94 Creative Ways to Save Money Today
Whether you want to be a millionaire (so frickin’ bad) or just want to save a few bucks here or there, there are some surprisingly easy ways to tuck away a little cash. Let’s face it: Stressing out over money can be seriously stressful, but taking control of spending and saving even just a pocket-full of George Washington’s can help alleviate some of the worry. From shopping smart to taking care of your clothes, we’ve got 94 easy ways to save more money, fast.
Banking and Budgeting
1. Pick a bank that gives back. Look for a bank that makes the most sense for you. Seek out perks like no ATM fees, high interest on savings accounts, and no overdraft fees. Smaller banks often offer better interest rates and perks. If your bank doesn’t offer these perks, call them and ask if they will.
2. Divide up your paycheck. Ask your company’s human resources department to divide up each of your paychecks between your savings and checking accounts. Set a specific percentage to automatically deposit into your savings so you’re less inclined to touch it while out at the bar. Another bonus: Interest rates are generally higher for savings accounts than they are for checking.
3. Set goals with a budget-tracking app. Set a goal—“Pay off credit card debt!”—and then come up with an actionable, realistic plan for achieving it (and then stick to the plan!). Try out finance-tracking apps like BUDGT, Learnvest, or Mint, which offer a visual barometers of specific goals.
4. Check on your account. Make like the Sherlock Holmes of your bank account and regularly scour for funny-looking charges. Staying on top of your current balance and past purchases allows you to spot errors as well as areas of spending that can be cut back (Do you really need take-out three days a week?).
5. Use ATMs sparingly. Be smart about ATM trips. Withdraw a chunk of money every couple weeks and stash it at home. That way you won’t be forced to hit up a non-affiliated bank (and get whacked by ATM fees). Paying with cash will also feel more “real” than using a plastic card. Try withdrawing a set amount each week and sticking to it. To stay organized, you can divide up cash into actual envelopes—not just an app—with categories like “food,” “rent,” and “fun.” When an envelope goes empty, it’s time to stop spending in that section (or swap funds from another one).
6. Plan withdrawals. If you find yourself needing to use ATMs more frequently, plan each ATM visit carefully to avoid fees. When it’s time to take out cash, make sure you have time to get to your bank (unless it doesn’t charge ATM fees) or go to a supermarket or convenience store that offers cash back with debit purchases.
7. Troll exclusive deals sites. For deals on everything from haircuts to brow waxing, head to sites like Groupon, Yipit, and Living Social. If some deals seem too good to be true, check out Yelp reviews of specific restaurants or salons before purchasing in order to prevent the meal or haircut from hell.
8. Get your hair done for free. Search online for local beauty schools. An appointment with a student in training may mean a majorly discounted (or even free) haircut.
9. Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, wash those hands, and do whatever it takes to prevent the sniffles. A little TLC, healthy food, and regular exercise can help prevent expensive medical bills down the road.
10. Give up expensive habits. Ditch the cigarettes, illicit drugs, and excessive 30-racks of beer. This stuff is not only a detriment to human health, but it’s a huge money waster. Need convincing? The average smoker spends $1,825 on cigarettes every year.
11. Cut co-pays. For prescription meds taken regularly, ask your doc for a three-month supply. Oftentimes, buying a three-month prescription is cheaper than purchasing month by month.
12. Make your own shaving cream. Shave pennies off each shave with a DIY cream/lotion like this one, which uses moisturizing coconut oil, shea butter, and olive oil. Or just use other (cheaper) items from around the house—conditioner, baby oil, or… wait for it… peanut butter!
13. Indulge in a DIY spa day. Facemasks, body scrubs, and hair masks aren’t limited to pricey spas. Make your own spa-like goodies with easy-to-make ingredients lists including bananas and coffee.
14. Take short showers. Bear the occasional cold shower! Turning down the heat saves money on both water and the energy it takes to replenish your hot water tank. If cold showers are your worst nightmare, try adjusting your hot water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees or less. You’ll still save energy (without the goose bumps).
