Are you looking for a massive list of tips on how to live frugally and save money? If so, you’re in the right place!
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? There’s something on this list for everyone. However, as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ who helps others save more and someone who watches my own expenses closely, I’ve started with my top 20 ways to save. These ideas will save you the most amount of money, in the least amount of time. Best of all, each one of these ideas is something you can do RIGHT NOW.
Then, you’ll find more 80+ more ideas to save broken down by category. Enjoy!
100+ Genius Ways To Save
#1 – Increase Your Credit Score
What’s one small thing you can do today, that can save you thousands of dollars?
It’s simple–improve your credit score. Like it or not, a good credit score is important to saving money. For example, let’s say with a good credit score, you’re able to secure a .25% lower mortgage rate. On a 30-year, $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% rate compared to a 4.25% rate, you’ll save $15,688 on interest!
Beyond your mortgage, a good credit score saves you money on other debt, insurance, and even cell phone plans. So, it’s important to know and grow your score.
Credit Sesame, a free website with a suite of tools for managing and increase your credit score, can help you do just that. Here’s what you can expect after you sign up:
- See your credit score for free, then get monthly updates
- Get personalized tips on managing your credit, based on your credit profile and goals
- Instant alerts for when an important change has been made to your TransUnion credit report
The last point above is worth signing up for alone. The Equifax hack has put the majority of the U.S. at a greater risk of identity theft. The quicker you identify a hack, the easier it is to recover.
# 2 – Earn FREE Gift Cards To Your Favorite Stores
Did you know you can SAVE money by watching entertaining videos, shopping online, and more?
Swagbucks, which is free to join, is a reader favorite here. By doing simple things you’re probably already doing online or on your phone, you can earn free gift cards. Swagbucks has given out over $200,000,000 in rewards.
# 3 – Let A Robot Save You Money
One of my favorite new personal finance apps is Trim. The idea behind Trim is to become your automated personal finance assistant. Trim’s robotic assistant takes care of money saving tasks like:
- Cancelling and negotiating subscriptions
- Getting you cash back for price drops
- Lowering your cable bill
All you do is sign up, then connect your account. Trim’s robotic assistant will then get to work saving you money. It’s a real no brainer, because you don’t have to do a thing. Last month alone, Trim helped it users save over $1,000,000.
# 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 high-interest debt. The typical explanation is that the cash makes them “feel safe.” But that feeling is very expensive, not to mention an illusion.
For example, say you have $10K saved in cash, and $8K in credit card debt at 16%. If you used your savings to pay off your credit card debt, 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.
# 5 – Refinance Your High-interest Debt and Student Loans
Speaking of debt, if you have any non-mortgage debt, such as credit card or student loans, you DO NOT want to overlook this option. This one strategy (refinancing) alone can save you thousands.
The easiest way to see if you can save money by refinancing is to check out Credible. With Credible you get to see personalized loan offers from multiple, vetted lenders in minutes.
Credible refinances student loans with rates currently as low as 2.93% variable and 4.70% fixed APR. The average savings of one of their customers who refinance their student loans is $18,668!
Credible also offers rates as low as 5.99% for refinancing your credit card debt or other personal debt such as a car loan.
There’s no service fees, no prepayment fees, and no origination fees. Plus, you can get up to a $250 bonus with this link if approved.
# 6 – Get Free Gift Cards By Sharing Your Opinion
Did you know by sharing your opinion, you can earn free gift cards to popular retailers like Amazon? So, instead of killing time on your phone on social media, try completing paid surveys to earn gift cards. You can then buy something for yourself, without it impacting your budget.
Start out by signing up for popular survey sites. Then, login once a day to pick the surveys that pays the highest (the more sites you signup with, the higher the potential payouts). With that said, here are five to start with:
How It Works: MyPoints is one of the largest survey sites, owned by the good people who run Swagbucks. Founded in 1996, they’ve paid out over $236 million in cash and rewards. You can earn points through surveys, plus a number of other ways like watching videos or testing games.
Payment Method: Points to Cash through PayPal
Sign Up Bonus: $5 Bonus for first 5 surveys
How It Works: YouGov, which specializes in political surveys, is one of the world’s largest research companies with over 5 million members. Most surveys take between 5-10 minutes and earn you 1,000 points ($1 is equal to 1,400 points). You start by answering a few basic questions about yourself, , then get personalized surveys sent to you each day.
Payment Method: Points to Cash through PayPal
Sign Up Bonus: 2,000 Point Signup Bonus
How It Works: With over 5,000,000 members, Survey Junkie is one of the largest survey sites around. It’s super-easy to signup and get started. You just complete a short-survey, then you’ll be sent qualifying surveys via email.
Payment Method: Points to Cash through PayPal
Sign Up Bonus: N/AEarn With SurveyJunkie
How It Works: Global Test Market paid out over $32 million in rewards in 2014. It’s redemption options include cash through PayPal and gift cards to merchants like Amazon and Target. The payout is $5 per survey, which take an average of 15 minutes according to their site.
Payment Method: Cash through PayPal
Sign Up Bonus: N/AEarn With Global Test Market
How It Works: Pinecone Research is owned and operated by Nielsen, the billion dollar data and measurement company responsible for TV Nielsen Ratings. With Pinecone Research you earn $3 per survey, which typically take 15 to 20 minutes to complete. The downside to Pinecone Research is that they are strict with their demographics. So, you may not qualify depending on your age, education, or race. Sign up to see if you’re eligible.
Payment Method: Cash through PayPal
Sign Up Bonus: N/AEarn With Pinecone Research
# 7 – 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! It’s important to 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 uncovers any and all fees you’re paying.
- Rollover old 401(k)s into an IRA at a low-fee investment provider such as Betterment (my preferred choice for hands off investors). A 401(k) typically has higher fees then individual brokerage accounts.
# 8 – Use the 20% ROI Rule
Sometimes it makes sense to spend money to save money. One concept you can borrow from the best investors in the world is to calculate your Return on Investing.
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.
# 9 – 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.
# 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 – Shop Online with 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.
# 14– Use Your Library
The library makes a productive, fulfilling hobby like reading absolutely free.
# 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 year.
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.
Insurify is a new startup from a team of experts at MIT and TripAdvisor. Insurify does an excellent job of bringing the same hotel shopping experience–where you can compare prices in a matter of seconds–to auto insurance. You fill out one form on your computer or phone. Then, find out exactly how much you can save in under 2 minutes.
# 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.
- Use coupons from apps like iBotta
- 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)
#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.
- Use a low-cost, hands off provider like Betterment
- 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
Bonus Tip: Get Refunded When A Price Drops
Ever bought something, which the price dropped shortly after? Now, you can easily get refunded the difference.
Paribus is a website and app that automatically tracks purchases from select merchants. When a price drops, Paribus will then automatically refund you the difference. They take 25% and you get a refund you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Stores include Amazon, Target, WalMart, Costco, Old-Navy and more.
It works and it’s free to sign up!