100 Ways to Save Money
We all want or need to save money at some point in our lives, whether it be for pleasure or necessity. In either case, though, saving money can seem like a daunting task. However, making some little changes in your daily routine can pay off big in a year’s time. Here are 100 ways that can help you reach your goal, in five different areas: Shopping, Transportation & Travel, Food, Entertainment, and At Home & Living.
Coupons – Number one on everyone’s list for ways to save while shopping should be coupons. Check the Sunday papers, online, or in-stores for potential savings on items you need before rushing out to buy them. If you need inspiration, just watch Extreme Couponing!
Do research – You should also look at all available options, with or without coupons, to determine where you can find the cheapest prices. Use Google Shopping to easily find which stores have what you need for less.
Yard sales – You never know what you might find at a yard sale, but one thing is certain: it will be cheaper than anywhere else.
Dollar stores – Don’t do all of your grocery shopping at the supermarket. Buy things like candy, cleaning supplies, glassware, or party favors at the dollar store. Why pay $3 for window cleaner when you can get it for a third of the cost?
Thrift stores – You can find great deals on used clothing at thrift stores. There are plenty of clothes in great condition, some that may even be designer brands. But more importantly, if you have kids, always shop at thrift stores. Kids will just grow out of their clothes, so save hundreds over a child’s growing years by shopping here.
Discount stores – If you can’t find what you want at a thrift store, try the next best thing: discount stores. Stores such as Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Payless Shoesource are just a few that will offer you great prices on a wide selection of clothes.
Store brand drugs – Stop getting sucked into those “two-a-day” Aleve commercials. All generic drugs are legally required to have the same ingredients, and thus, are the same thing. For the same amount of money you could have 200 Aleve capsules, or 300 Target brand Naproxen. If there is a store brand drug available, buy it.
Make gifts – If you are short on cash for the holidays, consider getting crafty and making gifts instead. Use your skills to make something unique for a loved one, and save money while you’re at it.
Craigslist – The grandfather of all online classifieds, Craigslist is a good way to find certain items at yard sale prices, all from the convenience of your own home.
Clothing swaps – Look for clothing swaps in your town, online, or organize one yourself. This provides a great opportunity to network with fellow swappers and get some new threads for cheap or for free.
Buy out of season – Start buying your bathing suits in October and your winter jackets in April and you will see savings. You should easily be able to find items at half price at the end of the season. Be proactive and get your shopping for next year done now.
Buy after holidays – Similarly, prices drop after holidays to get rid stores of their inventory. Buy gifts for next year after the holidays this year. If you have a sweet tooth, stock up on candy after Easter and Halloween.
Ebates – A great way to shop online is through Ebates, which offers cash back for making purchases at participating sites. You can search by store or by product and maximize your cash back.
ebay – A global yard sale. You can find almost anything you need using ebay, and very often for much less than you would pay elsewhere.
Buy used electronics/gear – If stores have used or refurbished items, always consider this route. Because of rapid technology advances, many people will sell electronics that are still in great condition, just to get a newer version of the same product. If you don’t mind being slightly outdated, opt for last generation electronics instead.
Black Friday – Lace up your cleats and get out for holiday savings on Black Friday. Yes, it will be a madhouse, but you will save money. Prepare ahead of time by researching sales and planning a route. Get a nice cup of coffee at 4 AM and save all day long.
Cyber Monday – If you would prefer the great deals without the crowds, then Cyber Monday is just as good. Cyber Monday is the Monday following Black Friday, and involves most online retailers offering major discounts.
Buy stuff that will last – In this case saving money may not mean buying the cheapest product. It is important to read reviews and buy quality products. Make sure that the product you are getting will endure over time. Buying a product that is made in the USA will last longer than a mass-produced product from overseas. Pay now, save later.
