How to Save Money: 35 Ways to Reduce Expenses

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The best money-saving tips
Image Credit: Dreamstime/Clark.com

At Team Clark, your financial success is our main goal. In order to help you save the most money in every way possible, we’ve combined our years of experience at Clark.com and ClarkDeals.com to bring you some of our favorite money-saving tips. 

After you’ve set up your budget, consider using these tips to reduce your spending in each category. 

Table of Contents

From cable bills to everyday habits, these tips will help you save more, spend less and get on the fast track to financial success!  

Reducing Monthly Expenses

1. Make Sure Subscriptions Are Up To Date

Cancel Subscriptions

There’s nothing worse than money going down the drain. If you have any subscriptions or memberships that you aren’t using enough to justify the monthly expense anymore, cancel them! 

If you aren’t still reading all of the magazines you receive in the mail or using the online software that you’re paying for, you’re losing money. Cancel any unused subscriptions, streaming services and memberships that aren’t worth it anymore.

To determine whether or not you should keep a subscription or membership, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. When was the last time I got real use out of this product or service?
  2. Is it worth what I’m paying for this service, or can I find it cheaper?
  3. Is this something I can live without for a while?

You should also unsubscribe from tempting emails that you don’t need to see. If you aren’t shopping for new clothes, you shouldn’t be teasing yourself with sales notifications from apparel stores. 

2. Work Out at Home

6 free fitness apps

Instead of paying for a monthly gym membership, consider working out at home with free workout apps. One member of Team Clark recently started using YouTube videos to work out at home and keep the cash in her pocket. 

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You can find at-home cardio routines, resistance workouts, yoga classes and more for free online. You can even invite friends over to work out so you won’t miss out on the social aspect of the gym.

To get started, check out these free workout apps:

BeachBody is another great option for following a workout plan at home. It costs $99 per year. Depending on where you live, that could add up to huge savings compared to local gym memberships.

3. Cut the Cable Cord

Cutting the cable cord is another great way to save big on monthly expenses. Check out our comparison of cable versus streaming to see if cutting the cord is a good option for you. If you decide to ditch cable, here are a few great alternatives that could help you save up to $1,000 per year.

According to a recent report from data analysis firm DecisionData, the average American household cable bill is now more than $200 a month. By switching to a streaming TV service, you can easily save from $40 to almost $100 per month!

Here are the prices for some of the cheapest live TV streaming plans

Cheapest Live TV Streaming Plans 

Streaming TV service Starting price 
Philo $20/month
Sling TV $30/month
AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now) $55/month
Hulu + Live TV $64.99/month
YouTube TV $64.99/month

For more information on the best live TV streaming services, check out our current top picks.  

4. Review Your Cell Phone Services

You could be overpaying for your cell service. One way to cut costs in this department is by switching your cell phone carrier. Opting for a smaller carrier is a great way to save big on monthly costs, and in most cases, you can keep the same provider if you’re happy with your service.

If you’re currently using one of the major cell phone carriers, consider switching to one of these smaller alternatives that use the same towers:

(Editor’s Note: Service on Sprint-related providers may change soon because of the company’s merger with T-Mobile.)

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You can learn more about Team Clark’s picks for the best and most affordable cell phone plans here

5. Shop for Cheaper Internet Services

When it comes to your internet service, there are two options for cutting costs:

  1. Switch to a provider with better rates
  2. Call your current provider to try to negotiate

Find out which internet providers are available in your area and call competitors to see if you can get a better price. Another option is to call your current internet provider to see if the company is willing to lower your monthly bill. You may be able to switch plans or get rid of some of the fees.

For more information, learn how to find the best deal on cheap internet service here.

Saving on Major Expenses

6. Consider Cheaper Housing

Clearly, where you live is a major expense. If you’re renting an apartment in the swankiest part of town, chances are you’ll be able to save significantly over time by moving to a less expensive area. In the same way, you can save big by moving into a space smaller than what you may think you need. 

Downsizing or moving to a more affordable area could make a huge long-term difference financially. If you own a home in an area that’s desirable for tourists, consider renting out part of your space on a site like Airbnb (if your local laws allow it) to help defray some of your housing costs.

7. Drive a Different Car

You could save big over time by driving a reliable, fuel-efficient car. If you drive a car that gets 25 miles per gallon instead of a car that gets 15 miles per gallon for 100,000 miles, you’ll save nearly 2,667 gallons of gas. 

Using AAA, I found the national average for regular unleaded gas is $2.172 per gallon at the time of writing. Using the example above, that’s a savings of $5792.724 over 100,000 miles simply by driving a more efficient car.

