15 Ways to Stretch a Dollar

15 ways to stretch a dollar

For the past 5 to 7 years the economy has been quite volatile. Everywhere you turned you saw a house with a foreclosure sign on it. The number of people claiming bankruptcy was rising quickly. And even though interest rates have been at an all time low and the price of many homes dropped to an all time low, many people were unable to afford them because they were either suddenly unemployed, or were simply finding it difficult to make ends meet.

If you’ve read the news recently you would get the impression that the economy is beginning to do better. Mortgage rates are starting to rise. Homes are selling for more money than they were last year at this time.  In fact in some cities purchasers are facing bidding wars again, which means they either pay more for the house that they want, or walk away.

Even though we are seeing signs of improvement, the sad reality is that people all over North America are still struggling with their finances. Some are working 3 or 4 jobs to make ends meet.

Others are still searching for a job to replace the one they lost 4 years ago. It is sad but true that many families are still finding it difficult to put food on the table and clothes on their back.

Maybe you never come in contact with these people, but they still exist. And they worry everyday about where their next dollar is going to come from, and how they will make it last.

Whether you are still really struggling with your finances or you feel like you are starting to recover nicely, here are some tips that will hopefully make it easier for you to make each dollar go further.

15 Ways to Stretch a Dollar

Swap Instead of Shop

Nowadays there are so many products that you can swap. You can swap clothes, toys, tools and books.

Ride Your Bike Instead of Driving

Are there days where you drive just for the sake of convenience? Could you walk or ride your bike instead? Not only would you save money, but you would stay healthy too.

Borrow a Book Instead of Buying

Even though this is said time and again, how many people actually do it? Instead of logging on to Amazon to buy that next book, head to the library. Or, ask a friend what they are reading and if it sounds interesting, ask if you can borrow the book when they are finished reading it.

Play Games at Home Instead of Going Out

Whether you have little kids at home, teens, or you just want to hang out with your buddies, setup a games night. If you have enough people, do mini tournaments to create a competitive, fun atmosphere.

Make Your Own Pizza Instead of Ordering In

When most people think of ordering in they think of pizza and Chinese food. While I love them both, dinner for just the 2 of us usually costs between $30 and $40. But for just a few dollars we can make a nice large pizza at home instead.

Use Your Cell Phone for Emergencies Only

If you are seriously looking for a way to stretch a dollar, give up your cell phone. Cell phones and all the fancy plans that come with them are costing you a fortune. And even though the cell phone companies lead you to believe that you have to have the latest and greatest one out there, you don’t.

Cell phones are not a necessity. In all honesty, all you may ever really need a cell phone for is if you have an emergency away from home. So in that case, get a cheap cell phone, with no extra features, and use a pay as you go plan.

Keep Your Vehicle Clean and Well Maintained

You can drive your vehicle for years with very few mechanical problems if you maintain it well. And by keeping it sparkling clean inside and out, you will never feel like you are driving an older car.

Plan Out Your Trips Before You Leave Home

Instead of driving around in circles everyday or going back and forth to the same place 3 times, plan out your days. Make a list of where you need to go. Head to the place that is farthest away first and then stop at the other places on the way back.

If at all possible, plan all your errands and appointments in the same day, so that you are not going out everyday, except to go to work. This will save you gas and I bet it will stop you from eating on the run too.

Always Shop With a List and Look For the Lowest Prices

If you live in the US, and you are not already shopping at Big Lots, then you need to find one and check it out. They have brand name grocery items and household and beauty items that are deeply discounted. They also have bedding and small kitchen appliances.

They sell toys at great prices, as well as Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations. And no, there stuff is not expired. It is all brand new stuff that you would find in any department store, or grocery store, but for a fraction of the price.

In Canada you can find the same amazing deals at Liquidation World.

Once you go you will wonder why you waited so long.

Buy Generic Prescriptions

Not everyone needs prescriptions, but if you do, and you need to pay cash for them, always ask the pharmacist if they have an equivalent generic brand.


Be Creative with Your Baking

When you really need to stretch a dollar one of the places that you can reduce your spending is on groceries. Do you have eggs, flour, salt, sugar and baking soda in your pantry? Make some muffins and serve them for breakfast or for snacks.

