352 Simple Ways to Save Money in (Literally) Every Area of Your Life
Small changes can make a big difference.
Small change, like pennies, can make a big difference, too.
No, saving money doesn’t always demand a grand gesture, like extreme couponing or living off the grid. It can be simpler than that.
You don’t need to implement each of these 353 pieces of advice today. Instead, bookmark this page, and use it as needed. Turn it into a challenge.
Whether you’re a student, a parent, a travel enthusiast, a foodie, a health nut or an average Joe or Josie, use this list of 353 unique ways to save money — so you can stop worrying about money.
1. Find out if You’re Paying Too Much for Car Insurance
For many, car insurance is just one of those things where we cave in and pay. Because, just like the electric bill and phone service, we need it, right?
One way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year. So, just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?
The Zebra, an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.
When you’re ready to consider your options and select a quote, you can also receive a phone call from The Zebra for additional support.
Don’t drive much?
Car insurance companies don’t care. You’ll still get a hefty bill. But MetroMile lets you pay by the mile. You pay a base rate, then a few cents per mile. If you drive less than about 30 miles a day or 5,000 a year, you could save around $500 a year.
It’s available in California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.
2. Pay Less When You Shop Online (and Get a $10 Gift Card)
If you shop online, you should know better than to pay full price for anything. With so many coupons, promo codes and rebates floating around, you should be able to save a little bit!
Try looking up your favorite store on Ebates, a cash-back site that’ll reward you for your purchases. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on purchases from Walmart.
Plus you’ll get a free $10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.
3. Earn Cash Back on Grocery Hauls
We know it sounds strange, but Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your receipts.
Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes. Bam. Cash back.
Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
4. Share a Snapshot of Your Fridge
Remember the Nielsen company? The one that’s always tracked TV ratings? Well, it wants to know what’s in your fridge.
Once you sign up to be on the Nielsen Consumer Panel, you can either use your smartphone, or the company will send you a free barcode scanner. Every time you go shopping, you simply scan the UPC codes on the back of each product and send your data to Nielsen.
Nielsen will reward you with points, which you can redeem for free electronics, jewelry, household items or even toys for the kids.
5. Hike (Don’t Spike) Your Credit
One way to secure better interest rates on your debt is to increase your credit score.
Start by getting a free credit report card over at Credit Sesame. See what type of debt you’ve got lingering. Credit Sesame offers personalized tips to help you increase your score.
Once you bump it up a bit, consider refinancing to potentially lower the interest rate on your monthly payments.
6. Shave Down Your Credit Card Interest
A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.
A good resource is online lending platform Upstart, which can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score. Rather, it also factors your education and employment history into your creditworthiness.
7. Let a Robot Negotiate Your Pricy Bills
Negotiating your monthly bills can save you a bundle, but who wants to sit on hold for 30 minutes just to speak with a curt representative?
It’s time to call in reinforcement — a bot named Trim. Trim will negotiate your internet, cable and cell phone bills for you.
It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers. Just sign up with Facebook or your email address. Then, upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s system gets to work. It’ll take 25% of the savings tab as a commission, but the rest is yours.
8. Turn Your Spare Change Into Hefty Savings (and Pocket $5)
Remember the good ol’ days? When we had spare change that we’d funnel into a coin jar then cash out?
Well, you can do that with digital change now, too. When you use the Acorns app and turn on its round-up feature, each purchase you make will round up to the nearest dollar. Once the change adds up to $5, it’ll go in your Acorns investing account. Plus, you’ll get a $5 bonus just for signing up.
Jeremy Kolodziej used Acorns to save up for vacation. In 20 months, he put away $1,000 without thinking about it.
9. Boost Your Savings (and Motivation) With a Bet
Establishing a savings proves difficult when you don’t have a whole lot of excess money. But there are creative ways to boost your bottom line.
One of our favorites is through a company called HealthyWage. You place a bet on your weight-loss goals, then, if you succeed, you’ll bank money based on your bet.
In the middle of her weight-loss challenge, Marcie Hagner told us, “Money is a huge motivator for me. Especially because I don’t have a lot. I don’t want to give somebody $500, especially for something I can control and do.”
She bet $500, and if she hits her goal, she could pocket $862.
10. Consider Refinancing Your Debt
A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.
A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Fiona, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.
Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. If your credit score is at least 620, its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.
11. Adopt a Watchdog to Sniff out Price Drops
One of our secret weapons to save money is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It's free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for any receipts.
If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.
Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.
Disclosure: Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.
12. Quit Scratch-off Tickets
Instead of dropping $1 — or $20 — on a scratch-off ticket each time you swing by the gas station, download a free app called Lucktastic.
Each day, Lucktastic releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets with instant wins ranging from $1 to $10,000. The app is supported by advertising, which allows the payouts to remain high and the games free.
Better yet? You won’t get metallic foil stuck under your fingernail.
13. Hide Your Money in Real Estate Investments
Tuck your money away, and watch it grow.
If you want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord, we found a company that helps you do just that.
Oh, and you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars, either. You can get started with a minimum investment of just $500. A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.
Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.
14. Find Your New Favorite Recipe and Get Paid
InboxDollars is a rewards platform that’ll pay you in cold, hard cash to watch online videos.
Our favorite genre? The cooking tutorials. Get ideas for simple dinners while also getting paid.
The shows are sponsored by brands that need to get them in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Every time you watch one, InboxDollars will credit your account with a little bit of cash, which you can put toward your grocery expenses.
15. Add $5 to Your Savings for a Morale Boost
Here’s a survey site we like: PrizeRebel.
You won’t get rich using PrizeRebel, but it’s a legit site — we’ve tried it ourselves. You earn points by taking surveys. You can cash in as soon as you earn 500 points, which gets you $5.
You’ll redeem points for cash or gift cards from more than 500 brands, including Amazon, PayPal, eBay, Walmart — plus stuff you won’t find everywhere, like Buffalo Wild Wings, Uber and Nike.
16. Take Control of Your Retirement Savings
If you’re like most people, you have no idea whether your 401(k) is on pace for your retirement or just sputtering along.
Chances are, your 401(k) could be doing a lot better. Take control with help from Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that can optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you and keep it speeding toward retirement.
It just takes a few minutes to get a free 401(k) analysis. After that, if you sign up, it’s just $10 per month to have Blooom monitor and maximize your 401(k). Bonus: Penny Hoarders get the first month free with the code PNNYHRD.
17. Empty Your Closets
Are your closets and shelves packed to the brim with stuff you never use — or even look at?
You can sell (nearly) anything on Letgo. This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. It removes a lot of the hassle of selling things online and it’s 100% free to use.
18. Drive Around Town
Need a fun, flexible way to earn money while also meeting lots of new people?
Try driving with Lyft.
Demand for ride-sharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.
Best of all, he does it on his own time. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!
Because it’s easy to switch between apps, Lyft drivers often also sign up to drive with Uber.
Bonus: Right now, Lyft is offering a $300 sign-on bonus to new drivers when you use code EXTRA300.
Here’s what you need to qualify:
- You must be approved to drive within 30 days of your application start date.
- Once you’re in, just complete 100 rides within your first 30 days of being a Lyft driver.
And just like that, the bonus cash is yours. Easy, right?
19. Earn Extra Money by Listing a Spare Room
Have a spare room? Might as well try to earn some money by listing it on Airbnb.
If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.
And there's no reason you can't be creative. We talked to Terence Michael, an Airbnb superhost based in Los Angeles who shared lots of clever tips.
20. Know That SBs = Cash (and a $5 Bonus)
Swagbucks is definitely a reader favorite in terms of money-making platforms. That’s probably because of the wide variety of ways to make money — not just surveys.
It’s also famous for handing out free rewards points (they’re called SBs) at random just for being a member. Plus, you get a $5 bonus when you sign up and earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days.
21. Take Five Surveys for an Easy $5
MyPoints is a survey platform that rewards you in gift cards for answering polls and taking surveys. If you’re sitting in line — or on the subway — why not?
You’ll snag a $5 bonus when you complete your first five surveys.
22. Pay off Your New Phone Faster Than Expected
Honestly, a functioning cell phone is more necessity than luxury these days.
If you’re venturing out to get a new phone, see how much you could make selling your old phone by getting a free estimate through a buyback site. When we crunched the numbers, we found that Decluttr consistently offers some of the best prices on electronics.
Bonus: Use the code FREE5 for an extra $5 on your order.
23. Let This App Determine How Much You Can Afford to Save
With income and expenses ebbing and flowing, it can be difficult to know how much you can afford to tuck away in savings.
Digit is an app that automatically determines that number for you — and adjusts it as needed.
