It happens more than we like to admit: A weekend has gone by and we are left wondering how we spent so much money when all we did was run a couple of errands. Whether you are living paycheck to paycheck or seemingly in control of your finances but wishing your savings accounts were bigger for an emergency fund, vacation fund, or new house fund, little changes could be enough to notice big changes.
Here are 21 simple ways to save money this year.
Image Credit: John_Brueske / istockphoto.
Of course, the fastest way to save is to cut back on expenses. One of the simplest ways to do this is by eliminating all of the little things that don’t seem to be a big deal but that add up.
1. Cut memberships and subscriptions
How many monthly subscriptions do you have these days? Between streaming channels, magazines, shopping subscriptions, and others, you may be spending far more than you think. For example, I cut cable and started streaming to save money. But then I realized all of my streaming services – Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, Starz, and YouTube TV – were costing me as much as cable. Total up all of your subscriptions and memberships to see what you’re monthly payments really are and cut back on those you don’t need. There are even apps that help you find all of these for you.
2. Negotiate and lower expenses
With your subscriptions and other monthly bills, the price doesn’t have to be set in stone. That cable bill you have, for example, could be lowered by talking to your cable company. The same goes for your cell phone. Take a look at your car insurance, as well. If you renew the insurance policy every year without a second thought, you could be missing out on discounts or cheaper premiums with another provider. It’s free to obtain quotes to check if you are overpaying, and some online platforms will provide an all-in-one place to comparison shop at no cost to you.
3. Use coupons
Gone are the days when you sit around the kitchen table clipping coupons from the newspaper. Apps make it easy to save by automatically finding your coupons on things you shop for regularly. Coupons.com has hundreds of coupons online that you can find and have scanned straight from your phone. Although you won’t save a ton of money, nickel and dime savings every time you shop adds up! Make it part of your spending habit to use these apps. For services, sites such as Living Social and Groupon can help you find deep discounts on dining, salons, home repair, and more.
Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.
You can still spend money in a way that saves.
4. Pay cash
In this day and age, spending with cash is less common. It’s much easier and faster to use our phones and debit cards to pay. However, not seeing our money in hand is the age-old saying: Out of sight, out of mind. When you pay with cash, you are more cognizant of how much you have and where it is going and are much more likely to spend less knowing your funds are limited.
5. Shop seasonally
Our grocery stores will stock up food items from around the world but a return to eating what’s growing seasonally will mean lower prices, as stores don’t have to pay shipping costs. When grocery shopping, only buy the produce and foods in season. (You’ll have fresher foods, too!) Retailers also offer seasonal sales that can help you save big if you wait for the biggest price drops.
6. Use a Health Savings Account
If your company provides an HSA, you can save by paying your medical expenses tax-free. These accounts allow you to set your limit and get deducted from your paycheck before you pay taxes so you can purchase prescription or over-the-counter meds, pay co-payments or other medical bills, or save in other ways that benefit your health. If your company doesn’t provide one, there are ways you can open one on your own.
7. Get cash back
If you are going to use credit cards there is no reason to use one that isn’t giving you cash back and rewards when you do. Seek out cash back credit cards like Discover or American Express Blue, which will give you 6% back on all grocery purchases. Some cards will help you earn airline miles or free hotel nights if you use your card for purchases. Chase Sapphire, for example, will give you 3:1 rewards when you use the card for dining. But be smart about using the credit cards and use them only when receiving the biggest rewards. If they don’t give you something in return, use your debit card instead. And remember to pay off your purchases each month, otherwise, the interest you pay could negate the reward.
8. Be energy-efficient
Sometimes you may have to spend a little more to save money, such as the case when buying energy-efficient appliances, rechargeable batteries, or even lightbulbs. Because they last longer and use less energy you’ll reduce your other bills – up to $40 per year on your electric bill just by using energy-efficient lightbulbs that may cost a couple of dollars more at the store.
Image Credit: Martina_L/ istockphoto.
You may think saving money isn’t fun but it can be. Try money-saving challenges and give yourself goals. They could be a week, a month, a quarter – you set it and give yourself something to strive for with these money-saving methods.
9. No spend challenge
Ready to go cold turkey? Then this challenge is for you. Set a specific amount of time and allow yourself to spend money on living expenses and absolutely nothing else. This means no takeout, no Uber rides, not even a cheap movie on Amazon. Start with a week then try extending it. This challenge helps you discover what you can live without.
10. The 52-week saving challenge
For an easy challenge you can commit to for a full year, the 52-week savings challenge starts with $1. That’s all you need to save the first week. Then you double it in the second week. Every week, you double what you saved the previous week so by the time you reach week 52, you save $104. Piece of cake! To have a real impact, try starting with $10.
