Many or all of the products featured on this page are from our sponsors who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here is how we make money.
The information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. The Modest Wallet is a financial publisher that does not offer any personal financial advice or advocate the purchase or sale of any security or investment for any specific individual.
Saving money isn’t something you casually do on weekends. It’s a state of mind that requires a significant commitment to good habits, plus careful planning and a smart strategy.
Below, we list our 91 favorite ideas and tips for saving substantial amounts of money over the long term. When followed, this guide will put you on the path to financial independence and debt-free living. Read on to begin enjoying a new, less stressful life.
Good Money Management
Good money management starts with organization and planning. By putting your expenses on autopilot, creating a solid financial plan for yourself, and getting a big-picture view of your finances, you’ll learn to properly manage your money and get the most out of every dollar.
1. Track Your Money
Before you can financially get to where you want to go, you have to learn where you are. And the only way to do that is to get a handle on how much money you have coming in, and where it’s currently going.
There are great software options to consider when you’re trying to get a handle on your financial situation. Empower and You Need A Budget (YNAB) are great tools to help you learn how you’re spending your money. Both apps will link to your credit cards, debit cards, and checking, savings, and investment accounts to give you a picture of your financial health.
A financial snapshot of your accounts and a view of your account activity over time can be illuminating. You’ll likely be amazed at how much you spend on things you consider to be non-essential or discretionary. Similarly, if this is the first time you’ve tried to get a handle on your present-day financial position, you won’t believe how much you spend on things you don’t even want.
Take advantage of the functionality offered by these tools and gain as much situational awareness as possible.
2. Improve your Credit Score
You may or may not be surprised to learn that your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life. It controls the credit and debt you have access to, the interest rates for the loans you take out, and even whether you can qualify for a mortgage or not.
You may also be surprised to learn that a lot of people are completely unaware of what their credit score is. Given its importance, it seems unwise to be in the dark about this crucial metric.
Luckily, you can take advantage of a service offered by Credit Karma to check your credit score on a regular basis, for free! (A similar service is offered to our Canadian friends by a company called Borrowell.) Just sign up for your free account and get regular updates on your credit score.
Once you know your score, it’s time to improve it. You do this by reducing your credit utilization rate (i.e., by reducing the amounts owed on your credit cards and credit lines) and your overall debt. You can also improve your credit score by making all of your payments on time (more on this later).
3. Create a Budget
You wouldn’t go on a long trip without a map, right? So why would you plan for your financial future without a budget? Creating and sticking to a budget is job number one for anyone looking to undergo a financial makeover.
Creating a comprehensive and realistic budget will allow you to determine if you’re bringing in enough money, spending too much, saving enough, and investing adequately. In other words, you’ll see where your finances are weak, and where they’re strong.
4. Save Your Spare Change
Saving money doesn’t just entail being careful with your big purchases. You need to watch where your spare change is going as well. You need to save your pennies as well as your dollars.
An app called Acorns will let you do just that. Acorns “rounds up” all of your purchases to the nearest dollar and deposits those cents into a savings or investment account (depending on your preferences).
This app is an example of a theme you’ll see repeated throughout this article. You want to put positive behaviors on “autopilot” so you can effortlessly repeat them.
5. Automate Your Savings
You don’t need an app to begin automating your savings. All bank accounts will allow you to set up an automatic deposit into your savings account after each paycheck deposit.
Doing this is a great way of automatically carrying out one of the most important rules of personal finance: Pay yourself first.
Paying yourself first refers to the practice of setting aside money for investments and savings before you do anything else with your paycheck. You’ll keep yourself from overspending and avoid spending money you don’t have. Apps like Digit, make it easier for people to automate their savings.
6. Automate Your Payments
Being late with payments has at least three negative consequences. First, you’ll almost certainly have to pay late fees and interest on the missed payment. Second, your credit score will take a hit if you’re more than 60 days late on a payment. Finally, you’ll throw off your financial planning if you neglect to make payments on time, because you’ll have more money and fewer expenses in some months than others.
Instead of risking late payments, automate your bill payments using online banking or the bill payment automation offered by your financial services provider. As long as you set the bill to be paid after you receive your paycheck, you won’t end up with an insufficient funds penalty.
There’s one caveat associated with this strategy. Don’t allow bill automation to turn into bill ignorance. In other words, you should always at least be aware of all of the bills and subscriptions you have due every month. Just because payment is automated doesn’t mean you’re allowed to forget about the expense.
See Also: 15 Best Cash Back Apps Worth Your Time
7. Use 0% APR Cards to Transfer Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt is brutal. It’s a parasite, sucking the lifeblood out of your financial health with its extremely high-interest rate. If you find yourself in hock to a credit card company, keep an eye out for 0% APR interest rate credit cards to which you can transfer your balance. You can focus on paying down the principal rather than racking up substantial interest payments.
You’ll want to pay attention to a few things, though. Always pay your new credit card bill on time, or that 0% APR will quickly turn into a punitive percentage (at least according to most credit card contracts). In addition, be aware that opening a new credit card might temporarily reduce your credit score.
8. Never Pay Interest on Credit Card Debt
Similar to our last item, we can’t say often enough to pay off your credit card balance every month. Credit card interest rates are extraordinarily high, usually ranging from 19% to over 30% per year. Credit card debt is, with the possible exception of payday loans, the most expensive form of debt you can carry.
