With the economy in the doldrums, and unemployment reaching highs not seen in decades, people are hurting all over the country. With reduced incomes comes the necessity to cut back and get by with less, to reduce, re-use and recycle the things we have.
Today I thought I'd put together a nice long list of easy ways to save money every month on recurring expenses, on money leaks and on just about everything else. So let's get started.
NOTE: Don't forget to check out our post on 50 Ways To Make Money
Table of Contents
Save On Recurring Expenses
One of the first places people should be looking to save money are on the big recurring expenses that we all have every month. Let's look at a few places you can save.
- Cell phone bill: JD Powers reports that the average annual wireless phone bill is $1,152, or about $96 a month. Why pay that much when you can get a great smartphone via a pre-paid wireless provider for hundreds less every year. My wife pays $35/month or $420 a year for unlimited data and 300 minutes every month. That's a savings of $732 over the average! There is also a new company called FreedomPop that can help you greatly reduce your monthly cell phone bill by purchasing one of their many mobile hotspot options. This way you can ditch part or your entire Smartphone's data plan. They offer 4G only, 3G/4G, and LTE devices at great prices that run on Sprint or ClearWire’s nationwide networks. You will get 500MB’s of free 4G data every month, with the option of higher data plans and 3G or LTE access at a fraction of the cost of other cell phone providers. Save every month on your cell phone bill with FreedomPop here. Find out how to do it on our post showing how to save on your cell phone bill.
- Home phone: Some people will cancel their home phone service altogether in favor of either cell phone service only, resulting in savings of hundreds per year. Of course if you still need a phone you can go with internet telephone service instead, which often costs much less. We switched to a service called Ooma. Ooma was easy to setup, and it only costs about $4.50/month in taxes in our area. That's a big savings over the $43/month we were paying before. If you need to have a land-line for a home security system or something along those lines, consider canceling extra options on your phone like voicemail, call waiting and caller id to save on things you don't need or use.
- Internet service: Try switching your internet service to another provider in order to take advantage of new subscriber deals or promotions. Switch from one internet type to another – DSL to cable or fiber-optic internet. Switching can often get you great initial deals, and then you can hop providers to get another great deal when the promotion ends. FreedomPop is also a great way to reduce your monthly internet costs. The offer both home and mobile devices at a much lower cost than the “big boys” of the industry. With their home internet, the Hub Burst, you can get faster-than-DSL speeds and 10GB’s of data for $18.99 per month. They also offer cheaper 10GB plans if you don’t require the fastest speeds. Check out ways to save with FreedomPop here. Also consider bundling your services like phone, internet and TV to save.
- TV and entertainment: there are a variety of ways to save on your TV and entertainment costs. First, you can switch cable providers from one to the other to get in on a promotional offer. If that doesn't work you can always cut the cord altogether, and save a ton by setting up a home entertainment system using streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and other free content providers.
- Utilities: Often there aren't a ton of ways to save on your local utilities whether it is electric, garbage, gas or other services. Quite often you only have one utility option to work with. What you can do is cut back on how much you use the services to limit costs. Turn the temp up in the summer, and down in the winter to save on electric costs. Use a programmable thermostat. When you're not using something, turn it off or unplug it. Turn the water heater down to 112 degrees and don't run the dishwasher or laundry every time you've got a small load. Look for energy leaks in your home by getting a home energy audit, and find ways to maintain your home to cut costs – like cleaning your AC condensor coils or changing furnace filters regularly.
- Insurance: Shop around to find the best rates on your insurance whether it's auto, home, life or other types of insurance. The last time I switched auto insurance I was horrified to learn I was overpaying to the tune of around $1000/year, for the same coverage. That's a lot of wasted money! Switching homeowners insurance also saved us a ton.
- Gas: There are quite a few ways that you can save on gas. Do things like carpool, buy at the cheapest local gas station (use an app like GasBuddy to find it), fill up at a local warehouse club, take advantage of gas coupons via local grocery stores and use cash back credit or debtit cards that can help you save anywhere from 1-5% of gas. Of course, you can also just drive smart and limit your quick starts and stops, and keep to smooth acceleration.
- Prescriptions: One of the quickest ways to save on your prescriptions is just to make sure that you buy the generic version of your regular prescriptions. Other things to do include shopping around at different pharmacies for lower costs, getting samples from your doctor or buying your prescriptions in larger quantities to save.
