Cutting back on avocado toast isn’t a great savings hack for most people. Nor does it make that much difference in your budget to try and save on groceries by planting a few tomato seeds. In some instances, building and maintaining a small garden will be more expensive than buying the products you need when you need them.
If you want to live frugally and find serious savings, you need to analyze your spending habits and behaviors, identify areas for improvement, and, perhaps most importantly, think outside the box. You’d be surprised at how many saving opportunities you’ll find when you change your thinking.
Take a look at just some of the many frugality tips that can help you increase your savings and break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Saving on Groceries
On average, the annual costs of feeding just one person in the US can range from $2,400 to well over $4,000, depending on where you live. If you need to identify saving opportunities, groceries are where you should start, as they’re likely one of your most significant monthly expenses.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stop indulging in some of your favorite treats or reducing your grocery budget to the point where you’ll have to go through forced fasting at the end of each month.
Instead, try some of the following tips to reduce your grocery bill and supercharge your savings:
1. Create a Grocery List and Stick To It
Making a shopping list and sticking to it is a silly hack that works surprisingly well and even better when you commit yourself to meal prepping. Plan out all your week’s meals in advance, check your pantry to see what items you already have, then create a list of any additional things you’ll need. Most importantly, don’t deviate from the list!
Grocery stores offer promotions and even arrange their stores to drive you to buy things you didn’t plan to buy. Stick to the plan, and don’t fall for the tricks!
2. Use Your Credit Card
If you have a rewards credit card, don’t save it for occasional larger purchases. Use it for your daily grocery expenses. Many card issuers offer fantastic cash-back and other rewards you can earn by using your card on things like groceries, gas, and even eating out at a restaurant.
Just be sure you can pay off your card in full every month. Otherwise, the rewards will quickly be eaten up by your interest payments…
💡 Check out the best credit cards for groceries, offering high rates of cash back on top of other valuable perks and rewards.
3. Watch Out for Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty can hold you back in more ways than one. There’s no real need to buy brand-name cereal, for instance, if you can get generic ones for a much more affordable price. Secondly, making your favorite discount store your one-stop shop for all your groceries is not always in your best interest.
Different stores will have different discounts and special offers at different times. Shop around until you find the best prices for the items you need.
4. Analyze the Sales Cycle
Everyone knows chocolate is cheaper the day after Valentine’s Day, and a similar trend exists year-round. For instance, you’ll often find the best clearances and sales after major holidays.
Many grocery stores will lower their prices at the beginning of each month to attract customers who’ve just been paid. Analyze the sales cycle of your favorite grocery stores and use that information to your advantage.
💯 If you want to know the best days to shop for deals in the US, we’ve got you covered. Check out our list of the best days to shop to score some serious savings.
5. Buy in Bulk When It Makes Sense
Many of us assume that a bulk buy is cheaper, but that’s not always the case. Your phone has a calculator, and with a few quick calculations, you can figure out which products really give you a better deal for buying in bulk.
Be careful about bulk purchases of perishable goods. Buying something and throwing it away is never a good move!
6. Reduce Waste
American households throw away large amounts of food that they have paid for. Plan your meals carefully and learn to use leftovers before they spoil. Throwing away food is throwing away money!
Saving With Utilities
Even if you live in a lower-cost-of-living state, your utilities take a large chunk out of your budget. As a general rule of thumb, the best ways to reduce your utility costs include hefty investments – installing new insulation to keep the heating and cooling costs down, getting new energy-efficient doors and windows, or investing in solar panels.
While all of these certainly reduce your electricity costs, they’re likely out of the question if you’re working with a tight budget.
Some of the more affordable options for saving on your utilities include:
7. Know When to Keep Your Window Shutters Closed
If you have windows with air leaks, your heating and cooling costs will slowly rise. While the best solution would be installing new, more efficient windows, you can reduce your utility bills by knowing when to close your shutters.
During the colder months, keep your shutters closed at night to prevent heat loss. In the warmer months, keep them shut in the daytime to prevent the hot outside air from coming in.
8. Replace Your Air Filters
Your HVAC system has filters to remove all the dust and other small particles from the system. These filters can get clogged up relatively quickly, reducing the efficiency of your heating/cooling units.
To keep everything running smoothly and prevent your heating and cooling appliances from wasting too much energy, remember to replace your air filters regularly.
9. Pull the Plug!
Even when they’re not in use, many of your appliances drain electricity when they’re plugged in. Your microwave, coffee machine, TV, phone charger, and other appliances still use the so-called “vampire power” when you’re not using them, so remember to unplug what you aren’t using. While this trick won’t save you thousands, it can help give your savings a bit of a boost in the long run.
10. Change Providers
Your phone provider might not be giving you the best deal you could have, so don’t be afraid to change providers if necessary. Shop around to see what pricing others offer, then compare and contrast. However, before you make the switch, ask your current provider if they can get you a better deal than their competitors are offering.
