If your household is like mine money is always tight. Finding places to cut back expenses can seem intimidating and it can be hard to figure out where to begin. If this sounds like you don’t worry. We’ve compiled 101 ways to save money. Most of them are easy and free to do, and when combined can really save you a lot of money in 2019!
Food and Groceries
1. Use coupons
I know this one sounds like a no-brainer, but it amazes me how many people don’t use (or don’t know how to use) coupons. Before you go to the grocery store check your local newspapers, your store’s website, or the manufacturer’s websites for coupons for items on your list. It’s easier than it sounds and it really adds up!
2. Take advantage of loyalty cards
Nearly every store offers some sort of loyalty program, app, card, or program that offers you discounts for shopping in their store. Signing up for these programs is usually very easy and can be done online or through their app.
3. Buy in bulk
If you use a lot of a product, buying in bulk at a store like Costco or BJ’s is a great way to save by cutting down on the unit price of that item.
4. Cut down on food waste
On the flip side, make sure that you use all the food that you buy. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that American households waste between $1,365 and $2,275 annually on food waste… that’s mind-blowing!
5. Buy generic
While I’ll fully admit there are some brand names worth paying for, most items can be purchased as a generic brand with similar quality to that of the brand name item. Some stores like Aldi even carry white-labeled items made by the actual brand themselves, at a fraction of the cost.
6. Focus on cost per unit, not the total price
When buying a product pay attention to the cost per unit, which can usually be found on the shelf label. More often than not the smaller container – with the overall lower price – is actually more expensive because it has a higher cost per unit. If you’re going to use all of the product then you’d be better off buying the larger container in the long run.
7. Join a local food co-op
Local food co-ops are a great way to get local food at reasonable prices and support your community at the same time. My local co-op also offers a 20% discount if you volunteer a certain number of hours in the store. If you have the time to contribute it’s a great way to save money and eat healthier.
8. Cut back on junk food
Junk food can be very expensive, especially when you consider it’s not even part of an actual meal so it’s a great way to both cut expenses out of your budget and eat healthier.
9. Buy what’s on sale
Grocery stores are constantly running sales on various products that usually rotate on a weekly basis. If you’re flexible with your shopping you can pick up some great deals and even stock up for the future when things are on sale.
10. Stick to your shopping list
Before you go to the grocery store, make a list of everything you need and stick to it. It’s easy to buy things you don’t need (especially when you shop hungry) but over the course of a year, it can really add up.
11. Grow your own food
If you have the space and time, growing your own food is a great way to both save money and eat healthier. Garden seeds are very cheap and there’s nothing like a plate of fresh vegetables grown in your own garden.
12. Buy direct from farmers
If you can’t grow your own food do the next best thing… buy direct from a local farmer. Many farms have stores or farm stands that sell their produce at reduced prices or visit a local farmer’s market in your area. Not only are prices usually reasonable but you’re sure to get products that are often fresher than they are in the grocery store.
13. Cut out coffee (GASP!!)
Ok, I’ll admit I’m NOT doing this step, but coffee is expensive. According to Acorns, the average American spent $1,100 on coffee in 2017 so if you’re crazy enough to live without your cup of Morning Joe, do it.
14. Brew your own coffee
If you’re the more reasonable type and want to keep your morning coffee, brewing at home can save you a lot. One Starbucks every day for a month will cost you around $75 a month, but if you brew at home one or two $10 bags of that same Starbucks coffee should last you for the whole month.
15. Buy a cheaper brand of coffee
If you’d rather buy your coffee on the go, switching to a cheaper brand might be a better way to go. The average cup of coffee at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts is around $2, whereas you could buy any size cup of coffee at Mcdonald’s for half that. To be honest I prefer the taste of Mcdonald’s coffee anyway.
16. Cooking & Dining Out
We spend a lot of money going out to eat. According to the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics, the average household spends over $3,000 dining out of the house. So what can we do to cut back on some of this spending?
17. Go out to eat less
Of course, the best way to save money on going out to eat is not going out to eat at all, but realistically that’s not going to happen for most of us. Cutting back from going out a few times a week to once a week or bi-weekly can really add up.
