50 Great Tips to Get You Started

No matter where you are on your financial journey, you need to know that it’s possible for anyone to turn their financial life around. Sometimes all it takes is that first step in the right direction to get things moving in your favor. But, as with most things, sometimes that very first step is the hardest part.

That’s why we created this list of 100 ways to start saving money today. None of these tactics will be life-changing on their own, but they can make quite a difference over time if you’re able to implement more than one. Some of these suggestions take just a few minutes, while others require a bit of regular effort. Still, they’re all incredibly simple – anyone can do them.

Obviously, not all of these tips will apply to everyone. Just go through the list and find 10 or 15 that doapply to you and use them in your life. When you do, you may quickly find that you’re saving more money than you ever thought possible.

100 Ways to Save Money

1. Move bank accounts to take advantage of perks and earn more interest

If you’re paying a monthly fee for your checking or savings account, you would benefit from researching some of newest banking offers out there. Not only do some of the best banks offer sign-up bonuses simply for opening an account and setting up direct deposit, but some offer attractive interest rates to new customers as well.

It’s true that interest rates are not what they once were, but it’s still worth a look. Some of the best free checking accounts and best savings accounts can be found online. Here’s a guide on how to make that switch.

2. Turn off the television.

One big way to save money is to drastically cut down on the amount of television you watch. There are a lot of financial benefits to this: less exposure to spending-inducing ads, a lower electric bill (and perhaps a lower cable bill if you downgrade your subscription), more time to focus on other things in life — such as a side business — and so on.

Want to take things a step further? Consider cutting the cord to cable TV altogether.

3. Stop collecting, and start selling

There was a time when people thought their collections would bring them riches. Beanie Babies were a big fad at one time, as were Longaberger baskets. Now you can find those items on resale sites like Craigslist and at garage sales for a fraction of their initial cost, leaving many people who sunk thousands of dollars into their “investments” wondering what happened.

If you want to avoid that situation, don’t collect items of questionable value. And if you want to recoup some of the money you’ve already spent on collectible items, you can start selling them now and use those funds for any number of worthy financial goals. Read our “Guide to Selling Unwanted Items” for some simple strategies that can help you profit as much as possible.

4. Sign up for every free customer rewards program you can.

No matter where you live, you’ll find plenty of retailers who are willing to reward you for shopping at their store. Here’s the basic game plan for maximizing these programs: create a Gmail or Yahoo address just for these mailings, collect every card you can, and then check that account for extra coupons whenever you’re ready to shop.

You can add to those rewards and discounts by using rewards credit cards to earn points on purchases at a wide range of stores that can be redeemed for cash back or other benefits.

5. Make your own gifts instead of buying stuff from the store.

If you want to save money while also giving generously, creating your own homemade gifts is one way to accomplish both goals. You can make food mixes, candles, fresh-baked bread or cookies, soap, and all kinds of other things at home quite easily and inexpensively.

These make spectacular gifts for others because they involve your personal touch — something you can’t buy from a store — and quite often they’re consumable, meaning they don’t wind up filling someone’s closet with junk. Even better – include a personal handwritten note with the gift.

6. Master the 30-day rule.

Avoiding instant gratification is one of the most important rules of personal finance, and waiting 30 days to decide on a purchase is an excellent way to implement that rule.

Quite often, after a month has passed, you’ll find that the urge to buy has passed as well, and you’ll have saved yourself some money simply by waiting. If you’re on the fence about a purchase anyway, waiting a while can give you a better perspective on whether it’s truly worth the money.

7. Write a list before you go shopping – and stick to it.

One of the easiest ways to save money is to only shop when you have a list. Because when you’re without one, you typically end up making impulse buys and unplanned purchases – all things that cost money.

Creating a list before you go to the grocery store is especially important. Not only can it help you buy items that fit with your meal plan, but it can also help you avoid buying food you might waste. Always create a list and, more importantly, stick to it.
You can also take advantage of a cash back rewards card that gives bonus cash at grocery stores – just be sure to pay off the balance each month.

8. Invite friends over instead of going out.

Going out to eat or “out on the town” has a way of completely destroying both your food budget and your entertainment budget in one fell swoop. And no matter what, it is always cheaper to stay in with friends and come up with your own entertainment.

Instead of hitting the town, host a fun pitch-in dinner with your friends. Play cards, sit around a fire pit, or watch movies with your guests. You’ll all save money – and have a blast.

