Latest posts by R.J. Weiss, CFP®
- 6 Smart Millennial Money Moves That Make a Big Difference - May 22, 2018
- 7 Ways to Get Paid to Watch Videos Online - May 18, 2018
- Personal Capital vs. Mint App Review: A Financial Planner’s 2018 Comparison - May 16, 2018
Saving money for a house, vacation, or to pay off debt doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself — but it does mean taking thoughtful steps towards a better financial future.
Where can you start?
Here are 100+ simple ideas from my own experience as a Certified Financial Planner™ and the 1,000,000+ readers of this blog.
Think of it as a checklist. Not every idea will apply to you. But chances are there’s one, two, or 10 or 12 that can change your financial future.
Read through the first 20 — these ideas will save you the most money, in the least amount of time. Best of all, each idea is something you can do RIGHT NOW.
Then, you’ll find 80+ more ways to save broken down by category.
Looking for something specific? Click a link to jump to that section:
- The boring secret to saving a bunch of money
- Have student loans? The average person saves $16,000 with this debt payoff strategy
- Get free Walmart and Amazon gift cards for sharing your opinion
- How to get cash back on (nearly) every online purchase you make
- A no risk way to earn over 22X the national average on your savings
- 3 Quick ways to save money on insurance (tips 16-18)
# 1 – Don’t Give More Money to Banks Than Required
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research titled, “Borrowers Forgo Billions through Failure to Refinance Mortgages” showed that approximately 20 percent of households with mortgages could have refinanced profitably but did not do so. As your mortgage is one of your largest expenses, you definitely want to make sure you’re not one of those 20%.
As interest rates are trending up, time may be running out to save money. So, take a few minutes now to make sure you’re not giving more money to a bank than required.
- Recommended Action: Easily compare mortgage, refinance, and home equity rates in minutes with LendingTree.
# 2 – The Boring Secret to Saving a Bunch of Money
What’s one small thing you can do today that can save you thousands of dollars?
It’s simple–improve your credit score. As boring as it sounds, a good credit score is one of the easiest ways to save. One study showed the difference of having excellent vs. poor credit saves a typical 35-year old male $274,918 over his life!
What’s the best way to improve your credit score? It will change based on your financial situation. Fortunately though, Credit Sesame can help you figure that out.
Credit Sesame’s “Credit Report Card” acts like your personal finance coach–at no cost. When you sign up for Credit Sesame, you’ll get to see your score, plus your credit history. Then, Credit Sesame offers you customized tips for improving your score.
You can sign up on desktop or with the app, which has a rating of 4.3 ,with 23,000+ votes (available for both iPhone and Android).
Credit Sesame Quick Summary
- Get your credit score for free in under 90 seconds
- Get personalized tips on how to improve your score
- Highly rated app with a rating of 4.3 and 23,000+ votes
- No credit card needed & it won't impact your score
# 3 – Earn FREE Gift Cards To Your Favorite Stores (Reader Favorite)
Did you know you can SAVE money by watching entertaining videos, shopping online, and more?
The website and app Swagbucks allows you to earn free gift cards to stores like Amazon, Walmart, or cash through PayPal by doing simple things you’re probably already doing online or on your phone.
Swagbucks Quick Summary
- Free to sign up and free to use
- Earn free gift cards when you shop online, watch videos, take surveys, and discover deals and promo codes
- Paid out over $250,000,000 in rewards and has A+ rating from Better Business Bureau
- Get $5 just for signing up
# 4 – Earn Cash Back on Everything You Buy Online
There are sites that will give you money just for signing up with them. One reader favorite of mine and TW2W community is Ebates, the popular cash back-shopping site.
And right now, they’re giving away $10 cash bonus if you sign up and earn your first cash-back rebate.
Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for eBates
- When you want to buy something online, start your search at eBates. Then, simply click through to your favorite store, e.g. Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc…
- You’ll earn up to 20% cash back for your purchase, plus get a $10 cash bonus
If you shop at all online, you’ll find the few extra seconds it takes to shop through eBates well worth your time.
# 5 – Refinance Your Student Loans
Do you have student loans? Then, you DO NOT want to overlook this option. This one strategy (refinancing) alone can save you thousands.
What exactly is refinancing?
When you refinance you’re taking your existing student loan(s) and rolling them over into a new, single loan. The goal is to obtain a lower interest rate then what you’re currently paying. This lower interest rate saves you money by either shortening the amount of time it takes to payoff the loan and/or lowering your monthly payment.
The easiest way to see if you can save money by refinancing is to check out LendKey With LendKey you get to see personalized loan offers from multiple, vetted lenders in minutes. What’s impressive is that the average savings of one of their customers who refinance their student loans is over $16,000!
