35 Life Hacks That Will Save You Thousands

05/18/2015 03:36 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2016


By Jeff Yeager, Best-Selling Author and Personal Finance Expert

If you saw a $20 bill on the sidewalk, you'd definitely bend over to pick it up, wouldn't you? Well, without much more effort than that, you can save at least that much -- and probably a lot more -- by employing a host of everyday life hacks.

Read on for 35 money-saving tips to pad your bank account with hundreds -- or even thousands -- of dollars.

1. Buy Prescription Drugs at Costco Without a Membership

Membership warehouse stores like Sam's Club and Costco have good prices on prescription drugs -- and you don't have to be a member to buy them. Because access to drugs is regulated by the federal government, warehouse stores aren't legally allowed to require membership in order for customers to use the pharmacy. So go take advantage of the low prices and don't worry about purchasing a membership.

2. Save $200 a Year by Using a Clothesline

Go back to the future: Dry your clothes on an old-fashioned clothesline. It'll save your family about $200 per year compared to using an electric dryer (according to calculations by Mr. Electricity), and your clothes will last much longer.

3. Thriftier Swiffer

Has your Swiffer Wet Jet run dry? Remove the cap from the fluid canister and fill it with cheaper, concentrated cleaner mixed with water, rather than buying another Swiffer-branded bottle. You can also save by using dryer sheets (new or even used) rather than buying a box of Swiffer sheets for your Swiffer Sweeper (say the last part of that sentence ten times fast).

4. Scan Grocery Receipts for Cash Back

Smartphone apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 give you cash rebates on your grocery store purchases; all you have to do is scan the receipts after you shop. For just a minute of your time, you'll likely earn about $5 a week, adding up to hundreds a year.

5. Kool-Aid in Your Toilet?

Dump a package of grape Kool-Aid in the tank of your toilet and don't flush it for an hour. Then, if you see purple water in the toilet bowl, you know you have a slow leak, one that you can't even hear. It's wasting water -- and money -- and can usually be fixed easily and cheaply.

6. Get More Toner Out of Your Printer

If your printer is out of black ink, change the text color to dark blue -- you'll be able to print a couple more times before needing a refill. And always print in Garamond typeface rather than more popular fonts like Times New Roman, Century Gothic or Comic Sans, since Garamond uses less ink.

7. Skip the Shopping Cart

When you run into the grocery store to "pick up a few items," literally "pick them up" rather than use a cart or shopping basket. By forcing yourself to carry your purchases, you'll be less likely to buy things you didn't intend to buy and don't need.

8. Ask for Free Upgrades -- But Don't Book Them

Never book a luxury car or premium hotel ahead of time, unless you definitely need it. Instead, reserve a standard car or room and then politely ask for a free upgrade when you arrive. If they have one available, it's usually a pretty easy score.

9. Get a Closer, Cheaper Shave

When your multi-track disposable razor gets really dull, try pushing the blade a dozen or so times against the skin on your forearm or against your thigh in a pair of blue jeans. This will realign and sharpen the blades, giving you more shaves for the buck.

10. Don't Use Shaving Cream

Skip the shaving cream and lather up with a bar of bath soap instead. Invest in an old fashioned bristle brush, shave some soap into a mug, and you'll get the cleanest and cheapest shave available, sans the cream.

11. Zip Pants Before Washing Them

Always remember to zip up jeans and other garments that have metal zippers before laundering them. Those little metal teeth are like miniature chainsaws, tearing up and ruining other expensive clothing in the washer and dryer.

12. Sync Your Sleep Schedule With Daylight

Adjusting your sleep schedule to better coincide with daylight hours will allow you to save on your daily electrical usage -- plus, you'll wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

13. Shop with Discount Gift Cards

Gift card exchange websites sell discounted gift cards for everywhere from Best Buy to Home Depot for less than their remaining value. Stock up and use them instead of cash for your next purchases.

14. Gym Membership Savings

Many health insurance plans offer reimbursements or discounts on gym memberships -- for example, UnitedHealthcare has plans that will reimburse you for up to $240 per year in gym costs. Benefits vary by provider, so check with your insurance to see if you're eligible.

15. Carry Around $100

There's a lot of research that shows if you pay in cash rather than with a credit card, you'll likely spend less. Take it one step further and only carry large bills like $50s or $100s, which are even harder to break -- it'll keep you from making impulse purchases.

16. Get an Extra Potato for Free

When buying pre-bagged produce -- like three-, five- or 10-pound bags of potatoes, onions and apples -- always weigh the bags before selecting the one you want to purchase. The weight marked on the bag is the minimum weight required by law, and some bags will likely weigh in at more, even though they cost the same.

17. Skip the Rental Car Insurance

A lot of private auto insurance policies and many major credit cards provide coverage for rental cars, particularly when rented for personal use (as opposed to for business). Check their policies just to make sure, but chances are good that you can skip the expensive insurance coverage offered by the rental car company.

