Frugal Tuesdays: 35 ways to save thousands of dollars each year

35 easy ways to save thousands of dollars each year | bring joy

In my “how to live on one income & love it” post, I talked about how I considered myself the financial defense of the family, Joseph the offense.

He’s bringing in most the cash, I’m making sure we keep as much of it as possible. Or rather, I’m watching over our funds like a hawk–making sure no money is going to waste (especially since we’re intensely working at becoming debt-free).

There are a lot of ways over the years that I’ve discovered to save money & I thought I’d round up some of the main ways I save money.

Of course, this list is not comprehensive, but it does cover a lot of the big & small ways we save. Some of these ideas may not apply or appeal to you, but for someone like me, who is in charge of a large household, has several young children & is interested in eco-friendly, organic & vegan products as well as stretching every dollar that comes my way, may find this list helpful.

Hope you find a thing or two in the list that you can use to help you save money–& feel free to add your “two cents” (pun intended) in the comments below.

benjamin franklin quote | bring joy

35 ways I save thousands of dollars each year…

(in no particular order)


1. Shop at Costco with an executive membership.
With an executive membership ($110, opposed to a basic membership which is $55) you get 2% back on all purchases & get your rebate check once a year. Since we do the bulk of our grocery & other shopping at Costco, we spend enough to get a rebate that pays for our membership as well as gives us a little Costco cash to spend on groceries.

Costco prices are typically 20-30% less than what you would find elsewhere for the same or similar products. They offer coupons for a few weeks during each month on certain products. These coupons usually save you an additional 20% of the regular Costco price.

To save even more money, I buy multiple items of things that are on coupon–cereals, paper goods, & misc. grocery items. For example, last month I spent $200 on household items (razor blades, toilet paper, toothpaste) & will receive $33 back in Costco cash as a rebate + I saved about $50 using coupons.

Costco may not be for everyone–you have to be able to justify buying in bulk (which, our family of 7 does!) & you need to practice a good deal of self-restraint–but you can save a lot of money on high quality organic & vegan foods if you do it the right way.

2. Make double batches & freeze leftovers. 
Saves on food waste, time & energy costs.

3. Buy dried beans in bulk & cook from scratch rather than canned beans.
Dried beans in bulk are at least a third of the cost of canned beans.

4. Buy grains in bulk & make your own flour.
I make my own flour with my Blendtec (see my 10 tips for frugal baking post).

5. Have several bpa free water bottles & use those instead of buying bottled water.
My fave water container is this bubba classic jug. I love drinking water from a straw & it keeps water cold for up to 12 hours! So easy to stay hydrated with this jug. (Plus, do I have to tell you how *awful* plastic water bottles are for the environment?!)

6. Instead of buying bottled juices & smoothies ($3-$5 per bottle), make your own. 
I use my Blendtec to make smoothies for my family every day. I’ve had mine for 6 years & it’s still going strong. Making my own smoothies & juices saves a ton of time & money.



Health & Fitness

7. Skip the gym membership.
Maybe someday I’ll have a gym membership. Maybe. I love the ease & convenience of working out at home. Currently I stream fitness videos via Giam TV (you can try a free 10-day trial here, after that it’s only $10 a month). See my 10 tips for frugal fitness post for more ideas.

8. Buy supplements & natural health/beauty items from Herbs Pro or
I don’t use very many supplements, but when I need something (pre-natal vitamins, B-12 drops, Dr. Christopher concoctions), I order from either one of these online retailers (they also carry a lot of grocery items including vegan & gluten-free products). You can usually get free shipping on orders over a certain amount, plus, they always offer discounts & specials on certain products.


9. Dispute rises in monthly fees.
On facebook a few weeks ago, I shared how our internet provider all of a sudden jacked our monthly fee up by nearly double. I noticed the rise in price & called them. I asked if they could offer me a lower price, the price that I had been paying previously. It took talking to several different salespeople (& a great deal of determination), but in the end, I was able to get them to lower the price again to $37/month (instead of $66, which is what they wanted to charge me) & they locked the price in for another year. This saved us $350 a year!

It takes some courage, but speak up & don’t be afraid to be assertive. Let them know your price point & that you’ll be willing to look elsewhere if they can’t help you out.


