Monthly debt payments are the biggest obstacle to saving money. Debt robs you of your income! So it’s about time you get rid of that debt. The fastest way to pay off debt is with the debt snowball method. This is where you pay off your debts in order from smallest to largest. Sounds kind of intense, right? Don’t worry, it’s more about behavior change than numbers. Once your income is freed up, you can finally use it to make progress toward your savings goals.
Most people—after they do a budget—are shocked to find out how much they’re actually spending at the grocery store each month. And if you’re the average American family, you’re probably spending around $647.1 It’s so easy to walk through those aisles, grabbing a bag of Oreos here and a few bags of chips there, and then top it off with the fun goodies at the register. But those little purchases (or budget busters) add up quite a bit and end up blowing the budget every single month.
Save money on groceries by planning out your meals each week and taking a good look at what you already have in your pantry before you head to the store. Because why would you want to buy more of what you already have? You might also want to leave the kids at home so you can stick more closely to your list.
And if you’re really trying to find ways to save money, try grocery pickup. Most major grocery stores offer it (sometimes for free). This is valuable because picking up your groceries gets rid of any temptation you would’ve had once you smelled the scent of those freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafting throughout the store.
3. Cancel automatic subscriptions and memberships.
Chances are, you’re paying for multiple subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, gym memberships, trendy subscription boxes and Amazon Prime. It’s time to cancel any subscriptions you don’t use on the regular. And make sure that you turn off “auto-renew” when you make a purchase. If you cancel it and decide you can’t go without it, subscribe again—but only if it fits into your new (and improved) budget.
Consider membership sharing with some family or friends on the subscriptions you do want to keep around. Many streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, let you watch your favorite shows from two or more screens (with an upgraded account). That way, everyone wins—and saves!
4. Buy generic.
In most cases, the only thing that’s better about brand-name products is the marketing. I mean, look at that box! Generic brands of medicine, staple food items (like rice and beans), cleaning supplies and paper products cost far less than their brand-name, marked-up friends—and they work just as well.
5. Cut ties with cable.
It’s no secret that cable prices are continuing to rise. The average monthly price for cable TV is about $106 a month—which adds up to over $1,200 a year!2Here’s the good news: Cable isn’t the only way to watch your favorite shows these days. Cut the cord and find out how to save big with alternatives to cable like network apps and streaming services.
6. Save . . . automatically.
Did you know that you can save money without thinking about it? Yup—you can set up your bank account to automatically transfer funds from your checking account into a savings account every month. If that sounds scary to you, you can also set up your direct deposit to automatically transfer 10% of each paycheck into your savings account. Pretty nice, right?
7. Spend extra or unexpected income wisely.
When you get a nice work bonus (way to go!), inheritance or tax refund, put it to good use. And when we say “good use,” we aren’t talking about adding that fancy new stamp to your stamp collection or even just putting it in the bank.
If you’ve still got debt in your life, you’ll be better off using those funds to pay off your student loans or the balance on your credit card instead of stashing that money away. If you’re debt-free, use those extra dollars to build up your emergency fund—you know, for emergencies.
Bonus tip: If you regularly receive large tax refunds, it’s time to adjust the withholding on your paycheck so you can bring home even more money each month. Plus, we don’t want to give the government any more of our money than we have to, right?
8. Reduce energy costs.
Did you know that you can save money on your electric bill just by making a few tweaks to your home? Start with some simple things like taking shorter showers (nope, we didn’t say fewer), fixing leaky pipes, washing your clothes in cold tap water, and installing dimmer switches and LED lightbulbs.
While new, energy-efficient appliances are a great way to save money on your electric bill, they’re expensive! But if you work it into your monthly budget, you can pay cash for those small improvements.
9. Unsubscribe from emails.
Email marketers are really good at what they do. They know the irresistible temptation of a flash sale or exclusive coupon. And talk about those flashy gifs!
If you just can’t resist shopping when you see a special offer, click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. You’ll be less tempted to spend, and your inbox will be a lot less cluttered. It’s a win-win!
10. Borrow—don’t buy.
Need a tree trimmer for some weekend yard work or a handheld blender to make a batch of soup? Borrow it from a friend or neighbor instead of taking a trip to the store.
11. Pack lunch (and eat at home).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spends approximately $3,365 on food outside of the home each year.3 That’s $280 per month! Buying lunch a few times a week may seem harmless in the moment (especially when your favorite restaurant is walking distance from your office), but you can save quite a bit of money just by packing a lunch!
Not only that, you can often purchase a week’s worth of groceries for the same price as two dinner meals out. Instead, prepare your food at home and watch your savings pile up, month by month.
