Do you ever think about how nice it would be to save more money? Or to spend less money? Or both? Think about how your life would be if you had thousands — or even millions — of dollars in savings.
What kind of freedom would that offer you? How would that change your outlook on your job? How would that change your ability to help others?
What would you do if you were truly financially free due to a massive savings account balance? How would that change your career path? Would it help you be able to consider some dream careers?
I’m going to share a list of many different ways you can save money. Some involve learning to spend less. Some involve hidden tricks to saving more. Both get you the same result: more money in the bank.
Interested? Let’s go!
Table of Contents
- Top Ways to Save Money
- Save Money on Housing
- 5. Don’t Spend as Much as Your Mortgage Rep Says You Can
- 6. Plan Ahead for Large Expenses
- 7. Be Mindful of Water Usage
- 8. Save Money on Heating and Air Conditioning
- 9. Spend Less on Housing Repairs
- 10. Rent Out Rooms in Your House
- 11. Find a Cheaper Apartment
- 12. Be an Apartment Manager
- 13. Trade Work for a Rent Reduction
- Save on Transportation
- Cut Your Grocery Bill
- Save Money on Entertainment
- Save on Health Expenses
- Save Money Raising Kids
Top Ways to Save Money
When I first started reading personal finance blogs, I was in a desperate place. I had no savings and thousands of dollars’ worth of consumer debt.
What was worse is that I had no idea how we had gotten into that much debt. We weren’t going on vacations. We didn’t shop at high-end stores.
I assumed the problem was that we didn’t make enough money. After all, we were a family of six making well below $100,000 a year. That certainly wasn’t enough to survive on, right?
After months of (and still continuing) education, I realized there was a lot we were doing wrong with our money. I didn’t think we could spend less, but soon found out we could spend much less.
Here are some ways you may be able to save more money by spending less. I’m going to start with four tips that might throw you off a bit.
This is because they’re more about the mind than the money. However, they will establish a foundation in you that will very likely affect how you handle money. Ready?
1. Start Spend Tracking
I always tell people that spend tracking literally changed my financial life. Yes, I know it seems like a tedious and boring task that will accomplish little.
But trust me when I tell you it likely will change your life as it did mine. I challenge you to write down everything you spend for 30 days.
Now, you can’t change your spending habits for the sake of the challenge. Just spend as you normally do, but write everything down.
I’m old-fashioned and use an Excel spreadsheet to track my family’s daily spending. If that seems like too much work, you might want to get Empower’s free financial software.
It will track your spending for you, help you keep track of your net worth and more. Here’s what spend tracking did for me: It helped me see the truth about our family’s spending.
You see, we had frittered away a few dollars at a time until it mounted into tens of thousands of dollars in consumer debt. We were living above our means. But because we weren’t tracking our spending we assumed it was an income problem.
Once we started tracking spending we saw dozens and dozens of seemingly-insignificant purchases that added up to hundreds of dollars every month.
Hundreds turned into thousands over time, all because we were making forgettable little purchases.
You may be experiencing the same thing. It’s tough to remember all of those small daily purchases you make. Spend tracking will give you a fast glance at your monthly spending.
This big picture look will give you the information you need to re-evaluate your purchases. That evaluation will help you with money saving tip #2.
2. Start Thinking About Your Purchases from a Value Based Perspective
I’m a big believer that good money management has quite a bit to do with mindset. If you can train your mind to think of money differently, you can learn to handle money better.
Once I started tracking our family’s purchases, I saw that we were making many small, insignificant purchases. The problem was that the small purchases were adding up to big debt.
Then I learned about value based spending. Value based spending involves analyzing your purchases to determine if they’re really worth it to you.
A Value Based Spending Example
For instance, let’s say you make $20 an hour. One night after work you stop and get $20 worth of Taco Bell for the family for dinner.
You know you could’ve made dinner for $5 at home, but you’re tired and it’s late. In a value based spending world, you would’ve stopped before you made that purchase.
And you would’ve asked yourself one question: Is this purchase worth me working an extra hour? Then you would’ve followed up with other questions.
Like asking yourself if there was a way you could better spend that money. A way that’s more in line with your financial goals.
There’s no right or wrong answer with value based spending. Only you can decide which purchases are worth the effort you put in to make the money to spend on them.
However, by knowing the answer to whether or not a purchase brings true value to your life, you can cut out non-value based purchases.
In my family’s case, we realized that random drive-thru runs and snack purchases weren’t of value to us. And we were making far too many of them for convenience’s sake.
Considering whether a purchase is worth your hard-earned cash before you make it will get you thinking differently about expenditures. Another example is how much we spend on cell phones. Nowadays there are great options on prepaid services versus contracts.