18. Bring your lunch to work
If you’re like me you’re always tired in the morning and it can be tempting to skip packing a lunch and just buy something on your lunch break but that’s a great way to break your budget. $10 in lunch time takeout every weekday for a year adds up to around $2,600 a year!
19. Buy lunch-sized portions when available
Many restaurants serve gigantic portions for their meals and some of them offer a smaller lunch-sized portion for a few dollars less.
20. Skip the alcohol at restaurants
If you haven’t noticed by now, alcohol is much more expensive at restaurants than at home. In fact, booze can make up around 30% of a restaurant’s profits throughout the year. As fun as it is to have a cocktail with friends, why not have a soda (or better yet water) instead and spend that money elsewhere?
21. Cook less expensive meals
Even when cooking at home food costs can really add up so cooking with less expensive ingredients is always a good idea whenever possible. Foods like pasta or rice are always great options and are usually much cheaper than chicken or steak. Sites like 5 Dollar Dinners are great resources for finding less expensive recipes.
22. Get rid of your home phone
In 2015 Pew Research determined that approximately 92% of Americans own a cell phone so unless you’re one of the 8% who don’t, do you really need a landline? Even when packaged in with your cable or internet, that’s still $15-30 a month you could be saving without it.
23. Find a cheaper cell phone plan
Speaking of cell phones, when was the last time you looked at your cell phone bill to see where you could find some savings? The big carriers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T are great, but they’re also expensive. Try looking into a cheaper carrier like Republic Wireless or Tello to save money on your phone bill.
24. Cut the cable
A few years ago my wife and I used to pay over $100 a month for satellite TV. We realized that most of the shows we watched were either re-run or could be streamed or watched on an OTA antenna instead. Since then we cut the cable and haven’t missed it once in 4 years, all while saving close to $5,000 in that time. If you’d like to learn more check out our guide to getting rid of cable to find out what you need. An alternative like Sling TV or Philo can save you a lot of money.
25. Watch YouTube
Since we cut the cable I’ve found that I watch a lot more YouTube than I used to, and to be honest I find it way more entertaining. The best part? It’s free and ad-supported (there is a subscription option if you’d rather pay to skip the ads).
26. Cancel subscriptions you don’t use
These days everything has a subscription… music services, tv services, and club memberships. How many of these do you actually use? Even small monthly bills really add up very quickly. When you get your next bank or credit card statement, take a few minutes to review your monthly subscriptions and figure out which ones you don’t need.
27. Use a slower internet
These days everyone wants the fastest internet speeds available, but how much do you actually need? Most of us just use the internet to check email, surf the web and use Facebook, so unless you’re live streaming or are a heavy gamer you probably don’t need as much as you think. If your internet provider offers a lower-cost plan it might be worth switching. You can always go back to your old plan if you find you need more.
28. Turn off mobile data on apps
The most expensive part of most mobile phone plans is usually the data, but when was the last time you audited your phone to see which apps were using it the most? iPhone and Android devices can restrict mobile data, or even turn it off when you’re not on Wi-Fi.
29. Go to the library
If you’re looking for free entertainment your local library should be the first place you look. Even if you’re not a reader many libraries offer movies, audiobooks, events, kids’ activities, and even free or discounted tickets to museums and other events. Libraries are an under-used gold mine of entertainment that more people really should take advantage of.
30. Take your kids to a playground
My kids love the playground. In fact, they get way more excited about going to the playground than most pay events we take them to, and the best part about it is they’re completely free.
31. Buy discount tickets
These days most events offer some sort of discount tickets, either through a site like Groupon, through the Entertainment Book, or through your local grocery store. Before you pay full price, shop around.
32. Buy tickets at the box office
When you buy tickets online, many venues go through a ticket service like TicketMaster. While it’s convenient these companies charge a gigantic service fee, sometimes 40% or more! You can usually skip this fee (or get charged a much smaller one) by buying tickets directly from the box office.
33. Visit a state park
Living in America we really are blessed to have some amazing state parks, and many of them are either free or very inexpensive to visit. State parks are a great way to spend a day with your friends and family and get out into nature.
34. Go to free community events
Most communities have free or cheap events that are open to the public like concerts, food tastings, firework shows, movies on the lawn, or community get-togethers. These are a great way to spend a day on the cheap and get to know your community.
