how to save money you've already spent
December 24, 2021

8 Ways to Make the Most of Money You’ve Already Spent

Saving Money

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Normally, personal finance experts — including me — talk about saving money in the context of either buying or spending less.

But there’s another way to save money.

Here are eight ways to maximize the value of what you already have — in effect, saving money you’ve already spent.

Way #1: Don’t Let Your Groceries Expire

expiration label

Buying more groceries is one of the best things you can do for your budget — it’s usually much cheaper than eating out or getting food delivered.

However, this also depends on how efficient you are with your grocery budget.

It’s not going to matter that food is 30% cheaper from the grocery store if you waste 30% of the food you buy.

Some people avoid wasting food by meal planning, forming an idea of what they want to make each day and then setting it up so that ingredients can be reused and don’t go bad.

Like with everything else, you have to find a strategy that works well for you, but you can generally make your budget go further by throwing away fewer groceries.

You can also save money on groceries by using cash-back apps like Ibotta and Shopkick, both of which I use to save money on my own grocery purchases.

Way #2: Reuse or Repurpose Your Stuff

reuse and recycle

You can also save money you’ve already spent by reusing or repurposing your stuff.

Obviously, it’s impossible to stop throwing things away entirely, but we often tend to lose sight of all the use we can get out of something.

This can involve getting a little creative, but you can also take a few simple steps:

  • Wash out and reuse containers
  • Store grocery bags in toilet paper rolls
  • Give outgrown kids’ clothes to friends or family members

Overall, look for ways to make the most out of what you already have.

Every time you’re about to get rid of something, you should take a minute to consider whether there’s anything else you can get out of it.

And if you really don’t need it, you might be able to sell or give it away via platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

Way #3: Claim Your Airline Miles

airline rewards

Many people don’t sign up for airline mileage programs because they think the process is too complicated, especially if they may never fly with the same airline again.

In my opinion, though, you should make a point of signing up for mileage programs whenever you fly with a new airline — you never know when you’ll fly with them again, and you wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to earn some rewards.

In fact, many airlines allow you to earn miles retroactively, so if you’ve flown recently, you may want to take a few minutes to look into the airline policy and see if you can get miles for flights you’ve already taken.

Even if you’re not a frequent flyer, you should be able to generate enough miles over time for a free upgrade or even a free ticket.

Way #4: Use Your Credit Card Benefits

credit card rewards

Most credit cards provide benefits that go well beyond the points, miles, and cash-back.

Such benefits can include:

  • Purchase protection
  • Car rental insurance
  • Discounts at select retailers
  • Roadside assistance

Instead of simply viewing your credit card as a cash-back or rewards factory, be sure to take advantage of these benefits, especially if you’re paying an annual fee for them.

Way #5: Keep Your Things Clean and in Good Condition

good condition appliance

Whether it’s your car, refrigerator, or water heater, it’s easy to put off routine cleaning and maintenance to make time for more enjoyable activities.

And by the time you get around to actually doing what needs to be done, you may be dealing with much bigger (and very expensive) problems.

Consider what happens if your refrigerator or freezer fails. Until you’re able to get it fixed, you have to:

  • Throw out food you’ve already bought
  • Eat out or get take out for every meal
  • Buy expensive single servings of staples like milk or coffee

Including the repair bill, your wonky fridge could cost you hundreds of dollars.

I have a tendency to forget about routine maintenance, so whenever I buy something new that I want to keep in good condition, I take a few minutes to look at the manufacturer’s instructions.

Then I put a reminder on my calendar to do maintenance or cleaning at the recommended interval.

Even though it can be a hassle to take a more proactive approach, it ultimately saves a lot of time and money to keep your things working properly and get them fixed before they need major repairs.

Way #6: Take Advantage of Return/Exchange Policies

return and exchange

If you’re like me, you’ve probably made the mistake of buying something, planning to return it, and then leaving it in the trunk of your car for three months.

Most of us do this at one point or another, but ultimately, it just ends up wasting money.

Again, the best way to avoid this is by being proactive.

Whenever I buy something, for example, I take a quick look at the return policy and write down the last day that I’ll be able to do a return or exchange.

In fact, it’s probably a good idea to look at the return policy even before making a purchase, as you might otherwise end up stuck with something you don’t want.

Today, the return process is easier than ever before, with some companies even paying for return shipping and packing, meaning there’s no excuse for failing to return or exchange something you won’t use.

Way #7: Learn How to Fix Things

fix things at home

No one can fix everything by themselves; if you’re not a licensed electrician, for example, you probably shouldn’t be repairing your electrical panel.

In some cases, though, you may be able to save some money by learning how to repair an item yourself.

If you have a leaky faucet, for example, you could call a plumber and end up paying hundreds of dollars, or you could fix it yourself using some basic tools and a faucet repair kit.

Again, there will be situations where you need a professional, but in general, fixing things yourself can save money and help you make things last longer.

That being said, you should also take into account the value of your time compared to the tax-affected cost of fixing the issue.

For example, while I generally fix things around my home, I usually choose not to personally fix things at my rental units, as I’d have to spend an hour of my time driving to get there, and I’m better off just paying a contractor and getting a tax deduction.

Way #8: Use Your Subscriptions Until They’re Gone

subscription

Many people believe their subscriptions end as soon as they’ve been canceled.

Actually, most canceled subscriptions remain active until the renewal period.

For example, if you normally pay your bill on the 15th, but cancel your subscription on the 25th, you can usually continue to use your subscription until the 15th.

This applies to both in-person subscriptions like gym memberships and digital subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify.

In general, the best way to get your money’s worth is by using your subscriptions for as long as possible.

Plan Ahead, Save More, and Worry Less

As I look back at these recommendations, the common thread is that a little bit of extra thought can save you both money and anxiety.

When you schedule things like meals, maintenance, and shopping trips, you’ll have fewer of those wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night moments.

And your wallet will be a little fuller, too.

Author:

Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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