Learning how to save money is the fastest way to improve your finances.
Money management comes down to making the gap between your income and expenses as wide as possible.
The two ways to increase the gap are:
- Save more money
- Make more money
While your long-term financial health depends on your ability to do both, it’s easier in the short-term to save than to make.
Here you’ll discover over 100 ways to save money fast.
To start, read through the first 20 ideas. These tips require the smallest effort, yet carry big rewards.
Then, you’ll find more ideas sorted by budget category.
How to Save Money Fast
#1 – Spend Money Consciously
If you want to save money, priority number one is understanding where your money is currently going. This knowledge is what empowers you to cut what’s wasteful.
But the goal here isn’t to cut your expenses by any means necessary; it’s to spend consciously on what matters instead of spending out of habit.
Truebill is s free app that can help.
It imports your expense history and tracks your new spending, categorizing every bill and purchase so that you can see exactly what’s taking a toll on your budget.
Every month, you’ll be able to see exactly where your money went — which makes it much easier to know where to cut back.
#2 – Get Free Gift Cards by Sharing Your Opinions
When you’re trying to cut spending, it’s important not to deprive yourself. Just as diets don’t work when you’re constantly hungry, neither do budgets when they cut out things that are important to you.
One way to fulfill a few wants you may have is by using gift cards to make those purchases.
It’s actually pretty easy to earn free gift cards for popular retailers like Amazon by completing online surveys.
So, instead of killing time on your phone, you can complete a quick survey or two a day. Then you can buy something for yourself without it impacting your budget.
Here’s how it works: sign up for a survey site (for free), and then you’ll be notified by email when a survey is available.
For example, here’s a survey opportunity I recently received:
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 by sharing your opinions, check out Survey Junkie. With over 5 million members, Survey Junkie is one of the largest survey sites around.
It’s super easy to sign up and get started (no phone number is required). Just complete a short profile survey, and then you’ll be sent survey opportunities via email.
#3 – Use the Ibotta App for Everyday Purchases
The Ibotta app allows you to get cash-back at the grocery store. Here’s how it works:
- Download the app here.
- Before you go to the store, browse the app to see what items are offering cash-back.
- When you get home, scan the items and take a picture of your receipt.
- Cash will be deposited into your account in as little as a few minutes.
What’s nice about Ibotta is that it offers cash-back on a massive list of items you’re probably already buying, like eggs, milk, bread, yogurt and other household staples.
These can be from any of your favorite brands.
Plus, there are bigger cash-back offers on brand name items, depending on the store.
Participating retailers include Walmart, Target, Costco, and most nationwide grocery stores.
Ibotta has paid out over $370 million in cash rewards, and easily makes The Ways To Wealth’s list of the best money making apps, thanks to its 4.8/5 rating with 500,000+ reviews in the App Store.
I’ve used the app for a while now, and find the 30 seconds it takes to be time well spent.
Ibotta offers a generous sign-up bonus ($20) and an effortless way to earn your first $20, which is deposited into your PayPal or Venmo account.
#4 – Get A Side Hustle to Pay Off Debt
It’s all but impossible to get ahead when a large percentage of your income is going towards interest payments on debt.
The data also shows that most lower-wage households spend close to or above 100% of their income on necessities (not wants), including debt payments.
For this reason, one of my favorite money-saving strategies is actually earning more money. Specifically, earning money which goes 100% to paying off debt.
Your own situation and skills will determine the best method for increasing your income. Worth mentioning, however, is online tutoring — a fast-growing, flexible side hustle popular among readers of The Ways To Wealth.
With companies like Education First, you can teach children around the world from the comfort of your own home. Pay can start as high as $20 per hour, and no prior teaching experience is required.
#5 – Get Rid of Credit Card Debt ASAP
One of the easiest ways to save money is by consolidating and refinancing high-interest debt, like credit card debt, to a lower interest rate.
When you consolidate debt, you’re borrowing money to pay off multiple loans at the same time. For example, you might take out one loan to pay off five high-interest credit card balances.
Your goal is to find a loan with an interest rate that’s lower than you’re currently paying. This is easier than you might think. Consolidating and refinancing saves you a significant amount of money because:
- Less of what you pay goes to interest, and more towards paying off the debt principal.
- You pay off your debt much sooner and can start putting your money to better use.
This is why, if you have high-interest debt, a personal loan with a low-interest rate is worth considering.
To find out what type of personal loan rate you’re eligible for, check out Credible.
Credible is a free online marketplace that helps you find rates from multiple lenders in just two minutes without impacting your credit score.
When you complete the form, look for a rate that’s under what you pay in interest from your current credit card providers. If you find one, use the loan to pay off that debt. Then be aggressive in paying off that personal loan.
#6 – Find Out if You’re Overpaying for Insurance in Two Minutes
Auto insurance rates are always going up, so it’s a good idea to lock in as low of a rate as possible. Also, rates vary significantly from company to company — sometimes by as much as 50%.
That’s why it’s smart to check your rates at least once per year.