35. Have a picnic
Looking for an alternative to going out to eat? Why not have a picnic on a nice day?
36. Go camping
Vacations can be expensive. REALLY expensive. Camping on the other hand is really cheap, and is a lot of fun especially if you have kids. Most public camping areas are really cheap or sometimes free. If you don’t have camping equipment try borrowing from a friend or family member to double up on the savings!
37. Have a game night
Looking for a great way to spend a night with friends on the cheap? Host a game night. Most board games can be had for $20 or less and they’re tons of fun when played with a room full of friends.
38. Take a walk
Walking is free, easy, and doesn’t require much equipment to do. I’m always on the go but I really enjoy taking a nice walk through a park or a historic neighborhood. It’s a great way to unwind and get exercise at the same time.
39. Be flexible on vacation dates
Hotels and airlines have different rates every day so before you plan your next vacation, try checking rates at other times of the year. You might be surprised how much you can save by being flexible, even by moving your trip just a week or two.
Health and Family
40. Use an HSA
Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are tax-deductible accounts used to pay for future medical expenses. As long as you use the money for health expenses it is not taxed so you’re essentially saving whatever you would have otherwise paid in taxes. With the rising cost of healthcare (and the steady decrease in health benefits for most of us) HSA’s are a must. To learn more about HSA visit Healthcare.gov’s HSA page.
41. Prescription Manufacturer’s Coupons
Just like at the grocery store, some prescription manufacturers offer coupons and discounts so you try their products, especially if there are similar drugs on the market. Before you fill your prescriptions take a look on the manufacturer’s website or ask your pharmacist for any available discounts.
42. Work out at home
Gym memberships are expensive and let’s be honest, most of us don’t go anyway. Why not find a cheaper workout program at home? With the internet and smartphones, there are hundreds of great exercise programs right at your fingertips. I personally use DDP Yoga and I can’t recommend it enough!
43. Eat healthier
Although it may not save you a lot now, we all know that eating healthier now will lead to fewer health problems in the future. So save yourself some dough and mix in a few more veggies now and again!
44. Quit smoking
If you’re a smoker… QUIT! If for nothing else but to save money. In my state, the minimum pack of cigarettes is $13, and if you smoke a pack a day that’s almost $5,000 a year! Plus factor in the long-term health expenses and higher insurance premiums and you’ll be saving a ton. I know it’s not easy but there are some great free resources to help you quit found on the CDC website.
45. Doctor Apps
Did you know there are apps that let you talk to a doctor remotely for a fraction of the cost of a regular doctor? Obviously, they can’t treat everything but these apps allow them to treat conditions like sinus infections, birth control prescriptions, and certain types of blood testing all over your phone. I used the LemonAid health app for a sinus infection earlier this year and the process was quick and easy and only cost me around $25. Much less than my doctor would have charged.
46. Compare prescription vs OTC prices
Many prescription medications can be purchased over the counter. Sometimes this means they’re cheaper but oftentimes they’re not and you might be able to save money by getting them with a prescription. Ask your pharmacist to run a price check to see if it would be cheaper through your insurance.
47. Email the doctor instead of making an appointment
Do you visit the doctor just to ask a question? Try sending them a message instead. All but one of my doctors has a patient portal that allows me to send my doctor a message when I just have a quick question. Doctors’ appointments are expensive, and the way health insurance is going that’s not changing anytime soon.
48. Compare doctor prices
We compare prices on cars, groceries, and technology, but when was the last time you price-checked your doctor? Hospitals and doctors’ offices charge different rates for the same services and you have every right to compare them like you would anything else. Before you have a procedure done be sure to ask about the cost first. (Note – be sure to consider doctor quality too. Saving money is great but good health comes first!)
Kids and Family
49. 529 Plans
If you have children then opening a 529 plan to pay for their future college expenses is a great way to get a head start on the future. 529 plans are offered by most states and allow you to invest money that will not be taxed federally upon distribution (provided you actually use it for education). SavingForCollege.com has a great summary of 529 plans and an explanation of how they work.
