This post is by our regular contributor, Erin.
We talk a lot about earning more here on Young Adult Money, mostly because it’s limitless. It’s much more freeing to increase your earning power than it is to cut back on all your expenses. It also gives you more room to grow in the future.
However, that doesn’t mean saving money shouldn’t have its place in your financial plan. If you increase your salary, but also continue to increase your spending, then you’re not going to make much progress.
It can be hard to get over the initial hurdle of saving when you’re not used to it, but cutting back doesn’t need to equal deprivation. It’s all about cutting back on what doesn’t make you happy.
So many of us pay for services year after year because it’s on autopilot. If you’re looking to save money without feeling the pinch, then take a look through this list of 30 ways to save each month. I’m sure you’ll find something that won’t have a huge impact on your happiness!
1) Don’t Buy Things at Full Price
This might sound easier said than done, but it’s a simple rule of thumb I’ve lived by my entire life. It’s extremely rare that I ever pay full price for an item. I challenge myself to find it somewhere else for less.
Of course, you don’t want to spend hours trying to save a dollar here and there. The amount of research it takes to find something for less should scale with the expense.
Once you get into this habit, it becomes second nature. Many of my friends outside the personal finance niche are amazed at how many ways there are to find deals and coupon codes, but it’s just the way my brain is wired! Always look for alternatives.
2) Stick to a List
No matter where or when you go shopping, have a list with you to keep you on track.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a store without a list and regretted it. Not only because I possibly spend more money on things I didn’t plan to buy, but because it’s a time suck as well.
It’s all too easy to wander the aisles of Target, getting distracted from the real reason I went there in the first place. Do yourself a favor and make a game plan before shopping to save money on your trip.
3) Maximize Cash Back Rewards
So long as you’re credit card debt free, or can trust yourself with paying off your balance in full every month, then you can maximize cash back rewards on everyday purchases.
I have a card that gives me 5% cash back on different categories each quarter, and it’s usually on practical things like gas, food, or Amazon purchases.
There are other cash back cards good for daily use, giving you a flat 1-3% cash back on things like groceries throughout the year. How awesome is that?
4) Avoid Spending Temptations Completely
These can be physical or online temptations. Do you pass a mall or a store that’s your shopping weakness on the way to work everyday? Is it possible to take a different route home?
Do you have a habit of checking your favorite retail website during downtime at work? Try blocking it with a browser extension or plugin.
Worse yet, do you receive newsletters from your favorite stores informing you of sales and deals? Get a specific “junk email” so none of those temptations find their way to your main inbox when you least need them to.
5) Cut Cable
We’ve written about how you can still watch TV without cable here. There are so many cheaper solutions out there that it’s rarely worth paying for cable these days.
This is one of those expenses that most people have that they never question the value of. If you watch TV maybe once a week, your money is better off going toward something else.
6) Pay Off High Interest Debt
This is kind of an indirect way to save money, but if you have high interest debt, then paying it off faster saves you money on interest in the future. It’s also one less monthly payment you’ll have to be concerned with down the road, freeing up cash for savings.
7) Take Baby Steps
Do you have a major spending vice, like going out to eat all the time, or going to the bar with friends every weekend? Then try reducing the number of times you put yourself in those situations, bit by bit.
You don’t need to stop going out cold turkey. Most people aren’t aspiring hermits. Just be conscious of how often you’re going out and how much you’re spending each time.
If it helps, set a small spending limit for yourself when you do go out. For example, I always try to stay under $10 a plate if I go out for dinner. You can also decide not to order a drink that’s over $6.
8) Look for Free Alternatives
I’ve written about how you can be frugal without being boring, and it’s true. Many of my favorite things to do with family and friends are completely free.
Focus on the company you keep instead. I love my friends because they can make any situation better with their sense of humor. If you need to go out to have a good time, try and recreate that activity at home for less, or look for free events in your town.
9) Lower Your Monthly Bills
One of the best and easiest ways to save each month is to simply focus on lowering the expenses that occur every month!
These are things like utilities and services you pay for on a monthly basis that can vary or stay the same.
For example, your cell phone bill is a big one. Do you love the service you receive enough to pay $90 per month for it? If you do, that’s great, but if you’re not overly attached to your phone, think about switching to another provider or downgrading your plan.
You can probably figure out quite a few ways to save on utilities, especially in the winter or the summer.
