Money doesn’t grow on trees. You’ve heard that from your parents time and again. It’s their way of helping you understand the value of a dollar and encouraging financial savviness. As we get older and earn our own money, however, we sometimes push aside this nugget of truth and start doing silly things with our money — namely, throwing it at our problems to make them go away.
The idea of using money to solve a problem isn’t new. But considering that money is hard to come by, this approach can negatively impact your bottom line. Instead of trying to fix these everyday problems with your wallet, we have some other creative (and free) solutions.
1. Clothing stains
It doesn’t matter how careful you are, stains happen. Ink from a ballpoint pen can mysteriously appear on your favorite pants, and somehow that drop of spaghetti sauce always lands on your crisp white shirt. Or, if you live in my house, you constantly leave your lip balm in your pocket on laundry day and the oil spot-saturates only the clothes you’ve recently purchased. God, give me strength.
Some people make a mad dash to the nearest dry cleaners to remedy stubborn clothing stains, but there are plenty of items lying around the house capable of lifting these stains.
For a ballpoint pen stain, dab a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto the stain. Allow the alcohol to soak into the fabric for about 10 minutes, and then blot the stain with a damp cloth. Repeat the process as needed until the stain is gone. If you have oil or grease stains on your clothes, apply a small amount of dish soap directly to the stain. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and then rinse. Works like a charm. Repeat steps as necessary.
Who hasn’t been guilty of trying to cure boredom with money? Pulling out your wallet can open the door to a variety of entertainment and recreational options. But if you get into the habit of relying on money whenever you’re unoccupied, you run the risk of ending up broke and perhaps in debt.
You don’t have to sit home and stare at the walls, of course. Rather, get creative and think of ways to occupy your time for free. Invite a few friends over and pull out the board games. Or research local events and find free museums, concerts, or outdoor festivals. There’s an abundance of no-cost activities available if you look for them. (See also: 50 Fun, Free Ways to Have a Great Time With Friends)
3. Your morning pick-me-up
If you’re addicted to barista-made venti lattes, your bank account is probably suffering.
While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional coffee run, this habit can add up to nearly $100 a month if you’re buying pricey joe. You don’t have to give up your favorite morning beverage though. Purchase a package of your favorite grounds and brew your own coffee at home. You’ll save money and time.
If you’re side-eyeing this tactic right now, take your cue from Shark Tank‘s Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, who recently divulged that he never buys java on the go. Instead, he helps himself in his own kitchen for about 18 cents a cup and invests the rest of the money he would have spent on coffee elsewhere. It’s one little way this rich guy stays rich. (See also: Here’s How Rich You’d Be if You Stopped Drinking Expensive Coffee)
Eating out is a convenience that’s often easier than cooking, but staying in and preparing your own meals can result in serious savings, especially when you consider that the average household spends about $3,000 a year dining out. That’s a lot of chicken fingers and fries, you guys.
Rather than hit the drive-thru on the way home or order delivery whenever hunger strikes, keep easy-to-prepare meals stocked in your refrigerator. And if you think you don’t have enough food in the kitchen to prepare a meal, use a recipe search engine and search recipes based on the ingredients you already have. This will also help with letting expensive groceries go to waste because you’re not using them before they go bad. (See also: How to Stop the Takeout Meal Cycle and Save)
5. Being out of shape
Some gyms offer a wide selection of workout equipment, swimming pools, and fitness classes, and these amenities are understandably appealing. But you don’t need to sign a contract and spend money every month to lose weight or get into shape. You can walk, jog, bike, or play in the backyard with your kids for free. Squeeze in a few minutes of activity by turning on some music and dancing around the house, or browse the selection of free workout videos on YouTube.
I also recommend using the step counter on your smartphone to help you monitor your activity. Shoot for 10,000 steps a day — a fairly easy goal to attain if you’re moderately active. (See also: 6 Apps That Pay You to Workout)
6. Lack of quality time with your partner
Between work, kids, and the million other things you have to do on a daily basis, sneaking in a few minutes of alone time with your significant other can be challenging. While it’s tempting to hire a baby sitter if you need a night off together, chances are, you have at least one friend or relative who owes you a favor. Ask them to watch your kids for the night. As a token of your appreciation, return the favor later on (and maybe gift them a nice bottle of wine from your stash if your kids are … on the energetic side).
7. Ants in the kitchen
These pesky intruders are masters at getting cozy in our kitchens. Even if you’re a clean person, a scout or forager ant may stumble upon the tiniest crumb and call in the troops. Instead of spending money on an exterminator, use vinegar to deter ants.
When an ant finds a food source in your house, it leaves a scent trail for other ants to follow. Fortunately, a mixture of one part vinegar and one part water stops ants in their path. Vinegar disrupts their scent trail, making it nearly impossible for them to find their way to the food source. Wipe down countertops and window sills with the vinegar and water mixture, and spray the mixture along any ant trails you find in or outside your home. (See also: 8 Ways to Eliminate Ants Without an Exterminator)
8. Computer glitches
A computer can be your best friend — or your worst enemy when it isn’t working properly. A computer technician can get a desktop or laptop working again, but since some technicians charge as much as $40 to diagnose a problem (not including the cost to fix an issue), learning how to solve computer glitches yourself can save money.
Before looking up a computer technician, search for troubleshooting help online. Your search results will likely produce forums with people discussing the same problem. This is an excellent place to find tips and detailed instructions for fixing many computer glitches yourself. You can potentially get your computer up and running without spending a dime.