It's easy to see how debt can creep up for many households between credit card debt, mortgage payments, student loans, and car loans. Now, not all debt is bad. For example, most people need to take on a mortgage if they want to own a home, or using debt to start a small business is how many entrepreneurs get their start.
However, if you’re trying to become debt-free or increase your savings rate, that’s a good thing too. Keeping more of your hard-earned money means you’re working towards financial independence. And, by paying off any outstanding debt more quickly, you’re saving money on interest payments in the long run and improving your financial future.
If you’re wondering how to save money to reach your financial goals, you’re also in luck. There are numerous easy ways to save money you can use to improve your finances without negatively impacting your quality of life.
The 10 Easiest Ways to Save Money
It’s easy to think of saving money as being restrictive. But many of the best ways to save money simply involve becoming more aware of your spending habits and making small gradual changes to cut back on spending. To make your life easier and cheaper, we’ve compiled a list of the easiest ways to save money.
1. Track Your Spending
If you’re looking for ways to save money, your first step is to understand where your money is going each month. After all, without a blueprint of your spending, you can’t identify potentially harmful habits that are draining your wallet.
For starters, take an afternoon and review the previous few months of your finances. This means looking through online bank transactions and credit card bills to map out your spending. For each month, group expenses by categories like:
- Vehicle expenses
This is the foundation for your monthly budget. Once you analyze several months of spending, you’ll notice patterns, like spending hundreds of dollars on clothing over the past few months or a grocery bill that’s higher than you thought. It would be best if you decided on a dollar figure you’re comfortable with for each budget category. Once you know how much you can spend per month, it’s time to track your spending so you avoid overspending.
Free personal finance software like Mint lets you do this automatically. You can also use You Need A Budget to create a personalized budget and monitor spending, so you’re living within your means. This might sound complex, but again, apps and budgeting software can take care of the heavy lifting automatically.
Ultimately, tracking your spending is one of the easiest ways to save money and a good foundation of personal finance.
2. Use Coupon & Rebate Apps
In terms of easy ways to save money, coupon and rebate apps are your best friend. There are plenty of apps that provide free coupons or let you earn cash back rewards for shopping at specific brands. These apps ultimately help you save money on categories like groceries, household essentials, cleaning products, and even gas!
Some popular coupon and rebate apps you can use to save include:
None of these apps make a massive difference in your monthly spending. But in aggregate, saving $25 to $50 per month with these apps amounts to hundreds of dollars per year in savings. If you’re a frequent online shopper, then money-saving browser extensions that let you save money by automatically applying coupon codes and earning cash back rewards should be a no-brainer.
The bottom line is that there’s usually some app or extension that can help you avoid paying full-price. Even if it seems like minor savings, your effort to save more money will be worth it over the course of the year.
3. Create a Weekly Meal Plan
According to the USDA, food waste in the United States accounts for approximately 30% to 40% of the annual food supply. In 2010, this resulted in around $161 billion worth of wasted food. Anytime you throw out food, you’re wasting money. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to save money is to avoid this wasteful habit whenever possible.
The best way to accomplish this is to stick to a weekly meal plan to know exactly what you’re cooking and the ingredients you need. This also reduces the risk that you buy products on impulse when shopping. If you like getting creative in the kitchen, create a few weeks of meal plans for your household at a time so you know what to shop for. Alternatively, use free apps like Mealime to create healthy meal plans that suit your dietary preferences and needs.
As long as you steadily reduce your food waste, you can trim your grocery budget and begin saving more money on monthly food costs.
4. Cancel Unused Subscriptions
When was the last time you looked through your bank statements to look for recurring subscriptions? If it’s been several months or more, it’s probably time to look into this area of spending. People forget to cancel subscriptions all the time.
Some common candidates for sneaky subscription bills include:
- Gym memberships
- Streaming packages
- Free trials, especially for things like VPNs that turn into paid subscriptions
- Subscriptions to online magazines and websites
- Patreon subscriptions
There’s nothing wrong with paying for a service if you use and enjoy it. But be honest with yourself and cancel that unused gym membership or streaming plan that rarely sees use.
You can also use apps like Truebill to monitor and cancel unused subscriptions. Truebill can also negotiate lower monthly bills for services like your cellphone, cable, and internet plan to help you save even more.
5. Use a Cash Back Credit Card
For zero-effort ways to save money, nothing really beats cash-back credit cards. The reality is that you should have a cash back credit card in your wallet if you can responsibly use a credit card. You usually earn between 1% to 2% cash back on everyday spending with a cash back credit card. The cash back you earn is redeemable for future statement payments or free gift cards, so you can use your cash back earnings to save on upcoming purchases. Earning 1% to 2% might sound inconsequential, but if you spend $10,000 per year on that card, that’s up to $200 in free money!