Bake your own bread. Make a double batch of Oatmeal cookies and freeze them. This way you will always have snacks on hand and there will be no reason to buy a cupcake or a muffin at the local coffee shop. For the price of that cupcake you can make an entire batch of cookies.

Spend a Day in the Park

Need a break from life but there’s no money to go on a vacation? Spend a day in a local park, walking around and enjoying the scenery. Sit on a bench and people watch. Pack a picnic. Enjoy the time away from your home and your job.

Learn How to Sew

Years ago people would sew their own new clothes and mend their clothes instead of shopping at the mall. Sewing can be tricky, but once you practice your skill level will rise and you may find that you enjoy sewing some clothes for your family.

In fact, it may become your favorite new hobby. You can also have fun sewing curtains and making decorative pillows for your family room. My husband sews and is quite good at it.

Make Your Own Gifts

Christmas is only a few months away. Instead of saying you can’t afford Christmas this year, look for ways to spend less. Keep it simple, but still enjoyable. Create a list of gifts that you can make at home, and as you see the things you need on sale, you can buy them now, and then get to work on making them in December.

Turn Off the Lights and The Water

Everytime we get our monthly utility bill at $320 a month (includes water, gas, electricity, and city garbage pickup) my husband keeps asking me why it is so high. Is it because I do laundry too often? Or maybe it is my 20 minute showers in the morning. I don’t know. But it sounds like it is up to me to find a way to use less water.

About 19 months ago we decided that we were sick and tired of struggling with our finances, so we slowly began following the above suggestions. I wouldn’t say that our finances are perfect, but doing these really does help us get through each month without worrying too much about money.

Over to You

Do you have a tip on how to stretch a dollar? Love to hear about it in the comments below.



    • DC @ Young Adult Money

      DC @ Young Adult Money 09/20/2013 5:30 a.m. #

      Great tips, Sicorra! I have some allergy issues so a big one for me is getting coupons for my allergy meds. It literally saves me probably $100-$200 a year. Multiply that by two for my wife and we save quite a bit!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 4:56 p.m. #

        That is so great that you are able to use coupons for your allergy medicines, and it sounds like it saves you quite a nice bit of money. I know medicines for anything can add up quickly.

    • FI Pilgrim

      FI Pilgrim 09/20/2013 6:06 a.m. #

      Something we've started doing this summer is making grilled pizza at home. It's delicious! Brick-oven taste with stay-at-home prices!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 4:57 p.m. #

        OMG - that sounds amazing! I can picture it now. Hopefully you will be able to do that all year round.

    • masnr9@gmail.com

      masnr9@gmail.com 09/20/2013 6:26 a.m. #

      These are all great ways to save money! Lately we have been doing more frugal activities. They are more fun and save a lot of money.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 4:58 p.m. #

        Cool that you found fun things to do for less money.

    • Maggie@SquarePennies

      Maggie@SquarePennies 09/20/2013 8:59 a.m. #

      Getting down to basics! I also like to find ways to save on energy to keep utility bills down. There are a lot of ways to do it and they pay off every month.

      Look for insulated drapes on sale--they pay off in the cold of winter and the heat of summer! Add insulation if needed. When buying new appliances look for ones that don't use much energy. And turn off those lights when no one is in a room!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 5:48 p.m. #

        Excellent points! I agree with get back to the basics. Our parents and grandparents did many of the above things if they needed to find ways to save money, and sometimes we have to as well.

        I love insulated drapes. So helpful in keeping the room either cool or warm, whichever you need.

    • Sally

      Sally 09/20/2013 9:27 a.m. #

      Good article, but some of these things are unrealistic. For example: Use your cell phone for emergencies Only? We live in the 21st Century nobody has home phones anymore and a cell phone is like a computer an essential tool nowadays. However, if your tight money wise, you can always get a contract free like Simple Mobile with unlimited calls, text, and internet for $40 and keep your iPhone... Plus who is going to sow their own clothes. The machine to do so it;s expensive, all the materials required and the time you put into it could be invested into making money! I'm sorry I just can't agree on all.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 5:52 p.m. #

        No worries, that you don't agree with all the points. One thing to keep in mind is that cell phone costs and home phone costs vary from one country to another, so for many people switching from a landline to a cell phone is still quite expensive. Plus if you are in a family situation and you do not have a home phone that means you have more than one cell phone, most likely, which adds up even quicker.