9. Repair clothing instead of tossing it.

Don’t toss out a shirt because of a broken button – sew on a new one with some closely-matched thread. Don’t toss out pants because of a hole in them – put in a patch of some sort and save them for times when you’re working around the house.

Most basic sewing jobs can be completed by anyone, and a little bit of practice goes a long way. Learning basic sewing skills is a great way to save some money – and extend the life of your clothing.

Photo: Chris

Learn basic sewing techniques and you can mend worn-out clothing instead of tossing it. Photo: Chris

10. Don’t spend big money entertaining your children.

Most children, especially young ones, can be entertained very cheaply. Buy them an end roll of newspaper from your local paper and let their creativity run wild. Play ball in the backyard. Head to the park. Plant a garden. Teach them to ride a bike without training wheels once and for all.

Realize that what your children want most of all is your time, not your stuff, and you’ll find money in your pocket and joy in your heart.

11. Negotiate rates with your credit card company or complete a balance transfer.

If you’re paying a lot of interest on your credit cards, it’s important to know that you do have some power as long as you’ve been making your payments. Not only do you have the right to negotiate your current interest rate with your credit card issuer, but you have the right to transfer your balance to an entirely different card as well. (In fact, that is perhaps your biggest bargaining chip.)

Start by calling your card issuer at the number on the back of your card and explaining your request. If you don’t make any progress with them, check out these balance transfer credit cards to find one with an introductory 0% APR that could help you save hundreds of dollars in interest over time.

12. Clean out those closets.

Go through your closets and find anything and everything you no longer use. Then, don’t just get rid of it, use it to your benefit.

You can have a yard sale with it, sell it on eBay or Craigslist, take it to a consignment shop, or even donate it for the tax deduction (mark down what you give away so you can get a receipt). All of these options can turn old stuff you don’t want anymore into money in your pocket. Not only that, it’s often a psychological load off your mind to clean out your closets.

13. Buy video games that have a lot of replay value – and don’t acquire new ones until you’ve mastered what you have.

My video game buying habits have changed quite a bit since my “game of the week” days. Now, I focus on games that can be played over and over and over again, and I focus on mastering the games that I buy. Good targets include puzzle games and long, involved quest games – they maximize the value of your gaming dollar.

Once you’re done with a game for good, take it to a video game resale shop like GameStop and see if you can trade it in for store credit you can use to get another game.

14. Drink more water.

Not only does drinking plenty of water have great health benefits — it has financial benefits, too. Drink a big glass of water before each meal in order to stay fuller longer and ultimately eat less. Not only will you save on the food bill, but you’ll also feel better after you become properly hydrated.

Even better, drinking more water — whether in a refillable bottle or at restaurants — means spending less money on beverages like soda, juice, and tea. Remember: Tap water is not only just as clean as bottled water, it’s also free.

15. Avoid convenience foods and fast food.

Instead of eating fast food or just nuking some prepackaged dinner when you get home, try making some simple and healthy replacements that you can take with you. An hour’s worth of preparation one weekend can leave you with a ton of cheap and easy dinner and snack options for the following week.

Also consider breaking out the ol’ crock pot for some inexpensive meal options that not only save money, but time, too.
For those times when you simply can’t avoid dining out, maximize your savings with coupons and a rewards credit card that gives a bonus for restaurant spending (but you know yourself best, so only spend what you know you can pay off each month with no interest).

16. For heaven’s sake, quit smoking.

If you’re still a smoker, you have to know by now that your habit is not only expensive, but potentially deadly as well. If you want to add years to your life and save a boatload of money, the easiest thing to do is to stop smoking altogether. You can quit cold turkey, try some of the many anti-smoking products that are out there, or switch to an electronic cigarette to buy some time. Whichever path you choose, you will be much better off.

17. Make a quadruple batch of a casserole.

We all know that casseroles are nice, easy dishes to prepare. The next time you make a casserole, make four batches of it and put the other three in the freezer. Then, when you need a quick meal for the family, you can grab one of those ready-made casseroles and just heat it up.

Preparing a few at once allows you to buy the ingredients in bulk, which can mean additional savings. Meanwhile, having several casseroles in the freezer makes it less likely that you’ll turn to fast food or junk food when you’re in a hurry.

