How to Save Money: 75 Tips and Ways to Save Money on EverythingSaving Money
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We all know we should save money, but it’s easy to get into bad habits that lead us to spend more than we need to without even thinking about it. Completely changing the way we approach our finances can’t be done overnight, so it’s usually better to make small adjustments over time and start by looking for a few easy ways to save money.
Everyone views money differently and has their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to spending and saving, so what works for one person might not always be perfect for someone else. That said, everyone can start saving more if they put in the time to develop better financial skills and take a realistic look at the way they currently use their money.
As you begin to identify problematic spending habits, it will gradually become natural to use your money more efficiently and spend it on the things that are truly important to you. Continue reading for 75 money saving tips that can help you start moving in the right direction and feel more confident in your financial situation.
Table of Contents
You won’t be able to reach your dream financial situation in a week, but you can begin by making simple changes that affect your money mindset. These ideas are easy to implement and a great starting point for anyone interested in tips to save money.
1. Start budgeting now
The simplest problem many of us have with our money is that we just don’t pay enough attention to our income and expenses. No matter where you are now, your first step should be taking a close look at your current habits and creating a basic budget.
You may want to avoid thinking about money, but being realistic about your financial situation will pay off in the long run. Examine where your money is currently going and separate your monthly budget into two basic categories: needs and wants.
You might prefer the traditional paper and pencil approach, but there are also a number of mobile apps available to help you with the budgeting process. Either way, you’ll end up with a better idea of how your spending compares to your monthly income.
Remember to check your balances and statements at the end of each month to check for any negative trends or inaccuracies. You should always have a good idea of how much money you have in each account and what your current balance is on any credit cards.
2. The 50/30/20 rule
The 50/30/20 rule is currently one of the most popular money-saving philosophies, and it’s especially helpful for people who are new to budgeting. It involves using half of your income for things you need, thirty percent for things you want, and twenty percent for either saving or paying off debt.
No set of numbers will be perfect for everyone, but 50/30/20 is a good place to start as you analyze your spending habits. If you’re currently using 40 percent of your income on things like entertainment, nights out, and travel, bringing that number closer to 30 percent should be one of your first budgeting goals.
Saving 20 percent of your income might seem impossible at first, but it’s often an easy goal to reach once you eliminate unnecessary costs. Having a few months’ worth of income in a savings account will make you feel much more comfortable about your finances.
3. Pay off debts first
While saving as much as you can should always be a long-term goal, you might be facing significant debts that make it difficult to gain more control over your money. Depending on your current financial situation, it could be difficult to save 20 percent while paying off debts—feel free to allocate some of that budget for repayment until you’re debt-free.
There are a few different strategies for paying off debts, and many people recommend the snowball method. This involves starting with the smallest debt and gradually moving toward the largest one, and it allows you to feel like you’re making real financial progress.
On the other hand, this isn’t always the best idea if you’re struggling with high interest rates. Paying off debts with lower rates before debts with higher interest rates will lead you to owe more in interest in the long run, so it’s often better to start with paying down the highest interest rate debts and end at the lowest to avoid paying any unnecessary interest.
Whatever approach you choose, the important thing is to stick to your debt repayment plan and set aside as much of your paycheck as possible. It might feel overwhelming to begin paying back multiple debts, but now is always the best time to get started.
Whether you’re focusing on paying off debts or saving for another goal, consider using Digit to manage your budget and automatically save over time. It’s especially helpful for people who are new to budgeting and need help keeping track of their expenses and building more productive spending habits.
Lowering Costs on Common Expenses
Now that you’ve started to move your finances in the right direction, you can begin to look for ways to eliminate or reduce expenses. There are a number of services and options available to help you save money on necessities like gas, power, groceries, and more.
4. Take advantage of sales and offers
Small discounts at stores and gas stations might not sound like much, but they can add up quickly if you take the time to look for the best prices and find great deals. Remember that you’re only saving money if you would have made the purchase anyway—it’s never worth spending more to save more on things you don’t want or need.
Ibotta is another popular application which offers cash back on items purchased at common retailers like Target, Uber, Groupon, Sears, Amazon, Walmart, and more.
These apps and others like them allow you to save money without doing any extra work, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of their benefits.
5. Negotiate bills
Most of us think of our bills as fixed expenses, but the truth is that you can often get a better deal if you’re willing to negotiate. Depending on your negotiation skills, you could get a significant reduction in bills for things like mobile, internet, and cable.
Once you’ve gone through your monthly budget, it will be easy to identify the services you’re spending too much on. Start with two or three bills and set a maximum price that you’re willing to pay before you even pick up the phone. You might feel uncomfortable the first time, but you’ll become a more effective negotiator each time you go through the process.
6. Take advantage of third-party applications
If you don’t feel confident in your ability to negotiate, there are also a variety of businesses that offer bill negotiation services. Trim, for example, negotiates each of your bills for you and only charges a fee on the money you save. Negotiating your bills could immediately take tens or hundreds of dollars out of your monthly expenses and give you more to save or spend on more important things.
Arcadia Power is another exciting option that connects users in some areas to local renewable energy projects, potentially reducing your power costs while supporting sustainable sources of energy. Check their website for more information about the options available in your region.
