When I started reading personal finance blogs and resources, I'd see all of these snazzy articles and how-to's that put stars in everyone's eyes. How to make your own convenience foods! How to copy this great brand for pennies! How do save lots of money with no effort! How to reuse every single thing by learning these complicated craft skills!
The thing is, those things took a lot of work, and still played into a lot of what gets us into trouble. Instead of copying the trendy brands, it would serve us better in the long run to reject the manufactured need for specific brands and the latest, hottest thing. Instead of copying a certain convenience food, it would serve us better to learn some recipes that are easier to make and, let's face it, healthier for us (also, sometimes making our own convenience foods costs more in money and time in the long run). And while I'm all for learning to do new things, make crafts, and stretch the useful life of what you have, I'm also for starting with simple steps. Otherwise, people get overwhelmed.
So here are some dull and boring tips that will save you some money. It will not save you millions. But it will save you money. As a plus, it won't overwhelm you.
Use what you have on-hand to make your meals. Unless you're down to a jar of pimentos and flour, you can probably put something together. Sites like All Recipes are useful here; you can search according to ingredients and come up with dinner or lunch.
Wash your clothes in cold water. I get it--sometimes you have to wash things in hot water. If I get raw chicken juice on my apron, I'm going to sterilize that puppy. However, in most instances, it is just fine to wash your clothes in cold water. It will save you on your energy bill, and it will keep your clothes from shrinking and wearing.
Line dry your clothes. Boring, I know. But not only will it save you in energy costs, it will also prolong the life of your clothes--you won't lose fabric to the lint trap, and it won't pill or shrink or wear.
If you're cooking or doing something messy, either wear an apron or a smock or wear something you don't mind getting stained.
Have a set amount of your paycheck deposited into a savings account each pay period. Do I need to explain this?
If your employer offers a 401(k), participate in it, and if they offer a match, put in at least the amount needed to get the match. You're leaving money on the table, otherwise.
Pay your bills on time. You'll likely incur extra charges and a hit to your credit score otherwise.
Make sure you know how much is in your bank account--this includes not just what the bank says the balance is, but any outstanding checks you've written or online payments you've made that have not yet cleared. Bounced checks cost money. They are also embarrassing.
Keep your place as uncluttered as possible. Now, I know this can be a challenge (do I ever, as I should be crowned the queen of clutter) but it can help a lot. If there isn't a lot of stuff to dig through, you won't lose things like checks and bills and important papers. In fact, if you keep them in one place, you'll know where to find them and won't have a past-due bill (and extra charges), bounced checks, or other aggravations that can affect your financial well-being.
Don't take in a lot of stuff. I'm not talking about being a minimalist, I'm talking about exercising common sense. Just because it's free doesn't mean you should take it. If you don't need something, don't make room for it. If you need to know why, read the paragraph above.
Take care of what you have. Change the oil in your car when it's needed, keep it clean, and either do yourself or have a mechanic perform the routine maintenance. Make sure any small or large problems around your home are addressed and fixed. Make clothing repairs yourself or pay someone to do them--it's still cheaper to have a button replaced or a ragged hem fixed than to buy an entirely new pair of pants or new shirt. Taking care of things right away and maintaining what you own will prevent larger problems down the road.
Use cash. I know, I know. You can get cash back or points if you use your credit card! You can pay one bill at the end of the month! You pay your credit card bill in full! The thing is, people tend to spend more when they use plastic as opposed to cold, hard cash. So keep it simple and use cash if it's feasible.
Boring, yes. But simple. Not overwhelming. Eminently doable.