Gas aside, if your car payment is more than 10-15% of your monthly income, you might want to trade in your car for one with a lower monthly payment — or even buy a less expensive vehicle with cash.

8. Shop For Cheaper Home and Auto Insurance

If you own a car or a home, you’re most likely making monthly insurance payments. Take the time to shop around at insurance companies and compare prices. 

You don’t have to wait until your current policy is expired to change auto insurance providers. With most companies, you can leave at any time without having to pay for the remainder of the policy.

If you aren’t sure where to start, Team Clark has a list of the best and worst auto insurance companies as well as the best and worst home insurance companies.

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9. Purchase Appliances Wisely

Spending the extra time and money to purchase good appliances is a great way to save big in the long run. Buying a major appliance that’s reliable and energy-efficient will help to reduce overall spending. 

Check Consumer Reports for the latest ratings and reviews on appliances, and compare prices across several stores before making your purchase. And choosing the best time and place to buy a new appliance can help you save big!

10. Maintain Appliances

Doing your part to help your appliances run smoothly can also save you money. Be sure that any vents are clear and that any dust is vacuumed away. This will ensure your appliances run as efficiently as possible, which helps you save on both energy and replacement costs.

How to Save While Shopping

11. Create a Shopping List and Follow It

Save on groceries

One of the best ways to save money while shopping is by making a shopping list before you leave the house and then sticking to it. Know what’s necessary, and don’t allow yourself to fall for impulse buys. 

When it comes to saving money on groceries, you can cut down your weekly bill by basing your meals around the store’s local ad. Purchase what’s on sale and plan the week around those foods.

If you know you can’t pass up an impulse buy, consider using a free grocery pickup service and place your order from home!

For more ways to save big on groceries, check out these 20+ tips.

12. Check for Coupons, Rebates and Discounts

Before you go shopping or make an online purchase, see if you can find any coupons, rebates or discounts. Places like Retailmenot.com and Coupons.com are great places to check in addition to your local grocery store’s weekly ad.

For more ways to find coupons, rebates and discounts online as well as more general ways to save, be sure to check out our online shopping guide.

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Even if you aren’t shopping online, you still may be able to get a discount. Simply ask someone in the store if there are any coupons or current promotions available. You never know what they’ll say!

13. Sign Up for Rewards Programs

If you find yourself shopping at the same store repeatedly (whether you’re buying groceries, clothes or home essentials) find out if there’s a loyalty program you can join. 

A lot of loyalty programs offer members perks like free shipping, exclusive access to deals and points systems that turn into cash back over time. 

For example, Target’s loyalty program allows shoppers to earn 1% back on every purchase, and it also offers a 5% birthday discount. 

ShopRunner is another option to consider. Membership includes free two-day shipping and free returns at more than 100 online retailers. 

14. Use Apps to Earn Cash Back

You can save money even after you’ve made your purchases by keeping track of your emails and receipts. 

One member of Team Clark has been earning hundreds of dollars in cash back rewards every year by using the cash back app Ibotta. You can learn more about Ibotta and how to start earning cash back here!

In addition to Ibotta, download these apps to save money on groceries:

15. Use Your Credit Card Wisely

Credit cards can be a great financial tool if used responsibly. In fact, the best credit cards offer cash back on specific categories such as dining, travel or gas.

No matter how great a credit card’s cash back system is, be careful not to overspend. Interest fees accumulate quickly, so be sure to pay off your credit card in full as soon as possible.

If you aren’t sure which credit card to choose, start with these reviews:

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Making your purchases with a credit card that offers cash back and avoiding interest fees are easy ways to save big while shopping. You can learn more about Team Clark’s picks for the best rewards credit cards here.

16. Price Compare

Comparison shopping is probably the most crucial tip to keep in mind for saving money while shopping. At ClarkDeals.com, we use Google Shopping to make sure we’re posting the lowest prices available online.

Whether you’re shopping online or in the store, be sure to compare the prices elsewhere before making your final purchase. Check out the video below for a quick tutorial on how to use Google Shopping.

17. Track Pricing History

Another great way to save big while shopping is to research the best time to make your purchase. Certain appliances, electronics and products go on sale during specific times of the year. Waiting for a price drop could help you save big.

If you don’t have time to watch the prices yourself, you can use a tool like Camelcamelcamel for a quick overview. If you aren’t familiar with Camelcamelcamel, you can check out our simple tutorial here or watch the video below.

18. Shop Used, Refurbished or Generic

Where to shop for refurbished items

Too many consumers overpay for brand names. As long as you’ve done your research and know what you’re buying, there’s no reason to pay any more for the same product with a different label.

