Stop Spending and Start Saving

How to Save Money: 23 Easy Ways To Start Saving Today

Updated on June 11, 2020 Updated on June 11, 2020
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    If you’re looking at how to save money, you’ll find plenty of listicles that have dozens of money-saving tips, but some of them are silly, things like “Wash and reuse your tinfoil. Make your own laundry detergent.”

    Not only are those things time consuming, but the amount of money they save you is negligible. When you’re looking to learn how to save money, you probably aren’t looking for a hobby; you’re in some financial distress.

    You need to save some real money and fast. Maybe you have a lot of credit card debt, are drowning in student loans, or have recently been impacted by a significant, unexpected expense and finally understand why people in the personal finance realm are always banging on about the importance of having an emergency fund.

    But saving money is not exactly fun while spending money is. So we don’t want to give you a lot of money-saving tips that will make you feel as though you’re being deprived or experiencing the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out).

    We also don’t want to make learning how to save money too complicated because you’re unlikely to stick to your savings goals. We want to provide you with simple ways to save money that will stick.

    Here are 23 ways to start saving today.

    Create a Budget, Track, and Automate

    There is no way around it. If you want to learn how to save money, you must have a budget. A budget is how you track your spending, so you know exactly where your money is going and where you’re overspending.

  1. Budget
  2. Budgeting programs like Mint, You Need a Budget (YNAB), and Personal Capital make it easier than ever. Personal Capital is free and helps you optimize your investments.

    Mint is free to use and does much of the work creating the budget for you.

    YNAB is a paid program and has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s better than Mint for anyone whose income varies from month to month. YNAB is set up, so you live on the money you made last month this month.

    Our Pick
    Personal Capital
    Budget like a business and focus on your cash flow. In addition to their budgeting software, they have an awesome suite of tools to help you optimize your investments. Did we mention it's free?

  3. Track
  4. A monthly budget shows you where your money is going. Sure, you know how much your monthly housing payment and cell phone bill are, but you are probably spending a lot of money in variable categories like food and entertainment.

    Your budget tracks your spending so you can see where your spending leaks are and fix them.

  5. Automate
  6. Have you ever been hit with a late fee because you forgot to pay a bill? Not because you didn’t have the money, but because you just forgot? Automate as many bill payments as possible. If the vendor doesn’t allow it, you can set it up from your bank.

    Either way, the money comes directly from your checking account on the date you choose. You don’t have to remember to pay a bill or find the time to sit down and do it.

    Adopt Smart Spending Strategies

    Part of learning how to save money is learning how to spend money. We do not advocate living a miserly life full of ramen and devoid of socializing.

    You work hard for your money, and you deserve to use some of it for fun things. And you can when you adopt some smart spending strategies.

  7. What is the 30-Day Rule?
  8. Have you ever heard of the Stanford marshmallow experiment?

    The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a study on delayed gratification. A child was offered a choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, BMI, and other life measures.

    The 30-day rule is an exercise in delayed gratification, an excellent strategy to curb impulse spending.

    Here’s how it works, if you want to buy something that isn’t a necessity, you write it down and wait 30 days. If, after 30 days, you still want that thing, you can buy it.

    You’ll find that the vast majority of the time, you won’t even remember why you wanted that thing in the first place.

  9. The Refrigerator Method
  10. The refrigerator method is a bit like that old dieting trick where you tape a picture of your fattest self or a picture of your ideal body to your refrigerator. Seeing that image each time you open the fridge helps keep your goal in the forefront of your mind.

    Instead of a photo, you tape your budget to the fridge. We’ve detailed the whole method for you.

    Get our best strategies, tools, and support sent straight to your inbox.

    Easy Ways to Save Money Daily

    Small, daily decisions can lead to significant savings.

  11. Buy the Store Brand
  12. Don’t automatically reach for the name brand, whether you’re buying OTC drugs, personal care products, or grocery store items. There’s usually little or no difference between a store brand product and a brand-name one.

    Except for the price, the store brand is often cheaper, sometimes substantially less expensive.

    A 16-ounce jar of Justin’s Almond Butter costs $11.99 at Whole Foods while a 28-ounce jar of Whole Foods 365 brand is just $10.99. In fact, the Whole Foods brand is better because it contains just almonds while Justin’s contains almonds and palm oil.

  13. Don’t Buy Drinks
  14. You can go out for drinks, as long as you factor it into your budget. I love a good cocktail and happy hour is an excellent way to catch up with friends without breaking the bank.

    War and drink are the two things man is never too poor to buy.

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    I mean, don’t buy things like water, coffee, tea, and soda.

    coffee habit

    You can still have those things but bring them from home. Get a reusable water bottle and a travel mug and fill them up before you leave home.

    If you drink sodas at work, buy a case and leave them at your office rather than buying them from the vending machine. (Please stop drinking soda, it’s terrible for you!)