50. Reusable diapers
If you have kids then you know that diapers are incredibly expensive and you go through them very quickly. An alternative to this is to use reusable diapers that you can clean and wash on your own. Of course, this option has a rather smelly downside, but if you have the stomach for it you can save a lot of money. Plus it’s better for the environment!
51. Hand me downs
Kids’ clothes and toys take up a lot of space, so when they outgrow them most people can’t wait to get rid of them (trust me, I have 3). Some people sell them at garage sales but many people are happy to just give them away to get them out of the house. If we can’t find someone to take our kid’s old clothes and toys we donate them to make sure someone benefits from them.
52. Take the bus or subway
Most cities and populated areas have some form of public transportation, and it’s usually much cheaper than the cost of owning and operating a car.
Do you live near your co-workers? Do your neighbors work in the same area as you? Why not set up a carpool and save everyone money?
54. Ride a bike
Cities and towns are becoming more and more bike-friendly in recent years and if you live in one of these areas why not bike to work? Bike riding is a great way to save money, save the environment and get exercise at the same time. Plus it’s fun!
55. Gas rewards programs
Just like with grocery stores, don’t forget to look for rewards programs from your local gas stations. Some gas stations like Cumberland Farms will give you $0.10 off per gallon when you pay with their SmartPay app (which is linked to your checking account) and others will give you a discount or other perks if you use their gas credit card. Just make sure you pay the bill on time or the interest will eat those savings up.
56. Find cheaper car insurance
If the endless commercials haven’t beaten it into your head by now, you can sometimes save money by switching your car insurance to a different company. By now most companies like Geico, Progressive, and State Farm will let you compare rates quickly and easily. Just be sure to consider customer reviews before making the switch!
57. Turn down the heat
Heating a house is expensive. In fact, it’s one of the biggest expenses you’ll have as a homeowner, so keep that temperature as low as possible. The US Department of Energy estimates that you’ll save approximately 1% of your cost for every degree you turn down the thermostat in an 8-hour period, and you could save as much as 15% if you turn it down 10-15 degrees for an 8-hour period.
58. Use LED bulbs
Old-fashioned light bulbs are terribly inefficient, but LED bulbs use more than 75% less energy and last a lot longer too. CREE LED Bulbs website has a great tool to help you calculate how much money switching to LEDs can save you.
59. Turn out the lights
As a kid, my father was constantly on me to turn out the lights and as a father/homeowner myself I understand why! If you’re using electricity to light up unused rooms you’re just throwing money away, even if you’re using energy-efficient bulbs. Lights out!
60. Unplug “Vampire” electronics
Did you know that plugged-in electronics can draw energy even when they’re not on? This is known as “vampire energy” and it can cost you a lot of energy without you even knowing it. If you would like to know how much unplugging your unused electronics can save, Duke Energy has a fantastic tool that can estimate the cost savings for you.
61. Turn down the water heater temperature
If you can’t bear to take shorter showers, consider turning down the temperature on your hot water heater. Doing so can save you 3-5% for every 10 degrees you reduce the temperature.
62. Take shorter showers
I love a good hot shower as much as the next guy but heated water is really expensive. The DOE estimates that hot water heating makes up approximately 12% of your monthly utility bill, so use as little as possible.
63. Wash clothes in cold water
Did you know that 90% of the energy your washer uses goes to heating up the water? Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible and you’ll save a lot of money and energy.
64. Dry clothes outside
Clothes dryers are terribly inefficient appliances and use around $122 worth of energy per year (based on 1hr per day, every day) according to the Dept of Energy’s appliance calculator. When the weather allows for it, try hanging them outside and let nature do the work.
65. Seal up windows and insulate
If your home isn’t insulated and sealed then you’re losing a lot of heat. Popular Mechanics estimates that properly sealed and insulated homes can save up to 10% on heating bills. Although home insulation can be expensive and often requires a professional, sealing up windows and doors can be done relatively cheaply with a window insulation kit that can be found in most hardware and department stores.
66. Use shades and curtains
Shades and curtains are a great way to keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In fact curtains can save as much as 25% of your home’s heat (and therefore money) in the winter months
67. Buy at garage sales
It’s incredible how many great items you can buy at garage sales for next to nothing. We’ve found kids’ toys, clothes, furniture, and sometimes electronics, all in great shape in the past few years. For the best deals, go out early on the first day before things get picked over.