The best way to compare quotes right now is through Gabi Insurance. With Gabi, there are no forms to fill out. Simply link your insurance account (or send a PDF) and provide your driver’s license number. Once your account is linked, Gabi will:
- Analyze your existing auto and/or home insurance plan, making sure that any new coverage is the same or better.
- Get quotes from up to 20 different nationwide and local insurers for that same coverage.
- Help you switch if you find a lower rate (all through your cell phone).
- In most cases, Gabi will send you quotes in just two minutes or less.
By utilizing Gabi’s technology, the average customer saves $825 when shopping for their home and auto insurance.
#7 – Don’t Overpay For Life Insurance
One common misconception in the world of personal finance is the cost of life insurance. Many people are surprised to learn that life insurance can be cheap. There are a few reasons for this, but one is that most of us know someone who bought an expensive policy from a friend or family member and now struggles to make the payment.
The second misconception when it comes to life insurance is the difficulty of purchasing a policy. Until recently, purchasing life insurance often required filling out paperwork and going through a medical examination. Thankfully, that’s now changed as a result of online companies like Bestow. With Bestow you can apply for $1 million in term life insurance coverage in under five minutes, all through their website.
And getting a quote takes seconds, as they let you see estimated rates up-front.
#8 — Stack Coupon Apps For More Savings
Ibotta isn’t the only coupon app around. There are plenty of others, and the best part is that you can often use multiple apps on the same receipt.
For example, take the coupon app Fetch Rewards (it has a 4.8/5 rating on the App Store with 300,000+ reviews).
Fetch Rewards allows you to scan any grocery receipt from any store, and there are no specific products you have to buy. Any receipt earns you points, which you can exchange for free gift cards.
Also, make sure to enter the code APREWARDS when signing up to earn 3,000 bonus points.
#9 – Don’t Overpay Banks
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, titled “Borrowers Forgo Billions through Failure to Refinance Mortgages,” showed that approximately 20% of households with mortgages could have refinanced profitably but didn’t.
Since your mortgage is one of your most substantial expenses, you want to make sure you’re not part of that 20%.
The good news is that mortgage rates are at historically low levels. So right now there’s a limited-time opportunity to refinance and save significant money. The general consensus is that rates are likely to go up, so make sure to take advantage while you can.
To discover the rate you’re eligible for, check out LendingTree, where you can compare rates from up to five lenders in minutes.
#10 – Get Money Back When Prices Drop
Paribus is a free website and smartphone app owned by Capital One that allows you to get money back on price drops you didn’t even know about. Simply put, it’s like getting after-the-fact price matching without having to monitor your purchases.
Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for Paribus, then connect your email to let the Paribus Receipt Finder identify recent purchases.
- The software then monitors for opportunities to claim a refund.
- Once you’re eligible for a refund, Paribus helps you file a price adjustment claim.
What’s nice about Paribus is that you get to keep 100% of the refund.
#11 – Create a “To Buy” Waiting List
Instead of declaring that you’ll never make an unnecessary purchase again — a totally unrealistic goal, since we all give in to our impulses occasionally — give yourself permission to dream by creating a “To Buy” list.
What’s fascinating about “To Buy” lists is that not only do they reduce impulse purchases, research has shown that they eliminate the urge to buy something altogether.
A leading willpower researcher, Roy Baumeister of Florida State University, explains:
“…telling yourself I can have this later operates in the mind a bit like having it now. It satisfies the craving to some degree.”
#12 – Ask These Questions Before Making a Big Purchase
When it comes to buying a car, the most common questions people ask themselves are, “How much car can I afford?” and “What’s the monthly payment?“
To make the right purchase, whether it’s a car or some other big-ticket item, it’s important to get in the habit of asking better questions.
In the case of buying a car, here are a few better questions you could consider:
- What is it that I actually want to gain by buying this item, and is there a better way to get that?
- What is the total cost of ownership, including gas, parking, insurance, and maintenance?
- What will happen if I don’t buy this car right now?
The specific questions will change depending on what you’re buying — e.g., a car vs. clothes online. The principle is what’s important: ask better questions if you want better answers.
Here’s a personal example. This is what I try to ask myself each time I buy something online.
- What will actually happen if I don’t buy this item right now?
- What is it that I actually want by buying this item, and is there a better way to get that?
- Can I find a used one on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace?
#13 – Have a Chatbot Negotiate Your Bills
Negotiating your monthly bills can save you hundreds of dollars per year. But then again, dealing with customer service reps after being on hold for 30+ minutes can make you question if it’s worth the hassle.
Fortunately, there’s the Trim Financial Manager. Trim is a chatbot that negotiates your internet, cable, and cell phone bills.
All you do is sign up, link your accounts (it works with Comcast, Time Warner, and most major providers), and Trim does the rest.
Trim doesn’t just negotiate your bills, though. It also gets money back on your behalf if there was a cable or internet outage.
Since I’ve been using Trim it has done this for me on three separate occasions. The last time, Trim saved me $30 off my bill (they keep 25% of the savings).