15. Hit up corporate discounts. See if your company offers corporate perks and discounts such as gym memberships, ball games, cell-phone data plans, hotel fare, and concerts.
16. Take advantage of free fitness classes. Sign up for one-week or one-class passes at gyms or fitness studios. Many facilities offer at least one free class or gym session, while others offer cheap, introductory rates. Don’t be afraid to try new places and new fitness trends!
17. Stream fitness classes online. Stream fitness classes for free or for a small fee. Some monthly subscriptions to fitness video sites are cheaper than one in-person class. We like YogaToday, Daily Burn, and GaiamTV. Get friends involved to stay accountable.
18. Treat yourself. This one takes some self-restraint, but we actually endorse a form of frivolous spending! Every once in a while, go ahead and buy something you don’t really need (ahem, another bottle of nail polish). Regularly treating yourself will help you feel less restricted, so you don’t go on a spending binge down the road.
Home and Electronics
19. Turn off the water while scrubbing dishes. Spray a little water on all the dishes in the sink, then turn it off while scrubbing. Turn the water back on when it’s time to rinse. Hand washing dishes (versus a dishwasher) just once daily—and not leaving the water running while scrubbing—can save 200-500 gallons of hot water per month. That’s not just good for the environment; it’s good for your wallet.
20. Concoct a cleaning solution. Whip up your very own signature cleaning solution. DIY cleaners can be natural, safe, and—most of the time—less expensive. With basic ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, olive oil, and fresh herbs, DIY cleaners can get the job done without harsh chemicals and for a fraction of the price of commercial cleaners.
21. Customize your air freshener. Fancy, fragrant wall flowers, aromatic sprays, and a slew of over-priced candles can do some serious damage on your wallet. Deodorize a stinky mudroom with a simple mix of baking soda and an essential oil of your preference. We also like these DIY reed diffusers.
22. Maintain appliances. Keep appliances clean and try to fix small snafus yourself rather than sending appliances (small or large) to the dump and purchasing new ones. Take easy steps—clean food particles and hard water scale before they build up, inspect seals for wear, etc.—to maintain appliances’ longevity.
23. Choose energy-efficient appliances. The math is easy on this one. Less energy used equals less money spent. If your fridge works perfectly fine, it may not be in your best interest to chuck it; but when you do decide to buy new appliances, it’s worth the extra moolah to purchase an Energy Star model.
24. Stay cool without the AC. The most obvious way to cut air conditioning costs is to not use air conditioning at all. Luckily, it’s still possible to keep cool on a stiflingly hot night—check out these AC-free tips to stay cool, from icing down pulse points to using cotton sheets.
25. Turn out the lights. Flick the switch with each change of location. Turning off that hallway light or making a household sweep to shut off lights in unused rooms can save a few pennies here and there. Though the return isn’t mind-boggling, it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to make sure the lights are off before you cross that threshold.
26. Cut AC costs. Can’t stand to ditch the AC completely? You can still cut back on costs. Set the thermostat between 74 and 78 degrees to balance comfort and energy savings. Keep the air filter clean (and replace it every few months) and keep the windows closed and locked while the air conditioner is running.
27. Make sure your digs are well-insulated. When cold months arrive, taking a few easy steps to winterize your apartment or house can also reduce energy costs. Try plugging drafty doors with towels (or a DIY draft snake), winterizing windows with plastic or caulking, and beefing up insulation to keep a home warm and cut back on heating costs all winter long.
28. Stay warm without the heat. During harsh winter months, layer up with extra blankets, drink a hot cuppa tea, and get your snuggle on to stay warm instead of jacking up the heat. Something as simple as a hot water bottle in bed can mean forgoing high thermostat temps.
29. Turn off the tube. While powering off the TV doesn’t exactly save that much energy, turning away from the tube can save money in an entirely different way. Less TV time means less exposure to an estimated 100 ads every four hours. Each commercial showcasing a quarter pounder or a root cyclone technology vacuum is designed to sell consumers a product, which is pretty wild stuff considering TV is considered the most effective advertising channel. To avoid the burning desire to spend on things you never knew you needed, avoid ads as much as possible.
