CEE Standard: Saving
Teach your students some fun money-saving hacks. Saving money really can be satisfying if you change your outlook. Even if these ideas save your students only a few bucks at a time, those dollars will add up fast!
Let’s face it: Being frugal isn’t necessarily fun. Not all of us enjoy biking, buying secondhand clothes, or staying in on weekends. I definitely don’t! I used to ignore frugal tips automatically — I liked my lifestyle, and wasn’t interested in making sacrifices to save a few dollars here and there.
Then, I started baking bread at home.
A loaf of freshly baked bread in my neighborhood can run me more than $5, and even store-bought, mass-produced loaves aren’t cheap. As a student — and then as a recent graduate — I needed to stick to a strict budget, so fresh bread seemed like a thing of the past.
One day, a friend of mine who was an amateur chef brought fresh-baked bread to my apartment — a loaf that he had baked in his own kitchen. After that, I decided to experiment with home baking. Each home-baked loaf came out to about 75 cents. These days, I bake about two loaves at home every week, saving up to $442 per year.
My baking epiphany made me wonder if other frugal habits might actually be fun, so I kept experimenting. I took note of how I spent money throughout the day and tried switching up my routine. Though I didn’t stick to everything I tried, some wallet-happy habits quickly turned into favorites:
1. Make Your Own Coffee or Tea
Fancy coffee drinks used to cost me $5 or more a pop. A couple of YouTube videos later, I was making my own drinks at home for much, much less. Choosing an at-home, 50-cent coffee over a $5 Frappuccino every day frees up $1,642.50 per year!
2. Pack Your Lunch
When I was an intern in college, I spent upward of $10 on lunch some days — until I realized that I could make the same dishes at home for a fraction of the cost. From fancy sandwiches to pasta to salads to soups, I used YouTube tutorials and food blogs to learn how to make my favorites. Some of my tastiest meals cost less than two bucks to make at home. Switching from $10 a day to $2 a day saved me hundreds over the course of the semester, and would come out to over $2,000 per year, if you make the switch for every weekday lunch.
3. Make Your Own Birthday Gifts
Buying fun, silly gifts for my friends’ birthdays didn’t feel like a major hit to my wallet, but when I sat down and calculated how much I was actually spending in this category, I was shocked. Instead of skipping birthdays altogether (I love my birthday, and I know my friends love theirs, too), I came up with a better plan: DIY gifts. Namely cupcakes. I am now the go-to friend for birthday cupcakes.
Switching from $20 presents to the $3-per-batch cupcake strategy saved me about $204 every year. And that’s just accounting for one birthday a month!
4. Choose Water, Not Soda
Most restaurants and coffee shops will serve you a glass of water for free. Skipping a daily $2 soda means $730 of savings at the end of the year. (Plus, it’s healthier!)
5. Create a Folder for Your Favorite Companies’ Emails
This trick has saved me thousands of dollars. I signed up for the email lists at my favorite home and clothing stores. Then I set up a separate shopping folder for those emails. This way, I’m not tempted by things I don’t need. When I need to buy winter boots or a new bathing suit, I pop into that folder and scan for deals I can use — always a great feeling! If I save $20 on a purchase each month, that comes out to $240 for the year.
6. Make Your Own Snacks
…Or at least buy them in bulk.
I like to make my own snacks — energy bars, fruit baggies, and trail mixes are my favorites — and freeze or bag them separately. This way, I have something easy to grab as I head out the door, and I can also pat myself on the back for my healthier choice. If you’d rather not make your own, you can buy your favorite snacks in bulk at stores like Costco and avoid paying vending machine and convenience store markups. Switching from a daily $2 snack to a 50-cent DIY or bulk snack every day saves you $547.50 per year.
A Final Thought
If I manage to stick to all of these habits, I’ll save over $5,364 every year. I’m not perfect, though. Sometimes I buy Starbucks drinks, go out to lunch during the week, and pay full price for new clothes. But sticking to these strategies at least some of the time saves me hundreds of dollars each year. And most importantly, trying out different ways of saving money made me realize that some frugal habits can be fun.