Tips to Save More Money Every Month
Who wouldn't love to save an extra $555 a month with minimal effort? Sign me up.
Here are some easy, practical ideas to save money without resorting to selling everything, moving into a tiny home and eating beans and rice daily. But please, do not try to implement all 23 of these strategies at once. You'll likely feel overwhelmed and might give up altogether. Choose to do one or two each week and go from there. Within a couple of months, you'll notice the changes adding up to more money in your bank account.
For best results, use your accumulated savings to pay down debt or invest in your retirement accounts.
Create A Price List
Taking notes about historical prices for items you buy most often will help you know if it's at a stock-up price or not. Let's say you shop at Whole Foods and Costco most frequently, but you also look at sales flyers for other grocery stores. If milk is regularly $3.75 a gallon at Whole Foods and $3.29 at Costco, you'll see that you should buy it at Costco, especially if you have other things to buy there. But if another store offers a drastically lower price, maybe it's worth an extra stop.
Monthly Savings: $20 if you save an average of $5 a week by shopping at stores with the best prices.
Skip the Starbucks Run
Yes, this might be your worst fear (I get it, I love a good coffee as much as anyone else), but did you realize that for two medium lattes, you can buy enough coffee and creamer to last you at least a week? No coffee pot? No problem! A French press is easy to use and cleans up quickly. A bag of Starbucks on Amazon goes for around $11 and will last 28 days. In store, the same plain coffee will cost you $2.10 per cup. You'll save even more if your typical order is for a fancier drink; just buy flavored syrups or whip to add to your homemade brew.
Monthly Savings: $34.15 if you drink five cups of plain coffee a week.
Use A Refillable Water Bottle
A good quality reusable water bottle sells on Amazon for less than $10. Compare that to a 24-pack of bottled water for $14, which you'd probably go through in just six days if you're drinking the recommended 64 ounces a day. Each bottle works out to 63-cents, so each month you can save $75. The cost of water is negligible, and during the day you can refill it at work. The savings will be even greater if you're making the switch from sugar-laden soda to water; both in your waistline and wallet!
Monthly Savings: $70 (subtracting for the prorated cost of the water bottle and tap water)
Switch to Low Cost Investment Funds
Fees can hit you hard when you're investing, especially if you're just starting out and unsure of the best funds. Warren Buffett is a strong advocate for just putting money into a low-cost index fund. Find one that has a low percentage fee and invest in it rather than trying to buy and sell stocks. If you're buying $100 in stocks each month with a $9.95 per-transaction trade fee, then it's much more expensive than investing that same $100 into a low-cost index fund which charges 0.4% per transaction (which would only be 40-cents).
Monthly savings: $9.55
Brown Bag Your Lunch
So simple, yet so often overlooked. The easiest way to brown bag is to eat leftovers and you'll increase the savings because you're not wasting food. Don't like to eat the same thing on consecutive days? Divvy up tonight's lasagna into a few containers, label and freeze them. Or stock up on your favorite sandwich and salad fixings and make your own each day. Swap out your daily sub sandwich meal for a homemade roast beef sandwich with all the fixings, plus a yogurt, apple, carrots and a granola bar and you'll save $1.37 a day, according to research by Life In Charge. Not much on a daily basis, but when you figure you do this 20 days a month, it adds up considerably.
Monthly Savings: $27.40
Borrow From the Library
Are you an avid reader whose house is being taken over by "already read" books? Then stop ignoring your public library! They have thousands of books and access to even more. All for just the cost of your time to go in and browse the selection (and maybe pay a fine for a long-forgotten book or two). You may be thinking that it's fine for those who prefer or can tote around old-school paper books, but these days most libraries have gone high-tech and are connected to an online service that gives you access to digital media including books, music and movies. It's free and as easy as downloading and setting up an app on your device. Even better is that there are no late fees since the material gets returned automatically!
Monthly Savings: $34 (If you usually purchase two magazines for $4 each and 2 books for $13 each a month)
Keep Credit Cards At Home
Switch to cash-only in your wallet if having the plastic in your pocket is too much of a temptation. Sure you won't earn a few bucks a month in rewards, but that's negated when you buy a $20 item that you didn't even need. Even if you are disciplined when it comes to your shopping list, it can be tempting when your coworker suggests running across the street to check out a sale. But when you are restricted to the $11.46 in your wallet you'll think twice before buying yet another throw pillow.
