11 ways to feel like you’re saving money

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life looking for ways to save money while still maintaining a reasonably fun life. I was once a college student surviving on just the basics, but now that I’m a little older I’d like to have a slightly less ramen-driven life. The only problem? I’m not really any richer than I was then. So I’ve learned a few tricks. Your parents will tell you to open that 401(k), like, yesterday, but my advice tends not so much towards the practical as the improvisational. Here are some tips on how to save money, or at least feel like you are:

1. Cut makeup-remover wipes in half.

Seems like a small thing, but those miracle wipes can be costly. So on nights when my face wash has taken care of most of the day’s makeup debris and I just need a little something extra for my waterproof liquid eyeliner, I tear a little section off. Since I started this practice, one pack lasts me three times as long. That’s $10 saved, which is two lattes, and who doesn’t love lattes?

2. Keep your blinds closed during the day.

Instead of running the A/C all day in the summer, try leaving your windows covered while you’re out of the house. It helps keep the temperature regulated and saves you the electricity. You may scoff at such a minor detail, especially in the sweltering heat, but guys, utilities are only getting more expensive. Also, some newer A/C units have timers that you can set to coincide with your return home.

3. Always, always get a doggie bag.

Whether you’re eating out at a sit-down restaurant or just having a burrito bowl at Chipotle, it can never hurt to take home the leftovers. That way, when you need a late-night snack or a quick, mindless lunch, you can grab it out of the fridge and congratulate yourself on having split the cost of that meal in half.

4. Measure your gas mileage.

I hadn’t thought of doing this until recently, but it was actually kind of fun to figure out. In order to see what your car really gets per mile, reset the mile gauge when you’ve got a full tank. Wait till you’re close to E and check the results. Divide the miles traveled by the capacity of your tank, and voila! This was cool because it enabled me to get a feel for how far I can really drive on one tank. When things are tight financially, I can calculate how long it will be until I need to refill.

5. Make your Target addiction slightly less painful.

It’s a scientifically proven fact that no one walks out of Target with just one thing. You can resolve to stick to your list and still be lured by the siren call of discounted candles and bargain makeup and oh, wow, it would be a crime not to get those yoga pants off the clearance rack…. Before you know it, your wallet’s empty. But did you know that Target has an app called Cartwheel that allows you to get coupons for tons of things in the store? If you don’t have time to scroll through the endless offers, you can always scan the barcode of the thing you’re about to put in your cart and it’ll tell you if there’s a discount available. You add the coupon to your app while shopping in the store, present the barcode at checkout, and you’ll automatically get the discount for all items in your Cartwheel. For the coupon-averse like myself, it’s perfectly painless.

6. Use. Your. Library.

Some people see the public library as a valuable resource, and others don’t really know it still exists. Be one of the former because let me tell you, there is a crazy amount of free entertainment available to you at your local library — even if you don’t like to read books. Are you a comics fan? Do you like movies? Magazines? Do you spend any money on these things? Well, stop shelling out and enjoy the bounty of choices offered by your local library catalog. I use it to supplement my Netflix viewing by borrowing TV shows that aren’t offered on streaming services.

7. Speaking of Netflix…

I pay for my Netflix account, but I like to make it work for its keep. That’s why I have separate viewing profiles and a few of my family and friends have access. This allows each of us to have our own individualized profiles, with recommendations made for our separate, distinct viewing tastes. I pay the basic streaming fee each month (but maybe you could sweet talk your parents into this), and at least four people get to use it. It’s about $2 a person! However, I learned quickly that the sanctity of my queue can only be maintained by enforcing those profiles because otherwise I end up getting My Strange Addiction foisted on me (thanks, sister) and my BBC series are nowhere to be found.

8. Make your own cleaning product.

Vinegar is the Ironman of cleaning things — it can be whatever you need it to be in the moment. Mopping the floor? Dilute vinegar into hot water and, presto, you’re ready to go. Rinsing out the grit in your tea kettle? Vinegar. Cleaning tree sap off your car? You guessed it. Rather than spending money on allegedly specialized cleaning products, you can hang on to a bottle of the good stuff (I use store-brand white vinegar) and feel proud of your DIY spirit.

9. Deals await — investigate!

Sometimes when you’re really on a tight budget, going to the movies feels like an indulgence. But there are usually ways to do the things you enjoy and still save money. Lots of theaters offer discount programs. I like to take advantage of the early-bird special at my local cineplex, which gives me a $5 ticket if I go to the earliest showing of the day. Groupon was practically invented for this purpose. Massages and teeth whitening still cost money, but maybe just a little less.

10. Use your own nail polish for that mani/pedi.

If you’re going to splurge for a manicure or pedicure, bring polish that you already own. This way, when it inevitably chips, you can give yourself little touch-ups without returning to the salon. You might even make it the whole month.

11. Entertain at home.

I know, this one sounds kind of lame (or a no-brainer, if you’re like me and don’t go out much). All you need is a room or a patio, possibly a barbecue, and a blender, and you’re all set for margarita night. Splitting the bill for a stack of burgers from the grocery store and a bottle of tequila is a heck of a lot cheaper than the check at a restaurant.

[Image via here]