How to Save Money – My Top Money Saving Tips

How to save moneyEveryone wants and needs to know how to save money. Young or old, single or married, how to save money is an important topic for anyone who cares about their financial future.

So today I thought I would write about all the different ways that I have found to save money. And after doing a couple of hours of research online, I came up with over 50 different ways to save money. That’s money you can use to pay off debts, put towards your freedom fund, or save for a down payment on your house.

Although I’m not a big fan of budgeting per se, saving money is a huge part of making sure you are financially successful and can live a rich life on your terms.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

How to Save Money – My Best Money Saving Tips Top 20 List

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Notice that this is the “beginner’s list” of how to save money. I will expand and clean up this list over time. But for now, here are the top 20 things you can do to start saving money, today.

Ditch Cable

When my wife and I first thought about ditching cable, we were both very nervous about the idea (she more than me). I mean, how in the world would we be able to watch our favorite shows on HBO? (Back then you couldn’t get HBO without cable).

But we cut the cord and switched to Hulu ($11.99 per month) and Netflix ($9.99 per month). And so we could watch live television, I bought an HD antenna for $35. At the time, cable was costing us around $100 per month. Total Savings = $80 per month

Negotiate Your Insurance Bills

This is something I actually have yet to do. Not because I don’t want to, but because I just found the idea when researching for this post. The two big areas that are the ripest for savings are your car insurance and your homeowner’s insurance bills.

Currently, both of our services are through USAA and we are spending approximately $120 per month. After I have had a chance to shop around, I will report back on our savings here.

Switch your Cell Phone Service

This is another idea that my Wife is actively investigating. Many cell phone carriers offer significant benefits to switch services, including free phones and discounted rates. There are also services that offer month-to-month contracts, and local carriers with even bigger discounts.

We are looking at several options right now and will update with more information. But in the meantime, you should also look to see if there are more affordable options in your local area.

Eat Out Less

This goes without saying. If you eat out less, you will save money. I’m not a big fan of brown-bagging, but my office is 7 minutes from my house, so I will come home to eat on days that I don’t have a lunch appointment. If you live farther from work, then you may not have that option.

Start by packing a lunch once a week. Assuming the average lunch costs around $12-15 (I don’t do fast food – which arguably is cheaper but much less healthy), then you are immediately saving yourself between $50-60 per month.

Do More Outside

There are so many activities you can do outside that don’t cost any money at all. These include hiking, running, camping, taking the dog for a walk, etc. So if you are looking to figure out how to save money, enjoying the fresh air and doing things outside is definitely a great option.

Getting outside is not only financially healthy for you – it will also provide health benefits as your body breathes in fresh oxygen and not recycled air.

Stop Unhealthy Habits… like Smoking

It’s amazing to me in this day and age that this item even needs to be on this list. I recently hired a woman to come work for me. But on her first day, I noticed that she was a smoker. I told her that she needed to decide between smoking and working for me. Surprisingly, she chose smoking which pretty much blew my mind.

It’s a terrible, dirty, smelly, EXPENSIVE habit. Do yourself a favor and just quit.

Use a Water Filter Instead of Bottled Water

Bottled water is not only expensive, but the plastic bottles are terrible for the environment. Assuming you are lucky enough to live in the United States or another developed nation with access to tap water, spend a few bucks on a water filter. Over time, the cost savings vs. buying bottled water is huge.

Sell old CD’s, DVD’s, Books, Games, etc.

There are several online services available to sell old tech stuff through. Since I’ve never used any of them, I’m not going to comment on the pros and cons here.

Better yet, you could donate these items to charity and receive a nice tax write-off, while at the same time decluttering your house!

Trade in Your Car for Something More Affordable

If you are currently sitting on a huge loan payment that you cringe at each month, it might be time to trade in that car for something more affordable.

Back when I first started law school, I was driving a Honda Civic that I was paying $330 per month on (don’t ask me how I remember that, I guess I’m good with numbers). But I knew that I couldn’t afford to pay for that car while I was in law school. So I did what any responsible student would do, I sold it and took $3,000 that I received to buy a used Jeep Wrangler. It was a car that I had always wanted, plus I no longer had a car payment.

Win-win.

If you are in a similar situation, I recommend that you consider selling your car or trading it in. Selling a car privately can save you a ton of money – I’ve done it three times and will write about my technique in a future post.

Refinance Your Student Loans

If you are paying more than 5% on your student loans, and you have more than one unsubsidized private loan, then you may want to consider consolidating those loans into one loan with a lower payment and smaller interest rate.

I’m in the process of researching loan consolidation companies and will be providing a recommended resource in the coming weeks. This is a great strategy for the right person who is looking at how to save money.

Pack Your Lunch for Work

As I mentioned above, I’m not a huge fan of packing my lunch for work for a couple reasons. First, I work in (currently) a windowless office by myself. I need the stimulation that comes from getting outside, breathing fresh air, and just going someplace for 30 minutes to an hour.

Second, I meet a lot of potential referral sources for lunches outside of the office. For that reason, on many days my lunch would go wasted.

But that is just me. Instead of packing my lunch, I will typically just drive home and eat there. Since I only live 7 minutes, door-to-door, from my office, it’s not a huge deal. But for other people, driving home is not an option and brown-bagging it is a great way to save a lot of money every month.

Pay off Your Credit Card Bill In Full Each Month

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but paying off your credit card will save you a tremendous amount of money in interest charges. Typically you will get a grace period from when you get your credit card bill until the bill is due. If you don’t pay the bill in full by the due date, then you will incur a “finance charge”.

