Saving money isn’t always fun or easy, but we all know we should be doing it.
I don’t know how many times, back when I was a young adult, that I would find myself struggling to figure out how I was going to pay an unexpected $200 bill. I didn’t have $200 extra dollars! A savings account? Why would I need one of those?
I was young, immature and irresponsible during my first few years out of my parent’s house. Rather than saving money for a rainy day, I would make random impulse purchases. All. The. Time.
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They weren’t even good impulse purchases, either! Instead of buying something useful, like a computer, I’d buy random cheap crap because spending $20 every day of the week felt better than dropping hundreds of dollars once every month or two.
Over the years I’ve learned it’s better to save money than spend it. I try very hard to avoid those tempting impulse purchases. My money is better off sitting in my savings account than it is being blown in the store.
Although I know saving money is what’s best, I honestly don’t enjoy doing it. I hate having to go without things I want or even need in the name of growing my savings account.
Luckily I’ve learned that you don’t really have to sacrifice all that much to grow your savings. Between side hustles and this list of easy ways to save money, you’ll have a nice emergency fund in no time!
Keep your goals small and realistic.
You may want $10,000 in your savings account right away, but it isn’t realistic to expect that to happen. Instead, make $500 or $1,000 your first goal. Once you reach it, celebrate and create a new goal.
Take a look at your subscriptions. Magazines, cable, streaming services, clubs. How many of these do you really use? If you don’t use them, drop them as soon as you can. You’re just wasting money on them.
You can do this one of two ways.
If your paychecks are directly deposited into your bank account, you can have the company you work for send a certain dollar amount or percentage of your check to your savings account on payday while the rest goes into your checking account.
Alternatively, you can contact your bank and ask them to put $X into your savings automatically every payday.
Pay bills in full on time
Obviously, this may not be something you can do with every bill. When it comes to smaller debts like your utilities, cell phone bill or rent, make sure you pay them in full by the due date.
Not doing so will add late fees to the bill, costing you more money in the long run.
Take advantage of auto-pay
This is an easy way to make sure your bills are paid on time. Set up auto-pay either through your bank or through the company you owe money to. Never worry about missing a payment again!
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Check out your community calendar. Take advantage of all the free activities your community has to offer. It’ll give you something to do without spending a penny!
You can also create your own free fun. Hit up the library, go for a hike, or spend a few hours at a park.
I try to make every other weekend a no-spend weekend when I can. Sometimes we have no-spend weekends more often than that.
What is a no-spend weekend? It’s exactly what it says. From the time you get off work Friday until you go back to work Monday, don’t spend any money. Check out my list of 55 no-spend weekend activities for some inspiration!
Volunteer for events
Sign up to volunteer for the next local music festival or rodeo. This gives you free admission to the event in exchange for helping out a bit!
Don’t buy cheap clothing
Sure, it’s tempting to pick up $20 shoes from Wal-Mart instead of a pair of Nike’s or Adidas, but how long are those cheap shoes going to last?
I’ve made this mistake more times than I’d like to admit. Buying poorly made clothing in an attempt to save money.
It backfires nearly every time and I’m out money because I have to replace it much earlier than I would have had I spent more for a better product.
Reevaluate your insurance regularly
Those sneaky insurance companies hope you don’t do this. They want you to continue to be a loyal customer, so most of them reward you the longer you stick around.
Just because they’re saying “thank you” in their own way doesn’t mean they are giving you the best rates available.
Every time you’re insurance comes up for renewal, price check. Maybe sticking with them really is the best deal you can get. If it isn’t and you find a better rate, contact your insurance and let them know. Give them the opportunity to keep you around. If they don’t budge, switch to the less expensive company.
Use rebate apps
My favorites are Ibotta and Checkout 51. They give you money back for your purchases at the grocery store! It’s a great way to drop the cost of groceries a bit and they are much more pleasant to use than coupons.
Plan Christmas & birthdays months in advance
I’m not going to lie, I’m already planning what to gift people for Christmas and it’s only February!
It might sound crazy, but it’s really not. Planning and budgeting for holidays where you’re expected to give people gifts is pretty smart. It gives you time to save some money (so you aren’t struggling to buy gifts at the last minute) and look for good deals on the gifts you plan to give (which allows you to save more).
Stop going out for lunch
Easier said than done, right?
Spending $8+ for your lunch, even if it’s just once or twice a week, starts to add up, though.
Hubby goes out to eat lunch with his co-workers once a week. Every other day of the week I pack a lunch for him at home.
If it were completely up to me, I’d pack his lunch every day and he wouldn’t get that one meal out. For me, it’s all about frugality, but he doesn’t see the big deal in eating lunch at a restaurant every day. We came to a bit of a compromise, though, which is better than him venturing to an overpriced restaurant on a daily basis.