Just link your checking account, and Digit’s smart algorithms will take over to determine small (and safe!) amounts of money you can afford to put aside. It’ll stash this money away in an FDIC-insured account.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders get an extra $5 when they sign up.
24. Earn Rewards for Your Good Savings Habits
This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.
MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app. You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.
You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.
25. Make a Mindless $36/Year Shopping on Amazon
Love Amazon? Us, too.
Connect your Amazon account to ShopTracker, a market research app created by the trusted research company Harris Poll. You’ll earn $3 a month for sharing your purchase history — plus another $3 when you sign up.
26. Earn an Extra $30 This Month
VIP Voice surveys are relatively quick to complete and reward you with points you can redeem for cash or gift cards. Plus, you’ll still get points for taking surveys even if you don’t qualify to take the whole survey. Plan to login a few times each week, and you’ll have no trouble earning extra money this month with almost no work.
27. Play the Slots — and Earn More Interest Than at Your Bank
Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?
The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.
As you save and accomplish missions, you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.
Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.
28. Spin the “Cashout Wheel”
Survey Junkie’s clean look keeps you motivated to take as many surveys as you want. It’s relatively quick to reward you with points once you've completed a survey. Once you earn 1,000 points — equal to $10 — you can cash out for gift cards or cash via PayPal.
Pro tip: Take all the profile surveys to help you earn an easy 200 points or so up front.
29. Cash in on Your Smartphone Addiction
Let’s be real: That phone habit is hard to break. So you might as well make some money while you’re scrolling instead of totally waste your time.
Download AppKarma, a free rewards app that lets you earn cash and gift cards when you try out gaming apps and watch videos.
30. Sell Your Old Electronics
If you have an old phone, computer or tablet sitting around, why not trade it in for some cash?
Online trade-in sites, such as Gazelle, make the process easy. You don’t even have to stand in line at the post office. Enter your device’s information, and Gazelle will give you a trade-in estimate. For qualifying devices, it’ll even send you a free box for shipping.
31. Power Down Your House for an Hour
In 2017 Tanya Williams, a stay-at-home mom of five, made $1,700 by cutting the power to her house down for a couple of hours each week.
Sure, she was saving energy — and perhaps some money on utilities — but she was also making money through OhmConnect.
OhmConnect is an energy-saving platform. When you save energy during a designated #OhmHour, you could get paid. How? OhmConnect sells the electricity you’re saving back to the grid. The money earned goes directly to you.
33. Flip on Your Ceiling Fans in the Winter
Sure, we love our ceiling fans in the summer. They help keep the cold air circulating — like a cool breeze.
But reverse your fan in the winter, when the heat is on, to help draw the warm air from the ceiling down to you.
As a general rule, you’ll want your fan to turn counter-clockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter. If you’re not sure how to reverse the direction of your fan, you can find a ton of simple tutorials on YouTube.
34. Don’t Miss out on Cheaper Cable and Internet Plans
If you’re like most of us, you’re probably paying for more subscriptions than you realize.
To clear them up, download Truebill, an app that’ll help you identify and cancel unwanted subscriptions. The average Truebill user has $270 in subscriptions per month, the company reports. Some of them you want. Some of them you don’t even remember signing up for.
Truebill can also help you lower your monthly bills, such as cable and internet, and find potential refunds if you experience an outage. It’s free to submit your bill; Truebill just keeps 40% of your savings for the first year.
35. Conduct Your Own Energy Audit
You can hire someone to come in and perform an energy audit. This in-home assessment will help make sure your house is as energy efficient as possible.
Some utility companies offer this service for free, but of course they’ll try to sell you products and services. If you want to perform your own energy audit, there are some simple DIY measures you can take.
36. Drop a Brick in Your Toilet
Not like that, guys.
Find something to put into the bottom of your toilet’s tank to displace some of the water. This minimizes the amount of water needed to fill the tank, therefore reducing your water usage and bill.
If you’re not comfortable sticking a random object into your toilet, you can invest in something called a Tank Bank, a little bag you can clip to the side of your tank that’ll displace 0.8 gallons of water per flush. The $10 three-pack can potentially save you $35 a year.
37. Cut the Cord
This trick is an oldie but goodie.
If you’re paying entirely too much for internet and cable, consider cutting the cable and opting for a streaming service or two for your entertainment. Just do the math. Sometimes stacking two or three streaming services might cost as much as cable, so you’ll want to make sure cutting the cord is worth it for your household.
38. Set This Monthly Reminder on Your Phone
An air filter clogged with dust, dirt and pet hair requires your air conditioning to work harder than necessary. Set a monthly reminder on your calendar to change your filter every three months or so.
If you have pets or allergies, you might want to change it more often.
39. Consider the Condenser Coils
Ah, your refrigerator's condenser coils. When’s the last time you cleaned those suckers? (Have you even heard of them?)
The condenser coils help keep your fridge cool by releasing heat from the compressor. President of Sears Home Services Chris Granger suggests cleaning the coils twice a year with a vacuum and coil brush.
If you’re not sure where the heck the condenser coils are, you can find a ton of tutorials on YouTube.
40. Invest in an Occupancy Sensor
The U.S. Department of Energy says you can save as much as 30% on wasted electricity with this little device — basically, a motion-activated light switch.
An occupancy sensor costs about $14 on Amazon.
If a room is empty for a few minutes, the lights will shut off. Then when someone strolls in, cue the lights. Because the sensors are positioned where the light switch is, your furry friends won’t trigger it at 3 a.m.
41. Adjust Your Water Heater Settings
When’s the last time you checked your water heater settings?
Typically, water heaters are set to 140 degrees, reports Penny Hoarder contributor Scott Alan Turner. Sure, you want you water hot to keep bacteria at bay, but adjusting the heater to a cooler 120 degrees will work just as well.
42. Know Your Bulbs
About 5% of your energy budget goes toward lighting, according to the Department of Energy. Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs can save you $75 a year. Not bad.
You’ve got several cost-efficient light bulb choices, including compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Although both options will be more expensive than traditional blubs upfront, you’ll save enough money to make it worth the investment.
43. Trim Your Hedges
To run efficiently — and save you money — your air conditioning needs to breathe. If your unit is surrounded by shrubs, that’s fine; just be sure they aren’t choking your system, requiring it to work harder.
Provide at least a foot of clearance all around the unit, trimming anything that touches it and removing any leaves or dirt in the vicinity.
44. Wash Everything on Cold
Washing clothes in hot water is going to cost more money. Plus, you’re risking shrinking your entire wardrobe. Unless something is really dirty, opt for the cold-water settings to save some money.
45. Throw a (Clean) Tennis Ball in the Dryer
Ideally, you live on a hillside. A laundry line hangs between two oak trees, and your fresh cotton linens dry in the breeze.
If you don’t have access to this type of space, you can still save money by throwing a clean tennis ball or two into the dryer with your clothes. It’ll help your load dry faster by keeping the air circulating and the clothes from clumping.
Also, always remember to clean out the lint trap for efficient dry time (and to avoid fires).
46. Be as Smart as Your Smart Thermostat
If you have a smart thermostat, awesome. However, you might be using it incorrectly. Optimizing your thermostat settings could save you up to 10% on your heating and cooling, according to the Department of Energy. That’s about $173 a year.
Penny Hoarder Lisa Rowan put together some tips to help users better understand their smart thermostats.
47. Do Your Chores at Midnight
Some energy providers or city utility companies offer their own rewards programs for cutting down energy use at peak times.
For example, Florida Power & Light offers a time of use rate. When customers enroll in the program and operate outside of peak times (think: doing laundry at 11 a.m. instead of 6 p.m.), they’ll get discount rates on electricity.
48. Don’t Throw Away Your Junk Mail Just Yet
Sure, we’re all hasty to get rid of those excessive fliers we get in the mail, but sometimes those are promotional materials for your cable or internet company.
With the promotion in hand, give your provider a call. Use the discount as leverage to get a better rate.
49. Talk to Utility Companies on Twitter
Still got that rogue Twitter account floating around? Use it to your advantage by tweeting at companies to negotiate your bill. That’s what Joel Larsgaard from the Pour Not Poor podcast does. He told Jen Smith on the Frugal Friends podcast he tweets at his utility companies inquiring about promos, coupons or discounts.
50. Stop Being Allergic to Budgets
Budgets are horrifying. Riddled with formulas and numbers, they tend to feel suffocating and restricting.
Overcome your fear and create a simple 50/20/30 budget. Allot 50% of your monthly take-home income to the essentials, including rent, utilities and groceries. Then 20% goes toward improving your financial health; use it toward investing, saving and reducing debt. The final 30% is yours to spend on dining out, vacationing or just-for-fun shopping.
51. Compare Your Finances to Your Peers’
Um, so, this is awkward, but how much money do you make? How much is your rent? And how much do you spend at restaurants each month?