For all other bills, like insurance payments and your internet, try negotiating with your providers to see if they can offer you a lower rate. You can even call up your credit card companies and ask for a lower interest rate if you’re paying off debt. Just about everything is negotiable – even your rent!
10) Stop Caring About the Joneses
People spend so much money trying to impress other people, or to elevate their perceived status in society.
Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and start worrying about what your money is doing instead.
If you’re buying material items based on what’s trending, then you need to start thinking more long-term. Spend on what makes you happy and leave everything else out. You’ll save a bunch of money this way.
11) Track Your Money
If you don’t track your money, then you’re probably missing out on some savings opportunities because you don’t know where you should be looking to cut back.
Maybe you think your grocery and entertainment spending is lower than it actually is. Unfortunately, until you track it, you don’t know for sure. Your money could be going missing without your knowledge!
Start tracking your spending so you can figure out exactly what categories to target as far as cutting back goes.
12) Use Generic Brands
I was recently on a food shopping trip with a friend who went to buy the more expensive brand of sugar out there. Meanwhile, the store brand (which I’ve purchased before) was at least $1 less, if not more.
Not all store brands are created equal, but it’s at least worth giving them a try. Many people swear by Costco’s Kirkland brand, and I think grocery stores all over have been improving their selections to compete with name brands.
13) Shop at the Dollar Store
Along the same lines, why not try the Dollar Store for some items? I’ve bought decent kitchenware there that has lasted me a few years already…just for a dollar.
Various cleaning and household items are typically cheaper there. I understand if you’d rather not get food there, but the next time you’re making out a shopping list, mark off what you could potentially get at the dollar store instead.
14) Go to Ethnic Grocery Stores
Let’s face it, “regular” grocery stores put a markup on just about everything. You can get items like beans, rice, tortillas, produce, and meat cheaper at ethnic grocery stores. You just need to know where to look.
At the very least, you could try Aldi if one is nearby. It’s a chain focused on budget-friendly groceries and off-brands, and plenty of bloggers report saving a ton by shopping there.
15) Use Coupons Wisely
Since we’re on the topic of shopping, I’ll mention coupons, but briefly. I’m not a huge fan of them because of the time commitment required to clip them and sort through them. I’ll even get lost on Target’s Cartwheel app for an hour looking for deals.
Only go searching for coupons for items you’re planning on buying that week. Don’t go crazy trying to save everything for future purchases.
Even better, try downloading searchable coupon apps or looking at grocery store websites for digital coupons. This is a much faster way to get through everything and snag savings. Plus, once you’ve got them, you can use this spreadsheet to track your coupons!
16) Go to the Library
I don’t know about you, but I love libraries. Besides the fact they’re awesome to work in, they offer a plethora of free resources.
You can borrow books, ebooks, DVDs, video games, magazines, and get free access to paid online publications. Many libraries offer discounted trips, programs, and classes as well.
If you haven’t taken a look at what your library offers, you should!
17) Cash or Credit/Debit?
Which tends to slip through your fingers? Knowing your spending habits is a must when thinking about saving money. There are a lot of studies out there that have found people spend more money when paying with plastic.
I’ve found the opposite to be true. Cash usually requires more effort to track, and it’s gone before I remember having it.
Figure out what method of payment is more conducive to saving money for you.
18) Be a Safe Driver
There are so many ways being a reckless driver can cost you. Speeding tickets, red light cameras, moving violations, car accidents – these can all lead to higher insurance premiums.
Do yourself a favor and simply be a cautious driver instead. Speeding isn’t worth the risk.
19) Switch to a No Fee Bank
We covered this a few weeks ago, but if you’re paying through the roof to bank, you’re doing it wrong. There’s no reason to pay an institution to hold your money for you.
Switch to a no fee bank that won’t charge you for using ATMs – one that doesn’t have a minimum balance or monthly maintenance fee.
Additionally, look for a savings account with an APY around 1.00%. Might as well earn a bit of interest each month!
20) Use Swagbucks and Ebates
There are a ton of sites out there that will allow you to either save money on your purchases, or will reward you for actions taken via a gift card.
Earning Swagbucks, which you can trade in for gift cards, is super easy – you can read our review of that here.
Ebates is like a shopping portal, so if you need to buy something from an online retailer, look to see how much cash back you can get with Ebates first. They’ll send you a check once you reach a certain threshold.