A lot of things can be purchased used in great condition online. If you’re shopping for electronics, used and refurbished options can be great options.

Where to Shop for Used Items:

Things You Can Buy Refurbished:

  • Phones
  • Laptops
  • Musical instruments
  • Vacuums
  • Appliances

Be sure to do your research before buying something used or refurbished. Read reviews, familiarize yourself with the return policy and check seller ratings.

19. Join a Warehouse Club Like Costco or Sam’s Club

Money expert Clark Howard is a huge fan of Costco and with good reason. Joining a warehouse club is a great way to save big by purchasing essentials in bulk at lower prices. 

In addition to the savings you’ll accumulate after you start shopping, you may also be able to swing a deal on the initial membership. At ClarkDeals.com, we’ve posted membership deals for Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale. Deals can include discounted membership fees or cash back rewards.

If you’ve ever considered joining a warehouse club, here are some ways to know if Costco is a good fit for you. For even more ways to save, check out these secret saving hacks at Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale

20. Borrow Instead of Buying for One-Time Projects

If you’re shopping for a home improvement project or a one-time event, consider borrowing a lot of what you’ll need instead of buying it new. 

You’ll most likely be able to find someone in your circle with access to a karaoke machine, a palm sander or fancy table runners. You could save quite a bit simply by asking a friend instead of a salesman.

21. Be Intentional While Eating Out

Instead of grabbing fast food, do a little planning, and make simple, healthy snacks to take with you each day. View eating out as a social experience only; never stop out of convenience.

Eating an inexpensive, filling breakfast can be another great way to curb your appetite and prevent an oversized, pricey lunch. You can also start the crock pot before you leave the house in the morning and have a delicious warm meal waiting for you when you return.

22. Pay in Cash Whenever Possible

Unless you’re strategically trying to rack up cash back rewards on your credit card or paying with a gift card, shopping with cash is the best option. 

You may be able to get a better price on some products and services by offering to pay cash. When you use cash, you’ll also be less likely to make impulse purchases.

To get started on a more cash-based way of doing things, check out our guide on how to budget with a cash envelope system.

23. Wait a Day Before Making a Purchase

3 tips to prevent buyer's remorse

When it comes to making a purchase — particularly a big purchase — be patient before rushing to the register. Give yourself time to shop around for something similar or wait for your target purchase to go on sale. If you know you’ve found a great deal on something you need, give yourself at least a day to think through the decision. 

If you’re shopping online, you may be able to get a discount sent to your email after a few days by logging in, adding the item to your online shopping cart and then simply closing the tab. 

Lastly, if you don’t need it, just don’t buy it! This is one of the best ways to prevent buyer’s remorse. 

Daily Ways to Save

24. Drink More Water

Drinking water is a great way to stay healthy and feel better, but it can also help you save! Skip over sodas and even bottled water in the store in exchange for free tap water at home. Even when you’re out to eat, skip the fancy drinks (and even soda) in exchange for free water.

If you drink a large glass of water before each meal, you most likely won’t eat as much. That means you’ll save on the bill and you’ll be less likely to give in to temptations later. Fewer desserts and snacks also lead to more money in your wallet.

Consider taking a refillable water bottle with you when you go out. I never leave the house without my reusable water bottle and I’ll refill it throughout the day for free anytime I’m near a water fountain. 

25. Brew Your Own Coffee

If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you might be surprised to know how much you’re actually spending. By buying a coffee every morning before work, you’re missing a huge opportunity to save. Assuming you have a five-day workweek and buy one coffee every morning at $2.75, you’re spending $55 each month.

Instead, consider buying an inexpensive coffee maker yourself and brew your own before work. You could save over $600 throughout the year with this tip! 

26. Turn Off The Lights

Any time you leave a room or leave the house, double-check that you’ve turned off the lights. Although you may not notice the impact immediately, leaving the lights on adds up in energy costs over time. 

In addition to turning out the lights, also be sure to unplug unused electronics. Older devices and cable boxes can drain a lot of energy if left plugged in even when they’re not being used.

More Quick and Easy Ways to Save

27. Look for Free Entertainment

You can save a lot of money throughout the month simply by cutting down on entertainment costs. While going out is limited right now because of the pandemic, there are still ways to have fun for free at home. 

The library is a great source of free entertainment. Libraries provide access to thousands of free books, DVDs and music. Many libraries are also offering curbside services right now. 

Additionally, you can find tons of entertainment online including free movies, free games, free music, free audiobooks and free e-books. Bookmark each of these links so that you’ll always have a list of free (and legal) resources to check out online during your downtime.