If you’re being charged fees on your debit or credit cards, consider using Cushion to contest and lower those charges at no additional cost. Like Billshark, Cushion only takes a portion of your savings, so the worst possible result is simply that your fees remain the same.
Saving Money on Shopping
With so many items available at both physical and online stores, it can be easy to lose track of how much you spend shopping each month. As in other areas of your finances, just being aware of your spending habits goes a long way toward helping you cut out unnecessary expenses. You can also use these tips to save at popular stores and become more financially responsible while shopping.
7. Make grocery lists
Many of us get sidetracked at the grocery store and end up coming home with much more than we expected to buy. You can avoid this issue by making a clear list of what you need before each trip and sticking to it whenever possible—you might see something you forgot to add, but you’ll be more likely to avoid junk food, alcohol, and other expensive items you probably don’t need.
Shopping with a list is different from visiting stores regularly, and you’ll spend less money if you pick up what you need once each week rather than dropping by the store whenever you think you might want something. You’ll find it easier to be disciplined while shopping and notice a significant drop in your grocery expenses at the end of the month.
8. Cut down on alcohol and cigarettes
As mentioned above, alcohol is an expensive habit, and it can negatively impact your physical and mental health in a number of ways. Similarly, smokers are simply used to buying cigarettes, and you might not even realize how much you’re spending on these items.
These can be extremely difficult habits to break, but your future self will thank you once you’re able to save money while achieving a healthier lifestyle. As with any habit, identifying the problem is the first step toward overcoming it.
While these are two of the most common addictions, the truth is that we can be dependent on nearly anything. Whether you struggle with alcohol or drugs, tobacco, gambling, or something else, moving beyond your addiction will benefit your body, mind, and wallet.
9. Start meal planning
Meal planning is a popular trend, and many people use services like Blue Apron and Home Chef to cook portioned meals at home. While there’s nothing wrong with subscribing to one of these, you’ll spend a lot less if you can get into the habit of planning meals yourself.
Rather than buying ingredients at the grocery store and then deciding on something to cook, meal planning involves choosing your dinners ahead of time and getting exactly what you need at the beginning of each week. Whether you’re living alone, with a partner, or with a family, meal planning is an attainable goal that makes shopping and cooking easier and cheaper once you get used to it.
Meal planning goes perfectly with tip 7 by allowing you to make a shopping list for your entire week. You’ll end up with the right quantity of each ingredient and avoid the common mistake of buying something at the store only to throw it away a week or two later.
10. Earn shopping rewards
Just as bill negotiation services allow you to save money without doing any extra work, shopping rewards programs give you the opportunity to earn cash back at the same stores you usually go to. These are easy to sign up for and can be used with a wide range of popular online and in-person brands.
Rakuten (formerly Ebates), for example, displays offers and provides rewards anytime you make a purchase through the website or application. You’ll instantly receive cash back in your account which can be redeemed either through a PayPal transaction or a mailed check.
Shopkick is another great rewards website offering “kicks” for a number of actions including everything from web and in-person purchases to entering physical stores and visiting online shops. Their rewards come as gift cards to popular brands like Starbucks, Amazon, and Target, and you can earn Shopkicks rewards at an even higher number of stores including CVS, Target, Best Buy, Apple, eBay, and more.
These are just two of the countless free shopping rewards applications available on both computers and mobile devices, and you can start taking advantage of these benefits anytime. You’ll immediately begin to earn rewards without having to make any changes in your shopping behavior, and these small savings will add up over months and years—especially combined with the other money-saving tips on this list.
Sticking to Your Savings Plans
As with any long-term change, many of us find saving money easy in the early stages but lose momentum over time. It’s tough to stick to a strict savings plan when you have other life responsibilities and too much in the day to think about your budget.
The applications noted above are great tools to save money without taking any time out of your schedule, and you can supplement them with effective strategies to maintain your motivation over time. Remember that small long-term changes typically have more impact than a week or two of intense budgeting that you can’t keep up.
11. Ask someone to monitor your progress
It’s easy to let little things go without worrying about them if you’re saving alone, but it’s often these seemingly minor expenses that prevent us from reaching our financial goals. Talk about your budget with someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable.
This could be anyone from a partner or family member to a friend or co-worker, as long as it’s someone you can count on to keep you on track. They’ll remind you of your goals if you start to lose confidence and make sure you stay committed no matter what else is going on in your life. Having someone supportive and trustworthy to depend on can help you achieve your long-term goals and get through any setbacks.
12. Work toward measurable goals
Saving money is a great goal to have on its own, but it’s much easier to stay motivated if you connect your savings to a long-term financial target that you’re personally interested in. If you’re saving just to save, you won’t have as strong of a reason to commit to your plans.
If you’re currently in debt, for example, becoming entirely debt-free is a great goal to start off with. Being in debt can add unnecessary stress and worry to your life, and you’ll notice an immediate difference once you no longer owe money.
Beyond debt, other common financial goals include saving for retirement or your children’s college funds. If you have a goal like that in mind, you’ll find it easier to hold back on impulse spending, and you’ll have something to be proud of once you reach your target.
13. Closely examine your spending habits
Just as each person can become addicted to something different, many of us have unique problems with spending that are harder to overcome than others. Once you start budgeting either on your own or with the aid of a mobile application, you’ll be able to look at your statements more closely and notice any problematic trends.
