*Insulation: Insulating your home will not only make you more comfortable, but will save a huge amount of money in heating costs
*Caulking: Relatively cheap, caulking around windows, doors, and baseboard trim will significantly reduce drafts.
*Smart Strips: these are power strips that allow you to break the power supply to your electronics, eliminating "phantom power"
*Clothes Drying Rack: I ran an online calculator through our local power company's website. I figured I average 2-3 loads of laundry per day (including cloth diapers). With the low end of the estimate, 2 loads per day, we are paying over $70.00 every 2 months to run our dryer. Canadian Tire has a good drying rack for $55.00, which I balked at at first, figuring I'd wait for it to go on sale before buying it - but considering it would pay for itself in just over a month, it's a fantastic investment. I might just go get it today.
*Replacing disposables: While typically this can be done for next to nothing (by using recycled materials), there are some things you might have to shell out for, if you don't have any sewing skills. Like cloth diapers, cloth menstrual pads, etc. If you can sew, you can make these for free by utilizing things you have around the house.
*Sewing machine: Speaking of sewing! A sewing machine is probably the best investment I have EVER made. This has paid for itself over and over and over again. I make our own drapes, all things reusable, mend things, etc. The other night I mended a hole in a brand new pair of Norah's pants. She had fallen on the sidewalk the first time she wore them, and left a hole in the knee. I cut out a cute heart out of fabric, appliqued it on, and it's as cute as a button - you'd never know it was there to hide a hole! Perhaps I'll post a picture. Anyway, the possibilities with a sewing machine are limitless, I could never imagine throwing away a pair of pants because the zipper was broken, or paying someone to put up a hem for me. It's easy to teach yourself to sew, and a good starter machine could be purchased 2nd hand for less than $100.00.
*Rechargeable batteries: We've been slowly making the switch. Each month I try to purchase another pack, until we've eliminated our need for regular, throw-away batteries. We've also tried to reduce the number of things we use that require batteries.
*Clothes Line: Similar to the clothes drying rack, we use our clothes line all summer. I think we paid $50.00 for everything we needed to set it up, and it paid for itself in a couple of months.
*Wood Stove/Woodburning Insert: We did this a couple of years ago, and again, it paid for itself quickly, probably within the first 2 years. Burning wood is a little more work, but saves us a huge amount of money, and makes us less reliant on the wildly fluctuating price of oil.
I'm sure there are many others that I haven't thought of! Since we use the Envelope Method for budgeting, I've decided to start an envelope called "Spend to Save". Where to get the money to fund this envelope? Start by finding one or two ways to save money this month that won't cost you a cent up front. Take that money, even if it's only $5.00, and stick it in your "Spend to Save" envelope. Maybe this will buy you a pack of CFL light bulbs. When you realize the savings from your reduced energy costs, stick THAT money in the envelope, in addition to what you saved without spending a cent. With THAT money, you could buy a couple of tubes of caulking. If you kept going like this, eventually you would build up enough money to buy some larger things, like a sewing machine, or insulation. Eventually you might have enough money to install solar panels on your house, or a wind power generator. Just as the snowball method works for debt repayment (as you pay your smallest debt, you roll the payment onto the next smallest debt, and keep going until you're debt free), you could snowball your "Spend to Save" envelope. Simply make a list of things you could buy now that would save you money in the long run. Put them in order of the cheapest (CFL bulb) to most expensive (Solar Panels), and then start snowballing!
What are some ideas you have for things you could spend money on now to save money later?