You’ve likely seen lots of life hacks circulating the internet: Hold the banana by the stem, use bulldog clips to organize cords, make cat toys out of toilet paper rolls, etc. Some life hacks do more than make you look clever to your friends. With a modest investment, they can save you money.
Life hacks make you look at things a bit differently. By choosing new ways of doing the fundamentals, you can reduce your budget, learn a new skill and maybe develop a hobby along the way — all for less than $20.
1. Buy Good Cooking Appliances
You know you can save money by not eating out, but cooking is time-consuming. Make it easier on yourself by having just a few go-to kitchen items to prepare food. While it sounds counterintuitive, not having to choose how to cook makes it easier to decide what to cook. You’ll dive in and do it instead of opting to order takeout.
So invest in gadgets like a crock pot or an Instant Pot to help make cooking easier. Once you’re in the habit of regularly preparing food, you can use some of the cash you’ve saved to get fancier and buy that smoothie maker.
2. Ditch the Cable and Live Stream Instead
It is the golden age of television, at least if you go by the numbers. You have access to so many channels you can’t possibly watch them all. And you probably don’t. Take an inventory of your entertainment habits, and invest some cash in what you really enjoy.
Most streaming services are cheaper than cable, with monthly subscriptions often falling under $20 per month. If you are really hooked on your local news, go to the channel’s website — you can probably watch online for free.
3. Buy Gift Cards at a Discount
What do people do with gift cards they don’t use? If they are smart, they use e-commerce websites to resell them at a discount. The card isn’t wasted, and they recoup some of the cash.
Spend your $20 to get a $40 gift card from a retailer you’ll frequent. Make your savings even bigger by using your gift card to buy items on sale. Check for expiration dates and restrictions before forking over your cash.
4. Start a Vegetable Garden
Sure, it’s easier if you have access to dirt or a small plot of land in your backyard. But even urban dwellers with a windowsill or balcony can grow real food and save money in the process.
Start with herbs like basil and rosemary if you have a small space. You can buy plants already at maturity and use the leaves in place of condiments you would otherwise buy. Tomatoes, lettuce, greens and potatoes are hardy crops that grow well in soil or a pot on the deck.
Read your labels, however — cherry tomatoes will grow to a reasonable size, but plum tomatoes grow unwieldy.
5. Buy a Sweater (or Blanket)
This is your grandmother’s hack: Conserve energy by turning down the thermostat and finding other ways to stay warm. Grab one (or two) of those impulse buys at your next trip to the big box store — the cheap $5 throw and the $10 hoodie — and then wear them. Don’t forget to turn down the heat!
While you’re in the mood to reduce your power usage, save energy by turning down your hot water heater. Your tap water won’t be quite as hot, but you’ll save cash on your utility bill.
The best thing about life hacks is they challenge you to be creative and think outside the box. When you come up with a new money-saving idea, share it with others so everyone can save a bit of time and cash.