Resisting the temptation to make impulse purchases involves skills that go beyond simply saving money, and it takes time to develop more restrained spending habits. Making budgets and shopping lists in advance is a great way to keep yourself in check and start spending less and less on impulse items.
Quick Tips to Save More
Long-term financial goals are important, but immediate changes can have a substantial impact and give you more momentum. If you’re looking for ways to cut even a few dollars out of your monthly expenses, these are some of the easiest tips to start using as soon as possible.
14. Go reusable
Disposable items like cups, water bottles, and shopping bags are terrible for the environment, but they’re also just as bad for your wallet. A single water bottle per day at $1 each adds up to $365 every year, and you can remove that expense by investing in a reusable water bottle.
Similarly, plastic shopping bags and coffee cups add unnecessary expenses and waste to your daily routine. Many popular businesses like Starbucks and Pret à Manger have started supporting sustainability by offering small discounts to customers who bring their own mugs, and you’ll also be doing your part to reduce our impact on the environment.
15. Take advantage of your employer match
Many American businesses offer employer matches on 401(k) accounts, effectively doubling your income on your 401(k) contributions up to a set limit. If your company matches 401(k) contributions, there’s almost never a reason not to put in the maximum amount allowed.
If you’re concerned that you might not be taking full advantage of this opportunity, talk to someone in your HR or accounting department to learn more about your company’s policies. They’ll tell you the details and help you make sure you’re getting everything you can out of your employer match.
16. Download Honey for online offers
Whenever you see the option to add a promo code but don’t have anything to enter, you’re probably losing money on an exclusive discount. Honey and similar tools make this easy by automatically adding any active codes and applying them during the checkout process.
Honey is completely free to download and use, so you have nothing to lose by trying it out. It might not find a better deal on every single purchase, but you’ll probably save a lot of money over time if you’re an avid online shopper—there’s nothing more frustrating than paying extra for the same product.
17. Switch to generic rather than brand-name medications
Many pharmacies sell brand-name medications by default, but the generic option provides the same effects at a much lower cost. Talk to your pharmacist to learn more about your choices and determine the price difference between branded and generic medication.
18. Shop around for prescriptions
You’re probably in the habit of sending all your prescriptions to the same pharmacy, but different stores and even individual locations often have different prices for the same items. If you currently spend a lot on medications, it may be worth looking into prices at stores in your area to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
19. Sign up for loyalty programs
Businesses of all kinds offer loyalty programs ranging from discounts on products to punch cards and more. As with other tips, you won’t save anything if you spend more than you otherwise would have, but you should always ask about customer rewards if you’re already a regular.
This is another strategy that might not save you more than $10 or $20 each month, but it’s incredibly easy to start using and comes at no cost. Don’t forget that airline miles accounts are just as lucrative, especially if you’re a frequent flyer. It’s easy to forget to sign up and not worry about it on any individual flight, but you’ll thank yourself once you take the time to go through the process. Many airlines allow you to claim miles on flights up to a year before you create your account.
20. Eat and drink at home
Restaurants, cafés, and bars all charge significantly more than the cost of the ingredients, and you can usually make an even better product at home. Buying your own ingredients and equipment for meals, coffee, and cocktails is an investment at first, but you’ll end up spending much less than you would have if you continued to go out.
It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s often more financially responsible to pay more for higher-quality equipment than to look for the cheapest available option. This applies to nearly anything you expect to last a long period of time—budget items are easier to pay for at first, but you’ll likely end up spending more after accounting for repairs, replacement, and the inevitable upgrade when you decide you want something better.
Saving on Credit Cards
Signing up for a new credit card can help you build credit and earn valuable rewards, but it can also work against you if you find yourself in credit card debt or paying interest at the end of each month. If you do decide to get a credit card, it’s important to use it carefully in order to avoid high fees and interest rates while taking advantage of any lucrative offers.
21. Shop around for the right card
Different credit cards come with widely varying terms, and no two cards are created equal. Some offer no interest at all for a set period of time before increasing dramatically, while others include benefits like travel rewards.
Do some research to see which cards provide the most advantages based on your spending habits and the kinds of rewards you’re interested in.
Here are most popular credit card articles:
- Best Cash Back Credit Cards
- Best Travel Credit Cards
- Best 0% APR Credit Cards
- Best Cards for Bad Credit
- Best Business Credit Cards
22. Only buy what you can afford
A credit card can allow you to earn rewards on each purchase and build your credit score over time, but you should never use it to buy something you couldn’t afford with cash. It can be tempting to make an impulse purchase with your card and assume you’ll pay it back later, but you could end up paying much more than the sale price after accounting for interest.
Instead, use your credit card for purchases within your budget and make sure to pay off the entire balance at the end of each statement. You’ll receive rewards on everything you buy and increase your credit score without having to pay any interest.
23. Start small
If you’re new to credit cards, consider using your card for a few predictable monthly expenses like your Netflix and Hulu accounts, then set up automatic transfers to pay off the balance and leave the card in a safe place. A small amount of credit utilization is better for your score than not using the card at all, and you won’t be tempted to buy anything else with your card.
24. Use less than 30 percent of your credit limit
Late payments can have a significant effect on your credit score, but you may not be aware of the impact of high credit utilization (even if you don’t carry a balance). Most experts recommend keeping your utilization under about 30 percent whenever possible to maximize your credit score, especially if you’re considering taking out a loan or applying for a competitive card.