  15. Bring Your Lunch
  16. I know you see this one on every single “How to Save Money” list, but it’s because people spend so much money buying lunch at work. If you don’t believe me, go through the past month of your spending transactions and total up how much you spent on this category.

    If you don’t like to cook, buy a bunch of frozen dinners when they go on sale and leave them at work.

  17. Drive Less
  18. For one week, write down all of the trips you take in your car or truck. Go through the list and see which trips you can cut. Maybe you can combine some of your errands into a single trip rather than multiple ones.

    Could you have walked, biked, or taken public transportation for any of those trips? Unless you live in a very rural area, the answer is almost certainly “Yes.”

    I don’t have a car, so I do all of my errands on foot. And I’m still alive to tell the tale! I can eat more too because I get so much exercise walking. Little incentive for you!

    Every trip you don’t take your car for is less money spent on gas.

  19. Consider Online Shopping
  20. I know you probably already do at least some online shopping, but how could you do it in a way that would save you money?

    For things you regularly buy like cleaning supplies, personal care items, or paper products (tissues, paper towels, toilet paper), order them through Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program.

    The items will come on a regular schedule of your choosing, and you get a discount for setting up a standing order.

    If there are items, you can’t find nearby and are driving out of your way for, see if you can order those online. You’ll save on gas and time.

  21. Use a Cash Back Credit Card
  22. When you’re buying store brands and online shopping, pay for those purchases with a good cash back credit card. These cards give you a percentage of cashback on each purchase.

    Some give a higher percentage back on specific categories, some rotate the categories quarterly, and some give the same percentage back on all purchases.

    Just be sure to choose a card with no annual fee and don’t buy things you can’t afford. All of the “how to save money” tips in the world are nothing in the face of mounting credit card debt.

    Easy Ways to Save $1,000 a Month

    See, saving money daily wasn’t hard. And these monthly money-saving tips are just as easy and can save you $1,000 a month, maybe more. Your retirement account is going to love these tips.

  23. Join Your Local Library
  24. If you think libraries only offer books, you are missing out! What is provided varies by the library, but these are just a few of the things some libraries offer:

    *Passes to museums and other local attractions

    *Resume help

    *Storytime for kids

    *Audiobooks

    *Guest speakers

    *Tutoring and homework help

    *Board games

    Libraries are a treasure trove of free entertainment, see what your’s has to offer.

  25. Shop With a List
  26. Shopping with a list is another standard money-saving tip, but I don’t just mean grocery shopping. Most of us already do that, especially if you meal plan.

    I mean, use a shopping list every time you shop because if you don’t, you’re more susceptible to the Target Effect.

    The result of going into a store, intending to buy a few things, and leaving with much more. It frequently happens while shopping at Target.
    In fact, the Target Effect is so strong; I want you to go a step further than just making a list before you do any shopping. Leave your debit card and credit cards at home.
    Estimate how much your list costs, take out that much cash ($20 extra to be safe), and only take that cash to the store. Take that Target Effect!

  27. Pay Yourself First
  28. PYF is right up there with having a budget when it comes to achieving your financial goals, impossible to do without it. To PYF, set up a direct deposit from your paycheck directly into your savings account.

    Most companies will allow you to deposit money into more than one account, so provide HR with your savings account information and ask that a portion of each paycheck go there.

    If you can’t do that, just set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into your savings account (or investment account) every payday.

    How much? The rule of thumb is to save 20% of your income. If you have debt or not much extra cash left over when you pay all of your necessary expenses, start smaller.

    Even if it’s just $10 per paycheck, it’s something and gets you into the habit of saving money. It should hurt a little. $1 per paycheck is not enough to make a difference. Nearly all of us spend on non-essentials that we could cut for the sake of our future selves.

  29. Cut Cable
  30. If you’re under 30, you probably think everyone has cut the cord and doesn’t pay a cable bill anymore. Not so. 

    According to estimates, about 33 million consumers will have cut the cord by the end of this year, rising to 50 million in 2021 and 55 million in 2022. The percentage of adults no longer paying for cable or satellite TV will jump from 13% this year to 21% in 2022, the firm estimated.

    The average cable bill is over $100 a month! If you still have cable, how many of the dozens of channels do you watch? Probably just a handful.

    You can find those channels on streaming services like Hulu and YouTube TV, most of which are less than half the price of cable per month.

  31. Change Your Light Bulbs
  32. Replace your current light bulbs as they burn out with LED bulbs. Yes, LEDs are slightly more expensive, but they are energy efficient and last 25,000 hours compared to 1,200 hours for an incandescent bulb.

    To highlight just how much longer LEDs last than incandescents, 25,000 hours is 1,041 days, while 1,200 hours is only 50 days.

    And the price difference is not that large. A 6 pack of 75 watt LEDs on Amazon is $18.27, and an eight pack of incandescents is $14.99.

