You can’t always control how much money you make, or how big of a year end bonus you’ll get. But when it comes to your everyday finances, there’s actually a lot you can do to save more.
One of the most frequent questions we hear is, “How much should I be saving every month?” And while there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, you know that you’re saving enough when it hurts a little bit. Maybe you have to skip out on that end-of-the-year trip with your friends, or maybe you decide you’re not going to buy drinks for strangers every weekend at the bars like you used to.
Whatever solution you come up with, keep in mind that the little things will eventually start to add up. Saving money is tough — and when you have established spending routines, it’s hard to break those cycles. But know that while you can’t always control how much money you make, you can control how much money you spend.
Most people tend to think of millionaires as people that spend a ton of money, live lavishly, and drive nice cars. But more often than not, the true millionaires — the ones with assets greater than a million dollars — are the guys living next door to you who drive 15-year-old cars. Or the small business owner down the street, who’s lived in the same house for 20 years.
If your goal is to become a “true millionaire” someday, then you should make it a priority to emulate the spending habits of these people.
With that as our goal, we’ve come up with 50 ways to save money on things you thought you could never save money on.
1. Give up your car
The cost of fuel has been steadily increasing for years, and there’s really no end in sight. We already know about the fuel savings you can get by taking public transportation and biking, but have you ever looked into car sharing programs? In the United States, car sharing services like Car2go are in nearly every major city.
These businesses operate in a very consumer-friendly way, too. You pay a per-mile rate that includes insurance, gas (or electricity), and a rental fee. It might not fully replace your car, but if you live with your spouse, it could help you go from a two-car to a one-car family.
2. Learn how to Do-It-Yourself
No matter how big or small your next project is, consider doing it yourself. We’re not just talking about things around the house either. You can learn how to tackle projects as simple as changing your bicycle tire to more complex ones like changing the oil in your car.
There’s a wealth of information on online forums, DIY sites, and even YouTube that will teach you how to tackle your next project. Don’t be afraid to try things yourself before you go and spend money hiring a so-called expert.
3. Stop drinking soda
How many times have you gone out to lunch and ordered a soda with your meal? Soda is unhealthy for your body and your wallet. Most of the time you’re going for the food anyways, so you could care less about what you’re drinking. Try ordering water from now on — and see how quickly you’ll forget about soda.
4. Borrow books and e-books from the library
If you’re an avid reader, you know just how expensive the hobby can be. You can mitigate a lot of that cost by borrowing books from the library. There’s really no point in holding on to a large collection of books anymore, since it takes up so much space and costs you a lot of money.
If you’re the e-reader type, most large libraries now offer e-books for borrowing, too. The selection is limited, but you can sign up for other library systems within your state. Next time you take a vacation, be sure to stop in to the local library and sign up for a card. You won’t be able to check out physical books since you live in a different city, but you can still access their e-library online to check out e-books.
5. Bring your own food and alcohol on flights
Food and drinks on airplanes has grown more and more expensive. And not only that: airplane food tends to be low quality and unhealthy. Consider bringing your own food onto the plane before you fly. Grab a sandwich, or even a full meal, at the grocery store and bring it along. As long as it doesn’t contain any liquids, like yogurts or large bottles of sauce, you’ll be just fine getting it through security.
If you’d like to take it a step further, try bringing alcohol minis onto your next flight. This will allow you to enjoy a nice alcoholic beverage at a fraction of the onboard cost. TSA allows alcohol as long as it’s in travel size containers like alcohol mini bottles.
6. Freeze your food
Sometimes it takes a little foresight to save money, and this is definitely the case when it comes to buying and storing food. Wait for meat and poultry to go on sale, then buy it and freeze it until you’re ready to eat it. The nice thing about freezing meats is that there’s no drop in quality or taste. As long as you package it well, it should taste just as fresh as the day you bought it. There’s really no limit to what you can freeze: consider freezing leftover dinners, milk, bread, etc. to maximize your savings.
7. Put money into an online savings account
If you’ve got cash in checking accounts earning 0.01% interest, then you’re actually losing money. You might as well transfer that sum into an online savings account to increase your returns.
8. Skip the movie theater food and drinks
Most people enjoy going to the movies once in a while, so instead of cutting them out altogether, why not just cut out the food and drinks? These items will probably cost just as much as the tickets anyways. Try eating dinner before you go to a movie, or discreetly bring in some of your own snacks and drinks to munch on.
9. Update your appliances
It might seem counter-intuitive to spend money, but your energy costs could be eating up your wallet without your knowledge. Appliances have come a long way in the past 20 years, and while it’s nice to use products until they stop working, you could actually end up saving money by purchasing a new high-efficiency washer and dryer or refrigerator. To determine which appliances you should replace, think about which ones use the most energy. Your refrigerator is always on, so that’s a good starting point.
