How to Save Money

Small steps can make a big difference over time.

Saving money is a long-term process, and both personal and global factors can affect consumers’ abilities to save. In January 2022, for example, the personal saving rate in the U.S. was 6.4% — the percentage of disposable personal income American consumers save rather than spend — down from the pandemic-era high of 33.8% in April 2020. Unexpected emergencies such as a car accident or a job loss can wipe out your savings account in a matter of days, but this list of 38 ways to save money offers bite-sized steps you can take today to rebuild your savings and reach your financial goals.

Adjust your thermostat.

Reduce your energy bill by lowering your thermostat in the winter months and raising it in the summer months as much as possible. Just a few degrees can make a big difference in your electric bill each month, and reducing your energy consumption offers both environmental and monetary benefits. Adjusting your thermostat when you’ll be out of town or getting a programmable thermostat to reduce energy use when you’re away on vacation or simply at work during the day could save you hundreds by the year’s end.

Automate your finances.

Keep your finances on track by automating your monthly bills, such as utility bills or credit card payments. Setting up automatic payments ensures you won’t miss a payment or be subject to hefty late fees. That means extra money for your wallet — and it could help you avoid spending money that’s earmarked for a utility bill or other expense.

Ask your teens to pitch in.

Get your older children involved in your savings goals to reduce family spending and teach children about responsible money management at the same time. Encourage your teen to get a part-time or summer job and ask them to pay for some of their discretionary expenses, like entertainment or clothes. Learning to save, whether it’s saving an allowance or saving income, will teach a great life lesson and relieve some of the pressure off of your wallet.

Attempt a no-spending challenge.

A no-spend challenge or spending freeze will require you to pause all discretionary spending for a short period of time — say, 30 days. It’s not a long-term solution to overspending, but it can help you meet a short-term saving goal, pay off debt and learn to live more frugally.

Build a budget.

Create a budget that leaves room for saving each month. Budgeting can be as simple or complex as you’d like, but the general idea is to clearly account for how you’re spending your money each month. This way, you’ll be able to cut back on expenses you don’t use or that aren’t a priority anymore and break overspending habits that lead to debt accumulation.

Buy generic medicines and store-brand products.

Name-brand products always look better on the shelf, but buying off-brand, store-brand or generic products can save you a bundle without actually reducing your quality of life. Try the store-brand granola or turkey meat next time you’re out shopping, for example, and try to get generic medicines and prescriptions whenever possible to save money.

Cancel subscriptions and memberships.

You’re subscribed to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max. But are you really using all of those streaming services? Review your subscriptions to streaming services, music services, data storage services, publications and any other small, reoccurring charges you see cluttering your credit card bill. You’ll be surprised how much you save in a year by simply canceling a few unused subscriptions.

Consider the 50/30/20 method.

One common budgeting strategy is the 50/30/20 method, which suggests allocating your after-tax income to three categories: 50% for needs, 30% for wants and 20% for saving or paying off debt. This is one of the easiest budgeting rules to actually stick to, as it doesn’t require item-by-item tracking but gives consumers a general benchmark to keep in mind throughout the month.

Cut back on child care expenses.

The Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable child care as costing 7% or less of a family’s household income, but most families are spending a larger portion of their paychecks to cover costs. According to a Care.com survey, 85% of parents report spending 10% or more of their household income on child care in 2021. It’s not always possible, but reducing that expense can free up hundreds or thousands of dollars to save instead. Review your company’s employee benefits, such as a dependent care FSA, research local child care subsidy programs and talk with other families about a nanny share opportunity. If costs can’t be reduced, be sure to claim the child and dependent care credit, which covers child care expenses up to $8,000 for one qualifying individual in 2021, on your federal tax return.

Cut the cost of commuting.

Gas prices are on the rise. If you have a long commute, those rising prices can mean a big jump in spending ahead. Instead of driving to work, look into public transportation options or talk with co-workers about a carpool option to save money.

Decrease your withholding.

A big refund on Tax Day feels good in the moment, but it can actually mean you’re overpaying on your taxes throughout the year. Talk to your employer’s human resources department about adjusting your W-4 withholdings. Then use that extra money in your paycheck each month to save and invest all year long.

Don’t pay for convenience.