11. Consider ObiTalk. 
At the beginning of the year, we bought an ObiTalk adapter, which hooks up to our ethernet connection (no computer required, just internet connection). We’re using GoogleVoice until mid-May, at which point GoogleVoice will no longer be free or work with ObiTalk. At that point, we’ll pick another service that will cost somewhere around $3 a month for unlimited calling.

12. Consider a pre-paid cell phone.
This is not an option for a lot of people who must have a smart phone &/or use their cell phone all the time. But for us, since I’m home most of the day (& can use the internet on my laptop or nook) & Joseph is at work most of the day, we decided using a landline & using pre-paid phones (just a basic cell, not a smartphone) for emergencies would fit our needs (& save us about $500 a year).


13. Line dry clothes.
This doesn’t work during all the months of the year, & yes I admit, it takes a bit more time to do. But it’s better for the environment (saves energy), your clothes smell amazing (fresh & naturally starched), it gets you outside & it’s a nice way to get some movement into your day.

I did this last summer & plan on doing it now through September. I figure I pay about $.60-.75 per load of laundry I dry. I do about a 1-2 loads per day, which amounts to $20-$30 of savings a month.

14. Be a light hound.
Teach all members of the household to turn off lights when not in use.

15. Unplug appliances when not in use.
I unplug the blender, toaster, washing machine/dryer. This saves a few bucks a month. (And in the case of the toaster, can prevent fires.)


{50 of my fave books, tv shows, movies, & podcast, here.}

16. Skip cable.
To be honest, we’ve never had cable, so I cannot speak to it’s value or lack thereof. The price has always been out of our price range.

Instead, we have hulu subscription ($8/month, or $96/year) & an Amazon Prime membership ($99/year). Hulu enables us to watch current TV shows & Amazon prime lets us watch movies & prior TV show series.

(You can try out an Amazon Prime membership for free for 30 days, here. For Hulu, you can get credits to your account (2 weeks free for every person you refer) by reffering friends. Check it out, here.)

17. Go to the dollar movie theater.
Usually the dollar theater costs more like $1.25-$1.75 & shows movies that have already been out for awhile but are not yet out on DVD, or are just out on DVD. Not all places in the U.S. (I can’t speak for elsewhere) have dollar theaters, but I know that they exist in both Utah (where we used to live) & in San Antonio.

18. Wait for the movie to come out on DVD & rent at Redbox.
Waiting a few months for the movie to come out may take some patience, but it’ll save you $7-$8 per person.

19. Rent movies from the library (usually for free!).
We’ve been burned by the late fees before, which for our library run $1 per day, per DVD–ouch!–so watch out for that. If you can stay on top of due dates & late fees, you’ll be surprised at what movies you can rent from your library for free.


20. Cloth diapering. 
I love cloth diapering! I cloth diapered when my second & third children were babies. Didn’t for my fourth, & now I’m back to cloth diapering with my fifth. There is an initial investment in the diapers at first, but over time, I estimate it saves me about $400 a year.

21. Shop second-hand.
Kid-to-Kid, Once Upon a Child, & other second-hand kid stores are awesome places to buy anything & everything for your kids ranging from books, clothes, toys, & more. Often, these places will buy your old stuff & you can take cash or accept a credit at the store.


{see cleaning up my beauty routine & saving money while I’m at it}

22. Go more natural.
I use coconut oil for a moisturizer & most days wear a pretty bare face. I do like makeup, especially mascara, but reserve primping for special occasions, which helps save on my total makeup bill.

23. Wear glasses (at least part of the time).
If you have less than stellar vision & need contacts or glasses (like me!), opt to wear glasses at least some of the time. I figure I can save $100 a year just by wearing my glasses most days of the weak & saving contact wear for swimming & working out.

I bought $30 frames from Walmart several years ago & they’re still going strong despite all the use I’ve put into them. If I wear contacts all of the time, every day, it costs about $20 a month. If I wear my glasses for atleast half of the month, I can cut that down to $5 or $10 a month. Not a big deal for me, because I actually *like* wearing glasses & this helps save over $100 a year.

24. Cut your own hair, &/or learn how to cut your kids/spouse’s hair.
I’ve been cutting my own hair for the last year (maybe I’ll do a post on it?) & use these scissors (they’re German & awesome–I did a lot of research & wanted shears that would last me 15 or 20 years & do a great job–these were the best I found without breaking the bank.) For Joseph & my boys. I use these clippers.

