Want to improve your financial situation, live with less stress, and have more money for things that are truly important to you? I think we can all answer “yes” to that. An important step is to spend less and save more.
In a lot cases that’s easier said than done. But fortunately there are many realistic and practical ways to save money in our daily lives, starting today. And many of these methods aren’t even painful or difficult, they just require some simple changes.
In this article, we’ll look at 101 different ways you can go about saving more money. The money that you save can be used to pay off debt, invest, save for retirement, save for a family vacation, or even given to charity.
→ Related reading: 100 Amazing Websites for Saving Money
The Best Ways to Save Money
1. Create a budget
If you don’t already have a budget, take some time as soon as possible to do that. You’ll need to not only create a budget, but also start tracking your expenses. Having a budget is a great start, but if you’re not tracking your expenses you won’t know if you’re actually sticking to the budget.
2. Identify your problem areas
Once you’ve created your budget and you’re tracking your expenses, you’ll probably be surprised at how much you are spending on certain things. All of us have some areas where we could cut back on spending without having a major impact on our lives. Take a look at your spending and identify your own “problem areas” where you think you could cut back.
Try using our free spending log to easily record your expenses so you know exactly where your money is going.
3. Set financial goals
Having financial goals is important. If you don’t have goals or a plan you’re unlikely to ever have much success in managing your own finances. Your goals could involve paying down or eliminating debt, saving a certain amount for retirement, saving for a major expense like a house or a wedding, or whatever else is important to you.
When you have goals that matter to you, you’ll start to scrutinize your expenses more, because every dollar you spend is one less dollar that can go towards your goal. Reaching your goals can be a fun challenge that motivates you even when it’s not easy.
4. Start a side hustle
Cutting back on your spending is great, but if you’re able to make some extra money you’ll have more to save (see this blog post for lots of side hustle ideas). Maybe you’d like to make a little more than you currently make at your job. Or maybe you’re a stay at home mom or dad and you want to make some money. Or maybe you don’t like your job and you’d like to find a side hustle that has potential to turn into a full time job or business. In any case, a side hustle is a great way to improve your financial situation, and it can even be fun.
Blogging is my favorite side hustle because you can work on something that you enjoy, and it can easily be a part-time thing or you can take it to another level and replace your full-time job. I started blogging as a side hustle in 2007 and it turned into a full-time business in 2018. If you’d like to make some extra money with a blog of your own, see my page How to Start a Blog for a step-by-step walk through.
5. Turn a hobby into a business
Another option for a fun way to make some extra money is to turn one of your hobbies into a business. Of course, some hobbies lend themselves to this purpose better than others, but there are plenty of hobbies that make money.
You could start an Etsy shop. You could offer a service like photography and graphic design. You could write ebooks and sell them on Amazon or sell them on your own website. There are plenty of possibilities, it really just depends on what you enjoy doing. You can even combine this with the previous point and start a blog about one of your hobbies.
Read more about how I turned a photography hobby into more than $1 million.
6. Wait on major purchases
This is one of the biggest strategies I use to save money in my own life. For any purchase that isn’t a necessity, especially big ticket items, I try to put it off and wait till later. If you avoid buying on impulse a lot of times you’ll ultimately decide that you don’t really want or need the item anyway. Or maybe you’ll wait until it goes on sale or the price drops. And even if you do eventually wind up buying it at the same price you’ve at least delayed the purchase and saved some money in the meantime. You’ll find that have less buyer’s remorse and more money in your bank account when you wait on purchases.
7. Don’t buy the latest gadgets
This is a big one for a lot of us in our society. Technology is such a big part of our daily lives and it’s easy to get wowed by the latest, greatest TV, phone, tablet, or any other type of gadget. The thing with technology is that the prices drop very quickly, and if you’re always buying the latest gadgets you’re spending a lot more than you would if you just waited a little longer. Compare the price of TVs to what they were just a few years ago and it’s insane.
Not only will you save money by not buying the latest devices, but you may not even miss out on anything important. The first two smartphones that I bought were the newest, most expensive Android phones on the market. I paid $300 and $400 for them, even with a contract with a major carrier. For my two most recent phones I got older and very basic smartphones. I realized I didn’t use any of the advanced features of the more expensive phones and it was an unnecessary expense. I’ve paid $20 or less for each of my last two phones and there has never been a single time where I regretted not getting a nicer, newer phone.
8. Take advantage of credit card rewards
Some financial experts will advise you to never use credit cards. I think by not using credit cards you’re missing out on an easy way to make some money through cash back and credit card rewards. Of course, this assumes that you pay off the balance in full each month. If you’re racking up a big bill and paying interest the rewards are irrelevant, so you have to know your own level of discipline and whether you can manage a credit card or not.
One of my favorite cash back cards is the Chase Freedom. You can earn 5% cash back on purchases in categories that rotate each quarter, and 1% cash back on everything else. The Chase Freedom Unlimited pays 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no rotating categories. Both of these cards have no annual fee. The Chase Freedom card also currently has an offer for a $150 signup bonus if you spend at least $500 in the first 90 days.
