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What Cutback Has Saved You the Most Money and Changed Your Life Least?

Readers share smart cutbacks and penny-pinching ideas that don't feel like sacrifices.

Illustration of woman holding up gigantic purseChristopher Silas Neal


I used to buy a cup of tea almost every day, at $2 a pop (or $4 if I sprang for a chai latte). When money got tight, I started brewing my own tea every morning. It saves me a bundle.

Sadye Vogel

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In 2009, when my husband and I found out I was pregnant with triplets, we knew we had to pare down our expenses. Switching from name brands to generics for baby products, such as diapers and formula, has helped a lot, and I haven’t noticed any difference in quality.

Jennifer Dovidio Valentine

Wheaton, Illinois

About four months ago, I started making my lunch at home instead of buying it on my work break. That was the easy part. Not forgetting the bag at home has been the real challenge. For the first few weeks, I had to leave my keys in the refrigerator to help me remember. But now I’m a pro at preparing a delicious to-go meal and bringing it with me.

Maggie Melin

Minneapolis, Minnesota

We stopped buying wrapping paper, since it always ends up in the trash. Now we cover presents in whatever paper we need to get rid of anyway—like department-store bags and advertisements from the Sunday newspaper. The gifts look cute and cost us— and the environment—less.

Lindsay Meeker O’Connor

Columbus, Ohio

Professional manicures are a luxury that I used to indulge in every 10 days. Now I get them only on special occasions. The rest of the time, I paint my own nails—which is no hardship, since I get to keep the polish when I’m done!

Natasha Huang

New York, New York

Since rice, beans, and locally produced eggs and dairy products can meet my nutritional needs, I’ve stopped eating meat regularly. I have been pleasantly surprised by how little I miss it—and how much more cheaply (and sustainably) I can live my life without it.

Michael Jenkins

Wilmington, North Carolina

A while ago, I was out of dryer sheets but needed to do some laundry, so I went ahead and dried a load without them. To my surprise, the clothing came out just as soft and fresh as it always does. I haven’t used dryer sheets since.

Pam Carter

Takoma Park, Maryland


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