Cook at home more
We don’t go out to eat or get carry-out as a family often. It’s usually just on special occasions. When we do, though, it never costs less than $20 and normally the amount is more like $30 or $40.
Can you imagine how much money you could save if you ate more dinners at home? I can make a dinner that feeds all of us and leaves us with leftovers for about $5.
Just by cooking at home, I save at least $15 a meal.
Understand “unit price”
When you go to the grocery store, the item price is normally listed directly under the product, right? Everyone knows what that little tag is and what those big numbers mean. But what about the unit price? Do you know what that is?
Unit price is the price per ounce, pound, liter, gallon, etc. So, the product you want to buy might cost $4.97, but the unit price could be 22.7 cents. The unit price can normally be found in smaller numbers near the actual product price.
How does knowing the unit price help you? It allows you to make a more informed decision when purchasing things.
That $4.97 item may seem like a better buy than it’s $5.97 counterpart, but what does the unit price say? If the more expensive product has a lower unit price than the less expensive product, it behooves you to spend the extra dollar. The more expensive product may cost more upfront, but it’s a better buy in the long run.
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This is a great way to save money and make you feel a little more put together.
Before your trip to the grocery store, sit down and plan out your meals between that day and your next grocery shopping trip.
Create your shopping list based on what food you will need for your meal plan. It’ll prevent overspending on items you aren’t going to use.
Pay attention to sales
Skim through the store fliers the next time you see them. Try your best to shop their sale items.
Extra points to those of you who plan their meals around the sales, too!
Give generic products a try
I’ll admit, not all generic products are as good as name brand, but some are.
The next time you go to buy your name brand shampoo or ibuprofen or cereal, pick up the generic version instead. Give it a try.
If you don’t hate the generic product, keep buying it. There’s no reason to continue paying more for a product when there’s another product that’s just as good, but costs less.
Lower your heating bill
Seal up your drafty windows and doors. Wear sweaters, sweatshirts, socks, and hats. Better insulate your attic. Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible. Lower your thermostat and water heater. Take advantage of other heat sources. Open your oven door after baking cookies. Let the steam from your hot shower travel into the rest of the house.
Make your own cleaning supplies
It isn’t nearly as convenient as picking them up while you’re at the store, but making your own cleaning supplies can definitely save you money.
There are recipes online for everything from all-purpose spray to dishwasher detergent. Heck, I even make my own carpet shampoo.
Don’t skimp on vehicle maintenance
I know you don’t want to spend the money to get your oil changed or your car tuned up, but taking care of your vehicle will save you money in the long run.
The better a vehicle is maintained, the longer it will last and the less likely you’ll end up with a really expensive mechanic bill one day.
Cut back on your TV time
Yes, the TV does cost money to have on (or even plugged in, for that matter). Don’t leave it on all day as background noise. Make your kids play with toys instead of zoning out on the TV all day. Rather than spending your evening’s binge watching some Netflix show, find something else to do.
Turning the TV off not only saves you money, it’s better for you, too. Doing something productive with your time will leave you feeling more satisfied than lounging on the couch for hours ever will.
Sign up for reward programs
If you are loyal to certain brands of companies, sign up for their rewards programs.
Some places offer cash back, others have great discount programs and coupons for their members. Definitely worth signing up for!
DIY some gifts
Are you a skilled knitter? Do you make awesome candles or delicious jams? Create Christmas gifts for people using the talents you have!
Have friends over
Instead of going out for dinner and drinks, host a dinner at your house. Have your guests bring a dish or drink. It will save everyone money!
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Drink more water
Not only is water better for you than just about anything else you can drink, drinking it also saves you money.
Drinking more water helps prevent you from overeating (saving you money on food) and water costs a lot less than a soda or beer!
Quit your bad habits
We all have them. Habits we know are costing us too much money.
It can be as simple as collecting Disney memorabilia or something less healthy like smoking or drinking.
Ditch the habit, or at the very least cut back. The less you partake in your bad habits, the more money you save.
Turn the lights off
This should probably be a no-brainer, right? Turn off your lights (and all electronics for that matter) when they aren’t in use. You’ll be glad you did when your electric bill arrives.
Stop it with the impulse purchases
Impulsively buying things I don’t really need has always been something I’ve struggled with, but I’ve gotten a lot better about it over the years.
When I’m in the store I like to ask myself “Do I really need this? Will I actually use it right away? How long will I use it for?”
If I’m still unsure about whether I should pick it up right then and there, I decide I’ll think about this purchase until next payday. If I still think I should buy it when Hubby gets paid again, I’ll make the purchase.
This technique has saved me money more times than I can count.