If you decide to switch you cell phone provider, just know that it can be possible to cancel your cell phone plan without paying fees.
And a value based spending mindset will be even more motivating if you precede it with this next step.
3. Make a List of Your Financial Goals
Have you ever made a list of your financial goals? Do you have any idea what your financial goals are? Many people don’t.
Instead, they just work to make it through the month, pay the bills and hopefully be left with something in the bank.
Yet having a list of financial goals can help give you a big picture perspective on your money. I recommend having a list of short, medium and long-term financial goals.
Short-term financial goals are goals you can accomplish in a year or less. Medium-term financial goals are goals you can accomplish in one to five years.
Long-term financial goals are goals that will take you five years or longer to accomplish. Here are some examples of short-, medium- and long-term goals that may help you create your own goals list.
Short-Term Financial Goal Ideas
- Pay off credit card with a $1,000 balance
- Save up $3,000 for a vacation
- Put $2,000 in an emergency fund
Medium-Term Financial Goals
- Pay off all consumer debt
- Save up $15,000 to buy a new-to-me car
- Establish an emergency fund containing six months’ worth of expenses
Long-Term Financial Goals
- Pay off mortgage in 10 years
- Save $1 million in retirement funds in 20 years
- Save $100,000 to fund kid’s college expenses in 15 years
You get the idea. Just take a few hours one afternoon to think about what’s really important to you. What really matters to you as far as money is concerned?
Is it being debt free? Being financial independent? Having enough cash to pay for your kid’s college education?
Only you can decide which financial goals matter most to you. But once you do you’ll have a driving force helping you to make value-based spending decisions.
That driving force will go a long way in motivating you to spend less money and save more money.
4. Save Money by Living With a Budget
The fourth part of the mindset money game involves living with a monthly budget. You’ve got your spend tracking plan in place.
You’ve learned about value based spending. And you’ve made a list of financial goals that matter to you.
Learning how to create and live on a written budget every month will help you reach those goals. A budget will help you establish a foundation that will direct your spending.
I used to think of budgets as restricting. I hated the idea of having a piece of paper that dictated how I could spend — and how I couldn’t.
But it wasn’t long before I came to realize that what a budget really gives you is freedom. A budget gives you a plan for your spending that will ensure you really do reach your financial goals.
It’s like your money’s BFF — always there for you to help you take another step toward a great financial life.
If you’ve already got that down, head over to get Well Kept Wallet’s free starter budget form and make your budget.
Next, we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of saving money. We’ll talk about all of the little tips and tricks you can use to save more cash.
Save Money on Housing
Housing is one of the biggest expenses a person or family can have. Here are some ways you can save money on housing.
5. Don’t Spend as Much as Your Mortgage Rep Says You Can
I worked for a national mortgage company for five years. I can tell you that they often approve people for mortgage payments that are quite high for their income.
When you start thinking about buying a home one of the first things you should do is get pre-approved for a mortgage.
Do yourself a favor and don’t spend as much as your mortgage rep says you can. You’ll appreciate the extra wiggle room in your budget during tight money months.
6. Plan Ahead for Large Expenses
One way home ownership can get really costly is due to repairs. Roofs, furnaces and siding can be quite expensive to repair and/or replace.
Don’t get stuck having to put large housing repairs on a credit card. Instead, sock away a bit of cash each month in a savings account designated for home repairs.
Just make the monthly amount a part of your budget and have the money automatically deposited to the savings account.
That way when the big expenses come, you’ll have the cash and won’t be forced to get into debt.
Another way to save money on housing is to keep an eye on utility usage.
Running water with reckless abandon, insisting on perfectly comfy house temps and leaving lights on in unused rooms will cost you money.
Take a hint from your parents and start being mindful of utility usage. Here are some tips to help you save money in that area.
7. Be Mindful of Water Usage
Turn the water off when you brush your teeth. Run the water with less force when you’re doing dishes.
Set the clothes washer water level to the size of the load you’re washing. Don’t water your grass if it’s forecasted to rain during the week.
Install low-flow toilets and shower heads. All of these little moves can add up to big savings on your water bill.
8. Save Money on Heating and Air Conditioning
Energy bills can be high when you own a home. Here are some tips for saving money on energy.
Turn the heat down (or the AC up) when it’s night time or when you’re gone for the day. Make sure to turn lights off if no one is in the room.
Keep shades open in the winter to allow sun to heat the house. Keep shades down in the summer to help the house stay cool.
Have an energy specialist come and evaluate your home for energy leaks. Many energy companies will do this for free.
Little moves that decrease utility usage will add up to big savings over the long haul.