  33. Incorporate No-Spend Days
  34. Just one day a week, every week, designate one day as a no-spend day. I’ve done this periodically, and I’ll admit it’s harder than it sounds.

    When I was doing it, I realized that literally, the only time I left my house without spending any money is when I go running or hang out down the block with my neighbors.

    But hey! Getting some exercise and hanging out at a friend’s house instead of a bar or restaurant are not exactly bad ways to spend your time.

    So to have successful no-spend days, either do not leave your home for any reason or plan ahead and have some things to do that don’t cost money.

    Easy Ways to Save Big Money Annually

    Okay! Our savings are adding up. Now we’re going to save some big money, but as I promised, it will be painless.

  35. Kill Credit Card Debt
  36. This is the big one. If you have credit card debt, it’s impossible to make progress on your personal finance goals. This debt is an emergency, and you have to get rid of it.

    Make a plan of attack, the snowball and stacking methods both work well. Stacking saves the most money because it pays off the highest interest cards first.

    credit cards

    For me, the snowball method worked better, paying off the smallest debts first. And I did it by paying a small amount of money on the card I was working to pay off first every day.

    I figured out how much I needed to pay per day to pay the card off in 30 days and paid it daily.

    It’s nonsensical, but breaking it down to a smaller daily payment rather than a big monthly payment made it seem less intimidating. And it worked. The important thing is to concentrate on one card at a time.

    If you have good credit, consider getting a consolidation loan to pay of your credit card debt. You still have debt, but the interest rate will be much lower.

    Another option for those with good credit is a 0% APR balance transfer credit card.

  37. Refinance Student Loan Debt
  38. The interest rates on federal student loans aren’t too high, but if you have good credit, you might be able to refinance for a lower rate. And if your loans are private and you have good credit, you can almost certainly refinance for a lower rate.

    Even a small drop in the interest rate, you’re paying can mean thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the loan.

  39. Stop Paying Fees
  40. You should not be paying for things like having a banking or checking account or taking cash out of your bank account. If your bank charges you fees switch to one that doesn’t (like Chime).

    If your credit card charges an annual fee (and you don’t take advantage of the perks) downgrade to a card in the same family (canceling a card hurts your credit score), that doesn’t.

    Investing isn’t free, but it’s worth paying for. You don’t want to pay too much in investment fees, though. You can use Personal Capital’s Fee Analyzer to see how much you’re paying to invest.

    1% doesn’t sound like much, but it can mean thousands and thousands of dollars over time.

  41. Trim Recurring Expenses
  42. How many of these things do you pay for each month?

    *Gym membership

    *Music streaming service

    *Movie streaming service

    *Magazine/newspaper subscriptions

    *Makeup, jewelry, snack, pet toy, etc. subscription box

    *Landline

    *Free trial period for some service you forgot to cancel but aren’t using and are now paying for

    I’m sure there are plenty I’m forgetting, but you see what kind of things I’m getting at. If you have some of these and use them regularly, fair enough. But there is likely at least one thing you could cut. Actually, you don’t have to cut it; Trim will do it for you.

    Trim saved me $65 a month, which was almost $800 a year I was wasting.

  43. Shop Around
  44. Revisit things you pay for every year like car and homeowners insurance. We often start working with a particular company and keep paying the premiums year after year.

    There is so much competition among insurance providers that it’s worth spending a few minutes shopping online for a better deal.

    If you’re happy with your current provider but see a better deal elsewhere, call your provider and ask if they’ll match the competitor’s price. And if you have policies with multiple carriers, look into bundling. You typically get a discount for doing so.

  45. Save All Unexpected Money
  46. Do dollars burn holes in your pocket? Meaning, do you spend any extra money you get? That’s a bad habit, continually upgrading your life every time you come into some money.

    This year, your raise, bonuses, tax return, birthday money, side hustle money, blackjack winnings, football pool winnings are going towards paying off your high-interest debt or towards one of your savings goals — not 100% of it.

    As I wrote above, you work hard and are entitled to spend some money on whatever you want. But 80% of any unexpected cash you get, goes to debt or savings.

    That Wasn’t So Hard

    When I write these kinds of articles, I always ask myself if I would do all of the things I’m telling you to do. That’s why you don’t see stuff like “Get a roommate.” I wouldn’t do that to save money, and I know most people wouldn’t either. That’s a significant change.

    I want to provide relatively painless ways to save an impactful amount of money. Is it fun getting an Emma and Chloe box every month? Yes, it was.

    I know because I did it. Was it painful to cancel Emma and Chloe? No, it wasn’t. I know because I did it. I lived, and so will you.

    Was the $35 a month it saved me an impactful amount. Yes, at the time, it was. Even now, $35 is like three weeks worth of happy hours for me (New Orleans has excellent happy hours), and going to happy hour is more fun than getting that Emma and Chloe box.

    I hope these how to save money ideas are easy and impactful for you too.

Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.
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