Yeah, you probably don’t want to ask your friend or co-worker these questions; they’ll avoid you forever. But you can still get insight into your peers’ finances by using a free tool called Status Money.
It anonymously compares your finances with those in similar situations. See how you stack up — and if you might be overdoing it in the “shopping” category, for instance. If that’s the case, adjust your budget accordingly.
52. Start Journaling
You’ve heard of bullet journaling, right? The creative hobby that’s taken over Instagram and Pinterest?
Capitalize on the trend and use it to track your spending, savings and debt-repayment plan. Penny Hoarder Grace Schweizer says she was able to spot her problem areas after a week of use. Peek at her favorite bullet-journaling tactics.
53. Sniff out Those Sneaky Subscriptions
In the days of the internet and impulse subscriptions, it’s easy to lose track of products and services you’ve opted into.
Instead of combing through your monthly bank statements, use a Facebook Messenger bot named Charlie.
Charlie offers a ton of services to help you keep tabs on your money, but here’s an easy trick: Send him the word “subscriptions,” and he’ll show you all your monthly charges. For example, Charlie let me know I’d been charged $49.94 for a rogue Amazon Prime trial student account. Luckily, I canceled the account and Amazon reimbursed me.
54. Give Your Money the Cold Shoulder
One way to recalibrate your spending habits is to participate in a spending freeze.
Step 1: Pick a month — or even year. Penny Hoarder Jamie Cattanach chose November in hopes of taming her holiday spending.
Step 2: Don’t spend money on nonessentials during the freeze. Definitely still pay rent, your utilities — all those responsible grown-up bills — but don’t spend anything on entertainment, clothing or dining out.
Sure, it’ll be difficult; you’ll face temptations. But Cattanach finished the challenge and saved at least $600 in one month.
55. Freeze Your Credit… Cards
You’ve heard the whole “freeze your credit” advice. We agree: It’s a smart practice. But in order to save money, freeze your credit cards.
Literally — in the freezer they’ll go.
Sure, it sounds extreme, but if you tend to make impulsive credit card purchases, stick your card in a Ziploc bag, submerge it in a canister of water and slide it into the freezer. When you’re tempted to spend, you’ll have to wait for the card to thaw, requiring you to think through your spending decision.
56. Try Starving and Stacking
Don’t worry. You can still eat. The starve and stack budgeting method is geared toward couples, especially newlyweds. Couples combine their finances and live exclusively off one income for 18 to 24 months.
Use the additional income to invest, establish a rainy day fund and pay off debt. That’s what Penny Hoarder Jen Smith did. She and her husband practiced the starve and stack method for two years and were able to pay off $78,000 in debt.
57. Listen to Podcasts and Read Books
One way to feel more comfortable about your finances? Educate yourself! You’ll feel empowered.
58. Cozy up With Excel — We Know It’s Been a While
Listen. Excel is intimidating, but tons of resources can help you become more comfortable with the powerful budgeting tool.
If you don’t have Microsoft Office, use Google Sheets for free. Take some time to play around. Google Sheets even gas already-made budgeting templates for you.
It worked for Melissa Gilliam Shaw, who created her own sheet called “Epic Google Budget Template” (which you can download). It helped her family save 60% of their annual income.
59. Use up Your Entire Paycheck
Nope. Don’t cash that thing and head straight for the Whole Foods’ cheese section.
Instead, create a zero-based budget, a budget that finds a place for every dollar. Start by tracking a month of expenses. How much do you (or don’t you) have remaining? Then, consider your financial goals. Do you want to save money? Invest money? Pay off debt?
Work backward to cut your expenses until you can achieve that goal. It might take some patience, but it’ll pay off.
60. Open Another Bank Account
If you don’t already have a hands-off savings account — in case of emergencies only — we recommend one. It’s a simple, mindless way to squirrel some money away.
I opened a high-yield savings account through Goldman Sachs. She went into her payroll settings and opted to funnel 10% of each paycheck into that hands-off account, which earns 1.7% APY. Because she can’t see the money, she doesn’t miss it.
You can use a savings account, checking account or an investment account (though the latter can be risky). If the account earns you interest or offers a big sign-up bonus, even better.
61. Put Your Purchases in Perspective
In 2017, we wrote about Melissa Palmer, a stay-at-home mom of four who lives off $36,000 a year with her husband Cole and three (going on four) kids.
She shared a number of smart budgeting tricks, but here’s one that stuck with us:
“One summer, when we lived in Tucson, Cole worked for $10 an hour splitting firewood… outside in the 110-degree summer heat. It was absolutely dreadful work for him. When I would pass a Starbucks and want to stop and get a latte, I'd think, ‘That's half an hour of Cole splitting firewood outside.’”
62. Withdraw Cash From the ATM on Monday
There are always those weeks — the ones where you promise you’ll pack a lunch for work then end up eating out each day.
Now, we’re not saying only eat soggy leftovers all week. But if you have trouble staying on track — whether it’s coffee, lunch, dinner or all the snacks — set yourself a spending limit and take exactly that amount from the ATM on Monday. Then, only spend that throughout the week. Once the cash is gone, it’s back to leftovers.
63. Practice Kaizen
In Japanese, kaizen means “improvement.” Basically, it’s the practice of continuous improvement. Penny Hoarder Steven Gillman suggests applying kaizen principles to your personal finances.
For example, he applied the kaizen approach to home improvements — making small changes over the course of three years. Then, he sold his home for a solid profit.
It’s all about the baby steps.
64. Invest in Envelopes
Buy a box of envelopes. Now stuff some cash inside each one.
OK, so it’s not that simple but the envelope budgeting method, popularized by Dave Ramsey, helps folks who tend to overspend. Each month or each pay period, take out a chunk of money. Now divide that money up: groceries, dining out, personal care, etc. Then, stuff each envelope with your spending limit.
This budgeting method helps you be more mindful of your spending and keeps you above the red.
65. Go Grocery Shopping in Your Pantry
Before heading to the grocery store, go shopping in your pantry and fridge. What do we mean? Take inventory of what’s already in stock, then build your weekly meals around those items. This will not only help reduce your weekly grocery bill also cut your waste.
66. Buy Your Meat in Bulk
When’s the last time you checked out your local wholesale meat supplier? Yeah, maybe never. But Penny Hoarder contributor Shannon Quinn buys her meat in bulk from her local supplier.
She gets three months’ worth of beef, pork, chicken and fish for $50 — and it all fits in her standard-sized freezer.
She suggests searching your state’s suppliers via the Wholesale Meat Supplier Directory.
67. Download Store Loyalty Apps
Does your preferred grocery store have an app? It’ll probably help you save.
You can save at Walmart, for example, using its Savings Catcher app. You can make a shopping list, check in-store and online prices and peek at the weekly ad. You can also scan your receipt in the app to automatically find price-match comparisons for cash back.
68. Print Your Own Free Coupons
Traditionally, we flipped through circulars in search of coupons. Now you can just go online.
There are a number of sites that offer free printable coupons. It’s much more simple than breaking out the scissors and giant binder!
69. Stay on the Couch and Get Your Groceries Delivered
Getting your groceries delivered to your door sounds like a luxury, but opting in for grocery delivery can actually help save you money.
How? You don’t cave in to impulse buys, you get to compare prices beforehand, you plan each meal (ideally) and you can find cheaper alternatives with the swipe of your thumb.
70. Sprout a Cost-Effective Garden
If you want to start a garden to save money on fresh produce, be as cost effective as possible. Some veggies require more time, attention and money upfront.
The most cost-effective vegetables include salad greens, cherry tomatoes, green beans, herbs, summer squash, carrots and zucchini.
71. Be Wary of Bulk Foods
Bulk isn’t always better. That modest two-pack of peanut butter might actually be more cost-effective than that full crate. Plus, it won’t take up as much pantry space.
To check unit prices, simply divide the price by the item’s quantity. Bam. (These are also often listed on the price tags at the grocery store.)
72. Practice Meatless Mondays
Meat is expensive. Challenge your family to give it up on Mondays (or any one day of the week) to cut your grocery bill.
If you’re not sure how to still get an adequate amount of protein, Penny Hoarder contributor Kelly Gurnett compiled a list of 10 meat alternatives that’ll be cheaper than the real stuff.
73. Swear off Bottled Water
Plastic bottles are bad for the environment, and they’re bad for your wallet. But some of us don’t live in areas with great tap water. (Yeah, let’s be real. The tap water smells bad in Florida.)
If you want to find a cost-effective replacement to bottled water, consider a few of these alternatives, including pitchers with filters, faucet filters and five-gallon refillable jugs.
74. Buy Your Groceries Online
These days, the internet makes anything possible — including grocery shopping online.