If you pay off your balance every month, you can enjoy the convenience and rewards of your credit card without having to pay any interest.
9. Set Up Electronic Billing
Most service providers will offer to cut a few dollars off of your bill if you agree to receive your bills electronically. This one is a simple and straightforward way to save a bit of money each month, and do your part for the environment at the same time.
10. Avoid ATMs
When you use ATMs, try and make sure that you’re using one owned by your bank. Using third-party ATMs can cost significant amounts of money in the form of transaction fees. These fees sometimes go as high as $5.00 per transaction.
While $5.00 might not sound like a lot, if you complete a large number of transactions every month your fees can quickly add up. There are a few things you can do to avoid this:
- Switch to an account that allows for free ATM use.
- Negotiate with your bank to waive the fees.
- Use an ATM owned by the bank you use.
- Make larger and fewer transactions at ATMs (since most fees are per-transaction)
- Just stop using ATMs.
11. Set Attainable Savings Goals
Solid research demonstrates the efficacy of setting realistic and attainable goals in changing behavior. If you create a savings goal (and write it down!), you’ll make it much more likely that you’ll successfully start saving, and continue saving.
12. Save for Retirement
We’ll talk about this goal more in the Investing section of this article — but for now, we’ll just say that it’s extraordinarily important for you to save for retirement, just as you would save for any other life event. Just because retirement may be far away doesn’t mean it’s any less important.
Plus, the earlier you start saving for retirement, the less you’ll need to put away. The power of compound interest will ensure that even small monthly contributions to a retirement account will grow into substantial nest eggs if properly taken care of.
13. Refinance Your Student Loans
Student loans are a huge drag on a lot of people’s financial freedom. And while there isn’t much you can do to eliminate them once you’ve accepted them (other than paying them off), there are some smart steps you can take to reduce the pain they cause.
Depending on what sort of student loan you have, you may be able to refinance it using a service called SoFi. SoFi will show you the interest rates available to you if you choose to refinance your debt. The difference between the refinancing rate and your current rate can be substantial, depending on the state of the economy in the US at the time you choose to refinance.
Use Coupons, Rebates and Cash Back
As we mentioned in item #4 above, it’s just as important to save your pennies as it is to save your dollars. One of the best ways to do this is by making sure you’re taking full advantage of cash back and couponing opportunities provided by services that make shopping cheaper and more fun.
14. Earn Cash Back
Groceries, home furnishings, and toiletries are necessary basics. But there’s no sense in spending money if you can’t make at least a little bit of it back.
Cash back services like Rakuten offer you a set amount of money back for every dollar you spend at participating retailers.
These companies work by collecting your consumer data and either advertising to you, or packaging that data along with the data collected from others, and selling it to third parties. Some people are uncomfortable with what they see as an invasion of privacy. Others are excited to be able to save up to 5%, 10%, or even 15% or more on everyday purchases.
15. Shop with Swagbucks
A company called Swagbucks offers rewards points when you shop through its online portal. Like Rakuten, it collects your consumer data, monetizes it, and passes some of those profits on to you in the form of rewards and cash back.
Swagbucks also allows you to complete other tasks in exchange for rewards, like watching videos or completing surveys. You won’t make a huge amount of money, but you can turn an idle evening into a few dollars if you use the service.
16. Use Coupons
One of the great things about #14 (Earn Cash Back, listed above) is that it combines so well with other money-saving techniques. And what goes better with cash back than coupons?
These days, most people don’t clip newspaper and flyer coupons. Instead, they use apps like Checkout 51 to find online coupons that help them save on everyday purchases. And when you combine coupon savings with cash back from other apps, you can save substantial amounts of money.
Save Money Through Your Home
For most of us, a home is one of the largest expenses we’ll ever incur. Between the mortgage, property taxes, and upkeep and maintenance, homeownership remains an expensive proposition. However, owning a home can also be a vehicle for saving money. Check out our favorite tips for using your home to find money-saving opportunities at the bank or under your own roof.
17. Use a Home Equity Line of Credit
Part of being responsible with money is learning how to borrow responsibly. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t borrow unless you need to. But if you do find yourself in need of credit, you’re much better off relying on the equity you’ve earned in your home to secure a loan over using a credit card.
The interest rate on a home equity line of credit (also called a HELOC) is likely to be low because it’s secured by the equity in your home. (In other words, if you don’t pay back the loan, the borrower takes a portion of your house.)
But you should be careful with HELOCs. Their low-interest rates can tempt some to use them for frivolous spending, like unnecessary home renovations and upgrades.
18. Refinance Your Mortgage
As with other forms of debt, occasionally refinancing your mortgage can bring a host of benefits that reduce your overall interest payments and the time it takes to pay off the loan.
When interest rates drop significantly, keep an eye out for mortgage providers willing to refinance your debt (or even to just negotiate with your current bank for a new rate). It can save tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.
19. Create a Budget for Home Expenses
Home expenses can be both large and unexpected. When your furnace suddenly dies, your water heater stops working, or your basement floods, you’ll be on the hook for a whole host of expenses. Yes, your home insurance might cover some or much of the outlay, but you’ll definitely still have large incidental expenses to cover.