#14 – Limit Your Driving
The average cost-per-mile for driving, when you factor in operating and ownership costs, is shockingly high.
|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 costs is essential for reducing your overall expenses. Heck, if you commute 100 miles per week (that’s just 20 miles per day), you’re spending $57 per week or $208 every month.
A few tips for lowering 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.
#15 – Increase Your Deductible
Now that you’ve shopped for new auto insurance (see Tip #2), check how much you’ll save by increasing your deductible.
On average, people file home and auto insurance claims about once every 18 years. So, the math is pretty simple. If increasing the deductible on your insurance will save you more than 18X the increase, you’ll be better off.
For example, if going from a $1,000 deductible to a $2,000 deductible will save you over $55 a year, make the switch.
#16 – Review the Limits on Your Home and Auto Insurance
While looking over my home insurance policy, I noticed that my “contents” are insured for $280,000.
Your contents are everything in your home that would fall out if you took the roof off and turned the building upside down.
Think of things like furniture, appliances, clothing, technology – you get the idea.
Not having many possessions in the first place, a limit of $280,000 meant that I was significantly over-insured. I lowered the limit to $150,000 and saved over $250 per year.
#17 – Understand Opportunity Cost
Frugal people don’t take sticker prices at face value. They dig deeper than that. They understand that everything has both implicit and explicit costs.
It’s not just what you pay today that matters, but also what you could have done with that money instead.
Simply put, opportunity cost measures the opportunities you lose by making a particular decision.
For example, if you invest $1,000 in the stock market and earn 5% per year on your investment, you did pretty well. But you could have invested that same $1,000 in an index fund and earned 8% instead.
In this case, you walked away from an additional 3% per year in returns by not taking the time to fully evaluate all your options. That lost 3% is your opportunity cost.
Equally important is the fact that for every dollar you spend, you’re trading something that’s far more valuable. You’re giving up your time, effort, and energy to buy that item. So it’s important to do your best to evaluate whether or not it’s really worth it.
There are multiple ways of making that evaluation, including calculating how many hours it would take to earn the money to make that purchase.
But even when you look at it from that perspective, you’re still not considering the true loss: what would have happened if you had saved or invested that money instead.
For that, you can use the rule of 184.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re thinking about joining a fancy gym. Let’s pretend that will cost you $100 per month. If you saved that $100 every month and invested it, you might reasonably expect to earn 8% per year on average through an index fund.
In 10 years, that $100 per month could grow to $18,444.
With the rule of 184, you can take any monthly expense and determine how much money you’d have after 10 years.
You do that by multiplying the monthly cost by 184.
This trick is just one way frugal people look at every expense — they look at more than just the price they pay today.
Of course, there’s more to life than numbers. Not going to the gym also has costs. You may not be as healthy, which could impact your lifestyle. And failing to get enough exercise might lead to increased healthcare costs as you get older.
Even saving money has an opportunity cost, so take the time to think about all aspects of your finances in detail.
#18 – Check if Your 401(k) Is a Ripoff. (There’s One Easy Way to Tell.)
Have a 401(k)? You 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 your 401(k) fees is one of the smartest ways to optimize your retirement plan.
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.
Blooom then offers a very affordable 401(k) management service, which can optimize your investments.
#19 – Refinance Your Student Loans
Do you have student loans? Then you do not want to overlook the ability to refinance your them. This one strategy can save you thousands of dollars.
What exactly is student loan 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 than you’re currently paying.
This lower interest rate saves you money by shortening the amount of time it takes to pay off the loan, and/or by lowering your monthly payment.
Student loan refinancing works a bit differently than personal loan refinancing, so check out our complete guide to student loan refinancing to learn more.
#20 – Get A Better Price When Shopping Online
A little-known money saving tool is Wikibuy, which works with all banks and credit card issuers.
Wikibuy has a number of money-saving features, but the most useful one is the ability to automatically apply coupon codes when you’re checking out at hundreds of online stores.
As it’s a browser extension, the app works automatically in the background scanning and checking available coupon codes found online.
I’ve been surprised how often the promotion I get in my email isn’t actually the best coupon code available. Wikibuy helps me make sure that I’m not leaving extra money on the table.
How to Save Money on Utilities
Utility bills are a necessary evil. But that doesn’t mean you have to overpay. Here are 10 easy tips for lowering your monthly utility bills.
#21 – Negotiate Your Gas and Electricity Bills
About half the states in the U.S. allow you to choose your gas and/or electricity provider. Since there’s no difference in the quality (it’s all through the same grid), you’ll want to make sure your current providers are the cheapest.
For those who want renewable energy without the expense of solar panels, consider switching to Arcadia Power.
#22 – Let Trim Negotiate Your Bills
When it comes to lowering your cable and cell phone bills, there is no easier way than Trim.
Trim’s goal is not only to find ways for you to save, but to actually save you that money – without any effort on your end.
A few examples of tasks that Trim’s robot can take care of are:
- Negotiating cell phone, internet, and cable bills.
- Canceling unused subscriptions.