If you fancy Amazon, see whether Amazon Prime Fresh is available in your neck of the woods. The monthly membership costs $14.99, but you’ll be able to do all your grocery shopping from your computer. Similar to grocery-delivery services, online grocery shopping will help you compare prices and ease those impulse purchases.
75. Don’t Let Food Labels Fool Ya
Some of us might gravitate toward products with labels such as “organic,” “100% all natural,” “non-GMO” or even “Made With Real Fruit!”
Eggs are a great example of how these labels can be misleading. Cage-free eggs? Sure, cages aren’t technically involved, but chickens might still be stacked in multi-level aviaries. Organic eggs? The hens are fed organic feed, farmed without pesticides. There’s no requirement the chickens are outside.
Learn what the labels actually mean before spending extra.
76. Be Mindful of Your Cravings
When a craving hits, people are willing to spend whatever it takes to get their hands on that chocolate bar. Or those french fries. Oooohh, a Chick-fil-A milkshake… You get the point. You might even be willing to spend more for foods you’re craving.
Kick the bad habit and have replacement items on hand. Yes, we realize kale chips aren’t the same as french fries, but it could save your money (and your health) down the road.
77. Join a CSA
Joining a local Community Supported Agriculture program can save you big bucks — and result in an unlimited supply of fresh local foods. Think of it like a subscription box. You pay upfront and receive monthly, biweekly or weekly boxes of produce, meat, honey — whatever’s available in your area.
To find CSA programs near you, the USDA has a searchable database.
78. Break off Your Long-Term (Grocery) Relationship
Grocery store loyalty runs deep. But when was the last time you gave another store a chance? Penny Hoarder Kelly Smith always loved Winn-Dixie. But last year she checked out Trader Joe’s and ended up calculating about $57 in monthly savings. That’s nearly $680 a year.
If you want to get real technical, fill out a grocery comparison chart to see which store has the best prices for the items you frequently buy.
79. Don’t Forget Your Grocery List
You’re thinking, Duh, Penny Hoarder. But let’s be real: This happens all too often. Then you’re left flailing through the aisles wondering what the heck you planned for Wednesday’s dinner.
It’s time to step up your grocery list game. Keep your list stored in your phone’s notes app. This allows you to add items and move them around, according to their location in the store. There are also free apps that’ll help you keep track, like Out of Milk.
80. Adopt Some Feathery Friends
If your town allows for backyard chickens, consider these feathery pets a money-saving investment.
Rain Turner bought two chickens from her local pet store — $6 each. Sure, she invested money in supplies upfront, but within a few months, it was already paying off.
Her chicken Blackstar lays an egg each day — and averages about two dozen a month. The other, Jareth, is still young, but once she starts laying consistently, the Turners will have about 60 eggs a month, a $30 value.
81. Squeeze the Most out of Your Wholesale Club Membership
Before signing up for a wholesale club membership, figure out whether it’s worth the annual fee. Penny Hoarder Jamie Cattanach ran through several scenarios (if you have a family, buy organic, etc.) to see whether the membership is worth it for you.
If you do opt in, make sure you know about all its perks. For example, Costco can score you some discounts on some pretty unexpected items, including a gym membership, a car and an engagement ring.
82. Read the Fine Print on Coupons
For a Penny Hoarder, finding extraordinary coupons and sales is a thrill, which means sometimes you can be blinded by their shininess.
Read the fine print. You don’t want to end up like one of those extreme couponers who stocks up on 30 packs of toilet paper — only to pay for them all.
83. Remember: The Store Brand Isn’t Always Cheaper
We’ve been trained to think the store brand — or “generic” brand — is cheaper. And a lot of times it is… if you’re solely considering the shelf price. However, many times the store brand doesn’t qualify for coupons, members-only discounts or rebates through cash-back apps.
84. Shop for Food Seasonally
Shopping at your local farmers market can save you a crop of money. Why? Because the items are in season.
If you don’t have a farmers market in your area, you can still shop seasonally in your grocery store. Yeah, avoid buying a $6 carton of strawberries in January. Instead, purchase them in peak season — between May and August, typically.
85. Craft a Meal Plan You’ll Stick With
We’ve all done it: You map out a week of meals, go grocery shopping, then give up on it by Wednesday.
The key is to create a meal plan that works for you. Consider how many meals you need and how many mouths you’re feeding.
“Once you start translating food into ‘number of meals,’ you’re on your way to meal planning,” Penny Hoarder contributor Nicole Dieker writes.
86. Venture to Your Local Asian Grocery Store
Why would you pay $4.35 for a carton of mushrooms when you could get them — just the same — for $2.11?
Yeah, you probably wouldn’t.
If you haven’t yet, stop by your local Asian grocery store. Penny Hoarder contributor Susan Shain compared prices. At a traditional grocery store, she would spend $35.74 for stir-fry ingredients. At the Asian grocery store, her tab was $19.88 — a 44% savings.
87. Regrow Your Veggies
If you don’t have a backyard — or a green thumb — you can still grow your own veggies… well, you can regrow them.
For example, if you bought green onions and you’re cutting them up to throw on top of a loaded baked potato (yum!), leave about an inch of stalk above the roots. Stick the nubs in a small glass of water and watch them regrow!
88. Eat Weeds
When’s the last time you foraged for food?
Sure, it might sound a little caveman-like, but much of what you need can be found in nature; that’s what Deane Jordan teaches. “Green Deane” shows people how to find their next meal in suburban lawns and county parks.
Penny Hoarder contributor Ellen Zachos lists five wild weeds that can replace pricy grocery store greens.
89. Master the Grocery Store’s Mind Games
Grocery stores are good at playing mind games. Maybe as good as your ex.
Get to know these sneaky grocery store tactics. For example, between 1975 and 2000, grocery carts tripled in size. Just because your cart is bigger doesn’t mean you need to fill it up and spend more.
90. Decode Your Food’s Sell-By Dates
One of our favorite ways to save money at Walmart? Buy the day-old bread for $1.
The same goes for any other grocery store. Understanding sell-by and use-by dates can save you a bundle and help eliminate food waste.
For example, the sell-by date is simply there to let the store know how long it should display a product. It’s based on when the manufacturer thinks the food will be freshest.
The “best if used by” label indicates when a manufacturer recommends you consume a product by — for peak quality. A past date doesn’t necessarily mean the food is bad.
91. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bags) to the Grocery Store
In many places across the country, if you forget your reusable shopping bags, you’ll get charged a couple of cents for a plastic or paper bag. Sure, it doesn’t seem like much, but it’ll add up.
If you’re always forgetting your grocery bags, employ a new tactic to help you remember.
When you’re done unloading your bags, for example, take them back out to the car and let them ride shotgun. Or invest in a cheap keychain to attach to your keys. I have one from Publix. It’s literally a tiny reusable green bag that says, “Don’t Forget Your Bags.”
92. Store Your Food Properly
Common scenario: You throw the apples in a basket. Bananas on top. Grapes on the bottom shelf of the fridge, alongside the carrots.
No, no, no! The way you store your fruits and veggies can determine how long they stay fresh — and affect your food waste. Take, for example, onions. Don’t store your onions in direct sunlight. If you really want to get creative, put them in a tied-off pantyhose.
93. Barter for Food on Craigslist
You might’ve hit up Craigslist to look for an affordable car, apartment rental, furnishings or, um, a date. But when’s the last time you checked out the food selection?
That’s what Laura Hamilton did. By bartering for food, she was able to save $750 on groceries in just a few months.
94. Keep a Quarter on Hand at This Grocery Store
Pop a quarter into an Aldi cart to release. Don’t worry. You’ll get it back at the end of your haul.
Aldi is notorious for its affordable price. If you haven’t given it a try, we put together a first-timer’s shopping guide.
95. Prepare Your Produce on Sunday
Let’s admit it. We all get a little lazy — and tired — during the week. That’s why it’s important to do as much meal prep as possible on Sunday (or whatever day marks the last day of the weekend for you).
Even simply pre-cutting your fruits and veggies will help motivate you to follow-through with your weekly plans — and eliminate unnecessary food waste and extra spending on snacks.
96. Invest in a Cooking Class
If you’re not super comfortable in the kitchen, consider taking a cooking class. Heck, you might even be able to find a free one out there.
Becoming familiar with food prep, seasonings and kitchen gadgets will make cooking a less daunting task and, ideally, you’ll do it more often — or at least more than dining out.
97. Ask Brands for Coupons
Did you know you can ask brands for coupons? And they just might email you some.
Penny Hoarder Mike Brassfield reached out to 100 brands. Of the 100, 42 sent him coupons — just for asking!
98. Grab a Roomie
You might want to live on your own — prance around indecently and load the dishwasher however you’d like — but securing a roommate can dramatically reduce the price you pay for rent. Or, if you have a mortgage, a roommate’s rent can help you make that payment.
