20) Brown Bag It. If you're willing to put in a little time to plan ahead so you have the necessary food on hand and then to take a few minutes every evening or morning to put together a sack lunch, the return on this small investment of time can be quite remarkable.
In fact, I figured out that most of the lunches I've packed for my husband cost anywhere between $0.75 to $1.50 each (remember, that's mostly because I shop the sales, use coupons, and stock up on items when they are at their lowest prices!). A lunch at a fast food restaurant is likely going to cost at least $4-$5 at a minimum.
Based upon these calculations, it is very safe to say that packing a lunch has saved us at least $3 per day. Over the course of the year, that's $750 saved! And that's a very low figure. If someone is eating out at nicer restaurants most days and spending $7-$12 per lunch, the savings are significantly higher!
In addition to the savings, there's also the added benefit of homemade lunches also often being much more healthful for you as well–especially when compared with fast food meals.
21) Utilize PaperBackSwap. My husband and I are both avid readers and books are something we could spend a fortune on–if we had that kind of money to spend! In order to stick within our meager budget when Jesse was in law school, we put ourselves on a self-imposed book-buying moratorium. Our rule was that any book we read had to be checked out from the library, borrowed from a friend, or given to us as a gift.
Then, I discovered PaperBackSwap. For the cost of shipping out a book via Media Mail (usually somewhere around $2-$3 maximum), you can choose from a constantly-changing selection of hundreds of thousands of books.
Not only do I love the concept of passing along books you no longer need or use to someone who will appreciate them, I love the fact that you can acquire books you really would like to own so inexpensively through PaperBackSwap!
I'm especially appreciative of PaperBackSwap now that we've moved to a town where the libraries aren't much to speak of (at least not compared to our beloved neighborhood library in Kansas City where we could put hundreds of books on hold at a time without ever paying a dime!). Instead of mourning the loss of a wonderful library system at our disposal, we're building our own home library now, courtesy of PaperBackSwap!
(By the way, PaperBackSwap also created a site in the last few years for swapping DVDs: Swap-a-DVD.)
22) Exercise at home. I'm a big proponent of staying fit and healthy but I don't think it needs to cost you an arm and a leg to do so. The gym memberships and fancy workout clothes are great, but they are not necessary to stay in shape. If you have a little personal self-discipline and some accountability, you can be very successful at a fitness program right in your own home.
My husband bought an elliptical for me off of Craigslist two years ago for $100. It was in like-new condition when he purchased it and I have spent hours on it and its still going strong. A similar product purchased brand-new would be around $300-$400. So not only did we save $200 to $300 at the outset by buying it barely-used, but it was a one-time investment which I can use again and again and again. It doesn't require a monthly fee to use, I can work out at any time of the day or night, I don't have to drive to another location to use it, and I don't have to worry about childcare.
I also have found SparkPeople.com–a free nutrition and fitness tracker–to be enormously helpful to me in maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically fit. This was especially helpful to me in getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight after my second baby was born and I'm anxious to begin another weight-loss regimen as soon as Baby #3 makes his or her arrival.
If you are interested in other ideas for frugal weight loss and fitness, I've written more of my thoughts and what has worked well for me here.
photo by Refracted Moments