One of the quickest ways to improve your finances is to reduce your expenses and find more ways to save money. This article is a compilation of various money saving ideas curated into one big list. The idea behind this list is that you can go down the list and pick out ideas and apply them to your own budget as needed — don’t try to tackle everything all at once, rather do a few each day or each week. Once you do enough of these, you should see a difference in your cash flow.
Money Saving Tools
1. Trim Your Subscriptions
Sign up for Trim, link your accounts, and answer a few questions. Your free account gives you a personal finance dashboard, personalized spend alerts and reminders, detection and fighting of overdraft fees, finding and cancelling old subscriptions, and more.
Trim offers additional paid features such as Bill Negotiation, Debt Payoff, and Trim Simple Savings. For Bill Negotiation, they claim users save $189 on average. Their fee is 33% of the first year of savings. No savings means no charge.
2. Reduce Your Investment Expenses
Sign up for Personal Capital, link your investment accounts, then go Planning > Retirement Fee Analyzer. Personal Capital will show you a list of all your holdings. You can sort the list by Expense Ratio. Start from your most expensive investment and replace it with a similar mutual fund or ETF with lower expense ratio.
- Buy only what you need, just enough for what you need, and only when you need it.
- Buy used items. When you making a purchase, check eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace to see if you can find used item for less. Or go out and visit your local thrift stores.
- Use what you have until it is worn out. Don’t prematurely replace items just because there is something newer available.
- Refinance your home loan to lower monthly payments. Make sure your lender shows you the total interest you’ll pay over the entire loan period on the new loan, and compare it against total interest you have left on the current loan. Only go forward with refinancing your home loan if the benefit of lower monthly payments outweigh the potential increase in interest amount.
- Appeal your property tax. If your property tax looks too high, submit an appeal to see if the county will lower your tax.
- Apply for tax break. Some jurisdictions offer tax break for homeowners. You have to ask around or find out to see if your program is eligible for one. For example, NY has STAR Tax Credit and MD has Homestead Tax Credit.
- Find a cheaper place to live. If you’re renting, move to a less expensive property or consider buying when your lease is over.
- DIY whenever you can. Learn to fix little things on your own, do your own yard work and cleaning.
- Check for energy vampires. Use an Electricity Usage Monitor (~$20) to test your electronics and see who has been sucking up all the power.
- Unplug electronics when not in use. You can also use a power strip with individually controlled on/off buttons.
- Take advantage of natural light.
- Turn off lights when not in use.
- Replace light bulbs with LED. Obviously, there is no need to replace your entire house all at once…just go as they blow.
- Replace appliances as they break with a more energy efficient version. Often, it is cheaper to replace than to repair appliances. You can save even more money by buying dinged and dented appliances that are new.
- Set proper temperature for your refrigerator. Set refrigerators to 40 degrees (F), and freezers to 0 degrees (F)
- Use less air conditioning. Run less AC in the Summer and less heat in the Winter.
- Use shades and blinds. During Summer close them to block out sun light, and open them to let more light in during Winter
- Use ceiling fans to help with cooling.
- Seal drafty doors, windows, and chimney.
- Fix leaks.
- Add insulation in the attic.
- Change your air filters regularly.
- Clean your dryer lint filter before each load.
- Wash with cold water whenever possible.
- Wash and dry full loads to maximize efficiency (both clothes and dishes).
- Use less detergent.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Take shorter showers.
- Use less toilet paper.
Cable and Internet
- Cut your home phone. When was the last time you get an actual phone call that is not a telemarketer or a robocall?
- Cut your cable service. You can keep internet only and subscribe to cheaper alternatives like Netflix, or Amazon Prime Video.
- Downgrade your package and reduce add-on options.
- Call another service provider whenever your current contract expires. Customer loyalty is not important to these providers and new customers often pay less than existing ones.
- Get rid of your car. Do you need a car? If there are alternatives that doesn’t cost you too much time or money, it might be worth getting rid of your car altogether. For example, living in New York City, it might be easier and cheaper to take the subway, bus, or walk. When you get rid of your car, you eliminate a lot of related expenses, e.g., car payments, insurance, repairs, registration, taxes, inspection, tickets, gasoline, etc.
- Switch to a less expensive car. If you use your car regularly and can’t get rid of it, it might be more practical to switch to a less expensive one.
- Use alternative car options. Instead of owning a car, you can use car sharing services, slugging, or carpooling when you need to.
- Stop using premium gas. Unless your car needs the higher octane, you’re just throwing away money. Higher octane doesn’t give you more horsepower.
- Keep your car well maintained. Stay on top of the service schedule. Change your oil as needed. Keep your tires properly inflated.
- Practice Hypermiling. For example:
- Do not accelerate to red light, stop sign, or traffic jam ahead
- Drive at the speed limit and accelerate slowly to save gas
- Drive Less. Walk or use public transportation
- Perform regular maintenance on your car.
- Eat healthy. Being overweight or eating unhealthy food costs you money in the long run when you have to pay for it with higher medical bills.
- Exercise more.
- Don’t smoke, do drugs, or drink (too much). Smoking is expensive, and drugs do crazy shit to your brain and body. Not only are you paying for the goods, but you are also paying a higher premium for your health insurance. The long-term impact to your health is also terrible.
- Buy generic drugs instead of brand name medicines.
- Shop for new auto insurance. You can usually save money just by calling a few providers and shop for a better premium. Doing this every 2-3 years will almost always save you money.
- Shop for new home insurance.
- Take advantage of multi-policies discount. When you have multiple policies with one insurer, you often will save money.
- Increase your deductibles. Ask your provider how much you can save by increasing the deductible on each policy, and make changes according to your risk tolerance and risk exposure.