- Getting you cash back for price drops.
- Finding you better car insurance.
All you do is sign up, then connect your account. Trim takes care of the rest. Sign up for Trim.
#23 – Get a Programmable Thermostat
Affordable programmable thermostats cost about $30. If used correctly, they can save you 10% or more on your heating and cooling bill. Before you go out and buy one, check with your local utility providers to see if there are any rebates.
#24 – Use LED Lights
LED light bulbs are another small investment that can pay for themselves (and then some) quickly. Search EnergyStar to see if any local stores offer rebates for purchasing new bulbs.
#25 – Minimize Temperature Changes in Your Home
It costs more to make a home warmer or cooler than it does to maintain a single consistent temperature.
That’s because when you adjust your thermostat, your heating or cooling unit has to work extra hard to pump the desired temperature of air into your home. That uses a lot of electricity, which costs money.
Also, try to minimize the difference between the inside and outside temperature. In the winter, set the thermostat a little lower. In the summer, set it a little higher. This will help your unit run more efficiently.
#26 – Install Low-Flow Showerheads
Low-flow showerheads are easy to install and drastically reduce your water usage. They also help you save on your electric bill by reducing the amount of power used by your water heater. If you’re not using low-flow showerheads, you’re literally watching money go down the drain.
#27 – Add Weatherstripping to Your Doors
Weather-stripping your doors is another example of a low-cost project that has the potential to drastically cut your bills. It’s also an easy money-saving hack, because it requires no handyman skills and should only take a couple hours of your time.
#28 – Lower the Temperature on Your Water Heater
According to the EPA, turning your water heater’s temperature down to no higher than 120 degrees will save you between 6% and 10% per year. If you have young kids, it’s also a good safety measure for preventing scolds.
#29 – Switch Mobile Phone Providers
There are now over a dozen quality mobile phone providers that offer good service in the U.S. We recently switched to Xfinity Mobile, which has a plan starting at $12 per month. For two phones, we end up paying only $24 per month for data.
#30 – Cut The Cord
This money saving tip is easier than ever. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and YouTube all produce amazing original content (and offer many of your favorite shows and movies from other creators), and each is available for around $10 per month.
You could sign up for all the services listed here for less than $50. That’s probably half of what you’re currently paying for cable TV.
Why pay $100+ for cable service that mostly gives you access to channels you don’t even watch?
Of course, I advocate for frugal living, and that means, in part, that you shouldn’t spend money on things you don’t need. So only sign up for the services that you’re actually going to use on a regular basis.
How to Save Money on Food
Food is a great place to really focus on cutting costs. Over your lifetime, a large percentage of your income will go towards feeding you and your family. That fact makes food costs something you should be continually trying to reduce.
Here are 10 quick ways to save money on food.
#31 – Use Ibotta
The Ibotta app is one of the easiest ways to start saving money on groceries. Before you shop, you scan the app for cash-back offers. Then, redeem them by taking a picture of the receipts. In less than 48 hours, Ibotta will deposit money into your account (sometimes it only takes a few minutes).
Use this link to earn a $10 welcome bonus after you use the app one time.
#32 – Stack Digital Coupons
With over 1 million combined reviews on iOS and Android, Ibotta is by far the most popular grocery coupon app, but there are a number of other apps like Ibotta that are also worth checking out. And yes, many of those apps allow for stacking, which can sometimes double or triple your savings.
#33 – Get Paid to Use Coupons
Another handy grocery savings app is MyPoints. With MyPoints, you’re paid to clip and use coupons. So, you save money at the store, and then MyPoints pays you one point for printing the coupon and 10 points for redeeming it. When you’ve saved up enough points, you can exchange them for gift cards and other great rewards.
#34 – Shop at the Right Store
Compare the prices of your most frequently purchased items at the different stores in your area. The difference is often 20% or more.
#35 – Know Your Cost Per Meal
Roughly calculate the cost per meal of everything you make. If your monthly food budget is $500 and your meals cost $7.50 each, then you’re going to end up overspending by $175.
Effective budgeting is about more than slicing up your bottom-line income; it requires a little bit of understanding about your expenses on a micro-level.
When you know the math doesn’t work, like in the example above, you can make adjustments that will keep you from sacrificing in other areas of your life or taking on unnecessary credit card debt.
#36 – Download Drop Rewards
That’s it. Any time you shop at one of the stores you selected (options include places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and even Starbucks), you’ll earn points to redeem for gift cards. Just make sure you pick your bonus stores wisely; once they’re set, they can’t be changed.
#37 – Get a Cash-Back Grocery Card
Using the right credit card is another easy way to save money on groceries. One popular card is the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express. The card gives you 3% cash-back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in spending.
There’s no annual fee. Plus, there’s a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
If you earn 3% cash-back on $6,000, plus a $150 statement credit, you’ll be ahead $330 after just the first year with the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express.
#38 – Get Paid to Walk Into a Store
Shopkick pays you to simply walk into a store. Then, you can earn more “kicks” for scanning barcodes and making a purchase. Redeem your “kicks” for gift cards at popular retailers like Amazon, Starbucks and Walmart.