Plus, many credit cards offer introductory bonuses, like bonus cash for spending a certain amount within your first three months. Some cards also have rotating cash back rates of 5% or higher on categories like fuel, travel, and dining, so there’s plenty of money on the table.
Again, the only requirement here is to pay off your balance on time to avoid paying interest. Cash back credit cards are one of the best ways to save money, but only if you use them responsibly.
6. Try a No-Spend Challenge
A no-spend challenge is exactly what it sounds like: you’re supposed to avoid spending money for a specific amount of time. Usually, no-spend challenges last for one or two weeks. More ambitious savers can try a no-spend challenge for an entire month. Ultimately, the point is to limit your savings for a set amount of time. You can still spend money on essentials, like rent, utilities, and food. But forget about that upcoming shopping trip or going out for dinner during a no-spend challenge!
These challenges might sound intense, but if you’ve really fallen off track with your monthly spending, a no-spend challenge can really help kickstart your efforts to save more money.
7. Switch to a Cheaper Cell Phone Plan
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017, the average American spent approximately $94 per month on their cell phone plan. That’s around $1,118 per year, just for using your cell phone! So, if you want an easy way to save money, consider cutting back on some of the frills in your cell phone bill. Additionally, don’t be afraid of ditching your current provider for a cheaper (or even free!) cell phone service.
Companies like Mint Mobile have cell phone plans starting at $15 per month that come with unlimited talk and text, nationwide coverage, and 4GB of data. Similarly, Cricket Wireless has a high-speed data plan for $35 per month with auto-pay with unlimited talk and text plus 10GB of data per month.
Just check your existing contract to ensure you don’t pay penalties for ditching your current provider before your contract expires.
8. Save Money on Insurance
Like your phone bill, saving money on insurance is another simple way to reduce your monthly spending. There are also numerous ways to accomplish this. One common strategy is to bundle things like car and home insurance with a single provider since this usually lands you a better rate. If you currently have two separate insurance policies, check with your provider if bundling saves you money.
Alternatively, you can use an online insurance broker to find cheaper insurance policies that suit your needs. For example, Gabi lets you compare home and auto insurance rates from over 40 insurance providers to find the best plans. According to Gabi, users save an average of $961 per year by using the service.
You shouldn’t expect thousands of dollars in savings, but even $20 to $40 of a lower monthly premium is hundreds of dollars in savings annually.
9. Automate Your Savings
Sometimes, the fastest way to build a habit is to automate it. This is especially true if you’re struggling to learn how to save money. Rather than forgetting to put money aside each month, set up automatic deposits from your checking account into a high-interest savings account. Doing this ensures you never miss a beat in your effort to save more. Plus, the money you put aside can slowly turn into the start of an emergency fund or nice nest egg.
Pretty much any online bank lets you set up automatic deposits to a savings account these days. You can also set up deposits to fall in line with payday so you don’t feel like your checking account is draining.
10. Save Money on Entertainment
When it comes to discretionary spending, entertainment can be one of the most problematic areas for people’s budgets. After all, a few nights out with friends or a busy weekend of activities and you might be out hundreds of dollars. But, you don’t have to give up entertainment to stay on budget. Rather, one of the best ways to save money involves looking for free or cheaper entertainment sources instead of forking over money every weekend.
Some examples of free or affordable activities you can try include:
- Having a beach day
- Exploring a local park
- Hosting a potluck with friends instead of going to a restaurant
- Having a picnic in the park
- Having a backyard barbeque
If you’re going to spend money on entertainment, try to stretch the money you’re spending. For example, if you go out to eat with your kids, look up places that let kids eat for free in your city. Similarly, if you’re going to the movies, check if certain days of the week have discount ticket prices.
Even if you can’t find deals that day, the habit of looking for savings before going out saves money in the long run.
Bottom Line: There Are Easy Ways to Save Money
At the end of the day, learning how to save money is quite simple. You need to create a monthly budget, track your spending, utilize all the best ways to save money, and live within your means. With these foundations in place, you can keep more of your hard-earned money each month and save for the future.
If you really want to boost your savings rate, always remember that your best friend always remembers the easy ways to save money. If you can cut costs without significantly changing your lifestyle, it’s usually a win, which is what makes these saving hacks so useful.
Remember to do everything in moderation; trying different ways to save money is great, but don’t put your health or long-term happiness on the line for the sake of pinching pennies. As long as you stick to the basics and remain diligent, you have a bright financial future ahead!