12. Ask about discounts (and pay in cash).
You never know until you ask—and you should always ask. Next time you’re getting tickets at a movie theater, museum or sporting event, check to see if they have any special discounts for seniors, students, teachers, military or AAA members. If not, never underestimate the negotiating power of cash!
13. Take advantage of your retirement savings plan.
If your employer offers a 401(k) match and you aren’t taking full advantage of it, you’re missing out big time! Talk to your HR department to set up an account. Remember, you should wait until you’re completely debt-free (except your mortgage) and have a fully funded emergency fund of three to six months before you start saving and investing for retirement.
14. Lower your cell phone bill.
If your monthly cell phone bill competes with your monthly grocery budget, it’s time to find ways to cut back. Save money on your cell service by getting rid of extras like costly data plans, phone insurance and unnecessary warranties. And don’t be afraid to haggle with or completely switch your provider! It might require a little persistence and research, but the savings are worth it.
15. Try a spending freeze.
Don’t buy any nonessential items for a week—or even a month! Think about it as a contentment challenge. While you’re at it, take inventory of what you’re grateful for each day. This should help kick your “want-itis" in the pants!
Make your spending freeze work by prepping meals with the food you already have, avoiding stores where you tend to impulse buy (did someone say Target dollar spot?), and saying no to anything that isn’t a basic necessity.
16. DIY . . . everything!
Before you shell out the cash to pay for a new backsplash, fancy light fixture or bench, think about doing it yourself! Usually, the cost of materials and a simple Google search will save you a ton of money on your latest home project. (Plus, you won’t have to pay someone to do something you can most likely do yourself). But if you’re the type that can’t seem to hit the nail on the head, you might want to ask a friend or neighbor for help so you don’t have to spend money on new drywall.
17. Skip the coffee shop.
Ouch. This one is painful—we get it! But instead of spending $5 on that daily latte, you can save money by just making your coffee at home. Listen, we’re not saying you should only drink instant coffee (unless you’re into that sort of thing). But even purchasing a bag of local beans from your neighborhood coffee shop and brewing it at home will save you a lot of money in the long run.
18. The library is your friend.
Before you click “add to cart” on that brand-new book, check your local library to see if you can borrow it! Most libraries also have audiobooks and digital copies of your favorite books for rent. It’s an easy way to get your reading in without breaking the bank.
We get it though—because we love reading too! According to Ramsey Research’s National Study of Millionaires, 81% of millionaires surveyed read 11 or more books per year. Like Dave Ramsey always says, “Readers are leaders.”
Pro tip: Check sites like Alibris and Thriftbooks for major deals on like-new or even well-loved books . . . for next to nothing!
19. Try a “staycation.”
When your goal is to save money now, a vacation is the worst thing you could spend your money on. Instead of whisking your family off to the Greek Isles, try being a tourist in your own city. Not only will this save you hundreds (or potentially thousands) of dollars, but you can also explore your neighborhood with fresh eyes and have some fun while doing it.
20. Sell everything (that doesn’t bring you joy).
Marie Kondo has the right idea. Get rid of the things in your home that you don’t use, or that you’re willing to let go of for the sake of your financial future. That vintage chair your aunt gave you? Sell it. That crystal vase you found at an antique shop? Sell it. You’d be surprised at how much clutter you have in your home (that you don’t even use or think about). And the cash you can make on those things can be the difference between living paycheck to paycheck and having a fully funded emergency fund.
How to Start Saving Money
You can stop the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck with a simple secret: Make a zero-based budget before the month begins. A budget is all about being intentional. It helps you create a plan so you can see where your money is going and find out how much you can actually save each month. When you make a zero-based budget, you’re giving every single dollar a name—or assigning it a job to do—before you save or spend it. Remember: It really doesn’t matter how much money you make—it matters how you spend and save the money you make.
Ready to start saving and reaching your money goals (with a zero-based budget)? Get our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, so you can keep track of all your budgeting and saving in one place.
How to Save Money: 20 Simple Tips
You work hard for your money, and it should work hard for you. There’s a whole wide world of ways to save money out there. So, where do you even start? Start quick. Start easy. Start here.
We’ve got 20 simple tips for how to save money throughout your day, week, month, year and life!
How to Start Saving Money
We have a quick note about getting into this whole “saving money” routine. It’s time to start shifting how you think.
Being intentional is how to save more money (and spend less!) each month. Because you know the money isn’t really the muscle, right? You are. And when you’re intentional in your spending, your money isn’t achieving new and wonderful things. You are!
So getting intentional is the first shift to saving money. Be money mindful—not to the point of worrying yourself or annoying others, of course, but to the point of making better decisions in little and big ways.
Now, let’s break that down into some practical examples you can jump on right this moment.
Save Money on Entertainment
1. Check in on your subscriptions.
Do you really need multiple television and music streaming services? How many subscription boxes or magazines show up in your mail each month?
