Since starting the Minimalist Game from The Minimalists, I have been analyzing almost every aspect of my life in a material sense to save money wherever I can. I have been thinking twice before I make any purchase which is a good habit to get into as a self-proclaimed impulsive shopper. I have really looked at where all my dolla-dolla bills are going. To be honest not all of them were being used in the most efficient ways. (I’m lookin’ at you oh-so-delicious, yet oh-so-expensive Starbucks latte). Here are 8 ways that I have (so far) discovered and saved myself some money.
1. Refinanced my student loans
Education is a beautiful and wonderful thing. The seemingly never-ending student loans that came along with it is not. While I am so blessed to have the experiences and learning I did at university, I now have a fat monthly bill to go along with it. I hadn’t really been getting serious about eating away at the debt until recently.
Debt seriously sucks but being in denial about it will only make matters worse. I had a private loan that had 13% interest. Holy crap, in case you’re not aware (which naive me wasn’t for the longest time) that is an incredibly high interest rate on a large loan. Hardly anything I was paying a month was actually going to the principle. I wish I would have done this sooner and saved even more money.
My dad and I did some research (listening to your parent’s advice is useful – who knew?!) and found a refinancing company called CommonBond. They are a smaller student loan refinancing company based in NYC that have saved me (or rather, will save me) so much money. Through them I was able to get that loan down to 4.25%! They had all of my payments broken down for the rest of their entirety until payoff. Seeing an end date honestly one of the biggest reliefs, it gave me hope and security.
They have excellent customer service and will answer emails within the day or next day. As a total novice to this stuff, I had a lot of questions. Debt is such a scary thing, so I really recommend checking CommonBond* (referral link) out and looking into refinancing. You could save yourself so much money in the long run.
Total savings: 8.75% interest on the life of my loan
2. Cancelled Netflix & HBO Go
I CANNOT believe I am writing those words! We got rid of Netflix and HBO. It is a bit ironic considering we found the minimalist documentary on Netflix but I am sure they will do alright without us. I loved Netflix and HBO. Steve loved them. Nothing was more enjoyable than bingeing 2 hours worth of Lorelei and Rory Gilmore’s witty face-paced East Coast repartee. But it had to go.
We would get into these black holes of nonstop watching. Even if I mustered up the self-control to finally turn it off, my brain was in hibernation at that point. I couldn’t get back on task for anything that remotely required motivation or brain power. Blog post writing went right out the window. Is anyone else like that? Or is my ability to effectively switch between tasks broken?
Since cancelling, it’s almost like I am “forced” to be more productive. Before I would allow myself “one more episode”. I have been writing more, researching more things for my blog, and reading more! (I got a Kindle last Christmas and I’m finally really taking advantage of it!)
Honestly cancelling Netflix and HBO seemed like one of the more impossible feats for us, but those shows and movies will be around forever. It has already saved me from wasting time and I don’t really miss it. If it’s distracting you from doing the things you need to do then the best time is now! On top of that you’re eliminating two more monthly bills.
Total Savings: $25/month or $300/year
3. Started Using the Library
A lot of you are probably thinking, duh Torey. But I fell off the library wagon since graduating from school. Not only was I reading less, I also was just buying the books I did read. It seems silly now because I had a lot of novels that were good but then just sat on my shelf after I finished. Without binge-watching TV, it freed up a lot more time to read!
Not only did I rediscover my love for free books but its just a short 5 minute walk from home and I can get library books on my Kindle!
Total Savings: Approximately $60-70/year
4. Getting Haircuts at the Beauty School
This tip goes back to my roots of trying to save money while I was in high school and college. Beauty schools are seriously such a steal! They are incredibly cheaper than a salon plus they can’t accept tips. They have instructors that come and check on you every step of the way so it’s really not risky if you’re worried about the results. I consider myself a “low-high maintenence” gal so I’m only getting trims anyway. Not too much can go awry there.
At a salon I was paying about $30 plus tip just for a trim. I know a lot of people pay much more too. I completely understand and respect why haircuts cost so much but at this time I’m just trying to keep it simple. The beauty school near me charges $16 for a haircut, so while I’m working to eliminate debt that is where I’ll be getting my split ends chopped off.