#39 – Get “Imperfect” Produce Delivered
My family of five has been loving a new food delivery service called Imperfect Produce.
Food delivery services typically don’t save you money — after all, you’re paying for not only the food, but also the delivery.
However, Imperfect Produce is a bit different. Imperfect Produce specializes in delivering food that doesn’t meet the cosmetic standards of grocery stores. Not only does this seriously cut down on food waste, but it also saves you up to 30% on produce costs. And in my experience, the produce isn’t that “imperfect” at all (read my review of the service).
Actually, the majority of it looks just fine. And most importantly, since it skips the grocery store, it’s fresh and tastes great.
Use this link to get an exclusive 20% discount when you sign up.
#40 – Get Free Walmart Gift Cards
Among the most popular places across the U.S. to buy groceries is Walmart. What very few Walmart shoppers take advantage of are the multiple ways you can earn free Walmart gift cards.
For example, signing up for the free market research app Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel, then just letting it sit idle on your phone, will net you around $50 in free gift cards.
Check out our complete list of ways to earn free gift cards for Walmart.
How to Save Money on Financial Services Fees (a Silent Killer…)
Financial service fees and interest are a silent killer. While most of us know that paying high interest rates drains our income, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Consider banking and investment fees. One study found the average person pays over $155,000 in banking and investment fees over their lifetime.
In reality, that number is a lot bigger because not only are you paying a fee, you’re losing out on the money your funds would have earned over the years if they had been invested.
Learning how to manage your money and investments in order to maximize returns net of expenses and taxes is vital. Here are 10 tips for avoiding the (often hidden) fees charged by financial institutions.
#41 – Switch to a Balance Transfer Credit Card
The average American has almost $7,000 in credit card debt, according to the credit rating agency Experian. If you have any amount of credit card debt, consider switching 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, which amounts to $750 per 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 set period of time.
Then, you want to pay off the entire credit card balance before the 0% introductory rate expires.
Even if you pay a 3% balance transfer fee ($150 total on $5,000 of debt), you’ll still save $600 if you’re able to pay off the balance before the special rate expires.
One of my favorite balance transfer cards on the market right now is the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa card, which has a low balance transfer fee (3%, or a $5 minimum) and offers no interest for the first 18 months.
#42 – Don’t Use Credit Cards
One of the best predictors of the future is what happens in the past. And in the past, if you haven’t shown the ability to pay off your credit card in full every month, seriously consider switching to debit cards or cash. Studies have shown we spend much differently, and often more, when purchasing something with a credit card vs. cash.
#43 – Roll Over Old 401(k)s
401(k)s are known for their high fees. That’s why you’ll want to transfer any old 401(k)s you have sitting around into a personal account, where fees are much lower. Two lost-cost providers worth checking out are Vanguard and Betterment. Vanguard is ideal for the more experienced investor, while Betterment is ideal for those who want to be hands-off.
#44 – Use Insurance the Right Way
Use insurance to protect yourself from financial catastrophe. Buying term life insurance makes sense when your family relies on your income. Cell phone insurance doesn’t – that’s what an emergency fund is for. If you’ve never considered buying life insurance and aren’t sure where to start, read through this comprehensive beginner’s guide.
#45 – Invest for Free (or Close to It)
Financial service firms know that consumers like us are getting smarter. So, while some are still charging high fees, other investment providers are lowering them. If you’re looking to start investing, one firm worth checking out is M1 Finance. M1 Finance made news in late 2018 when they switched to a no-fee model. That’s right – if you invest your money with M1 Finance, you will pay no fees.
#46 – Learn to Spot Hidden Fees
One of the problems with investment fees is that they’re often hidden from you. Fortunately, there are two free tools that can help:
- Blooom — The 401(k) robo-adviser Blooom has a free 401(k) analysis tool that identifies any fees associated with your account.
- Personal Capital — This free financial app offers an investment fee analyzer that identifies hidden fees across your investment accounts.
#47 – Use the Right Type of Investment Account
401(k), 403(b), Roth IRA, traditional IRA, and taxable account — these are just a few of the options you have when it comes to opening an investment account. Choosing the right one is an important decision.
As a general rule, invest in your 401(k) up to your employer match first. Then, move on to maximizing your IRA contribution (either traditional or Roth). If you have more to invest, max out your 401(k) contribution. Last, without any tax-deferred savings available, open up a taxable account.
Remember, the goal of investing is to have the highest return after both taxes and fees.
#48 – Avoid Overdraft Fees
One of the worst fees banks charge is for an overdraft. A single overdraft fee (also known as an insufficient funds fee), can range from $15 to $40 per occurrence, depending on your bank.
And it’s important to remember that any additional purchases that bill out of your account while your balance is negative will also incur overdraft fees. This can turn an unfortunate situation into a financial nightmare overnight.