99. Consider Whether to Rent or Buy
Ah, the question that’ll forever plague you: Is it better to rent or buy?
Well, that varies person to person. But as you’ve seen, housing prices can be hefty. Plus, you have all those unexpected expenses that come with homeownership.
Penny Hoarder contributor Steven Gillman explores the question more in-depth.
100. Move Back Home — Briefly
No, we’re not a huge proponent of moving back in with your folks, but if you’re low on funds and they’re willing to house you for a few months, it could be a great way to help you get back on your feet.
Of course, you’ll want to avoid some common mistakes, like not setting a move-out date or building a savings.
101. Hunt for Move-In Specials
If you’re looking to rent at an apartment complex, keep an eye open for move-in specials. Some complexes will cover the first month of rent or the first three months of cable, for example.
Even if the complex isn’t advertising a special, inquire!
102. Negotiate Your Rent
Sure, you can negotiate your utility bills, but when’s the last time you tried negotiating your rent? It might sound intimidating, but back in 2016, Davis Nguyen negotiated his rent down to $1,050 — in San Francisco!
If you’re interested in doing the same, we put together a few tips to help you gain leverage.
103. Ask All the Right Questions Before Signing a Lease
Before putting pen to paper and signing your earnings over to a landlord, make sure you know what you’re getting into.
Start by asking the right questions: What are the additional move-in feels? Any utilities included? Is renters insurance required? Who handles emergency repairs?
104. Downsize Your Living Situation
We all know downsizing can save you money.
Here’s one extreme example: Andrew and Gabriella Morrison and their two kids moved out of a 2,200-square-foot house and into a 207-square foot tiny home. Now? They don’t have a mortgage, utilities have been slashed, and even their grocery and shopping bills have been cut down.
105. Consider Location, Location, Location
Sure, picking up and moving isn’t the most realistic money-saving solution for many of us, but if you’re not tied to a town, consider checking out a more affordable city.
Lincoln, Nebraska. Lubbock, Texas. Fort Wayne, Indiana. All made it onto our list of affordable cities experiencing big growth.
106. Join a Housing Cooperative
Maura Barry-Garland pays $500 a month for a bedroom, utilities, meals and household supplies. How? She joined a housing co-op and lives in a room in a shared house.
In a co-op, members of the household contribute to the expenses and create a community — even vote on important matters. In total, Barry-Garland is saving $4,560 a year.
107. Move Into an Adult Dorm
Would you consider moving back into the dorms? Adult dorms are becoming more and more popular.
Consider Commonspace, located in downtown Syracuse, New York. It offers 21 furnished, 300-square-foot studio units. Each has a kitchenette and bathroom. Rent ranges $800 to $975 a month. (The median rent in Syracuse is $1,350.)
108. Find a Rental Referral
Many apartments offer referral rewards. However, many don’t advertise them.
Rentgrata is an online platform that helps connect prospective tenants with current tenants. This helps prospective renters gain insight into the property and the current tenants’ experiences. If a lease is signed, both parties split the referral reward money, which might range from $200 to $3,000.
Right now, Rentgrata is available in Chicago and its suburbs but has plans to expand. Otherwise, do an online search for apartment referral programs available in your area.
109. Become a Caregiver for Free Rent
When Penny Hoarder Nicole Dow lived in New Jersey, she split her time living with her grandmother and an elderly family friend. She helped with laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning.
In return, she and her daughter lived rent-free.
110. Refinance Your Mortgage
If you’re paying a monthly mortgage, consider refinancing. If the market has changed or your credit score has increased, you could get a better rate.
Before refinancing, though, take these two simple steps: Talk to your current mortgage loan servicer and figure out whether refinancing is actually your best move.
111. Put More Than 20% Down When You Buy a House
PMI stands for Private Mortgage Insurance. If your down payment is less than 20% of the value of your home, chances are, you’re paying this additional fee.
“You could easily throw away hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year on these unnecessary premiums — and they aren't refundable,” Penny Hoarder contributor Christine Edwards writes.
112. Request a Rapid Rescore
If you’ve made significant changes to your credit history — in a good way — before taking out a mortgage, you might want to request a rapid rescore through your mortgage broker. This will expedite your credit rescoring process, which can typically take several weeks or months.
Applying for a mortgage — or any loan — with a higher credit score will ideally grant you better, more affordable rates and save you thousands over time.
113. Make a 13th Mortgage Payment Each Year
Can you afford to make an extra mortgage payment each year? By doing so, you could pay down your mortgage faster — and avoid extra interest.
If adding an extra payment doesn’t fit into the budget, ask your lender whether you can make biweekly payments. This means you’ll make 26 payments a year, equating to 13 monthly installments, without having to stretch your budget too far.
114. Trigger a Debt Avalanche…
You’ve probably heard several wintery metaphors when it comes to paying off debt — including the debt avalanche method. This requires you to focus on paying off your highest-interest debts first. Once those are out of the way, focus on the lower-interest debts; you can afford to let those linger a little longer.
115. … or Build a Debt Snowball
Ah, yes. Another snowy metaphor.
Pioneered by Dave Ramsey, the debt snowball method refers to paying off one credit card or loan at a time — starting with the smallest balance. The idea is that you’re taking baby steps — and showing yourself you can actually do this.
116. Recruit a Credit-Repair Advocate
If you believe you’re a victim of debt-collection harassment, sign up for a free service like Collection Shield 360.
That’s in part how Elisabeth Nyang managed to fix her credit. She had an outstanding cell phone bill erased from her credit report because of unethical practices by debt-collection agencies.
117. Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness
Many of us have student loan debt. See if you could qualify for student loan forgiveness if you work in public service. Basic requirements include:
- Your loans are federal direct loans.
- You have an income-driven repayment plan.
- You have submitted the employer-certification form for each year of work in public service. (Or you can return to those employers for verification.)
- You still work for a qualifying employer.
Additionally, if you’ve already applied — and were denied — then you could potentially appeal your denial.
118. Switch to an Income-Based Repayment Plan for Student Loans
If you have a disproportionate amount of debt compared to your income, you could consider an income-based repayment plan.
Penny Hoarder contributor Sarah Kutra wrote about Derek Lawrence, who graduated with more than $23,000 in debt and was making about $24,000 a year. Making his $245 monthly payments proved difficult. After applying to an income-based plan, his payments dropped to $38 a month.
119. Secure a Side Gig and Pay Debt off Early
The earlier you pay off your debt, the less you’ll have to fork over in interest.
First, check to make sure your loan won’t penalize you for paying off early. Then, start making some extra income. Put that toward your debt payments.
120. Open a Balance Transfer Card
What’s your credit card interest rate like? The average credit card carries nearly a 17% interest rate, according to CreditCards.com.
If you’re stuck in the endless cycle of interest, consider transferring your balance to a zero-interest credit card. Keep an eye open for the fine print. Fees and time limits might apply. If you’re interested, read more about zero-interest credit cards.
121. Avoid Stacking on Credit Card Fees
If you have credit card debt, the last thing you want will be additional fees.
Keep an eye open for these seven common fees, including balance transfer fees, late payment fees and over-the-limit fees.
122. Try Your Hand at Haggling Down Your Debt
If you’re getting pesky calls from debt collectors, why not try negotiating? Figure out how much you can afford to pay. Then, let the creditor know you can’t afford to pay off the full bill, but that you can pay this much. It could be that the issuer offers a hardship plan.
123. Find a Credit Counselor to Tackle Your Debt
If you want some tailored guidance when it comes to paying off your debt, consider a credit counseling service.
For example, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling offers free and affordable services, including credit/debt counseling, bankruptcy counseling, housing and mortgage counseling and student loan debt counseling.
124. Ditch Your Car
Having a car might seem nonnegotiable, and maybe it is for your family. But take a note from the Kirby family, who lived car-free for a year. And yes, that included scooting three kids around town. Even so, they managed to save $11,500 in a year.
Penny Hoarder contributor Jamie Cattanach also considered whether or not to sell her car. She weighed the pros and cons of each.
125. Rent out Your Car
Want to make money with your car… but not keen on playing taxi? Let folks rent your car when you’re not using it.
OK, that sounds a little scary, but it doesn’t have to be. With the Getaround app, you can safely rent out your car to people in your community and neighborhood. The company insures your car for each trip, offers 24/7 roadside assistance and screens drivers for a safe driving record.
126. Secure a Work-From-Home Job to Save on Gas
The average full-time employee spends $276 per month commuting, according to a 2016 CareerBuilder survey. That’s more than $3,000 a year.
Avoid this expense when you work from home. We put together a list of work-from-home job-search sites.
