“You’re so cheap!” I looked down at my $5 soup and salad, shrugging. My friend had ordered a $30 steak, fries, a drink, and an appetizer. I stared at him for a moment, and then laughed.
“I like saving money,” I said.
We all have different priorities. Mine happens to be traveling, and so I try and find any possible way to save money so I travel more. Whether it’s giving up comfort for a night to sleep on an overnight bus, or buying a generic brand of chicken, these small every day tricks and tips will help you save for what you want most.
Here are 50 ways to save and make money, not only on the road, but at home, too!
1) Shop at thrift stores
You might be thinking; Ew, what? Used clothes? No thank you. Well, you better start running because I’m going to chase you down and drag you into the closest thrift store! Rest assured, you’ll always find a hidden gem at thrift stores. I’ve found clothes with the tag still on them, marked from $40 down to $2! Shopping at thrift stores every once and a while is a great way to get a few more clothes, save money, and satisfy your shopping needs. Bring them home, wash them, and they’re as good as new.
2) Decorate with objects from thrift stores
Yes, that $70 lamp is gorgeous, but you could probably find another lamp for a tenth of the price. Trust me, no one is going to be standing there admiring your lamp, especially if you’re a young student in your twenties. There are usually sections of thrift stores filled solely with house decorations. Scrutinize the wares carefully,and something unique will surely pop up.
3) Go grocery shopping
This one is obvious. Grocery shopping saves you a ton of money as opposed to going out to eat, and cooking your own food is always healthier than the alternative.
Someone I studied abroad with didn’t go to the grocery store the entire time we were there. He went out to eat every day for every meal (or so he said). In Denmark… That’s thousands of dollars spent over the course of four months on food.
4) Drink the tap water
Buy a reusable water bottle and use that instead of buying a plastic water bottle. If the tap water is safe to drink, then why not save a buck or two a few times a day and drink it?
5) Don’t go out to eat as often
I know it’s tempting to go out to eat, but it slowly adds up. Limit yourself to only going out to eat a few times a month (or less), and you’ll see how much money you save. Cooking is a lot of fun too! Why not invite your friends over and all cook together?
6) Buy food in bulk
Certain foods such as trail mix, pasta sauces, cereal, olive oil, etc. are great to buy in bulk and will save you a lot of money in the long run. Stores in the USA such as Costco and Sams Club offer food in bulk for a great price.
7) Pack lunches
Bring a packed lunch with you! Make a sandwich at home, load it up with cucumbers, banana peppers, turkey, cheese, and spinach, and all of your friends will be jealous when they’re eating an $8 Subway sandwich. This works anywhere; whether you’re going to the beach, hiking, or sightseeing.
8) Take advantage of the free breakfasts
If your hotel has free breakfasts, take advantage! My hostel in Berlin offered free breakfast, which consisted of cereal, coffee, and sandwiches. It was delicious and filling. Before they put everything away, I packed a few sandwiches for lunch so I didn’t have to buy any. No sense in those going to waste!
9) Buy frozen veggies
Frozen vegetables last longer and may be cheaper than their fresh alternative. Personally, I love buying frozen vegetables; they taste the same and save money.
10) Buy generic food brands
A lot of the time, there is no difference between a well-known brand and a generic brand. Look at the ingredients and compare the two. A lot of the time, it’s only a marketing difference (damn advertisers).
11) Freeze your food
Frozen chicken is good for at least a few months past the expiration date when frozen. When you’re ready to use it, thaw it out and cook it up. It’ll taste like you just bought it!
12) Buy cheaper liquor
Don’t worry, I’m not promoting Nikolai Vodka here. You don’t have to do this every time, but buying a cheaper bottle does save you a good amount of money. If you’re making margaritas, why not buy a cheaper tequila? You won’t taste the difference, anyway, especially when you’re three deep!
13) Pregame the bars
Buy that cheap bottle of liquor, pregame, and you’ll be set for the night and won’t feel the need to buy a drink at a bar. I rarely buy drinks at a bar and I save a lot of money that way.
