There are two things that many people are most interested in when it comes to making more room in the monthly budget. How to save money and how to make extra money. While you can always look for ways to make more money , it can also help to be saving money. Often people are not sure how to start saving, but it does not always have to include drastic changes. If you are wondering how to save money, here are 45 of my favorite ways:
Baby Steps: Small Savings
In order to get started saving money, it can help to take it in small steps. Consider these options for saving money a little bit at a time:
- Shoeboxed. A great way to save money is knowing where you are spending money and keeping track of things, it of course also helps with maximizing your tax refund. I found a great free program that helps me keep track of things, Shoeboxed. It is a free service (although paid versions are available too) that will keep your documents available online, you can quickly snap a picture with your smart phone and upload it. You can get it for FREE, for more detailed info you can checkout our Shoeboxed review.
- Online Rebate Programs. A great way to save money on your purchases is by using online rebate programs. One of the best sites I have found is Great Canadian Rebates. Although it is a Canadian site it has a very extensive US membership and offers.The site has an ever-growing list of merchants that can help you find great deals AND get a rebate! It is very simple to use, you register online and make a purchase as you would do with any online store and GCR will credit the rebate to your account.BONUS: If you sign up now you will get $2.00 added to your account, just for becoming a member! They also have a referral program, where if you refer a friend you will earn a 10% Referral Bonus on all Cash Back Rebates earned by any new member you refer. Win-win for all.
- Clip coupons: You know that you can save money by clipping coupons. Saving a couple dollars here and there can start to add up. If you are really savvy with your coupons, you could save even more.
- Don’t buy coffee every day: You’ve heard of the “Latte Factor.” You can use it to save a little bit each day by brewing coffee at home some days and taking it with you.
- Brown bag it: Bring your lunch to work with you, rather than buy it.
- Apply for rebates: Take a couple minutes to apply for rebates. Many times, you can do this online, and it’s fast and easy. [Also see How-to Streamline the Rebate Process]
- Cook at home, rather than get take out: There are great crock pot meals and 30 minute meals that you can make for healthier — less expensive — dining.
- Leftovers!: Plan your meals so that you can use leftovers in another meal. This can help you save money, and reduce your food waste.
- Buy generics/store brands: Give generic/store brands a try. You might find you like these just fine. If that’s the case, buy those instead of name brands.
- Drink water from the tap: You can get a filter if you don’t want straight tap water. It’s still cheaper than always buying bottled water.
- Stay away from vending machines: The items are usually over-priced.
- Hit the matinee at the movie theater: It’s cheaper than going at night.
- Eat out during lunch: If you do want to go out occasionally, go for a lunch date, since it’s cheaper than eating dinner.
- Make your own laundry detergent: There are a number of recipes for making your own laundry detergent; this can save you money.
- Use homemade household cleaners: No need to buy expensive cleaners at the store, there are ways to keep your home clean with a little dish soap, vinegar, water and baking soda.
- Use customer rewards: If you can get discounts by signing up for a free reward program, and you don’t mind someone tracking your purchases, this can be a good way to consistently save more money.
- Make gifts for others: You can create thoughtful, personal gifts for others, rather than purchase them. You can also discuss gift limits with your family members.
- Entertain at home rather than going out: You can save some money by having people at your house, rather than going out.
- Spend quality time with the family: Having fun at home is great for saving money. You’ll get in quality time, and you don’t need to spend a lot.
- Replace soda with water: Not only is water (from the tap) cheaper than buying soda, it is healthier, too. If you like a little flavor, you can buy cheap packets to add a little interest.
- Home haircuts: For many men and boys, it is fairly easy to get a haircut. A pair of clippers from the store is all you need.
- Get your music streamed: I used to use Pandora, and now I use Spotify. It’s a great way to listen to music, without paying anything, by or paying a small fee so you can take your playlists everywhere with you. This can be a good way to listen to music without buying albums or individual tracks.
When you are ready to take it up a level, you can try some of these other ways to save more money. Some of these result in long-term savings, so you might have to wait a little while to see results.
- Cut the cable/satellite: Rather than paying for expensive packages, downgrade. You can easily get movies streamed on Netflix for less than you pay for a movie package. How many channels are you really using? Reduce you plan and save more money. You might even be able to cut it altogether.
- Get rid of a phone: You can do this by getting rid of your landline and using VoIP, or by ditching a cell phone. Re-evaluate your phone needs and downgrade your cell plan or get rid of a line if it makes sense.
- Use your library: You don’t need to buy books; you can get them at the library. You can also get movies, read periodicals, and even check out other media in some cases. Many libraries are also lending ebooks.