To plan for these, you should have a budget for large home expenses along with an emergency home fund to pay for them. This way, you keep from endangering the health of your financial plan in the event of an unexpected expense.
20. Perform Preventive Maintenance at Home
One way to help keep your home expense budget low (#19 on our list) is to perform preventive maintenance in your home. Keep an eye on major appliances, and when necessary, bring in tradespeople to perform maintenance on important systems in your home. (If you rent, make sure that your landlord is providing maintenance.)
Preventive maintenance will greatly reduce the number of catastrophic failures of appliances and systems in your home — and therefore, it can significantly reduce the costs associated with home repair.
21. DIY Everything
Whenever possible, when something needs doing, do it yourself. Most basic and simple tasks can be performed by homeowners after a quick tour through some YouTube tutorials. Tasks like painting and basic maintenance can be “DIYed” in almost every case. You’ll save money that you would have spent on a contractor.
This advice comes with a caveat. Always keep in mind that you still want a proper job to be done. If you’re not confident you can do a job on your own, it might be worth getting a professional to do it to make sure a fully professional job is done. (As an extra layer of security, absolutely make sure to ask for references if you’re seeking help from a business you haven’t worked with before.)
22. Set Up Bi-Weekly Mortgage Payments
Whenever circumstances permit, pay your mortgage in biweekly installments as opposed to monthly installments. This is for two reasons. First, a biweekly schedule includes 26 payments, rather than 12. Even if your bi-weekly payment is exactly half of your monthly payment, you’ll make two additional payments each year. As a result, you’ll pay off your mortgage sooner, and pay less interest.
Second, by making your mortgage payment two weeks “early,” you’ll slightly reduce the interest owed on each payment. This seemingly small difference can add up to thousands in savings by the end of your mortgage.
23. Embrace Minimalism
This one is more of a philosophy than a strategy. Minimalism is the mindset that “less is more.” In other words, when you own fewer things, you can enjoy the things you do own more than you otherwise would.
Minimalists don’t rush out to buy every new thing that becomes available. They carefully contemplate whether they actually need or want the new item in question. (Tip: In many cases, taking two weeks to decide on a purchase is perfectly fine. If you’re not sure after three weeks, it’s likely you don’t really need or want it.) This careful attitude results in fewer thoughtless purchases, and fewer purchases overall.
24. Organize Your Home
Do you know the old cliché, “cleanliness is next to godliness?” Well, it’s not far from the truth. Maintaining organization in your home ensures a couple of things:
- You’ll know what you already own.
- You can access what you already own.
- You’ll stop buying things when you run out of space.
Generally speaking, people who keep their things organized buy fewer things overall. Rather than mindlessly buying more things and stuffing them into an overfull closet, organized people put more thought into acquiring more stuff. This reduces their overall number of purchases.
25. Get a Thermostat
Thermostats are like little money-saving machines. For a number of reasons, they’ll reduce your air-conditioning and heating costs (depending on where you live and what season it is). First, simply by being present, they’ll make you more aware of the temperature in your home. Second, they make it much easier to adjust the temperature in your home and reduce the use of climate control.
An even better way to increase your savings on this front is to get a smart thermostat. Companies like Nest offer “smart” or “green” thermostats that automatically increase or decrease the temperature based on your settings. They can also learn your schedule and keep the house heated or cooled based on when you’re likely to be home. They keep track of how much energy you’ve saved as well, encouraging environmentally and financially responsible habits.
26. Get Energy-Efficient LED Bulbs
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many people continue to buy incandescent light bulbs to “save money.” While the initial purchase is definitely cheaper, old-school light bulbs cost much more to operate than new LED bulbs. In the long run, you’ll save a lot of money by switching to the energy-efficient alternative. The Philips Hue bulb is a great option as it saves you money while allowing you to control your lighting via smartphone or voice.
27. Get Energy-Efficient Appliances
The same logic that applies to lightbulbs holds true for appliances. Energy-efficient appliances (like those with an Energy Star logo attached to the label) will save you large amounts of money on your monthly utility bill.
28. Watch Your Water Meter
You’ll also want to keep an eye on your water meter. Not only should you try to use less water to decrease your water bill, but you can also buy low-flow showerheads, toilets, and other plumbing accessories to reduce your bill even further.
29. Cut Recurring Subscriptions
Recurring subscriptions can create a significant drag on even the best and most well-intentioned financial plan. These expenses tend to creep up because their monthly cost seems so insignificant. Eight dollars here and twelve dollars there can quickly become hundreds of dollars per month if you’re not careful.
A service called Trim uses artificial intelligence to go through your credit card statement and find monthly subscriptions you may not be using. For a fee, the service will email the subscription provider to cancel the unnecessary and unused subscription (after confirming with you that you’d like to cancel, of course).
Services like Trim are an excellent option for those who have difficulty keeping track of all of their recurring monthly expenses due to a lack of time (or simple inattention). Like bill payment automation, it’s a way of putting good behavior on autopilot.
30. Manage Your Subscriptions Better
A service similar to Trim is one called Rocket Money. With much of the same functionality as Trim, Rocket Money will also contact your monthly subscription providers on your behalf (like cable and satellite TV companies) and attempt to negotiate a better rate. As a fee, Rocket Money will charge you a portion of your monthly savings.