Sure, it would be more convenient to take an Uber than the bus, and it would be more convenient to drive to the nearest grocery store rather than the one with the best prices. But if saving money is your goal, it’s time to sacrifice convenience for savings. Go the extra mile by making your own foods at home rather than buying them pre-made, taking public transportation and finding other ways to prioritize your money over ease.

Download a savings app.

Download a money saving and budgeting app to keep you on track. Some apps offer cash back on purchases, others provide users with promo and coupon codes, and others offer discounts on certain products. Try a few of these money-saving apps to see which have the best benefits for your lifestyle.

Expense or deduct your home office costs.

Setting up and maintaining a home office is expensive — and with more employees working from home than ever, it’s time to talk with your employer about expensing costs like monitors, desks, Wi-Fi and cellphone service. If you’re self-employed, you may be able to deduct some of your home office costs on your federal income tax return.

Get a side hustle.

Adding income from a side gig or part-time job can help make your savings goals a reality. Try offering your services online using a site like fiverr.com, or turn your hobbies into money-making ventures. Common side gigs include selling crafts on Etsy, tutoring, pet sitting or dog walking, social media management and catering.

Get to know your HSA.

Consider opening or better familiarizing yourself with a health savings account, called an HSA, for health care expenses. You must have a high-deductible health plan to use this tax-advantaged savings account, but opting for a high-deductible plan combined with an HSA can be a great way to save money on a high monthly premium while saving money for your future health expenses.

Go vegetarian.

Changing your eating habits can have a significant long-term effect on your wallet. Meat-eating is expensive, so consider becoming a vegetarian or eating more plant-based foods. You’ll save money at the grocery store and could improve your health at the same time.

Nix fees.

Check your bank and credit card statements for fees and be sure you understand what each fee is for. These extra fees can start to chip away at your budget, so avoiding unnecessary fees and late fees can be a great way to find extra cash for your savings. Fees are a waste of money, so contact your bank if you’re being charged fees you don’t understand or consider making a switch to a bank or credit card with fewer fees.

Pack a lunch.

Eating out for lunch every day is a surefire way to spend all of your discretionary money, fast. If each lunch costs you, say, $8, packing a lunch every workday for a month would save you $160 — enough to make a sizable dent in any savings goal if applied over the course of years.

Pay yourself first.

Set up an automatic deposit from your checking account to a savings or brokerage account each month, and set the timing of this sweep to closely follow your income direct deposit so you’re not tempted to spend your earnings. This strategy takes the self-control and effort out of saving.

Plan your grocery trip to reduce food waste.

Impulse purchases can kill a budget over time. Sit down each week to make a list of meals and ingredients before going to the grocery store. This will keep you from buying things on a whim and help you avoid costly food waste each week — as well as additional trips to the store for forgotten items.

Reduce discretionary spending.

It’s easier said than done, but make an effort to reduce your discretionary spending by choosing free activities for entertainment, shopping in discount stores or thrift stores and simply cutting out unnecessary costs. Activities like hiking, attending a free park concert, or going to a friend’s for drinks rather than a pricey bar can help you save money in the long run.

Renegotiate salary.

When you’re digging a hole, the bigger your shovel, the faster you’ll finish. Your income is your shovel when it comes to finances. So, if saving is your goal, it’s time to ask your employer for a raise — so long as you don’t let your lifestyle creep up, you can put that extra income toward a savings account.

Review your cellphone and cable bill.

Cable and cellphone bills are often some of a family’s largest monthly bills. But these costs can be negotiable, so call your provider to see if your bill can be adjusted or if any add-ons you’re not using can be cut. And consider joining the cohort of consumers cutting the cord to eliminate this expense entirely.

Save change.

It’s old school, but it works. Whenever you come across extra coins or dollar bills, save that change in a physical piggy bank or box. Over time, you might be surprised how much those coins add up.

Save your annual raise.

If you are lucky enough to get a raise at work, avoid falling into the trap of letting your expenses grow as your income does. Do your best to pretend that raise doesn’t exist and instead use the extra money each month on meeting your savings goals.

Say no to takeout.

Like packing a lunch, eating at home saves money — and tends to be the healthier option. Budget a limited number of takeout meals each month and stick to it, opting to grocery shop and cook meals at home instead.

Select the right savings vehicle.

When you’re focused on saving your money, make sure you’re getting all the help you can. Choose a high-yield savings account, investment account, HSA, 529 college savings account or retirement account depending on your savings goals to be sure you’re getting the best rate of return on your money and using tax-advantaged accounts whenever possible.