Avoid impulses – When you’re out shopping and something leaps off the shelf at you, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Weigh the pros and cons of purchasing an item, and determine its ultimate benefit. If it is something that isn’t vital to your existence, you probably shouldn’t buy it. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t splurge every once in a while…
Shop less – A simple solution to save money is to just shop less. For shopaholics this may not be easy, but just take baby steps. If you shop every day, cut it to once a week. Then keep increasing the time in between shopping trips. Before you know it, you won’t even know what shopping is!
Transportation & Travel
Public transportation – An easy way to cut down on driving costs is to take public transportation. Buses and trains are more affordable than driving. In most cases, public transportation should cut the price you would pay to drive in half.
Ride a bike – Even better, riding a bike is great exercise and free. Ride your bike to your destination one day a week and save a couple bucks.
Walk – Better still, walking will cost you the same as a bike, but you probably won’t get as sweaty!
Get rid of car – If you live in a metropolitan area and own a car, it might be worth reconsidering. If it is possible to get where you need to be without a car, why pay for insurance and gas? Sell your car for some extra money, or donate it and write it off as a tax deduction.
Hybrid car – If you can’t get rid of your car, consider buying a hybrid car. Although it might be a large cost up-front, it will pay off down the road (pun intended). Time normally spent at the gas station can be spent depositing your saved money in the bank.
Carpool – If you just can’t get rid of your gas guzzler, try carpooling. Gather a couple of friends and split driving duties evenly. In a month’s time you’ll have driven (and spent) only 1/3 of what you normally would.
Drive at reasonable speeds – If none of the above options work for you, never fear. There are still ways to get the most out of your gasoline. One way is to drive at reasonable speeds. Avoid jackrabbit starts and stopping on dimes. When on the highway, try to maintain a constant speed. Adhering to this could save you up to a dollar per gallon.
No idling – If you know you aren’t going to be moving for a while, turn the engine off. Save a few cents per minute when it is turned off. See this page for more info.
Keep your car in shape – Making sure your tires are properly inflated and your engine is properly tuned, among other things, can save you dimes on the gallon. See this page for more info.
DIY lube-oil-filter – learning how to change your own oil and filters is invaluable. Mechanics typically charge $20-$30 for this service. Save at least $15 per oil change by doing it yourself.
Wash your own car – Although it is important to get a couple of undercarriage washes during the winter, take advantage of the summer weather and wash your own car. Save between $10 and $20 per wash.
Find the cheapest gas – Probably a no brainer, but to put it in perspective: for a car that gets 30 mpg, a five cent difference in gas price will save 5 dollars every 3000 miles. If you put a lot of miles on your car, this will add up.
Avoid parking garages – If you’re traveling to a major city, park in garages only as a last resort. Street parking may be scarce, but usually you can find a spot somewhere. Metered parking should always be cheaper unless you are staying for long periods of time. And if you don’t mind walking, free street parking might be found a little farther from the main part of the city. At the very least, do research ahead of time to figure out where the cheapest garage is.
Take routes without tolls – If you normally ride on a toll route, check to see if you have other options. If an alternate route doesn’t take too much longer and is free, it should be worth it. Utilize Google Maps’ “Avoid Tolls” option to see your choices.
Buy used cars – Final piece of car advice: when it’s time to buy a car, always buy used. Why pay full price for a brand new car when you can save a few grand by purchasing a slightly used one? Even a car that has only been driven for 1,000 miles should be a couple grand cheaper than a new one.
Check all airfare websites – When flying, don’t just buy the first ticket you see. Do your research. Google’s Matrix Airfare Search is a good way to search multiple airlines at once. It also allows you to see prices over an entire month, which is useful if you are flexible. This should at least save you $100 compared to what you might spend without it.
Fly red eye – If you don’t mind waking up early, red eye flights are almost always cheaper than those during the day.
Use hotel search engines – Much like finding airline tickets, make sure to do research for hotels as well. Sites like Hotels.com, Expedia, and Kayak are great places to start. Once again, this should save you a decent amount compared to picking the first hotel you see.