9. Spend Less on Housing Repairs
We’ve already talked about the importance of saving up for housing repairs. There are also ways you can spend less on house repairs when they do come.
For instance, consider doing repair or remodel jobs yourself. Little jobs like fixing faucet leaks or replacing a linoleum floor can be easy with a little training.
Check out YouTube videos or visit your local home improvement store for instructions on making smaller repairs yourself.
If you have to hire out for a repair, get recommendations from friends and do comparison shopping. Don’t spend any more than you have to in order to get the job done right.
10. Rent Out Rooms in Your House
Another way to save money on housing is to rent out rooms in your house. You can rent them out all year around and have roommates that will pay money to use spare bedrooms.
Or, you can use Airbnb to rent rooms out to business and leisure travelers. You can choose how and when to rent out rooms in your house with Airbnb.
Check out this article on how our friends Steve and Annette make over $1,000 a month renting out with Airbnb.
Are you a renter? Don’t worry. There are ways you can save money on housing costs as well.
Related Article: 15 Best Places To Hide Money Around Your Home
11. Find a Cheaper Apartment
If you’re spending more than you’d like on your rented apartment or home, check around for cheaper places. Use Craigslist or other venues to see if there are nearby places renting for less.
12. Be an Apartment Manager
Some apartment complexes will allow tenants to live in an apartment for free if they’ll take on some management duties.
Those duties sometimes involve helping other tenants with basic problems. You might have to call the repair service for a leaky faucet.
Or you might have to help a tenant replace a lost key. Management duties vary with each rental property but they can all save you money on rent.
13. Trade Work for a Rent Reduction
If you rent a single family home, your landlord might give you a rent reduction for work performed on the property. For instance, you might be able to get a discount on your rent if you mow the lawn each week.
Or, you could get a discount for performing basic remodeling or repair, such as painting. Talk with your landlord about options for doing so.
Next, we’ll talk about ways to save money on transportation.
Save on Transportation
Transportation is a must-have in most areas. However, there are ways you can save money on transportation. Here are some ideas.
14. Don’t Fall for the New Car Lure
Car dealerships and banks make it tempting to get a new car every few years. They lure you with new and shiny vehicles and 0% financing.
But even if you get a 0% loan, you’ll still have a large payment looming over your head each month. And your new car loses value the moment you drive it off the lot. Consider buying a reliable used car and paying cash instead.
As someone who’s been without a car payment for several years now, I can tell you that it’s a wonderfully peaceful way to live.
15. Use These Great Ideas to Save Money on Getting to Work
Most everyone has to work, and that means transportation of some sort is a necessity. However, you might be able to save money by finding alternative methods of transportation.
For instance, you could carpool with someone who lives nearby. Or you could take the bus. If you live close enough you might be able to walk or bike to work.
Another idea: See if your boss will let you work from home a day or two a week. Then you don’t have to drive in to work at all on those days.
16. Live in a Walkable Community
Walkable communities are those where many everyday things you need are within walking distance. The grocery store, the library and the local doctor are all located within a couple of miles from your home.
Many communities today are being planned to make walking a viable transportation option for residents. If you don’t live in a walkable community, consider moving to one if it makes sense for you. One bonus is that walking will help keep you in shape for free.
Food is another big expense for people and families. Here are some ideas for saving money on groceries.
Cut Your Grocery Bill
There are several ways you can save money on groceries at home. These tips can work whether you’re living the single life or raising kids.
According to the USDA, the average family of four spends between $644 and $1284 on groceries each month.
As a mom of four kids, my grocery budget never exceeds $600 a month. Here are some tips on how I reduce my grocery costs and how you can too.
17. Use a Menu Plan
One of the ways I save big money on groceries is by creating a weekly menu plan. I decide on seven dinners for the week. Then I shop for the ingredients I need to buy to make those dinners.
Lastly, I add breakfast and lunch foods to my grocery list. Making a weekly menu plan will help ensure you never end up ordering takeout because there’s nothing to eat in the house.
18. Create a List of Cheap Meals
I try to spend an average of $5 on dinners each night. Some nights we have expensive dinners like steak. Some nights we have super cheap meals like buttered noodles with veggies.
Creating a target dollar amount for meals will help you to keep your grocery budget low yet still have more extravagant meals on occasion.
19. Grow Your Own Food
If it’s possible, grow a garden in your yard or participate in a community garden. Vegetable seeds are very cheap, and the yield return is often very high.
20. Buy Local
Buying from local farmers markets and farmers can help you save money on groceries as well. For instance, we buy our beef from a local farmer here.
We usually buy a quarter of a cow at a time and pay $4.50 a pound for grass fed beef.
That’s much less expensive than what we’d pay for grass fed beef at the market.