127. Buy Your Next Car at an Auction
Did you know you can buy a car for $400? (Yes, one that’s actually functioning…)
Penny Hoarder Nicole Dow purchased her 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier at a car auction. The $400 purchase lasted her three years, before being totaled in a hit-and-run — though Dow says if that hadn’t happened, she might still be driving it today.
Read Dow’s five tips before placing a bid at your local car auction.
128. Weigh the Pros and Cons of Leasing vs. Buying Your Car
Everyone will have an opinion on this matter, but you need to form your own. In order to figure out whether leasing or buying your next car is the best bet, we sketched out the pros and cons of each.
129. Buy a Used Car…
Before you buy a used car, be sure you’re taking the proper precautions so you don’t get ripped off.
130. Select Your Next Car From a Vending Machine
In Orlando, on the side of I-4, there’s a giant vending machine full of cars. No seriously. It’s a Carvana vending machine.
Carvana is one of several online-only car dealers. You shop for your car online, and it’s delivered to your front door. You get to drive it for seven days, and if you’re not happy, you’ll get your money back.
131. Whip out Your Student or Military ID When You Buy a Car
This will vary by manufacturer and dealership, but you could snag a discount if you’re a recent grad, active-duty military or a veteran.
You’ll want to call your dealership first or check online for details.
132. Haggle the Interest Rate on Your New Car Loan
We’re all focused on negotiating a vehicle’s price tag, but you can also negotiate your interest rate. If you have good credit, see if they’ll knock a percentage point or two off. Paying 5% interest on a car loan is too high.
133. Don’t Feel Pressure to Sign up for The Extended Warranty
Extended warranties on vehicles are expensive, the median price hovering around $1,214, according to a 2017 Consumer Reports survey. That doesn’t count deductibles or extra car parts.
So is it worth it?
Penny Hoarder contributor Susan Shain doesn’t think so. Of those who purchased one, only 45% used it, according to that same survey. For those who did use it, the savings amounted to $837, which nets a loss of $375, if we’re considering the median.
134. Treat Your Car Loan Like a Mortgage
Pay extra when you can.
Many experts suggest making a 13th mortgage payment each year so you can pay it off more quickly and avoid interest. Do the same for your car.
If you can’t afford that 13th payment, consider asking your lender if you can split your payments into every two weeks. That comes out to 13 total payments a year and will be more bite-sized.
135. Find a Haynes Manual for DIY Car Maintenance
Haynes Publishing Group issues hundreds of model-specific manuals for cars, each offering step-by-step guides for maintenance and repairs. You can find these at auto-parts stores or online. Oh, and each one contains tons of photos for you visual learners.
There’s also YouTube to help guide you through basic maintenance and repairs.
136. Prepare Your Car for Each Season
137. Wrap Your Car Like a Present
If you need some extra money to put toward your monthly car payment, consider wrapping your car with an ad.
Now, not all car-wrapping companies are legit, so be careful. But if you drive a lot, you could make a good chunk of change pretty passively.
138. Slay Your Energy Vampires
Those sneaky energy vampires — the devices that suck away energy when you’re not using them — can make up as much as 20% of your monthly electric bill, according to Duke Energy.
Turn any corner, and you’re likely to find a vampire. Your coffee maker, your cable box, your phone charger… Once you identify these lurkers (Duke has an energy vampire calculator), simply unplug them when not in use.
Pro tip: Invest in a few power strips. Rather than roving around your house and unplugging each device, simply plug everything into a strip and flip one switch.
139. Use Public Transit
If you live in a city with public transit, why not take advantage of it? Boston proves to be one of the most affordable cities when it comes to public transit, costing about $55 a month, according to a Redfin survey. Honolulu and D.C. follow, at $70 a month.
140. Hop on Your Motorized Bike…
…or a regular bike works, too.
But one Penny Hoarder got a little more creative. Branndon Coelho bought an electric bike to expedite his five-mile commute to work. In his first year of use, he estimated he’d save up to $2,212.
141. Throw It Back to Elementary School, and Carpool
When Penny Hoarder contributor Richanda Turner and her husband moved to the ’burbs of Madison, Wisconsin, the duo faced a new expense: commuting. Parking would cost $180 a month and gas would total about $80 a month.
They decided to carpool into downtown together, which saved them more than $3,000 a year.
If you don’t know someone you can carpool with, look into Waze Carpool. Owned by Google (which owns the Waze navigation app), this spin-off helps commuters connect based on where they live and work.
142. Save on Gas When You Buy Groceries
Since she learned how to drive, Penny Hoarder Jacquelyn Pica has always saved on gas with her Winn-Dixie loyalty card. Sometimes she even manages to get her gas free — paying only taxes.
She put together a list of 21 grocery stories with gas reward programs.
143. Download GasBuddy
GasBuddy is a free app that helps you find the cheapest gas nearby. In April, it also reported gas prices were up, so yeah. All the more reason to download its app.
144. Join a Buy-Nothing Group
Have you happened upon your town’s Buy Nothing Group? These are hyperlocal groups that operate under a gift economy. That means no one buys anything — hence its name.
You can find any number of products available for free within these groups, including furniture and appliances.
145. Buy Returned or Used Appliances
Wherever you go to buy a new appliance, call ahead. Ask if the store has any used or returned appliances stashed away.
Penny Hoarder contributor Steve Gillman says he bought a nearly new washer and dryer for $90. It was discounted after someone had returned it. Best yet, the two-year guarantee still applied.
146. Think Through That Extended Protection Plan
Does your appliance need extended protection?
In the heat of the moment, you might be tempted to drop an extra hundred bucks on your shiny new refrigerator, but you’ll want to make sure it’s worth it. Consumer Reports says, no, it’s not worth it. If your appliance breaks down within the first few years, chances are the repairs aren’t going to be as expensive as the warranty.
147. Know What’s Worth Fixing — and What’s Worth Ditching
Waterlogged tablet and smartphone? Probably better off not tinkering with it yourself. Rundown fridge? You’ll want to ask yourself a few questions before giving up on its life.
Review our fix-it-or-ditch it guide to figure out which household items are worth putting money into and which are worth giving up on.
148. Find a Repair Cafe for Electronics
Before throwing your on-the-fritz electronics into the wall, take them by a repair cafe, a free event where local craftspersons will tinker with your broken goods. They’ll help fix anything, including electronics, appliances, bicycles, toys and furniture.
Google will help you figure out if there’s a repair cafe near you.
149. Resist the Powers of West Elm, and Make Your Own Furniture
Sure, it’s easy to get sucked into the beautiful modern aura of West Elm’s doors. Or become obsessed with Pottery Barn’s farmhouse chic furnishings. But chances are, you can make these pieces yourself.
We like to use contributor Chris Ronzio as inspiration. For a man who once sawed his toolbox in half, Ronzio managed to save more than $1,300 by making a custom sofa table and desk. And a new dining room table? He spent $73 on materials and made his own — instead of dropping $1,650 at Ballard Designs.
150. Dig Into Junk Drawers for These Household Hacks
Many common household items can double — or triple and quadruple — in their uses. Here are a few of our favorite hacks:
- Use rogue rubber bands to create no-slip hangers, open jars, remove damaged screws or preserve sliced apples.
- Nab a dryer sheet when you need to dust, clean up pet hair, reduce static, or scrub pots and pans.
- Vinegar is known as a staple cleaning supply, but you can also use it to rinse your hair, boost your metabolism and repel ants.
151. Buy a Mattress in a Box
Mattresses are an expensive — but necessary — household purchase. During a recent move, I needed to invest in one, but I refused to pay $1,000. Instead, I took a chance and ordered a mattress in a box from Amazon for less than $300.
It’s been almost a year, and my back doesn’t hurt yet, so I count that as a win. If you need extra support, consider buying a more affordable mattress and pairing it with a nice topper.
152. Plant Your Yard With Perennials
Back to the basics: A perennial is a hardier plant that can survive year to year — not an annual plant that dies at the end of its season.
Sure, perennials might not be as vibrant as an annual, but filling your yard with them will help keep costs — and seasonal maintenance — down if you’re into gardening. Perennials will vary by climate and region, so start with a simple Google search.
153. Hit up an Estate Sale
An estate sale is basically a more extravagant garage sale. Many people hold estate sales when they’re downsizing, moving, divorcing or managing someone’s belongings after a death.
When you attend an estate sale, you’ll tend to find basically anything that fills a house: clothes, furniture, appliances, decorations and even jewelry. Try searching for estate sales in your area through EstateSales.net.
154. Make Your Own Household Cleaners
Have you noticed how expensive Lysol wipes are lately? Swiffer dusters? Instead of splurging, consider a few of these household cleaning hacks.
