With rising inflation and stagnant wages, being frugal with your spending is a good idea. But you can go a step further: By learning some valuable life skills and DIY-ing more activities, you can save money.
Mastering skills like cooking, cleaning, riding a bike, and doing your own taxes mean you don’t have to pay professionals for expensive services. While it can be time-consuming, harnessing new skills can make you more independent, help you keep more of your money, and maybe even inspire a few new hobbies.
In this article, we’ll take a look at 20 basic money-saving skills that almost everyone can learn. They can be fun to dig into, build confidence, and free up funds to put towards your financial goals.
How Life Skills Are Essential to Your Financial Freedom
Life is built on financial transactions. We pay for food at the restaurant, spend money on a haircut, reach deep into our wallets at the gas station, and shell out for repairs when something in our home breaks.
While we can’t possibly learn enough life skills to replace all these transactions, it is possible to take up a few new savings skills, like cooking, painting, and sewing, so that you can hoard a little more money each month.
That little bit of money adds up — honing several life skills can be an important step toward your financial freedom. The money you save can go towards your emergency fund, paying down student loan debt faster, or gathering the down payment on a house.
20 Life Skills That Can Help You Save Money
So which life skills are worth learning? We’ve rounded up 20 of the top money-saving skills that, when mastered, can help you avoid spending your cash on basic goods and services. They’ll help put you on the path to becoming financially disciplined.
Eating out now and then is perfectly fine — a well-deserved reward after a long week at the office or a celebratory dinner for a major milestone. But eating out for lunch or dinner every day can be unhealthy (those portion sizes!) and can get quite expensive. Learning the basics of cooking can keep you out of the pricey restaurants and in your own kitchen instead.
Cooking can require an investment in the proper cookware and staple ingredients, but overall is bound to be cheaper than getting food to go or at an eatery. Just think about the price difference between avocado toast whipped up in your kitchen and what you’d pay at a cute cafe. Search for recipes online, and follow tips to save money on food before you head out to the grocery.
Ready to pick up a paintbrush and unlock another savings skill? According to HomeAdvisor, homeowners spend more than $3,000 on average to paint the exterior of their home, and renters and homeowners alike might pay painters even more to paint the interior. The current rate typically runs from $2 to $6 per square foot.
While painting the exterior of your home can be a little more challenging, painting the interior is not complicated at all. If you are willing to take the time to learn, you can save yourself thousands of dollars every time you want to change up the inside of your living space.
Yes, professional landscapers can weave a certain kind of magic. But doing your own gardening can be a tremendously satisfying and creative pursuit, not to mention that it can save you a lot of moolah. Spending time learning the basics about what zone you live in and which plants will thrive, plus wandering around nurseries and garden centers, can provide plenty of inspiration.
You can grow fresh produce for the small price of starter seeds and the occasional watering, which means less money spent at the grocery store.
What’s more, when selling your house, landscaping is an important part of curb appeal. A well-cared-for garden might attract potential buyers and help your home sell more quickly.
Recommended: How Much Should I Spend on Groceries a Month?
Plumbing emergencies like a flooded basement or a broken water heater are probably still better left to a licensed contractor, but teaching yourself to be handy with a wrench and a screwdriver might save you on smaller problems, like a leaky faucet or a running toilet.
This money-saving skill can serve you well over the years. Calling a plumber for every small problem that your house encounters over the years can add up. In fact, most plumbers charge $45 to $200 an hour and may charge a flat rate of $350 just for a service call.
Beyond plumbing, you can teach yourself basic electrical and carpentry skills so that you can tackle some easy home improvement projects for beginners.
Knowing how to make a budget — and sticking to it — is a crucial life skill. When you are able to analyze your monthly expenses against your monthly income in an easy-to-read format, you can quickly discover which spending habits you need to scale back. Many people like the 50/30/20 rule, which spells out that you should spend 50% of your after-tax income on needs, 30% should be put towards wants, and 20% should go into savings.
And you don’t even need to pay for fancy budgeting software. Many online banking platforms make it easy to see all of your transactions in one place, and you can use a simple spreadsheet to design a budget that works for you.
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Not every price is negotiable, but when it is, it’s important to know how to haggle with confidence. While you might immediately think of haggling at a used car lot (and that’s a great place to do it), you can also haggle over things like your monthly cell phone bill, your rent, and even credit card interest rates. Politely asking, “Is there any flexibility on the price?” may yield a surprising positive response.
Even if you’re only successful in lowering one expense, that’s money in your wallet that you wouldn’t otherwise have had.
Recommended: How to Negotiate Medical Bills
You might not ever create your own clothes from scratch (though you certainly can!), but knowing how to sew can come in handy when you get a rip in your favorite shirt or a parka’s zipper starts to detach. Instead of throwing out clothes with holes or lost buttons, sew them back together. Mending the torn back pocket on your favorite jeans, for instance, and you’ll save yourself from dropping $50 or much more on a new pair.
8. Cutting Your Family’s Hair
Haircuts at chain salons are certainly not cheap, often ranging from $30 to $70+, but boutique salons are even more expensive. Learning to cut your family’s hair (or your own, if you’re brave) can cut out one monthly expense. Check out the tutorials on YouTube and other video platforms and see if you can’t hone your skills.
While the stock market may not be performing wonderfully right at this moment, the average stock market return over the last 10 years has been nearly 15%. And though you can certainly pay a traditional broker to manage your portfolio, it’s totally possible to do it yourself.