18. Turn off the lights.

Keeping the lights on in your home may not be expensive on a per-watt basis, but it sure does cost money over time. To save as much as you can, turn off lights any time you leave your house – or even when you leave the room. Turning off lights when you have plenty of natural sunlight can also help keep your electric bill down over time. The bottom line: If you aren’t using a light, turn it off.

19. Swap books, music, and DVDs on the Internet or at the library.

You can very easily swap the books, CDs, and DVDs you’ve grown bored with online. Just clean out your media collection, and trade them with others online using sites like PaperBackSwap. If you live near a library that loans DVDs in addition to books, you’ll be even better off. The more you can borrow and barter with others, the more money you’ll save over time.

20. Maximize yard sales.

Yard sales are a great place to score awesome deals on items you need anyway – think housewares, shoes, clothing, or even sports equipment. The key is, you have to be careful not to use the low prices found at sales as an excuse to buy things you don’t need. At your next garage sale, limit yourself to items that were already on your list of things to buy.

21. Install CFLs or LEDs wherever it makes sense.

Energy-efficient light bulbs might cost a bit more initially, but they have a much longer life than normal incandescent bulbs and use far less electricity. It might be hard to decide which type to use, but either type of bulb will probably be an upgrade from whatever you’re using now.

CFLs, which use a quarter of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last for years, are the next cheapest option after traditional bulbs. But they also have some drawbacks: They take a while to warm up to full brightness, and they also contain a small amount of mercury.

Meanwhile, LEDs are more expensive. However, they’re getting cheaper all the time, and they are easily the best lighting option available: They light up instantly, are efficient as CFLs, produce a warm glow without getting hot to the touch, and can last for decades.

You don’t even need to replace every bulb in the house at once. Even swapping just your four or five most-used light bulbs can save you $45 or more a year.

22. Install a programmable thermostat.

Installing a programmable thermostat is a no-brainer if you want to cut down on energy usage while you’re not at home, or simply regulate the temperature in your home. By setting it to heat or cool your home at certain times, you can ensure that your utilities aren’t being wasted while you’re at work or asleep – and save money in the process.

23. Buy quality appliances that will last.

It’s worth the time to do a bit of research when you buy a new appliance. A reliable, energy-efficient washer and dryer might cost you quite a bit now, but if it continually saves you energy and lasts for 15 years instead of five, you’ll save significant money in the long run.

When you need to buy an appliance, do research: Start with back issues of Consumer Reports at the library. An hour’s worth of research can easily save you hundreds of dollars.
If you know you’re going to spend a significant amount and you already have the cash on hand, you might want to consider applying for a credit card with a generous signup bonus. Buying a $2,000+ refrigerator can help hit that spending minimum quickly. It’s a simple way to earn some money on a purchase you were going to make anyway.

24. Clean or change out your car’s air filter.

A clean air filter can improve your gas mileage by up to 7%, saving you more than $100 for every 10,000 miles driven in an average vehicle. Cleaning your air filter is easy to do in just a few minutes – just follow the instructions in your vehicle’s manual and you’re good to go.

If yours is beyond help, also consider changing it out for a new one. At most stores, a new air filter goes for less than $10.

25. Quit using credit cards.

If you have a habit of getting into trouble with credit cards, hide your credit cards and keep them in a safe place in your home, not in your wallet. If you need to keep a card for emergencies, that’s okay. Just don’t carry it around with you. If you’re often tempted to use it, keeping your card “out of sight and out of mind” might help.

26. Plan your meals around your grocery store’s flyer.

Instead of creating your meal plan out of thin air, plan all your meals around what’s on sale in your grocery store’s flyer. Look at the biggest sales, then plan recipes based on those ingredients and what you have on hand. Do that for a few months and you’ll find yourself with a much smaller food bill than you’re used to.

27. Do a price comparison – and find a cheaper grocery store.

Most of us get in a routine of shopping at the same grocery store, and we may not even realize that we’re not getting the best deal. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to find the cheapest store around. Just keep track of the 20 or so things you buy most often, then shop for these items at a variety of stores. Eventually, one store will come out on top for your purchases – just make that one your regular shopping destination and you’ll automatically save money.

28. Make your own when you can.

Before I tried it myself, I thought making homemade bread would just be a complicated waste of time. But after I tried it, I found that it was pretty easy and it was actually much cheaper, healthier, and tastier than buying a loaf from the store.