☝️ Bill negotiation services can help you save thousands on your monthly bills for a low fee. Here’s a list of some of the best bill negotiation services.
11. Get Help
The upfront cost of major energy-saving improvements may seem prohibitive. Energy efficiency tax credits and rebates can help you cover the cost, and in some cases, can even cover the entire cost of reducing your utility bills.
Saving With Home Maintenance
Whether you own or rent, you’ll have to handle some home maintenance needs yourself. While there’s no going around investing in new appliances once the old ones have run their course, there are a few things you can do to save on home maintenance. Take a look:
12. Prevention is Key
As with most things, prevention is key to saving on home maintenance. It’s much more difficult (and expensive!) to fix a burst pipe than it is to invest in regular pipe cleaning, for instance. It’s more difficult to replace your HVAC system than to prevent damage by regularly replacing air filters.
Don’t ignore the first signs of trouble you notice, whether it’s a small wet spot on your wall or the first sign of mold on your ceiling. Invest in regular inspections and maintenance if you want to save money in the long run.
13. Learn When to DIY
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects are extremely popular nowadays, which you’ll quickly notice if you spend any time at all on Pinterest. However, while it might initially seem more financially savvy to do as many things as possible around the house by yourself, it’s not always so.
Not only do some projects require expensive tools and equipment, but they require experience as well. You’d risk wasting money on the necessary tools and hiring professionals who will inevitably have to fix the mistakes you may make, so choose your DIY projects carefully.
14. Hire Professionals
If your home needs major fixes, such as replacing the roof and flooring, retiling the bathroom, and more, it’s in your best interest to hire experienced professionals, even if they’re more expensive. Cheap handymen and amateurs recommended by your loved ones can make mistakes you can only fix with professional help.
To save money, cut the middleman and always go for high-quality services.
Saving on Shopping
Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself to a new pair of sneakers or get rid of that 10-year-old winter coat and get a new one. Still, whether out of want or necessity, there are plenty of ways you could save while shopping:
15. Buy With Cash
There are benefits to shopping with your credit card. You can earn rewards, increase your credit utilization ratio, improve your credit score, and more. However, if you tend to splurge when you’re using your credit card, start shopping with cash only.
Allocate a specific sum for your shopping spree and leave your card at home. You’ll find it easier to buy only what you need without making impulse decisions.
💳 Learning how to use credit cards wisely is an essential skill to master to manage a budget and build wealth over time. Here are 11 rules on how to use credit cards wisely.
16. Invest More in High-Quality Items
$20 shoes may seem like a bargain at first, but chances are that they’re of low quality and will barely make it through one season. Before long, you’ll find yourself in need of new shoes once again.
If you want to improve your savings, splurge a little more on high-quality shoes, clothing, and other items that will easily last you for years to come. Moreover, don’t forget to clean and maintain them well if you want to get the most out of them.
This strategy has limits. Paying more for quality items that will last is a good idea. Splurging on overpriced luxury brands generally isn’t.
17. Sell Used Clothing or Trade It for New Items
Selling your used shoes, clothing, and accessories is a great way to earn some money on the side – it’s also a great way to refresh your closet. While most online and offline stores for selling used clothing typically exchange your items for cash, many will also allow you to trade them for others’ used items.
If you need new (gently-used) winter coats, business attire, shoes, dresses, and more, consider exchanging some of the things you no longer use.
18. Don’t Buy Things Just Because They’re on Sale
Perhaps the best tip to help you save while you shop is to avoid “great deals” solely because they’re on sale. If you didn’t go to the store specifically to get that item, don’t buy it because it’s on a discount. If you buy a $30 item that you don’t need because it’s on sale for $10, you didn’t save $20. You spent $10.
Saving With Entertainment
When trying to save some cash, most people sacrifice experiences that bring joy: no more Netflix and HBO, concerts, music festivals, and visits to the cinema. While you can certainly reduce your expenses by cutting out expensive entertainment, there are a few better ways to save and still enjoy yourself:
19. Join Community Events
Many neighborhoods have community events you could join without spending a dime, like free movie screenings, game nights, and even concerts. Check out what free events are happening in your area, then get some friends to accompany you. If your neighborhood doesn’t have community events, you can rest assured that your local library does, so see what’s on offer there.
20. Share Passwords
Password-sharing online is generally a big no-no, but if you’re in a pinch, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your Netflix password with your friend and having them share their HBO password with you.
Most streaming services allow for more than a single user, so spread your favorite platforms across your friends and loved ones. You can each cover the costs of a single streaming service and enjoy all their combined benefits.
21. Look for Free Entry Options
Many museums, galleries, zoos, and aquariums offer special deals on occasion, either giving discounted pricing on tickets at certain times of the day or offering free entry. Take advantage of these deals and have a fulfilling day without spending much money.
