How to save money: 14 easy tips

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Are you struggling to save money? You’re not alone. According to Bankrate data, more than half of Americans have less than three months’ worth of expenses saved to help cover emergency expenses. The pandemic has been especially challenging in terms of cash management, too: Thirty-four percent of respondents in the research reported having less money in their savings accounts now versus before the financial troubles of the pandemic.

Saving money isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible, either. From big steps like refinancing your mortgage to small moves like using coupons, there are ways to keep more money in your bank account.

14 ways to save money

  1. Review your spending habits
  2. Put your smartphone to work
  3. Compare other options for your mobile service
  4. Turn off those notifications that want you to spend money
  5. Refinance your mortgage
  6. Shrink your utility bills – or try to avoid letting them grow
  7. Evaluate your entertainment expenses
  8. Take advantage of free community entertainment options
  9. Be a strategic grocery shopper
  10. Break up with brand names
  11. Compare other banking options
  12. Investigate alternatives for your insurance needs
  13. Use coupons
  14. Challenge yourself to a spending freeze

1. Review your spending habits

If you want to figure out how to save money, you need to figure out how to spend less of it. Many banks offer access to your monthly statements, and some offer more robust categorized spending analyses and weekly summaries. Use those to get a good sense of where your money has been going and identify opportunities to reduce your costs. And if you’re married or live with your partner, make this review process a shared task. Money can be an awkward subject, but if you’re serious about making that relationship last, you’ll both need to cut some expenses.

2. Put your smartphone to work

Budgeting is the most basic piece of personal finances, but it can also be the most challenging to fit in your life. Start with the screen that you’re already staring at for multiple hours each day. There are a wide range of budgeting and money-saving apps that can help automate your savings, issue overspending alerts and invest some of your savings (note that there’s a risk involved any time you hear the word “invest”) for growth. However, an app isn’t going to do everything. Make time to evaluate your spending behavior so you can think deeper about your financial decisions.

3. Compare other options for your mobile service

Speaking of your smartphone, how much are you paying to use it each month? As mobile adoption has increased, the number of companies who can help you stay connected has grown, too. That competition is good news for pricing. Companies like Mint Mobile, Ting and Visible all offer great plans with lower monthly price tags than the biggest mobile companies. Take a look at your data usage to see if you’re overpaying. If you’re spending most of your time at home, you should be connected to your Wi-Fi network, eliminating the need for a supersized (and expensive) data plan.

4. Turn off those notifications that want you to spend money

While your smartphone can be a powerful tool in helping you save, it can also be a big source of temptation to spend. Think about all those promotional emails you receive that invite you to “save big,” “shop the newest trends” and “last chance for this great deal.” Every time you open one, you’re closer to spending on a product you might otherwise have skipped. In addition to news that arrives in your inbox, plenty of retail apps are programmed to send you alerts about sales, new items and other tempting offers. Consider unsubscribing from those lists and disabling notifications.

5. Refinance your mortgage

Housing is likely the largest line item in your budget. If you’re paying back a home loan, compare options for refinancing your mortgage. While mortgage rates are expected to climb higher by the end of 2022, there are still great options available – near 3 percent – for homeowners with especially great credit. Depending on your current terms, you may be able to dramatically reduce your monthly payments. Keep in mind, though, that refinancing comes with closing costs, which can add up to thousands of dollars.

6. Shrink your utility bills – or try to avoid letting them grow

In addition to saving money on housing, you can take small steps to save on the costs of actually living there, too. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average household can save around $225 each year by deciding to switch to LED lighting.

As the winter of 2021/2022 approaches, you’ll likely be dealing with the potential for significantly higher heating costs. The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that almost half of households in the U.S. that use natural gas for heating will pay 30 percent more to stay warm during the upcoming cold season. Do whatever you can – keep the thermostat set a few degrees cooler or address any leaks by windows – to keep your costs in control.

7. Evaluate your entertainment expenses

Do you really need all 400 channels on your TV? The average basic cable package is around $60 per month, but there are loads of cheaper options, like Sling, Hulu and Netflix, to keep you entertained at home. Explore bundle options like the $14.99 Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu package. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’re already paying for access to the company’s expansive library of TV shows and movies. And if you’re paying for Spotify or Apple Music, keep in mind that Amazon Music – the company’s similar all-you-can-listen-to music service – is included, too.

8. Take advantage of free community entertainment options

Make the most of every opportunity to explore the parks system near your home, and do some research to find free days for local residents at museums. Even if your local city doesn’t offer a program for residents, your bank might be your free ticket. For example, Bank of America’s Museums on Us program gives BofA debit and credit card holders complimentary access to more than 225 cultural institutions across the country. Check out the website of the tourism bureau in your city or the biggest city nearby, too. These organizations specialize in pointing people toward fun, low-cost attractions and activities.

