25 Realistic Ways to Save in 2013

I get frustrated by common money-saving tips such as “brew your own coffee at home instead of buying Starbucks every day.” Umm, duh. Okay. However, I don’t even drink coffee! So… how does that help me?

So my friends JJ and JJ (sisters) and I decided that we needed a list that fit our lifestyles. Although we’re all pretty good with money, we want big things from 2013 and beyond, and so each of us has motivation to amp up our savings goals. We each have slightly different housing circumstances, incomes, spending habits, and goals, but generally we are pretty similar and together we came up with these 25 ways to save money in 2013.

Now, I’ll preface this list by saying that not all of these items are attainable every day, and some may not be applicable to you. You have to be smart and pick and choose the ones that will work for you and give you the maximum impact — and be okay with not following them religiously all of the time! I can’t cut out 100% of online shopping; it doesn’t make any sense for me to blindly do that. But I am going to think twice before buying things online. And remember: I’m not a financial expert, and nothing in this list is rocket science. It’s all pretty common-sense. But I’m hoping this will work for me this year. It has so far!

Here we go:

  1. Stop unnecessary clothes shopping. Ask yourself, is this an item that I current don’t have and that I truly need? Example: I have been wanting some high-quality ankle-length running pants (like Lulu Lemon’s) for a while. But I currently have some older pants that I can run in so I’m not going to buy new ones.
  2. Only get one drink when you go out and are paying. (Or alternatively, bring a flask! JJ’s idea, not mine haha.) This one will help save calories, too. Obviously there are rough days at work that will require more than one drink, but hopefully this year they’ll be few and far between ;).
  3. Get rid of memberships/subscriptions. I enjoyed my PopSugar Must Have boxes for a while, but were they really worth $35 a month? Ask yourself that hard question. If you still need a treat, go for something you actively purchase on your own – it won’t cost as much and you’ll have more control over when and how often you indulge.
  4. Practice mindful grocery shopping. There is a Trader Joe’s on my way home from work, and I’ve stopped countless times to grab random items just because I was hungry and they looked tasty – blocks of cheese, gourmet crackers, etc. No more! Make a list and go only when you need items for a healthy meal.
  5. Limit eating out (including lunch at work). This one is so hard, because eating out often equates to time with friends. And there are so many delicious restaurants to try. Instead, offer to cook, host a potluck, or go somewhere cheaper. But don’t cut this out entirely or you’ll feel deprived and boring. The exception is if you currently go out for lunch every day — definitely stop doing that, it’s a big money waster.
  6. Reduce treating others while out. It feels great to be generous, but it’s completely acceptable to also be honest about what you and everyone else at the table owes. If you split a $50 item or meal with a friend, don’t just accept her casually thrown $20 — ask her politely for her fair share.
  7. Create travel budget and stick to it. Gas money and train tickets add up quick! As ladies who frequently travel between DC and NYC, this one gets the JJs and I pretty hard. Try and plan in advance — even if you don’t know when you’ll be going, set aside the money for the trip so that you can make sure to save up for it.
  8. Don’t pay full price. Shop the sales if you need something! Just don’t go overboard. Wait until the item you need (yes, need) goes on sale, and then buy.
  9. Cut and use coupons. I’ll expand on this in #18, but only use coupons for things you were already planning on buying.
  10. Have manicure/pedicure parties. The ones from a salon are great and very relaxing, but they’re such an expensive luxury. Treat yourself at home. Example: I never used to paint my nails and just got into it about a year ago. Now, I do them once a week myself and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Plus you can change the color more often since they chip after a few days (could be a negative but you liked how I turned that one into a positive, right? ;)). Could also be fun to invite friends over to do each others’ nails.
  11. Put off waxing unless you have a special date. Ummm… I’ll let this one speak for itself. Desperate times call for desperate measures, ladies.
  12. Limit online shopping. This goes hand-in-hand with #22. Example: to do this I set my Gmail account to automatically archive the sale emails from my favorite stores so that I’m not tempted. Spending money online is too easy. Make it harder for yourself.
  13. Drink coffee from home. If a friend wants to meet up for Starbucks, invite them over instead. Or suggest meeting across the street from Starbucks in the park (assuming the weather is nice), and bring your own coffee or tea in a travel mug.
  14. Have low cost/free date nights. Easier said than done, but try.
  15. Lower/set gift budgets and stick to them. While it’s satisfying to buy your mom the perfect present, even if it is $74.99, if your budget is $40 then stick to it. Shop early so you can find exactly what she’ll love and you’ll still have plenty of time before the holiday/birthday/anniversary to get it on sale (see #8).
