20 Smart Ways to Save Thousands This Year
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Whether or not you are on a tight budget, it’s always fun to save extra money.
The power of saving happens when you compound saving on several small things and roll the savings into one big ball of cash to stash away or pay down debt.
Here are some smart ways to keep more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
Save on Bills
Contact your insurance agent to see if there are any changes you can make to your policy that would save you money on your insurance.
- Shop around, check rates from several different insurance providers
- Increase your deductible. (Make sure you have enough money in your emergency fund to cover your deductible)
- Bundle home and auto insurance
- Ask for discounts for going without accidents or traffic violations
- Check for reductions in rates for young drivers (i.e. good student rates or reduction in rate at age 25)
Potential Savings: 10-40% off your current insurance rate
Cut the cord on cable or satellite television. One survey1 reported that 84% of North American subscribers pays $50 or more per month on cable or satellite with 20% of that group paying $126 or more per month.
Not ready to go completely TV free? No worries!
There are budget friendly alternatives that will save you a ton of money.
- Look into getting a digital antenna to pick up your local stations. Check here for a large selection of antennas that might work for your area.
- Try streaming services such as Hulu+ or Netflix
- Use your Amazon Prime subscription that provides much more than just free two-day shipping
Potential Savings: $600+ per year
Check with your carrier for new or reduced rates on your current plan. Ask what options you have for bundling, data, or anything else that could save you money.
If you aren’t locked into a contract you have the option of switching carriers with a reasonable plan and inexpensive phone.
Potential Savings: Even cutting your bill by $10/month would save $120/year
Landline Home Phone
Do you really need your home phone anymore? Most people I know exclusively use cell phones because they don’t need both.
If you mostly use a cell phone, consider eliminating or reducing your landline phone to the bare minimum.
I have small children in the home and frequently use a babysitter. For this reason I keep a phone in the home in case our babysitter doesn’t have a phone (or theirs is dead) and needs to make an emergency phone call. I added a very basic, bare minimum cell phone to my plan for a few extra dollars a month to leave in the home and discontinued my landline.
Potential Savings: $240/year if you can reduce by $20/month
Save on Food/Groceries
I know you’ve got to eat, but overspending on food is one of the top budget killers out there. Here are some basic ways to save on food.
Planning meals helps you save because you buy only what you need for your meals and waste less food. It can prevent unnecessary trips to the store and impulse buys.
One of the best ways to save is to plan meals around store sales. You’re buying food at it’s best price and making meals based on the sale items.
If you need help with meal planning, I recommend The Daily Dinner. They take out the guesswork and plan healthy meals based on store sales in your area. You can read my full review of The Dinner Daily here.
Potential Savings: 20% of your grocery bills just by planning meals around the sale with The Dinner Daily.
Pack Your Lunch
How often do you go out to lunch on workdays? I know many people who go out to eat daily. If you paid an average of $10/lunch, that could easily add up to $2,500/year!
Plan to make a little extra for dinner. Pack your lunch as you’re cleaning up after dinner and take it with you for lunch at least once a week.
Potential Savings: $520/year by cutting out one $10/week lunch.
Use Rebate Apps Like ibotta & Checkout 51
Rebate apps are yet another brilliance of technology. Make a qualified purchase at the grocery store (and even some online purchases) and snap a picture of your receipt and suddenly you’ve got a few extra bucks back in your bank account.
It’s a painless and easy way to save on groceries.
My two favorite rebate apps are ibotta and Checkout51. I’ve personally earned back over $200 by using rebate apps. ibotta will even give you $10 when you try them out and redeem your first rebate within 30-days.
Potential Savings: $100/year
Shop with Coupons
It’s as if I’ve asked someone to eat a tarantula when I suggest shopping with coupons. It’s really not that bad and can save you some serious money, if you do it the right way.
I consistently keep my grocery budget (including household products) down to $400/month for a family of four. I’m not psycho-extreme with couponing and I don’t have mass hordes of food storage. (You can read all about it here.)
And … dun dun dun … I eat healthy food and still frequently buy fresh produce inside my teeny-tiny budget. Yes, it can be done.
Want to learn how I do it? Start with my Ultimate Quick Start Guide to Couponing (for Beginners).
Potential Savings: $1,200/year if all you save is $100/month. I save much more than that.
P.S. In most cases you can combine coupons with ibotta and Checkout51 rebates for even more savings.
Start a Garden
A small basic garden can grow fresh herbs and garden greens for salads. If you have a larger area and an moderate climate, there are many produce items you can grow on your own from cucumbers to squash. Large gardens can accommodate corn and vining plants like watermelon.
If you don’t think you have room for a garden, try specially designed plant holders or check out the book Square Foot Gardening which teaches how to have a plentiful garden in a very small space.
Potential Savings: $100/year
Online shopping is taking over. One study done by Pew Research2 showed that nearly 80% of Americans shop online. Even if you only shop online occasionally, it’s still wise to take advantage of the discounts and rebates that are readily available with little to no effort on your part.
Ebates offers cash back rebates for almost every retailer online. You name it, you can probably get cashback through Ebates. You can use Ebates on your mobile device, but I mostly shop on my desktop.