We aren’t out to bash these services. But take some time to think about the stuff you don’t even really use, watch or read anymore. If you’re trying to save some extra cash, cutting out that sasquatch-collectible-of-the-month club or subscription to Pretzel Enthusiast Magazine could be just the thing.
2. Plan creative dates.
Myth: Spending a lot of money on dates will mean securing the love of your life.
Truth: You can have fun and fall in love while still being thrifty. Fill a picnic basket with popcorn, apples, an assortment of cheeses, and chocolate (of course)— then take it on an enjoyable hike. Bring home Chinese takeout and dine directly out of the boxes while streaming your favorite show. Browse the aisles of a used bookstore before grabbing coffee and dessert. Enjoy the companionship more than the cost.
3. Evaluate your TV choices.
If you’re paying high prices for your cable package and watching very few of the channels, you aren’t alone. Plenty of people are realizing they can save money and still get all the shows they want (and more!) by switching to other choices.
Look into YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. Try watching recently aired episodes online. Or use that library card! You don’t have to jump back to medieval days where your only entertainment was watching the knights joust. Just trade that cable bill for a lower-priced—but still awesome—option.
4. Search for free entertainment.
Free entertainment is bad when it’s tickets to a subpar comedian performing at a shady club in the bad part of town. Free entertainment is great when it’s books, audiobooks, e-books, movies, story times, and presentations or performances from talented artists. Where can you get hooked up with that kind of loveliness? At your local library. Get your library card—right now!
Then, start looking for more no-cost amusements. Are there free museums nearby? What parks and playgrounds are in your area? Do they host movies, festivals or events? Are you close to a farmers market? Does your local symphony offer any free concerts? What community events do the local churches offer around the holidays? Keep your ears open and eyes out. Keep money in your pocket and party away.
5. Enjoy the great outdoors.
There’s a whole world out there, and it’s just waiting to be explored on the cheap. Of course, there are plenty of ways to enjoy nature while paying a pretty penny, but there are also tons of penny-pinching pleasures awaiting you in the wild blue yonder. Hiking. Biking. Spiking (a volleyball). Kayaking. Backpacking. Flapjacking (on your campfire stove). Corn-mazing. Stargazing. Curtain-raising (with outdoor theater). Get out and save up.
Save Money on Food
6. Brew your own coffee.
If you’re spending around $4 a day on your favorite barista blend, that’s $28 a week and around $120 a month. Instead, you could spend around $20 a month brewing your own and put that $100 into savings, your dream vacation sinking fund, retirement or whatever money goal you’re wanting to knock out. (Jab. Cross. Punch. Caffeinate.)
7. Drink more water.
Not only is this tip good for your wallet, but it’s also good for your body, brain and emotions! It turns out, even mild levels of dehydration can affect our thinking and our moods.1 So ordering water when you’re eating out and using your refillable water bottle throughout the day will save you the cost of sodas while also keeping you hydrated.
8. Be more intentional when eating out.
You can save money by eating out less or by restaurant-ing smarter. When you do go out, take advantage of happy hour specials. They aren’t just for drinks anymore. Let that half-price appetizer fill up most of your stomach so you can buy a smaller entrée. Or eat apps only!
Sign up for emails from your favorite restaurants, and you’ll get coupons and promos so you can eat on the cheap(er). Be sure to follow them on social media to find additional potential savings! (While you’re at it, unsubscribe from any restaurant or store emails that tempt you to get spend-y.)
And don’t forget about those surveys at the bottom of your receipt. You can earn discounts or free food in exchange for a couple minutes of your time. When you’re crunching that complimentary chips and queso, you’ll know it was worth it.
Save Money at Home
9. Go green(er).
Green is our favorite color. Have you noticed? But in this case, we’re talking about making more energy-efficient life choices. Some of these are, quite honestly, initial investments. But they all pay off in the end.
For savings on home expenses, we’re talking about turning off the lights when you leave a room, buying light bulbs that have earned the Energy Star, purchasing a programmable thermostat, or taking quicker showers.
All of these green changes can add green to your wallet. Like dollar bills. Which are green: hence our favorite color.
10. Sell stuff.
Clutter can give us a false sense of fullness. When, really, clutter’s just a sign of stuffness, which is a new word we made up to describe when you’ve got stuff just to have stuff. It brings no good and overwhelms every closet, drawer and corner in your house.
You can cash in on the clutter in your life by selling your stuff! Post things online, take things to a consignment shop, or have an old-fashioned garage sale! Lower your stuffness as you create calmer surroundings and make some extra cash.