  16. Set a savings goal. This one is critical! I should really move it up to the top. Example: Until I asked myself what I was saving for, saving was nearly meaningless for me. I wasn’t motivated. But my goal this year is $10,000 toward a future down payment on my own place — don’t get all excited, it’s not happening any time soon. But I really want my own home…so every time I make a purchase this year, I’m really asking myself: “Is this purchase more important to me than my goal?”
  17. Ask people for cash/visa gift cards instead of gifts at holidays. Yes, this one’s a little boring. But if you’re serious about saving, ask for cash or Visa gift cards at holidays, birthdays, and major life events. Then, put them immediately into the bank. Don’t ask for regular store gift cards unless the store sells your necessities (Target, the grocery store, CVS) — otherwise you’ll be tempted to go into the store and buy more than the gift card value.
  18. Don’t buy Groupons or Living Social deals unless you were already planning on doing it. Like #9, only buy Groupons or Living Social deals that you would already use anyway. They’re fine for the occasional getaway or special event that you can do with your friends, but don’t get sucked in (“hey, only $80 for skydiving!”) unless it is truly something you would have done at full price.
  19. Don’t host parties – host potlucks or BYOBs instead. If you like to entertain (or you’re trying out #5), host a potluck. Themed ones are great since they encourage people to get creative. And if you’re having a party with alcohol, don’t be shy about asking folks to bring their favorite beverage to share.
  20. Save any bonuses or raises, or use them to pay debt. If you get a raise at work, treat yourself once as a reward for your hard work, but then put the extra cash each month directly into savings. Example: My company paid out some of my vacation days at the end of 2012 due to a change in our leave policy, and it felt so good to achieve a % of my savings goal just by moving the entire amount en masse to my savings account.
  21. Try to drive less, take fewer taxis, carpool, and get reimbursed from work when you can. This tip covers many life areas: health, environment, and wallet. Example: I’m often tempted to take a taxi home when I’m out late at night, but for $15 less and 15-30 minutes extra, I can take public transportation just as easily. To make public transportation more palatable I always bring my ipod or my Nook to keep me entertained.
  22. Pay for things in cash to be more mindful. This tip is a pretty common one, but we all know that it varies in practicality. But it can work in mysterious ways — for example, I often feel too lazy to make a separate trip to the ATM, so if I am about to buy something that will eat up a large portion of the cash in my wallet, I might skip it just so I don’t have to go to the ATM again! I know, that’s horrible and so lazy. But it also helps to save the money that’s in my wallet.
  23. Have regular check-ins with a financial buddy. Talking with someone can help you identify areas for improvement, discuss financial decisions, and celebrate reaching your savings goals. In other words, accountability! Example: I’ve been gchatting with JJ every few days to tell her about what I’ve abstained from buying.
  24. Keep a diary. A service such as mint.com is good, but you could also go old school with a journal or a spreadsheet. Once you see you’ve been dropping $150 on bars a week, you’ll have a better idea of where you can save.
  25. Review monthly spending and see where you could have cut expenses. This one is great for improving month over month. If you split your goal into smaller pieces (example: my $10,000 goal is $833 each month), you can review as you go and make small adjustments to ensure you reach your goal instead of falling behind.

What do you do to save money? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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7 thoughts on “25 Realistic Ways to Save in 2013

  1. I started to make a list of all of those I really need to work on…then my list got too long. I would say 1 and 4 probably speak to the me the most.

    Regarding number 14, I wanted to jokingly say “date nights? what are those?” but I realized these can be friend dates. My friends and I try to do active things like walking (which also helps with those weight loss goals) or cooking at home.

  2. It’s always tough in the winter–less free stuff to do outside. But even swapping things out like instead of brunch ($20-$30 and 2 hours of chatting), meet up for coffee ($5 and still up to 2 hours of chatting); instead of dinner ($30-$50 and 2 hours of time together), meet up for HH drinks/dive bar drinks/cocktail hour at each other’s house ($5-$10 and infinite time!)

    This one’s always the hardest for me–I spend most of my non-rent/bills money on bars and restaurants. The plus side though, is once you know that, you can also tailor the credit card you have and use to the categories you primarily spend in!

  3. so many good tips!! mindful spending is a goal of my year, although i desperately miss our barre dates. perhaps we sub it with an apartment coffee date? 🙂

  4. Pingback: Update on 2013 Money-Saving | arlington darling

  5. Pingback: The joys of moving, and learning something new | arlington darling

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