Shop sales.

Be more thoughtful with your purchases to save money. Try buying off-season clothing from the sale section, taking advantage of options at discount or thrift shops and shopping near the holidays, like Black Friday, when things tend to be on sale.

Slash your housing expenses.

If you own a home, now might be a good time to consider refinancing to get a lower interest rate and reduce your monthly payments. If you rent, consider renegotiating your lease or moving into a smaller apartment or to a lower-cost area. Remember: Your housing costs are likely the largest single cost in your budget, so be sure you select a housing option you can afford while still working toward your savings goals.

Stock up on cheap and filling food staples.

If you’re cutting back on eating out, you’ll likely be spending more money at the grocery store. Consider shopping in bulk to get items at a cheaper per-unit cost, taking advantage of two-for-one deals and shopping at stores like Costco, which offer deals on bulk items to members.

Try round-up programs.

Some banks and apps offer round-up programs, which are the digital equivalent of saving your extra coins in a piggy bank. These programs help you save money by rounding up your purchases to the next dollar and depositing the remainder in a savings or investment account. Check with your bank to see if this is an option for you, or download apps like Acorns and Chime.

Try the FIRE method.

The Financial Independence, Retire Early movement, called FIRE, requires extreme saving and a high salary — and though its strategies require big sacrifices, the rewards can be well worth it in the long run. Many FIRE proponents save around 50% of their income each year, with plans to live off of their investment earnings in retirement. The movement can be a huge motivator to save more money each month.

Understand your expenses.

You can’t save more if you don’t know where your money is going now. Take the time to review your credit card statements item by item, looking for any erroneous charges or reoccurring expenses you’re not currently using. Be sure you understand each item, and take steps to cancel or report any expenses that don’t make sense.

Unsubscribe from shopping emails.

Saving is all about avoiding temptation. Marketing emails from your favorite shops can be very effective at getting you to spend money on things you don’t really need. Go through your emails and hit unsubscribe to any email lists from stores you’ve frequented in the past, and be sure to uncheck those subscribe boxes when making an online purchase to avoid future marketing emails.

Use credit card rewards.

Some credit cards offer great rewards options, but many of them go unused. Log in to your account to see if you have any unclaimed bonuses, cash back, travel rewards or other ongoing spending rewards that you can use to save money. If your current credit card doesn’t offer rewards on your spending, consider signing up for a rewards credit card.

Use your workplace retirement plan.

Take advantage of your employer’s match, if they offer one, and opt to put a portion of your paycheck into a 401(k). This way, you’ll never see the money in your account and therefore won’t be tempted to spend it. Plus, an employer match is essentially free money, so it will make your savings go much further.

Write down your goals.

Your savings goals only become real when you write them down, give yourself a deadline and outline a plan for achieving your goals. You may want to save a specific dollar amount to afford a vacation or save a percentage of your income to achieve a long-term goal like paying for your child’s college education. Either way, make it personal and realistic.

How to save money quickly:

— Adjust your thermostat.

— Automate your finances.

— Ask your teens to pitch in.

— Attempt a no-spending challenge.

— Build a budget.

— Buy generic medicines and store-brand products.

— Cancel subscriptions and memberships.

— Consider the 50/30/20 method.

— Cut back on child care expenses.

— Cut the cost of commuting.

— Decrease your withholding.

— Don’t pay for convenience.

— Download a savings app.

— Expense or deduct your home office costs.

— Get a side hustle.

— Get to know your HSA.

— Go vegetarian.

— Nix fees.

— Pack a lunch.

— Pay yourself first.

— Plan your grocery trip to reduce food waste.

— Reduce discretionary spending.

— Renegotiate salary.

— Review your cellphone and cable bill.

— Save change.

— Save your annual raise.

— Say ‘no’ to takeout.

— Select the right savings vehicle.

— Shop sales.

— Slash your housing expenses.

— Stock up on cheap and filling food staples.

— Try round-up programs.

— Try the FIRE method.

— Understand your expenses.

— Unsubscribe from shopping emails.

— Use credit card rewards.

— Use your workplace retirement plan.

— Write down your goals.

More from U.S. News

12 Financial New Year’s Resolutions for 2022

12 Ways to Save Money at Home

20 Creative Ways to Save Money

How to Save Money originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 03/10/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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