30. Ditch cable. Ya’ll ready for this? Canceling cable can save $500 a year. Beyond the obvious health benefits of decreasing TV time—including increased sleep, prioritizing your social life, and promoting healthier weight—limiting dependence on cable TV can save a substantial amount of money. Fear not! There are alternatives including Hulu, Hulu Plus ($8 per month), and Netflix ($8 per month). (Though we can’t promise you won’t get addicted to a new series).
31. Switch to energy efficient bulbs. You’ve probably seen energy efficient light bulbs on the shelves of the hardware store. They can be more expensive than their traditional counterparts, but they pay off in the long run: LED bulbs and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) require less energy to run. Crazy as it may sound, energy efficient light bulbs can save upward of $10,000 over a 10-year period.
32. Reduce phantom power. No, phantom power is not some sort of comic book villain. It’s the discreet flow of energy from cords plugged into outlets when the devices they’re attached to are in standby mode or powered off. Unplug cell phone chargers and electronic devices when you’re not using them. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans have anywhere between 20-40 devices (from printers to coffee makers) using phantom loads throughout their homes—and this all adds up to money needlessly spent on energy.
33. Use a surge protector. To make it easier to shut down the mighty force that is phantom power (see No. 32), use a surge protector and shut off the switch when it’s not in use.
34. Find happy hour drink specials. Fiddle with Foursquare to find drink specials at local bars and restaurants. Dirt-cheap drinks and no cover charge make the moniker “It’s five o’clock somewhere” all the more appealing.
35. Whip up your own greeting cards. From “thank you” notes to birthday cards, all it takes to make a classy-lookin’ DIY card is some cardstock and a little creativity. In contrast, store-bought cards can cost around $5.99 and chances are they’ll be tossed in just a few days.
36. Have a potluck. The premise is simple: At a potluck dinner, each invitee brings along a dish of food, which is then eaten by all. Lots of people equals lots of food. Delegating dishes among guests makes it easier for the host family by saving time, energy, and (of course) money. Bonus: Eating with friends is good for our health.
37. Eat in, outside. Eating in doesn’t have to mean chowing down inside. Bring a picnic to a park, a beach, or even your backyard and make dinner just a little more special (without having to tip).
38. Bring your own bottle. Hit up BYOB restaurants to hang out with friends, enjoy a good meal, and save a ton on the alcohol mark-up. Call ahead to see if there’s a corkage fee.
40. Go to the movies during the day. Hitting up a matinee can save a few buckaroos per person. And smuggling in a few healthier snacks can save a ton (both in terms of money and health) compared to over-priced boxes of candy and cartons of popcorn.
41. Swap books, music, and DVDs. Share your favorite reads, movies, and music with friends instead of buying things at the store. Search for and sell discounted collections on Craigslist and PaperBackSwap, or check out used book and music stores.
42. Get a library card. A library card grants access to thousands of books for free, but that’s not all. Use your library card to borrow movies, magazines, and newspapers. The library is also a great place to get some work done free of charge (a.k.a. without the guilt of not buying an expensive latte).
43. Share media streaming accounts. Don’t have a Netflix account yourself? Split the already low monthly cost with a roommate, family member, or friend. Same goes for magazine subscriptions and fitness streaming sites.
44. Create your own theater. Turn at-home movie watching into your own mini cinema (a minema, if you will). Make popcorn, splurge on soda, and maybe even go all out with a box of sour-patch kids. Turn off the lights and the phones, and save chatting for after the movie for a theater-like experience without shelling out tons of money.
45. Ditch unread subscriptions. If your stack of magazines gets more time in the recycling bin than in your eager paws, then it’s probably time to get rid of unread subscriptions. Even one ditched subscription will save at least $10 a year.
46. See what’s happenin’ around town. Check the local newspaper, town website, or coffee shop boards for free or cheap events, from farmers’ markets to concerts in the park, that are going on around your hood.