25. Transfer your balance if necessary
It’s obviously best to avoid credit card debt whenever possible, but don’t panic if you find yourself in the red. Transferring your balance to another card can give you more favorable terms for repayment and reduce the total you end up spending to pay off the debt.
Many providers offer cards with benefits specifically tailored to balance transfers including low fees and a long intro period with no interest. Most charge a transfer fee of roughly three to five percent of the balance, but this is still a better deal than allowing the debt to compound over time given the high interest rates on most credit cards.
26. Negotiate your interest rate
Most holders don’t think they have any leverage against credit card companies, but your provider would much rather offer you a lower rate than have you pay another brand to transfer the balance. If you’re struggling with credit card debt, look into the best balance transfer cards available and use them to negotiate with your current provider.
Unlike opening a new card and triggering a hard inquiry—which can temporarily lower your credit score—asking your credit card company to lower your interest rate doesn’t involve any risk. They can’t do anything worse than say no, in which case you can simply transfer the balance and work with another provider.
27. Don’t just pay the minimum
You’re required to pay a certain minimum on your credit card balance each month, but you should go beyond that number whenever possible. Taking longer to pay off your balance leads to more interest over time, so every additional dollar you contribute takes a little off your total interest.
Of course, it’s still better to pay the minimum than nothing at all. Missed payments will result in a penalty fee along with a reduction in your credit score.
28. Take advantage of zero-interest intro periods
Many credit cards come with no interest at all for a set period of time after opening the account, and you can use these perks to pay for expensive items over time—one of the only situations in which it’s a good idea to use a credit card on something you couldn’t afford with cash.
Include these transactions in your budget and make sure you have enough to pay off the entire amount by the time you start owing interest. If you can budget an extra $100 and only have six months without interest, for example, don’t use your card on anything over $600.
Tips for Traveling
Most of us assume that traveling has to be expensive, but you can substantially cut down travel costs by making a few simple adjustments. This makes it easy to travel more often, for longer, and to further destinations while spending the same amount of money (or less) than you have in the past.
29. Book in advance
The easiest way to save money on travel is simply to make your plans as early as possible when there is still availability. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to find transportation and an affordable place to stay. Prices can be unpredictable, but it’s generally best to start shopping around at least six weeks before you plan to leave.
30. Stay flexible
Since there’s usually no way to tell which specific days will be the cheapest to travel, it’s best to leave your schedule as open as possible and look for the most affordable options. Travel websites like Kayak give you the ability to select a range of up to an entire week, and you can often get a better deal by moving one or two days in either direction.
Similarly, try to avoid committing to a destination unless there’s something specific you’re interested in seeing. Skyscanner and other sites let you enter your location and look for the cheapest flights to any destination. The more flexible you can be with your travel dates and locations, the better chance you’ll have of finding a good price.
31. Avoid hotels and tourist traps
Hotels can be the most comfortable and convenient way to travel, but they generally come at a much higher cost than other travel options like hostels and Airbnbs. Staying in a hostel may be intimidating if it’s your first time, but this is a great way to connect with other travelers, especially if you’re traveling alone or with only two or three people.
Some Airbnbs include kitchen access, allowing you to cook rather than going out for every meal. As mentioned above, it’s almost always more affordable to make your own food than to eat at a restaurant, and food expenses can add up quickly while traveling.
Most tourists flock to expensive attractions in their destination cities, and there’s nothing wrong with spending money on something you’re really interested in. On the other hand, many tourist destinations are overpriced and crowded, and they may not even give you a real taste of the culture or history of the city you’re visiting. With a little research, you can avoid these tourist traps and find more interesting ways to spend your vacation time.
32. Travel during the off-season
It costs significantly more to travel at peak times like summer, weekends, and the winter holidays, so look for ways to adjust your schedule whenever possible. Traveling throughout the off-season also means you’ll deal with smaller crowds at your destination and have an easier time seeing everything without standing in lines.
33. Walk or use public transportation
Like hotels, taxis are a convenient option for tourists but charge substantially more than their competitors. Depending on the size of the city you’re visiting, consider either walking between different destinations or using public transportation methods like buses and subways.
34. Switch to reusable toiletry containers
Travel toiletry bottles cost much more per ounce than the same product in a larger container, so you can save a lot of money over time by purchasing a few reusable containers and filling them up before each trip. Buying new travel items for every vacation can also be difficult to remember, so having containers at home makes this process easy, even if you’re packing at the last minute.
35. Travel to more affordable areas
The most popular tourist destinations are also naturally the most expensive, so it’s often worth branching out to less well-known locations both for lower prices and a more unique experience. Rather than traveling to typical European destinations like London, Paris, and Berlin, consider booking a trip to eastern European or northern African cities. Even if you spend more to get there, the lower cost of living will help you save money overall.
36. Pack as light as possible
Airlines are charging more fees than ever before, and every additional backpack or suitcase you bring will likely raise the price of your ticket. Depending on the length of your vacation, you may be able to fit everything into a single backpack—if the place you’re staying has a washing machine or is close to a laundromat, you can do laundry and make a few changes of clothes last longer.