11. The 365-day savings challenge
If you want to make it a daily challenge, this similar challenge works by saving just .05 the first day and doubling each day as you go. Five cents is nothing, right? By the end of your year-long challenge, you’ll have saved $3,339.
12. The weather savings challenge
We spend much of our time talking about the weather. When temperatures drop, when temperatures rise… use this to help you save. With this challenge, you’ll pick one day a week that will be the day you save some dough. How much you save will be the high temperature of the day. Will it be a high of $91 on your day in August? That amount goes into savings. On the flip side, it could be 13 degrees in February. It’s completely random but the changes make it interesting.
13. Meal-planning challenge
Raise your hard if you eat out or get Doordash more than once a week? We see the flood of hands. With this challenge, it’s all about saving money on food. Start by cutting out one day a week of getting food from restaurants and keep trimming down until you get to once a week as a treat. Learn how to prep your meals for lunches and to help you avoid the tired, end-of-the-day “I don’t feel like cooking” scenario.
14. Spare change challenge
You may have seen your father do this back in the day. When he would come home, he’d empty his pockets and put all of his change into a jar. This one is a more modern version and many banks including Bank of America and Chime are making it easy for you to do with your debit card. Using a rounding-up method, every time you spend money, the total is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the extra change taken from your checking account is automatically put into a savings account. You don’t even have to think about this challenge – just set it up with your bank.
15. Coffee challenge
You’ve heard about this one time and time again. That daily Starbucks run is costing you. If you are getting a Frappuccino for $4 a day, that’s $20 per week you could save – $100 per month, $1,200 per year. Start making your coffee at home and challenge yourself to skip the daily Dunkin run.
Image Credit: ImperfectProduce.com.
The Dreaded ‘B’ Word
You can’t have a how-to about saving money without talking about budgeting. Although it may seem like a chore, as John Maxwell once said, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
Thankfully, not all budgets are alike. This means you can find a budgeting method that fits your style to make it easier to create and follow.
16. Divide and Conquer
One of the easiest budgeting methods is the 50/30/20 method. How simple is it? Take your earnings and divide it into three groups. Half of your income goes into your living expenses – your rent or mortgage, utility bills, food, 20% goes into savings and the remaining 30% is yours to use as you’d like. Now, this shouldn’t be a free for all. This is your way of getting your finances under control. If you find you are spending more than 30% on your “wants” category, you’ll know you need to cut back.
17. Zero out
When you think of a budget, you’re probably thinking of the zero-based budgeting method or ZBB. This is the budget that requires you to know where every single dollar goes. By reviewing every penny you spend and creating a monthly topped-out budget, your monthly earnings go toward those expenses and zero out at the end of each month. Now, the trick here is “spending” can mean savings. Where you put your pennies each month before reaching zero should include retirement savings, savings accounts, and/or investments.
18. Go old school
Another simple budgeting method harkens back to our grandparents and generations beyond who would divide their money but into envelopes. At the start of every month, or following every paycheck, you put your money into different envelopes, similar to the 50/30/20 method. You can have an envelope for utilities, an envelope for your food spending, an envelope for entertainment – whatever you need and want. But when the money is spent and the envelope is empty, you don’t go into other envelopes for extra money. Instead, you simply cannot spend anymore. While it stops you from overspending you will find yourself becoming more frugal to keep money in an envelope longer. It’s much like paying cash. You can literally use envelopes for your funds or you can turn to online apps that do this for you.
19. Or go hardcore
If you really want to save, a reverse budget will do it because, as the name implies, this reversed budget has you paying yourself before you pay your bills. You’ll need to take a look at how you spend and figure out what is nonessential so you can set high savings goals. The key is to put your earnings into that savings account before you pay any bills, which means if you overspend, your bills (and possibly your credit) take the hit. The argument is this forces you to stop overspending and ensure you save.
20. Pay yourself first
Similarly but not as extreme is the 80/20 budget. This one is simple: when you earn money, immediately sock away 20% and the rest can be spent on whatever you need and want. You don’t have to track your expenses with this budget but you’ll adjust your lifestyle to spending 20% less than you currently do.
21. Get a helping hand
Still not interested in managing your money? Then go digital. Apps like YNAB (You Need a Budget) and Mint allow you to sync your bank accounts and will automatically track your spending and saving for you. Once you see where you are overspending, you can use the platforms’ services to set up budgets and follow along.
Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.
The bottom line
Little changes have a way of adding up and by trying any of these methods to save you may find yourself saving more than you expected to and starting on a path of saving more than you spend.
Image Credit: nicoletaionescu / istockphoto.