68. Buy at online garage sales
Don’t have time to drive around town looking for deals? You can accomplish the same things with sites like Craigslist or various Facebook groups in your area.
69. Shop at thrift stores
Another great resource for finding used items is thrift stores. You’d be amazed how many items you can find that was never used and still have the tags. As a bonus, the Salvation Army and many local thrift stores donate their profits to charity.
70. Shop on eBay
These days, Amazon gets most of the online shopping traffic but don’t forget about eBay. eBay is especially good when looking for used items from regular people who just want to get rid of things. I recently purchased a used cable modem on eBay for over $130 less than it would have cost new. eBay is also a great place to get some money for your unwanted items too!
71. Borrow it, don’t buy it
If you’re buying an item that you’re only going to use a few times, maybe you can borrow it from a family member or neighbor instead. Some examples of things you could borrow include tools, ladders, clothes, cooking equipment, cars, and of course books and movies from your local library.
72. Senior discounts
If you’re a senior then odds are you’re living on a fixed budget so don’t forget to take advantage of the discounts on everything from restaurants to vacations. Senior Living has a great list of senior discounts on its website.
73. Student discounts
If you’re a student then odds are you’re looking to save money whenever possible so don’t forget to take advantage of student discounts on everything from food to technology. Companies like Amazon, Spotify, and Samsung offer some particularly great student deals.
74. Military discounts
Although we could never repay everything we owe to the men and women of our military, many stores offer special discounts to service men and women (and sometimes their families). The American Legion website has a great list of discounts for active military members and veterans.
75. Price Comparison Websites
Comparison shopping across multiple stores can be very time-consuming. Fortunately, there are many sites that aggregate prices and point out deals for you. I personally like to use Slickdeals, which is a user-aggregated site that allows you to set alerts on specific products before you buy them.
76. Cash Back Apps/Websites
Some websites will offer you cash back when you buy products through their affiliate links. EBates and ibotta are two of the most popular cash-back sites/apps that I personally use. Before you buy, see if they’re offering any kind of rebates.
77. Sign up for newsletters that offer coupons
Stores know that newsletters can be annoying, so many times they’ll offer coupons and subscriber-only promotions to keep you signed up. If you want the savings but not the spam, consider creating a second email account for promotions only.
78. Eliminate impulse buying
Buying on impulse is a great way to blow through your budget quickly. Even small items like a candy bar or bottle of water at the checkout can really add up quickly. Plan your purchases in advance and buy only what you need.
79. Comparison shop
Be sure to compare prices at different stores and websites. Some companies like Amazon and Target have a barcode scanner built right into their app so you can see their price in just a couple of seconds. (Tip – Amazon’s barcode scanner is also handy to quickly view customer ratings on a product, even if you plan on buying in-store.)
80. Shop online
Shopping online at sites like Amazon can save you a lot of money because they don’t need to pay for the overhead that brick-and-mortar stores do so they charge less. Be careful though – shopping online is a double-edged sword. When it’s too easy to buy you’re more likely to spend more money.
81. Search for promo codes
When you’re shopping online don’t ignore that little promo code box at checkout. Spend a few minutes searching Google for a promo code before you click the buy button. Sometimes you get lucky and find a code that can save a lot of money.
82. Ask for a cash discount
Stores get charged a lot of money by credit card companies to process transactions so many of them are happy to give a discount for cash payments. I find this works especially well with local stores and contractors.
83. Don’t shop out of boredom
Let’s be honest, shopping can be fun but buying things you don’t need out of boredom is a great way to run up a credit card bill. Avoid shopping (or even browsing stores) for entertainment. Deleting apps or limiting store websites can help if you need some extra willpower.
84. Ask for a price match
We’ve all been there… you buy something at one store, only to find a lower price at another store a few days later. When this happens to you, don’t be afraid to ask for the store to match the price of the other store. Most stores would much rather price match than deal with a return. If they don’t, return it and buy it at a cheaper price.