155. Turn Trash to Cash
Certain cities across the country offer recycling and composting incentives. For example, Washington, D.C. residents can receive up to $75 when they install a composting system in their home.
156. On Prescription Medication? Befriend Phil
If you’re constantly picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy, it might be time to look into an online refill service like Phil. Each month, your prescription will be delivered right to you door. Phil even chats with your insurance company to handle any payment issues.
Plus, as a new customer, you’ll get up to $30 off your first prescription.
157. Plan Ahead With an Emergency Fund
Avoid unexpected medical bills — and potential late fees or other headaches — by building an emergency fund, also called a rainy day fund. This stash of money sits untouched — unless there’s an emergency.
Read about how to start your emergency fund.
158. Find Free Therapy
If your insurance doesn’t cover mental health care services, there are affordable — even free — options available.
159. Understand Your Health Insurance
If you’re starting a new job that comes with health insurance, that’s awesome — just be sure you understand what’s covered and what’s not. We put together a list of questions to ask your new employer to help guide you through the conversation.
160. Don’t Rely on Credit
If you’re facing a surprise medical bill, don’t use credit to pay for it. Instead, work with your provider to set up an installment plan, so you can chip away at the debt slowly but surely — without damaging your creditworthiness and facing mounting interest rates.
161. Consider an HSA to Prepare for Medical Costs
A health savings account (HSA) is a savings account for medical expenses. Whatever you don’t spend in a year can be rolled over to the next. You can even invest the money, which is kind of cool. Read our guide on HSAs to figure out if it could be the right fit for you.
162. Check This Secret List to Save on Prescriptions
A drug formulary is a list of meds covered by your health insurance or prescription drug plan. Use this list — along with the advice of your doctor — to see if a drug you’ve been prescribed has a more affordable alternative.
163. Visit Your Doctor Online
Did you know you can visit a certified medical professional online?
These days, there are a number of telehealth websites and apps that allow you to meet with doctors virtually. Take some time to research these platforms and see if your insurance applies. It could be that you knock out all your appointments in one morning — without leaving home and at an affordable price.
164. Use up Your FSA on Lip Balm and Condoms
Unlike an HSA, a flexible spending account’s (FSA) balance doesn’t roll over year to year — but otherwise they’re similar. So if you have some money leftover, why not use it for these 26 surprising items and procedures?
165. Prevent High Health Care Costs
One way to potentially avoid hefty medical bills is to take preventative measures. Schedule annual appointments. Here are a few resources that’ll help get you on track:
- Get screened for cervical cancer — yes, there are affordable screening options, too.
- Schedule a free or low-cost mammogram.
- Find free or reduced-fee dental care to avoid pricy (and painful) corrective surgeries.
- Pencil in a date for your general practitioner annually.
- Acknowledge when you’ve hit “midlife,” and give your body a little health tuneup.
166. Start Shoppin’ for Medical Care
If you have to undergo an expensive medical procedure, you’ll want to shop around for the best price.
Although slightly dated, The New York Times published a hospital cost comparison interactive map back in 2013. It demonstrates just how drastically the cost of procedures can vary from hospital to hospital.
167. Log Those Healthy 8 Hours
Yeah, yeah. You’ve heard this your whole life. Sleep is important. Get those eight hours in.
But seriously. Sleep is super important. Not getting enough of it can increase your risk for (costly) health issues and diseases. It can additionally affect your performance at work (and in life), meaning you could get passed over for promotions and raises.
168. Stop Overspending on OTC Meds
I’m always amazed at how expensive over-the-counter medicines are. Like other items, it’s important to shop around for OTC meds, because sometimes they can be more expensive than prescription drugs.
We compared several drugstores and found that Amazon’s new(ish) Basic Care offers the lowest prices.
169. Check out Your Pharmacy’s Savings Program
Earlier this year, we wrote about the Publix “Free Medication” program. You can snag up to 90 days of qualifying maintenance medications for free. It also has a list of prescriptions you can get for $7.50. Ask your pharmacy if it has any savings programs like this.
170. Remember: Generic Doesn’t Mean Ineffective
Many times, generic prescriptions cost significantly less than name-brand. Sometimes they’re free.
Is there a difference, though? Not really. All name-brand drugs and their generic counterparts contain the same active ingredients, per FDA standards. However, the inactive ingredients may differ. Here’s all the science behind name brand versus generic prescriptions.
171. Monitor Your Blood Pressure
Not-so-fun fact: Folks with high blood pressure might spend as much as $1,920 more per year on health care, according to the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Why? Those with high blood pressure typically face more inpatient costs and require more prescription drugs. Keep your blood pressure under control with a few of our tips.
172. Fetch a Free Flu Shot
I’m not going to lie: I haven’t gotten a flu shot in a long time. However, not getting a flu shot can cost you. Plus, you can find affordable — if not free — flu shots around town.
(I just took a break from typing to knock on some wood in hopes of my immune system holding up this year.)
173. Haggle With Your Doctors
Like other bills, if you’re slapped with a huge medical bill, try negotiating. Reach out to your provider or insurance company to negotiate the balance. Gain leverage by researching the average retail price of the hospital procedure. If they won’t budge, try setting up a payment plan.
174. Try Health Care Across the Border
Have you heard of medical and dental tourism? It’s basically when a person travels outside of their home country for medical or dental procedures, which could save them thousands.
Like anything, medical tourism has its pros and cons.
175. Find Discounts Online
Last year, I put together a list of items that tend to be more affordable when you buy them online versus in the store. On that list? Several personal needs including braces, prescriptions and glasses.
Just poke around. Penny Hoarder Jen Smith suggests buying your contacts through Ebates for cash back or hitting up Groupon for dental cleaning discounts.
176. Enlist the Help of a Health Insurance Broker
If you need help navigating the world of health insurance, consider recruiting a broker, who can help you enroll in a plan that best meets your needs. If you need help navigating the U.S. health care marketplace, for example, head to Healthcare.gov. It’ll will have all the information you need.
177. Quit Smoking With These Free Resources
Quitting smoking will help decrease insurance rates, decrease your risk of high medical bills and cut back on your weekly grocery bill. So when you’re ready to quit smoking, we put together a list of free resources for you.
178. Share Your Health Care Costs With Others
Ever heard of health care sharing? Search for a health care ministry in your area. These faith-based organizations help distribute health care costs across all the members to help alleviate the burden of one single individual.
Like anything, it’s not that straightforward. Be sure to do your own research before taking a leap of faith…
179. Let Compound Interest Help With Tuition
If you want to start saving for your kid’s education, consider opening a tax-advantaged 529 college savings fund. The investment account is designed for you to deposit small monthly payments to invest in public markets. By the time your kid is ready to head to college, compound interest will have done its magic to grow your investment, ideally.
180. Max out Parental Tax Breaks
Having kids changes a lot… including your taxes. A number of tax credits and deductions exist for parents, which could result in thousands in savings. We’ve got a list of nine popular tax breaks to get you started.
181. Get Help From the Village
When you’re expecting, everyone wants to buy you everything. But maybe you don’t need two of everything (unless its twins). To ensure you’re getting exactly what you want for your little nugget, sign up for a registry.
When you sign up for a Target baby registry, you’ll get a ton of free samples — plus $50 in coupons.
182. Tap Into Baby Freebies…
If you’re a new or expecting parent, be sure to snag all these baby freebies.
183. ...and Don’t Forget About Free Baby Diapers
184. Brave Cloth Diapers for Your Baby
You can buy a six-pack of adorable cloth diapers on Amazon for about $5 a piece. A disposable diaper costs about 15 cents a pop, and the average newborn goes through about 10 a day. Do that math… that means one cloth diaper will pay for itself in as little as three days.
185. Go Diaper Free
If you’re feeling REALLY brave, you could go diaper free by practicing elimination communication. Basically, you teach your child to use the bathroom on cue from birth.
It sounds kind of out there, but Penny Hoarder contributor Charlotte Edwards’ family had great success — and saved a ton of money.
186. Save Money on Breastfeeding Supplies
A common misconception is that breastfeeding is free. Sure, it’s less expensive than formula, but you still need the proper supplies. We put together a list of the hidden costs of breastfeeding — and how to save.
187. Milk Those Formula Savings
Many folks assume diapers are one of the most expensive baby needs. But you can’t forget about the formula. Learn how to snag some savings, without switching to the generic versions.
And check out this chance to win free formula for a year from Enfamil.
188. Play Sisterhood of the Traveling Maternity Clothes
If you have friends — near or far — who are pregnant when you are or have been recently, consider a clothing swap. That’s what Penny Hoarder contributor Madeleine Deliee did. She, along with her two close friends, sent boxes of clothes back and forth when each one was expecting.
“Round went the clothes again; it was like part of our old friendship was connecting us as we passed the clothes along,” she writes.