Like Trim, Rocket Money’s service does something for you that you could certainly do on your own if you choose. But if you find it difficult to negotiate billing rates with your cable television company, Rocket Money is a great way to make sure this essential task gets done.
31. Cancel Your Cable TV
Going one step further than negotiating with your cable company is cutting off the service entirely. Popularly referred to as “cord-cutters,” these people have had enough with sky-high subscription rates, spotty customer service, and unexplained charges on their credit cards.
If you’re one of the people who’s tired of cable, plenty of people have had no problem replacing the entertainment provided by their cable service with the free options available on the internet — and that brings us to our next item.
32. Use Free Streaming Services
There are so many free (or nearly free) streaming services available online that it has become difficult to count them all. For those in the United States in particular, the Web is a treasure trove of free media. From YouTube to the major TV networks like NBC and ABC, there’s so much free content online that it would take a lifetime just to sample a fraction of it.
While you may find it difficult to find certain options for free (live sports, in particular, are usually hidden behind paywalls), lots of popular content is available at absolutely no cost, and with minimal hassle.
Save Money on Insurance
Along with homeownership, insurance is one of the larger expenses most of us are responsible for in our lifetimes. Between our cars, homes, and ourselves, we insure basically everything that’s important to us. And that’s for good reason. The peace of mind insurance provides is invaluable. However, there’s no sense in paying more for insurance than you have to.
33. Shop Around for Car Insurance
The internet has democratized insurance shopping. Back in the days before the Web, insurance rates varied wildly between companies that relied on consumers’ lack of information to charge inflated prices for products available elsewhere for much less.
Now, however, there’s no excuse not to shop around for the best deal. Most states, and some Canadian provinces, have a private market in vehicle insurance. This means you can find both good and bad deals depending on where you go.
We strongly encourage you to shop around for the best deal you can find. At the same time, however, we remind you not to ignore the contract you’re signing. Different insurance companies provide different exemptions and policies, and you want to make sure that you’re fully covered in the event of an accident.
Lastly, we strongly advise against insuring a car under someone else’s name to save money. Providing an insurance company with inaccurate information can not only void the contract, but it can also constitute fraud. Always be completely honest with your insurance company.
34. Shop Around for Life Insurance
Life insurance is available in a lot of different flavors. Term, whole, variable, and universal life insurance are just a few of the many options available to a buyer. Different companies offer these different products at very different prices. So once you know the type of insurance you want, shop around to see where you can find the best deal. We’d advise you to discuss what your needs are with a financial planner, in addition to an insurance broker.
As with car insurance, make sure that you’re not saving money at the cost of a barebones policy or insurance contract that doesn’t provide good coverage. There’s no sense in paying less if you’re not getting the coverage you need.
35. Shop Around for Home Insurance
As with life and vehicle insurance, home insurance pricing also varies between providers. The same principles that apply to buying vehicle and life insurance apply to home insurance. Determine what you need first, find the providers who offer the coverage you need, and then compare prices.
Ensure you’re comparing apples to apples. In other words, if there are material differences between insurance contracts from two different providers, it doesn’t make sense to pick the cheapest insurance without considering the differing coverage.
Save Money on Health
Not only is health important for its own sake, but being in poor health can be expensive. Additional doctor bills, health products, insurance premiums, and unnecessary medical interventions all add up financially. It’s better and easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle (even though it may not seem that way initially if you need to change your habits.)
36. Stay in Good Health
If you’re focused on making good choices (and making changes gradually, if necessary), you’ll feel better, live longer, and enjoy life more. On top of that, you’ll save money on medical costs across the board.
Of course, being healthy doesn’t guarantee the total elimination of medical costs. Even the healthiest people still have to pay for check-ups and health insurance. But on average, over the long run, healthy people will pay much less in medical costs.
37. Shop Around for Health Insurance
One of the most significant healthcare costs for many people (especially for Americans) is health insurance. If you have the good fortune to be able to choose your health insurance provider, look for the company that can provide you the most coverage for the lowest rates.
As with other kinds of insurance, don’t just look at the price when shopping around. Examine the promised coverage and choose the least expensive option that still provides adequate protection against medical expenses.
You should also keep these principles in mind when buying non-essential health insurance. Coverage for dental care, optometry, or extended disability leave is often not included in a “basic” policy. You should carefully consider whether you need or want coverage like this — and if you do, ensure you get a decent deal on it.
38. Use Generic Brand Medications
When getting prescriptions from your medical doctor, always ask for the generic brand of medication. While some concerns have been raised about generic brands being vulnerable to counterfeiting, they are usually far cheaper than their name-brand cousins.
It is sometimes not possible to get a generic brand, especially if you need a relatively new medication. When this is the case, and if your doctor agrees, consider using an older, generic medication with similar or equivalent effects.
Combine the use of generic medications with discount pharmacies to reduce your medication costs as much as possible.
39. Stop Smoking
Quitting smoking can be one of the most challenging and rewarding things you’ve ever done. There is likely no other single change that you can make to your life that will have a greater effect on your health than cutting out cigarettes.
Don’t take a shortcut and start vaping when you quit smoking. Vaping has been linked to severe lung issues that aren’t yet fully understood. Instead, create a goal to eliminate nicotine use entirely.
If you have to, use medications or nicotine replacement therapies to take the edge off. Many are covered by medical insurance.