10. Cut out beer and wine at dinner
Even though you may not go out to dinner very often, ordering alcoholic drinks can make up a huge portion of your bill. Most people enjoy wine or beer with dinner, so instead of cutting it out altogether, look for restaurants that are BYOB. This means that the restaurant allows you to bring your own beverages.
BYOB restaurants generally don’t have a liquor license, so while they can’t sell liquor, they’re allowed to serve it as long as it’s provided by the customer. You can buy your beverages ahead of time and save a lot of money. Use a site like Yelp to search for and find BYOB restaurants in your area.
11. Rid yourself of “The Big Three”
If you currently have cell service through AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint, you know just how expensive a smartphone can be. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Lots of smaller companies are bursting onto the scene and offering pay-as-you-go or flexible data type plans.
You’ll have to pay full retail for your smartphone, but the monthly savings should even things out after a few months. Take a look at the list of phones and plans offered by Walmart & Straight Talk Wireless to see which one will suit your needs.
12. Cut your home phone line
Since nearly everyone has a cell phone these days, there’s really no need for a home phone line anymore. Cable and phone companies are still aggressively marketing these products as part of their bundle, but that doesn’t mean you have to include it in your package.
If you don’t feel comfortable without one, consider getting a VOIP home phone that operates over the internet. It works just like a regular phone, but for a fraction of the price.
13. Purchase reusable coffee pods
If you own a Keurig-type coffee machine, you know just how expensive the pods can be. Consider buying a reusable coffee pod that allows you to load your own coffee, then wash and re-use. You still get the convenience and quality of these special machines, but without the cost of the pods.
14. Bundle your insurance
If you drive a car, you have to have insurance. If you own a home, your bank says you have to have insurance. We don’t have a lot of choice in what we have to insure, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save money on the things you do end up insuring.
Insurance companies can offer lower rates to customers who order multiple services, so consider purchasing all your policies (life, home, and auto) with the same carrier to get a bigger discount.
15. Get out of debt
If you’re struggling with debt or debt collectors, don’t be afraid to look for help. Getting out of debt won’t happen overnight, but there are some great ways to reduce that burden.
You should also make a budget with a free program like Mint.com and track all your spending until your debt is paid off.
16. Use deals sites
If you’ve got a big ticket item to purchase, you can save a lot of money by leveraging deals sites like Fatwallet or Slickdeals. On these sites, you can set up deal alerts based on what you’re looking for, or just peruse the forums until you find what you want.
Make sure you only end up buying what you had in mind though; just because there’s a great deal doesn’t mean you should buy something you don’t need.
17. Consider renter’s insurance
Renter’s insurance is ultra-cheap, and it’ll protect you in case of theft, accidents, and more. If you own a lot of valuable things, this may be a good investment for you.
18. Remove collision from your auto insurance
If you’ve got an older car, or even a salvage title, it might make sense to remove collision protection. Since cars lose value as they get older, the payout you’d get from a collision claim might not justify the higher premium.
Removing collision will lower your annual premium and save you money, as long as you don’t get in an at-fault accident before the break-even period. (You would still receive collision coverage, however, if you weren’t at fault.)
19. Read high-quality personal finance blogs
If you’re in debt or struggling to save, you probably can’t afford a financial life coach. Lucky for you though, there’s a wealth of free resources available online, like this blog and others, to help you tackle your finances.
Depending on what you’re looking for, you should be able to find something that’s just right for you. If you’re more the entrepreneurial type, Ramit Sethi’s blog, IWillTeachYoutoBeRich.com might be perfect for you. If you’re the passive income type, then Pat Flynn’s SmartPassiveIncome.com is a must read.
20. Buy a water filter
Bottled water has one of the biggest mark-ups you’ll see in your lifetime. You can get an inexpensive Brita water filter for $20 and buy filters online for cheap. Use your own reusable water bottles, and you’ll never have to pay for a bottle of water again.
A lot of public places like parks and airports encourage reusable bottles and are even starting to offer water bottle fill-up stations.
21. Choose a high deductible health plan
Medical insurance in the United States is among the most expensive in the world. You can reduce some of that cost by opting for a high deductible health plan. In exchange for a higher deductible, you’d pay lower monthly premiums. This plan especially makes sense for young and healthy people who rarely see the doctor.
Also consider pairing your plan with a health savings account. You can contribute up to $3,300 a year, and it’s the only retirement account with triple tax savings: the money you put in isn’t taxed, the money you earn isn’t taxed, and the money you take out isn’t taxed (as long as it’s used on health care).