Seeing your offers on LendKey won’t affect your credit score either. There’s also no service fees, no prepayment fees, and no origination fees.
# 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 surveys. You can then buy something for yourself, without it impacting your budget.
How it works is you sign up for a paid survey site, then you’re notified by email when a qualifying survey is available.
For example, here’s a survey opportunity recently emailed to me.
Not all offers are this good, which is why you want to sign up for a few sites, but every once in awhile you’ll get one like this.
If you’d like to earn extra cash taking surveys, the below two are readers favorites at The Ways to Wealth. Both sites have an A-rating by the Better Business Bureau (definitely avoid sites not certified by BBB or TrustPilot).
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: With over 5,000,000 members, Survey Junkie is one of the largest survey sites around. SurveyJunkie has an 8.9/10 rating on TrustPilot, which ranks highest among survey companies. 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
# 7 – Get a New Credit Card
It sounds counterintuitive but a new credit card can help you save money.
One such way is to use a credit card with a 0% balance transfer to help you get out of debt faster.
The first thing to know about balance transfer cards is that it’s a strategy to help you get out of debt faster. In other words, it’s not a strategy that allows you to accumulate more!
Here’s how balance transfer cards can save you money:
- Compare offers on zero-or-low interest rate credit cards
- After choosing a card that’s right for you, transfer current debt to that card — taking advantage of the lower interest rate.
- Pay off the debt before the introductory rate ends
There are of course some big caveats here:
- Balance transfer fees. You may be charged a balance transfer fee to money our debt. So, do the math to make sure it makes sense.
- Introductory rates. The low-interest rates won’t last for ever. So, make sure you’re able to pay off the debt.
- Credit score. To utilize this strategy, it really helps to have a good credit score. It doesn’t have to be great but it does help (See tip # 2).
You can save some serious money on interest payments this way.
# 8 – An Easy Way to Earn a $20 Amazon Gift Card
Personal Capital, the free finance tracking app with a 4.7 rating & 5K+ reviews (available for both Android vs iOS) is offering a free $20 gift card for new users. To qualify, you’ll need to link an investment account, e.g. IRA, 401(k), brokerage, etc… And since this is a referral program, I’ll also get $20 when you join (so thanks)!
After you sign up, you’ll want to checkout Personal Capital’s Investment Checkup Tool. With this free tool, you can compare your current portfolio allocation to the ideal target allocation designed to minimize risk and maximize returns to meet your financial goals.
# 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. I’ve used the app for a while and find the 30 or so seconds it takes to well worth the time.
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 – Don’t Miss Out on Great Deals from your Favorite Clothing Brands
I enjoy quality clothes that last. I don’t like however paying full price for them.
So, what I do is stock up on clothes when one of my favorite brands offers deeply discounted prices.
The trick though is NOT to sign up for each brands newsletter. If I did this, I’d waste hours of my own time and probably just end up spending more.
Instead, I use the most trusted community of online bargain hunters, Slickdeals.net, and have them source only the best deals for me.
Here’s what I do:
1) Into Google Alerts I type in: site:slickdeals.net “favorite brand” e.g. site:slickdeals.net “patagonia”
2) Click on Create Alert
This will then send me deals anytime Patagonia offers deeply discounted pricing.
It’s rare that a get an alert–which is a good thing. As you must remember, brands very rarely want their clothing to be had for cheap. Nonetheless, when the rare opportunity does come up, I make sure to take advantage of it.
# 11 – Use The Rule of 184 To Calculate Monthly Costs
If you save $100 a month and instead invest that $100 monthly at 8%, in 10 years you’ll have $18,444.
So, we can make a rule:
For monthly expenses, multiply each expense by 184 to determine the actual cost over ten years
Cable? At $100 a month, that costs you over $18,400 in ten years! Lower your grocery bill by $200 a month? You’ll have saved $36,800!
Try going through your expenses with the rule of 184 in mind. Now ask yourself, is it really worth it?
# 12 – Set Financial Goals
When it comes to increasing your desire to save money — nothing has a bigger impact than setting smart financial goals.
I’ve written a financial goal setting workbook, to help guide both individuals and couples for setting a vision. It’s a step-by-step process for gaining clarity in your financial life. Sign up below for free access.
HOW TO SET FINANCIAL GOALS
A step-by-step process for setting financial goals that connect the dots between your money and your happiness. Simply opt-in below to have it sent straight to your inbox!
# 13 – Open A High Interest Checking Account
As interest rates begin to rise, some banks are once again offering high interest savings accounts.
