50.

Summary

The 10 things I do every month save me $500 to $700 every month. Most people aren’t going to cut their own hair, nor should they. We have to find what works for us or keep looking, proactively. Some of my 10 ways to save money are common knowledge in the personal finance community but I wanted to point out a few problems that are not only costing us time and money but also our health.

What do you do to save money every month?

Please share this with others and comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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20 Comments

  1. I love this post!!! It’s like you’re ME!!! I do everything but 3 of those on the list. The lottery one…I never purchased a lottery ticket before and I have no interest in power balls but for the cheap thrill of scratchers…I’m very tempted.

    I caught a few glimpses of foodporn on Instagram, I didn’t know you were a foodie too!! I love DDD! Greasy spoons are my thing 🙂 this post comes off like something I would write, it’s like we’re related or something.

    PS. Jealous of your phone bill! We have the same plan. 1 GB data and free talk and text but I pay $35 a month for mine.

    1. Lily,

      Exactly! This is what I love about blogging. I’m going to keep blogging, not for money (although I’m sure I’ll benefit financially someday…) but for the community. I’ve met some great people that I love communicating with on social media and on the blogs. Eventually, I’m going to start attending FINCON and other conferences.

      I’m such a foodie that I we spend a lot of money eating out. It’s our financial crux but we enjoy it, so maybe it’s worthwhile? I thought I wanted to be a chef or own a restaurant. Eventually, I realized that I just love to look at, smell, eat, take pictures of, write about, talk about…food. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by to comment, Lily. I appreciate it! 🙂

    1. Thanks! I’ll continue to refine my presentation skills. 😉

      I do hope that people find some of what I write useful, entertaining, or both.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment. I appreciate it! 🙂

      Darren

  2. Oh my gosh! Alcohol is so expensive! Especially when we go out and it’s $10 for a mixed drink. Like really?

    Lol good list by the way.

    I do follow most of your suggestions and one thing that I would like to add is couponing. I do a lot of it! I like to stock up on the important essentials when there’s a good sale going on with some good coupons.

    1. Hi Melanie,

      I never could get into couponing. I kind of wish my wife would do that kind of thing but she’s not frugal at all. I’ve seen people who were so good at this that they would challenge themselves to see if they could leave stores with hundreds of dollars in groceries and get paid! Groceries and eating out are HUGE expenses in our household but we eat well.

      Alcohol almost isn’t worth buying when eating out. Usually, I’ll have water but every once in a while I do like a good beer. It’s part of the ambience.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment. I appreciate it! 🙂

    1. I was hoping people would find it amusing or inspiring. You should have seen the picture before I cropped it, haha! TV is so much fun to watch, honestly. That’s why I don’t do it. I’ll get caught up in shows and sports and music and… I’ve got Amazon Prime and Comcast TV (internet) but don’t watch any TV shows, movies, or anything. Not enough time since I started blogging.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Lily. I appreciate it! 🙂

  3. Great post Darren! Alcohol is so expensive, we buy a few bottles of wine every month or every other month or so to give as dinner party gifts or to drink ourselves.

    I’m amazed that you have only 3 hours of TV/Youtube screen time a month. I don’t have cable myself but do have Netflix, and I usually don’t watch anything but my husband likes to watch movies so that time has been creeping up. I do agree that it takes up a lot of time (in my head, I’m like “I could be blogging!!”).

    I’ve never tried gourmet home brew coffee, but we have some other brands here. Personally I am too lazy to have cream stocked up at home and to use the french press regularly, I just use the 3 in 1 coffee packets (that are probably so bad for you with that questionable milk substitute powder) but they taste so good!

    1. Hi GYM,

      Ha ha! Gourmet coffee is where it’s at, especially once you’ve acquired a taste for it. I’m a firm believer that you have to drink coffee black to appreciate it. It’s difficult at first but once you stop missing the sugar, you appreciate the nuances more among all the different coffees, including brewing methods. I don’t know anything technical but after drinking coffee black for a few decades, I’ve learned a lot simply through trial and error.

      Believe me. I used to watch a lot more YouTube like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Robbins, so on and so forth. All really great stuff, but like Gary V says, we’re using up our limited time by continuing to watch content like his without acting upon it. Blogging started to take up all my time because I didn’t know anything about every other aspect around simply writing good content.

      If the wine you drink, in moderation of course, is worth it, do it. I always try to live a little but don’t want every little purchase to add up in the end. As always, we have to find what works for us.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment. I appreciate it! 🙂

      1. I can’t do black coffee (tried before because I really wanted to cut refine sugar out of my diet) but I can see that you would get the true flavour of the coffee with it. For me, always about 1/4 of the cup is with cream or cream and sugar.

        Yes blogging takes up time, my husband encouraged me to restart my blog and now whenever he seems me at the computer he’s like “are you blogging again?” LOL.

        1. I don’t think I could drink coffee with sugar again. It’s been so long it wouldn’t taste right. Yes, you definitely can taste the difference among different qualities of coffee without sugar covering up the taste.

          Do you regret selling your other blog? At least you know what you’re doing although I bet you wish you had the same traffic you had with your other blog.

          Thanks for stopping by to comment. I appreciate it! 🙂

  4. I pretty much do all these things you have on this list expect for making my own coffee since I’m not a coffee drinker and cutting my own hair. Fortunately my wife cuts it and I don’t have to worry about making a trip to the barber.
    I’m a Boost Mobile customer but I’ve seen the plans for Republic Wireless. It’s very affordable, great choice Darren!!

    1. Hi Kris,
      I’ve wondered if Boost was ok… I’ve been trying to convince my wife to cut my hair but she’s scared to mess it up. Oh well.
      It looks like you and everyone else are doing as much as you can to save money. I’m trying to reduce our food (groceries + eating out) bill, but we love eating out too much.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment, Kris. I appreciate it! 😉

  5. This is such a great post, Darren! I do all of the things you mentioned above except for #5 and #9. I don’t drink beer, and Mr. FAF usually just gets beer from the grocery store. We get a $50 reimbursement for our cell phone plan thanks to Mr. FAF’s employer, so we pay $20 a month for our cell phone plan.

    P.S. I looking at my lunch box while typing this comment hehe.

    1. You know…I literally just read your monthly blog report, left a comment, and checked my blog. It’s nice to have a community of like-minded folks. I know there are a handful of people who read but don’t leave comments, but I sincerely hope and believe, that they find useful information among the many PF blogs around. Yours is definitely very helpful for frugality, blogging, and relationships so I sincerely appreciate you visiting and commenting! 🙂

  6. I never could cut my own hair, but I am married now and she cuts it for me (after watching a few youtube vids). I’ve got over 18 years of service, but only been married for the last three. All those years of wasted $10 haircuts on base!

  7. Awesome list! I’m proud to say I actually do 9 out of the 10 things you mentioned! The only thing I haven’t done yet is convert to Republic Wireless (yeah, I actually cut my own hair too!).

    My no-television lifestyle is really going to be put to the test when football season starts. But I’ll allow myself that, since it brings joy to my life every Sunday – especially if the AZ Cardinals win!

    Cheers!
    Cato

    1. Ohhh…I just converted to being a Seahawks fan a few years ago but not intentionally. I was watching the Super Bowl and was really ticked off after they tried to pass instead of run on the Patriots with the Beast in the backfield. Most people were in shock. That’s when I realized I liked the Hawks. I won’t hold the Cardinals against you though. 🙂

      Wow! The only thing you haven’t done is convert to Republic Wireless? I’ve heard people have some great deals with T-Mobile. As long as you’re not paying over $70 a month per person, you’re probably doing fine.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment. I appreciate it, Cato!

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