We rarely ever buy bread at the store these days, mainly because the bread I make is not only cheaper, but much better too. Figuring out what you can make it home is a great way to save some money – and learn new skills along the way.

29. Avoid stress-spending.

It’s easy to justify spending money just to wind down from a stressful day at work. However, it’s rarely a good idea. Instead of buying things you don’t need to make yourself feel better, it might be wise to find other ways to de-stress instead.

Exercise is always a good option, as is meditation and even a good old-fashioned nap. Read, watch movies, or work in your yard if you’re stressed out. Spending money won’t reduce your stress in the long run.

30. Share your dreams with people you love.

This seems like an odd way to save money, but think about it. If you spend time with the people you love the most and come to some consensus about your dreams, it becomes easy for you all to plan for it. Set a big, audacious goal together and encourage each other to be financially fit – soon, you’ll find you’re doing it naturally and your dreams are coming closer than ever.

31. Do a “maintenance run” on your appliances.

Check them to make sure there isn’t any dust clogging them and that they’re fairly clean. Look behind the appliances, and use your vacuum to gently clear away dust. Check all of the vents, especially on refrigerators, dryers, and heating and cooling units. The less dust you have blocking the mechanics of these devices, the more efficiently they’ll run (saving you on your energy bill) and the longer they’ll last (saving you on replacement costs).

32. Cancel unused club memberships.

Are you paying dues at a club that you never use? Like, for instance, a gym membership or a country club membership? If you’re on the fence about any of your memberships or find that you’re not using them very often, cancel them. Remember, you can always renew the membership at a later date if it turns out that you actually do miss it.

33. Buy used when you can.

You can often find the exact item you want with a bit of clever shopping at used equipment stores, used game stores, consignment shops, and so on. Just make these shops a part of your normal routine – go there first when looking for potential items and you will save money.

Clothes, for example, often cost pennies on the dollar when bought used – even if they were only worn once. By buying used most of the time, you can save a ton of cash.

thrift store teacups

From tea cups to T-shirts, make it a habit to shop used first and you’ll often find what you’re looking for at a big discount. Photo: Laura D’Alessandro

34. Keep your hands clean.

This one’s simple – just wash your hands thoroughly each time you use the bathroom or handle raw foods. You’ll keep yourself from acquiring all kinds of viruses and bacteria, saving you on medical bills and lost productivity.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t explore the world and get your hands dirty sometimes – that’s good for you, too – but basic sanitation does help keep the medical bills at bay.

35. Remove your credit card numbers from your online accounts.

It’s easy to spend online when you have your card information stored in an account – just click and buy. The best way to break this habit is to simply delete your card from the account.

That way, when you’re tempted to spend, you’ll be forced to spend the time to dig out your card – and really think about why you’re spending this money. Sometimes being forced to take that extra step is all it takes to convince yourself you don’t need the item after all.

36. Give the gift of labor.

For new parents, give an evening of babysitting as a gift. If you know pet owners, offer to take care of their pets when they travel. Offer up some lawn care as a gift to a new homeowner.

These types of gifts are always a hit. I know that, as a parent of a toddler and an infant, I loved receiving a babysitting gift, probably more than any “stuff” I might get otherwise.

37. Do holiday shopping right after the holidays.

Most people use this technique for Christmas, but it works for every holiday. Wait until about two days after a holiday, then go out shopping for items you need that are themed for that day.

Get a Mother’s Day card for next year the day after Mother’s Day. Get Easter egg decorating kits the day after Easter, and Halloween decorations on Nov. 1. Get wrapping paper, cards, bows, and gift bags the day after Christmas. The discounts are tremendous, and you can just put this stuff in the closet until next year.

38. Join up with a volunteer program.

Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, get some exercise, and involve yourself in a positive project that can lift your spirit. It also comes without a cost to you and can provide a lot of entertainment and a fulfilling day when you’re in the right mindset. (In some cases, it can even help erase your student loans.)

I’ve come to spend more and more of my time volunteering, serving on various committees and groups in the community. It is hands-down the best thing I have ever done.

39. Declutter to save your sanity and some cash.

Go into a room and go through every single item in it. Do you really need that item? Are you happy that it’s there, or would you be just fine if it were not? If you can find stuff to get rid of, get rid of it – it just creates clutter and it might have some value to others. You also improve the perceived value of your house – and you’re likely to get a lot of cleaning done in the process. It’s a frugal win-win-win.