Two smart ways to avoid these fees are to:
- Opt-out of overdraft protection. Most banks allow you to opt-out of overdraft protection, which means purchases will be declined if you don’t have the funds in your account necessary to pay them.
- Set up minimum balance alerts. Use a free budgeting tool such as Truebill that will give you phone and/or email notifications if your balance reaches a certain threshold.
#49 – Pay for Financial Advice by the Hour
Paying for financial advice is a great decision for some people. But if you go this route, my recommendation is to pay for advice by the hour. Ideally, you want to find a fee-only Certified Financial Planner™. With this strategy, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for, and you’ll be able to compare the cost to the value you receive.
Think you can’t afford financial planning services? There are many free and low-cost resources available.
#50 – Don’t Wait!
One of the biggest investment costs is opportunity cost. The longer it takes you to start investing, the less time there is for your investments to grow. Likewise, the sooner you start, the less you have to save each month.
That’s why it’s crucial to start investing as early as possible. And with great options like Acorns, which rounds up your purchases and invests your spare change, there’s no reason not to.
How to Save Money on Taxes
Taxes may take up to a third of your income over your lifetime. Understanding how to minimize your tax burden – even by a few percent – can mean the difference between ending up broke and enjoying an early retirement.
#51 – Compare Your Refund
It’s not a bad idea to compare your tax refund on more than one tax prep website. H&R Block is a good place to start, as is TurboTax. Keep in mind, if there’s a difference, that’s a sign that you should double check the data you entered.
#52 – Use College 529 Plans
If you plan to pay for your kids’ college, start setting aside money in a College 529 plan. Even $50 per month, starting when they’re born, can really add up over time.
529 plans also have very flexible transfer options. For example, if one of your kids decides to skip college and make avant-garde French-language films instead, you can easily transfer that money over to one of your other children’s accounts.
After you do, sit down and take a deep breath. The world needs artists just as much as it needs engineers and financial planners!
#53 – Track Your Donations
If you itemize your deductions, make sure to get that receipt whenever you make a drop-off at Goodwill. The value of what you donate is tax-deductible.
#54 – Energy Credits
Check for local, state, or federal programs that offer rebates and tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements.
#55 – Tax-Loss Harvest
If you have losses in a taxable investment account, take advantage of tax-loss harvesting to reduce your tax bill in the future.
#56 – Max Out Your Tax-Deferred Accounts
Take full advantage of tax-deferred accounts like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and IRAs. If you’re saving money for retirement, max out these accounts before investing on your own.
#57 – Don’t Hold Debt
Don’t’ make the mistake of carrying high-interest debt because you like having cash on hand. For example, if you have $5,000 in cash and $4,000 in credit card debt, use the cash to pay off the $4,000 in credit card debt.
This allows you to save money in interest, which can then be put towards rebuilding your emergency fund. And in a worst-case scenario, you still have the available credit line that you just paid off.
#58 – Use Your FSA
FSAs are an undervalued employer benefit. As you’re essentially using pre-tax money, it’s like reducing your medical bill. If your employer has one, sign up and use it.
#59 – Know Your Available Tax Deductions
The IRS has a long list of potential tax deductions. They’re worth reading through once. Three commonly overlooked deductions worth knowing are:
- Out-of-pocket charitable costs. For example, if you prepare a meal for a local organization, the food you buy is tax-deductible.
- Refinancing points if you took out or refinanced your mortgage.
- Student-loan interest paid by parents.
#60 – Know Your Contribution Deadlines
When investing in an IRA, remember that you have up until you file your taxes the following year to make a contribution for the previous year. For example, if you file your taxes on April 15th of 2020, you could allocate your contribution towards 2019. As such, you would save on your tax bill.
How to Save Money on Entertainment
Learning how to live frugally and save money doesn’t mean you’re signing up for a life of self-deprivation. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to live life to the fullest. Here are some tips for living large on a small budget.
#61 – Make Money From Your Hobbies
Some of the most fulfilling hobbies can actually help you make money. If you enjoy making arts and crafts, sell them on Etsy. If you like learning new languages, consider becoming a translator. Like to read? Become a proofreader.
#62 – Study Happiness
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” – Epictetus
One of the best ways to spend your time is learning the science behind happiness. The natural result is often a decrease in wants, which makes it so much easier to save money.
#63 – Invest in Entertainment
Invest in entertainment with long-term value. Board games can entertain the family for hundreds of hours, and some only cost about the same as a single movie ticket.
#64 – Take Advantage of Free-Entry Days at Museums
Most museums in the U.S.’s biggest cities offer a limited number of free-entry days throughout the year. Plan your visit in advance to take advantage of these times. And if you happen to be taking a trip to the nation’s capital, keep in mind that all 19 DC-area Smithsonian museums – including the National Zoo – are completely free every day.
#65 – Enjoy Nature
Getting out into nature has always been one of the cheapest entertainment options available. Studies show it’s good for you, too. Plan a hike, a picnic, or a bike ride. This will also help you disconnect from both technology and work, which is important for recharging your batteries.
