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Most articles on this topic include options that require you to spend more money. That’s not the point of saving. Buying a fuel efficient car just to save gas money? Replacing all your kitchen appliances with energy efficiency options even if the originals still have a few good years left? These methods of ‘saving money’ aren’t likely to save you money for years and years to come. So here are 45 creative, reasonable, and realistic ways to help you save money without breaking the bank.
1. Stick to your budget
Before you dive into any other strategy to help you save money, it’s essential that saving is included in your budget. It’s a personal finance golden rule for a reason: pay yourself first.
2. Automate your savings
Let’s be honest, developing the habit of saving money is difficult, but the harder part is sticking with it. Automating your savings with the help of investment platforms like M1 Finance and Betterment can be a big help. These automation settings allow you to move any extra money in your checking account (above a threshold you set) directly into an investment fund of your choice.
3. Round up your spending
Acorns is another great investment platform which can help you boost your savings without even having to think about it. Acorns rounds up all of your purchases to the next dollar amount and automatically invests that ‘spare change’. By signing up you’ll even get $10 added to your account once you make your first investment.
4. Evaluate your bank
It’s smart to evaluate your bank every so often. There are plenty of great banks, like Ally, which offer fee-free checking accounts with no minimum balance. Take this as a reminder to avoid being nickel and dimed unnecessarily.
5. Cash in your credit card rewards dollars
Don’t let the cash back from your credit card just sit there not doing anything. We understand it can be gratifying to see that the total keep rising. But, if you know anything about the time value of money, you know that money now is worth more than that same sum of money later. Put that money to use by investing it, saving it, or putting it towards your credit card statement.
6. Negotiate your bills
If you’ve never tried to negotiate a phone or internet bill before, you might be surprised that many companies are willing to work with you. It’s especially helpful if you’re able to leverage any advertised introductory offers provided to new customers – that way you know the company is already willing to give out a specific discount.
If negotiating isn’t something you’re very comfortable with, there’s also some great intermediary companies who are willing to do the work for you, like Truebill. However, companies like these charge a ‘savings fee’, which is a percentage of whatever they were able to save you. The good thing is that because of how Truebill operates, you’ll never be charged more than you save.
7. Cut cable
The average 2020 US household cable bill is $217.42 per month. That means you’d be paying over $2,600 a year, just for an average cable package. And, let’s be honest – you probably only watch 10 channels of the 75+ that you have. By replacing cable with a subscription service like Netflix (which costs around $14 per month), you could save over $2,400 a year.
8. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions
Subscriptions add up quickly and since many are paid automatically via credit card or checking account withdrawals, they’re easy to forget about. Do a deep dive into your next bank and credit card statement and be honest about whether or not you need all those subscriptions for coffee, makeup, tv, and clothing…
9. Switch to reusable products
This one is a two-fer which can not only help you save money but can also help you make more eco-friendly choices. A recent study found that swapping disposable water bottles for reusable water bottles could save the average American up to $1,236 per year.
10. Patch up your clothes
It can feel devastating when one of your favorite pieces of clothing ends up worse for the wear. However, many tailors and seamstresses are able to work their magic with a repair that could be much less than the cost of replacing said item. Do your homework before throwing out that garment and buying a replacement.
11. Switch up your holiday gift exchange
Ask your friends and family if they are interested in a gift exchange or secret santa with a dollar limit this year. Holiday shopping can be stressful enough and limiting how many gifts you purchase can reduce both your stress level and the impact on your wallet. If you’re feeling extra crafty you could even pitch a DIY gift exchange.
12. Workout at home
The average monthly gym membership costs $58, which adds up to almost $700 annually. You don’t need a dedicated workout room with all the fancy gym equipment to get a great workout at home. Here’s 12 workouts you can do from home without any special equipment to help jumpstart your imagination.
13. Use money saving apps
There’a number of good money saving apps out there which can make saving even easier. A favorite here at The Ambitious Dollar is Ibotta. By signing up for a free account, you can use their app and/or browser extension to get cash back on the items you purchase. It couldn’t get much simpler than that.
14. Buy generic brands
Not all generics make the cut, but many are of just as good quality as their name brand counterparts without the price tag. Here are 20 Things You Should Always Buy Generic, according to MoneyTalk News.