Within just days of quitting smoking, you’ll notice significant improvements in your ability to breathe. You’ll notice that you’re experiencing less anxiety, more feelings of well-being, and you’ll find it easier to sleep. In short, there isn’t one aspect of your health that won’t improve as a result of the absence of tobacco.
Of course, the financial benefits of quitting are huge. Not only will you save thousands of dollars per year, but your health premiums will also go down, as will any current medical expenses for smoking-related ailments.
40. Get Periodic Checkups
Periodic checkups are a necessary component of good physical and mental health. They ensure that your body and mind are in good shape, and check-ups can catch nascent health problems (and treat them) before they become something more serious.
Periodic checkups are also usually covered by standard health insurance, so out-of-pocket costs are minimal to none.
Save Money on Food
We spend money on food constantly. The habits we form when we purchase food determine whether we spend within our budgets, or spend significantly more.
41. Buy in Bulk
Buying food in bulk can have a dramatic impact on your annual grocery bills. While you’ll see higher up-front costs, buying food in bulk reduces the per-item cost of your food to a fraction of what it would be otherwise.
You need to be careful when you’re buying in bulk, however, as the temptation is always to buy more than you need. There’s no sense in buying 10 heads of lettuce if you’re only going to use one. To keep this from happening, keep a couple of rules of thumb in mind:
- Never buy something just because “it’s cheap.” Make sure it’s something you need or want.
- Don’t buy perishable items in bulk if you have a small family or cook only for yourself.
- When buying non-perishable items you use a lot, go nuts. Get as much as you can, especially when there’s a sale.
- Combine bulk buying with cash-back programs and coupons (like the ones discussed in items #14 through #16).
- Buy healthy items in bulk. Staying in good health can save you thousands, and buying healthy food is a huge part of that.
Many bulk stores require memberships (like Costco). Make sure you keep the cost of a membership in mind when you’re deciding whether it’s cheaper to shop at a bulk store.
42. Prepare Easy Meals
Make cooking at home easier by meal prepping and planning. It can be tough to come up with healthy and tasty meal options on the fly. Sometimes you need to pull something out of the freezer and let it thaw for a few hours. Sometimes you need extra time to prepare a recipe or marinate an ingredient.
To make meal prep easier, consider meal planning. Our favorite meal planning service takes all of the work out of the process by providing you with super-simple and fun recipes for every day of the week for only $5.00 per month. The 5 Dollar Meal Plan turns eating at home into one of the more fun parts of your day, rather than making it feel like a chore.
43. Stop Eating Out (or Getting Deliveries)
Related to #42 above, stop eating out at restaurants several times a week (or getting restaurant deliveries if you’re not going out). With this suggestion, we don’t mean you can’t go to a restaurant on special occasions (or even just by yourself) from time to time, or that you can’t get something delivered on those days when you really don’t want to cook.
Going out to eat can become extraordinarily expensive very quickly, especially if you favor pricier or higher-end restaurants (and you don’t do kitchen splits with your dining companions). It’s also a bit of a vicious cycle, because people who frequent restaurants often don’t develop any cooking skills, and they find it more difficult to prepare meals at home, which leads them to eat out more.
Refer back to #42 and strongly consider using meal prepping and planning, even if you have to use an inexpensive service like 5 Dollar Meal Plan. It’s far cheaper than a restaurant, and as a bonus, over time, you’ll become a great cook.
44. Pack a Lunch For Work
We hate to beat a dead horse, but not going to restaurants extends to lunches as well. Instead of buying your lunch at work or going out to eat with your colleagues, brown-bag your lunch from home.
You’ll save a ton of money, improve your cooking skills, and even eat healthier. In turn, you’ll stay in better shape, which will reduce your medical bills. It’s a win, win, win, win.
45. Grocery Shop Only Once a Month
When you shop for groceries, make sure that you have a list and stick to it. You’ll spend much less money than you would if you go to the store without a plan. (This goes double if you wind up going to the store while you’re hungry.) Shopping while you’re hungry and without a list is a recipe for coming home with expensive food you don’t really need (and potentially, junk food). You’ll hurt your health and your wallet.
Think of grocery shopping kind of like budgeting. When you make a budget, half of the benefit comes from having a plan and sticking to it. Your grocery list is like your monthly budget. If you stick to it, your pocketbook and cholesterol levels will thank you.
This tip pairs very nicely with tip #41. When you buy in bulk, you tend to make fewer trips to the store and plan out each trip in more detail. Remember: Failing to plan is planning to fail!
46. Use Coupons and Discount Codes
Just as you should use coupons and discount codes when shopping for other items, you should use them for groceries as well. It doesn’t matter if the coupon only gives you $0.50 off an item — $0.50 add up when you continually use coupons throughout the year.
47. Use a Grocery App
Ibotta is the Rakuten of groceries. Ibotta provides fantastic cash back, rewards, and savings opportunities when you shop for groceries at most major retailers in the United States.
Ibotta is an especially powerful tool when you combine it with a receipt-scanning app like Receipt Hog. You can save money at the store with Ibotta, get rewards on your credit card, and scan the receipt for even more cash back and rewards.
48. Stop Buying Brands
Brand names are the enemy of a frugal life. Almost anything you buy in the grocery store is available in a store-brand or generic-brand equivalent. While there’s nothing wrong with splurging on a few of your favorite products (I, for one, never buy generic Coca-Cola), as a rule, you should always get the store or generic brand if you want to lower your grocery bills. The savings add up.