I get this beautiful button that pops up on practically every retail site I visit …
Yep, it's that easy to get money back. Click the button. (Rebate amount will vary.)
Would you like to get some of your money back on something you’re going to buy anyway?
Sign up for Ebates and you’ll get a bonus $10 with your first purchase of at least $25. (Offer may vary.)
Potential Savings: $100+/year (depends on how much you shop online)
Honey is similar to Ebates but has a few fun tricks up it’s sleeve. Here’s how Honey helps you save:
- Automatically searches for the best coupon codes available for the online store you’re shopping at.
- Applies rebate points in the form of “Honey Gold” that can later be redeemed for gift cards.
- Recognizes the best deals when you are shopping on Amazon and can add items to a “drop list” and notifies you if the item you want has a reduced price over a certain amount of time.
At the time of this original writing, Honey is only available on desktop as a browser extension. You can get the nitty-gritty details about Honey here.
Potential Savings: Varies (applying coupon codes, finding a better deal on Amazon, and getting rebates will vary by retailer and item)
Use Discount Gift Cards
Did you know you can buy (and sell) gift cards for a discount online? If you love a particular store or restaurant and buy there frequently, check for discounted gift card for an instant savings on your next purchase.
If you’ve been given gift cards as a gift and you know you’ll never use them, cash them out by selling them online to someone who’d use it. It’s win-win.
Potential Savings: 5%-20% off gift cards
Another Ebates look-a-like, but with a twist. While you earn points called “swagbucks” from shopping online, you can also earn SB points for trying product offers, answering surveys, watching videos and searching the web.
You can try Swagbucks here.
Potential Savings: Varies
Just because there is a sale doesn’t mean you need to go shopping (as fun as it might be).
If you need to buy something, try waiting until it goes on sale to save extra money on something you were planning on buying anyway.
A bonus to waiting for a sale is you may change your mind on your purchase.
Potential Savings: 25% or more of purchase price
Save on Lifestyle/Entertainment
Find an Inexpensive Alternate for Date Night
I’m a firm believer in continuing to date your spouse throughout marriage, which can get expensive if you’re on a tight budget.
Check here for a giant list of ideas for fun dates that are inexpensive or free. (Be sure to save it to Pinterest for later!)
Potential Savings: Varies
Swap Babysitting with Family or Neighbors
If you have small children and need a babysitter to go out on your frugal date, try a babysit swap with a family member or friend in the neighborhood.
If you can’t swap babysitting for babysitting, try to negotiate another trade. Use your talents or services to help a family member or friend by offering handiwork, helping with their grocery shopping, walking their dog, carpooling to work or some other service you can trade when they babysit for you.
Potential Savings: $240+/year ($20/month babysitting)
Cancel Your Gym Membership
There are many great alternates to going to a gym that will free up some of your budget.
- Go for walks/runs around the neighborhood, local track, or jogging path. Climb up and down stairs in your home.
- Invest in an inexpensive set of dumbbells for basic weight training at home. (Or be creative and use objects in your home for weights: gallons of milk, cans of soup, your baby, etc.)
- Find a YouTube channel, check out a video from the library, or find a workout app if you want a routine on video.
Potential Savings: $240/year (with a $20/month membership)
Cancel Magazine Subscriptions
Most news, articles and recipes can be found online. I find that if I sit down at a Dr.’s office and flip through a magazine it’s 90% advertisements anyway.
Potential Savings: $15-$20/year/magazine
Stop Using Credit Cards
This is another sore sport for many people. Our society has become unnecessarily dependent on credit cards. Here are some facts about credit cards that might scare you away from using them for good.
- You’re buying money. That’s right. You’re using someone else’s money and it’s going to potentially cost you tons of interest.
- You spend more. Studies3 show that consumers will spend more when they use a credit card or debit card instead of cash. This amount can be overspending by as much as 20%.
- You buy more junk food. Another study4 showed that consumers who paid for groceries with a credit card had a larger quantity of impulse buys and junk food in their carts than those who paid with cash. Why? Cash payers were more conscious of their money and more sensitive to the pain of purchasing impulse items and unhealthy food.
- You devalue your purchase. A final study5 that I’ll site found that the method of payment will affect the psychological attachment to your purchase. That is to say, if you buy a lamp with cash, you’ll like and appreciate your lamp more than if you purchased it with a credit card. If you bought the lamp with a credit card and it breaks or quits working, it won’t affect you as much. Devaluing your purchase can lead to waste.
Potential Savings: Interest + 20% if you avoid overspending with cash
Sell Some Stuff
Need to bank a few extra dollars and save up for something? Here are a few ways you can sell some of your things to pad your pockets a little bit.
SellShark will buy back your old electronics like old mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers.
Decluttr is an app that will let you sell CDs, DVDs, books and games.
ThredUp is an online thrift store that will allow you to buy and sell used clothing.
Once you’ve cut back your expenses and saved some money, it’s important to have a plan for where you will put your money.
Somehow, when there’s extra money in our bank accounts, it has a way of disappearing without a trace.
If you’ve put in so much effort into cutting back expenses, make sure you know what you will do with the savings.
Put your money where it needs to go so you’re not going without and cutting back in vain.