18. Save Old Calendars

Real cheapskates know that eventually all annual calendars will be timely once again. For example, your 2015 wall calendar can be used again in the years 2026, 2037, 2043, 2054, 2065, 2071, 2082 and counting. For a handy schedule of when you can reuse your old calendars, visit:

19. Insulate Your Outlets

Stop heat loss and drafts with inexpensive, easy-to-install foam insulating gaskets on the back of electrical wall switches and outlets. Bonus tip: While you're installing the gaskets, write the color and brand of the paint used in the room on the back of the switch plate to remember it when touching up or repainting.

20. Crock-Pot Humidifier

Cooking more meals at home in an old-fashioned slow cooker (aka "Crock-Pot") will save you some major bucks, but also use one in the bedroom in the winter to add humidity to the air and help stretch the heat. Just keep it filled with water, with the lid off and set on low -- it will cost hardly anything to operate, and house guests will be really curious about the steaming slow cooker in your bedroom.

21. Granny's Electric Teapot

Remember the electric teakettle your grandmother always used? Well, granny knew best. When boiling just a small amount of water, an electric teapot is the most economical method, compared to the microwave or stovetop.

22. Start a Drippings Jar

Nothing frustrates a cheapskate more than trying to get the last smidgeons of product out of a jelly jar or other condiment container. Shake a little apple cider vinegar around in near-empty containers to get them nice and clean, then add the contents to a wide-mouthed "drippings jar" kept in the fridge. This ever-evolving flavorful concoction makes a great salad dressing, meat marinade or dipping sauce.

23. Use Wool Balls in the Dryer

Skip the fabric softener and dryer sheets by making your own "wool balls" out of old woolen yarn and a pair of worn-out panty hose -- just Google "wool balls" for DIY instructions. They'll help your clothes dry faster and keep garments nice and soft, all without the use of chemicals (or your wallet).

24. Bubble Wrap Your Windows

In the fall, lightly mist the inside of uninsulated windows with water, then apply a sheet of sized bubble wrap, bubble side facing the pane. The bubble wrap will cling to the window all winter long, boosting the insulating value, and come off neat and clean in the springtime.

25. Stay Away From Extended Service Plans

Those extended service plans they always push on customers at electronics and appliance stores are a great deal -- for the stores selling them. They do, indeed, provide some additional protection for most products, but the vast majority are never used, since many problems are covered under the manufacturer's warrantee. What's more, people often forget they even bought the extended coverage plan in the first place.

26. Go for Store-Brand Savings

Everyone knows that "generic" or store-brand products are cheaper than name brands, but maybe you don't know just how much cheaper. According to Consumer Reports, you'll save an average of about 25 percent per item when you buy store brands, which could save a family of four more than $1,100 per year on their grocery bill.

27. Grow Food, Not Lawns

The growing movement to replace costly, high-maintenance lawns with veggie-producing garden space has even taken root at the White House. Google "grow food, not lawns" for tips on how to supplement your grocery budget and reduce lawn care costs by starting an eco-friendly yard garden.

28. Check Your Refrigerator Seals

The seals around refrigerator and freezer doors need to be replaced periodically to avoid energy loss. Test for a tight seal by closing the door on a dollar bill; if you can pull the dollar out, the seal needs replacing and your energy dollars are being wasted.

29. Kill the Dust Bunnies

After you check the seals on your fridge, take a few minutes to vacuum out the dust bunnies living underneath it and clean the coils. Keeping the coils clean and dust free can increase the energy efficiency of a refrigerator, saving you money on your utility bills.

30. Save The Rainwater

Installing a rain barrel to provide water for your lawn and garden can save you a barrel full of money on your water bills. Conserving water is always the eco-friendly thing to do, and many municipal governments now offer tax and other incentives to encourage homeowners to reduce storm water runoff.

31. Plant Some Trees

Trees and other landscaping can not only increase your home's value, but if carefully positioned to shade the house and act as a windbreak, they can reduce your home energy costs by about 25 percent. Talk about a growing investment!

32. Make DIY Nontoxic Cleaner

Make an inexpensive, all-natural, all-purpose household cleaner by loosely filling a heat resistant glass container with leftover citrus peels, then adding equal parts boiling water and white vinegar. Cover and let it sit for a week before straining it into spray bottles.

33. Clear the Dryer Vent

Keep the vent coming from your clothes dryer clean and free from blockage at all times. A clogged dryer vent reduces the appliance's energy efficiency and can cause a fire.

34. Trick Yourself Out of Online Impulse Shopping

When shopping for an item on an e-commerce site, search for the specific product (e.g., "DVD player") instead of surfing the general product category (e.g., "electronics"). One study showed that online shoppers who search by the category were three times more likely to keep browsing after they found the item they wanted.

35. Shred Your Own Carrots

Everyone knows that you pay more at the grocery store for produce that's already prepared, like those little bags of shredded carrots -- but do you actually avoid them? Given the minimal time involved and the difference in price compared to buying whole carrots and shredding them yourself, you're paying someone else a bundle just to do several minutes of work. Buy the cheaper, unprepared versions of all produce.

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