49. Never Buy Bottled Water
Bottled water is one of the most unnecessary items on most consumers’ shopping lists. Tap water across North America is, with a few notable exceptions, remarkably clean and safe. It even has fluoride to keep your teeth healthy. There is simply no reason to buy expensive bottled water.
Bottled water has notable negative effects on the environment. From the way in which it is bottled to the additional plastic it creates, it’s a problem. And in more than a few cases, bottled water is actually no better — or worse — than tap water. Save your wallet. Save the planet. Take a pass on bottled water.
50. Plan your Meals Based On What’s On Sale
Try to plan your meals based on food that’s on sale (think produce, meats). If chicken thighs are cheap next week, plan to cook up a few recipes incorporating them. If bell peppers are also cheap that week, maybe stuff them with the leftover chicken thigh meat, or use them as part of a soup, stew, or some quick chicken tacos.
Make the most out of everything you buy and take advantage of weekly sales and specials to reduce your grocery bills even further.
51. Grow Your Own Food
If you have the opportunity, try to grow some of your own food. If you have a garden in your backyard (assuming you have a backyard), grow some veggies and herbs instead of flowers. They’ll be delicious (fresh-grown herbs and produce always taste better than store-bought), and you’ll enjoy the added benefit of knowing exactly what’s in the soil they grew out of.
52. Eat Out with Gift Cards
If you do want to treat yourself to the occasional meal out, try to use gift cards you’ve received as presents from holidays and birthdays to pay for them.
Save Money Shopping
Shopping for non-food items can quickly become a bad habit for a lot of people. Use these simple tricks to keep your shopping bills low.
53. Shop in Cash
A significant amount of research shows that people spend less money when they spend physical cash than when they spend with credit. There’s something about handing over a handful of paper money and coins that triggers a psychological response that isn’t the same as swiping plastic.
While you won’t get the rewards offered by credit cards, you also won’t risk carrying a balance at the end of the month.
54. Price Check
Always check the price of what you’re buying as it’s being scanned. Pricing errors occur at the company and employee level (including simply mistagging merchandise) and you can end up overpaying at the till.
Keep a close eye on the price indicated on the rack and mention any discrepancy between that price and the one on the register or receipt.
55. Stop Buying on Impulse (Use the 24-hr Rule)
There’s a simple rule to keep you from buying things you don’t need. Wait 24 hours after the desire to buy arises before actually buying something. This “cool-down” period will ensure that you actually want the item after you’ve had time to think about the purchase.
Very often, you’ll find that, after a day has passed, your desire for the item has passed as well. (If you find you need a day or two longer to think it over, that’s okay, too.)
56. Stop Buying Designer Clothes
Price doesn’t equal quality. This mantra goes double for designer clothing. Plus, “nice” clothing can be surprisingly fragile.
Rather than buying a really expensive piece of designer clothing, try buying a well-made but cheaper alternative if you can. It will last longer and cost less.
57. Buy Quality Clothes
As we mentioned above in item #56, make an effort to buy well-made clothing. It can be difficult for some to recognize the indicators of quality on a piece of clothing, but it’s worth learning the difference. If you really have no idea what a decent hem looks like, stick to reputable but inexpensive brands. That way, you won’t have to buy a new pair of jeans every 90 days.
58. Buy Only What You Need
Just as with buying groceries, when you go to the store or a mall, make a list and stick to it. Apply the 24-hour rule (see item #55), and buy only the items you planned to buy. Don’t be seduced by big, shiny “SALE” signs.
59. Buy Refurbished (When Possible)
Whenever possible, buy refurbished goods. But you’ll want to be careful when doing this. There’s no sense in saving $5.00 buying a used appliance only to have it break on you without a warranty.
If, however, you can find a gently used alternative to a brand new product and acquire it relatively easily and safely, you should take advantage of the opportunity. The internet offers lots of marketplaces dedicated to resold merchandise and products. You can check out Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay, or any similar online store.
60. Shop Online with Apps Like Honey
Shopping online can be an incredibly rewarding experience. This is doubly true when you use apps like Honey (recently acquired by PayPal). Honey will scour the internet for the items in your online shopping cart and find discount codes you can apply. It will also allow you to accumulate rewards points (called Honey Gold) that you can spend on gift cards.
61. Shop Outlet Stores
Outlets can be goldmines for those who absolutely must have brand-name products and clothing. Prices are a fraction of what they are at the mall.
Unfortunately, you’ll often need to live near an outlet mall or shop in order to take advantage of these deals. Online outlets may not compare.
62. Shop Around for Gas
Going to the nearest gas station to fuel up your car might cost you more. Instead, find the best deal that’s reasonably close to you and fill up there.
But don’t take this advice to an extreme. Some people will wait in line for hours just to save $2.00 on gas. Remember, your time and effort are worth something too. Be smart. You can check out apps like Gas Buddy to find good gas deals.
Save Money on Transportation
Along with food, the money we spend to get around from place to place (usually in a vehicle we own) is one of our biggest expenses.
63. Buy a Used Car
We can’t emphasize enough how important it is for most people to avoid buying a brand new car. The increase in price over a used vehicle is huge. While a new car will provide you with a new warranty (which can, in some cases, be an important consideration), a quality used car will save you a ton of money.