15. Use cash
Are you ever tempted to spend more than you should? Consider bringing only cash in those situations – like when you hit up the bars – and your wallet will thank you.
16. Go to the library
If you haven’t been to the library in a while, I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how much they have to offer. Beyond books, public libraries offer a tremendous amount of resources including movies, music, classes, and seminars. An overwhelming majority of public library services are completely free so it would be almost impossible not to save some money.
17. Limit your vices
Limiting smoking,drinking, etc is as good for your health as it is good for your wallet – need we say more?
18. Take advantage of free events and fun at home
Nearly every city has a list of free events and attractions. Even if you’ve lived in the same place for the last few decades, there’s probably something on the list you haven’t checked out yet. Another great option is to have fun at home. Set up a game night, host a virtual cocktail party for your friends around the globe, or have friends and family over for a dinner party. The options are endless and likely much cheaper than a night out on the town.
19. Use the 24-hour rule
If you’re prone to impulse buying, consider implementing a 24-hour purchase rule. The moment you’re tempted to buy something that isn’t a recurring purchase, give yourself 24 hours to think about it before you pull the trigger. If it’s something you really want, you’ll still want it in 24 hours. But if it was something frivolous, you’ll have saved yourself that money by realizing you didn’t really need it.
20. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk can help you save money on non-perishables and other items with a longer shelf life. Doing so usually provides you with a lower per-unit cost. But, be careful. Retailers can be sneaky with their packaging so it’s not always the case. Make sure you double check the price tag and compare the per-unit cost.
21. Shop after the holidays
You may not be able to do all of your gift shopping after the holidays, but if there’s something you’re planning on buying for yourself, you might find some of the best deals after the holiday shopping rush. Many businesses aim to boost their quarter one performance in the new year, which is why they may be incentivized to offer even better deals.
22. Switch up your transportation
Carpooling, using public transportation, walking, or riding your bike instead of driving solo from time to time can not only save you gas money but also reduce the wear and tear on your car.
23. Ask for discounts
Remember to ask for discounts while shopping. Many retailers offer a variety of discounts for students, education, military, first responders, etc.
24. Stretch the lifespan of your tech
Don’t get caught up in the newest tech release by convincing yourself you have to have it, even when your phone or laptop work just fine. If you are in a situation where your old phone or laptop does need replacing, consider buying last year’s model instead. Retailers often offer steep discounts on older models.
25. Use benefits you already have
Have you ever forgotten about a benefit you have through a credit card, rewards program, or employee partnership? It can be tough to track all the different benefits you have available to you when they’re all scattered around in different places. Consider using something like the AwardWallet app which can help you store and track your benefits with over 700 different companies.
26. Get your family members on board
This is especially important for family members who you share finances with. You won’t get very far in your goal of saving money if your family members aren’t on board. Be sure to make a plan, communicate it, and touch base every so often to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
27. Shop second hand
Next time you need to go shopping, check out some local thrift stores. Especially for certain types of items – like Halloween costumes – you’re likely to find something that suits your taste for much less money. Some are better than others, so it pays to do your research and check out store reviews.
28. Prioritize your health
This is another tip that seems like a no-brainer, but it takes mental and physical effort to follow through on this. Proactive and preventative care is nearly always less expensive than reactive care. If you don’t prioritize taking care of your health, your financial goals will likely suffer in the long run.
29. Buy with the long term in mind
It’s easy to get caught up in fads, but then you’re out the money you spent on whatever item you now possess that is ‘so last season’. Fast fashion is a particularly bad actor in this category. While it’s ok to treat yourself to something new (as long as it still fits in your budget) every so often, try to steer clear of anything that isn’t likely to last in the looks or quality department.
30. Unsubscribe from retail emails
While it may be helpful to be alerted to a sale going on, chances are these retail emails you’ve subscribed to are enticing you to buy things you weren’t planning on. In fact, they’re designed to do just that…and they do a pretty darn good job. Unsubscribing from any retail emails that you don’t find absolutely essential will help you to avoid unnecessary spending.
31. Keep track of your warranties
It’s pretty common for most items to come with some type of warranty these days. However, warranties themselves are all over the map in terms of what they cover and how long they last for. Using an app like WarrantyTracker lets you upload receipts and categorize purchases so you can keep all that info handy. No sense in paying for a repair or replacement of an item that’s still under warranty!
