Ten Top Secret Money-Saving Hacks


On my first backpack trip, I packed a lot of little things I thought I might need for the journey. I rationalized that it wouldn’t make that much difference if I brought one more thing, “just in case.” It was just a few more ounces of weight, after all.

Well, on the first day of the trip, I could barely lift my pack. One of my traveling companions, after seeing what I had packed, observed a cardinal rule of backpacking: “If you take care of the ounces, the pounds will take care of themselves.”

Much is the same with saving money: If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

Ten Top Secret Money-Saving Hacks | Duluth Moms Blog

Believe me when I say I know a thing or two about taking care of pennies. From working in low-paying jobs to being a stay-at-home-mom with just one income to support our family, to experiencing job loss, to taking a pay cut, to starting a business, I have had lean times in my life. I have had to cut back until there wasn’t any more to cut… and when that wasn’t enough, I cut back some more. Even when we are on more solid ground financially, I continue these habits so that we will always have enough money for what we need.

Here are ten money-saving hacks that, although may not save you a tremendous amount of money in the short run, will add up to real money in the bank over the long haul. And, as opposed to adding more to your plate, these hacks are accomplished through doing less. Though these ideas aren’t really a secret, they also aren’t particularly glamorous so they don’t receive nearly the air-time they deserve.

So, without further ado, here are my  Ten Top Secret Money-Saving Hacks.

Develop a Vault Mindset: It can be hard to make any significant change in our lives without developing the proper mindset around that change. Commit to the idea that your money is valuable and is just as hard to get at as it is to get money out of a bank vault. Protect your stash and it will be there for you when you need it.

Ask Yourself the Million Dollar Question: Approach your shopping with a critical mind. Getting into the habit of asking yourself “Do I really need this?” will prevent you from spending decisions you may regret down the road. Another trick is to admire the item and then tell yourself you will think about it. You can always buy it another day. More often than not you will forget about it, which means you didn’t really need it in the first place.

Save Without Thinking: Commit to saving a portion of each paycheck and talk to your bank to see if they will automatically transfer money each week to a savings account. We do this and the money really adds up! This savings account helps when things are tight at the end of the month, when we have extra expenses like car repairs or when we are planning a vacation. And you can bet your bottom dollar that most if not all of the next pay raise will be diverted right into that savings account before we get used to having it around.

Don’t Feed the Need: Have you ever noticed you didn’t need a new top until you saw it on sale in your favorite store app or weekly ad? Limiting your exposure to advertising will decrease your spending. Sure, the app is designed to “save you money,” but it is also designed to sell you stuff. Ditch those apps, unsubscribe from e-mail lists, and eliminate text alerts. If you’re old school like me, canceling subscriptions to newspapers and magazines will save you even more. And you can always call catalog companies to request your name be taken off their mailing list.

(In my case, living 30 miles from Target hasn’t hurt, either!)

Ten Top Secret Money-Saving Hacks | Duluth Moms Blog

Recreational Shopping – Just Say No: Whether it’s trips to the mall, attending your favorite festival or browsing shopping sites online, the temptation to spend crops up even during our leisure activities. Be sure to take your Vault Mindset with you or leave your credit cards at home.

Buy a State Park Sticker and a Good Pair of Shoes: I don’t think there is any greater value than the Minnesota State Park Annual Permit. At $35, it allows you unlimited access to 66 state parks with hiking trails, educational programs and endless opportunities for fun! The exercise, fresh air and time away from screens are an additional bonus!

Act Like a Granny: I learned so much from my dear grandmother! I will never forget watching her wash her ziplock bags and exploring her special drawer where she kept used twine, twist ties and rubber bands. To this day, I re-use my Ziplocks. Her oldest children take it one step further and re-use bread bags and cereal box liners – genius!

See the Light: We all know that compact fluorescent lights offer tremendous savings on electricity. To save even more, consider how bright they really are. One day, during a particularly lean time, I looked up at my kitchen light fixture and asked myself “Do I really need 4 bulbs in there?” The answer for me was – no! Now I only have the number of light bulbs I need in a fixture, which is typically less than the number of spots available.

Catch Some Rays: We have lived in our house for over 7 years without cable or satellite TV, yet we have all the channels we need through investing in a good old-fashioned antenna. There are lots of affordable options out there and if the signal isn’t quite right, try making your antenna taller. You can buy an indoor HD antenna for less than $20 and they also work great!

Ten Top Secret Money-Saving Hacks | Duluth Moms Blog

Borrow As Much As You Want: From your local library, that is! From books to magazines to music to movies to art to toys to even internet hotspots you can take home – the library is a virtual treasure trove of free stuff that you can use and then get out of your house. It’s a win-win! I just discovered free downloadable audiobooks that you virtually check out, place on your phone and listen to before they *poof* magically disappear! Now I can get my reading done while I drive or work out – so I save time in addition to money.

What are YOUR money-saving hacks? Don’t keep them a secret – please share!

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Sarah VanderMeiden
A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Sarah is a dyed-in-her-wool-socks Minnesotan whose life-long love of woods and water drew her to move to Duluth 23 years ago this November. An avid hiker, she loves to explore all locales on Lake Superior’s shore, snowshoe frozen North Shore rivers and go for walks in Duluth’s Lester Park. Working in Higher Education for over 20 years, Sarah’s greatest joy was to talk with students about how to navigate the challenges of college, what they wanted to do with their lives and how to make their dreams come true. After stepping out of this career to be a stay-at-home-mom, Sarah has returned to her passion of helping people achieve their personal and professional goals as a Board Certified Coach. To find out more about coaching and her background, visit sarahvandermeiden.com or find her on Facebook at Sarah VanderMeiden Coaching . Sarah’s family lives in the country and share their five acres with a small flock of laying hens, deer, wild turkey, way too many mice and 10,000 honeybees. Sarah has given up gardening and keeping her house clean to pursue her many interests including enjoying the lake, singing, photography and spending time with her family camping in their vintage travel trailer or tickling each other on the couch.


  1. I recorded the prices for everything I ever buy from the grocery stores and created a spreadsheet. Now I simply put a 1 or 2 or whatever amount I need next to the item and the spreadsheet adds up my total. The list is in the order of the stores also. This list helps me know if the week’s groceries are expensive – so stick to the list! Or less so I can get a few extra items or something I ‘want’ vs. a need. This list also helps me plan my shopping and I run out of less at home since it helps me check what we need before I shop. I shop at 2 different grocery stores and the list with prices helps me know which store has the better price. I also use Walmarts “Savings Catcher” program which looks for a cheaper price and gives you money back if it finds a cheaper price on an item you purchsed.

    • Wow, you are super organized – love this idea!! Definitely would be a great way to combat the “I was only going to pick up a few things and now I’ve spent $100” syndrome. Unfortunately, I know a few things about that, too!

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