20 Unique Ways to Save Money

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Scrimping and saving

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It seems like everyone is counting pennies these days, but saving money doesn't have to be all about cutting back and using coupons. Here are some creative ways you can spend a little less and save a lot more.

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Get sponsored

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"This wedding was brought to you by McDonald's" may sound tacky, but believe it or not, there are couples who get corporate sponsors for their weddings. In 2006, Dave Kerpen and Carrie Fisher realized they couldn't afford the big wedding they wanted, so they used their marketing savvy to procure the venue (a baseball stadium), the flowers (courtesy of 1-800-Flowers) and everything else — for free. They got 25 different sponsors and put together a $100,000 dream wedding that didn't cost them a penny.

With the average U.S. wedding costing nearly $34,000 in 2017, according to The Knot, it might be worth sticking a few logos on the back of the groomsmen's tuxes. Plus, #SponCon is all the rage with celebrities, so you might as well get in on the craze now.

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Get permanent makeup

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Hold on to your lipstick! The average woman spends $15,000 on beauty products in her lifetime. You could always give up the concealer and eye shadow and opt for the natural look, but if you're one of those people whose eyeliner would have to be pried from her cold dead fingers, there's another option: permanent makeup.

This cosmetic technique involves the permanent pigmentation of the skin, or tattoos, to produce the results of makeup on the face, lips and eyelids. These procedures cost $200 to $800 depending on the clinic, so you could conceivably save a lot of money by getting your makeup tattooed onto your face. However, as with any tattoo, you run the risk of allergic reaction and infection. But if you're certain you'll always want those bright red lips, then maybe it's time to ditch the tube and embrace the needle.

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Graduate sooner

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By taking heavier course loads or attending school year-round, many students are graduating from college in three years, saving them thousands of dollars. Students may have to shell out more for additional courses, but they're saving a year of university fees and room and board costs — not to mention avoiding potential tuition hikes. Many universities are even offering special three-year college programs for driven students, which allows them to save sizable chunks of change.

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Paint your roof

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More than one-sixth of all electricity consumed in the U.S. is for air conditioning, but you can reduce that percentage — and save money and help cool the planet — simply by painting your roof. Households that opt for a white roof could reduce their residential air conditioning bills by 20 percent, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Heat Island Group. Plus, many states offer rebates and other financial incentives for people who install cool roof coatings. Check out this guide from the Department of Energy for available cool roof options.

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Forage

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Foraging isn't just frugal these days, it's also fashionable. Regardless of whether you live in an urban or rural setting, there's plenty of wild plants, fruits and mushrooms out there that are yours for the taking. So grab a pocketknife, baggies and — most importantly — a guide to edible plants and read our tips for first-time foragers.

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Go vegetarian

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In a world of 50-cent tacos and $1 burgers, you might suspect that a vegetarian diet is more expensive than one that includes meat, but that couldn't be further from the truth. While we can't compute the savings of diseases avoided by eating a meat-free diet, the financial benefits of good health are undeniable. Plant-based diets reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Plus, going veg reduces water usage and greenhouse gases — and the animals appreciate it, too. In addition to the health savings, the staples of a vegetarian diet — fruits, vegetables, beans, soy and rice — are less expensive than even the cheapest cuts of meat.

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Reuse pet fur

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If you own a cat or dog, the odds are good that your clothes, floors and furniture are covered in fur. But instead of seeing that fur as a nuisance, why not see it as a soft blanket, a warm sweater or even a business opportunity? It may seem odd, but there are plenty of people out there knitting dog-hair afghans and making cat-fur handbags. If you're an experienced knitter, there are books like "Knitting With Dog Hair," or you could always collect your pet's hair and mail it to a company that will spin the yarn and knit the garment for you.

Curious as to what a cat-hair handbag looks like? See how Danielle German of Catty Shack Creations goes from Persian to purse.

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Have a fashion swap

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Want new clothes or accessories but don't have the extra cash to buy them? The odds are good you know plenty of people in the same boat. Organize a swap meet with a group of friends and have everyone bring their tired fashions, unworn clothes and old jewelry, and then swap, trade or barter to your heart's desire. You'll acquire some new-to-you items and it won't cost you a cent.

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Downsize your home

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A growing number of Americans are moving into tiny homes to save money and simplify their lives. Some of the houses are small enough to to fit into the average living room, and they're a surefire way to spend less. For example, the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company designs and builds small quality homes that can be hooked up to public utilities for a fraction of the price of buying a full-sized home. The houses start at $50,000 if you design your own base don their templates.

How do you make the most out of an 80-square-foot home? Louis Burns of Austin Tiny House tells you how.

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Shop in a hurry

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You're already eating at home instead of going out to restaurants, and you're already making a shopping list and trying to stick with it, but you could probably do better. The average American spends around 6 percent of his or her income on groceries, and grocery stores are doing everything they can to get more of your money — after all, it's a $400 billion business. One trick you can use to make sure you follow your list and stay on budget is to shop when you’re in a hurry. Have only 30 minutes before you have to pick up the kids or get your hair cut? Grab your stopwatch. Ready, set, shop!

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Flush less

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We've all heard the saying, “If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down," but can limiting your flushes really save you money? It sure can, and it conserves water — but how much water and money you save really depends on how stingy you are with the flushes.