21. Buy In Bulk (When it Makes Sense)
Buying in bulk at warehouse clubs can save you a lot of money — sometimes. There are two key questions will help you determine if warehouse clubs make sense for you.
The first is whether or not you’ll use the quantity of food you’re buying. The second is whether the money you’ll save on food and other items at the club makes up for the cost of the membership.
I’d suggest doing a one-year test run at your local warehouse club, or a trial membership if it’s offered. In my personal research I’ve found warehouse clubs seem to be most cost-efficient for larger families.
22. Be Mindful of Food Waste
The USDA estimates food waste at between 30% and 40% of the U.S. food supply. That’s a lot of money going into landfills.
You can save money by following these tips to cut down on food waste in your home:
- Use leftovers by eating them at lunch or using them for the next night’s dinner
- Prepare smaller meals
- Make a weekly menu plan so you’re only buying what you’ll use
- Don’t buy things your family doesn’t like to eat
- Have a leftover night once a week to clear the fridge of leftovers
Cutting down on food waste could save you hundreds of dollars each month. Next, we’ll cover some ways to save money on entertainment costs.
Save Money on Entertainment
Do you spend a lot of money on entertainment such as trips to the theater and eating out? Here are some ways to have fun for less.
23. Have Movie Nights at Home
Cut down on trips to your local movie theater and have movie nights at home instead. Turn down the lights, pop some popcorn and hit the couch with your favorite flick. It’s a whole lot cheaper than visiting the theater.
24. Find Free Ways to Entertain Yourselves
There are many ways to have fun for free. Here are some ideas:
- Go for a bike ride
- Take a hike at a state or county park
- See a free concert in the city
- Google “free things to do in” followed by your city’s name
- Get together with friends for a BBQ or potluck
- Play card games or board games with loved ones
- Go for a walk
- Create a triathlon for family and friends
If you’re willing to get creative, you can do many things for free. You can even go to a restaurant where kids eat for free if you want to go out and stay on budget. Next, let’s move on to ways to save money on your health.
Save on Health Expenses
Try out these tips for saving money on taking care of your health. You might be surprised at how much money you can save.
25. Focus on Prevention
As with most things, prevention is often cheaper than the cure. Get your annual doctor, dentist and vision check ups. Avoid activities or habits that are known to be harmful to your health. Some examples are smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
Exercise regularly and eat plenty of green veggies. Be conservative about consumption of sugar and processed foods. Take good care of your health to help prevent costly medical expenses.
26. Contribute to a Health Savings Account
If you’re eligible, consider making regular contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA). A Health Savings Account involves saving pre-tax money that can be used to pay for medical procedures and products.
For instance, you can use HSA monies to buy contact solution. Talk to your employer for more information on HSAs. Note that you must have a high-deductible health plan in order to be eligible for an HSA.
27. Work Out for Free
Instead of spending money on a costly gym membership, consider working out for free. Design a workout plan you can do at home. Or walk, run or bike on local paths or at nearby parks.
Workout to exercise shows you find on TV, or buy a DVD set that focuses on your favorite exercises. Exercise with a friend or loved one to make working out for free more enticing.
Now let’s talk about some ideas for saving money while raising kids.
Save Money Raising Kids
There’s not much debating the fact that raising kids can be expensive. Here are some ideas for spending less as you raise your children.
28. Be Choosy About Extracurricular Activities
Instead of enrolling your child in every available extracurricular activity, be choosy. Let them choose one or two activities each year that are important to them.
Doing so will help you save money as well as time.
29. Get Creative About Clothing Expenses
It can be tempting to buy expensive name-brand clothing for your kids. When your kids get to be teens they might insist on it. Consider the following options for saving money on kids’ clothes.
- Buy used at thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, eBay or other sites
- Get clothing at the end of the season on clearance and buy a size too big
- Consider working at your child’s favorite clothing store to get a store discount
This article on the Best Places to Sell Clothes Online will show you where you can buy and sell used clothes to save money.
30. Plan Ahead for College Expenses
One of the most expensive costs associated with having kids is that of college expenses. Here are some ways you can save money on college costs.
- Research several colleges to find the most cost-effective choice
- Save money for college in a 529 College Savings Plan
- Have your child attend a community college the first two years
31. Implement a Challenge-Everything Budget
Using a challenge-everything budget can be a great way to spend a lot less money.
The concept is simple: You take every line item in your monthly budget and find a way to reduce or eliminate that expense.
See our article on The Challenge-Everything Budget to see how this revolutionary budget plan can get you more money each month.
I hope some of these simple ideas to save money will help you improve your financial situation. With a little creativity there are a lot of ways to save more money.