10 Easy to Learn Skills That Will Save You Money


That Double Mocha Coconut Latte Colossus sprinkled with chocolate — and you don't think you can make this at home yourself? And save yourself a few bucks in the process?

Probably you can, but let's start with something that doesn't require an espresso machine. Here are some skills you can learn quickly that will help you save some big bucks in the long run.

1. Change Your Car's Oil

Cars have become increasingly complicated in the past 20 years. What's under the hood now resembles a small nuclear power plant. But changing the oil has not changed one iota. Usually the lowest component of the engine has a threaded plug you remove to let the oil out. You need a pan to catch the oil and a cheap specialty wrench to remove the oil filter. Refilling takes knowing the car's oil capacity and the ability to pour liquid into a funnel. That costs $15 to $40 around most of the country and takes less than a half hour. Three or more oil changes a year times 10 years, you save up to $1,200 in a decade at the cost of 15 hours of work.

2. Sew a Button

Button-down shirts cost $30 to $100 and up. Pants cost roughly the same. To sew a button and save an unnecessary throw-away, you need to learn how to thread a needle, tie a knot in the thread, and stick the needle through cloth. A button might take a total klutz 15 minutes or so, and it's a skill that almost teaches itself. If all else fails, trial and error costs nothing more than a little thread, 15 minutes and a few of those small, round bandaids. Piece of cake.

3. Give a Haircut

What does a trip to the hair stylist cost these days? Scissors, some forgiveness, practice or even just knowing how to change the depth setting on some electric clippers, and you can pretty much cut your hair yourself. (Just watch the ears, please.) That will save you an average of $25 per trim or $75 to $100 per year.

4. Make a Sandwich (Or Learn to Cook)

Americans spend an average of $936 per year or $18 per week on lunches bought in restaurants, a survey released in September 2013 by Visa said. So imagine what you could save just learning how to make one new interesting sandwich that would prompt you to cut that expenditure in half? Need some ideas? How about a different sandwich every day?

In addition, a consumer survey by AlixPartners, released in March said that 57% of American eat dinner in restaurants once a week, spending an average of $13.55 per meal or $704.60 per year. It's not free to eat at home, but you could still save plenty if you do. (See also: Cooking for Beginners)

5. Dog Grooming

You pay what to have someone shampoo your dog and give it a fluffy brushing? Anyone with bored kids at home and a dog that needs a bath is blowing an opportunity and money, too, by taking the dog to the mall to see a canine stylist. (And while we're on the subject, learning to clean a dog's teeth is not beyond the realm of possibilities, either.)

6. Read a Contract

True story: When I bought a house, I went to a seminar on "How To Buy A House," at a local bank and for a half an hour listened to a realtor tell the audience that it was seven steps past impossible to think about buying a home without a realtor. What do they do that is that hard? First, they are more impartial than the buyer or the seller, so they are useful as cool, calm, and collected brokers, but beyond that, here is their biggest skill: They know how to read. Well, it turns out the contract was in English, go figure, and I saved $6,000 by reading it myself, showing, in the end, one small paragraph that I didn't understand to a lawyer, and he gave me some advice on that, for free, because he was a friend and he owed me one.

7. Learn a Little Plumbing

Open the back of a toilet and a wondrous world of simple tinkering awaits you. Most of them have those float-arm things or one of those trip lever things — it really isn't rocket science to figure this out. Fixing a toilet is kind of like playing the game "Mousetrap," but partly submerged in water. Meanwhile, your local hardware store sells a trip lever for under $12, while "I've never seen a plumber under $80 per hour," a response on Yahoo! Answers says.

The situation gets more absurd when you call a plumber to fix a leaky sink, which requires replacing a rubber gasket that used to cost pennies. Yes, you usually need one of those wrenchy-thingies, but that doesn't sound too difficult to operate. (See also: Easy Plumbing Repairs That Don't Require a Plumber)

8. Design a Website

A plausible online story says that a small business in New York gave three Web development companies the same set of criteria and came up with bids of $2,800, $5,500 and $13,000 from the companies to do the work. And the same work can be done for free with one of the simpler web design programs, like PageBreeze, KompoZer, WordPress, and the like. Yes, not long ago it took a pro to code a website together, but nowadays if you can use Microsoft Office it is likely you can learn to create a website.

9. Negotiate

"How to negotiate" tapes and tutorials are easy to find and the outcome may be securing a bigger raise then you might have otherwise gotten or getting a better starting salary. Negotiating well can also save you hundreds of dollars on your next car and thousands of dollars on your next house. Some people have fair luck negotiating lower fees from doctors or for services around the house. When you learn a specific approach to negotiating, you might also try to negotiate in situations you might not have done so in the past, because you have a system that could boost your confidence. (See also: How to Negotiate With Confidence)

10. Tax Preparation

The National Society of Accountants did a survey in 2013 and found the average cost for tax preparation was just under $200 and the average return for taxpayers was about $260. Do you see the problem here? Of course, complicated business taxes are generally best handled by professionals, but it is possible to learn how to fill out your income tax return if it fairly straight forward, rather than giving most of your return to the a tax service — especially when there is so much help online for getting it done yourself.

Any easy to learn, money saving skills I've overlooked? Please share in comments — it's easy!

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Guest's picture

I used to change my own oil. Now I always get deals for about $30 for 3 oil changes plus other auto services. Why pay more and do it yourself when you can pay less and do something else while someone else does the work?

Guest's picture

I had my boyfriend "teach" me to change my own oil. Of course he still crawls under the car to remove and install new filter while I just pour the new oil in from the top, lol. He does plumbing, electrical and carpentry jobs. And I showed him last repair job on the bathroom sink that this lady can solder, oh yes! I can shoot a rifle and a pistol, my Dad taught me, thank you Dad :)
We cook together rather than going out to eat junk and he cuts my hair for me. The above photo is for dramatics no doubt. My guy would take the shears from my hands, have me caped, section my hair and ask what I wanted before he would let me hack my hair. And I have him trained to clean up the clippings before I move, so there are no clippings tracked through the house.