This one is a no brainer. For $20 worth of weather stripping you can save a bundle on you heating bills. Try closing up the cracks and gaps around your windows and doors. You will be amazed at what a difference it will make when the cold weather arrives. All sorts of drafts and air leaks can be beaten this way. You don't need to be much of a handyman to use this stuff either. Most of it is peel and stick self-adhesive these days. Couldn't be simpler. If you have window or wall mounted air conditioners, invest in an insulated elastic cover. An awful lot of heat is lost through uncovered AC units in the winter.
(My most recent project. I'm the local lawyer in my synagogue. I was asked to lead the discussion on Id theft on this occasion. I had fun and a number of folks told me afterward how much they appreciated my effort.)
If you are looking for something useful to do with your spare time that won't cost you a penny, consider volunteering you services. You may be thinking, what can I do that would matter to anyone. The reality is that you can do plenty. Whether it be visiting the elderly in nursing homes or getting involved with your church or synagogue, or any number of other worthy causes, there are loads of useful activities out there waiting for someone to just step up. Plenty of us have a useful skill that could help others if shared. I have learned that it doesn't take a huge effort to make a meaningful difference to others. That it can be done for little or no financial commitment makes it that much better in my view.
Forget about going out to eat, especially socially. A home cooked meal is a fraction of the cost of a restaurant. Invest in a good cookbook and entertain at home. Not only will you save money, you might actually enjoy it more. Cooking can be fun and more healthy for you since you know exactly what you are eating.
Create a food pantry in your home. A cheap laminate closet from Target or Walmart in the basement is perfect. When you supermarket is running a really good sale on dry goods or canned items, stock up on as much as you can afford. You'll certainly wind up using it at some point so why not take advantage of low prices while they are available.
There is no gilding the lily here. We are all spending too much. For many people, shopping is a form of entertainment. There is no way we are going to get our finances stabilized unless we learn to live within our means. That's the only truth of it. That means no more shopping for no reason. We all have to get used to buying only that which we really need. Nuff said.
I know I said I wasn't going to offer financial advice here. I'm going to make one exception. If you have equity in your home, which I know is not an easy question to answer these days, take out a home equity line of credit. It is just that by the way, a line of credit. If you never use it, you owe nothing on it. If, heaven forbid, the financial roof falls in though, you can use that line of credit as a stop-gap to get you through rough patches. With the economy looking so uncertain these days, it's not a bad idea to have a little something to fall back on if need be.
One of the surest ways to save some money is to do home repair and improvement projects yourself. You don't have to be all that handy to paint a room or lay down a laminate floor. If you are uncertain where to start, ask someone in a home improvement store for advice or buy a how to guide. One way or another, if you can reduce the cost of this sort of work to the cost of materials only, you will be astounded at the savings.
Last year, we had fun re-doing my son's bedroom. He is an avid Mets fan so we decided to do our own version of Extreme Makeover Home Edition while he was away in camp for a week. For less than $1000, we laid down a new laminate floor, painted the room in Mets blue and orange colors and put in a new bunk style bed with a desk where the lower bunk was. We also installed crown mouldings and a new ceiling fixture. It came out beautifully and for a fraction of what a contractor would have charged us.