47. Be smart at the museum. Call local museums and inquire about monthly free-admittance days. Some museums advertise one day a month for free or for a discounted fee. Other museums offer a pay-what-you-can option year-round.
48. Clean out your closet. Take some time to actually put everything where it’s supposed to go. Once you’ve organized your clothes so everything has a place, it’s likely you’ll find forgotten items hiding in your closet and rethink buying a whole new wardrobe.
49. Check labels. Avoid “dry clean only” clothes that can cost an arm and a leg to maintain. For tough-to-clean items such as wool, silk, and rayon, hand wash with mild soaps instead of shipping them off to the dry cleaners.
50. Take care of the clothes you do have. Even if you have to pay a little more to do a separate load of whites, you’ll promote clothing longevity. Clothes are an expensive investment, and taking good care of your wardrobe can save money over time. Take small steps—sew on lost buttons, patch jeans (totally looks cool anyway), etc.—to keep clothes past their prime.
51. Do the “sniff test.” Each time you decide it’s laundry day, evaluate if you really need to wash something. Go ahead, sniff your clothes and assess if that hardly-worn T-shirt really needs a run through the washer and dryer. The key here is that laundering less means your clothes will last longer.
52. Hang some stuff up to dry. Dryers not only expend energy, they damage clothes and decrease their lifespan. The actual cost of running a dryer isn’t all that steep, but the more immediate effect is maintaining the integrity of each item of clothing.
53. Use cold water. The most expensive part of washing clothes is heating up the water. Using cool water saves money—around 50 cents per load—on heating bills. Hot water does in fact clean better, but save it for seriously soiled clothes rather than the just-slightly-stinky stuff.
54. Leave your wallet at home or at the office. Going for a walk? Leave your wallet when you head out so you won’t be tempted to grab coffee or go on a mini shopping trip.
55. Sign up for rewards cards. Having a rewards card can save money on everyday items such as shampoo or toilet paper (If the emails from drug stores bother you, immediately unsubscribe.). To make things even easier, there are apps that consolidate cards so you don’t have to carry them all around
56. Coupon like a champ. Troll for online coupon codes. Couponing doesn’t have to mean hours of clipping circulars. Take advantage of sites that tailor coupons to your interests and needs, such as thekrazycouponlady.com and coupons.com.
57. Wait for sales. Visit retailmenot.com to search for discounts for a favorite item or store. Added tip: Wait until the end of a season to buy clothes when they’re all half-off or more.
58. Buy generic. Try out generic brands of some of your most commonly purchased items. Oftentimes, it’s hard to notice a difference. Certain purchases, such as medications and organic food, are especially smart to buy generic because they’re regulated by the FDA and the USDA, respectively.
59. Holiday shop after the holidays. Buy Father’s Day cards the day after Father’s Day, wrapping paper after Christmas and Chanukah, and Easter paraphernalia after Easter. Most stores heavily reduce prices on seasonal items after the holiday has passed.
60. Abide by the 30-day rule. If you feel like you’re treating yourself to an unnecessary purchase, it probably is unnecessary (sorry). Write the item down and wait thirty days. If at the end of that time you decide you still want it, then go for it.
61. Buy in bulk. Buy personal care items, such as deodorant and hand soap, in bulk (so long as you’re confident you’ll actually use it all). Buying bulk almost always saves money on the unit price.
62. Delete credit card numbers. Remove credit card numbers from online accounts… like right now! This way, with each new purchase, you’ll have to consciously plug in those numbers and question whether the purchase is really necessary.
Food and Drink
63. Grow your own food. Produce doesn’t always have to come from the grocery store, or even the farmers’ market. A wide variety of herbs, fruits, and veggies are easy to grow (even indoors!). The math is simple: A packet of seeds can cost less than a dollar, yet it can grow dozens of cukes, tomatoes, or green beans.