Remember to use a reputable dealer and to take advantage of used car information services, like CarFax, to close the information deficit between you and the seller. It reduces the chances you’ll end up with a lemon.
64. Buy in Cash
Whenever possible, don’t finance your vehicle purchase. Pay cash. You’ll save a fortune in interest payments, and it will keep you from buying a car you can’t afford.
Whatever you do, don’t budget for a used car by “calculating” how large a monthly payment you can afford. This will always cause you to ignore the true cost of interest payments. Instead, if you do have to finance, keep the interest rate and terms of the financing agreement at the front of your mind.
65. Shop Around for The Best Car Deal
Used cars vary significantly in price. Not only should you shop around before buying a car, we strongly urge you to consider enlisting the help of someone who is experienced in car buying and has solid knowledge about cars. If you already know quite a bit about vehicles, you won’t need to do this, but if you’re a bit clueless, the extra knowledge will help immensely.
66. Consider Fuel Efficiency When Buying a Car
One of the features you’ll be looking for when buying a used car is its fuel efficiency. The more efficient the vehicle, the less you’ll wind up spending on fuel.
Be careful of one thing, though. Some people drive more after they buy a car that’s fuel-efficient. It has the perverse effect of making them spend more money when each mile they drive costs less.
67. Use Cruise Control when Driving
Using the cruise control feature on your car reduces the amount of acceleration and deceleration you perform while driving. It’s especially useful on highways where you’re required to slow down and speed up less often. The less you accelerate and decelerate, the less fuel you’ll use (as a rule).
68. Perform Preventive Maintenance on Your Car
Just like with your home appliances (see item #20), you need to perform preventive maintenance on your car while you own it. It will increase your car’s lifespan, decrease the number of breakdowns (and associated repair bills), and improve its performance.
These days, it’s easy to learn how to perform basic maintenance on your car. Just get on YouTube and search for your vehicle’s make and model, along with “maintenance” and you’ll find a wealth of video tutorials on how to keep your car in tip-top shape.
69. Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated
It’s amazing how many drivers don’t keep their car’s tires properly inflated. Driving with suboptimal tire pressure reduces the life of your vehicle and creates unnecessary repair bills. It’s an easy problem to fix with a cheap pressure gauge and the air hose at your local gas station.
70. Keep Your Car Longer
Don’t buy a new car just because you see one that looks nicer than your current one. Think of a car like a tool rather than a status symbol (squeeze every mile out of your car before buying a new one). If it’s still getting the job done, why replace it?
One caveat with this piece of advice is that you will want to replace the car rather than repair it if it has become cheaper to buy a new one than to regularly fix your old one. So if you find yourself sinking money into an old beater just to keep it on the road, it might be time to stop throwing away good money and upgrade your wheels.
Whenever possible, carpool to save money and the environment. Driving your own car less (within reason) will generally increase the usable life of the vehicle, and you’ll spend less on gas and maintenance.
72. Use a Bike to Commute
Just because you have a car doesn’t mean you need to use it to get everywhere. Consider using a bicycle or walking to nearby destinations unless you have to carry something heavy (like grocery bags). As with carpooling, you’ll extend the life of your car and spend less on fuel.
Save Money Investing
If you remember only one section of this article, remember this one. Investing properly is what sets the financially comfortable apart from those that can never seem to escape the daily grind.
73. Start Investing Early
The earlier you start investing, the more you can take advantage of compound interest to grow your nest egg. All else being equal, those who begin investing at age 20 will be in a substantially better position than those who begin investing at age 40.
Compound interest, or the interest you earn on the interest you earn, can double, triple, or quadruple your initial investment amounts over surprisingly short periods of time. All you need is time and the willingness to start.
74. Invest for Retirement
Both the United States and Canada offer tax-sheltered retirement accounts that shield investment gains from taxes until the amounts are withdrawn. While this might not seem incredibly attractive at first (after all, you need to pay the tax when you withdraw the money), the power of tax deferral is similar to compound interest. It allows your money to grow as long as the tax is deferred.
Any investment advisor will strongly advise you to take full advantage of any tax-sheltered account you have available to you. In Canada, these accounts are known as RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plans). In the US, they’re known as 401(k). Use them.
75. Invest in a Tax-Sheltered Savings Account
Similar to retirement accounts, tax-sheltered savings accounts operate by allowing people to defer, or avoid entirely, the taxes due on in-account gains made over time. In Canada, they’re referred to as TFSA (Tax-Free Savings Accounts) and in the US, they’re called Roth IRAs. Use them.
76. Invest Automatically
Just as Acorns will allow you to save small amounts of money (a few cents here and there), an app called Betterment does the same thing with larger amounts of money. Betterment allows you to automate transfers to your investment accounts from your checking account. As we’ve said numerous times in this article, automating good habits is always a good thing in and of itself.
77. Invest in Low-cost Mutual Funds
When you’re investing in equities and other financial products, make sure you keep an eye on the fees charged by your broker, financial institution, and the investment product itself. Some exchange-traded funds and mutual funds charge very high management fees.
For a low-fee alternative, consider passively managed “index funds.” These are funds that track a broad stock market index, like the Standard & Poor’s 500. Their management fees are usually extraordinarily low, which means you’ll get to keep the entirety of your gains.