You might even earn free admission to some exhibits through your bank. Bank of America, for instance, has a “Museum on Us” program that gives clients free access to some museums.
Saving With Personal Care
Personal care and hygiene products and services can deliver a heavy blow on your budget, so it always helps when you have a few simple hacks to cut back on such expenses. While the following tips won’t help you save for a down payment on a house, they can help you add a few dollars to your piggy bank:
22. Use the Services at a Local Beauty School
If you use bleach and chemical treatments on your hair, going to a good salon is always the best bet. However, if you have a simple hairstyle and need just a basic trim and cut or want cute nail extensions every now and again, see if you can use the services at your local beauty school. Most schools will have much more affordable pricing since the students are still honing their skills.
23. Always Test Products Before Buying Them
There’s no greater waste of money than buying a foundation that’s not your shade or investing in a new expensive face cream that causes you breakouts. It’s always in your best interest to test products before buying them. Bonus points if you collect a few free samples and experience the product’s effect over continued use before investing in it.
Use Every Bit of the Product Before Discarding It
Whether it’s shampoo, liquid soap, foundation, or lipstick, it can be tricky to use up every last bit of product. Tricky but not impossible. Use a lip brush to reach what’s left of your lipstick. Turn your shampoo bottle upside down and let gravity do its work.
Cut your foundation in half and scrape up what’s left of it before throwing it out. You’ll get at least a few more days of use, which can quickly stack up over time. You paid for it, so use it!
Saving on Outings
Having fun and going out with friends are vital for your physical and emotional well-being. You can’t just lock yourself at home to save money. However, you also don’t have to spend a small fortune whenever you meet your friends. Take a look at some tips that will help you save money and still spend quality time with your loved ones:
24. Host Potlucks
Going out to restaurants is convenient but expensive. To get a similar experience, enjoy a chance to hang out with friends, and save some money, you should try hosting potlucks. With potlucks, everyone brings a single dish to share with others. You’ll be responsible for making just one simple dish, and you’ll still introduce some variety to your diet.
25. Plan Ahead
If you have friends who like to spend on your outings and who prefer going to more expensive locations, your best course of action would be to plan ahead. There are two parts to this. The first one is setting a budget aside for outings with friends.
Just like you would set aside money for utilities and bills, create a unique fund for outings. The second part of planning ahead is beating your friends to the punch and inviting them to free/cheap activities before they invite you to their more expensive alternatives.
Saving With Travel
Though it’s certainly not a basic necessity, traveling is important. Just a change of scenery can help you relax, destress, and regain a sense of peace. If you like to travel, there are a few things you could do to save some cash while you’re at it:
26. Rent Out Your Home
Whether you’re going away for two weeks or just a few days, you should consider renting out your place while you’re away. It can help you offset the costs of travel, and depending on where your home is, you might even earn a few extra bucks.
Alternatively, you could do a house swap with other travelers, giving them access to your home while they give you access to theirs.
27. Book Rooms Away from Popular Destinations
There’s no secret that rooms in the middle of a touristy spot are always more expensive because of their prime location. If you want to save some money, you should look for accommodation a little further away.
If you’re traveling to Europe, for instance, you could even book accommodation in smaller towns that are in the vicinity of your preferred destination and just use affordable public transportation to explore major tourist destinations.
28. Book Your Tickets With a VPN
Airfare is expensive, but it could be even more expensive where you live. Most airlines will offer different pricing to travelers from different regions, even when the starting point and the destination are the same. Before you book your tickets, get a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to change your computer’s IP address and see if you find a better deal on tickets.
Saving on Transportation
Unless you live in a larger city (and in the vicinity of your workplace) where everything of importance is a short walk away, you probably need a car to get around. The obvious saving methods for transportation include biking or carpooling, but when neither is an option, you should check out the following tips:
29. Don’t Wait to Fill Up
If you always wait until the very last moment to buy gas, you’ll need to settle for filling up your tank at whichever gas station is the closest at the moment. Instead, find the cheapest gas station in your area and fill up your tank whenever you go past it.
30. Take It Slowly
Speeding won’t only get you a fine. You’ll also use more fuel. Every vehicle is different, giving you the best fuel economy at different speeds. But as a general rule of thumb, most cars will provide you with the best fuel consumption at speeds of up to 50 mph. After 50mph, most vehicles will quickly get much worse gas mileage.
31. Shop Around for Car Insurance
Car insurance will always be a hefty expense. However, you might not have the best deal with your current provider. Ask around for more affordable insurance options and get quotes from a few different providers. If you have a good driving record and you’ve improved your credit score lately, check with your current provider. They may be able to offer you a more affordable plan.
Living frugally is never easy. You’ll need to think outside the box, analyze your spending habits, and change your behaviors. However, no matter how much you change your approach to finances, don’t expect to see a major change immediately. Most savings tips will only prove to be fruitful after months of following them.
Try these tips, be patient, and see what you can achieve!