Daily Frugality: 6 Ways I Save $65 a DAY
Updated: May 2, 2019
How can I save when I’m living paycheck to paycheck?
I’m sure you’ve asked yourself this many times. That used to be me. I used to think it took BIG changes to make a difference and find extra money in my account I could save but my life would thus become SO MUCH LESS FUN. It’s not true. How do you save? You spend LESS. Sounds basic. It is. But how?…
There are lots of articles out there full of ideas but this one will be personal. I will outline 6 specific ways I save every day and prove to you that anyone can do it through small changes without uprooting their life (& my next article will help you understand WHAT TO DO with those savings. Hint: do NOT leave it in your basic savings account).
The theme of my self-published book The Money Resolution is making small (personal finance) efforts day in and day out. While some experts scoff at the idea of “the latte factor” - cutting out your coffee daily can add up to huge savings annually - I happen to love it because, as I describe in Chapter 2, you might find you have SEVERAL latte factors beyond coffee. And if you can find and eliminate those “latte factors”, maybe you can keep that daily coffee because I get it. I dare you to talk to me before I have mine in the morning...
I didn’t detail all my “latte factors” in the book but I set out to do that today and show how small efforts like cooking and saving leftovers, going to Costco once a month, and finding cheaper weekend fun can really add up.
After working through this, I’m comfortable saying these efforts below (while mostly using estimates and round numbers) add up to $23,000+ a YEAR in savings, compared to previous spending habits. That was not a typo. Bonus: many of these efforts are helping me be healthier and are better for the environment.
1. REDUCING MY RENT ($13)
Let’s start with a simple way I made a big impact on my bottom line. In early 2017, I was two years into my lease splitting a two-story townhouse with a friend in a very expensive neighborhood in Seattle. My portion of the rent: $1,300. I moved out to find an apartment with my girlfriend 2 years ago and we found a smaller place in a quiet neighborhood (with a view!) we love at $1,650 a month. My portion of the rent: $900. Savings: $13 a day.
2. DAILY COFFEE AND MEALS ($17)
I’m going to roll these up, even though they could easily merit their own section:
Coffee: From $4.25/day at Starbucks to making my own cold brew in bulk from beans I get for free because I work for a coffee company... SAVINGS: $4 (notice, I'm rounding down)
Lunch: From Jimmy Johns and random nearby eateries daily (~$9) to $3.99 frozen meals from TJ’s or sandwiches or leftovers. New Cost: ~$3 on average. SAVINGS: $6
Dinner: From takeout, ordering in, and frozen meals like pizza, etc. (~$12) to shared meal kits on discount (Plated, for example), to planning meals and trips to the store and cooking nightly. New Cost: ~$5. SAVINGS: $7.
Note: I’m not going to dig into numbers but we made a decision about a year ago to switch from our local QFC to Trader Joe’s for big grocery runs. There are obvious savings with that decision alone but I feel it’s mostly captured above under lunch and dinner.
3. JOINING COSTCO, MAKING A MONTHLY RUN WITH A LIST ($8)
I’ll be vague here and avoid pulling out receipts I have stashed away written on and highlighted… but my last Costco run I bought in bulk: toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, mouthwash, tissue, beer, wine, frozen chicken breasts, 2 tubs of soup for lunch, dog food, dog toys, and sunscreen Conservatively, I think I can save $8 a day on common household items by buying in bulk once a month. Before Costco, I made one-off add-on purchases at the grocery store or random emergency Prime Now orders, paying for delivery minimums and tips.
4. DITCHING MY CAR ($8)
When my car was totaled two years ago after being vandalized Beyonce-style, I made the decision to put a chunk of my insurance check towards a new-ish Vespa and got my motorcycle license. I haven’t looked back. Here's what I estimate I save a day:
Building Parking: $4.50
Maintenance (1 service in 2 years): $.50
TOTAL daily savings estimate: $8
Note: This was super doable for me because my car was paid off, my girlfriend has a car, and I have a work provided public transportation card that covers the bus and local light rail when needed.
5. RETHINKING WEEKEND FUN ($17)
This one is super hard to quantify with numbers but it’s a big one and must be included: make better weekend fun decisions. I used to LIVE for the weekend. (Okay, I still do, but I think about “fun” on the weekend much differently.) I used to “crawl” through the week and fantasize about the weekend by researching and buying tickets and creating our “agenda” during the week. Very seldom was cost a consideration because, after all, we earned it from working hard ALL week. Need to go shopping? Let’s do it together! Want to see a new movie at a theater that serves drinks to our seats? IN! Spontaneous Mariners game because we’re in the area? DONE. Favorite band in town? We HAVE to go!! Bottomless mimosas? TAKE MY MONEY!
These days our weekends look much different. Affordable activities we now do often:
Go on walks & take the dog to the park
Yard sales on a tiny budget
Have ONE beer at our local brewery
Rent and split a $5.99 new release at home
Play video games I already own (does Mario Kart EVER get old?)
Travel nearby to visit family
Puzzles! Board games! Coloring books!
Tour nearby houses we’re definitely not going to buy
Use the MLB Ballpark app when we do go to baseball games to find discounted food & drinks (DYK: you can bring your own food?)
Clean out our clothes and cupboards and donate to Goodwill instead of shopping
Stroll to the library and always have a good book on hand
...and sometimes we even work on our own side hustles… (nerds, I know).
I wish I was exaggerating but I would estimate I used to spend $200+ every weekend on average when all was said and done - especially when I lived in expensive Seattle neighborhoods Ballard and Capitol Hill. And it would go by in a blur. Now? I’d estimate $75. Savings: $125 a weekend, or ~$17/day over a month. Plus, I slow down, sleep better, have fewer hangovers, dread Mondays 50% less, and my dog loves me 50% more!
6. USING DEAL SITES & SETTING ALERTS ($2)
This one is quick and the smallest of the "wins". I started creating alerts on deal sites like Brad’s Deals to buy additional common items I don’t need in bulk. This comes in handy often for gifts, but also personal items like undies and household items like kitchen needs, sheets, towels, storage bins, and more. We’ll call this $60 a month in savings, or $2 a day.
WHAT ELSE I (WE) COULD DO:
To save more, here are cost-savings we’re considering: cutting out our gym, Netflix, Spotify, cable, and magazine subscriptions and only going on one “us vacation” this year (already booked one but we’re tempted to add another). BUT, we don’t want to cut out key things that truly make us happy and you shouldn’t either.
But you should sit down and go through a similar exercise. You’ll find your “latte factors” and ways to save and you might be as shocked as I was when I added up my estimated savings, compared to prior spending, annually. See where your money is going and see if you can make small changes that really add up. See what you can reduce or cut out. After some time, see what you miss and adjust from there.
I can live without a car. You might not be able to. I can’t live without the gym but since the weather is getting warm, maybe you CAN live without it this summer. Maybe you can bike to work? Maybe you can skip brunch (and those mimosas) after all…
My book's Introduction started with this quote: “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” - Robert Collier. Hopefully, I’ve convinced you this is true when it comes to personal finance.
This WON’T happen overnight. This was the sum of small efforts over a 2 year period. Plus, small efforts turned into bigger efforts after I set my New Year’s Resolution of money in 2018. But, by the way, bigger efforts become easier when you build momentum and develop habits that stick.
So this was a summary of the micro efforts. Up next, the macro efforts: How I save and invest $50,000 a year towards my future. Coming soon!
PS - Check out my YouTube channel for more frugal living tips like how to make cold brew in bulk, negotiate with Comcast, meal plan, and even restore a rug (instead of buying new).