#66 – Be the Event Planner
If your friends or family consistently plan events that don’t fit within your budget, become the planner. Be the one to organize a hike, a picnic, or a potluck instead of dining out or going to a bar.
#67 – Know the Deals
Visit an attraction during non-peak times. For example, AMC movie theaters offer $5 tickets on Tuesdays. Compare that to as much or $15 or more on Friday nights.
#68 – Use Your Public Library’s Free Digital Resources
Most local libraries now offer a digital library as well as physical books. Digital library offerings often include streaming movies, e-books, downloadable music, and more.
#69 – Pay Attention to the Calendar of Events
Sign up for your town’s calendar of events and email alerts. Having free events scheduled on your calendar can prevent you from making poor financial decisions when you’re bored — something we’ve all been guilty of at one time or another.
#70 – See Instant Availability Information for Books, Music, and Audiobooks From Your Public Library
Get the free library extension for Google Chrome. When you browse for books on sites like Amazon, the extension shows you if the book you’re thinking about buying is available for download in e-book, Kindle or audiobook format (for free) from your local library. If you don’t own a Kindle, you can still use the free Kindle smartphone or tablet app.
How to Save Money on Kids
As a father of three, I understand that having kids can get expensive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about your spending. Here are 10 smart ways to save money on family-related expenses.
#71 – Earn Free Gift Cards and Save Them for Holiday Spending
Many readers of The Ways To Wealth aim to earn $20 to $30 every month in gift cards. Then, at the end of the year, they use those gift cards for holiday spending (which helps them stay out of debt).
If you’re not interested in earning gift cards, you can still set aside $20 or so per month in a separate savings account.
#72 – Buy Term Life Insurance
For the majority of people, a term life insurance policy is perfectly sufficient for protecting their family’s financial future.
Avoid expensive “whole life” policies that often come with a costly monthly expense.
With term life policies, there are no gimmicks or bells and whistles. They simply offer protection against financial catastrophe.
They’re also super cheap compared to other types of insurance (no-kidding; I pay $12.25 a month for my wife’s $250K policy, which is cheaper than many cell phone insurance plans).
Your rate will vary by age and health, but most people are surprised by how affordable term life insurance is.
You can get a free life insurance quote from Policygenius, where you can find up to $1 million in coverage for as little as $25 per month. It only takes about two minutes to get a quote.
#73 – Trade Babysitting Nights
Instead of paying for a babysitter, trade nights with a neighbor who has kids the same age.
#74 – Make Use of Hand-Me-Downs
Parents are usually in a rush to get rid of all their baby stuff. Take advantage and take what you can. Even if you’re not sure you’ll use it, you can always donate it yourself at a later date.
#75 – Carpool
Carpool with neighbors and friends as much as possible. If necessary, buy a second-hand car seat that you can share with your carpool circle.
#76 – Use the Library
Most libraries now offer video games, DVDs, music, puzzles, and tablets with educational games – in addition to a wide variety of books. In order to attract new customers, many libraries have even started loaning out things you’d never expect, like lawnmowers and tools for DIY house repairs.
#77 – Be Proactive With Your Kids’ Hobbies
Encourage your kids to take part in frugal hobbies and activities. Think soccer, baseball, acting, choir, camping, gardening, bike rides, painting and swimming. Basically, anything besides horseback riding.
#78 – Have a Friday Night Default Meal
At the end of a long week, planning and cooking a meal may be the last thing you want to do.
Instead of making a last-minute decision to order takeout, have a default Friday meal the whole family enjoys.
We do pizza almost every Friday night. It’s easy to make from scratch, the ingredients are simple and cheap, and there’s not too much cleanup. It has also become a valued tradition and a source of quality family time.
#79 – Make Snacks in Bulk
Buying prepared snacks – like granola bars, bags of trail mix and individual yogurts – can be very costly, especially if you have more than one kid.
Many of the healthier snack bars on the shelves today cost over $1 each, and the cheaper options contain lots of sugar and additives that you wouldn’t want to feed your children.
An easy alternative is to batch cook your own snacks at home. Recipes for easy-to-make homemade granola bars, trail mix, and healthy desserts are just a Google search away.
And just like with our family pizza nights, this can be a great source of family “together” time as you teach your kids how to work in the kitchen.
#80 – Use Credit Card Rewards for Travel
Family vacations are expensive – especially if you’re flying to your destination. We’ve been able to save thousands of dollars by traveling with credit card rewards, and have fully and proudly adopted the moniker “travel hackers.”
If you’re not sure what that means but want to learn more, check out my beginner’s guide to travel hacking.
How to Save Money at Work
Job-related expenses add up fast. Lunches, the cost of commuting, and professional clothes are among the costliest culprits. Here are 10 ways to limit the amount of money your job is costing you.
#81 – Work From Home
You want your commute to be as short as possible – preferably, zero miles. One strategy is to look for work as close as possible to your home. The other is to consider a work-at-home job. There are more options than ever to work from home in 2019.
