Anyone can learn how to save money and reduce monthly expenses.
But where is the best place to start?
Here are 100+ simple ideas from my own experience as a Certified Financial Planner™.
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 allow you to start putting more money away every month.
Let’s dive in!
How To Save Money
# 1 – Open A No-Fee, High-Interest Checking Account
As interest rates rise, banks are once again offering high-interest savings accounts.
Just as important, many of these banks don’t nickel and dime you with their fees. Considering banks make billions off of fees every year, avoiding bank fees is a smart way to save money.
Head over to Even Financial, which is like a search engine that helps you find the bank that pays the highest interest rate in your area. Plus, you’ll see upfront the type of fees each bank has. And no personal information is required, just enter your zip code to get the results.
When I did this, I found a bank that paid 22X the national average on their savings account! Getting a bump in your savings rate and avoiding fees is a low-risk, low-effort way to save a lot of money.
If you have money earning next-to-nothing in a savings account or you paid even a dollar in fees last year, check out Even Financial now.
# 2 – 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 most substantial expenses, you want to make sure you’re not one of that 20%.
One company that makes this easy is LendingTree. With LendingTree, you can compare up to 5 different offers from top lenders in minutes.
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.
# 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.
# 4 – 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, but every once in a while you’ll get one like this.
If you’d like to earn extra cash taking surveys, check out Survey Junkie.
With over 5,000,000 members, Survey Junkie is one of the largest survey sites around. Survey Junkie has an 8.9/10 rating on TrustPilot, which ranks highest among survey companies. It’s super-easy to signup and get started. You complete a short survey, then you’ll be sent qualifying surveys via email.
# 5 – Earn Cash Back on Everything You Buy Online
Some sites 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, 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.
# 6 – Switch To A Balance Transfer Card
If you have credit card debt, consider switching your debt to a 0% balance transfer card.
If you’re new to the concept, here’s how it works:
Say you’re paying 15% interest on $5,000 of credit card debt or $750 a year.
Instead of continuing to let your debt accumulate on your current card(s), you can transfer your debt to a card where you pay 0% interest for a period of time.
Then, you want to pay off the entire credit card balance before the 0% rate expires.
If you pay a 3% balance transfer fee ($150 total on $5,000 on debt), you’ll save $600 if you’re able to pay off your debt before the 0% rate expires.
One of my favorite balance transfer cards on the market right now is the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa card.
The card has a low balance transfer fee and offers a 0% interest rate for the first 18 months.
# 7 – Use the Ibotta App for Everyday Purchases
The Ibotta app is a great way to get a few dollars back every time you shop at the grocery store.
Ibotta offers cash back on a massive list of items you’re probably already buying like eggs, milk, bread, yogurt, etc. This can be from any one of your favorite brands.
Plus, there are bigger cashback offers on brand name items pending the store. Stores include Walmart, 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 offers a generous signup bonus and an effortless way to earn your first $20, which is deposited into your PayPal or Venmo account.
# 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 check out 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 – 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.
# 10 – Is Your 401(k) A Rip-Off? One Easy Way To Tell
Have a 401(k)?
You then may be shocked to learn how much you’re paying in 401(k) fees. Take this example, direct from the U.S. Department of Labor:
“Assume you are an employee with 35 years until retirement and a current 401k account balance of $25,000. If returns on investments in your account over the next 35 years average 7 percent and fees and expenses reduce your average returns by 0.5 percent, your account balance will grow to $227,000 at retirement, even if there are no further contributions to your account. If fees and expenses are 1.5 percent, however, your account balance will grow to only $163,000. The 1 percent difference in fees and expenses would reduce your account balance at retirement by 28 percent.”
With what could be over six-figures at stake, minimizing 401(k) fees is one of the most important financial moves of your life.
Where can you start?
Start with Blooom — a free tool that helps you uncover unnecessary hidden fees in your 401(k).
All you do is link up Blooom with your retirement account–then Blooom helps you uncover precisely what you’re paying in fees.
What’s nice is Blooom avoids the complicated terminology many mutual funds use to hide fees from you. Instead, you get a straightforward image that tells you how you’re doing:
# 11 – 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 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.
# 12 – Start Investing With Free Money
Wouldn’t it be nice to start saving more money every month without even noticing?
The popular Acorns app can help you do just that.
Acorns rounds-up your purchases to the nearest dollar. Then, automatically invests that money for you.
Say you were to make a purchase for $17.20, Acorns would set side .80 to invest.
What’s nice about Acorns is you don’t even need to know anything about investing or even need money to start investing!
Tell Acorns your financial goals and it gives you a customized portfolio that’s optimized to meet them.
Another great feature of Acorns is Found Money.
Found Money allows you to earn cash that invests into your Acorns account when you shop at specific retailers (like Walmart, Airbnb, Lyft, Nike & more).
Say you spend $100 a Walmart. Acorns takes a percentage of that $100 (which can get up to 10% for some retailers) and invests it automatically.
So just using Found Money and investing your spare change, you can build up a nice portfolio without even noticing.
With a rating of 4.7 with 321,170 reviews in the app store and now over 4,000,000 users Acorns is one of the fastest growing financial apps around.
# 13 – Set Financial Goals
When it comes to increasing your desire to save money — nothing has a more significant 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.
# 14 – 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 pay off 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.
# 15– Use Your Library & Download This Extension
The library makes a productive, fulfilling hobby like reading 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.
# 16 – 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’d only have $2K in cash. However, you’ll have saved $1,280 in interest throughout the year.
Yes, you’ll only have $2K in cash but 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.
# 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 contents were 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 – 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 worth it?
# 20 – Limit Driving
The average cost per mile driven including operating and ownership costs are 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 reducing 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
How To Save Money On Your Regular Monthly Bills
The remaining tips are all about how to save money on regular monthly bills.
#21 – 30 – How 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.
- Compare natural gas & electricity prices for your home with Aradia Power (read our Arcadia Power review)
- Get LED lights.
- Minimize temperature change in the house compared to outside. In the winter, set the 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 are at their highest. So, if your dishwasher or washer machine offers time delays, set them to run in the middle of the night.
#31 – 40 – How To Save Money On Groceries
Want to save money fast? Food is a great place to start.
Over your lifetime, a large percentage of your income will go towards feeding yourself.
Making food costs something you should be continually trying to optimize.
Start by watching Erin Chase’s Free Exclusive Grocery Savings Workshop. Erin is known worldwide for her ability to create healthy family-friendly under $5. Her free workshop is a must watch.
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 the 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 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 food
#41 – 50 – How To Save Money on Financial Services
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 can total up to one of the highest expenses in your lifetime.
With that in mind, learning how to manage your money and investments to maximize returns net of expenses and taxes 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 actual fees.
- Rollover old 401(k)s, which typically have some of the highest expense ratios
- 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 costly. I recommended 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 – How 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 qualify for energy credits
- Tax loss harvest any investment 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 independent contract work
#61 – 70 – How 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 to decrease your spending.
- Get out in nature. It’s fun and has shown to impact your happiness significantly.
- 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.
- 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 low 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 – How 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 – How To Save Money at Work
- Bring your 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 – How To Save Money on Travel
- Purchase travel through cashback sites like eBates and 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 lowest
- 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 famous 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.