64. Write a list and stick to it. Strategic placement of foods as well as desirable packaging often has us leaving the store with a few extra bags than we intended to (and too many extra bucks spent). An effective way to steer clear of impulse buys is to write a shopping list before going to the grocery store and then stick to it.
65. Scrutinize grocery circulars. Check out grocery circulars to see which store has the most of your favorite go-to items on sale. If you don’t get the paper, look up each store’s weekly specials online.
66. Go grocery shopping on a full stomach and alone. Don’t let a rumbly tummy or a picky spouse influence your grocery list. Head to the supermarket after you’ve eaten—studies show that shopping with hunger pangs may mean more food in the cart.
67. Use a basket. Use a basket instead of a cart if you know you need just a few items. It’ll keep you from tossing in more than you need (plus, you’ll get a mini arm workout while you shop).
68. Don’t buy just because you have a coupon. Coupon clipping shouldn’t be a chore. Sit down once a week or once a month and only clip things you really will use rather than buying something just for the sake of getting a good deal.
69. BYOB (bring your own bag). Heading to the grocery store with a fabric bag in tow not only cuts down on paper and plastic waste, it can save you money (albeit a very tiny bit). Stores including Target, CVS, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes offer incentives for reusable bags, like money back (5-10 cents) or entry into a drawing for a gift certificate.
70. Buy what’s in season. Buy produce that’s in season and look for recipes that feature seasonal produce. Frequent farmers’ markets during the spring, summer, and fall for locally grown produce that’s often less expensive than grocery-store-bought food shipped in from miles and miles away.
71. Choose organic only some of the time. Organic produce is nearly always more expensive than the conventionally grown stuff, but the good news is that some fruits and veggies are a-okay to buy without the organic seal of approval. Check out the “clean 15,” the Environmental Working Group’s list of produce that’s most safe to eat in non-organic varieties.
72. Ask for a rain check. If a product you like is on sale, but has run out, inquire about a rain check. Once the item is in stock again, you should be able to buy it for the initial sale price.
73. Pass up on checkout line fare. Eyes on the cashier! Don’t even entertain the idea of impulse buys at the checkout line (here’s looking at you, gum and tabloids). Tempting treats are designed to be eye candy, but you most likely have no need for a marked-up granola bar.
74. Cash in on cans and bottles. Recycle glass and aluminum empties to put a little extra change back in your pocket. In states with bottle bills, each bottle or can redeems 5-10 cents.
75. Shop in bulk. Buy your favorite items—from beans to beets—in bulk. Just don’t stock up for a fall-out shelter—make sure you use up what you have before bulk-buying again. Peruse your grocery store’s bulk bins for seeds, nuts, and grains. (Make sure to check the unit price first to see if the prices are truly less expensive than the pre-packaged versions.).
76. Drink more water. Drinking water may seem like a no-brainer for good health, but it’s a clear-cut winner in the money-saving category. Soda, juice, and especially alcohol can jack up grocery bills and restaurant checks. Switching to water most of the time can save a good chunk of moolah.
77. Eat frozen veggies. Price stickers on fresh produce may keep you from eating your veggies, but there’s a cheaper alternative that’s just as healthy. Sticking to frozen veggies for some recipes can cut a few dollars here and there. Just make sure to check unit prices, as some in-season fresh vegetables may be less expensive than the frozen variety.
78. Double your recipe. Cook multiple meals at a time—double a recipe, or cook a few recipes at once—and then freeze some for later when you’ve got no time for meal prep (saving you from the expense of take-out food). If once-a-month cooking is too daunting a task, stick to once a week or a couple times per week.
79. Use a Crock Pot. A slow cooker can be one of the best kitchen money savers since it’s so cheap to run (they use just 100 watts of electricity, which means one meal a week racks up less than a dollar on the electricity bill). One-pot meals in the Crock turn less expensive meats into tasty, tender dishes. The small appliance also produces huge batches of food to freeze for later.
80. Make your own coffee. Brew that morning cup of Joe at home or take advantage of the office coffee maker to save up to $15 a week. Making coffee at home or at work is also an environmentally friendlier choice since you won’t be dumping a paper cup with each purchase.