If you don’t have the self-control to limit your spending to an amount that you can pay off each month, then don’t use your credit card – use a debit card (or cash) instead.

Alternatively, you could call your credit card company and ask them to reduce your spending limit. But be aware that this could put a short term hit on your credit score.

Drink More Water

Drinking water is healthy. An adult should drink ½ of their body weight in ounces of water each day. Sugary drinks such as soda are not only expensive, but they are also bad for your body. You can get water for free from your tap (consider purchasing a water filter), and most offices have a water cooler that you can use to refill your water bottle as well.

Make Sure You Have a Free Checking Account

If you are paying for a checking account, you are doing something wrong. I’ll be doing another post shortly that compares the different free checking accounts that are available to you.

Most banks provide a free option – but sometimes you much have a direct deposit linked to your account or require some other contingency to waive the monthly fee. Check with your bank to see how you can get a free checking account if you are currently paying a maintenance fee.

Take the Family Camping

Here’s the thing with kids – they don’t care how much money you spend on them, they care that you spend TIME with them. And what is more fun than a weekend away at a campground?

Kids LOVE that stuff – I know my kids do at least. Next time you decide to go away for a weekend with the family, save the money you would spend on a hotel room and invest in a family-sized tent. Take your family to a campground close somewhere near where you live and have some fun outside.

In fact, you may not even need to purchase a tent. There are state parks within an hour of our house that have cabins that can be rented for as little at $10 a night.

Get Books from the Library

Growing up, my Mom used to always have a book on reserve from the library. They were all typically Danielle Steel novels, but that’s what she enjoyed.

The library is a wealth of information, all available to you for free.

Turn the Lights Out When You Leave a Room

Did anyone else have a parent that used to yell at them for leaving the lights on when they left a room? Or my personal favorite, moving the thermostat beyond the limit my Mother had imposed (with a black line written in sharpy on the thermostat).

Even though you still must turn off lights when you leave a room, you can use a programmable thermostat to keep the kids from turning the heat on too high or the air conditioning down too low.

Purchase a FastPass if you live somewhere with a toll road and you can’t avoid the tolls

We try to avoid the toll roads when at all possible, but sometimes you have to take them. And if you do, you should purchase a “FastPass” and not only can you breeze through the tolls, you will also pay less than drivers who don’t have a Fast Pass.

Move your office out of the city (parking is free and you could bike to work)
Most people can’t control where their office is because they are working for someone else. But if you own your own business, consider moving closer to home next time your lease is up (if this is an option for you).

Not only will you save money on gas and parking (which can get expensive in the city), but you may even be able to bike to work on nice days.

Refinance your mortgage

This one gets tricky. Refinancing your mortgage assumes that you will (1) be staying in your house for the foreseeable future (more than 5 years) and (2) that the cost to refinance is less than the amount of interest charges you will save over the next 5-10 years of loan payments. Also, if you only have 15-20 years left on your mortgage, you may not want to refinance for another 30-year loan.

If you can afford the payment on a 20-year mortgage, you will save even more money in interest charges. In general, the shorter the loan term, the lower the interest rate. Do NOT refinance for an additional 30-year mortgage just because you can save a few bucks each month.

However, if you are paying private mortgage insurance (aka PMI), then refinancing may be one way to get rid of that payment. This is just another factor to consider.

Add a small amount to your monthly payment to pay off your mortgage

While we are talking about mortgages, here are a couple of tips to paying off your mortgage faster. First, consider adding a small amount to your mortgage payment each month, say $10 or $20. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but over the course of a 30-year loan, it will add up.

Next, you could split your mortgage into two payments. Pay ½ of your payment in the middle of the month prior to the due date and the remaining ½ on the due date.

Finally, make one extra mortgage payment each year. If you have a $250,000 mortgage at 4.5% interest, by making an extra mortgage payment each year you will save almost $28,000 in interest over the life of the loan, as well as shorten your loan by almost 5 years!

Here is a handy online calculator to help you figure out how much you could save by making extra payments on your mortgage.

Other Ways to Save Money

Here is a full list of the remaining ways I’ve found to save money every day. I’ll be expanding on these items, adding more items to the list, and refining this list over time.

  1. Don’t pay ATM fees – if you can, switch to an online bank that will reimburse you
  2. Stop buying “food” that comes in a box
  3. Find Free Things to Do in Your City
  4. Use Money Saving Apps like Digit
  5. Establish a Budget
  6. Set up an Automatic Savings Plan
  7. Take Advantage of Employer Matching for your 401(k)
  8. Save Your Loose Change in a Jar Every Night
  9. Use the 24 Hour Rule before making any large Purchases
  10. Check your credit report for free each year
  11. Automate your bills
  12. Designate one day a week as a “no spend” day
  13. Comparison shop for prescription drugs
  14. Stop collecting and start selling
  15. Make a list before you go shopping, and stick to it
  16. It doesn’t cost a lot to entertain your kids
  17. Negotiate with your credit card company or transfer your balance
  18. Install a programmable thermostat
  19. Get out and exercise
  20. Review your recurring expenses and cut anything you haven’t used in 60 days
  21. Declutter your life
  22. Cook at home
  23. Purchase term life insurance
  24. Buy a more fuel efficient car
  25. Cancel subscriptions that you don’t use
  26. Eat a healthy breakfast
  27. Fix things yourself
  28. Pay down your debts
  29. Read more books
  30. Start a blog
  31. Always ask for fees to be waived
  32. Become a Vegan or Vegetarian – It costs less than eating meat

What Ideas Do You have for How to Save Money?

Please drop a comment below and let me know your favorite way to save money. I will continue compiling new ideas and adding them to this list on a regular basis.