Are you looking for tips on how to live frugally and save money? If so, you’re in the right place!
There are over 100 ways to save money on this page.
The idea to live frugally is based on prioritizing spending based on what’s important to you. It’s about bringing awareness to your money. When you cut out waste, you’re left with what’s important and what makes you feel happy.
Where should you start?
On this page, you’ll first find 20 of the best ways to save. The ideas which will save you the most amount of money, in the least amount of time.
Then, you’ll find more ideas broken down by category.
- Financial Services
How to Live Frugally and Save Money: 100+ Genius Ways To Save
# 1 – Use the 20% ROI Rule
Sometimes it makes sense to spend money to save money.
One of the most important factors that determines how successful a business is is return on capital.
Let’s say a business is considering investing in a new manufacturing plant for $1,000,000. Based on their best estimates, they plan to see an increase in net income of $200,000 a year. In this scenario, the $1,000,000 expense would equate to a 20% Return on Investment.
20% ROI is very good. Knowing that the stock market has appreciated about 7% per year, if a business has an opportunity to return 20% on capital, it’s growing at about 3X the rate of the market.
I use 20% as the lowest ROI I’d accept for making a purchase. In other words, if a purchase can pay for itself in savings in five years, I make it.
This is true for many energy related home improvements.
It’s true for getting out of contracts. For example, it makes sense to pay $200 to cancel your contract if you save more than $3.33 a month.
Start with the purchases that provide you the highest ROI. For example, spending $10 to winterize your windows and save $100 in energy costs, has a 1,000% ROI in the first year.
# 2 – Shop Online with eBates
I enjoy finding great deals online for things I need. One thing I’ve done to save more has been to use eBates. eBates give you free money for the shopping you’re already doing.
Essentially, eBates allows you to share a referral fee for making a purchase through their link. So, you get a few extra percent off of your purchases from Amazon, Target, eBay, Nordstrom, among others.
If you sign up through this link, you’ll get a $10 bonus too. So, you’ll save $10, plus get cash back.
# 3 – Maximize Cash Back Rewards
Used correctly (always paying in full!), a good cash back credit card is a great way to save.
The first card I applied for and the one I still use to this day is the Chase Freedom Card.
The Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back on rotating categories. Last quarter, I received 5% cash back for everything I bought at Costco. This quarter, I get 5% on gas.
The points earned can get transferred to cash, credited to your account, or even be redeemed for gift cards.
The card has no annual fee. Plus, a $150 signup bonus.
You can learn more through this link.
# 4 – Don’t Hold Cash, If You’re In Debt
One of the most expensive mistakes I find is when others stockpile cash when they have non-mortgage debt.
The typical explanation is that the cash makes them “feel safe.” But that feeling is very expensive, not to mention an illusion.
Say you have $10K saved in cash, and $8K in credit card debt at 16%.
If you used the $10K in savings to pay off your entire credit card bill, you’ll only have $2K in cash. However, you’ll have saved $1,280 in interest over the course of the year.
Yes, you’ll only have $2K in cash. But, that money was just going to make you feel secure. In reality, that credit is still there if necessary.
I see this also with student loans. Someone can easily knock off their student loans with cash in the bank, however, they stick to making monthly payments.
# 5 – Refinance Your Debt
For any debt you do have, you want to have the lowest interest possible. A low interest rate, combined with an aggressive payoff plan gets you out of debt in the quickest way possible.
Without a large percentage of your income going towards repaying debt, you can build considerable wealth fast. Most importantly, give yourself more freedom.
For those with debt, there are a few different options here:
- Credit Card Debt – Find a card with 0% transfer balance with a low interest rate.
- Student Loans – Refinance your student loans to a lower rate with companies like Sofi and Credible (See my review on Credible).
- Mortgage – Monitor interest rates (as I write this in March of 2017, they’re increasing) overtime. If you can find a cheaper rate, go for it. In addition to student loan refinancing, SoFi offers very low mortgage rates to qualified borrowers.
# 6 – Use the Ibotta App for Everyday Purchases
The Ibotta app is a great way to get few dollars back every time your shop.
Ibotta offers cash back on a huge list of items you’re probably already buying like eggs, milk, bread, yogurt, etc… This can be from anyone of your favorite brands.
