Saving money isn’t exactly a walk in the park, especially if you have to deprive yourself of fun treats and adventures to do it. The rewards, though, are definitely worth it: You can pay off your car, your house or maybe even retire early.
Luckily, there are some pretty painless ways to save money out there if you put your mind to it. Here are our top 20 often ignored (but totally effective) ways to cut your spending and boost your savings:
Open an Online Savings Account
First, you need a place to stash your savings so you don’t spend it. Online banks offer the best interest rates because of their low overhead, and you’ll be less likely to raid your electronic piggy bank if it’s not attached to an ATM. Keep track of the cash you’re saving by using the rest of these tips and dump that amount into your savings account each time you get paid so you don’t end up frittering those savings away on trips to the coffee shop.
Turn Down the Heat
The EPA says that for every degree you turn down your thermostat, you can save one percent on your heating bill, and a Michigan study suggests it could be more like a five percent savings per degree. You’ll never notice your house being two tiny degrees colder, but you’ll definitely notice a 10 percent discount on your heating bill!
Use a Shower Timer
The shower is one of the biggest water-wasters in your house, because it’s just so hard to keep track of time in there. Adding a timer lets you know exactly when your five (or maybe 10, but no more!) minutes are up. These can be as simple as a little waterproof clock or as fancy as a computerized shut-off system, either one can cut your water bill down by a $100 per year, per person!
Do Your Laundry With Cold Water
Skip the presets and always choose cold water for your laundry. Clothes get just as clean, and you’ll save $250 a year by making this simple switch.
Hang Your Laundry Outside to Dry
When you let the sun do the work for free, you can save another $196 per year just by hanging your laundry on the line like grandma did. If you don’t want to show the world your delicates, invest in a drying rack or two instead.
Review Your Insurance Costs
It pays to look over your home and auto insurance coverage when it’s time to renew your policy. Are you still paying for collision insurance on a car that’s too old to warrant it? Do you have enough in savings to afford a higher deductible on your insurance policies? Raising the deductible will save you a bundle each month on your insurance premiums — just make sure you have a backup plan if you ever do need to file a claim.
Cut the Cord
Did you know that TV is still free over the airwaves? Cancel your cable, install an antenna, and you can save $500 per year and still watch the big networks whenever you want. You can also keep your Internet service and use Hulu and Netflix for low-cost TV and movie options to stay in the pop culture loop.
Use Smart Strips
Your electronics are using electricity even when they’re not turned on. Energy vampires are real, but you can tame them with some smart power strips. Try plugging your DVD player, cable boxes and all your surround-sound speakers into one, using your television set as the control switch. The auxiliary items will come on only when your TV is on, which will save you electricity (and money) in the long run.
Set a budget for your spending and stick to it by using cash instead of a credit or debit card. This system works well for eating out and doing fun things that you’re likely to go overboard on. The beauty of using cash is that when it’s gone, you’re done until you get paid. An empty wallet is a powerful reminder to stick to that budget.
Use a Rewards Card
On the other hand, if you’re a pro at paying off your credit card every month and never carrying a balance that you’ll rack up interest charges on, a rewards credit card can actually earn you some extra money. Pick one that offers airline miles or cash back and earn points by paying your regular bills with them — not by buying extra stuff you don’t need.
Get Fit for Free
Cancel your gym membership and opt for outdoor activities like walking, cycling or even gardening. The fresh air and sunshine will boost your overall mental health as well, and you’ll save a bundle each month. You can also do yoga at home with great videos or work out with online instructors for free on YouTube.
Start a Potluck Club
Instead of forking over your hard-earned cash at a restaurant, gather your friends for a potluck dinner on Saturdays instead. Rotate hosting duties and keep things fresh with fun theme nights. Preparing one dish to share is way cheaper than eating out, and the savings are doubled when you mix your own drinks instead of hitting the bar.
Shop Only One Day Per Week
Running all your errands on one day has a double benefit: You’ll use less gas when you make fewer car trips each week, and you’ll be less likely to make impulse purchases when you’re in stores less often. When shopping (even for necessities) is something you do on a daily basis, it’s just routine to spend money. When you have to go to several stores during a more business-like errand session, shopping will seem like less of a way to entertain yourself and more of a chore — that’s a good thing!
Ignore Expiration Dates
Did you know that those “sell by” dates on your milk and food cartons aren’t about food safety at all? They’re just recommendations from the manufacturer, and they could be designed to get you to buy more food. Use your eyes, nose and taste buds to make an informed decision before tossing out perfectly good food, and you’ll cut your grocery bill even further.
Cut Prescription Costs
Medicine can be incredibly expensive, especially if you have an ongoing need for monthly refills. Consider generics and shop around for the best prices both locally and online. You can often save money by ordering a few months worth of medication at a time, so check with your doctor to see if this is a possibility.
Use Smartphone Apps
Not only are there several apps that can help you track your monthly expenses, but there are also apps that can help you earn money through surveys and even watching TV. Here are some of our favorite apps to help you save and earn money.
Get Paid to Shop
It might sound crazy, but you can earn cash back when you shop. All of these sites are free. They just make a small commission from each purchase you make through their direct link. Some of our favorites include Ebates, Honey and MyPoints.
Drive for Uber or Lyft
If you find driving relaxing, why not get paid for it with Uber or Lyft? As an Uber driver, you get to set your own schedule and your earnings are calculated by adding a base fare, plus time and distance traveled. However, there are a few requirements. You must be 20-years-old, have three years of driving experience, an in-state license, a clean driving record and criminal background check. Also, you’ll need a four-door car, as well as car registration and insurance.
Lose Weight, Get Paid
Not only will you get more healthy, but you’ll also make money. Sign up for HealthyWage, define a goal and the amount of time you have to achieve it and make anywhere from $20 to $500 a month for your weight loss. Talk about motivation!
Grocery Shop for Gas Savings
Let’s face it, gas is expensive. But many grocery stores have fuel reward programs. Earn points for your groceries and you can fuel up for free.
Once you’ve started saving money, get it into that savings account and watch it grow as it earns interest. Once you get started, you’re likely to feel a sense of empowerment and increased motivation to find even more ways to save money in your daily life.