85. Credit card price match
If the store won’t price match, or you don’t want to go through the hassle you should know that some credit cards offer a “price protection” service and will refund you the difference automatically. NerdWallet has a great list of credit cards that offer price protection on their website.
86. Pay only with cash
Paying with cash saves you money in two ways…
- 1. You’ll guarantee you’ll never pay interest charges
- 2. It’s much harder to let go of cash than to swipe a card and pay with some “imaginary” credit (even if it’s a debit card!)
I’ll be the first one to admit negotiating a price isn’t for everyone. Quite frankly I’m terrible at it, but it’s a great way to save money on things you were going to buy anyway. Ask for a discount whenever possible, and even threaten to cancel if you’re willing to. Just remember to be polite, nobody likes a bully!
88. Find higher savings account rates
If you’re lucky enough to have money sitting around in a checking account, why not put it to use and start earning some interest in a savings account? The easiest way to do this is to just open a savings account at your current bank, or use an online bank like Capital One Bank that tends to offer higher rates on their savings accounts.
89. Find lower credit card rates
Conversely, it’s always a good idea to audit your credit card rates. It’s super easy to compare credit card rates these days and it should only take a couple of minutes to find one better than the card you already have. Finding a lower rate can save you a lot of money if you maintain a credit card balance.
90. Eliminate annual account fees
Unless your bank or credit card offers you some killer perk that you can’t live without then you shouldn’t be paying them a fee. Call them and ask them to get rid of your annual fees and if they refuse, switch. There are plenty of great banks and credit cards that would be happy to have your business.
91. Refinance your mortgage
Mortgage interest can cost you a lot of money – even more than the actual value of your home in some cases. If you locked in your mortgage at a rate higher than the currently available rates it might make sense to look into a refinance. Refinancing your mortgage may cost you some money upfront, but it might save you a lot of money in the long run. Just be sure to refinance with a mortgage lender you can trust.
92. Consolidate student loans
If you have more than one student loan, it might be a good idea to consolidate them into one loan at a lower rate and save a lot on interest. To learn more about consolidating loans the US Department of Education has an excellent Q&A on how to get started.
93. Take advantage of retirement matching
Some employers will match some or all of your retirement contributions. If your employer offers this and you’re not taking advantage of it then stop reading this and sign up for it today! Not only are you throwing money away, but you’re also losing any future income that money would have generated as well.
94. Use money-tracking apps
Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of how much money we spend, especially when you have a lot of small transactions each month, spread out over multiple accounts. That’s where a money tracking app like YNAB can come in handy. Most of these apps will give you a summary of where your money is being spent to help you pinpoint where your money is going every month and where you should cut back.
95. Take care of your stuff (make it last longer)
Taking care of your stuff from day one ensures that it will last a lot longer and you’ll have fewer repairs/replacements down the line. Clean your electronics, perform regular maintenance on your house and car, and keep your clothes clean and they’ll live a long and productive life.
96. Buy clothes that work together
When you’re putting together your wardrobe, buy clothes that allow you to mix and match outfits. Doing so allows you to buy less clothes and still wear different outfits each day.
97. Make your own gifts
Holiday and birthday gifts can really add up. Why not make your own gifts? Not only is it less expensive or free, but gifts you make yourself usually are more heartfelt and meaningful.
98. Learn to Do It Yourself
If you own a home then you know hiring out for repairs is expensive. Fortunately, you can do the majority of repairs on your own if you know what you’re doing. Whenever we need to fix something the first place I go is YouTube and more often than not there are dozens of step-by-step videos showing me how to do it myself.
99. Trade favors
Everyone is good at something, so why not trade favors with friends, family or neighbors? For example, change the oil on your neighbor’s car in exchange for babysitting the kids on date night.
100. Autopay discount
Companies hate chasing customers to collect payments and many of them offer a discount if you set up automatic payments every month. Right now I have a discount on my internet and cell phone plans. It’s free money, plus it saves me from having to remember to pay another bill each month.
101. Early pay discount
Some service companies will give you a small discount for paying your bill before it’s due, usually within the first 20 days of the bill date. This helps companies reduce accounts receivable and keep a steady income. If you have the money take advantage!
What are your favorite ways to save money? Do you have any tips we haven’t included in our list? Let us know in the comments!