By cutting everyone’s hair myself, I figure we save a few hundred dollars a year.



25. Go camping.
(FYI: If you’re military, you can get a yearly pass to National Parks for free!)

26. Visit family or friends instead of a cruise or resort stay.
If your lucky to have family or friends who will let you stay with them for a few days instead of a hotel, this can save a ton of $$. We’re getting to the point where our family is so big that this option is not becoming very appealing since it’s a lot to ask of anyone to host our crew for any amount of time. But we’ve had a blast staying with relatives as part of a vacation & it’s saved us a ton of money. (Now, if we have to stay in a hotel, we’d have to rent two rooms!)

27. Stay-cations.
Always lots of options where you live of places to visit. Even it’s just a day trip, you can do a lot & save on hotel & food money if you keep it fairly local.


28. Shop library book sales & Amazon.
A good chunk of our children’s books were purchased for $.25-$.50 at various library book sales. Most libraries go through their inventories & sale older books that they no longer need to make room for newer titles. Ask your library when their yearly or semi-annual sale is. Also, check out  books that you’re interested in from the library first, then if you love it, buy on Amazon.



29. Save on gas & time by making 2-3 planned shopping trips a month.
I do one big Costco trip, usually at the beginning of the month. Then I do a refresher trip to the grocery store mid-month. I may do another trip towards the end of the month. But I keep my pantry & freezer well-stocked & I have a menu planning system that helps me avoid the grocery store. Because, let’s face it, with each trip to the grocery store, not only do you spend more time & energy but this usually means you’re spending more money as well.

30. Save on gas by planning errands.
Plan multiple errands in one trip to save on time & gas.

Everything else

31. Price compare.
Whenever we need to make a purchase, I always do some research & compare prices. Depending on the item, I look at craigslist, eBay, Amazon, & Costco. For big purchases, I always find at least three different prices for a product before taking the plunge.

32. Use
This is a free online budgeting service that I use & love. It keeps track of all your accounts in one place & helps you track all of your spending. It’s my fave budgeting program I’ve used so far, & it’s free!

33. Use a credit card that offers cash back.
We use a credit card that offers cash back–1% on all purchases, plus 5% back on select purchases that changes every quarter. We earn a few hundred dollars every year by doing this. (And, no, though we are doing a debt snowball, we aren’t doing Dave Ramsey’s program.)

34. Shop at consignment shops, second-hand clothing stores, Goodwill.
Buying second hand is an good for the wallet & good for the environment. Goodwill isn’t the only place to buy second hand–there are plenty of adult consignment shops that sell gently used, stylish trends & name brand clothes at a huge discount.

35. Shop on eBay.
I’ve shared some tips for how I make money on eBay, but I also buy stuff on eBay too. Last year, I bought a nearly brand new iPod for $50. It wasn’t the latest model, but it did the job of storing music & allowing us to listen to podcasts which is the primary use for our iPod.

Do you have anything else to add to the list?
What things do you do to save money?
Please share!

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  1. Amy Aguer
    on October 16, 2016 at 3:16 am said:

    Thank you for your tips. They are very heloful. We’ve had the library tell us a few books weren’t returned over the years. I was able to look in the stacks myself, pull the book and show the librarian that apparently the book hadn’t been checked back in. This probably saved our family at least $100 over the years.

  2. Kathleen
    on January 19, 2015 at 3:25 pm said:

    Use an alternate cell phone provider. I use republic wireless. You buy there phone ($99 is the cheapest) and unlimited voice + text is $12.70 a month for me. I have unlimited data when there is wifi. If I need wifi when I am out or traveling and need directions, I can switch my plan 22 times a month and it’s pro-rated. Anyway, the phone + a years worth of service is nearly $500/year cheaper than what Verizon cost me. There are other services, freedompop, is another I can think of… Some of them allows you to bring your own phone which is even more savings. Only republic had service in my area and I am really happy with it.

    • Kathleen
      on January 19, 2015 at 3:26 pm said:

      *2 times a month not 22

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  7. christine
    on April 22, 2014 at 7:56 am said:

    How about making your own greetings cards and gift tags for birthdays, other celebrations, Christmas etc (for those who celebrate them, of course), moving house, get well soon, congratulations etc etc Something the children can also enjoy doing:) You can even sell them once you’re proficient!