32. Grocery shop with a specific list
Most of us know not to go to the grocery store while hungry. When we do, lots of delectable extras magically appear in our shopping carts. Grocery shopping with a specific list of items needed for the week can help you cut down on unnecessary purchases even moreso. And better yet, you’re likely to cut down on wasted food as well, since everything you purchase will have a specific purpose.
33. Use grocery pickup
Another grocery tip is to use a pickup service. This will help you reduce temptation even further by helping you focus on getting just what you need. Many grocery stores offer this service for free as long as you meet a minimum order.
34. Learn to cook your favorite restaurant meals
If you love eating out, consider learning how to cook some of your favorite restaurant meals at home from time to time. The average American household spent over $3,400 eating out in 2018. So even if you choose to cook instead of going out every so often, that can make a big difference.
And no, we don’t expect you to concoct a brilliant recipe out of thin air. Chances are there is some sort of copycat recipe already in existence that you can utilize. Here’s a list of 55 to get you started.
35. Make coffee at home
This one may seem like a no-brainer but the numbers are truly impressive for such a simple way to save money. The average cup of coffee made at home costs less than 18 cents. However, the average American spent over $1,100 buying coffee in 2020. If you made all of your coffee at home, you could save upwards of $1,304 each year.
36. Meatless Mondays
Even something like switching up your weekly recipes can help you save money. It’s estimated that by going meatless just one day per week that the average American would save $40 a month. While that may not be quite as striking as what you can save by brewing coffee at home, that still adds up to $480 extra you could be saving each year.
37. Pack your lunch
Instead of eating out, start bringing your lunch with you to work. Not only is packing your lunch much more likely to be the healthier option, it’s also likely to save you up to $1,222 over the course of a year.
38. Shop your pantry
We’re all guilty of finding an item in our pantry from time to time which is a few months (if not years) past it’s expiration date. You can easily save some money by wasting less food and shopping your pantry once a month. If you find something close to expiring, consider working it into your recipes for the week. If you don’t think you’ll use it, donate it to your local food bank.
39. Rearrange your fridge
Just like a grocery store does, it’s smart to pull items with the nearest expiration/best buy date to the front of your fridge. That way you’re less inclined to forget to use it before it goes bad and you end up wasting food and money.
40. Start a garden
If you’re willing to put in some time and elbow grease, having a garden is a great way to save money. Even if you don’t have a big backyard to harvest, there are some great mini herb indoor gardens which can help you develop a new hobby and save you some money in the process.
41. Learn to DIY around the house
House repairs can really add up. Whether you consider yourself handy or not, there are lots of simple house repairs which can still cost an arm and a leg if you have to hire a professional. Take a leaky faucet for example. The average hourly rate for a plumber in the US is $315. That’s pretty steep.
But if you just leave a leaky faucet leaking, it’s likely to cost you around $20 a month. If you’re willing to put in some time and a little elbow grease, many hardware stores offer free seminars as well as online tutorials for all kinds of home repairs.
42. Keep track of your paint color
While this tip is uber-specific, it only takes one time before you realize the pain of trying to match the color of something you’ve already painted. Making a million trips back to the hardware store to try yet another tint of white…Whether you make a note in your phone or tape the paint card to the paint can along with information about what was painted, put that information somewhere easy to reference. You’ll thank us later.
43. Use a programmable thermostat
If you’ve got an old school thermostat, it may be time to consider buying a programmable version. The EPA estimates that using a programmable thermostat can save users up to 30% on their energy bills. There are a number of great options available, some for even less than $50. Moreover, if you’re interested in a smart thermostat, many utility companies offer rebates. So make sure you do your research and don’t leave any money on the table.
44. Make your home energy efficient
If you do need to replace your appliances, replacing them with energy efficient options can be a great way to save money on your utility bills. However, that’s a pretty big purchase, and there’s lots of other ways to increase your energy efficiency without breaking the bank. Here are 25 quick and easy tips to get you started.
45. Consider refinancing your mortgage
As a general rule of thumb, it is worth considering refinancing your mortgage if you can save at least 1% on your interest rate. Saving money on interest is fantastic, but refinancing involves other costs, so it’s important to calculate all of the costs and savings involved.
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