28. Cook in Bulk and Freeze Leftovers

Cooking extras at home is a great way to save. If you’re making a pot of chili, double your recipe and freeze half. If you’re making a lasagna or casserole, go ahead and make four so the other three are ready to go anytime. 

Buying in bulk is a great way to get a better overall price. Having food in the freezer ready to cook will also help you avoid the temptation to order a pizza after a long day. 

29. Use Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

Another way to save on energy costs over time is by opting for more efficient bulbs. While they may cost a little more initially, they’re going to last longer and use less electricity. 

CFLs use only a fraction of the energy used by incandescent bulbs and last for years. LEDs are a little pricier, but great deals show up for them all the time.

These energy-efficient light bulbs are measured in lumens instead of watts. For a quick reference, here’s a simple conversion chart:

Watts

(Incandescent bulbs)

Lumens

(CFL, LED or Halogen)

40 450
60 800
75 1,100
100 1,600
150 2,600

30. Make Your Own Gifts and Products

If you have any weddings or birthdays coming up, consider making your own gifts instead of heading to the mall. Making candles, cookies, soap and food mixes can be inexpensive and fun. Plus, almost everyone loves something personal. 

You can also make your own cleaning products, toothpaste, shampoos, conditioners and more at home. This is a great, inexpensive hobby that can help you save big on home essentials. 

31. Declutter and Donate

Decluttering can be a great way to free up some extra space, and you can save big later on by doing it the right way. Go through your home and gather up anything you don’t use or wear anymore. Instead of tossing it, donate it! 

When you make a donation, you may be able to deduct it on your taxes.

How to Save for Long-Term Goals

32. Learn About All of the Benefits Your Company Offers

Set up a meeting with the HR contact at your job and take the time to look at all of the benefits your company offers. One member of Team Clark takes advantage of this tip by increasing contributions in her Roth 401(k).

“This is one of my favorite ways to save more money because I don’t even notice the extra money out of my bank account,” says Sally McDonald, Director of Operations at Clark Howard. “It’s going to a safe place in my Roth 401(k) and I’m not tempted to take it out.”

A brief conversation could help you optimize your retirement funds or take advantage of employee benefits you weren’t aware of. 

33. Use an Automated Savings Plan

If you use direct deposit, many employers are willing to set up a percentage or dollar amount from each of your paychecks to go directly into a savings account of your choice. As long as you keep a certain minimum balance or allocate a minimum amount for each direct deposit, most bank savings accounts should be fee-free.

Saving money before it hits your checking account is a brilliant way to save: pain-free and worry-free. Make technology work for you and watch your savings grow effortlessly! Likewise, if you earn any additional income, it’s always smart to automatically save this as well. You weren’t expecting it anyway!

To keep your savings organized, consider naming your accounts. This helps you to understand where your money is going and why it’s going there. One member of Team Clark keeps one savings account for travel and another for emergency funds.

34. Pay Off Debt Early

Paying off your debt early will help you avoid bigger interest charges over time.

To pay off your debts, follow these steps: 

  1. Add up all of your debts
  2. Try to negotiate with creditors
  3. Look into refinancing debt at a lower rate
  4. Add debt payoff as a line in your budget
  5. Set a debt payoff goal
  6. Use the avalanche method to start paying down your debt
  7. Find more money to pay off debt faster

For more information on these steps, check out our guide on how to get out of debt. You can find more resources for dealing with debt on Clark.com. 

35. Switch Banks for More Perks and Better Interest Rates

You may be able to get better perks and interest rates than you’re used to by switching banks. If your bank charges any monthly fees, you can easily get rid of them by moving to a new bank. Here are Team Clark’s picks for the best banks that offer free checking and high-interest savings accounts.

Picking the right savings account is also essential to make sure you can save the most and earn the most while your money is tucked away for a rainy day. Look for an account that’s fee-free with options to help you earn the most on your money.

Take the time to read up on different banks before making your final choice. If you do decide to make the switch, follow these four simple steps

Final Thoughts

While it’s easy to eliminate some expenses immediately, many of these tips will save you just pennies at a time. So keep in mind that it may take some time before you start seeing major savings. Be patient and keep your financial success in mind. 

Instead of trying to tackle all of these tips at once, start by making sure you have a solid financial foundation. Check out these resources for more information on effective budgeting:

Once you’re ready to start reducing monthly expenses, try following just one tip at a time. If you can start with a resolution to compare prices before making any major purchase, you’ll already be saving big. Brewing your own coffee a few days a week instead of stopping at a coffee shop also adds up over the course of the year.

Once you’ve started saving money like a pro, consider exploring ways to bring in additional income for even more savings.

What are your favorite tips for reducing monthly expenses or saving big over time? Let us know in the comments below! 

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