22. Reduce ATM fees
If you’re still banking with one of the big brick-and-mortar banks, stop what you’re doing and sign up for an online bank right now. You don’t have to cancel your other bank account, but online banks like Ally offer free checking and free ATM fees no matter where you are and what the fee may be.
23. Plan ahead for big events
Whether you’re going on vacation or buying tickets for a hot concert, do it ahead of time. The more you plan ahead, the more you’ll save. If you’re going on a big family vacation, start planning early to get the best bang for your buck.
You might even be able to make a few bucks by buying concert tickets before the show sells out. You could then use one for yourself, and sell the other to pay for part of your ticket.
24. Buy products, but don’t open them
Some of us get a psychological thrill out of buying new merchandise. But once we take it home, that excitement wears off pretty quickly. Next time you make a big purchase, wait a week or two before you open it. By that time, you may not be as thrilled about the purchase, and you might be willing to return it and save yourself some money.
25. Cancel your gym membership
If you can count the number of times you went to the gym in the last month on one hand, it might be time to cancel your gym membership. There are lots of ways to get a great workout without going to the gym. Consider alternatives like biking, running, and team sports. If you don’t like to work out by yourself, find a meetup group online and make some new friends.
26. Stop gambling
Have you ever been to Las Vegas? There’s a reason why new casinos and hotels are popping up every year. The gambling business is very lucrative for the house. No matter what you think, you’ll eventually lose money. Cut this habit out immediately, and you won’t regret it.
If you have to get your gambling fix, consider setting up a low stakes poker game with your friends. You’ll enjoy their company and get your gambling fix — for almost no cost.
27. Avoid extended warranties
How many times have you been at the checkout stand when the cashier asks if you’d like to purchase an extended warranty for your product? If you think about it, most products won’t break within the first couple years of ownership. They tend to break afterwards, which is when, coincidentally, these extended warranties tend to expire. Don’t fall for this trap.
28. Do the majority of your shopping online
If you love to shop, have no fear. You can actually save a lot of money by using online comparison sites to find the best prices. Additionally, sites like eBay and Amazon allow you to use their smart phone apps to scan barcodes and instantly see how prices compare on their sites.
29. Complain on social media for better service
If you receive poor customer service or are having a problem with a certain product or company, consider turning to social media to solve your problem. These days, most large companies have dedicated social media customer service representatives that are among their best and brightest employees.
Companies have started to realize how important social media can be for their public image, and they’re reacting accordingly. Since social media complaints are so public, they’re very quick to respond and show their customers what great service they provide.
30. Cut your cable
If you’re tired of paying for hundreds of channels you never watch, it might be time to cut ties with your cable TV company. Services like Netflix and Hulu allow you to only pay for the shows you want to watch.
Additionally, you could go retro and get a pair of bunny ears for your HDTV. As long as you have a newer model (within the past 10 years) flat screen TV, you should be able to get all your local channels in HD using an antenna that costs only $10.
31. Shop at thrift and consignment stores
There are some great deals to be had at thrift stores, on everything from clothes to dinnerware. Look for thrift shops in more affluent areas, since they tend to receive better donations and be more organized.
32. Sell your old clothes
Instead of donating all your old clothes, consider selling them to a used clothing store like Buffalo Exchange. These stores pay a lot for name brands, so if you have nice clothes you never wear anymore, you can get a nice bonus by selling them instead of donating them.
33. Ride your bike to work
Depending on how far you live from work, it might not be practical to commute by bike every day. But you might could ride to work one day a week to save money on gas and get some exercise in. Remember that staying healthy now will lead to lower medical bills in the future.
34. Find a hobby that’ll get you paid
There are a lot of expensive hobbies out there. Why not trade some of those hobbies for ones that will get you paid? For example: if you have an affinity for tennis or teaching, put an ad up online for tennis lessons or tutoring.
35. Take advantage of happy hour
There’s a reason why happy hour prices tend to be lower than dinner prices. Restaurants encourage people to eat/drink from 4-6 pm, since not as many people come in during that time. You can take advantage of these prices and eat at restaurants that you might not normally be able to afford for dinner.
If eating at that time just doesn’t suit you, but you still want to save money, search for restaurants with reverse happy hour. These places will generally have drink and/or food specials from 8 or 9 pm until closing.
36. Just say no
Due to peer pressure, we often spend money on things that we don’t necessarily need. If all your friends want to go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, it’s okay to say no. Just because they can afford to eat out all the time doesn’t mean you can, too. It might take a little willpower, but eventually you’ll realize you can have just as much fun with your friends doing more frugal activities.
37. Review monthly and yearly subscriptions
Businesses make a killing on monthly and yearly subscription fees. The reason why many of them don’t offer lifetime subscriptions is so that they have an ongoing income source from their customers. It might be a good idea to sit down once or twice a year and review all your subscriptions. Think about things like how often you’ve used this service in the past day, week, month, etc. and get rid of the ones you rarely use.