  8. Alanna
    on April 21, 2014 at 9:16 am said:

    Wow! This post is a wealth of tips. I love it.

    The only things I can think of to add are purchasing from yard sales and craigslist.

    Occasionally I hit garage sales where people are practically giving away their stuff! Last summer I purchased an entire 5T wardrobe (name brands!) for my daughter for $5 (I offered more but the family wouldn’t take it). One time I even found a former Miche bag consultant who sold me over $500 worth of brand new products (I know because I’ve been to a few parties & I have the catalogs) for $50. Another time I purchased a 100 piece wooden train track set for my son for $1––it made our Christmas special and saved our budget. Garage sales are totally hit or miss…but the hits are worth it. I usually look them up on criagslist the night before and plan my route…

    Craigslist is the same hit or miss but when we recently moved I furnished a lot of our new place this way. My favorite purchase was a custom West Elm style dining table for $100 (retail $1000). I also found 8 brand new matching chairs for $200 (each chair still retails for $79/each at Ikea). I’m still geekin’ out about those purchases––and I love my new dining room.

    Again, love these tips. 🙂

  9. Lisa C.
    on April 17, 2014 at 10:09 pm said:

    This is a great list. I also shop at Costco once per month and it saves so much.

    I wish I had your luck with the cable/internet companies. The rates arkund here for just internet are insane!

  10. Lisa C.
    on April 17, 2014 at 10:08 pm said:

    This is a great list. I also shop at Costco once per month and it saves so much.

    I wish I had your luck with the cable/internet companies. The rates arkund here for just internet are jnsane. 🙁

  11. Dana
    on April 15, 2014 at 9:36 pm said:

    Hi Janae! Great post, as always. And super timely as I wrestle with the idea of leaving my job and taking a gap year or two to stay home with the kids while my partner finishes nursing school. We have some emergency money stashed away and I think if we lived super frugally, we could exist on no income (eek!) for 18 months without dipping too heavily into our retirement account- but it is a scary proposition- especially at my age of 52. Getting hired at age 54 could be quite a challenge. Though our hope would be that we could live on just the nursing salary and I could continue to stay home with the boys. Lots to think about. My heart tells me it would be so worth it to be there 100% for the kids; my head tells me to slow down and check every dot, dash and figure so as not to put us in a precarious position down the road.

    Always so glad to read your posts and see the wonderful pix of you and the family. Wish I had more time to comment on each and every one of them, but I am so thrilled that you are still blogging and love seeing how your readership is growing. Deservedly so.

  12. Kristen
    on April 15, 2014 at 6:15 pm said:

    Internet: dispute rises in monthly fees. I just did this last night! Unfortunately, Comcast wouldn’t budge on price ($65/month for internet only) so we cancelled our internet service. We have until May 10th to decide what to do. Comcast is our provider and they have a really good thing going for themselves. They are the only provider in our area so for us it’s them or none. Now I am trying to weigh costs and benefits. I love having the internet. As a stay at home mom, I feel like it connects me with the outside world. I do so much online… hunt for recipes, read blogs/books, print coupons, email, etc. We’ll see. Maybe call them again. 🙂

    I also love hunting for deals at yard sales. I have found that it’s easy to find kids clothes at yard sales. The smaller the size the easier it is to find. Books are usually cheap too. It can be time consuming but it sure is fun… especially with a friend. My father-in-law loves to go to yard sales and most of the “treasure” he finds I have no clue what it is! 😀

    • Janae Wise
      on April 15, 2014 at 9:10 pm said:

      Hi Kristen,

      Just to be clear it’s buckwheat flour, not bulgar flour (never had bulgar flour before ;)).
      Glad you’re enjoying the book!
      Best price on PB2 powder is Amazon, *if* you have Amazon prime & can get free shipping. Otherwise, you can get it at the store, but it is a little more pricey than regular PB.

