Whether or not the economy is up or down, (and it still seems pretty down...) we all benefit from saving money, no matter whether we're saving for a nice night out or a new car or home. I've decided to compile my list of money saving tips that I've discovered or that people have given me over the years. Please share any you've found in the comments section.
1. Cook at home. A meal out for two people can be anywhere from thirty dollars on up. (Twenty if you're lucky.) A meal at home can be less than four dollars a person. It's amazing what you can save by simply cooking your favorite foods at home. Can't cook? Learn. Trust me, there are plenty of websites, classes, and people out there willing to help you get acquainted with your kitchen. If you happen to know me in real life, I would be happy to be one such person, just saying. :) If you choose to go the website route, please check my 'Sites I Follow' section for a plethora of sites to start with.
2. Related to number 1, consider doing a potluck meal with friends, where everyone brings a little something to share, but no one has to cook a full meal. I've yet to really try this, but I'd like to. Also, you can try a round robin, where everyone takes a night of a week, or one night a month, and you cook one meal for the group. This is more dangerous, as far as saving money goes, as you can end up spending as much to feed a crowd as you would on your groceries for the week. The nice side of it is that you only have to cook that one day, and you get a variety of meals you may never cook otherwise.
3. Also related to number 1, take a list to the grocery store, and stick to it. This helps you keep your purchases reasonable, rather than impulsive. There is a bit of margin, if, say, you forgot to put milk on the list, but try not to make too many exceptions.
4. If you like your lattes, chai, or cappuccinos, or just good old plain coffee or tea, make them at home. The mark up on these drinks at a coffee shop is horrendous. Granted, it's nice to treat yourself once in awhile, but try not to make it a habit.
5. Garden. I live in an apartment, as many of you know. I still have a rather large container garden where I get nearly all my herbs. (I refuse to grow cilantro, as I can't stand the smell of it. That is the one herb I will buy when a recipe calls for it, simply because I don't want it in my garden.) The mark up on herbs compared to what you can do with a bit of dirt and some seeds is remarkable. Sometimes you can even get the seeds for free. (I have yet to do this, but one of my sisters does regularly.) Contact your local community garden and see if anyone will allow you to harvest some seeds from their plants. Most are more than willing.
6. Open your windows, as weather permits. Turn off air conditioning, lights, whatever you can, and let the outdoors provide for your needs. Also, turn off the light as you leave the room.
7. De-clutter. Not only will you enjoy being in your home more, but you may find things you can sell, or even donate, (tax write off optional).
8. Rent movies, try Netflix, Hulu, etc. This has become a necessity for us, as taking a toddler to a movie is rather difficult. The lovely thing, though, is that you can have cookies, dinner, home-popped popcorn, or whatever is your fancy, without trying to 'sneak it in' to the theater.
9. Walk. This applies to working out, or simply trying to get somewhere. You save money on gas, and gym memberships to boot!
10. If you have kids, trade babysitting nights, or days if you can, with other couples. This will save on the cost of a babysitter, and you don't have to worry about trusting the 14 year old to know what to do in case of an emergency. :) We've done this to some extent, mostly trading a couple days every once in awhile with other stay-at-home moms. This also ensures that your child will have some other kids to play with.