9. Use other rewards programs
Many retail stores, drug stores, hotels, restaurants, and other stores offer their own rewards program. Be sure that you’re taking advantage of these rewards programs at places where you shop regularly. Even small perks can add up. I love getting a free pizza, hotel room, or any other perk.
→ Related reading: How to Stack Cash Back and Rewards
10. Take advantage of available discounts
There are lots of other types of discounts out there that are easy to overlook. Many businesses offer discounts for military, students, teachers, senior citizens, AAA members, other group members, and even employees of certain companies. Check your employee benefits, think about the clubs and memberships that you have, and of course, have valid student or military ID. Don’t be afraid to ask if a business offers a discount for whatever applies to you.
11. Review your employee benefits
If you have a job with employee benefits there may be some additional savings that you’re not aware of. Many companies offer benefits like discounted gym memberships, or they may participate in programs managed by Working Advantage or Tickets at Work, Of course, you don’t want to buy things or pay for memberships just because you get a discount. But you may be able to get a discount on things that you would be paying for anyway. Check with your company’s human resources office to ask about any available discount programs.
12. Pay on time
Get in the habit of paying your bills on time, and consider setting up an automatic payment when available. Late fees can be very costly, and if you’re paying them on a regular basis it really adds up. With some bills you may even be able to get a discount for paying up front or for paying in full by a certain date. We get a slight discount on property taxes every year by paying by a certain deadline.
13. Pay off your debt
If you’re in debt, interest payments are probably seriously cutting in to what you could be saving or investing every month. Make it a priority to pay off your debt and you’ll find that you have a lot more money to save. This is especially true with high interest debt like credit cards.
Of course, there are a few different methods that you can use for paying off debt. With the debt avalanche approach you’ll pay off the highest interest debts first. With the debt snowball approach you’ll pay off the smallest debts first. Read debt snowball vs. debt avalanche for a more detailed comparison of the two approaches.
Use our free debt snowball worksheet to help with your debt payoff.
14. Make use of YouTube
YouTube isn’t just a place go to waste time when you have nothing else to do. There is a wealth of information and tutorials that are freely available on YouTube. Instead of paying someone else to do something for you, you can probably watch a YouTube video and learn how to do it yourself.
Over the past few years I’ve used YouTube videos to learn how to maintain a riding mower and snow blower, how to trim specific plants, how to treat a brick patio, how to waterproof a deck, how to change a fill valve on a toilet, and several other things. In each case, if I hadn’t been able to learn how to do it myself I would have needed to pay someone else to do it for me. Get in the habit of searching YouTube when you need to have something done, and you may find that it’s actually pretty easy to do it yourself with a little bit of guidance.
15. Trade services
All of us have some sort of skill that others might not have. And you can trade services with others to save yourself some money. Several years ago I helped my brother-in-law set up a website for his business and he helped me tile my kitchen floor. I probably wouldn’t have attempted the tiling on my own, but wound up getting the help of a professional, and he got a website out of it. There are a lot of possibilities here if you use some creativity. Websites like Simbi and SwapRight.com make it easy.
16. Take advantage of FSA and HSA accounts
Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts are benefits offered by many employers that allow you to contribute tax-free to save on medial costs that you’ll incur throughout the year. They’re a great way to save money if they are available to you, but be careful to understand how it works an to use it properly. This article at NerdWallet covers the differences between the two types of accounts.
17. Max your contributions to a 401(k) and traditional IRA
Contributing to a 401(k) or a traditional IRA is a great way to reduce the amount of tax that you owe, effectively saving you money. Not only does it save you money, but it’s a critical part of preparing yourself for retirement. Most employers offer some sort of match to contributions that you make to your 401(k). Be sure that you are contributing enough to get the full match offered by your employer, otherwise you’re passing up on free money.
18. Set up automatic savings
A great way to ensure that you save is to make it automatic. Most 401(k) plans will involve contributions being taken out of your paycheck automatically, so you won’t even have to think about it. you can also set up automatic contributions to many other types of accounts. For example you could set up an automatic transfer of $100 (or some other amount) from your checking account to savings account each month.
19. Pay attention to investment fees
Investment and management fees can really eat into your earnings, especially when you look at the long-term impact. If you’re paying a high fee for an investment or an advisor be sure that you are getting enough benefit to justify the fee.
My wife and I have most of our investments with Vanguard, and one of the reasons Vanguard is so popular is because of the low fees. Just a few months ago I had someone pitch me an investment opportunity that looked pretty good at first glance, but looking at more detail the fees were too high to justify. I can do much better with simple Vanguard funds.
20. Save your change
Get a piggy bank, or just use a big jar and throw all your change in it. You might be surprised at how much it can add up. When I was in college I bought a PlayStation just from change (I didn’t actually take all that change in to the store, they would have hated me. I took it to the bank first)! I’ve heard of other people using change to pay for bigger things like travel.
21. Give back
This one may seem counterproductive, but I don’t believe it is. Get in the habit of giving money to worthy causes and organizations that are important to you. Giving back helps to give you perspective and appreciation for the money that you have. You may even find that it gives you inspiration and motivation to manage your money more effectively so that you can do more good with it.
22. Get rid of cable TV
Cable TV is ridiculously expensive, and the