14) Attend happy hour
Imagine sitting at the bar with a 2 for 1 drink in either hand, knowing you can have four of them before you start feeling slightly guilty for spending? Or not guilty, depending on how strong they are…
15) Invite friends over instead of going out
You won’t be tempted to buy that $10 drink that all of your other friends bought. This way, everyone can chip in for food and liquor, and you can relax in the comfort of your own home, without having to wear heels. Better yet, you can enjoy the company of your friends without having to shout over music or get crushed by strangers.
16) Take public transportation
Public transportation will always be a cheaper option, especially if you’re traveling in a foreign country. You can appreciate the landscape and pat yourself on the back for only having spent a few dollars. It’s also a great place to people watch.
In NYC, subways are a great alternative to taxis, which can be quite expensive. Although public transportation will never have the same comfort as a taxi or private car, your wallet will thank you.
17) Walk or bike everywhere
Think about the sun shining on your beautiful face, the wind in your hair, and the pennies you’ll be saving. Let’s not forget to mention the war going on beneath your skin, between your body and those calories: the calories are losing, by the way. Get out there and start pounding the pavement!
18) Use budget websites for flying
These websites will be your best friends: SkyScanner, Momondo, Orbitz, just to name a few. These websites are great for searching for the cheapest flights on the best days to travel. The prices tend to vary significantly day to day, so you may end up saving hundreds of dollars leaving a day later or earlier.
19) Collect flyers miles
Woohoo! Just by flying often, you can rack up enough points to get a free flight elsewhere. It’s a small thank you for spending your money. Compare programs with different airlines to see what works best for you.
20) Stop buying on impulse
Buy me, buy me, you’ll look so hot! Said the shirt. No, no, no, not this time, should be your response. Don’t buy that shirt just because. Think about it! Do you really need that new tuxedo? Although buying something will make you feel great immediately, in the long run, it might not be such a good idea, especially when you’re trying to save.
21) Order things online
You’ll be surprised with how much cheaper things can be online than in the store. If you find something you like in the store, check the price of it online, and compare.
22) Sell your things on the internet
Amazon and EBay are great ways to make a little bit of money on the side, and you’ll be surprised with what you can sell. My friend once sold a used wine bottle for $50…
Coupons are great for grocery shopping. I have not mastered the use of coupons, however, a woman I used to intern with used coupons all the time. Don’t use coupons to buy groceries you otherwise wouldn’t, though. That would have the opposite effect!
24) Cut back on unnecessary memberships
Are you only going to the gym to use the treadmill? Instead, you could cut the membership and run outside during the warmer months. How often do you use your special beach membership? That magazine you never read? If you’re not using it enough to make up for the price, then cut it. You can always get it back.
25) Set budgeting goals
This works especially well while you’re traveling. Set a goal of $x/day and stick to it. It will be a lot easier to manage your money and keep track of how much you’re actually spending. The more often you do this, the better it works. Once you figure out your spending habits, you can easily adjust them as you need to.
26) Volunteer for free
Volunteering is an amazing way to meet people around your community, keep yourself busy, and help other people, all without spending a dime.
27) Use Airbnb
Are you going away on vacation? Make a profile on Airbnb, put your apartment up and rent out the space while you’re gone. Travelers will pay you on a per night basis just to sleep in your apartment. It’s a great way to make money while you’re not in town (or in town, if you have an extra room!).
I’m sure you all know by now how much I love Couchsurfing. It’s free to use and an incredible way to meet locals.
Hostels are an incredible way to connect with like-minded travelers and peers. Beds are as cheap as $2 in Asia, and are usually around $20 in the more expensive cities in Europe.
30) Work at a hostel
If you’re staying in a city for a while, talk to one of the managers at a local hostel. A lot of the time, you can offer your services in exchange for a free bed.
31) DIY Tours
Instead of spending $40 to have someone take you around somewhere, do it yourself! You’ll be more focused on your surroundings, and you’ll be able to change your plans freely without having to worry about wasting any money.