78. Be Mindful of Brokerage Fees
You should be especially mindful of the fees charged by your brokerage. These fees are in addition to any fees charged by the products in which you invest. If you invest in a high-cost fund through a high-cost broker, you could be losing over 5% of your returns in fees alone.
Most of the major brokerages in the US today (like Robinhood and Webull) offer 0% trading fees, and the trend is definitely towards a lower fee model. Take advantage of that and shop around. Even a few percentage points can make a huge difference over the long term.
Saving Money as a Parent
Parenting is one of the most expensive parts of life. But there are a few ways you can make it easier financially.
79. Compare Daycare Costs
Daycare can be brutally expensive, so saving 10% or 20% can make a big difference in the short and long term. Shop around when you’re choosing a daycare. Pick a good one, of course, but make sure you’re not paying more than you have to.
80. Buy Used Clothes
Youngsters don’t know the difference between new and used clothing. So why pay a pretty penny for new stuff when hand-me-downs will do just as well? Check out thrift shops and used clothing stores for great deals on children’s clothing.
81. Buy Used Toys and Sports Equipment
Just as used clothing can save you a bunch of money, used toys and sporting equipment can save you even more. Again, young children don’t know the difference between new and used toys, so it doesn’t make sense to pay a premium for new.
This tip works especially well when it comes to very expensive sports equipment. Used equipment goes for a fraction of the cost of new stuff (which can cost a fortune).
82. Try Using Reusable Diapers
This one’s pretty straightforward. Rather than buying single-use diapers, spend a little bit more money for the reusable kind up front, and save money over time by washing and reusing them.
83. Make Your Own Baby Food
Store-bought baby food can get very expensive. Since most of it is just mashed up vegetables and fruit, it can be really easy to make your own. But be careful with this one. You need to make sure that you properly prepare, preserve, and serve your homemade food, and make sure your baby is still getting all the nutrients he or she needs.
Other Unique Ways to Save Money
There are a few other ways you can save a few dollars here and there.
84. Do a No-Spend Challenge
This one is exactly what it sounds like. Agree to a challenge with a friend, co-worker, or family member, that for a set period of time (usually a week), you won’t spend any money.
It can be a fun way to focus your mind on saving — and even if you aren’t able to stick to it entirely (after all, sometimes you absolutely need to spend money), you’ll definitely spend less than you would have otherwise.
85. Use The 3-Bucket Spend Strategy
The 3-Bucket Strategy utilizes three different accounts — one for short-term expenditures (like a phone or new clothes), one for medium-term expenses (like a car or a vacation), and one for long-term savings (like a home, or a retirement account).
You split up your income into the three “buckets.” Some people prefer to put equal amounts into each one, while others use a different ratio. It’s up to you. The important thing is that you distinguish between your short, medium, and long-term needs and put a focus on saving.
86. Travel on a Budget
Travelling can be a large expense, but you can reduce it somewhat by indulging in a few travel hacks. Use budget airlines, never fly first-class, and try to fly during the middle of the week as opposed to the weekend. You may also want to consider driving over flying if the distance isn’t too great, but keep fuel and time costs in mind if you decide to drive.
87. Vacation on a Budget
Airbnb may be one of the best inventions for budget travelers since no-frills airlines. Much cheaper than most mid-range hotel chains, Airbnb offers excellent amenities for low prices.
While you won’t earn hotel rewards as you would with say, Marriott, you’ll probably save more money than the rewards would have been worth.
88. Use Credit Card Rewards Programs
If you pay off your credit card every month and get the annual fee waived (banks will often do this simply if you ask), rewards programs are like free money. You will need to keep the first part of that sentence in mind though, since the moment you start paying high-interest rates or excessive annual fees, the rewards will no longer be worth it.
Credit card rewards are frequently best used on travel redemptions through the credit card’s web portal. When combined with a good Airbnb (see item #86), you can sometimes travel for pennies on the dollar.
89. Buy Gifts Ahead for Time
You know who you need to buy Christmas gifts for every year, so there’s no sense in waiting until the last minute to buy them. Keep an eye out throughout the year and buy gifts when they go on sale. You’ll save a few dollars and you won’t be caught scrambling come the holidays.
90. Don’t Buy Books
This one is super simple. Libraries lend books for free. Why would you buy them new at the price that a bookstore or Amazon charges? Borrow Them From the Library.
91. Switch Your Bank Account
Finally, make sure that you’re getting the most out of your bank. Many financial institutions will offer high-interest savings accounts to new customers. They may also agree to waive fees or surcharges. (Sometimes your existing bank may even be willing to do this if you point out that a competitor is offering a better deal.)
While we’ve covered 91 ways to save money in this article, we’ve barely scratched the surface. We hope we’ve impressed upon you the importance of being creative and applying a holistic money-saving strategy to your finances. Whether it’s improving your investment strategies or saving a few dollars on your baby’s diapers, saving money requires a different way of looking at the world. We wish you the best of luck in reaching your financial goals!
Ricardo is an entrepreneur, investor and personal finance nerd who enjoys spending time with his family and friends, travelling and helping others achieve their financial goals. Ricardo has been quoted as a personal finance expert in several online publications including Healthline, Bankrate, GOBankingRates, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and USA Today.