- Reduce options. Go through all the options and add-on options with your provider and see what you can cut back to save money.
- Switch to a cheaper plan.
- Switch to a different provider.
- Don’t upgrade your phone too often. Cell phones used to be fairly cheap or even free if you sign up for a 2 years plan. This is hardly true any more and the latest model phones can costs you a small fortune!
- Buy from Amazon Wireless. Amazon Wireless offers a lot of choices that are often cheaper than a store-bought phone.
Food and Household Items
Food prices could be a significant portion of your budget, and the bad news is that they are not getting any cheaper. Depending on where you live and the selection of local stores, some food can be extraordinary expensive compared to the norm. The good news is that you can still keep food expenses manageable if you follow these easy to follow tips.
1. Plan Your Shopping Trip
If you plan your grocery shopping carefully, you can significantly reduce your costs for 3 reasons:
- Make a list of what you want to buy before you buy, helps you stop impulse shopping.
- Buy items in bulk when it makes sense saves you money.
- Comparison shopping help you get the best value for your money.
For instance, Costco offers much better value than our local supermarket for fruits, vegetables, and meats. Instead of buying everything from the local supermarket, we plan a trip to Costco about twice a month and buy most of what we need in bulk, and limit local supermarket shopping to things that run out in between, or things that are easily perishable.
2. Eat More Vegetables
Vegetables are on average cheaper than meats. It certainly is not practical for a family to suddenly switch from meat-based meals to vegetarian meals just to save money. However, making vegetables a larger part of each meal, or even planning one vegetarian meal per week is not out of reach for most families.
3. Start Your Meals with a Soup
Soups are easy to make and one pot can last several meals. You can cook once in a large quantity and save the rest for other days. They are also great at curbing your appetite and cut down your overall food expenses. Now that we are going into the winter months, they are also great at keeping you warm and comfy.
4. Bring Your Breakfast and Lunch from Home
Eating out daily adds up very quickly. Even relatively cheap breakfast and lunch could easily add up to $15 per day — that’s $75 a week!
A loaf of sliced bread is only $2-3 and a jar of peanut butter could last you the entire month. In short, your monthly breakfast cost could be as little as $10-15. The same bread could be combined with lettuce and sliced ham to make lunch sandwiches. You could easily save $150 or more a month this way.
If you don’t want to make lunch everyday, just cook a little extra dinner each night and pack the leftover for lunch.
5. Minimize Food Waste
This one is obvious. Everything we buy is almost always too big, and this includes food that you buy in restaurants. Most entrees you buy today can feed two people…at least. Unfortunately, this tends to create bad habits that get carried to the home front. If you find yourself pitching a bit of food into the garbage each night, it’s a good time to start adjusting.
6. Use Up Your Pantry and Freezer
Another area of waste, and probably a bigger one, is stockpiling too much food and not be able to use them all before they expire or go bad. If you find yourself with a stuffed refrigerator or pantry and have to empty them out every once in a while, reconsider your grocery shopping plan and adjust downward.
Take a close look at your pantry and freezer, then plan your meals around it. If you are bolder, plan your meals around the stuff that are about to go bad. Mix and match older food with fresh food to keep your meals palatable. Your pantry and your pocketbook will thank you.
7. Clip Coupons
Take advantage of discount coupons and membership cards. Stores offer coupons and discounts to loyal members all the time, you just have to keep your eyes out for these special deals and take advantage of the savings. With coupons and discounts, you will have to be a little more flexible with your meal plan, but it’s well worth it.
For online purchases, check out Ebates (you can save money on your purchases and make money by inviting others to join)
8. More Ideas
- Eat out less or go to less expensive restaurants.
- Drink less alcohol.
- Avoid buying sodas and snacks.
- Make your own coffee in the morning.
- Start an edible garden. Instead of spending money maintaining flowers and bushes, use that effort toward growing a garden that you can eat, e.g., lettuce, tomato, and many herbs are some of the easiest edible plants to grown in your yard.
- Get free items. You can often find free items listed on Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor.com.
- Buy store brand instead of name brand.
- Avoid clothes that require dry cleaning.
Memberships and Subscriptions
- Cancel your gym membership. You can use your unspent energy to do chores around the house and in the yard. If you need exercise, calisthenics and brisk walking are often good enough for most people.
- Ask for a discount. Whenever you can, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. The worst they can say is NO.
- Improve your credit score. Things that depend on your credit, like mortgage and loans become dramatically less expensive when you have a good credit score.
- Don’t pay interest on credit cards. Pay off your balance in full each month. If you cannot do that transfer your balance (see below) and stop using your cards.
- Transfer your credit card balances to 0% APR cards. If you currently owe money on one or more of your cards, try transferring your balance to a lower interest or a 0% interest card.
- Set up Automatic Payments. Never pay a late fee again. Set up everything you can on automatic payment.
- Avoid bank fees. Set up your bank accounts so that you don’t have to pay monthly fee or ATM usage fee.
- Borrow books from the library. Check out your local library before you order your next book online.
- State and City Tax Credit. Search for the name of your state or city and the word “tax credit”. Some states and/or lower jurisdictions offer tax credit for eligible individuals.
- Wait before you buy. Wait at least 24 hours before you buy something that’s not essential. This way, you will have time to avoid impulse buy.
- Say Goodbye to Your Pets. I know this is unimaginable to some people. But pets are expensive, and if you’re not in a good financial place, getting rid of your pets could help you save a good chunk of money.
Do you have more money saving tips and ideas to add to the list above? If so, please leave a comment below.
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance and a Realtor® licensed in Virginia and Maryland. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo has enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, financial literacy author, and Realtor®.