Saving Money on Your Home
Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, you probably put more money into your home than any other possession. From energy and water bills to maintenance and repairs, these costs can add up quickly. Taking better care of your property and taking advantage of a few effective tips will help you spend less on your home each month.
37. Take a more proactive approach to maintenance
Many of us don’t think about our home’s condition until something goes wrong, but you can often save yourself a lot of money by regularly performing preventive maintenance rather than reacting once small issues develop into more serious problems. Some issues don’t become obvious until it’s too late, so this tip requires a little extra effort to inspect your home and make any necessary repairs.
Clogged gutters, for example, can lead to substantial water damage if left unchecked over time. Without being able to remove it, water will eventually leak down into the structure of your home and basement. You can avoid this issue by periodically looking at your gutters and removing any debris.
Along with gutters, imperfections on the surface of your roof will let water in if they’re not regularly checked and repaired. Look at your shingles regularly to make sure they’re in good condition, especially after extreme weather events like storms, tornadoes, and heavy snow, rain, or hail.
Another common home issue is a poor seal between windows or doors and the rest of the wall. This allows air into your home and reduces energy efficiency, making your heater and air conditioner work harder during the winter and summer months. Similarly, an imperfect seal on your refrigerator or freezer can spoil your food and raise your energy bill.
38. Replace traditional bulbs and appliances
Conventional light bulbs are usually cheaper than LEDs, so you might be in the habit of picking them up to save money. On the other hand, LED bulbs last far longer than regular bulbs and provide much better energy efficiency. The long-term costs of regular light bulbs mean that you’ll save money overall by switching to LEDs throughout your home.
In addition to light bulbs, you can also find energy efficient versions of a wide range of home appliances. Again, these usually come at a higher initial price tag but will end up saving you money. You might even be able to get a discount on appliances if you purchase several at the same time.
39. Stop using your dryer
Most of us don’t even think about drying our clothes, but the truth is that this is entirely unnecessary and adds significant costs to your energy bill at the end of each month. Dryers are one of the top energy users in most American households, not to mention the costs associated with products like fabric softener and dryer sheets.
Rather than using a dryer, simply hang up your clothes after washing. You can do this outside during the warmer months or clear space in your home when it’s cold or rainy. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also keep your clothing in better condition over time. You’ll save even more if you can avoid purchasing a dryer in the first place.
40. Sign up for an AC and heating contract
Most extended warranties and service contracts aren’t worth the price, but most people will end up saving money over the lifetime of their home if they opt for a heating and AC contract rather than paying out of pocket for every repair, replacement, and service at the beginning of each season.
If you’ve lived in your current home for a few years, you can estimate your total savings by comparing the cost of a contract to the amount you’ve actually paid on AC and heating each year. In addition to service in the winter and summer, you’ll also have access to discounted parts when something goes wrong.
41. Invest in a smart thermostat
Smart thermostats are another expensive investment with a great long-term payoff, helping you save significantly on your energy bill each month. Cooling and heating are the top energy consumers in the vast majority of American households, so reducing your usage by even a small percentage can make a big difference.
Nest, for example, claims that their thermostat provides average savings of between $131 and $145 each year, or roughly 15 percent on cooling and 10 to 12 percent on heating. Smart thermostats also allow you to adjust the temperature while you’re out of the house in case you forgot.
42. Close curtains and blinds
Open windows, blinds, and curtains let in a lot of heat from outside during the summer and cold air during the winter, so you’ll save even more on energy by making sure they’re closed.
During the summer, simply closing your curtains and blinds and turning on a fan will enable you to use much less air conditioning. Combined with the other heating and cooling tips on this list, you’ll notice incredible savings on your monthly energy bill.
43. Get renters insurance if you’re a tenant
Most renters don’t think they need insurance to cover their things, and chances are that you’ll never need to make a claim on your renters insurance policy. On the other hand, unexpected events are more common than you might assume, and you can lose thousands of dollars in a single day.
Renters insurance covers your possessions in situations like burglaries, floods, and other weather events, assuming the loss wasn’t your fault (e.g. you didn’t leave the front door open). You can get a reliable policy for under $150 per year, making it an affordable way to protect yourself from unexpected loss.
Saving on Your Car
Cars are another major investment, so it’s important to get the right vehicle for your needs and perform regular maintenance in order to keep it in good condition. These tips will help you get a great deal on your car and extend its lifespan as long as possible.
44. Avoid the temptation to buy new
We’re all familiar with the allure of a brand-new car, and there’s no denying that driving a high-quality vehicle for the first time is an exhilarating experience. Yet that same car will be worth significantly less in just a few months, and the rush of owning a new vehicle will wear off just as quickly.
If the age or miles of a used car turn you off, remember that the depreciation mentioned above works just as well the other way. You can usually get a good price on cars that are under a year old, allowing you to save thousands compared to the cost of a brand-new car while getting comparable performance and longevity.
45. Check the vehicle history
Buying used is the perfect way to save money, but it involves additional risks that you don’t need to consider when buying a new car. Vehicle history reports are easily accessible and tell you everything you need to know about a used car before you make a commitment.
You can find the vehicle history report as long as you have the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and many used car dealers will go through this process for you. If a seller is reluctant to either find the report or give you the data you need to get it, they’re probably not worth dealing with.
46. Take gas mileage into account
Like so many items on this list, this tip can help you avoid spending far more in the long run for smaller, immediate savings. Cars with poor fuel efficiency are generally cheaper, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right decision when trying to save money.
