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Having a budget is usually one of the first suggestions when it comes to personal finance and managing your money effectively. But what if you’re looking at your budget categories and you have no ideas for ways to save money on your regular, recurring bills?
In this article, we’ll look at 40 practical ways to save money on some of the most important expenses that account for some of the biggest budget percentages.
Reducing your monthly bills will have a huge impact on your finances because you’ll be saving money each and every month, and even small savings can add up quickly.
Regardless of whether your goal is to cut back to make ends meet, to save money that can be used to pay off debt, to save money that you can invest for the future, or any other financial goal, there are plenty of possibilities.
→ Related reading: How to Create a Budget That Works
Housing expenses are a big part of the budget for most people. Regardless of whether you rent or buy, housing can be expensive. Reducing your housing expenses can have a huge impact on your overall finances, since it’s probably one of your biggest expenses each month. Here are a few options.
1. Get a Roommate
If you currently rent, consider adding a roommate. If you live by yourself, you could cut your rent in half by getting a roommate. If you already have a roommate or live with a significant other, you may be able to save money by getting another roommate if you have space.
2. Become a Landlord
If you own your home, consider renting out a room. Even if you don’t have a multi-unit home, simply renting a bedroom is a viable option. The rent that you’ll get for just that one room can make a big difference in your budget each month.
3. Refinance Your Mortgage
Depending on your current mortgage rate, you may be able to save money each month by refinancing. You can check with your local bank for their current rates, or get quotes online at a site like Credible.
If you decide to refinance, be sure to check the fees associated with the refinance and not just the interest rate or monthly payment. Some refinances will involve a lot of fees that will add to your loan balance. If you may be selling the house anytime in the near future you’ll want to be wary of excessive fees.
4. Get Rid of PMI
If you put less than 20% down when you purchased your house, you’re probably paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) each month. Most lenders require PMI when homeowners borrow more than 80% of the appraised value of the home.
PMI can add a significant amount of money to your monthly mortgage payment, and getting rid of it can give you noticeable relief. In order to get rid of PMI, you will need to either pay down the balance of your mortgage until it gets below 80%, or if the value of your home has increased you could get it appraised to give you more equity in the home. If the appraisal is high enough to give you more than 20% equity, you can eliminate PMI. Check with your mortgage lender for your options.
5. Move to a Cheaper Place
The last option is to move to a home that will cost less each month. If you’re renting, you can move whenever your lease is up. If you own, you can sell your home and downsize or move to a cheaper area. Of course, be sure that you consider the costs of moving. With the high costs of buying and selling, moving is usually a better option for renters than it is for owners.
Utilities like electricity, gas, and water can add up to a big expense each month. I won’t get into too many details here, because I have articles on some of these specific topics (see links below), but in this section, you’ll find a few tips for easy changes.
- 33 Realistic Ways to Save Money on Electricity
- 30+ Easy Ways to Save Big Money on Your Water Bill
- 10 Ways to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill
6. Switch Providers
Depending on which state you live in, you may have the option to choose your provider. This is one of the easiest ways to save money because it’s a competitive market and different companies are always offering competitive rates to try to entice new users. Sometimes they’ll even offer cash or gift cards as a bonus.
You can use a website like Choose Energy to easily and quickly compare rates. The process of signing up with a different provider is usually pretty simple and quick. Even if you already switched providers in the past, you may want to check again. Rates and promotions change frequently.
7. Adjust the Temperature
Simply lowering your thermostat a few degrees in the winter and increasing it a few degrees in the summer can make a noticeable difference in your heating and cooling costs. You can also take it a step further with a programmable thermostat, so you can have the temperature comfortable when you are home, and save money when you’re not home.
8. Let Trim Negotiate for You
Trim is a free service that will attempt to lower your bills for you. Trim will negotiate your cable and internet bills to try to get you a lower rate (they got me a lower rate). The service is free to try, and if they are able to reduce your bill they will charge 33% of the savings. There’s nothing to lose, and they’re pretty good at getting you the lowest rates. Trim will even help you to get credit for service outages, with no effort on your part.
9. Switch Your Cell Phone Carrier
Are you overpaying for your mobile phone service? A few years ago, my wife and I cut our monthly bill in half by moving from one of the major carriers to a discount prepaid carrier. We’re now customers of Cricket Wireless and our coverage is just as good, but we pay a lot less for it.
If you sign up for Cricket through my referral link you can get a $25 credit on your new account.
Freedom Pop is another great option, and they even have free plans available.
10. Install Solar Panels
Installing solar panels can be a great way to save money in the long run. It will cost some money upfront, but over a longer period of time it could have a big pay off. There is a lot to consider if you are thinking about solar panels. I’d recommend reading this article that will give you a lot of insight from someone who has actually done it – Are Solar Panels Worth It?
Food (including grocery stores and restaurants) is a huge expense for some people, but there are a lot of ways to keep it under control.
