I am, by most accounts, the brokest person most people know. But being as broke as I am, I’ve learned a few key ways to save money that many people may just overlook.
1. Use the library.
This is moronically simple, but many people I know just don’t use the library. And why not? It’s free. They have nearly every book you’ll ever want, although you may have to wait a bit if the book you’re looking for is checked out or at another library. But the nice part is, they’ll hold it for you once it’s in, and if it’s at another library, they’ll bring it to the library of your choice for you. And it’s still free.
And it’s not just books. They have magazines, DVDs (new releases must be rented, but they’re far cheaper than Blockbuster), CDs, audiobooks, and shockingly enough: comics. I was very surprised to find out just how wide a selection of comic trade paperbacks the Ramsey County library system has. I quickly grabbed up the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books (far better than the movie) and picked up Watchmen on a whim (which is fucking phenomenal).
I’m one of those people who likes to have my own personal library, so I can lend books and movies and stuff to anyone, whenever I feel like it. And I do still buy books and movies sometimes, if they’re something really special. But there’s just no reason to buy most books if you can just get them at the library. They’ll probably always be there if you want to read them again or have a friend read them.
And the best part about the library is, if you see something you think you might like, it doesn’t cost you anything to just grab it and try it.
The downside? The more popular books can get kinda worn out, and if you’re not careful you can start to wrack up late fees (which are quite reasonable). Fortunately, you can renew your books online (at least in the Ramsey County libraries you can).
2. Get a Netflix subscription
There’s really no reason to buy most movies. You watch them once, maybe twice, and then you don’t think about them for years. And thanks to Netflix, you don’t even have to go to a rental store anymore. What is Blockbuster up to now, $4.00 for a 3-day rental or something? 9 bucks will get you a month of Netflix, where they’ll send you one movie at a time, and send them back to you as fast as you can watch them. If you rent or buy one or more movies each month, it’s worth the cost.
Also, they let you download some movies onto your computer whenever you want, so you don’t even have to wait 2 days for the next movie to come.
I must admit, I miss having a constantly-expanding, ever-current DVD collection. But keeping a collection costs a hell of a lot of money. 9 bucks a month is much more manageable.
3. Play World of Warcraft (or some lesser MMOG)
Sounds crazy, I know. How do you save money by playing a game that costs 15 bucks a month? Well, for starters, you spend less because you’re not buying as many OTHER games. A new game will cost you 50-60 bucks these days, and let’s say you get an average of 25 hours of gameplay out of them before you beat them. Well, WoW never ends. Even if you get a character to 70, you can still hit the battlegrounds and fight other players, duel it out in the arenas, hit the dungeons, join a raiding guild, start a new character, or just sit around and talk with your guildmates.
Also, Blizzard is constantly creating new content for the game. Major patches feature new quests, activities, dungeons, areas, and so on. They also release an expansion pack ever 1.5 years or so, but those only cost $40.
The downside, of course, is that you wind up missing a lot of good games. But if you’re having fun with WoW, who cares? You can’t play everything, and the games that REALLY stand out will be $20 in a year.
4. Buy second-hand
Half-Price Books is my store of choice for buying used media. They’ve got tons of great, cheap books, CDs, DVDs, games, and even some collectibles. If you really want to buy something rather than just use the library as mentioned earlier, just about everything you’ll want can be found second-hand. There’s no reason to buy anything for retail price, unless it’s brand new and you absolutely MUST own it.
5. Buy online
You know what traditional stores are good for? Physically checking something out before you go and buy the item online. You can find EVERYTHING cheaper online. Let me repeat this. You can find EVERYTHING cheaper online.
For example, I and some friends (you know who you are) were looking for a boxed set of 3 large, hardcover books. The store we went to was selling them for about 90 bucks. But I found it online for $41. Brand new. Last week, I decided I needed an HDMI cable. A 15-footer at Best Buy or Target costs about $80-90. I bought one online for nine dollars. NINE. Brand new. Very nice.
Of course, the trick is knowing where to look. Personally, I always check PriceGrabber first. You’ve gotta be a little bit careful though; always choose a seller with at least 4 stars, and over 500 votes. Read the reviews too.
6. Quit your bad habit
I used to go down to the local gas station at least once a day for a big-ass Mountain Dew. It was only $1 each time, but that’s $30/month, or $365/year.
I don’t even want to think about what smokers pay.
It can be hard to quit, of course. I love my delicious Mt. Dew, and I like being caffeinated. But you’ve gotta make sacrifices. And not only are drinks, coffees, and cigarettes expensive, but they’re not exactly good for you either (and cigarettes are, of course, basically poison). So you’ve gotta drop the habit. You’ll probably backslide, but don’t feel bad; just stop again. Maybe try cutting your intake by half at first, then half again and again. Special occasions are ok.
7. Buy from the fountain, not the bottle.
Ok, I know I just told you to stop drinking soft drinks. But if you must, buy from the fountain. A 20oz bottle of Dew will cost about $1.40 these days. You can usually get a 32oz fountain drink for $1.
8. Only buy fast food at Taco Bell or Wendy’s
It’s usually cheaper to cook your own food of course, but if you need to eat out, Taco Bell and Wendy’s are cheapest. Wendy’s has a pretty good dollar menu, and most Taco Bell combo meals will cost less than $5. Mind you, this shit’s not very healthy.
This sounds like a cliché, doesn’t it? Well, it works. You can’t save money on gas, so you need to find ways to use less of it. It’s nice to be able to come and go as you please, and listen to your own music and all that, but if you can work something out, do.