Plus, there’s bigger cash back offers on brand name items pending the store. Stores include Wal Mart, Target, Costco, and most nationwide grocery stores.
It works by just scanning the items and the receipts when you’re done.
Ibotta offer a generous signup bonus and a very easy way to earn your first $20, which is deposited into your PayPal or Venmo account.
# 7 – Use Swagbucks
Sign up for Swagbucks which lets you earn points everytime you do an online search. You then redeem your points for cash or gift cards.
Just for signing up you’ll receive a free $5 bonus. Then, you can earn more points through doing stuff on their site such as taking surveys, playing games, or watching videos.
# 8 – Know Your Investment Fees
Say you invested $500 a month into a brokerage account for a total of 30 years. If you were charged a 1% fee a year, your total fees over 30 years would add up to $98,404.65!
If you’re not careful, investment expenses can be one of the single biggest expenses over your lifetime! Review each of your investment accounts and the fees you’re paying.
A few tips:
- Investment companies like to hide fees. Use Personal Capital’s Free Fee Analyzer, which logs into your accounts and discovers the true fees, to discover actual expenses.
- Rollover old 401(k)s into an IRA at a low-fee investment provider such as Vanguard. A 401(k) typically has higher fees then individual brokerage accounts.
- If you’re trading individual stocks, TradeKing, gives you a $500 in free trade commissions when you deposit $500. You can learn more at this link.
# 9 – Find a Better Cell Phone Plan
The days of paying $100 a month for a cell phone plan are over.
There are new companies out today, with unlimited plans under $20 a month.
Republic Wireless is one of those companies. They have plans as low as $5.
# 10 – Cut Cable
I can get 59 HD quality channels for free with a $45 digital antenna. This made the decision to cut the cord easy.
Use this search feature to learn what channels are freely available in your area. Then, cut the cord.
# 11 – Cancel Your Gym Membership
This one is a tough one. As a gym membership can be very beneficial.
The problem—they cost a lot, they take up time, and you can get a good as a workout at home.
Spend $100 once on Craigslist buying some equipment for a home gym. Good place to start are used kettlebells and dumbbells.
12 – Get a Programmable Thermostat
A basic programmable thermostat will set you back $22.
You’ll then save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting, according to energy.gov.
You can then double that estimated savings by turning it back 16 hours a day:
- 8 Hours when you’re at work
- 8 Hours of sleep
# 13 – Call Your Internet Provider To Negotiate
Along with recently cutting the cord on my cable, I called Comcast to negotiate my internet rate.
My rate dropped from around $50 to a $25 promotional rate. They then encouraged me to call in 12 months when the promotional rate ends to renew at this $25 rate.
This is one of the biggest wins you can have today.
# 14– Use Your Library
The library makes a productive, fulfilling hobby like reading absolutely free.
It’s a no brainer.
# 15 – Learn To Cook
When you learn to cook, making a meal becomes joyful. It also saves you hundreds of dollars a month.
For beginners, I highly recommend the Four Hour Chef. Of course, pick it up at your library.
# 16 – Shop Your Home & Auto Insurance
Shop your home and auto insurance at least once every three years.
The thing about insurance is that the price can change drastically from one carrier to the next depending on how the rate. For example, some insurance companies heavily weigh your credit score, while others do not.
Go to a good, local independent agent who will shop multiple companies for you at once.
If you’re in Illinois, you can get a quote from my family’s agency instantly online. The agency was founded in 1905 by my Great Grandpa. It has contracts with over 14 different insurers which is about 2.5X the average AND,you’ll work with Sue who is a magician at finding Illinois homeowners the best rate.
# 17 – Increase Your Deductible
Now that you’ve shopped your insurance, check how much you’ll save by increasing your deductible.
The average amount of time someone files a homeowners claim has been about once every seven years.
So, the math is pretty simple. If increasing your deductible on home insurance will save you more than 7X the increase, you’ll be better off.
For example, if going from a $1,000 deductible to a $2,000, if you’ll save over $142 make the switch.
The average auto insurance claim frequency is filed once every 18 years. So, as long as the increase will save you over 18X, make the switch.
# 18– Review Limits On Home & Auto Insurance
While looking over my home insurance, I noticed my personal contents was insured for $280,000.