Instead of forking out a bunch of money to buy a brand new item, save yourself money by buying it gently used.
Check out thrift stores and Craigslist. Both places are great locations to find used items in great condition.
Purchase holiday supplies after the holidays
This is a favorite of mine! I’m obsessed with buying discounted holiday supplies, mainly Christmas wrapping paper that’s 50-75% off. I honestly have 12 unopened rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and I purchased 5 of them 2+ years ago!
It’s a great way to save money. Holiday decor can be expensive, but the day after the holiday, the price drops in half. It gets lower and lower over time until the store finally sells everything.
Rent out a room
I would only do this out of absolute necessity. I like retreating to my home and getting away from people. I’m also not super social, either, though.
If you know someone looking for a place to rent, offer up a room in your house. It will help tremendously with your bills, giving you more money to save!
Trade with friends
Are you considering purchasing something your friend owns but never uses? Offer to take it off their hands!
They might want a little cash for it, but they may also be happy to trade it for something you own or your time. Maybe you can barter a couple evenings of babysitting or offer to help them over the weekend with a project they are working on.
Rather than hiring someone, do things yourself
Bathe your dog at home rather than taking him to the groomer. Fix the leaky pipe yourself rather than calling a plumber. Change the oil in your car on your day off instead of taking it into a shop.
Sure, some tasks call for a trained professional. A lot of them, however, don’t. Learning to do things yourself is pretty easy with the help of YouTube and it will save you money.
Purchase a freezer
The initial cost might be a bit much, but it isn’t that bad if you buy a used freezer. Two years ago Hubby & I drove a half hour to someone’s house to buy a chest freezer I found on Craigslist. It was in great condition and only cost $100.
It was an amazing investment. Every time meat, produce or frozen food goes on sale, we stock up. We throw stuff into freezer bags and store it in the big freezer in our utility room. This saves us money in the long run, allowing us to get the best price for products rather than spending full price.
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Eat your leftovers
I purposely make extra food a lot of the time just so we have an easy lunch or dinner option for the next couple days. If it’s something that tastes good without being reheated, I’ll send it to work with Hubby for lunch the day after making it.
Whether having leftovers was planned or a complete accident, don’t let the food go to waste. It’s like throwing money down the drain. Make sure you eat it!
Buy in bulk
If you can get a better deal on a product you know you’ll use by buying in bulk, do it.
Likewise, when a product you use goes on sale for a great price, stock up!
Bring food when you travel
The fast food joints and gas stations that litter the freeways and highways sell some pretty pricey food and drinks. Save yourself a whole bunch of money by packing your own snacks and lunch on your next road trip.
A lot of banks off you a bonus or free cash when you open an account with them. Take advantage of this opportunity to get a little extra money and open a new account!
Look at expiration dates
There’s nothing worse than getting home from a trip to the grocery store only to learn you bought a gallon of expired milk. Not only do you have to go back to the store to get a new one, you’re out money.
Make sure you look at the expiration date on products before you purchase them and keep in mind how long it will take you to use said product. Sure, your eggs might not expire for a week, but will you eat them all in the next 7 days?
Try your hand at gardening
I’ve tried this a couple times. The first time I couldn’t keep my dog from trampling the plants, even after putting up a cheap fence (it was a rental house, I wasn’t spending a bunch of money).
The second time I got in way over my head and planted way too many vegetables that had way too many differing needs. Next time around, I’ll be sure to stick to just a couple things.
Gardening is definitely a money saver, though, and that’s the main reason I’m drawn to it. Plus you know exactly where your produce comes from! And the fact that it gives you an excuse to spend time outside is great, too.
Find the lowest gas prices
GasBuddy.com makes finding cheap gas easy. Simply tell them where you live and they find the lowest price in your area! An easy way to save a buck!
Ask that medical bills be itemized
You might be surprised by what charges you see listed on your hospital bill after it’s been itemized, especially if your bill is for a hospital stay.
If you see anything questionable, make sure you contact the billing department right away. If it sounds like a BS charge, fight it. There’s no reason to pay for something you never received.
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Ride to work with your coworker! You guys can take turns being the driver. It’ll save both of you money on gas.
Ditch the cell phone contract
I’ve told a lot of people this and most of them just laugh. It’s as if having a pay as you go plan is a bad thing.
In reality, it really isn’t. For starters, the monthly rate is cheaper. Sure, you have to buy your own phone, but that also means you won’t have the added phone payment charge to worry about every month.
I go through Straight Talk and, honestly, I don’t have the nicest phone in the world. It cost me about $100 and it’s almost a year old now. I don’t need something super fancy. It makes calls, receives texts, connects to the internet, and gets pretty good service in my area. What more do I need?
What are you doing to save money right now? Are you implementing any of the tactics on my list?