9. Be a strategic grocery shopper

You’re not going to be able to stop buying groceries, but you can stop throwing unused food away. A 2020 study conducted by researchers at Penn State University estimates that the average household throws away more than $1,800 of food each year. As you make your grocery list, think about what found its way into the waste basket last time and how to avoid a similar fate. The study found that those who made a shopping list before going to the store typically threw away less food, so take extra time to plan out your meals.

10. Break up with brand names

While you’re making that grocery list, think about some of the items in your pantry: pasta noodles, spices and other non-perishable ingredients you always keep around. Do you really need the top-shelf brand name with those foods? Compare ingredients and nutritional labels. If there is no significant difference between them other than the price, you’re simply paying for the packaging – not the actual product that will nourish your health. It doesn’t just apply to food, either. Think about the regular goods – toilet paper, paper towels and hand soap – that you keep at your house, and try to find a lower-priced alternative.

11. Compare other banking options

If you’re paying any fees for your checking or savings account, it’s time to figure out how to reduce those costs. Online-only institutions like Ally Bank and Discover do not charge monthly service fees. Additionally, online banks also pay some of the best interest rates on money market accounts, CDs and other deposit accounts. While those rates are low right now (it’s a low-rate environment), earning a 0.5 percent interest on your stash of savings is much better than earning a 0.01 percent rate. Some banks will pay you a bonus for opening a savings or checking account, too.

12. Investigate alternatives for your insurance needs

If you have a track record of safe driving, it’s time to ask if another insurance provider will do a better job of rewarding that good behavior. Compare other options with your existing insurance company to see how much you can lower your premiums while maintaining an equal amount of coverage. And if you’re not spending much time at the wheel, it may be wise to think about pay-per-mile or pay-per-use insurance, which can match coverage based on the amount you actually use your vehicle and save in the neighborhood of 30 percent on your costs.

13. Use coupons

The concept of couponing might sound old-school, but finding deals does not require clipping portions of the Sunday newspaper. You know that “promo code” box that sits on the checkout page of nearly every e-commerce website? See if you can find one before you click buy with a simple search. There are also extensions like Honey and Coupert that automatically do the work for you while you shop. Capital One Shopping is another option, which is available to everyone – not just Capital One customers. The bank says it helped find consumers a collective $160 million in savings last year.

14. Challenge yourself to a spending freeze

When companies want to save money, they issue hiring freezes. When you want to save money, try a spending freeze. That doesn’t mean you’ll stop spending altogether – you have to pay your bills to maintain good credit. Instead, you’ll cut all your unnecessary expenses for a certain period. Think about it like a diet where you might give up sweets. In a spending freeze, you’ll get a good sense of how much you’re spending, and you’ll watch all that money add up. That means no restaurants and no trips to the coffee shop – anything that seems extra is deemed unnecessary.

Strategies for time-specific goals

In addition to thinking about how to save money, you’ll want to think about two key pieces of information: What you’re saving for and when you’ll need the money. Some goals are far in the distant future – saving for retirement when you’re just out of college, for example – while other goals like buying a car or taking a vacation are much closer on the horizon. Depending on your timeline, you’ll need to explore different strategies and tactics for making changes that will save more money. 

Strategies for time-specific goals
How to save money
daily
How to save money monthly How to save money yearly
  • Make coffee at home instead of going to the cafe.
  • Take your lunch to work.
  • Focus on making dinner at home instead of going out for meals.
  • Disable notifications on your phone to avoid impulse spending.
  • Outline a plan such as the 50/30/20 approach before the month begins.
  • Monitor your spending each week to track your progress.
  • Pay your credit card in full to avoid finance charges.
  • Automate a portion of every paycheck to your savings account.
  • Take advantage of employer-matching 401(k) contributions.
  • Open an IRA if you’re eligible, and maximize your contributions.
  • If you receive an annual tax refund, deposit it in your savings account, or invest it.
  • Focus on expanding your financial literacy to understand investment options.

Saving strategies for specific goals

Saving is about working toward something. If you have a specific deadline in mind for when you need a certain amount of money, outlining a plan and sticking to it is critical. Saving should be an everyday routine that involves monitoring your progress and identifying ways to accelerate the cash flowing to your savings account. Get started with these tips for some of the most common goals.

Written by
David McMillin
Contributing writer
David McMillin writes about credit cards, mortgages, banking, taxes and travel. David's goal is to help readers figure out how to save more and stress less.
Edited by
Senior wealth editor
Reviewed by
Head of investor relations, Gateway Partners