I know I do. Love it, in fact. You know how people like to debate whether things are frugal or cheap? I don’t even bother. I know I’m cheap. I embrace it with all the enthusiasm of Eminem and swear words. Or…something like that.
How cheap am I? A job gave me a bunch of logo’d polo shirts as sort of a uniform starting four years back. By the time I quit about a year ago, I accumulated about 10 of them.
Guess what I still wear? Guess what I’m wearing right now?
I can come up with a million other examples, but I won’t bother. The important thing to know is that I’m not above looking a little bit silly in order to save enough money for a handful of polo shirts that retail for about $25 each. And that’s assuming I’d be forced to buy the same polo shirts. There are plenty of other options out there, but none as exciting as free.
While writing something else the other day, I got to thinking. What is one actionable tip that folks can use to save themselves money on practically everything? I thought that might be something this cheap guy might be qualified to answer.
I’m not talking about the basics, like don’t buy stuff you don’t need, or cut out buying coffee at the Starbucks. We all know that stuff, but we do it anyway. And I’m not talking about making a budget either, since it’s really easy to just rob from savings when things go wrong.
So I thought about my own life, and what I’ve done in the past to save money. And then it hit me. The perfect idea.
About five years ago, I wanted to replace the terrible dimmer switch in my living room, because I had zero desire to further stereotypes that I’m some sort of creepy 80s guy. I thought about calling my electrician friend and attempting to pay him in beer and pizza, but that might take days, and I wanted dimmer-less light now.
So I Googled ‘how to change light switch.’
The first result was from a website that broke it down into twelve individual steps. I believe one was “get a screwdriver” and another was “turn off the power to the light.”
I don’t think it took me 10 minutes to change it. It was a really easy job.
I’m not a very handy guy, as evidenced by having to Google having to swap out a light switch. But I had a screwdriver and the patience to try to figure it out, and did so pretty easily. And by doing so, I saved myself a few bucks by not calling my friend, or more than a few bucks by not having to call a professional.
Now? I do a quick internet search before tackling most anything.
There are so many examples of this working out. A few months ago, my car’s back window wouldn’t stay up. This happened once before, in about 2009, and it cost me approximately $350 to fix. I wasn’t too excited about spending another $400 to make sure thieves don’t steal my iPod from 2007.
So I Googled it.
Within the first five search results was a great idea. Use suction cups to hold the window up. 20 minutes (and $4 later), I was in the Wal-Mart parking lot with a window no longer falling down into the door. A few days later I finished the job, using industrial adhesive to seal the window shut for all of eternity.
Total cost: about $8. That’s a savings of…carry the one…a lot.
This doesn’t just work for home repairs. Buying something online? Take 2 minutes and look for a coupon code, or see if a competitor has it at a cheaper price. Getting groceries? Plan your trip, and see what competitors have on sale. There are a million other examples. You’ll be amazed at the collective wisdom of everyone online.
Since I started doing this, I’ve had the confidence to attempt all sorts of home repairs, do some basic car stuff, and easily saved hundreds of dollars buying stuff online. It takes all of a minute to try it. In terms of pure efficiency, this might be the best way to save money. It’s fast, easy, and really effective. So just start doing it already.