Before you make a decision on a specific car, consider how much you’ll spend on gas each month given the miles per gallon available with each option. You should think of these as part of the cost of the vehicle rather than something to add on later.
47. Avoid warranties and service contracts
In contrast to the savings available with service contracts on heating and air conditioning, extended warranties and similar agreements are almost never a good deal when you’re buying a car. Used car salesmen can be unclear about the details of these programs or even outright mislead you, so make sure you have all the information before you pay for a contract.
If you’re really interested in the long-term security available with an extended warranty, you should know that you can usually get similar coverage for less money from third-party warranty programs. Make sure to shop around rather than committing to the first option you see.
48. Pay in cash if possible
Whether or not you have the money available to pay for a car in cash will depend on your financial situation, but it often gives you a better deal compared to paying for the vehicle over a longer period of time. Cash gives dealers an immediate guarantee that you’re good for the cost of the car, and you won’t have to pay anything beyond what’s on the price tag.
If you’re not capable of paying in cash, getting pre-approved before you go to a dealer is the next best option. This allows you to shop around for the best loans available and have a good idea of your budget before you start making any decisions. Remember that your credit score has a substantial impact on your interest rate.
Saving for Retirement
Social security offers some help in investing in your future, but you’ll need to start considering retirement early in order to set yourself up to live comfortably after you finish working. These tips will help you work through the process of saving for retirement and do everything you can to put yourself in the long-term financial situation you want.
49. Start putting money in as soon as you can
No matter where you are in life, the best time to start saving money for retirement is always right now. If debt or other financial obligations are preventing you from getting to a retirement fund immediately, keep it in mind as a top priority once you’re able to move some money around.
In addition to the obvious benefits of having some money in your retirement account rather than none, getting an earlier start gives your fund more time to gain interest. There are always reasons to put off saving for retirement, but you should do everything you can to make it happen. It’s impossible to predict where you’ll be financially in a few years or even a few months, so don’t count on your future self to save when you can start today.
50. Set up automatic contributions
Just as automatic deductions are the simplest way to make sure you have enough to pay taxes, contributing a portion of your paycheck to your retirement account will prevent you from using that money for anything else. It turns saving for retirement into a necessity rather than something you’ll do if you have extra cash.
Talk to someone in your accounting or HR department for more information about setting up automatic contributions. Remember that your company might provide a match, so be sure to ask about that policy and take advantage of whatever they offer.
51. Shop around for the right financial advisor
There are as many brands offering financial services as there are strategies for personal finance, and the right one for you might not be what’s best for someone else. Shopping around allows you to see what each option offers and compare the associated costs.
Remember that even a relatively low fee will add up to a lot of lost money over the course of your career, so it’s not worth working with someone unless you’re truly confident in their knowledge. Make sure that the benefits of working with them outweigh what their fee will cost you over a lifetime of service.
Saving Money on Kids
We all want the best for our children, but spending more money doesn’t always equal better results, and you can be just as good of a parent (if not better) while looking for ways to save money. These are a few of the ways in which parents commonly spend more money than they need to without getting enough value.
52. Avoid paying for a babysitter is possible
There’s sometimes no way around hiring a babysitter, but it’s more affordable to ask family or friends to chip in in exchange for other favors. If someone you know has kids around the same age as yours, they might even be willing to take turns babysitting depending on your respective schedules.
Many parents feel guilty leaving their kids with a babysitter, but taking care of a young child is emotionally and physically draining. There’s no reason to feel bad about needing some time for yourself or to reconnect with your partner, but you can still look for ways to save money on babysitting.
53. Cut back on birthday parties and Christmas presents
It’s becoming more and more common for parents to throw their children lavish parties and offer expensive presents, but kids usually get bored with extravagant gifts anyway. While some children will compare these things to what their friends receive, this is a good opportunity to teach them that there are other ways of expressing love aside from spending money.
Rather than using your money on these lavish options, put them toward things your child will truly appreciate as he or she gets older. Travel experiences, for example, are much more valuable to a child than a bouncy house or expensive toy on their sixth birthday.
While it’s not as exciting as a big Christmas gift, you can also put some of what you save in a college savings fund. Again, this isn’t necessarily something they’ll care as much about in early childhood, but it will make a much larger difference in their life.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t spend any money on presents, only that this should be limited to items that your child will truly care about. It’s usually better to spend your gift budget on one or two personal, thoughtful gifts than to get a number of things they’ll quickly lose interest in.
54. Look for used clothes
Children’s clothes can be just as expensive as many adult brands, and they’re even less valuable since your child will grow out of new clothes within a year or two. Instead of constantly spending money on clothes that will only fit for a short period of time, consider looking for lightly used clothing whenever possible.
Used clothes offer a better value than new clothes while still providing the same quality that you’d get with the brand-new version. You can often find used articles of nice children’s clothing for about the same price as new clothes from brands that don’t provide equivalent quality.
55. Don’t buy baby food
All kinds of food are more expensive at the store than they would be to make at home, and baby food is incredibly easy to prepare and store for a very low price. Just pick up some soft vegetables, thoroughly blend them, and keep them frozen in an ice tray. Your baby won’t notice a difference, and you can use the money you save on more important expenses.