Let's do the math: The average person urinates five times a day, which is about 8 gallons flushed, which rounds out 1,825 flushes a year. That equals 2,920 gallons per year to dispose of just 171 gallons of urine. The average person defecates about once per day, and if that were the only occasion you flushed, it would equal 876 gallons of water, saving a considerable amount of water and money a month and year.

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Cut your hair

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Water, shampoo, conditioner and the energy your hairdryer uses all cost money — not to mention all those pricey gels and sprays. How do you spend less on these things? You have less hair. A shaved head isn't a look everyone can pull off, but plenty can. If you have at least a 10-inch ponytail, you can do a good thing and donate that hair to organizations like Locks of Love or Wigs for Kids.

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Use the freezer

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You may already be freezing leftovers to reheat, but the freezer isn't just for frozen food when you're being frugal. What else can you stick in there among the ice cubes?

Candles : Wax candles burn longer when they're frozen. This is especially good for taper candles, which tend to burn quickly.

Batteries: While freezing alkaline batteries extends their life by only 5 percent, storing nickel-metal hydride batteries in there can boost their life by 90 percent.

Seeds: There's a reason why the Doomsday Vault is located in an icy mountain — many seeds keep longer and germinate better when frozen.

Pantyhose: It may be strange to pull part of your outfit from the freezer, but hosiery is less likely to run when it's stored there.

Other food: In addition to popsicles and frozen pizza, you can also extend the shelf life of popcorn, spices and coffee when you keep them in the freezer.

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Don't buy stamps or envelopes

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In today's digital age, writing letters and mailing checks is quickly becoming a thing of the past. While sending Christmas cards has an understandable personal touch that e-cards don't, there's really no reason to still be mailing a personal check to the power company each month. If you're still writing checks and licking envelopes, it's time to go paperless. Not only will you save money and trips to the post office, you'll also be doing something good for the planet. Plus, postage rates are constantly increasing.

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Potty train your cat

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It may sound — and look — a little ridiculous, but training your cat to use the toilet instead of a litter box can save you a lot of money. The average cost of litter for one cat is as high as $150 annually, according to PetCoach, and with the average lifespan of a domestic cat being 15 years, you're looking at a total litter expenditure of about $2,250.

Teaching your cat to use the toilet is a fairly simple process, and the cost of a kit is around $30. The only downside is that you can't teach a cat to flush.

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Make (almost) everything

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You can find almost anything on a store shelf these days, but when you go green and make things yourself, you can actually save a lot of green. Here are just a few things you can DIY:

Food: You can grow your own fruits and vegetables or start making your own peanut butter, spaghetti sauce and many other foods from scratch.

Beer and wine: Alcohol can be expensive, but you can make your own, and it's a fun pastime!

Cosmetics: When you make your own lotions, perfumes and soaps, you're not only saving money, you're also avoiding all the chemicals found in most store-bought brands.

Cleaning supplies: You probably have numerous bottles of cleaning agents stored under your sink, but with just a few simple ingredients you can DIY and declutter.

Toys and gifts: Sometimes the simplest toys are the ones that entertain children for hours, and personal homemade gifts are often more appreciated than generic store-bought ones.

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Use professionals in training

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Whether you need a haircut, a massage or a cavity filled, the odds are good you can find a student in training who can provide the service for a fraction of the cost that a professional would. Check out local cosmetology schools, dental schools, massage schools or any other service and ask if they offer discounted rates. You'll save money and the students will get some experience under their belts — you both win. But remember: You get what you pay for.

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Take a Navy shower

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You may already be cutting back on showers or limiting the time you spend singing tunes under the steamy water, but there's another, even less luxurious way to conserve: the Navy shower. Invented by the Navy to save precious water rations, this showering technique uses just 11 gallons of water instead of the 60 gallons a typical shower requires.

Here's how to shower like a seaman: Turn the water on just long enough to get wet and then turn it off. Then soap up and don't turn the water back on until you're ready to rinse.

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Barter, swap and glean

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If you enjoyed your swap meet, you're going to love all the swapping opportunities the web offers. Check out these sites and swap away: Better World Books, Paper Back Swap and ThredUP.

Want free stuff without having to give anything in return? Check out the "free" section of your local Craigslist page or head over to Freecycle, a grassroots movement of people who are giving away free stuff. There may even be groups in your area who barter for goods and services, or check craigslist for bartering opportunities.

Gleaning can mean asking local farmers if you can pick the food that’s left behind in their fields, taking fruit off your neighbor’s tree or, in the case of the Freegans, Dumpster diving and finding usable food that grocery stores have thrown out. If you’re going to give any of these a try, we recommend asking permission first — and remember that you’re eating at your own risk.

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Unplug (virtually) everything

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Even when you're not watching TV or charging your cell phone, your TV set, phone charger and all the appliances that remain plugged in are still using energy — and it's costing your money. It's called standby electricity loss, and research by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that it accounts for about 5 percent of all residential electricity use, which means we may be spending as much as $7 billion a year on residential standby power alone.

Want to estimate how much standby power you're using when you leave the coffee maker plugged in or your screen saver on? This standby power chart provides tables of the minimum, average and maximum power used by appliances.