- Property taxes: Sometimes you can appeal your property taxes if you believe the appraisal they've given your home is incorrect. We saved several hundred dollars by appealing our property taxes one year.
- Refinance your mortgage: While lending restrictions have tightened, if you're able you can get some amazing rates right now and save hundreds on your mortgage every month.
- Remove mortgage insurance: A lot of folks are paying hundreds of dollars a year on mortgage insurance if they didn't put down at least 20% when they bought their home. If you are one of those folks, and you've recently reached the magical 80/20 loan to value ratio, ask your mortgage provider if they will remove the insurance from your monthly payment.
- Online bill pay: Try paying you bills online instead of mailing in a check. It can save you $50-60/year depending on how many monthly bills you have.
- Gym memberships: You can save on a gym membership by taking advantage of health plan discounts, or by setting up your own home gym.
Save On Money Leaks
There are times when money just tends to leak away because we've always spent money somewhere without thinking about it, or because there are hidden costs that we didn't even realize were there. Here are a few to be aware of, or to look for in your own house.
- Buying coffee on your way to work: I'm extremely guilty of this one. I tend to just spend money on coffee on my way to work several times a week. I've recently started cutting back on this and instead buying great micro-roasted coffee to make at home instead, and it saves a ton of money.
- Hobby spending: Do you collect comic books, leather-bound volumes of great literary works or play a ton of video games? Whatever your hobby, you can often spend a ton of money every month on buying the latest and best associated with your hobby. You don't need to cut it out completely, but cutting back on how much you can spend can save, and you'll have more money for other things.
- Bank fees: Avoiding overdraft fees, other network ATM fees and other assorted bank fees shouldn't be too hard, but it's a problem for a lot of people. To save make sure you're reconciling your accounts regularly, and make sure that you always know how much money you have by using a personal finance tool like Mint.com.
- Buying things for others: If you're naturally a giver like my wife, you may have a tendency to overspend on gifts for other people. It feels good to give gifts to people, but we can easily over-do it. Instead try your hand at giving more creative and frugal gifts, or giving the gift of time or an experience with your friend or family member.
- Paying full price: There's no excuse for paying full price for things when there are sites like RetailMeNot.com, Ebates and FatWallet.com to give you coupons, discounts, rebates and more. Just last night my family and I got one of our pizzas for free when we used a coupon we found online. Make sure to do your research and do a quick search and find discounts on the things you buy.
- Unused credit card rewards: A lot of people have credit card rewards saved up that never get used. Things like points for trips, cash back savings and points to get gift cards and more. Make sure that if you're going to use one of these cards, that you actually use the rewards.
- Unused gift cards: People will get gift cards for birthdays and holidays, but then they sit in a drawer, in a purse or in a wallet without being used. Don't forget to use those gift cards, or at least sell it online and get some money out of it! Otherwise you're spending money you don't need to!
- Missed tax deductions: When it comes to tax time a lot of people miss out on savings because they didn't take deductions that they were entitled to. For example, they don't take deductions for charity donations. Instead, make sure to keep track of your deductions using a tool like It's Deductible, and save on your taxes!
- Eating out too much: At our house our dining out budget is one of our biggest problem areas. Just by cutting the number times we eat out in half can save us hundreds! When you do eat out, don't forget to use coupons and discounts!
- Getting drinks: When you eat out or go out with friends your bar tab can quickly get out of hand. Instead of drinking all night, stay in control, and only get one or two drinks. Or just get water!
- Not taking advantage of available discounts: Sometimes people forget to take advantage of discounts that are available for products and services through their employer or other avenues. For example, many employer health plans have discounts available on gym memberships if you go to the gym a certain number of times every month. Take advantage!
- Paying a bill despite being overcharged: Make sure to keep track of your monthly bills and know what you're paying for. Often unknown charges can sneak into your statement if you're not paying attention. I recently discovered an erroneous increase of $5/month on my satellite TV bill. After complaining to their support repeatedly, they reversed the charges.
- Having too much coverage and high premiums: Some people have too much coverage when it comes to insurance of one type or another when they could easily get by with a lesser plan with higher deductibles. Cut your premiums by getting less coverage, and accepting higher deductibles.
- Buying brand names: Quite often people will buy brand names just because they have always done that. In reality the generic brand is often just as good or even better than the brand name item.
- Buy less of things that spoil: When buying groceries think about what types of things tend to go bad at your house, or that end up spoiling before you eat them. Buy less of that item, or cut it out all together.