In fact, there are many platforms for investing to choose among, some of which enable automated investing, and fractional shares. Plus, you can build your financial know-how by reading blogs and books on investing, as well as listening to podcasts or taking an online class to sharpen your skills.
10. Changing Your Car’s Oil
According to KBB, the average oil change costs from $65 to $125 (for synthetic oil), but the actual cost of the synthetic oil and filter replacement is just $45. Being able to change your car’s oil by yourself (typically twice a year, depending on how much you drive) can mean you pocket an extra $20 to $80 every time. It’s a great life skill to learn and then stash the cash you save, year after year.
11. Cutting Firewood
If you have ample trees in your yard — or a generous neighbor has just taken down a tree and doesn’t mind sharing the spoils — you can chop the wood yourself for an outdoor firepit or your fireplace. If your home has a fireplace, you can use that wood to heat a single room while leaving the heater setting lower in the rest of your home, cutting down on your utility bill.
12. Doing Your Own Taxes
If you have a complicated tax situation, an accountant might be a good investment, especially if they can help you maximize your credits and tax deductions even if you’re a student. However, if you have a straightforward income and financial situation, it might be beneficial to skip the accountant fees and file by yourself.
Check out the IRS Free File hub to find programs that will help you do it all by yourself.
The time-honored tradition of bartering, or trading goods and services, can help you lower your expenses. Let’s say there’s a spinning class you love that’s beyond your budget. Could you offer to swap your digital savvy (say, filming videos and posting on social media for the studio) in exchange for no-cost sessions? Think creatively about the skills you have and how you might use them to get some freebies. It never hurts to ask about such arrangements, and it could help.
14. Roasting Your Own Coffee
Buying a latte at a coffee shop every morning may be convenient (and relaxing), but it also gets expensive. If you spend $5 every day on a cup of coffee, that’s more than $1,800 a year. Instead, learn how to save on coffee expenses. Brew coffee at home — and better yet, learn how to grind and roast your own coffee beans for maximum savings. You’ll find that whole beans are typically less pricey than pre-ground ones at the supermarket.
Going to the bakery when you said you’d bring a dessert to your family’s holiday get-together may be convenient, but buying fresh cakes and cookies can get expensive. Baking can be a little more challenging than cooking, but it’s certainly a great way to save money. And it can be a wonderful creative pursuit and a new pastime. Need inspiration? Just watch any of the addictive shows on TV, like The Great British Baking Show.
Upcycling is a buzzword for reusing an item instead of buying something totally new. For example, you might use reclaimed wood or an old door to make a desk or table, turn a sweater with torn elbows into a vest, or use old towels as cleaning rags for a while before tossing them. Upcycling can help you save on common expenses, and it’s great for the environment; less goes into the trash.
Most people probably don’t like to clean, but it’s a big part of being an adult. Whether it’s scrubbing the bathroom, vacuuming the rug, or wiping down kitchen counters, these are chores that just need to be done.
It might be tempting to pay for a cleaning service, but doing so is expensive. Cleaning professionals typically charge $30 to $50 per hour — or more than $600 for a large home over 3,000 square feet.
Don’t give into that temptation to farm it out. Grab a rag (or an upcycled towel), a bottle of cleaning solution, and a monthly house maintenance checklist. You’ve got this!
18. Riding a Bike
Gas is expensive (and you probably know its impact on the environment). While you probably can’t bike everywhere you need to go, each trip on a bike you make — to work, to school, or just to a friend’s house — means you won’t be spending money on gas or bus fare.
Hanging out with friends at your favorite bar is nice, but a fun night out adds up quickly when you do it every weekend. Instead, host your next friend or family gathering at your own home. Stock some wine, cold beer, and snacks, and you’re good to go. (You can be next-level and make a pitcher of a signature cocktail; it’s a fun way to build your mixology skills.)
Or switch things over to a morning meet-up with a pot of coffee and some home-made muffins. You’re likely to save big.
20. Doing It Yourself
Our final life skill ties all the rest together: Do things yourself instead of paying someone else to do them. If you don’t know how to do something, research online or find someone who does and learn. Once you’ve mastered the skill, share your knowledge with others.
Whether mowing your lawn, washing windows, or doing yoga or Pilates at home, you can really open up room in your budget when you DIY.
Banking With SoFi
Honing these valuable money-saving skills is a great way to establish financial freedom, and having a quality bank account will elevate your efforts. A SoFi bank account can do just that: It allows you to spend and save in one convenient place. When you open one with direct deposit, you’ll earn a terrific APY and pay no fees, both of which can help your money grow faster.
Is saving money a life skill?
Saving money is an important life skill. By learning to do various tasks yourself around the house and in your daily life, you can avoid paying for a lot of expensive goods and services. Also, being a smart consumer and comparison-shopping will help you save money. This is especially important when making a big purchase; look around for the best price, coupons, and other discounts.
How do I find the time to develop these life skills?
Most of these life skills can fit into your regular day. If you normally spend a couple of hours going out to dinner, you can instead spend that time finding a recipe and trying to cook it at home. You may also find that some of these tasks (cooking, gardening) become hobbies in which you happily invest time.
What is the most valuable life skill?
Learning to do things yourself, from cooking to filing taxes to changing your car’s oil, can be the most valuable life skill. This can give you confidence, know-how, and self-reliance, plus it requires you to be curious and willing to educate yourself, all of which are important traits.
Photo credit: iStock/blackCAT
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