Your contents are everything in your home that would fall out if you turned it upside down (furniture, refrigerator, clothing, computers, etc…)
Not having many possessions in the first place, a limit of $280,000 meant I was over insured. I lowered that to $150,000 and saved over $250 a year.
# 19 – Buy Used
The fastest an item will depreciate will be when it goes from new to used. Even if it’s only been used for a short period of time. Let someone else pay for this depreciation by always buying used.
If you’re able to find a great deal, you can many times buy used and sell for a similar price once. This further limits your expenses.
# 20 – Limit Driving
The average cost per mile driven including operating and ownership costs is shockingly high.
Average Cost Per Mile
|Miles Per Year||10,000||15,000||20,000|
|Small Sedan||57.4 Cents||43.9 Cents||36.9 Cents|
|Medium Sedan||75.8 Cents||57.4 Cents||47.8 Cents|
|Large Sedan||93.1 Cents||69.9 Cents||58.0 Cents|
Minimizing your transportation expenses is essential to minimizing expenses. Heck, if you commute 100 miles per week (20 miles per day), you’re spending $57 a week or $208 every month! If we use the rule of 184, that’s $38,272 every ten years!
A few tips to lower your transportation expenses:
- Work closer to home
- Use public transportation when available
- Carpool to work
- Batch errands
- Ride a bike within town
- Get a low-mileage car
#21 – 30 – Ten Ways To Save Money On Utilities
You’ll see instant savings with a programmable thermostat (#12) but don’t stop there.
There are plenty more opportunities to save.
- Winterize Your Windows
- Get LED lights. I prefer Warm White, LED bulbs.
- Minimize temperature change of house compared to outside. In the winter, set temperature lower. In the summer, higher.
- Use a low-flow shower head
- Weatherstip all doors
- Lower the temperature of your water heater
- Add insulation
- Take quicker showers
- Use smart power strips
- Use time delays. Energy rates rise when usages is highest. So, if your dishwasher or washer machine offer time delays, set them to run in the middle of the night.
#31 – 40 – Ten Ways To Save Money Food
Over your lifetime, a large percentage of your income will go towards feeding yourself. Making food costs something you should be constantly trying to optimize.
Here are some tips:
- Join $5 meal plan, where you get shopping lists and meals under $5 to feed an entire family.
- When on sale, stock up on an item
- Compare price of the most frequent items you buy at different stores in your area
- Buy in bulk. Costco/Sam’s Club offer great deals. But don’t discount local CSAs, as another way to buy in bulk.
- Have 3-5 rotating, cheap, yet great tasting affordable meals you routinely make.
- Roughly calculate the cost per meal of everything you make. If your food budget is $500 a month and your meals are costing $5, the math simply will not work.
- Shop at farmer’s markets
- Commit to only buying groceries 2 X a week.
- Grow your own food (my 4-year old daugher is really getting into gardening with us)
- Use coupons from apps like iBotta
#41 – 50 – Ten Ways To Save Money with Financial Service Providers
America’s three biggest banks — Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo — earned more than $6 billion just from ATM and overdraft fees in 2015!
Furthermore, investment fees total up to one of the highest expenses in your lifetime (#8).
Picking quality companies to partner with in the financial service industry is vital. The savings can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.
Here are my most important tips:
- Use Personal Capital’s Free Fee Analyzer, which logs into your accounts and discovers the true fees, to discover actual expenses.
- Rollover old 401(k)s, which typically have some of the highest expense ratios
- Get a bank that doesn’t charge excessive overdraft fees and has a nationwide network of free ATMs, I use and recommend Capital One 360.
- Invest in index funds, which have the lowest expense ratios.
- If you’re trading individual stocks, TradeKing, gives you a $500 in free trade commissions when you deposit $500. This should last you your entire lifetime. You can learn more at this link.
- Buy term life insurance
- Read a few quality books on the subject on investing and financial planning, as basic help can be very expensive. I recommended the Boglehead Guide to Investing and The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.
- Use insurance only for what you can’t afford to protect yourself. For example, life insurance makes sense. Cell phone insurance doesn’t.