#82 – Bring Your Lunch
Bringing your lunch to work can save you thousands of dollars over the course of the year, compared to the cost of eating out every day. This also makes it a lot easier to eat healthy, which can save money on healthcare costs down the road.
#83 – Check the Traffic Before You Leave
Shaving a few minutes off your commute on a daily basis can add up over the year. Get in the habit of checking the traffic on an app like Waze before you commute to and from work.
#84 – Fill up Your Tank With the Cheapest Gas Possible
Download Gas Buddy, which allows you to find the gas station with the cheapest gas in your area.
#85 – Simplify Your Wardrobe
Establish a simple wardrobe full of items that you can mix and match with ease. The idea is to maximize the number of combinations you can wear with the least amount of clothing. Whenever you buy something new, make sure it’s compatible with what you already own. It’s like getting three or four outfits for the price of one.
#86 – Review Your Employee Benefits Package
Read through your employee benefits package, or sit down with your HR advisor to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the benefits available. Many larger companies now offer perks like gym membership reimbursements, educational opportunities, and employee referral bonuses.
#87 – Negotiate a Semi-Remote Work Arrangement
If you don’t want to work from home full-time, consider a semi-remote work arrangement. At first, try working from home just one day a week. This alone saves you 20% per year on your commuting expenses.
#88 – Deduct Qualified Expenses
You don’t have to be a business owner to deduct qualified business expenses on your taxes. The most common missed deduction for employees is educational expenses.
#89 – Bike to Work
If possible, try biking to work. If you work too far away, consider biking to the nearest public transportation station.
#90 – Find a Fulfilling Job
The best way to leave work is fulfilled. This way, you’re coming home in a good mood and can use your evenings productively – whether that means cooking a homemade meal, taking part in money-making hobbies, or just spending some quality time chilling with your spouse or partner.
How to Save Money on Travel
Beyond the above-mentioned credit card rewards, there are dozens of smart hacks that you can use to save money when traveling. Here are my favorites.
#91 – Use Reward Sites to Book Your Travel
Reward sites like Rakuten and Swagbucks offer up to 10% cash-back on travel purchases. Rakuten has Travel Thursdays, which feature weekly deals and extra cash-back on popular travel sites like Priceline, Hotels.com, and more.
#92 – Take Advantage of Priceline Express Deals
Priceline Express Deals consistently offer some of the cheapest hotel rates available online. In this post on hotel hacks, learn a three-step strategy for getting the best price.
#93 – Stay in an Airbnb
For families, staying in an Airbnb is often cheaper than a hotel. Plus, you get the option of your own kitchen, as well as a separate room to relax in when the kids are sleeping. Click here to get $40 off of your first stay.
#94 – Use the Seated App
Make your dining reservations with the Seated app, which gives you up to 30% of your check back in the form of gift cards.
#95 – Visit the Local Grocery Store
Plan on going grocery shopping when you arrive at your destination. When we’re without a kitchen, we typically opt for yogurt and fruit for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and then eat out for dinner.
#96 – Couchsurfing
Plan a trip to go see family and friends to avoid lodging expenses.
#97 – Think Twice About Renting a Car
Uber and Lyft are now so affordable and so ubiquitous that renting a car often doesn’t make sense. That’s especially true if you have to pay for parking.
Another option is to consider only renting a car for a portion of your trip, and then utilizing ride-sharing the other days.
If you do decide to rent a car, check out Turo. It’s a service that allows regular people to offer their cars for rent, and the rates are often cheaper than commercial renters like Avis and Budget.
You can also find some pretty sweet rides if you’re looking for a little something special.
#98 – Book Your Flights for the Middle of The Week
Midweek has historically been the cheapest time to fly, and that remains true today. Plan ahead to book your travel on Tuesday through Thursday, and you can potentially save hundreds of dollars on your family’s tickets.
#99 – Plan Ahead
Give yourself time to research budget-friendly attractions and activities. A few ideas for your search are:
- Buy a Groupon for deals on activities and restaurants.
- Free or discounted museum passes.
- Restaurants where kids eat free.
- Restaurants with a happy hour menu.
#100 – Credit Card Rewards
It’s worth mentioning again that credit card rewards are by far the best way to save on travel, with the obvious caveat that you’re paying your credit card bill in full each month to avoid interest.
Say you’re able to average two points for every dollar you spend. Then, exchange those points for travel at a value of five cents each. That’s like earning 10% in travel expenses on everything you spend.
Best Ways to Save: Summary
If you read through this entire post, you learned over 100 strategies for saving money fast. And while I love hacks that save a few bucks in literally seconds (e.g., Tip #3), none of it matters unless you nail “the big three” spending categories: housing, transportation, and education.
The 50/30/20 budget formula says that a reasonable benchmark is spending 50% of your income on needs and 30% on wants, with the other 20% going towards financial and savings goals (building an emergency fund, retirement, college savings, etc.).
While the 50/30/20 budget is only a benchmark, adding up the cost of your fixed expenses and seeing if they’re over 50% of your income can be very eye-opening. Furthermore, it tells you where in your budget you should focus on cutting costs.
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