Monthly Savings: $40 (foregoing a $10 impulse purchase a week)
Our ancestors did this for centuries, but today's global economy has made it possible for us to have any fruit or vegetable we want all year long. When you create your meal plan for the week, check out grocery store fliers first to see what's on sale. Chances are, it’s the produce that's in season. For Midwesterners, buying strawberries when they're 99-cents a pint in June is far preferable to in January when they're $3.99 for the same amount. The same goes for fall; eat more apples, pumpkin and potatoes. Not only will they be cheaper, they'll be healthier as well.
Monthly savings: $12 ($3 in-season swap a week)
Buy Discounted Gift Cards for Your Own Shopping
This won't put a lot of money in your pocket but can be worthwhile if you're making a large purchase or frequent one particular store on a regular basis. Let's say I'm going to get my daughter a bike from Target. I will first use a gift card reselling service like Raise to buy a Target gift card that's around the price of the bike. As of writing this, I can get a 3.8% off a gift card. So for $48.65 I can get a gift card that has a value of $50.55. Since the bike is $49 on sale, that will be very close to the final price, depending on tax. I'll have to either pay a bit extra with my credit card or have a small amount remaining on the card. Be careful to read which kind you're buying: some of these are physical cards which will be shipped to you, others are codes that you can use almost immediately. While the savings on my fictitious purchase aren't great, there are other retailers whose cards come at bigger discounts.
Monthly Savings: $5 (depending on your shopping habits)
Max Your Credit Card Rewards
Some credit cards offer 1% cash back all the time on everything, but not all of them. Some offer higher amounts of cash back on gas, food, restaurants, or clothing stores during different times of the year. For those of us with more than one credit card, it's a good idea to see which cards offer higher amounts of cash back, and when. I had been using a Visa card that gives me 1.5% back, but when I logged on to pay my Discover card bill, I saw that they offer 2% back on gas purchases. I labeled it "fuel" to remind myself to only use that card when I fill up the car. Remember, for this to really be a savings, use the cash back rewards to pay your bill rather than opt for the gift cards that you probably don't need.
Monthly Savings: $22.5 (if you spend $1500 a month on credit cards and get back 1.5% rather than just 1%.)
Use Cash Back Shopping Services
Two extra clicks are all it takes to get back 1% or more of your purchase price for your online shopping. Once you've created an account, you just search for the merchant you want to buy from. Click on their affiliate link to be credited back a percentage of your pre-tax (and post-coupon) purchase. Cash back varies by store, and at times they increase or double cash back amounts. Let's say you spend $100 a month online and get back 5%. That's $60 year that you get back from shopping this way. Save even more time and money by making routine purchases this way.
Monthly Savings: $5
In many parts of the world, it's common to negotiate on the price rather than just accept what an item is marked as. Americans tend to do this with homes and cars, but we miss out big because those are not your typical purchases. Now, this won't help you when you're at the mall, but it might work with your cleaning service, mechanic or when you buy from a locally owned store. Let's say that you use a cleaning service that charges $200 a month but are able to negotiate a 10% discount.
Monthly Savings: $20
Move Debt to a Lower Interest Credit Card
The average American has $8,377 in credit card debt, with an average interest rate of 15.59%. A peek in your mailbox, virtual or otherwise, will probably show you several offers for new cards each week. I know mine is like that. I frequently get offers for 0% interest rates on transfers. If you transfer a typical balance, you'll save $108.84 in interest the first month. Of course, this decreases as you pay down the balance. As you get towards the end of your introductory offer, be sure to have a plan to pay it off in full because, and read the terms of service to know for sure, you may be charged interest retroactive for the outstanding amounts.
Also, before you try this tactic, be thoughtful about how it might impact your credit score.
Savings: $108 (for the first month)
Automate Your Savings
One of the top reasons people aren't able to save as much money as they'd like is because they try saving money only after they've paid their bills and expenses. Switch this around. Pay yourself first, then pay your bills and spend the rest. Most people find they have enough. To better prioritize saving, use your bank's online functions to set up an automatic withdrawal of $10 per pay check. For those paid bi-weekly, that's $20 a month whisked away for a rainy day. As you get used to not having this money in your wallet, increase the amount.