189. Shop for Baby Gear Online
Sure, walking into a baby boutique is exciting. And the smell — it smells like a precious newborn baby. But it’s easy to overspend on name-brand items in these stores.
Instead, try shopping online for your baby gear. Penny Hoarder contributor Rachel Murphy saved hundreds by scouring Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. She spent $310 on essentials, retailed at $1,122.
190. Ask About BYOB (Bring Your Own Baby) Workdays
It might sound crazy, but the South Carolina Department of Insurance launched a pilot program that lets staff members bring their infants to work — as long as they don’t totally disrupt the office (though there is a quiet room available).
Allowing parents to bring their babies to work could save them thousands of dollars. Keep an eye open to see if this could become a national trend.
191. Thrift Your Way Back to School
Kids grow like little weeds. You spend hundreds on clothes. Then bam. They’re all too small.
Take notes from Monica Leftwich, who bought her two kids’ back-to-school wardrobe for less than $40. She embraced hand-me-downs, shopped thrift stores and used social media.
192. Start a Kid Co-Op for Summer Savings
When school’s out for summer, it’s easy to spend thousands keeping your kids entertained under a watchful eye.
One solution? Start a co-op for your kids. It’s basically a group of parents who take turns watching each other’s children. It’s an informal arrangement that keeps things fun for the kids — without the hefty price tag.
193. Cut Back on After-School Activities
Parents are paying thousands on extracurriculars. Some even forgo paying off debt to keep their kids entertained. But does your kid really need to play soccer, take piano lessons and learn karate? I mean, sure, they need to be socialized, but probably not that much. Plus, kids get tired.
Let your kids pick their favorites, and cut back on the rest — especially if it’s keeping you from paying off debt or saving for retirement.
194. Save on Pricy Sports Equipment
The cost of sports — even for tikes — can quickly pile on, but there are several ways to save on the equipment.
195. Feed Your Kids for Free When You Go out to Eat
We put together a list of 17 places where kids can eat free across the country.
196. Teach Your Kids About Money ASAP
Teaching your kids about finances will help you — and them — save money down the road. It’s never too early to start. Heck, one mom writes about taking her toddler bargain hunting.
Not sure where to start? We put together a guide to help you teach your kids about money.
197. Hold Steadfast With Holiday Gift Limits
Penny Hoarder Nicole Dow sets a four-gift rule to save on her holiday shopping. That’s four gifts per kid:
- Something they want.
- Something they need.
- Something they wear.
- Something they read.
Giving yourself that limit will keep you from overspending because ooooh, that toy looks neat!
198. Keep an Eye on Disney Auditions to Snag a Free Vacay
Back in 2016, we wrote about Disney’s casting call for 10 families to be in a commercial — filmed in Iceland. The gig included a free trip to Iceland and $2,500 per person.
Of course, that casting call has closed (sorry), but keep an eye open for similar opportunities with these tips.
199. Learn to Say “No” to Your Kids More
Seriously. This one word could save you a ton of money — and help you raise a more money-conscious child.
200. Build a Capsule Wardrobe
Ever heard of a capsule wardrobe? It’s not really a new concept, but it’s caught on among fashion bloggers and Pinterest users these past few years. The premise is to limit your wardrobe to only staple pieces that you can mix and match to create an exponential number of new outfits.
201. Rent Dresses for Big Events — Even Your Own Wedding
Shopping for a big event, especially last minute, can drain your wallet. Instead, consider renting through a website like Rent the Runway. You can find designer dresses, tops and jumpsuits severely discounted.
You can even snag your wedding dress from the site.
202. Embrace Your Inner Macklemore
All right. We’re all sick of that song at this point, but we’ll never get sick of thrifting. Venture into your local thrift store. You might be surprised with what you find. Designer jeans for $10? Yes, please!
203. Protect Your Clothes by Following Instructions
Before purchasing an item, check its care label. If it suggests dry cleaning, reconsider absorbing that extra cost and responsibility.
If it’s too late, and the clothes are already in your possession, take a look at that label before throwing them in the washer and dryer all willy-nilly. Penny Hoarder Lisa Rowan shared a guide to taking care of your clothes.
204. Calculate the Cost-Per-Wear Value
I’m not a math person, but lately, when I want to buy a new piece of clothing, I calculate its cost-per-wear value. It helps put the purchase in perspective.
It’s simple. Estimate just how many times you think you’ll wear the item in hand. Now, check the price. Divide the price by the number of times you’ll wear the item, and that’s your cost-per-wear.
205. Design a Uniform for a Cheaper Wardrobe
Steve Jobs always wore a uniform: black turtleneck, jeans and New Balance sneaks.
Consider putting together your own neutral uniform. It’ll not only help you save money, but it’ll also save you time when getting ready in the morning.
206. Slow Down Your Fashion
Slow fashion is a movement that focuses on clothing sustainability. It encourages consumers to buy clothes based on quality and longevity. Rather than filling up your cart with cheap clothes, buy more sustainable pieces, pieces you really love and will hang onto for years to come.
207. Buy Clothing out of Season
Not only can you find great sales when you purchase out-of-season items (think: a winter coat in July), you’ll also avoid impulsive purchases made out of desperation.
We’ve all been there: The first snowstorm of the season is rolling in tomorrow, and you NEED new boots to get to work. You go to the store, and, because you’re desperate, you settle for a pricy pair you don’t even love. Avoid that with a little planning.
208. Don’t Rely on the Outlets
Sure, outlet malls are branded as money-savers, but they actually don’t carry the best deals. Many times, the quality is cheaper, and the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) can be marked up — way up — making the deals look better than they are.
209. Perfect Your Haggling Skills With Imperfections
Many stores will offer an “imperfect discount.” No, they won’t advertise this, but if you come across a blouse with a missing button, for example, ask the cashier if you can get a discount. It’ll cost nothing to fix the simple imperfection.
210. Learn Simple DIY Fashion Hacks
If you decided to purchase that blouse with a missing button or maybe the button pops off after a few wears, learn how to fix it on your own. Commit these simple DIY clothing repairs to memory.
211. Host a Clothing Swap Party
Find people in your office, friend group or neighborhood who want to participate in a clothing swap. Each season, get together with a bag of clothing and, well, swap ’em! It’s an easy way to add new pieces to your wardrobe — for free.
212. Don’t Get Suckered Into Designer Workout Clothes
It’s kind of ironic that the clothes you’re going to get sweaty and smelly are often the most expensive.
Instead of investing $100 in a pair of leggings (though some claim it’s totally worth it), check out these nine popular retailers for more affordable athletic wear.
213. Buy Clothes That Fit Right Now
OK, so maybe I’m writing this as a reminder to myself, but it’s important to buy clothes that fit right now — not clothes that’ll fit once you finally drop those 10 pounds. (Tell me everyone does this and not just me?)
If you’re like me, it’ll take years for you to lose those 10 pounds, and by that time, that dress you bought is NOT your style.
214. Walk Straight to the Back of the Store
Hello, clearance clothes!
215. Don’t Waste Money on Clothes Someone Else Likes
Here’s another tip I’m writing to myself, but one you might find useful, too: Don’t let the salesperson — or even your friend — tell you that top looks sooooo good. If you don’t feel good in it, don’t buy it. You’ll feel the same way about it when you get home — and never wear it.
216. Thrift Online
If walking into a thrift store overwhelms you, consider thrift shopping online.
Try ThredUp. There, shop for anything and everything. There’s even a “new with tags” category, in case you’re easing in.
217. Avoid Store Credit Cards
Shoppers should be wary of those store-branded credit cards, warns Consumer Reports. Sure, many are appealing because you can get a discount on your purchase right then and there. Immediate gratification. But interest rates associated with these cards tend to be higher than your traditional credit cards.
218. Don’t Forget Donation Tax Deductions
One of the most overlooked tax deductions is charitable donations. Any cash contributions or goods (clothing, too!) can be deducted from your taxable income.
219. Know How to Properly Operate Washers and Dryers
Sure, you learned how to do laundry more than a few years ago, but are you doing it correctly? Penny Hoarder Lisa Rowan put together a list of her favorite laundry tips to make sure you’re taking care of your clothes.
Pro tip: No fabric softener!
220. Buy One Staple Swimsuit Bottom
Swimsuits are uber expensive. My strategy? I have black bikini bottoms that I’ll pair with different tops. No one’s going to notice, and it works year to year.
221. Shop Clearance — Online
If messy clearance sections overwhelm you, hit up the store’s online clearance section. You can organize it by category, and you’ll likely find more options.
You’ll also have a good opportunity to practice deal-stacking by making your purchase through a portal like Ebates. (Bonus: If you’re new to that platform, you can get $10 when you sign up and start shopping!)