      The “How to Never…” book is awesome! I really think every woman needs to learn what types of clothes to focus on for their particular body type, & which ones to stay away from in order to feel confident & comfortable. I think it’s an empowering book, the main premise being, there’s nothing wrong with our bodies (!), we’re just wearing clothes made for size “0,” 6 foot supermodels, which obviously, is not most of us 😉

      And yes, I’d love to hear a report from you whenever you’re ready. And feel free to shoot me any questions, should you have any.


      • Kristen
        on April 16, 2014 at 10:38 am said:

        Hahaha! 😀 I’m sooo glad you caught that I wrote bulgar flour! I had it written on my shopping list too. That would have been interesting!

        Thank you for the best price points on PB2! I am seriously thinking PB2 is going to be a regular pantry staple here. 🙂

    • Janae Wise
      on April 15, 2014 at 9:20 pm said:

      Ah yard sales! That is one thing that I’ve never really gotten into though I’m sure would be loads of fun, especially with the right person. I have bought a few random things over the years from yard sales, but I have purchased a lot of things from craiglist, which I think essentially is the same idea as a yard sale. I’ve got some super deals on craiglist–a brand new sectional sofa for $300, a nice pottery barn kitchen table for $225, new pottery barn couch set for $600, our double stroller…I could go on & on.

      About the internet. Girl, you’ve gotta have the internet, but such a bummer you only have one option! You’re probably going to have to call Comcast back. Any way you could poke & prod some more about some sort of special? Sometimes it just takes talking to the right person. Good luck!

  13. Laurie
    on April 15, 2014 at 6:14 pm said:

    Great list! I’ve got a tip that’s going to sound really awful, but…. For anyone who gets a library fine, before you pay it ask the library staff person to either waive the fee or reduce it. Public library systems are usually most interested in having the item returned not in penalizing the borrower. And librarians usually feel horrible when families with many children who check out lots of items end up with a huge total fine. If the staff person balks, ask for a supervisor just like anywhere else! And usually you aren’t “cheating the library out of money.” In all of the libraries I’ve worked in, fine money went to a general fund for the municipalities and wasn’t counted on in the libraries’ budgets.

    • Janae Wise
      on April 15, 2014 at 9:15 pm said:

      Laurie–I LOVE you for saying this.

      Last year we had to pay like $40 in late fines one time (a few DVD’s in there). I wanted to cry. I paid it & vowed we wouldn’t check out another book again. (Obviously, we have.)

      Though, I think you’re right about librarians. We turned in a book last year & the library said they never recieved it. Since our library system is so huge, we think it just got lost in the shuffle. They were going to charge us something like $30 to replace the item. I insisted we turned it in (which we had) & the librarian had me fill out a form & they wrote it off–hallelujah!

      Anyway, thanks for the tip–good to know!

  14. Caroline
    on April 15, 2014 at 5:52 pm said:

    Instead of buying trash bags, I reuse bags from the grocery store. I stock up when items are on sale (for example, I pretty much only buy greek yogurt while on sale, as the shelf life on that type of yogurt is pretty good), I air dry all my clothes during all seasons, keep my lights off as much as possible during daylight hours, and sometimes even shower at work (there’s a gym at work). I also will often turn the water off in the shower while I’m actually putting the shampoo or the conditioner into my hair, only using the water when necessary. I also try to be smart about what things I ask for from people for Christmas. I almost always get a pair of running shoes from my parents, and my brother has often gotten me a race entry for one of the races I like to run every year.

    • Janae Wise
      on April 15, 2014 at 9:12 pm said:

      Holy cow Caroline! We could all learn a lesson in frugality & energy saving, from you my dear. Lots of good stuff here, thanks for sharing.

  15. Emma
    on April 15, 2014 at 4:03 pm said:

    Great ideas Janae. I love the idea of a dollar cinema! We don’t have those here. But I definitely should make better use of the DVDs at my local library. I’ve been thinking about actually starting to track my spending and looking for a good program to use. I’ll definitely check out

    • Janae Wise
      on April 15, 2014 at 4:32 pm said:

      Mint is a fabulous program…wonder if they have a UK version?

      Tracking our spending is something I struggle with…but having all of our accounts in one place (mint is great for this) makes it so much easier.

  16. lfwfv
    on April 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm said:

    Haha, you nailed it! Basically everything you wrote are exactly the same things we do to save money 😉

    • Janae Wise
      on April 15, 2014 at 2:36 pm said:

      We must be doing something right then 😉