Find hotels with free extras – It is always a good idea to stay in a hotel that offers free breakfast or free WiFi for both saving money and convenience. On a five day trip, free breakfast every day should save around $40.
Vacation during the week – Finally, if you can work your schedule around it, always try to vacation during weekdays. Lodging rates are almost always cheaper during the week. You should save at least $100 on a five day trip.
Pack lunch – The most effective way to save on food is to pack a lunch for the day, instead of hitting the cafes and restaurants. You can spend around $6-8 for a six inch sandwich, chips, and drink from Subway. Or, you could spend $3-4 for a chicken salad sandwich, apple, and drink made at home. You could easily save $1000 per year just by using a good ol’ brown bag.
Brew your own coffee – Can’t live without Starbucks? Yes you can. Brew your own coffee and you’ll spend around 10 cents per cup. Go to Starbucks and spend $1.65 for a “short” cup. Save over $500 a year just by brewing your own.
Farmer’s markets – You can often find better deals on produce and meats by buying directly from the source. It’s a good way to support your local community, deal with your farmers face-to-face, and of course, save money.
Skip the vending machines – Price markup for candy in vending machines is ludicrous. If you just can’t live without your daily Snickers, buy two for a dollar at the dollar store and save a buck per bar.
Skip delivery – If you’re hankering for some pizza, don’t get delivery. Delivery will run you about an extra $5 for fees and/or tip.
Eat out less – Going out for meals is usually more appealing than cooking your own food, but not if you want to save money. You’ll probably pay around 50% more per person by dining out, so it is a good idea to try to limit your trips to a couple of times per week.
Order water – When you do dine out, order water instead of sodas. Doing this will save you $1-2 per glass. Also, water won’t fill you up as quickly. This leaves you with more room in your stomach for food, and less room in your wallet for all those excess bills.
BYOB – If you want to go out for drinks, find a BYOB instead of a bar. You could spend $5 for a glass of wine at the bar, or have an entire bottle for only $10 if you bring it yourself. This is a no-brainer.
Sign up for rewards clubs – If a restaurant you eat at frequently offers a free rewards club, sign up. Some offer coupons regularly, others require dining to acquire your reward. But, even if you only eat there a few times a year, eventually you will get discounts or free meals.
Eat less meat – If you’re the kind of person that eats meat at every meal, try to work some vegetarianism into your life. Non-meat entrees will usually cost at least a few dollars less at restaurants, and buying vegetables and grains at the store will be much cheaper than an equal weight of meat. Make yourself skinnier and your wallet fatter by going green.
Grow a garden – Take it one step further with the fruits and vegetables, and grow your own. You will spend less on a whole bag of tomato seeds than for a pound of tomatoes at the store. The more you grow, the more you save.
Don’t buy name brands all the time – When buying groceries, ask yourself if the name brand is really necessary. Are items like Frosted Flakes, Campbell’s soups, and Dannon yogurt that much better than their store brand equivalents? Don’t sacrifice quality, but switch to store brands to save when you can.
Weekly sale papers – Always preplan your grocery shopping by looking at the weekly sale papers. Look at multiple stores’ sales to see where the cheapest items are. Try to only buy items that are on sale each week. This way, you save money, and add variety to your diet.
Buy only what you need – If you can’t get everything on sale, make sure that at the very least, you only buy items that you need. Make a list and stick to it. If you make lots of impulse buys at the store, you’re more likely to wind up letting things go to waste, and that includes your money.
Potluck – Attend or organize a potluck in your neighborhood. Potlucks split the cost of meals evenly across the participants, so you can eat heartily without breaking the bank.
Buy in bulk – For items that are non-perishable that you know you will need a lot of, buy in bulk. Toiletries are a necessity, so stock up. The same goes for foods that you know you will eat regularly. Nuts and seeds are also great in bulk because they usually come unbranded (i.e. no middle man).
