The typical American’s wallet tends to stretch a little more in the fall, as temperatures drop and expenses rise. The kids go back to school, the thermostat kicks into high gear, and the holiday season begins.
Don’t let autumn’s uptick in costs keep you from saving your hard-earned money. Here are 25 easy ways to save this season.
Around the home
1. Negotiate down at least two of your bills. It can’t hurt to ask. The worst they can say is no, right?
2. Winterize now to save on heating. The best time to winterize your home is before the cold sets in. Seal drafty crevices, replace air filters, flush your water heater, and if you can afford it, install storm windows and doors.
3. Wear sweaters around the house in October. Temperatures in October fluctuate between warm and warm enough, so on cooler days, throw on a sweater before touching the thermostat. It usually does the trick.
4. Refinance your home. It costs money to refinance, so crunch the numbers and see if you can swing it, and if it will actually save you money in the long run. Use this handy formula to calculate your break-even point.
5. Deck the halls DIY style. Who says holiday decorations must be store-bought? There are so many easy DIY tutorials for beautiful projects (no popcorn garlands) online. Try your hand at a few and see how they go. Make it a family affair too—there are tons of projects that are fun for kiddos.
Food & drink
A wonderful thing about fall is that it’s meal—I mean, holiday—season, so you may find yourself enjoying many free spreads. On the other hand, you may also be cooking more meals than usual, in which case it’s important that you keep an eye on your grocery store bill.
6. Buy generic brands. (If you don’t already.) 9 times out of 10, you can’t tell the difference between the two.
7. Plan your meals. Spend 30 minutes on Sunday planning a menu for the week, and then use that menu as your Holy Grail grocery list. Don’t put anything in your cart that isn’t on it. Also, try to get everything in one trip. More trips = more opportunities to buy impulse items.
8. Cook soups and stews in bulk. They’re the easiest meals to prepare, freeze, and reheat. (Thank you, Crockpot). They also happen to be perfect cold-weather fare, so you can eat well, warm, and cheap all season long.
9. Be mindful of those pumpkin spice lattes. ‘Tis the season for the warmth of a cup o’ Joe. Just make sure you’re not spending too much on it. If you really love a certain brew, buy a bag of it from the coffee shop (if they sell it, and most do nowadays) and make it at home. Similarly, if you can’t get enough PSLs, make your own! Try this great recipe (it’s better than Starbucks, in my opinion).
10. Use food from your own kitchen. How many times have you said, “There’s nothing to eat,” while staring blankly into your full pantry? (It’s ok. We’ve all done it). Challenge yourself to cook what’s already in your kitchen, and then go shopping only when supplies have gotten truly low.
11. Brainstorm cost-free activities. Often people unnecessarily spend money on social activities because no one can come up with a free, or nearly free, thing to do. Be the clever friend by keeping a few cost-friendly ideas in your back pocket for when such a suggestion seems appropriate.
12. Ease up on the alcohol. It’s easy when you’re having a good time, and feeling lees inhibited, to be looser with your money. Drink at a steady pace and you’ll spend more carefully. (And your head will thank you in the morning.)
13. Eat before you leave. Meeting friends for drinks? Have dinner at home before heading out so appetizers or late-night snacks do not tempt you.
14. Host a movie night. Going to the movies is fun, but it can get pricey. Instead, invite friends and family over for a BYOB&S (and snacks) movie night. If you want to feel more like a host, offer to supply the popcorn—it’s super cheap and can be bought in bulk.
15. Attend a free community event. Visit your city or town’s website (as well as that of your local library, schools, newspapers, and Meetup.com) and scope out free events happening in your area. (Check out nearby communities, too.) You might be surprised by how many free concerts, art shows, hobbyist group meetings, and events you find.
16. Coordinate gatherings with family and friends. Teaming up on food, drinks, and, supplies saves everyone from bearing the financial brunt of a get-together.
17. Make your own Halloween costume. Homemade costumes earn you more respect anyway. Need inspiration? Check out these 29 Spine-Chilling Halloween Costumes to DIY For Scary Cheap.
18. Shop around for your turkey. Yes, it’s the focal point of the meal, but this doesn’t mean you have to shell out tons of money for it. One cost-saving option is to buy a smaller turkey and prepare more side dishes. If you want a large bird, though, definitely price shop—online or in coupon newspapers—before you purchase. Many grocers, especially the major ones, will be offerings deals and discounts. Also, shop early if you can, since prices tend to increase as Thanksgiving Day nears. Just make sure you have room in your freezer to store it.
19. Use your fine china. Disposable plates and utensils make cleanup easy, but since they’re unnecessary expenses, they make things hard on your wallet.
20. Cook in bulk for multiple gatherings. If you plan on attending several potlucks this season, choose a dish you can make in one large batch, store, and then portion out as needed. Not only will this save money, it will simplify your life tremendously.
A few surprising ways to cut (and prevent) costs
Here are a few miscellaneous, but highly effective, tactics you may not have considered.
21. Delete one app that gets you to spend money. In-app purchases are sneaky lil’ budget busters. Whether it’s more lives in Candy Crush or an upgrade to the pro edition, little amounts can add up to a hefty chunk of change by month’s end.
22. Clean out your inbox. Brace yourself—the barrage of fall and holiday sales emails is coming. If you’re easily swayed by these emails, take a minute to unsubscribe from the spammiest senders in your inbox.