Save Money While Shopping
11. Download money-saving apps.
You can save money from anywhere your thumbs are. Just tap-tap-tap your way to coupons or cash back by downloading awesome apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51 or RetailMeNot. Let Honey and GasBuddy tell you about the best prices available on items in your wish lists and gasoline for your car. And don’t forget to download the apps for your favorite stores. You can check out sales, join rewards programs, and score coupons. Just be careful about the temptation to online shop when Target, Walmart or Amazon are there every time you open your phone.
12. Buy used.
Use your discretion on this. Don’t buy used tires, toothbrushes or tacos. But if you’re in the market for a car, a pet (shelter fur babies for the win!), tools, baby clothes, video games, or books, then you can save money and inherit instant character by purchasing gently used items instead of new ones.
13. Buy generic.
You don’t need brand-name everything. You can snob it up on a few items—that’s your right as a discerning shopper. But look into generic medications, trash bags, basic pantry items, cleaning supplies, and more. This is a quick and incredibly simple way to save money every time you shop!
14. Make shopping lists.
Just like you need a plan for your money overall (by making a budget), you also need a plan for your shopping (by making a shopping list). Start by meal planning—decide what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week, and then make a list of all the things you need to make those meals happen.
Stick to the list!
It keeps you from forgetting things and from overspending each month on your grocery budget line.
15. Hit up those BOGOs and weekly ads.
Stores with BOGO (buy one, get one) offers are begging you to save money—pleading. Okay, not that far. But they are setting out the offers so you can sweep in and grab them. How about following this money-saving move? Make those meal plans based on your grocery store’s sales. You can even stock up the pantry and freezer for the future. Just make sure your purchases fit your budget, never buy stuff just because it’s on sale, and don’t forget what you’ve bought when you’re making meal plans weeks later. Wasting isn’t saving.
16. Wait before you buy.
Maybe your parents told you to sleep on it before making a big decision. Some people recommend giving a choice a couple days’ thought. Following this “wisdom to those who wait” philosophy, spend time price checking, pro-and-con weighing, and desire measuring before you buy.
Desire measuring? Sure, you wanted that new multipocketed, all-weather, flannel-lined-interior laptop case the moment you first laid eyes on it. But will that desire diminish over time? Impulse buying is expensive. Practice a little patience before substantial purchases. You’ll save money by finding a lower price during that research time—or by deciding not to buy after all.
Lifestyle Changes to Save Money
17. Work out online.
Some of us need the interaction of others that happens at the gym. Others of us just want to get fit without the membership, personal trainer or special class fees. If you’re ready to burn calories without burning through your paycheck, check out exercise-streaming services and even free YouTube videos. Plenty of fitness gurus have realized we need stay-at-home, non-DVD options, and they’re putting out high-quality content that we can get swole to any time of day from the comfort of our own living rooms.
18. Ditch your credit cards.
The best way to get ahead? Stop getting behind. Sounds logical, right? So, apply that logic to your money.
Using credit cards gets you behind in your finances, and it grows nothing but your debt and the amount of stuff you have (that isn’t even really yours). Debt gives the illusion of ownership. It’s a constant floating cloud of obligation that hangs over your head, keeping out the warm sunshine of true ownership, which comes from a debt-free life without credit cards.
Ditch the credit cards, and you can start owning for real. You can shift those debt payments toward your money goals. Not only is it an empowering life change, it’s also going to end up saving you so much money in the end.
19. Remove your debit card info from websites.
One of the quickest ways to spend money these days is by using a “one-click” purchasing feature online, or by having your debit card information stored on your favorite sites. When purchasing takes mere moments and little thought, it’s too easy to overspend.
Instead, take the time to find your wallet, get out your debit card, and enter all those numbers. While you’re doing that, think about whether you really want that red vegan leather moto jacket (when you already have a black one). Imagine yourself dragging and dropping that transaction to your personal spending line when it streams automatically into your EveryDollar Plus account.
If you have the money in your budget and the desire after thinking about it for a few extra minutes, then go ahead and buy it. But if you realize it isn’t worth getting off the couch in the middle of watching your favorite comic-book-inspired television series to go get your debit card, then don’t buy it. Senseless spending averted by laziness? Nope—by intentionality. Oh, yeah.
Don’t forget the single most important money-saving method out there—budgeting. Duh! You’ll never meet those money goals without a budget. EveryDollar’s the best budgeting tool for the best budgeters around.
And guess what? It’s free. Seriously. We appreciate humor and all, but we wouldn’t joke about that. You can sign up for an EveryDollar account today—at literally no cost—and set up your first budget in around 10 minutes.
When you start budgeting, you stare your finances in the face and tell them you know who’s ready to start saving smarter, who’s in charge, and who’s going to make these money goals come true.
The products and text on this website are for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the assessment, advice or treatment of a physician or therapist.
Images found for this site found from the following sources: Google Images, Animation Factory, exception personal image of Susan Young