56. Only buy what you need
Parents and children alike are constantly targeted by advertisements for the next big thing, and it’s easy to start spending money on things that you don’t need and won’t end up using. You’ll likely receive a number of helpful toys and other items at your baby shower, and you don’t need to be purchasing something new every week in order to take good care of your child.
Just like pets, there’s no guarantee that your baby will be interested in something just because it’s expensive or the newest popular gadget. You can do just as much for your baby with simple, inexpensive toys and clothing, so only spend extra on things that are really worth the money.
57. Look for free and low-cost activities
Children’s activities can be just as expensive as toys and games, but there are more affordable or even free options that are just as engaging. Libraries, free museum days, parks, and more can all be accessed without spending any money at all.
Most free activities offer the additional benefit of quality time with your child, while you’ll often pay more for something they can do on their own. The time you spend together is infinitely more valuable than expensive gadgets and activities that don’t give you the same opportunity to bond.
58. Borrow movies and books
This tip applies just as much to adults as it does to children, as many people aren’t aware that you can borrow movies for free at your local library. This is much cheaper than buying a physical or digital copy, and you can also borrow a few children’s books while you’re there.
Similarly, you can ask friends and family with children if they have any old books, movies, or other items that their kids are no longer interested in. Paying it forward helps everyone involved, and you can pass these things on to future parents once your own child is done with them.
59. Don’t let your child dictate spending
Possibly the most important money-saving tip of all for parents of young children is remembering that you’re the one in control of how your money is spent. Kids who are used to getting their way often feel entitled to the newest (and most expensive) items, so every parent should set boundaries and limit how much they spend on their children.
While it might be tempting to bargain with your child by offering to buy them something, this mentality leads to negative consequences by teaching your kid that they’re in control of your wallet. Look for ways to reward your child for making good decisions rather than letting them buy something simply because you’re tired of arguing.
Saving Money on Pets
It’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending on your pets, but animals are actually a major expense for many households. Use these ideas to find ways to decrease your pet spending while still giving them the attention and care they deserve.
60. Ask the vet for a complete physical
It’s important to periodically bring your pets in for a checkup in order to catch any issues early, and you can get a more thorough examination by asking for a complete physical. If there’s anything going wrong, they’ll hopefully notice it before it progresses, saving you money on treatment and making recovery easier on your furry friend.
You can also avoid unexpected medical issues by consistently making sure that your pet is up to date on all of his or her vaccines. Just as preventive care can help us avoid developing more serious health issues, being proactive about your pet’s well-being will keep him or her happy and healthy.
61. Groom your dog at home
Many pet owners send their dogs to professional groomers, but you can get similar results at a much lower cost by washing and grooming your dog yourself. Your dog will appreciate being groomed by his or her owner, as animals are much less likely to be comfortable around strangers.
62. Look for free pet-sitting options
This tip works the same way as the babysitting ideas mentioned above, as paying for pet boarding can get expensive quickly. One option is to ask friends or family with pets to take your animal in while you’re gone and offer to do the same when they’re out of town.
Alternatively, you can look for hotels or Airbnbs at your destination that allow pets. Remember to ask about the living conditions in the room to make sure that there aren’t other animals or anything else that could make life difficult for your pet.
63. Look for pet health insurance
Veterinary procedures can be surprisingly expensive, and there’s nothing more heartbreaking than having to put your pet down because you can’t afford an operation. Pet insurance protects you from these situations and is a good investment to make sure you can give your animal the care they need.
64. Keep your pet in good shape
Exercise is just as important for animals as it is for us, and helping your animal stay in good condition is a great way to prevent them from developing a wide range of conditions that stem from weight issues. Pets that don’t get enough exercise are also more difficult to manage and more likely to cause damage in your home.
65. Brush your pet’s teeth
Many pet owners don’t realize how important it is to regularly brush their dog or cat’s teeth, but animals need dental care just as much as humans. It can be difficult to introduce older pets to brushing their teeth, so it’s best to start doing this from a young age.
If your pet isn’t taking to the process, start by introducing them to the toothpaste and brush without actually trying to brush their teeth. From there, go one step at a time and gradually build up to a full brushing. You might have more success getting your cat to stay still if you approach him or her from behind.
Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth will prevent them from requiring much more expensive treatments later on, and dental issues can be incredibly painful for both cats and dogs. While it might seem harmful to force your pet to stay still throughout the process, it’s much worse to do nothing and increase the odds that they’ll develop a significantly more painful condition.
66. Get to know your pet
While animals feel pain in the same way as humans, they instinctively try to hide their suffering as much as possible to avoid alerting potential predators to their weakness. This makes it notoriously difficult to determine when something is going wrong.
You can make it easier to notice your animal’s health issues by learning more about him or her and researching common conditions for that breed. Talk to your vet for more information about the signs of a problem, and always bring your pet in for an appointment at least once each year.
67. Make DIY toys and cat trees
Pet toys are another expensive option, but there’s no guarantee that your animal will be any more interested in them than regular household items. Many cats prefer resting in paper bags and cardboard boxes over more premium options like beds and other enclosures.
Similarly, cat trees can run more than $50 or even $100, while building a place for your cat to climb and explore costs nothing beyond the price of supplies. Simply installing a few shelves for your kitty to jump on will achieve the same result, although you can get much more creative with other DIY options.