11. Buy Generic Brands
One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries is to buy generic brands. The generic brands are often just as good as the name brands, but they are priced significantly lower. I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi, so almost everything I buy is generic. It’s incredible how much of a difference this will make on your bill.
12. Eat Fewer Meals at Restaurants
If you’re eating at restaurants on a regular basis, you can save a lot of money by eating more meals at home or packing lunches. The cost of food from restaurants is astronomically higher than food bought at a grocery store, so even just a few meals per week can have a big impact. If you are feeding a family, this will lead to even more savings.
13. Buy Discounted Gift Cards
Those times when you do eat at restaurants, a great way to save money is to purchase discounted gift cards. Sites like Raise, Cardpool, and Cardcash offer gift cards for just about any restaurant chain you can think of, and they are priced below face value. The amount of the discount will vary depending on the restaurant, but I’ve saved as much as 30% with this approach.
You can also buy discounted gift cards for grocery stores, but they are harder to find and the discounts are usually very low.
→ Related reading: The Complete Guide to Saving Money with Discounted Gift Cards
14. Use Cash Back Apps
→ Related reading: 15 of the Best Cash Back Websites and Apps
Other apps like Dosh and Drop are good for saving money at restaurants (and other places). Both of these apps will link to your credit card. All you need to do is install the app, enter your credit card details, and you’ll earn cash back when you use that card at a participating store or restaurant.
Right now you can get a bonus for creating a new account with a few of these apps:
- Ibotta is offering $20 in signup bonuses
- Dosh will give you a $1 bonus when you link your first credit card
- Rakuten will give you a $10 signup bonus
15. Use Coupons and Shop Sales
You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to save money with coupons. You can simply browse through ads that come in the mail or use websites like Coupons.com or The Krazy Coupon Lady to quickly find coupons that you’ll use.
Flipp is also a really useful website/app for viewing weekly ads and sales from any store. If you plan your meals around the sales and coupons that are available, you can save a lot of money on groceries. See our list of the best coupon sites for even more resources.
16. Grow Your Own
Starting a garden can be a great way to save money on vegetables and produce. It will take a little bit of extra work, but the savings can make up for it.
Transportation costs are another big part of many budgets, but here are a few ways to reduce those expenses.
Commute with one of your co-workers who lives close to you. Take turns driving and you’ll each save a lot of money on gas. If you don’t have a co-worker who lives near you, it could also be someone from another office located near yours.
18. Use Public Transportation
Another option is to take public transportation instead of driving. This is an even better option if you have to pay for parking every day if you drive your own car. Paying for public transportation is very likely to be less than what you would pay for gas and parking, plus you’ll put fewer miles on your car. Driving fewer miles each day may also allow you to qualify for a lower rate on your car insurance.
19. Sell Your Car
Do you really need your car? If you live in an urban area and you’re able to take public transportation or walk to most places, a car may be an unnecessary expense. Or maybe you can go from being a two-car family to a one-car family.
Selling a car will save you money on a car loan (if you have one), maintenance, insurance, gas, and registration fees.
20. Refinance Your Auto Loan
You may be able to save money by refinancing your car loan to get a lower rate. Check Lending Tree to see if you can save money this way.
21. Ride a Bike
How about saving money and getting exercise at the same time? Riding a bike instead of driving (when possible) will help you to save money on gas and car maintenance.
Eliminating your debt should be a priority. When you no longer have to make monthly payments on your debt, you’ll be able to save much faster. Here are a few things that can help you to reduce your debt and give you some relief from the monthly payments.
22. Refinance or Consolidate Student Loans
If you have student loans, you may be able to save a good bit of money by consolidating or refinancing the loans. Fortunately, it’s quick and easy to find the best rates available. All you need to do is visit Credible and you can get rates in just a few minutes.
23. Ask for a Rate Reduction on Your Credit Cards
If you have a history of making your credit card payments (at least the minimum payment) on time each month, you may be able to get an interest rate reduction simply by asking.
Call your credit card company and ask for a rate reduction. Sometimes they’ll say “yes”, especially if you have a good payment history. You have nothing to lose except a few minutes of your time, and you could potentially save money on interest each month.
24. Transfer Your Credit Card Balance
Another option is to transfer your balance to a credit card that has a 0% interest offer. This is really just a temporary fix to a bigger problem, but it can help to give you some short-term relief. There are plenty of credit cards with balance transfer offers. See this page for an up-to-date list of the best balance transfer credit cards.
A balance transfer is only a good idea if you are committed to paying off that debt and avoiding future credit card debt. If you transfer the balance and then rack up more credit card debt, you’ll be in a worse position. Use balance transfers with caution.
I don’t know anyone who likes spending money on insurance, but unfortunately, most of us spend a lot on it each month. Although the policies may be necessary, there are some ways to reduce your monthly premiums.
25. Increase Your Deductible
One of the biggest factors that influence your rate on insurance policies is the deductible. Increase the deductible and you will be able to lower your monthly premium. This is especially relevant for car insurance. Check with your provider to see how your monthly premium will be impacted with a higher deductible.
