Saving Money In 6 Unusual, Easy Ways: $130 a Month in 2020
Updated on May 17th, 2020
Anyone who knows me knows that I like to save money. Maybe an understatement.
I am on the lookout for easy money saving strategies, not because it is necessary, but each dollar that you don’t spend and then save is a dollar you can invest and multiply later. One dollar becomes two dollars and then becomes three dollars over time through the power of compounding. When my first mutual fund doubled after a few years in the late nineties, I was hooked on the power of investing.
I don’t save because it is necessary to survive; I save through the principle (and principal!) of it. There are some things I just can’t bring myself to pay good money for, even though the amount of money won’t make much of a difference in my life.
However, I emphasize I want easy ways to save cash and I don’t want to make more work for myself. If you are trading a lot of time to save a small amount of money, you aren’t valuing your time. I’m not going to wait in a Black Friday line for 5 hours to save $200 on a new computer and I’m not the type of person to sit down and write out a ledger of things to save money on, Japanese kakeibo style. I did this when I was a teenager, but I found that I didn’t need to write it out when I would just think about every purchase.
Since I don’t want to make extra work for myself and I would rather just have easy ways to save money that happen automatically every month, I think the simple saving ideas I describe below are worth consideration.
Unusual, Easy Ways To Save Money
Some of the ways to save money that I employ are a little uncommon and some people might disagree with them. Six things that come to mind involve cells phones, cable, haircuts and sunglasses. Maybe you will find inspiration from these money saving ideas.
I’ve been cutting my own hair since I was 14. Why? Because, my mother liked to save money too (she’s more on the cheap, than frugal side of life) so instead of paying $5 or whatever it was back then for my haircut, she would bust out the clippers herself. Unfortunately, when she was finished it would look like a wolverine landed on my head, every….single….time…..
So, I decided to start learning how to do it on my own. In the last 20 years or so, I think I have only gotten two professional haircuts. One was for a wedding and the other was because a hairdresser at the gym I went to asked to cut my hair. I’ve only been asked flat out if I cut my own hair that one time. Usually people ask where do I go. My technique has improved since then, but maybe you can’t fool a hair professional. But everyone else is surprised when I mention this and they start looking for the imperfections. Savings: ~$20 a month.
It’s actually more than a monetary saving as well since I end up saving time too. I can cut my own hair in my bathroom in under 15 minutes. I would probably spend 10 minutes traveling to a barber, 10 minutes waiting my turn, 10 minutes on the cut itself, and then 10 minutes coming back home, and I think that is being conservative on the estimate.
Sunglasses. I have never in my life spent more than $15 on a pair of sunglasses.
People confuse price with quality with these. I always thought it was ridiculous when people would tell me they spent $350 on a new pair of Oakley’s or whatever is the hot glass maker these days. And it is usually not just a single pair. WHY? WHY? WHY?
I’ve never been the type to spend more just because it had some brand’s logo on it. Also, I’ve sat on and dropped too many pairs to be continually ‘dropping’ $350 each time this happens. I’d be lucky to get 6 months of life out of a pair.
So what do I do? I buy bulk sets wholesale. You know those mall operators that you see selling pairs of sunglasses for $10-15? I do what they do, but for my own personal stash (when I was in college I would sell them on e-bay as a side hustle and would make a couple hundred in profit each month, but it was a lot of work making listings, cutting up cardboard to secure the packaging, and mailing).
I buy UV400 + polarized sunglasses for $3.50 each. Yes, there is a decimal place in there.
You are probably thinking that it is just some cheap Chinese crap that I am trading for cataracts later in life. But it’s actually not.
It is easy to test if a pair is polarized by turning your head, but you might be concerned that there is no UV protection, since you can’t directly see it. Firstly, it is not expensive technology to put a UV layer on it, but since I am a “trust, but verify” kind of guy, I have tested these claims. Obviously, I wasn’t going to invest $5,000 in an optical spectrometer, but instead I bought some $10 UV reactive beads to prove that light passing through the lens was not reacting with UV light. It works.
I bought 3 dozen of them to get the minimum ($100) order and have been whittling my stash down for years. I’ve used a number of sites over the years but the reason why it has taken me years to whittle down this stash is because SolarXeyewear makes such a good quality product that I haven’t needed to buy new ones since. Other providers I tried in the past made sunglasses that had a lifespan of a month or two by which time the screws would be falling out.