40. Try generic brands of items you buy regularly.

Instead of just picking up the ordinary brand of an item you buy, try out the store brand or generic version of the item. You’ll save a few cents now, but you’ll also likely discover that the store brand is just as good as the name brand — often, the only difference between the two is the marketing, which I’m not willing to pay more fore. Once you’re on board the generic train, you’ll find your regular grocery bill getting smaller and smaller.

41. Prepare some meals at home.

Get an accessible and easy-to-use cookbook (my favorite “beginner” cookbook is Mark Bittman’s excellent “How to Cook Everything“) and try making some of the dishes inside. You’ll find that cooking at home is much easier than you think – and way cheaper and healthier than take-out or dining out. Even better, you can easily prepare meals in advance – even handy fast-food type meals.

42. Switch to term life insurance.

Repeat after me: insurance is not an investment. If you’re stuck in an expensive whole life policy, choose cheaper term insurance instead and use that difference in cost to get yourself out of debt and start building some wealth.

Universal and whole-life policies are much more expensive and offer a subpar investment opportunity. In almost every case, you’ll be much better off with a cheap term policy and more money in your pocket. You can get rate quotes here:

Find the Best Life Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

43. Stick to reliable, fuel-efficient cars.

A reliable and fuel-efficient car will save you thousands over the long haul. Let’s say you drive a vehicle for 80,000 miles. If you choose a car that gets 25 miles per gallon over one that only gets 15, you’ll save 2,133 gallons of gas. At $3 a gallon, that’s $6,400 in savings right there. Reliability can pay the same dividends.

Do the research: It will pay off for you. Learning some simple strategies for fuel-efficient driving can also help.

44. Avoid the mall.

The mall might be a fun place to people watch, but it can also be packed with temptation. That’s why you should avoid the mall unless you actually need to purchase something.

Trust me, window shopping when you’re on a budget can be torture. Unburden yourself and find something else to do when you need some entertainment. A walk outdoors, a fun puzzle, or a good movie can easily replace your regular mall shopping adventures.

45. Master the 10-second rule.

Whenever you pick up an item and add it to your cart or to take it to the checkout, stop for 10 secondsand ask yourself why you’re buying it and whether you actually need it or not. If you can’t find a good answer, put the item back. This keeps me from making impulse buys on a regular basis.

46. Rent out unused space in your home.

Do you have an extra bedroom or in-law suite that’s not being used? Rent it out on a site like Airbnb.com. If you live near a popular or tourist area, doing so could bring in a lot of extra money. Just make sure you know the risks and are willing to take the steps required to protect your family and your possessions.

47. Create a visual reminder of your debt.

To put your debt into terms that are easy to understand, make a giant progress bar that starts with the amount of debt you have and ends with zero. Each time you pay down a little bit, fill in a little more of that progress bar.

Keep this reminder in a place where you’ll see it often, and keep filling it in regularly. It can help keep your eye on the prize and lead you straight to debt freedom.

48. Cancel magazine subscriptions.

Do you have a pile of unread magazines sitting around your house? It’s likely the result of a subscription that you’re not reading.

Not only should you not renew that magazine, but you should give their subscription department a call and try to cancel for a refund. You never know until you ask– they might even give you the prorated amount back. I’ve had to cull my subscriptions in the past, and I’ve never regretted it.

An app like TrueBill can even review your purchase history to find forgotten subscriptions and other recurring charges, and help you cancel or renegotiate them for a cheaper rate.

  • Read more: How Much Are Subscriptions Costing You? Probably a Lot More Than You Think

49. Eat breakfast.

Eating a healthy breakfast fills you up with energy for the day while also curbing your desire for a big, expensive lunch. Meanwhile, breakfast can be very healthy, quick, and inexpensive. A bowl of oatmeal in the morning is often the one thing that keeps me from running out to eat an expensive lunch later in the day.

50. Swap babysitting with neighbors.

We live in a neighborhood with dozens of families with young children. Because of that, there are a lot of parents out there willing to swap babysitting nights with us, saving us the money of hiring one for an evening out. A few families even take this to incredible extremes.

Try to find another set of parents or two that you trust, and swap nights of babysitting with them. If you can pull it off, you’ll get occasional evenings free without the cost of a babysitter and save a ton of money in the process.

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