38. Sell your old stuff on eBay
If you’ve got a bunch of junk lying around the house, you might be able to sell it on eBay and declutter your house at the same time. Although there’s a 10-15% fee, there are millions of people out there willing to bid on your items. Old electronics and hard-to-find items are especially valuable on eBay. Do a search for the item you plan on selling to gauge interest and figure out what it will sell for.
39. Shop at ethnic/smaller grocery stores
If you do all your shopping at the big chain grocery stores, you could be missing out on some great deals. Items like vegetables, fruits, and meats are always cheaper at ethnic and small chain grocery stores.
40. Avoid grocery shopping when you’re hungry
If you’ve ever grocery shopped on an empty stomach, or right after you’ve worked out, you probably have noticed how much more you tend to buy. Psychologically, it’s a lot easier to buy more food when you’re hungry. Try to grocery shop on a full stomach, and make sure you write a list and stick to it.
41. Create a vegetable garden
If you have space for a small garden, planting veggies can be a relaxing, fun, and cost-effective hobby. There are certain spices like mint, basil, and rosemary that grow well in any climate. You could also grow things like tomatoes and fruit trees, if you have enough space. The best part about planting your own garden is that you get to eat what you plant, and it will be all organic.
42. Do a no-cost refinance of your home
For those of you that own your home, it’s still a great time to refinance. Companies like Amerisave and PenFed actually offer no-cost refinance options that allow you to refinance for little to no money out of pocket. This technique also allows you to capture further rate drops in the market. If interest rates go down in six months, you can do another no-cost refi to take advantage of the new lower rates.
43. Get a roommate
Whether you rent or own your home, it’s always cheaper to live with someone else. Obviously, you immediately cut the rent in half, but there are many other savings you’d get also. Your TV, internet, and utility bills would be cut in half, and you could start buying household supplies together and in greater quantities.
44. Skip Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is a great day to celebrate with the one that you love, but why does it have to be on February 14th? If your spouse doesn’t mind mixing things up, you can save a ton of money by celebrating on the day after, or a few days early. Roses will be cheaper, dinners will be less expensive, and you won’t miss out on any of the romance.
45. Hire an accountant
If your tax situation is somewhat complicated, it might be a good idea to hire an accountant. Just one mistake can cost you hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars, not to mention the headache of an IRS audit. A good accountant will cost a couple hundred dollars, but they’ll know the tax law inside and out and should be able to save you enough to cover their fee and more.
46. Buy refurbished
Keeping up with all the latest and greatest technology gadgets can get expensive quite fast. Buying refurbished products will give you a huge savings off retail prices. Even the big boys like Apple and Microsoft offer refurbished products on their websites.
47. Keep your student ID
Your student ID can come in handy long after you graduate. Since there are no dates on your ID, you can use it for as long as you own it. You’ll still be able to get small discounts on things like movies and events for years to come.
48. Use a deals site aggregator
Groupon and LivingSocial are two of the biggest daily deal sites, but you can also use a deal aggregator site like YipIt to get all your daily deals in one concise email. You’ll find great savings on everything from food to car detailing — but be careful not to buy deals unless you know you can use them.
49. Brew your own beer
If you love drinking craft beer, you know just how expensive it can be. There are some start-up costs to brewing beer, but once you get over that initial hump, you could be well on your way to becoming a brewmaster. You can make nearly any beer for less than a dollar per bottle, and the taste is nearly the same as something you’d buy in a store. It’s also pretty cool to show up to a party with a six-pack of your own beer!
50. Buy/sell gift cards online
Do you have a bunch of old gift cards sitting around the house? If so, you could actually sell them to sites like Cardpool — and get paid for cards that you would’ve otherwise never used.
On the other hand, if you know you’re going to be spending a lot of money at a certain store, you could buy a bunch of gift cards online at a discount. Some of the most deeply discounted gift cards can be found online at a 20% savings.
There you have it: 50 ways to save money on things you thought you could never save on! Which one is your favorite? What other tips would you add?
Editor's Note: I've begun tracking my assets through Personal Capital. I'm only using the free service so far and I no longer have to log into all the different accounts just to pull the numbers. And with a single screen showing all my assets, it's much easier to figure out when I need to rebalance or where I stand on the path to financial independence. They developed this pretty nifty 401K Fee Analyzer that will show you whether you are paying too much in fees, as well as an Investment Checkup tool to help determine whether your asset allocation fits your risk profile. The platform literally takes a few minutes to sign up and it's free to use by following this link here. For those trying to build wealth, Personal Capital is worth a look.