Savings: $8-$13 a month, depending on how long typical designer sunglasses last.
Cell Phones and Data Plans
Another thing that I can’t find myself to spend money on is cell phone stuff. I’ve had basic cell service for a flip phone since 2005, costing about $16 a month. Since then I have acquired several smart phones, but I have never actually paid for one personally. They have all been old hand-me-down smart phones from members of my family who didn’t want to bother e-baying a 4 year old model for $40 or whatever it would sell for. I give electronics an extended life!
I just don’t feel that I really need most of the functionality that they offer, especially for the newest models. I didn’t get my first one until around 2013: One of those original models circa 2010 that said “Droooooid” when you received a message.
Unfortunately, most of these phones have forced obsolescence because you can’t upgrade the operating systems and the apps stop working after a while. If I didn’t have my hand-me-down gravy train, I would probably buy older models on e-bay, since I couldn’t ever see myself spending $1,000 on a cell phone. An old iPhone 7 is on e-bay for $142 right now.
If the average person upgrades their phone every 3 years and spends $700 on the upgrade, and I were to spend $150 on an older model on the same time frame, that would be a savings of $15 a month.
And I just can’t bring myself to pay for a data plan. You might think that a smart phone without data is useless, but not when you live in a place that has WiFi pretty much coating the entire city. Generally if you have to search for something on the web or check email, it’s not really that important that needs to be done immediately anyway. The data plan savings are ~$20 a month if you consider the cheapest plans on AT&T and Verizon (although most people tell me they pay upwards of $45 a month, so the savings is potentially even more).
Update: I was recently informed of the pre-paid cell phone service called Tello that has 4 gigs of data and unlimited cell + text service for $14 a month (2 gigs of data for $10). Deal!
Cable And Internet Service
Internet is pretty critical to me since is a major source of entertainment and learning, but I don’t need cable service.
It surprises most people that I had never owned a TV until about a year ago. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those intellectual “I’m better than you because I don’t watch TV” lectures because I do watch stuff on the plethora of streaming services (shared, so saving there too), especially during the pandemic. I just never found anything on cable TV worth watching even with 60 channels. Before the TV, my 17 inch laptop was my only entertainment center. Cable TV Savings ~$55 a month.
So the only cable subscription I have is the internet connection. I have managed to save $20 a month by calling the cable company every year and haggling over the price of service, but this has become an annoying chore so I haven’t done it this year. They recently increased my price, but they also increased the speed, so I think I will let this slide this year.
But one fee I refuse to pay is the ‘rent’ for the cable modem itself. They charge $10 a month for this device! If you buy a brand new one you’d be expected to pay $60-80 and it will last 5 or more years, but instead by renting you pay $120 a year.
I bought mine on e-bay for $20 and have been using it for 5 years now! Before this one, I had a another one I bought on e-bay for $20 and used that for 5 years. Savings ~$10 a month.
People with cable service also rent their remote controls at $10 a month when they can get a universal remote for $10. Check your cable bill for that charge and make an adjustment to save money.
It’s Not Really About The Savings
Individually each avenue of saving is only about $10-20 a month, but all the pieces add up to a larger monthly savings. While the combined average savings is upwards of $130 a month, it’s not really a big influence on my life overall.
I saved a significant multiplier more by buying a $15,000 car 5 years ago instead of a $50,000 car I could easily afford.
I don’t save money because it is necessary to do so to survive. I save money in these ways because I feel I can get a comparable product for a significantly cheaper price. I see people who make $30,000 a year buy a $30,000 car and these are the ones who should be buying the $15,000 car for survival.
And I am not so frugal that I will sacrifice living life for things. Regular life is part of the ride and I like my (almost) daily Dunkin Donuts $3 coffees, eating restaurant food, and I like to travel to experience new cultures and foods. I don’t want to live like a hermit just so that one day I might retire earlier.
If the goal was only to save money, I could save much more each year by cutting all this regular life stuff out. But the simple ways to save that I do employ go towards those pleasures that I value much more than the savings.
If I really want something, I will buy it, but over time, I have found that I just don’t really have a big desire for material possessions. The savings from a lack of desire have certainly been enormous.
What money saving tips do you have that are easy and don’t require much sacrifice? Leave a comment below.
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