Check out CIT Bank, which is paying 1.55%. That’s more than 22X the national average!
What’s also great about CIT Bank is that:
- It’s FDIC insured
- Minimum deposit is only $100
- There’s no monthly maintenance fee
- 5-Star rating on Bankrate
If you have money earning next-to-nothing in a savings account, I highly recommend switching it over to a high-interest account like CIT Bank.
# 14– Use Your Library & Download This Extension
The library makes a productive, fulfilling hobby like reading absolutely free.
And here’s another tip for those with a Kindle–get the free Library Extension for Google Chrome.
How it works is you browse for books on Amazon. The extension then shows you if that book is available for download in ebook/kindle or audiobook format (for free of course) from your library.
If you don’t have a Kindle, you can use the free Kindle smartphone or tablet app.
# 15 – Use Your Savings to Pay Down High-Interest Debt
If you have high-interest debt AND cash in the bank, seriously consider paying off that debt TODAY!
I get it. Cash makes you feel secure. But that feeling is very expensive and may be just the thing that’s keeping you in debt.
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 keep in mind you’d also have the line of credit open in case of a TRUE emergency. (Note: A side effect of this is that your credit score will increase, allowing you to save money elsewhere).
A good rule of thumb is that if you have high-interest debt, keep $1,000 or $2,000 maximum of cash around. Then, anything that’s leftover should go towards paying down that debt.
In my experience, money not attached to a goal gets wasted! So, make every dollar of yours have a purpose.
# 16 – Shop Your Home & Auto Insurance
Insurance rates are always going up, so it’s never a bad idea to lock in your rate now.
You’ll also like to know, rates from one insurance company to another can sometimes vary up to 50%.
That’s why it’s smart to check your rates at least once a year.
The easiest type of insurance to shop is your auto.
Use a site like Esurance, which takes only a few minutes to get a quote to see if you can save.
Live in CA, IL, NJ, OR, PA, VA, or WA? Then check out MetroMile, which offers car insurance based on how much you drive. As I work from home and drive less than 5K miles per year, I recently switched to MetroMile as they had the cheapest rate I could find.
# 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 – Get a Free $10 in Food with Walmart Grocery
Have you tried out Walmart Grocery yet?
Both my Mom and Sister were raving to me about how easy, cheap, and how much time it saved them.
I gave it a try and was quite impressed myself. Now, it’s part of my family’s grocery routine.
If you’re not familiar, with Walmart Grocery you can order fresh groceries online, pay the same price you would in-store, and then pick them up for free. The groceries are even delivered right to your car.
Right now, Walmart is even offering a $10 signup bonus for new users.
It’s not available in all areas as of yet but check it out here.
Walmart’s prices are of course incredibly cheap but with the online ordering you’ll know exactly how much you spend.
# 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 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 in house compared to outside. In the winter, set temperature lower. In the summer, higher.
- Use a low-flow shower head
- Weatherstrip all doors
- Lower the temperature of your water heater
- Add insulation to your attic
- 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
- Enjoy eating healthy but don’t like the cost? Join Thrive Market to save 25 – 50% on the organic brands you love.
- When on sale, stock up on an item
- Compare prices of the most frequent items you buy at different stores in your area
- Buy in bulk. Costco/Sam’s Club offer great deals.
- 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 $7.50 ($7.50 x 3 meals a day x 30 days a month = $675), the math simply will not work.
- Shop at farmers markets and negotiate by buying in bulk when possible
- Commit to only buying groceries 2 X a week.
- Grow your own food (my 5-year old daughter 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.
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 high interest savings account like CIT Bank
- Invest in index funds, which have the lowest expense ratios.
- Use a low-cost, hands off provider like Betterment
- Buy term life insurance through a low-cost provider, with a high rating like Haven Life
- Read a few quality books on the subject on investing and financial planning, as basic help can be very expensive. I recommended the Boglehead’s 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
- 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 taxes 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 are 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 $18 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 pull ups
- 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 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 trips 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
- Purchase travel through cash back sites like eBates and/or Swagbucks to earn up to 10% cash back on your travel expenses (flight, hotel, and car)
- 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 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
- Sign up for Paribus, then connect your email let the Paribus Receipt Finder identify recent purchases.
- The software then monitors for opportunities to get money back.
- Once you’re eligible for a refund, Paribus then files a price adjustment claim on your behalf.
Paribus Quick Summary
- Paribus is FREE to use and let's you keep 100% of your savings!
- Paribus then works in the background to monitor for opportunities to get money back
- When you’re eligible, Paribus files price adjustment claims on your behalf and you keep 100% of the savings