- Get ebooks: I am a true bibliophile, so it has taken me some time to warm up to ebooks, but I’m almost there. I know they can save me money — especially if I head to Project Gutenberg and get books in the public domain. Many great, literary classics are available for free via Project Gutenberg and other outlets. Over time, you can save quite a bit by not paying for physical books.
- Cancel subscriptions: Evaluate your subscriptions, and cancel those you aren’t using.
- Be more energy efficient at home: You can save money by practicing energy efficiency at home. Switch to CFLs, add a little more insulation. These cost a little bit of money up front, but can net decent savings over time. Of course, you can do other things like seal of air leaks, use smart strips to help you unplug at night, get a programmable thermostat and turn off lights in empty rooms.
- Improve your fuel efficiency: Look for ways to save money on gas by properly maintaining your car, driving carefully, and planning your trips so that you use less gas.
- Avoid driving: When possible, avoid driving. Walk or bike to work, or take public transportation. You can also carpool to share the costs associated with the commute.
- Properly care for what you have: Whether it’s clothing or appliances, proper care and maintenance can save you a great deal in the long run. Care for your things so that they last longer, and you will save money.
- Cancel your gym membership: It’s fairly easy — and inexpensive — to put together a home gym. Or, you could always start jogging. You don’t need to pay to go to the gym to get in shape.
- Ask to have fees waived: My bank will waive one fee a year — just because I ask. Also, if you are a good customer, you might find that you can get other fees waived. If you are being charged a fee, ask if it can be waived.
- Travel smart: Use fare finding web sites and discount airlines to save. Join hotel rewards programs to earn free nights. Bring food with you in a cooler, rather than buy it at restaurants and gas stations.
- Look for low-fee investments: When you invest, look for funds and plans with low fees. When choosing a broker, pick one with low transaction fees. You’ll save more in the long run.
Sweating the Big Stuff
There are those who observe that some of the smaller savings just won’t lead to significant room in your budget. Here are a few ways you can really kickstart your savings in a big way.
- Refinance your home: One of the best ways to find as much as $500 a month extra in your budget is to refinance your home. Mortgage rates are low now, so you can get a good deal on a refinance. In some cases, you can refinance to a lower term, and still save money each month. Consider your situation and see if you can save more money with a refinance.
- Increase your insurance deductibles: If you have a decent emergency fund, you can increase all of your deductibles. Increase the deductibles on your home (or renters), auto and health insurance policies. A higher deductible means lower premiums, and that can save you big in the long run. [Also see 10 Ways To Reduce Car Insurance Bill]
- Pay down consumer debt: One of the biggest expenses you have is probably the interest on consumer debt. The faster you pay it off, the more money you save in the long run. You can also ask your credit card issuers for an interest rate reduction. In some cases, you can get a 1% to 3% reduction, just for asking. That can save you big as you try to get rid of consumer debt.
- Buy a late model used/lease return: Instead of buying a brand new car, you can consider buying a late model used car, or a lease return. These cars are still usually in fairly good condition, but they cost thousands less than a brand new car — and they don’t depreciate as fast.
Habits that Can Help You Save
Whether you are looking for big savings or small savings, you can develop habits that are geared toward saving money:
- Learn to say no: Just say “no” to more stuff.
- Practice conscious spending: Ask yourself why you are buying something. Just because you think you want it isn’t a good reason. If you can’t come up with at least two concrete reasons why you are buying something, put it back.
- Avoid spending triggers: Be aware of places that trigger spending, whether it’s browsing on eBay (my husband’s spending trigger), or window shopping in the historical district. Also, be aware of whether you are an emotional shopper. If you shop due to stress, or some other reason, recognize that and try to find other ways to beat your stress.
- Automate your savings: You can’t spend what isn’t there. Automate so that you save money in a retirement account and/or emergency fund first thing each month. Now you won’t have the money in there to spend.
- Institute a waiting period: From three days to a month, sleep on a purchase. You might decide you don’t need something after all.
- Comparison shop: Make it a habit to look for better prices elsewhere. Before you buy, find out if you can get a better deal elsewhere by looking online, or at another store.
- Consider used: Whether it’s small things, like a video game or book, or bigger things, like cars and homes, consider buying used. My husband got a great deal on a refurbished computer — and it works just fine. Look for good quality used items before buying new.
- Cultivate contentment: One of the best ways to save money is to be content with what you have. Cultivate contentment with yourself and your life, and stop looking for happiness and fulfillment in material things. You’ll find that you spend less and save more when you recognize that you have enough.
What saving tips do you have to share?
Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.