Total savings: $20 per haircut. $60 for the year since I get about 3 cuts a year.
5. Switched to Family Music Plan
Who doesn’t love music? There’s a song or genre for just about every mood. Some might argue that a music subscription isn’t necessary at all. However, where I sit at work is quite loud so I need music to help drown it out and keep me on focus. I like to have “chill”, electronic-y (is that a word? I’m bad at describing music) music as a background noise. I love that I am constantly hearing cool new music I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
Steve and I were each paying $10 a month for our separate music subscriptions. We have very different tastes in music so we didn’t want to share 1 account and risk each others tastes incorrectly influencing the recommended music algorithm. Then we got wise to a family plan. Spotify offers a family plan for up to 6 people. Since you have your own accounts nobody’s music preferences will influence the others. Brilliant! This plan costs $15 a month, so split 2 ways we saved about $2.50 each. Small savings but still savings!
Total savings: $5/month or $60/year
6. Switched to Divacup
Sorry if this subject makes you uncomfortable but it’s nature, people. Women have periods. Now that we have that out of the way, you may actually have no idea what I’m talking about. Divacup is a reusable silicon cup used for well, your period. It replaces the need for pads and tampons. I got mine from Thrive Market for $30 (25% off the regular price). Within a few months it paid itself off in terms of cost of tampons.
Besides the dollar savings, switching to a Divacup is a greener option in terms of waste. Tampons clog septic systems and the applicators are hardly ever recycled. It’s a subject no one really likes to talk about but it really is a problem. Since the cup is washed out every time it’s reusable and there is no waste! This makes it an awesome option for camping and hiking too.
It is something I definitely recommend looking in to. It might seem scary or weird at first (I was terrified the first time I tried it) but once you get the hang of it, you won’t think twice.
Total savings: Roughly $70/year. This one has a TON of factors so it will be different for everyone. But you will definitely have a lower environmental impact as well.
7. Unsubscribed from Store/Shopping Emails
My email inbox was constantly flooded with stores that wanted my money. “Flash Sale”, “5 Hours Only”, “Save Now!” were just a few of the subject lines I saw urgently warning me that if I don’t act now there’s no way I can possibly save money another time. While most of the time I could just ignore and delete, a moment of boredom or weakness would hit and I would start browsing the sites. Since constantly deleting emails is a huge waste of time and the risk of spending money is too great, I unsubscribed altogether.
Now my inbox is less flooded with useless emails (though some still somehow trickle in) and I have that many less temptations to shop! Remember, minimizing is not only physical things but also the things that can clutter your mind!
Total savings: I don’t have an exact dollar amount for this one but could probably add up to $200/yr on the conservative end
8. Cleaned Out the Pantry and Refrigerator
This last tip I have doesn’t have a real measurable savings but will definitely save you money and waste. If you are anything like me, then your fridge can start to fill up quickly and get out of hand. Whether it’s containers of leftovers or my weekly CSA order, the things will start to pile up. There have been so many times where I am (finally) cleaning out a cupboard or the fridge and will find duplicates of a food I thought we were out of or find something unopened or barely used but it got lost and went bad. This is not only financially irresponsible but it is also wasteful.
Cleaning and maintaining every place I use to store food has helped make grocery shopping and cooking more efficient. It has saved me money and precious cupboard space in this small apartment. There are still plenty of steps I need to take to really get the most out of my kitchen storage space but keeping it clean is a step in the right direction!
Total savings: Hard to measure the average of this one but in my first clean out I had about $40 worth of duplicating and spoiled (but would have been good) items
Grand total of yearly savings: $800 + Student loan interest difference
Crazy, right? All of those little things add up! Of course, a lot of these things aren’t necessary at all but that is up to you. That is enough money to make an additional student loan payment, buy a plane ticket, or just bank in your savings! Every small action you do to save money can make a big impact on your life when working together with other small money-saving actions. Imagine if I had started sooner. I would have saved over $1000 by now! I am still looking for other ways to cut some corners in spending too!
Do you already do any of these things? What are some hacks that have saved you money?