32) Look for the free things to do in a city
There will always be free activities! Free museums, walking tours, and concerts. Research online before hand on the free things the city has to offer. There may be a deal on a certain day of the week, or it may be an outdoor monument you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
There are plenty of free museums in Copenhagen, and there are free outdoor concerts every week during the summer in NYC. Most of the monuments in Berlin are free as well. The Louvre even offers free admission to those who qualify.
33) Go to the library
Instead of buying a book at a bookstore or online, rent it at your local library! It’s free, and you won’t have an extra object lying around when you’re done with it.
34) Stop messing with your A/C and heat!
If you keep changing the temperature of your house, your heating bill is going to shock you. Keep your house at a consistent level, and bundle up in the winter and strip in the summer if needed.
35) Turn off your lights
Less light= lower electricity bill. Simple as that.
36) Use cold water to wash your clothes
Washing your clothes in cold water saves a lot of money that you would otherwise spend on hot water.
37) Do less laundry
You don’t need to wash your jeans after wearing them to class or the grocery store. You can wear them a few times before you need to wash them! This will save you money on doing your own laundry, whether at the laundromat or in your own home.
38) Cash in bottles and cans
Whether you’re collecting your bottles and cans throughout the week or just hosted a party, handing in your bottles and cans for cash is a great way to make a small amount of money.
39) Buy less paper towels
Using rags instead of paper towels is not only beneficial for the environment, but will also save you money that you’d otherwise essentially be throwing into the trash.
40) Sales, sales, sales
Whether it be at the grocery store, clothing store, or elsewhere, keep your eyes peeled for sales. Don’t be afraid to check out that 80% off section at Macy’s: you may just end up finding something you love.
41) Get a grocery card membership
I got a free membership card at the grocery store I shop at near me. It’s great! They constantly have specials for members, like buy one get one free bread, buy one get one free spinach. I even got a free 20 pound turkey last thanksgiving!
42) Collect spare change
Don’t throw those pennies on the ground! Keep a jar where you put all of your spare change through the months. When it gets full, exchange it for cash and see how much you almost threw away.
43) Get creative with gift ideas
Personally, my favorite gifts to receive are ones my friends made themselves. I’ve made picture frames, calendars, and scrap books for my friend’s birthdays which they still have years later. It’s a lot more meaningful than buying them a bracelet or shirt they may not like, or may never wear again.
Pandora is only available in select countries, but I’m sure there are similar versions. It’s a website where you choose an artist or song you like, and it picks songs that are similar to it. It’s free to use, and a great alternative to buying songs on iTunes. The only downside is that there are ads every few songs, and you can only skip a few number of songs per hour.
If your top priority is traveling, then do everything you can to save for it. If your top priority is buying a car, then save, save, save! Buying new clothes is not one of my priorities, so I don’t do it. I do everything I can to make sure I have enough money to travel, even if that means giving up things like going out to eat.
Street shopping at local stalls is one of the best times to bargain. Aim for a low price, and try and get that person to agree. This can be quite fun, especially when you actually buy the souvenir for half of the original price. Sometimes ascertaining the price beforehand will prevent you from getting ripped off. If people think you’re a local or familiar with how things work, they’ll be less likely to hustle you.
47) Check your banks policies on ATM withdrawal fees and foreign transaction fees
Some banks won’t charge a fee, and others will charge 3% every single time you use it abroad. That adds up! Make sure you’re aware of the policy so you can make adjustments if needed.
48) Leave the important things at home
Don’t walk around with your passport, $200 in cash, credit cards, and iPhone. If anything gets stolen, that was hundreds of dollars you could have saved by locking up your items at your hostel or hotel.
49) Buy Travelers Insurance
I know this is not a way to save money, but this is one of the smartest purchases you can make before you travel. In case of an emergency, it’s always smart to have travelers insurance. You could end up saving thousands of dollars this way. A popular and highly recommended one is World Nomads.
50) Get creative
You’ll probably have a sudden epiphany of how you can save while you’re in the midst of something. Get creative and always think about the cheaper alternative!
Do anymore tips come to mind at the moment? Do tell!