Monthly Savings: $20
Scan Your Receipts
It may sound tedious but there are apps like Receipt Hog and Ibotta which reward users for snapping pics of their receipts. Download, snap a picture, upload and get rewards. Users say it takes awhile to accumulate points that can be traded in for cash or gift cards, but it takes less than a minute to upload a receipt, so you can easily do this while waiting for appointments or during commercial breaks.
Monthly Savings: $2-5 (depends on your purchasing habits)
Switch Insurance Companies
Spending a few hours researching alternative car, home, or life insurance policies may seem like a waste of a good afternoon, but what if you could save $50 to $100 a month? Do you earn that much at your job for that amount of time? If not, pencil in a Saturday afternoon date with your computer and insurance policies and get ready to save.
Monthly Savings: $50 (average savings quoted by one national auto and home insurer)
Turn Off the TV
How many minutes of content is in that 60-minute long show you watch? Probably closer to 45 due to frequent commercial breaks that encourage you to buy, buy, buy! It can be easy to ignore the pharmaceutical and diamond ring ones if you're not in the market for those, but what about breakfast foods, fancy restaurants and that 50% off sale this weekend? You probably weren't looking to buy yet another sugar-laden cereal for the kids, but once you've seen the commercial a few times, you're more likely to pick it up the next time you're in the store.
As a bonus, you might decide to get rid of your service provider and instantly save upwards of $100 a month.
Monthly Savings: $1+
Some people find second-hand goods sub-par, but there are certain areas of life where they are a real bargain. Buying used cars save you the initial depreciation that new cars take. I prefer to buy my kids' clothes used from consignment shops, thrift stores, garage sales and eBay. There's very little difference between a brand new $15 kids t-shirt and a used one for $2. And when the spaghetti sauce stain doesn't come out or my son gets holes in yet another pair of jeans, I hardly bat an eye. Other things that are good to buy used are books, DVDs, and sports equipment. If you usually buy one new outfit for your child a month, at an average of $25 for brand new clothes, you can save $20 by getting the same thing used for $5.
Monthly Savings: $20
Rediscover Your City
How many times have you glazed over the "what's happening around town this week?" page in your local paper? Probably more often than not. But if saving money without having to sit at home and watch America's Got Talent reruns is your goal, consider getting your entertainment fix locally rather than buying pricey tickets to major league sporting events and off-Broadway shows. My friend recently went to a pro baseball game and tickets were $95. Double that to account for your partner or friend, and you're out $190. Instead of forking over two Benjamins, go to the minor league game with tickets (bought at a discount, of course) that cost $3 each. You may not go to such an expensive activity each month, so we'll cut that down to be more conservative.
Monthly Savings: $50
DIY Household Cleaners
Hand soap, laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner are items we use on a very regular basis. At $4-5 a bottle, costs add up pretty quickly. Replacing ten of the most used cleaners three times a year will cost you $75.36. Save some green and keep the planet green by making an environmentally friendly cleaner. Start with these recipes for ten household cleaners. All the ingredients add up to $58.43, but you probably have main ingredients like white vinegar and baking soda already on hand. Some call for essential oils but will last you all year long, and you can use them for other things as well.
Monthly Savings: $2.80 (replacing two cleaners a month)
Maintain Your Vehicle
Keeping your car well-maintained gives it a longer life span and keeps it efficient when it comes to fuel usage. Keep the tires filled to their recommended air pressure ensures you're getting the most for your mileage. Also, driving the speed limit in town and on the highways helps your vehicle use fuel efficiently.
Monthly Savings: $66.23 (based on stats from Time)
Line Dry Clothes
Who'd think that in 2017 you'd be told to hang up your clothes? But Energy Miser calculates that a month of dryer usage comes up to more than $16. This makes it one of the most expensive home appliances to run. Although there's the downside of wait time, and line dried jeans are a bit on the stiff side at first, there are several benefits. Clothes last much longer; we do not have a dryer and I have clothes that are 5 years old and still going strong.
Monthly Savings: $8 (since you might realize that you cannot deal with those stiff jeans or have to do a quick load of laundry)