26. Reduce Your Coverage
The amount of coverage you have will also impact your monthly premiums. When we signed up for homeowner’s insurance, I really didn’t pay attention to the coverage. By default, we were given a very high amount of coverage for the contents of the house. We don’t have a lot of expensive stuff in our house, so there was no need for a high amount of coverage. We reduced it and saved a big chunk on our monthly premiums.
27. Shop for Better Rates
Shopping for better insurance rates is pretty easy with the help of websites like Compare.com (auto insurance) and Quotacy (life insurance). With a little bit of effort, you may be able to save money each month by finding a better rate.
28. Switch to a Health Sharing Plan
Health insurance is a major cost for many Americans, and the costs keep going up. If you don’t have access to a good plan through an employer, you may be paying a lot for health insurance. Health Sharing Plans are not technically insurance, but it does offer an alternative that can save you some money.
I’m self-employed and my wife is a stay-at-home mom, so we don’t have access to any employer-sponsored plans. My wife and I are actually on separate policies because it worked out to be cheaper that way. Her premium with a standard insurance company was very high, even for really bad coverage.
The past couple of years she has been on a plan with Samaritan Ministries and it saves us a ton of money on monthly bills. So far we’ve had only good experiences, but this is definitely something you want to research before making a decision.
There are a lot of different ways you can save money each month on entertainments, and here are a few ideas.
29. Cancel Cable or Satellite TV
Cable and satellite TV are both very expensive. There are a lot of cable alternatives that are very good and will save you a ton of money. My wife and I canceled cable about 5 or 6 years ago and we’ve never regretted it. We watch a lot of shows and movies on Netflix, and during football season I also get a Sling membership.
30. Cancel Your Gym Membership
A gym membership can be a worthwhile expense if you use it regularly, but a lot of people pay for a gym membership that they rarely use.
Even if you do use the gym frequently, there are plenty of ways to exercise at home or outside if you want to save some money each month.
31. Limit Your Subscriptions and Memberships
Take a look at your recurring bills and see if there are subscriptions or memberships that you can cancel. Most likely, there are.
This could include things like magazines, premium TV channels, streaming apps, warehouse clubs, and more. If you don’t use it enough to justify the cost, get rid of it.
32. Cut Back on Alcohol and Trips to the Bar
Alcohol can be a huge expense if you drink frequently. Even drinking at home can be expensive, but trips to the bar will really put a huge dent in your budget. Cut back, or eliminate it altogether, and you may be able to save a lot of money each month.
33. Opt for Free or Cheap Entertainment
Although entertainment can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of free and low-cost forms of entertainment available, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. I love to hike, and it’s definitely a great option for cheap entertainment and exercise.
The tips and ideas listed below don’t really fit into any of the main categories, but they all make it possible to cut your monthly expenses.
34. Cut Your Own Hair
Cutting your own hair, or cutting the hair of someone else in your household, is a great way to save money. Admittedly, this is easier for some people than others. I haven’t paid for a haircut in more than 12 years, but mine only involves clippers or a razor, so it’s not too complicated.
My wife and I also cut our sons hair, and that definitely has helped us to save some money.
35. Check for Cheaper Prescriptions
If you take medication on a regular basis, those costs can be significant. Most people tend to go to the same pharmacy, but prices can vary and it pays to find the lowest price. Saving a little bit on each re-fill can add up to nice savings. Use websites like GoodRX or FamilyWize to find the lowest prices near you.
A lot of us tend to buy things that we may only use once or twice. Before buying something, think about how often you will realistically use it. If you’re not likely to use it more than a couple of times, see if it’s something that you could borrow from a friend or family member.
There are also some websites that can help. Local Tools will help you to find tool libraries where you can borrow what you need instead of buying it. You can also check Freecycle or the free section at Craigslist.
37. Buy Used
Another great option is to buy used items. There are many things you can buy used, and it will be almost as good as new. Buying used can save you a ton of money on anything from clothes, to tools, to furniture, to toys.
You can shop at thrift stores, consignment shops, yard sales, flea markets, or online marketplaces to find great deals.
38. Compare Childcare Options
If you have kids in childcare, this is probably one of your biggest expenses. By comparing options and shopping around, you may be able to save a good bit of money each month.
39. Take a DIY Approach
Do you spend money each month on services that you could do yourself? If you’re looking for ways to save money, this is one way to have a big impact. This could include house cleaning, landscaping and yard work, delivery services, laundry, pest control, and more.
40. Cut Back on Splurges
If you spend money on splurges that aren’t really necessary, you could save by eliminating these expenses. This could include things like massages and frequent trips to the spa.
41. Track Your Spending
If you want to reduce your expenses, one of the best things you can do is track your spending. Record all of your expenses, put them in categories, and add up the totals for each month. Be sure that you are actually sticking to the amounts designated by your budget.
To do this, you can either use a simple spreadsheet, or you can take advantage of apps like Mint and Personal Capital that have expense tracking capabilities. We also have a free spending log and a free bill pay checklist that might be helpful.