101 Practical and Realistic Ways to Save Money

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101 Practical and Realistic Ways to Save Money

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.

See an updated list of the best cash back credit cards here.

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.

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 there are so many cheaper cable alternatives available now. You can buy a basic antenna for anywhere from $20 – $50 and get local channels for free in HD. How many channels you’ll get will depend on where you live and how strong of an antenna you buy. Subscriptions like Netflix and Hulu also have a lot to offer at a fraction of the price of cable. Amazon Prime customers get access to a great selection of videos as well. Other alternatives like Sling will give you live TV for a very reasonable monthly fee.

In our house, we have an antenna but rarely watch anything with it. We use Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for the majority of shows and movies that we watch. In the fall I’ll get a subscription to Sling to watch college football on ESPN.

If you decide to keep cable there are still some ways to reduce your bill. You can get rid of upgrades like HD or a DVR, or use cable on fewer TVs in your house. You may also have the option to buy your own equipment rather than renting it from the cable company.

23. Kick the bad habits

Do you smoke? If so, you should quit. Not only is it bad for your health, but it’s also a very expensive habit. How much do you spend on alcohol? Going out to the bar can be very expensive. If you’re able to get rid of these habits, or at least cut back, you can save a lot of money. You’ll also save on medical expenses later in life.

24. Avoid window shopping or shopping for fun

When you’re looking for entertainment or something to do, don’t go shopping. Even window shopping can easily turn into unneeded purchases that you wouldn’t have made if you didn’t go shopping in the first place. Shop when you need to buy something, not just for something to do.

25. Plan your meals for the week

Plan your meals ahead and make a shopping list of everything that you need for those meals. Then when you go to the grocery store only buy what is on your list. Not shopping from a list will lead to a lot of impulse buys, and you can really save a lot of money by planning and shopping just from your list. Not to mention, most of the impulse buys at grocery stores are for junk food or other things that you are better off without.

→ Related reading: 30 Brilliant Ways to Save Money on Groceries

26. Cut back on meat

One very effective way to reduce the amount of money spent on groceries is to buy and eat less meat. Chicken, beef, pork, and fish all add significantly to your weekly grocery bills, and you don’t need to eat meat with every meal. Simple meatless meals like rice and beans and meatless chili can be very filling and nice for the wallet. If you think you’ll have a hard time cutting back on meat check out this list of 24 Meatless Recipes That Carnivores Will Love.

27. Shop at discount grocery stores

Where you shop for groceries can have a big impact on how much you spend. Many towns and cities have discount grocery stores, and you can save a lot of money each week by shopping at them instead of the major grocery chains. I do most of the grocery shopping in our house and for the past few years I’ve been shopping at Aldi. It’s amazing how much cheaper their prices are! And on top of the savings, the smaller store and fast checkouts make it a more pleasant experience. If your town doesn’t have a discount grocery store you may have a local Wal-Mart with groceries, which is typically cheaper than other grocery stores.

28. Shop at farmer’s markets

Shopping at local farmer’s markets is a great way to get fresh produce, support local farmers, and to save some money. Many of the items will be priced lower than what you would pay at the grocery store. If you’re not aware of any farmer’s markets in your area check LocalHarvest.org.

29. Buy generic brands

Opting for generic brands instead of name brands can easily save a considerable amount of money. One of the reasons I like shopping at Aldi is because you can almost completely avoid the overpriced name brands, and their generics and private label products are very good. In many cases I’m sure they are made in the same factory with name brand products that are sold for much more. Aside from groceries you can also save by buying store brands for things like paper towels, cleaning supplies, and other household items.

30. Eat at home

If you’re tracking your expenses you may be surprised at how much money you spend going out to restaurants. I’m not saying you should never eat out, but most of us could cut back and save a lot of money. One meal for your family at a restaurant can sometimes equal the amount that you spend on groceries for an entire week!

Take out can also be a nice compromise. If you want to take a break from cooking or get a meal from your favorite restaurant you can save some money by going with takeout instead of eating at the restaurant. You can skip out on things like appetizers, drinks, and dessert and just use what you already have at home to go along with your entree.

→ Related reading: 40 Fantastic Stay at Home Date Ideas

31. Use a toaster oven

If you’re cooking something small enough to fit into a toaster oven, use that instead of the full oven to save money on utilities. Toaster ovens are pretty cheap and they can be very useful.

32. Use a Crock Pot or slow cooker

Another alternative to the oven is a Crock Pot or

99. Buy basic stuff

This applies to a lot of different things, but I think one of the most obvious examples is with cars. The more bells and whistles you have on your car the more you’ll pay for it, plus, that’s more things that can go wrong. All of those fancy gadgets are nice when they’re working, but when they break they can be expensive to fix.

Another example is with appliances. We moved less than two years ago and the house we bought had high-end kitchen appliances. A few months ago our oven wasn’t working right and we had to replace one of the heating elements. I don’t even want to admit how much it cost just for the part. When we eventually replace all of the appliances in the kitchen I highly doubt we will be going with high-end brands. They’re nice, but expensive to fix.

100. Negotiate

Most things in life are negotiable. In our culture we negotiate on certain things, like cars, real estate, and starting salaries, but other things are rarely negotiated. I’m not suggesting that you go in to the grocery store and haggle with the cashier. But there are many things that you can negotiate, especially services. Maybe they say no, but in a lot of cases you can get a discount if you ask and if they think it will be the difference in getting or losing your business.

101. Take care of your stuff

Take good care of what you have and you won’t need to replace it as often.

READ NEXT: How to Create a Budget That Works



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