I was ten years old and we had a gigantic grapefruit tree in our backyard with an over-production problem that nearly drove my mother insane. She spent what felt like my entire childhood hunched over and cursing at the dozens of grapefruit that would litter a large area below it. Giant, yellow orbs everywhere — smashing her magnolias and dive bombing into the pool. That tree was the bane of her existence.
Then it dawned on me. If I want a Barbie Dream House and I need money to purchase a Barbie Dream House, why don’t I take advantage of this never-ending grapefruit harvest and sell them? And that’s exactly what I did. I piled them all into my bright red wagon and dragged my bounty to each of my neighbors, offering my wares for a quarter each. I quickly discovered that there was an underserved market of grapefruit lovers on my block, to whom my business on wheels catered. On my first outing, I made twenty dollars. And that was just the start of it.
Now, you may not have a fertile grapefruit tree within your reach, but if you’re like most people, you have stories like this — creative ways you thought up to make money in your youth. Well, who says the wacky ideas should stop just because you grow up?
Here are some creative ways to start saving money right now toward your next vacation, project or Barbie Dream House:
1. Have a contest with your spouse/friend/colleague to see who can spend the least amount of money in one week. It may sound simple, but entering a competition with a goal in mind can be seriously motivating. I once said no to buying a 1/2 price pair of pants at my all-time favorite clothing store because it would have put me over the edge on my spending limit.
2. Choose a month and name that month “Spendthrift September” or "No Money November” and then make a conscious decision to save money. One family I know turned a month into “Frugal February” and proceed to save hundreds of dollars by not eating out, not doing a load of laundry that didn’t consist of a true full load and abiding by their new motto: “No wants, only needs.” They saved hundreds of dollars.
3. De-clutter with a vengeance. Set aside one weekend and go through everything you own, asking yourself, “Is this useful, beautiful or precious to me?” If the answer is no, sell it in a yard sale, on eBay or Craigslist and then wallow in all the extra clean space you’ve created while counting the extra cash you have.
4. Make spare change your religion. You’re at the grocery store and you notice that you saved $12.96 on your bill, due to your membership discount card. Take that money and contribute it to your vacation fund. Don’t let a day go by without clearing your wallet out of any loose change. It adds up. Those change machines that turn your coins into cash aren’t sitting there for nothing.
5. Give up one thing. Choose one thing you splurge on daily or weekly and say goodbye to it for at least one month. Coffee drinks, frozen yogurt, extras at your favorite drugstore — say no and save. It adds up.
6. Recycle. Clean and save every little thing that is recyclable and then take what you’re accumulated to the recycling centers that are in nearly every parking lot of every grocery store.
7. Write down everything you spend for one week and then try to beat that the next week. Keep a small notepad with you and write down each and every cent you spend and on what. Total that up at the end of the week and then tell yourself you’re going to come in under that amount by twenty-five or fifty dollars the next week. Is there anything on your list of spending you notice you didn’t need but only wanted? Get rid of it!
8. Keep your eye on the prize. If it’s a vacation you’re saving for, keep photos on the bathroom mirror or the fridge where you can see them. Remind yourself that each sacrifice you make and each penny you save gets you closer to that gorgeous white sand beach.
9. Cook strategically. Plan out meals at the beginning of the week so that each meal will last two nights. Making pasta? This doesn’t have to turn into leftover doldrums. Add a different veggie alongside your pasta dish and vary that veggie each night. But stretch every meal so that you’re only really cooking 3-4 meals a week.
10. Forego any and all extras. My brother-in-law, the king of savings, allots himself and my sister a certain amount of money that they start with at the beginning of the week. That’s it. If either one of them is tempted to buy something they can’t afford because their allotted amount is running too low or is gone, it’s a forced boundary for them. And it works!