Check unit prices – Buying in bulk saves money because the unit price, or the price per a fixed quantity of the item, is cheaper. But when not buying in bulk, still check the unit price. An item that costs less might not be the best deal. For instance, if a 20 lb. box of kitty litter costs $10, the unit price is 50 cents/lb. But a 30 lb. box of kitty litter that costs $12 is 40 cents/lb. Therefore, the $12 box is actually cheaper.
Eat leftovers – Never let good food go to waste. Make a dinner one night and then have the leftovers for lunch the next day. Take what you can’t eat from a restaurant home with you for another night. Throwing food away is throwing money away.
Dine during the week – Since most people tend to eat on weekends, restaurants will often have better specials during the week to attract customers. Take advantage of this. Not only will you save money, but you will also avoid all the crowds and noise.
Go out for lunch, not dinner – An alternative to dining during the week is dining during the day. Prices are always cheaper at lunch compared to dinner. Dine al fresco at a streetside restaurant during the summer, get warm in a coffeehouse during the winter, and save money any time of the year.
Ditch cable – Already, many people are turning off their TVs in favor of online TV and movie streaming websites such as Netflix and Hulu. These sites offer monthly payments that are considerably lower than a basic cable plan. As these companies grow larger and offer an even wider selection of media, it’s definitely worth considering making the switch yourself.
Entertainment Book – Coupons! And everywhere! If you buy an Entertainment book you will be given access to hundreds of coupons for use at amusement parks, restaurants, stores, and more in your area. These books usually cost about $50 at the beginning of the year, but by June can go for just $10. At that price, it may only take one coupon to get that money back! These books are definitely worth it.
Library – Do you really need to own that book? You could save anywhere from $5 – $25 per book if you just take it out from the library instead. Don’t buy books just to read them once and then let them sit on the shelf until they get thrown in an attic or sold at a yard sale. Skip that nonsense and just borrow it.
Buy used games – If you are a video game nut, you know that prices for new games can put a dent in your wallet. You should also know that if you wait and then buy the game used, you will save at least $10. If you really need to own it, wait as long as you can before you buy it.
Rent games – Even better than buying used, simply rent the games. Websites such as Gamefly allow you to rent the games for a monthly fee. Since sports games tend to lose relevance each year and role playing games are essentially over once you beat the game, it is probably just a better idea to rent.
Groupon – With a different coupon offered every day, Groupon offers discounts on various entertainment destinations. Check daily for free to see if there is a deal that you can use.
Minor leagues – Although seeing the superstars live at a major league game may be enticing, the prices usually are not. Minor league tickets usually max out around $20 per ticket, but you can usually find them going for $10 or less. That price will barely get you a beer at a major league game. Go see some of tomorrow’s (or yesterday’s) stars and keep the change.
Matinees – Movie prices are hardly affordable on anyone’s budget lately. However, if you have the time, go during the day. Prices usually run a few bucks cheaper for daytime screenings. Bring your own snacks from the dollar store to save even more.
Redbox – If you would rather stay at home for a movie, find your nearest Redbox or equivalent movie rental kiosk. For a dollar a day, you can see the latest releases right on your own couch. Once the movie is over, you can take a nice nap and dream about what you can do with the money you just saved.
Free entertainment – Check your local events calendar; there should always be some free entertainment going on nearby. Especially in the summer, you might find free concerts, movie screenings, car shows, and more. You never know what will pop up, but there should always be something for everyone’s taste. And for the price, you can’t be too picky!
Ditch cell phone plan – This one might be tough for most, but for some might be very feasible. If you are the kind of person that rarely uses your phone, you shouldn’t be paying a monthly fee. This is especially true if you are required to purchase data for your phone each month. Don’t pay for services you don’t use. Instead, switch to a pay as you go method. You can always switch back in the future if you need to.
Pandora – If you are still paying for satellite radio, now is the time to cancel your service. You can listen to thousands of customized stations or create one yourself for free. Cars will now begin to be built with Pandora capability, but if you have a USB port in your car already, you can just plug in your smart phone and stream via the free Pandora app.