Saving Money on Loans
Whether you’re in debt from student loans, a personal loan, mortgage, or something else, it can be incredibly stressful to have to pay money back while managing your other expenses. There’s no way to completely eliminate these debts, but you can use these tips to pay less interest and move past your loan more quickly.
68. Make payments as often as possible
The more often you make payments on a loan, the less interest you’ll be charged. If you’re currently contributing to the debt once per month, for example, you can save money by making smaller payments every two weeks.
In general, leaving money in your balance allows interest to compound more quickly, resulting in a higher total bill. Make payments as often as you can to minimize interest.
69. Pay more than the minimum
Just as credit card minimum payments should be seen as nothing more than the minimum, you should always put as much as you can toward your debt payments—it might seem difficult to set aside that much of your paycheck just to pay off loans, but you’ll save a lot of money over time by going above the minimum.
Even a small addition to your monthly payment can make a big difference. If you’re currently paying $200 per month, for example, raising it to just $225 will help you pay off the entire balance much more quickly and avoid paying unnecessary interest.
70. Check for prepayment penalties
While you’ll certainly save on interest by paying off your loan as quickly as possible, you should double check this strategy by looking at the fine print. Since taking longer to pay off a loan allows the creditor to collect more in interest, some lenders charge a fee if you finish paying off the balance before the end of the term.
If your lender does charge a penalty, you’ll need to calculate the difference between what you’ll save on interest and the cost of the fee. It might still be better to pay the loan off early if you can save a lot on interest and the penalty is a relatively small charge.
71. Consider refinancing options
Refinancing or consolidating your loans can be a confusing process, but you can often find a better rate with a different lender. Even a slightly lower interest rate will offer you significant savings, especially if you have a large balance.
Do some research on available refinancing options to see if there’s anything that would allow you to pay less in interest. Loan consolidation also enables you to pay off all your loans at once, making it easier to keep track of your progress toward becoming debt-free.
72. Never miss payments
If you’re struggling to back a loan, missing a payment is sometimes unavoidable. That said, this should always be considered a last resort, as missing loan payments can have a wide range of negative effects.
The most obvious problem with missing a payment is that you’ll be charged a fee, forcing you to pay more when you were already having trouble making the original payments. It’s tough to get back in control once you start falling behind on loan payments.
Missed payments are also reported to credit agencies, lowering your credit score and making it more difficult to get approved for credit cards and other loans. Bringing your credit score back up can take months or even years, so this is a major problem that should be avoided whenever possible.
73. Plan for payments you won’t be able to make
If you don’t think you’ll be able to make an upcoming payment on time, you should at least try to make a late payment rather than missing it entirely. As long as you send the money within 30 days, there’s a chance that you’ll be able to avoid any negative effects on your credit score. Try to plan for these situations in advance rather than waiting until the due date and realizing you don’t have enough money in your account.
If you’re consistently having trouble making payments, refinancing the loan might be your best option. Look for a lender that offers lower payments over a longer period of time—you might end up paying more in interest, but that’s better than dealing with fees, a lower credit score, or even having to default on your current loan.
74. Focus on secured loans
Unsecured loans are loans that don’t involve any collateral, including things like credit cards and student loans. Secured loans, on the other hand, include your possessions as collateral, meaning that they could be taken if you’re unable to make payments.
Failing to pay back an unsecured loan can have its own negatives, but those are nothing compared to the consequences of defaulting on a secured loan. Rather than simply having to pay fees or seeing a drop in your credit score, you could be forced to give up valuable possessions like your car or even your home. Secured loans should always be your top priority if you can’t make payments on all of your debts.
75. See if you qualify for student loan deferment or forbearance
Deferment allows you to make reduced payments or even stop making payments on your student loan for a limited time, and it’s sometimes the best choice if your other option is to default. You’ll also usually be able to avoid accruing interest for the period of your deferment, freezing your balance until you’re back on your feet.
Forbearance works in a similar way, although you’ll still be responsible for any interest. You’ll generally need to formally request deferment or forbearance, and you will still be required to pay until your request is granted.
There are a variety of ways to become eligible for deferment, including active enrollment in a college, career school, or fellowship. Deferment is also granted to people who are unemployed or otherwise facing economic hardship.
General forbearance requests are reviewed by your lender and are generally made by people experiencing financial difficulties. On the other hand, your lender is legally required to provide forbearance if you can demonstrate eligibility for mandatory forbearance.
In addition to more specific situations, you can qualify for mandatory forbearance as long as the amount you owe on student loans each month is at least 20 percent of your income. This can give you some time to improve your financial situation without having to make payments on your student loans.
That said, it’s important to remember that interest will continue to compound even if you are granted forbearance. Since you’ll end up paying more in interest if you take longer than planned to pay off your student loan, forbearance should only be considered if you truly can’t make the required payments.
No matter what financial situation you’re in right now, you can take steps to save money and use the cash you do have more efficiently. Remember to keep a close eye on all expenses and track your statements each month to identify any bad spending trends that are costing you money.
As you develop better spending habits, it will become easier and easier to save money and feel more in control of your finances. Keep coming back to this list for new money-saving ideas and to make sure you’re doing what you can to achieve your financial goals.
Logan is a practicing CPA and founder of Choice Tax Relief and Money Done Right. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.