        Sewing isn't for everyone, but for those that can, it does work out well when it comes to saving money.

        Personally I would rather be able to put food on the table for the my family then be able to carry around a cell phone.

    • Donna

      Donna 09/20/2013 10:18 a.m. #

      I'm not very creative or crafty so the sewing and making my own gifts probably wouldn't work for me, but I can do all the others with the exception of riding a bike (just not a bike rider). :) In fact, I regularly do the other things listed. Great post, Sicorra!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 5:55 p.m. #

        I think many people are just like you Donna, in that they find the things that work best for them. It doesn't have to be everything on the list, as long as it works well for your budget.

        For example, I haven't ridden a bike in quite a while, but I am still able to save money on gas by only going out a few times a week.

    • krantcents

      krantcents 09/20/2013 5:46 p.m. #

      Great ideas! My favorite is taking your lunch to work. It can save $2-300 per month which is sizable when you think about how much you can earn if it is invested.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 5:57 p.m. #

        Taking your lunch to work is a great idea. Something I rarely did when I worked downtown and looking back, I did spend a ton of cash on cafeteria and food court meals.

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 09/20/2013 6:44 p.m. #

      Love this list Sicorra!

      I know Marisa would love to make her own pizza and even though the boys will say they're too old to do that they'll secretly want to :).

      I would love to learn how to sew and make my own clothes but I can't even sew a hem to save my life and girl I'm already going around turning off the lights, lol :).

      This is a creative list. There are some I would never have thought of like swapping clothes and making my own gifts. Thanks for putting it together!

      Hope you're having a great time tonight! Have a great weekend!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 6 p.m. #

        Thanks Corina!

        Swapping clothes is an interesting concept. About 10 years ago I had a bunch of ladies over for a dinner party and one of the gals had just stared organizing a ladies clothing swap. The ladies met one evening a month at someone's house. Everyone had to agree to bring at least 3 items and they had to be clean and in good condition. Then they would spend the night trying on clothes, having a fashion show of their own, and drinking wine. It sounded like alot of fun.

    • Kristin

      Kristin 09/20/2013 8:31 p.m. #

      Tonight I *did* make my own pizza instead of ordering in! :)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 6 p.m. #

        Sounds delicious!

    • corinne

      corinne 09/20/2013 9:02 p.m. #

      Love this! I recently started taking my kids to the library to save money on books, but also for the amazing variety! They love it. I also made gifts one Christmas and it was fun. My sewing skills are limited so I basically made all the females tote bags and makeup pouches filled with makeup.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 6:02 p.m. #

        If you were able to sew tote bags and makeup pouches I wouldn't call your sewing skills limited. Those sound beautiful, and I bet the gals that received them, loved them. So cool Corinne!!

    • Ellen M. Gregg

      Ellen M. Gregg 09/21/2013 9:19 a.m. #

      This is great, Sicorra! I'm "one of those people" who is struggling - still and again - to make ends meet after being laid off back in February (for the third time in five years). It's incredibly disheartening, but it also opens up opportunity for creativity. Sure, it's through necessity, but I believe I'm the better for it.
      I barter healing services for healing services. I trade Reiki (I'm a Reiki master) for massage. It's a major win-win, and I'm actively seeking more of it. Peace.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 6:04 p.m. #

        Ellen, I am sorry to hear that! I can relate to how challenging it is to deal with that.

        I love Reiki. I hope things change for the better in regard to your employment and that it all works out well for you.

    • Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Famiilies

      Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Famiilies 09/21/2013 12:08 p.m. #

      These are excellent ways to stretch your money. I have started learning how to coupon and get items for free or cheap.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 09/21/2013 6:05 p.m. #

        Getting items for free is always fun. I wish we had more opportunities to do that in Canada too.

    • IrishCarter

      IrishCarter 09/21/2013 10:21 p.m. #

      Great tips and I love that they a big variety where many readers can pick from them and find one that works for them. Although the sewing tip wouldn't work for me, I would love to get into the swapping and I try all the time to buy the generic meds when they are available. I also like going to the library and park not just for saving money but for spending quality time with my daughter. Very good post Sicorra = )


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