81. Save all your pennies. Save spare change and use it on a fun drink that you don’t really need, e.g. a fancy pumpkin spice latte or a bottle of kombucha. Instead of avoiding a $4.00 drink completely, use the loose change that would get stuck under the driver’s seat anyway. You’ll get to treat yourself without putting any strain on your wallet.
82. Make your own snacky foods. Snack bars, quick-cooking oatmeal cups, and individual hummus cups all come with a price—and it’s almost always higher than a homemade version. Spend a little time in the kitchen to make healthier, less-processed versions of packaged snacks.
83. Brown bag lunch. Packing lunch for work or school is generally the healthier choice; plus, it saves on food markups at sit-down restaurants and fast-food joints. Rather than a $10-$15 lunch from the corner deli, a lunch from home can cost just a few dollars.
84. Understand expiration dates (and prevent food spoilage). Here’s a little secret: Expiration dates actually refer to the quality and freshness of food, not safety. Food is often safe to eat even beyond “sell by” and “use by” dates, so long as it’s stored right. Keep food from spoiling—before any stamped date—by setting the fridge thermostat to 40 degrees or below and freezing meats within two days of purchasing.
85. Participate in Meatless Mondays. Cutting meat from just one meal a week (it doesn’t have to be on a Monday) can save a few bucks because meat, poultry, and fish are more expensive than other protein sources. Swap in beans, legumes, eggs, nuts, and seeds for a simple and healthy way (both for humans and the planet) to fatten up the wallet.
86. Take care of dry goods (and freeze them first). Store grains and spices in airtight containers and keep them in a cool, dark place. Freeze flour, sugar, grains, and baking mixes in the freezer for two to four weeks to increase shelf life to up to two years. Storing these items with care means they will last longer (Just because dry goods are dry doesn’t mean they don’t have an expiration date.).
87. Buy your own ice cream or dessert. Instead of dropping extra dough on a slice of pie and a cappuccino, save the sweets for home sweet home rather than ordering them at a restaurant.
88. Walk and bike whenever possible. This one is as simple as strapping on a helmet or lacing up a pair of sneaks. Not only will a bike or walk commute to the supermarket or to work provide health benefits, but it’s also more cost-effective (no gasoline required!).
89. Carpool. The average American commuter drops more than $1,000 on gas each year just driving to and from work. Carpooling with a coworker not only cuts gas costs but also saves on maintenance, meaning you won’t have to worry as much about buying a new car in the near future.
90. Fill up your tires. Properly inflated tires can increase fuel efficiency by more than three percent—which means less money spent on gas. Check tires frequently with a tire gauge to make sure they’re adequately pumped up.
91. Don’t leave junk in the car. Get rid of the junk in your trunk; it’s jacking up your gas mileage. The more a car is carrying, the worse its gas mileage. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk cuts a typical car’s fuel economy by two percent. Dropping the weight can save nearly $40 in a year.
92. Limit trips in the car. If you have a car, limit trips out by planning ahead. Combine errands into a once-a-week drugstore/supermarket/hardware store sweep. Bonus: This is usually a more efficient use of your time!
93. Pack light and book online. Avoid crazy baggage fees at the airport by sticking to one carry-on and one personal item if you’re headed on a short trip. Book flight tickets online with sites like Orbitz and Hotwire so you can compare airline prices and find the best deals. If you book on cheapair.com, the site even refunds passengers the difference if an already-purchased ticket has dropped in price.
94. Take advantage of public transportation. Opting for a bus ride rather than driving yourself to work each day could easily save over $100 per month (factoring in the costs of parking, fuel, and car maintenance). If a bus isn’t a viable commuting option, try it out as a cheaper (not to mention less stressful) option than driving to a vacation destination or to visit family. Shoot for off-peak times (after 10am) and book in advance if possible. And of course, if you’re a city-dweller, the subway is much cheaper than owning a car or frequently taking a cab.
Originally posted September 2013, updated June 2014.