Museum free days – Many museums offer free admission sometime during the month. Nothing can beat being able to see important pieces of art or history for free. Go get a slice of culture without slicing up your income.
Hiking – Get reconnected with Mother Nature, and she won’t charge you. Find a breathtaking view atop a mountain, or turn over some logs while you stroll through a wooded trail. If you stay long enough, you might just begin to forget about your money woes.
Magazine subscriptions – If you stand in the checkout line and find yourself buying a magazine a handful of times per year, it might be better to just switch to a subscription. You can often find very cheap subscriptions on the internet, and specifically on Amazon. Search their catalog and see if you can find your favorite for cheap.
Student/senior discounts – If you are a student or senior, you should be aware that many places offer reduced prices for you. If you don’t see anything listed, always ask anyway. If you are a senior, why not become a student again to compound your savings?
Nix the gym membership – The cheapest gym memberships are usually $10 a month, but often are much higher. If you are using the gym primarily for cardio, use the outdoors as your gym. There is no reason to run on a treadmill when you could get the same results with some fresh air to boot. For strength training, buy a couple of dumbbells and a pull-up bar. Search the many exercises you can do with minimal equipment, or none at all.
Kindle – If you like to own your books, the Kindle is an affordable option compared to buying them all in print. Prices for the eBooks are usually $5 or less. Some books are even offered for free. The latest kindle is going for $229, which is the equivalent of about 10 hardback books. If you are going to read more than this in your lifetime, switch to the new age of reading.
Avoid Ticketmaster – If you are buying tickets for a show, avoid sites like Ticketmaster, which charge exorbitant “processing” fees. These fees usually amount to over $10 per ticket. If you can, always try to order directly from the venue, either over the phone or at the box office. This should often be free, but will definitely be less than the Ticketmaster price.
Credit cards with cash back – There are several cards out there that offer a small percent back on purchases. Some of these purchases, like gas or groceries, are essentials. If you are going to buy them anyway, why not get some change back? This will add up over time. Just make sure you pay your bills on time, and don’t buy stuff you don’t need.
At Home & Living
Filter for tap – When did bottled water become a necessity? If you are paying for water, it’s time to stop. If you are worried about the quality of your town’s water, hook a filter connection to your faucet, or buy a filter pitcher. With a case of 24 bottles costing around $5, this will pay off in no time. In most cases, though, water straight from the tap is perfectly acceptable to drink.
Turn off your lights – The age old way to save money still works. Use less electricity by turning off the lights when not in use. You will save 0.6 cents per hour of a 60 watt bulb being turned off. This may not seem worth it, but if you can keep lights off for three hours a day more than normal, in a year you will save $65. Take that extra spending money to the casinos and turn it into millions…
Use less water – Between doing the dishes, using the bathroom, washing clothes, landscaping, or simply drinking, there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t use water. Because of the regularity of use it is easy to miss the fact that nearly everyone overuses this resource. Take shorter showers, don’t leave faucets running, and switch to appliances with the WaterSense seal. Learn more about what you can do to cut water consumption here.
Switch light bulbs – When you do need light, make sure it is coming from an energy efficient source. That means if you are still using incandescent light bulbs, it’s time to throw them out. Make the switch to fluorescent or LED light bulbs, which operate at a much lower wattage than traditional bulbs. They will last longer and cost you less.
Cut paper towels in half – Often times, one paper towel is more than enough to get the cleaning done. By cutting the sheets in half, you will get twice as much use out of them. Turn your 12 pack of rolls into a 24 pack and you will save at least 50 cents per roll.
Itemize deductions – If you are not taking the standard deduction on your tax return, make sure you keep track of all your itemizable deductions. These include medical and dental expenses, charitable contributions, and educational expenses. Make sure you get all of your money back by checking out all of the deduction types here.