- Put your money where it has the highest and best use. Common mistakes include;
- Holding cash while holding debt (#4)
- Having a large emergency fund, yet still paying student loan debt
- Having a lot of cash, yet could pay off your mortgage
- Waiting to invest in IRAs until tax time, when you have the money now (get your investment dollars working for you as quickly as possible).
- Use forums to seek outside opinions. Post your question/plan on a forum like Bogleheads.org which has some very knowledgeable people who can spot errors.
#51 – 60 – Ten Ways To Save Money on Taxes
Taxes may take up to a third of your income over your lifetime. Understanding how to minimize tax payment even by a few percent, can mean the difference between broke and early retirement.
- Take advantage of tax advantaged accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s before investing in a taxable account
- If you use tax software such as TurboTax, compare your refund on more than one site.
- If you plan to pay for your kids college, put the money in a College 529 Plan
- Keep track of your donations. What you donate to stores like Goodwill is tax deductible.
- Know the home improvements that quality for energy credits
- Tax loss harvest any losses
- Increase your 401(k) contributions
- Don’t wait to pay off debt because of tax gains, you’ll likely not seeing any benefit
- If your employer has one, use your FSA for any expenses
- Understand what is and what’s not deductible, especially if you own your own business or do any type of independent contract work
#61 – 70 – Ten Ways To Save Money on Entertainment
When you learn how to live frugally and save money, it doesn’t mean a life of deprivation. You can still enjoy life, without spending a lot of money.
- Study happiness. The natural result will be decrease your spending.
- Get out in nature. It’s fun and has shown to significantly impact your happiness.
- Invest in entertainment with repeat value. Board games can entertain the family for hundreds of hours and the same price as one movie ticket.
- Turn hobbies into businesses. If you enjoy making jewelry, start selling on eBay/Etsy. If you enjoy a sport, referee or coach.
- Most museums and parks have free days. Plan your trip in advance.
- Become the event planner among your groups of friends and be responsible for planning affordable fun.
- Seek out and try different entertainment options which are lost cost. Try camping, try hiking, try attending a community event. Repeat what you enjoy.
- If you’re wanting to try a restaurant visit at happy hour, lunch, or try a few appetizers at the bar.
- Visit an attraction during non-peak times. It can cost $5 for a movie ticket on a Tuesday and $15 on Friday night.
- Netflix+Pandora. About $15 a month for commercial free TV and music.
#71 – 80 – Ten Ways To Save Money on Kids
- Shop at second-hand stores where many of the clothes are new or have been worn only once
- Trade babysitting nights with neighbors instead of paying for help
- Buy reusable diapers and pullups
- Make homemade gifts for birthday parties
- Take advantage of hand me downs from friends or family
- Carpool as much as possible
- Use the library for entertainment such as books, games, movies, and puzzles
- Get them involved in fun, affordable hobbies such as bike riding and cooking (e.g. not horseback riding)
- Master the staycation or local vacations, instead of tips to Disneyland
- Instead of giving your kids an allowance, make them work on commission
#81 – 90 – Ten Ways To Save Money at Work
- Bring your own lunch to work
- Have a simple wardrobe, which you can mix and match
- Review your employee benefits package to understand all benefits available
- Ask if you can work from home part-time to save on gas
- Double Up any business travel with personal travel
- Know what expenses your employer reimburses you for (e.g. continuing education, conferences, legal fees, events…)
- Deduct qualified expenses your employer doesn’t reimburse you for
- If you have flexible hours, commute during non-peak times
- Find a job where you feel fulfilled at the end of the workday
- Sign up for direct deposit to avoid trips to the bank
91 – 100 – Ten Ways To Save Money on Travel
- Use credit card points for airfare and hotels stays
- Stay with friends and family instead of staying in hotels
- Use AirBNB instead of a hotel
- Use the BetterBiddings forums to learn what others are paying on Hotwire and Priceline for hotels
- Visit a grocery store when you arrive at your destination and stock up on food, so you’re not eating out three meals a day
- Fly midweek as that’s usually when prices are cheapest
- Use autoslash to book a rental car, which automatically finds the lowest rate and will cancel and rebook if a lower rate becomes available
- Consider renting a car for only part of the trip instead of the entire time
- Eat where locals eat, staying away from popular tourists traps
- If you’re traveling internationally, use a credit card with international expense fees, instead of exchanging money