If you have a rewards credit card, most companies also have their own shopping portal which you can use to earn extra cash back.
21) Love Target? Get the REDCard
I’ve obviously mentioned Target a bit too much in this post, but I have a Super Target down the road from me, and it’s where I go for most everything.
If you’re in the same situation, you’re missing out if you don’t have a REDcard. It gives you 5% off purchases, along with many other benefits. It’s a great retail rewards card if you shop at Target often.
22) Trash Bad Habits
I don’t want this section to come off as judgmental, but it’s worth taking a look at your vices to see if you can save money there. Do you drink, smoke, or gamble? Does it get out of hand easily?
Tally up how much money you spend on bad habits each month and consider cutting back or stopping – for the sake of your wallet and your health.
23) Declutter All the Things
Decluttering can actually make you money, but did you also know it can help you save?
It’s simple: the more stuff you have to maintain, the more expensive it is. Both with money and your time.
Way too many people feel the need to upgrade to a bigger home because they don’t have enough room in their current place. Before you turn to that or paying for storage as a solution, try and get rid of as much stuff as you can.
This can be an ongoing project – aim to declutter at least 10 items per month.
24) Change Your Mindset
This isn’t a technique per se, but it’s worth stating: the easiest way to save money every month is to prioritize it by shifting your mindset to focus on it!
If you’re not used to looking for ways to save, you just need to train your brain to do it for you. All you need to do is set your mind to it and look for opportunities to spend less. They’ll start becoming more apparent to you the more you practice.
25) Be Careful of When to Say “Yes”
Do you have a hard time saying “no” to hanging out with people? Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real thing, especially for young adults, but you need to learn to prioritize and balance your financial goals along with fun.
I fully believe this is possible, even if it’s difficult at times. I would never tell someone to say “no” constantly, but carefully consider how saying “yes” will impact your financial situation, even when it comes to making purchases!
26) Buy in Bulk, Make From Scratch
You hear this advice a lot when it comes to food. Buying in bulk and making something from scratch tends to be cheaper over the long run, even if it’s more expensive and time consuming upfront.
One thing I discovered recently is that this applies to drinks, too. My mom absolutely loves this one brand of sweet tea, but it’s $3 per gallon! Her neighbor recommended she purchase teabags and brew her own instead.
So for about 5-10 minutes of her time, and $10 for a box of teabags that will last her several months, she’s saving a lot of money. And it tastes better!
27) Buy Used or Refurbished When Possible
Some people are a bit wary about this, but as long as the product has a warranty, and you can look it over before buying, you should be okay.
Parents always recommend buying used when it comes to children, and buying lightly used appliances and technology can net you hundreds in savings.
You can always ask friends and family if they have anything you need that they’re willing to sell or give to you, too. When I was moving into my first apartment, my family took it upon themselves to declutter and hand everything to me. I wasn’t going to complain about free furniture and dishes!
28) Try a Savings Challenge
There are so many ways to gamify your finances and have fun with saving. We’ve covered a few before, but savings challenges (like the 52-week challenge) and no-spend challenges are surefire ways to help you get into the mindset of saving. They can also expose your financial weak spots regarding shopping!
29) Bring Your Own ____
Fill in the blank – lunch, coffee, drinks, entertainment, the list goes on. Whenever you might have to pay for something, bring your own instead.
Packing your lunch can easily save you $50 per week at work. Having house parties instead of heading to the bar can save you a decent amount of money in one weekend. Brewing your own coffee and taking it with you to work, or preparing a smoothie ahead of time for breakfast, can save you quite a bit of cash!
30) Take Part in the Sharing Economy
Whether you want to use Uber or Lyft to get to where you need to go, Airbnb to stay somewhere for less, carpool with a coworker to save money on gas and wear and tear on your car, or let someone use your car while it’s parked at the airport (so you save on parking costs), there are many, many ways to save money by taking part in the sharing economy.
Wondering if there’s a more cost efficient way of doing something? Just run a search for it! You’ll probably find an idea or two on how to save on that particular expense.
As you can see, there are seriously an unlimited number of ways you can save each month. All it takes is a bit of dedication, creativity, and focus.
Even if you choose just 5 things off this list, you’re bound to work your way toward saving hundreds, if not thousands, over the course of the year!
What’s your favorite way to save money in your everyday life? Does saving money come easy to you, or did you have to work at it? What is one thing you refuse to sacrifice in the name of saving?