Air dry clothes – The cost of running a typical load of laundry through the dryer is about 36 cents. If you do multiple loads in a week, this could save you some change. Three loads a week for half the year will save almost $30.
Pick up change – A penny on tails is just as good as a penny on heads. If you see change along your travels, pick it up and stow it away. If you live in a city, you will probably find more. Every little bit helps; make Benjamin Franklin proud of your frugality.
Paperless mail – If you are still paying bills and sending letters through the mail, you can save money here. At 44 cents for a stamp, mailing 5 letters per week would cost over $100 per year. For something that can easily be done online with email and automatic payment methods, why not save the money?
Unplug appliances – Even when turned off, electronics still use small amounts of energy. This accumulates into a waste of money: about 5-10% of your energy bill is all thanks to the devices you leave plugged in constantly. These include computers, televisions, stereos, and lamps. Unplug them and you will see a difference.
Pay your bills on time and in full – Terms like “APR” and “late fees” shouldn’t be in your vocabulary. Never pay more than you have to. Set reminders to make sure you pay on time. Always pay the full balance, too. Keep in mind that doing this will not only save you money, but build your credit.
Stretch soaps – Soaps and detergents are just as effective if they are diluted 50% with water. After you have used half of the bottle, refill it to the top with water and mix it. That’s an additional half a bottle for free.
Forget high-tech razors – You can buy a pack of disposable razors at the dollar store that should last you a year. There is no sense in buying fancy razorblades that cost $3 each; that extra-close shave is extra-expensive.
Beauty school haircuts– If you get a monthly haircut for $20, you could save at least $100 per year by going to beauty schools instead. Schools will charge below average prices, or may not charge at all. Not only will you be helping yourself, but you will also be helping future hair stylists gain the experience they need.
Laser printers – As opposed to ink jet printers, laser printers may on first glance appear to cost more. That is, they do cost more for the actual printer and for the ink cartridges. However, laser printers produce many more sheets per cartridge. In the long run, if you do a lot of printing, especially text-only printing, the laser printer will save you money.
Turn off the AC/heat – To the extent possible, keep your AC off in the summer and the heat off in the winter. The winter should be easy: just wear layers of clothes and get under the covers. Save 3% off your energy bill for every degree you turn down the thermostat. Use fans, open windows, and shed your clothes in the summer. If it gets to the point where you are naked, you can tell your family and friends that it is in the name of savings.
Purchase a light dimmer – Light dimmers help by operating the bulbs at a lower wattage. The average price of electricity in the Unites States is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. If you dim the light to half of its intensity, then it is equivalent to paying 6 cents per kilowatt-hour over the same amount of time. In effect, you can cut your energy cost in half just by dimming the lights.
401K – If your employer offers a 401k, start contributing. If they don’t, set one up yourself. It is a good idea to contribute as much as you can and as early as you can. Depending on your age and how much you have already saved, figure out what percent of your earnings you should set aside. It may be difficult to put away cash that you need right now, but your future self will be forever grateful that you did.
Put away a dollar a day – Set up a “mini 401k”. Simply put one dollar into a savings account every day. By the end of the year, you have $365 ($366 if you’re lucky). It is such a small amount that you won’t miss it much when you get rid of it, but it will be a nice surprise to see the money adding up and earning interest over time.
Keep track of your spending – The final and most important way to save money is to keep track of what you spend. Keeping a log of all of your purchases will allow you to see where your money is going and possible areas that you can cut back. Also, when you see the money you are losing on paper, it becomes easier to say “no” to unnecessary purchases. After you do this for a while, you will have a better understanding of what kind of money you can expect to spend every year. With this knowledge, you will gain better control of your money and your savings.
By using some combination of these saving methods, you can easily save hundreds of dollars per year. Saving can be hard work, but just remember that little savings add up over time. Use the methods that are most applicable to your lifestyle, and reap the benefits. Now, use that money you saved and treat yourself to a nice vacation, you earned it!