- Candy from the vending machine: There are times during the workday that you get hungry and just HAVE to go and buy something from the vending machine. If you're doing this every day, however, it can add up – and take a toll on your health. Instead buy some of your own tasty and healthy snacks to stock up on at work.
- Impulse buys: If you're one of those people who likes to buy things on impulse, rein yourself in and make a rule that you can only buy something after a waiting period of at least 24 hours, if not longer like 30 days.
- Allowing too much money to sit idle in your checking: At times I've been guilty of allowing too much cash to build up in my checking, instead of investing it or putting it in a higher yielding savings account. Put your money to work!
- Buying DVDs, video games or books: One thing I used to do quite a bit was to buy DVDs of movies that I never ended up watching, or buying a ton of books that I never read more than once. Instead of buying, rent or stream the movies you want to watch, rent video games and get books or ebooks from your local library!
- Not figuring out why a bill has gone up: Sometimes a bill may increase, but you just accept it. Instead, figure out why your utility bill has gone up. Is there a problem with a your water heater? Filter needs replacing? Or did you leave a window open in the unused room upstairs? Ask why.
- Cancel un-needed memberships or subscriptions: If you're subscribed to a magazine but don't read it very often, cancel it. If you've got a membership to a wholesale club but haven't been in two years, cut up the card. Haven't watched a netflix movie in weeks? Put your membership on hold.
Creative Ways To Save
Another thing you can do to save money is to get creative and do things that others may not have thought of doing to save money. Here are a few things I came up with.
- Make your own laundry or dish detergent: My friend Matt over at DIYNatural put together a tutorial on how to make your own laundry detergent or dish soap.
- Re-use old clothes: Find ways to re-use old clothes instead of tossing them. Use old t-shirts to wash your car, use old jeans to make a new purse or bag.
- Make your own gifts: Instead of buying mom that expensive gift, make something from the heart. Think things like a photo collage of shared good times, inexpensive gift basket.
- Grow your own vegetables: Build a square foot garden and grow your own vegetables, cutting down your grocery bill.
- Buy used or re-purpose: Instead of buying things like furniture new, buy it cheap or get it free online through a site like Craigslist. Or re-purpose furniture you already have.
- Ask for a discount: Even if you don't have a coupon or listed savings, ask for a discount – even at places you wouldn't expect. A while ago we saved 10% on our hospital bill just by asking and paying in cash.
- Buy groceries direct from the farmer: Are you near some local farms, or have a farmer's market near you? Try buying fresh veggies – direct from the source.
- Negotiate your rent: Try negotiating your rent to save money by signing a longer lease, pre-paying rent or offering to cut the grass in return for lower rent.
- Buy quality: Buy things for quality, instead of buying the cheapest. In the long run you can save money because you don't have to buy a new item as often.
- Borrow or share things you need: Instead of buying something you need, borrow it from a neighbor, or everyone pitch in and share the item.
- Hang your clothes out to dry: Instead of using a dryer, save by hanging your clothes on a clothesline.
- Cut your own hair: Cut your own hair and you can save a few hundred a year per family!
General Ways To Save
Here are some more ways to save that you may not have thought of.
- Start a budget, stick to it: This may seem like an obvious tip on how to save, but it's something that not a ton of people do. Just keeping track of where your money is going has a tendency to help you realize a lot of areas that you can save.
- Wash your own car: Instead of going to the car wash and spending between $15-30 every time you go, wash your own car!
- Do your own maintenance: If you're handy with all things automotive, change your own oil to save on a trip to the service station. Maintain your own home appliances with help from the internet!
- Stop a bad habit: Are you a smoker? Quit! It's better for your health and will save a ton of money. Drink lots of soda? Stop! Drink more water instead.
- Don't pay for extras: Renting a car? Don't pay for the extra insurance if your own insurance covers it. Going on a flight? Don't pay for first class, but try to get an exit row with extra leg room instead.
- Save by reducing your taxable income: Take advantage of deductions, make deductible contributions to retirement accounts or increase amount sent to flexible spending or health savings accounts.
This list is just the beginning. Saving money can really become a way of life if you want it to be. You just have to be creative, have a reason and a goal for why you're trying to save, and think consciously about the decisions that you're making.
The changes mentioned on this page may seem small when you look at them. The truth is, however, that the small changes listed here can be the basis of your financial security.
Have your own ways to save? Tell us what they are in the comments!