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.
When we talk about ways to save money, we’re talking about two things: Saving more and spending less. In the first half of this article, we’re going to share our best tips for spending less and reducing expenses. If your goal is specifically to have more money in savings, we also have tips for you later in this article.
This article was updated in August 2023 and I review it every six months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.
How To Save Money: Table of Contents
- Save Money by Spending Less
- Money-Saving Techniques
How To Save Money: Spend Less and Reduce Expenses
Let’s start with ways that you can save money by cutting costs. In this section, you’ll find tips on how to save while shopping for groceries, dining out, getting gas, finding entertainment, paying monthly bills, getting prescriptions and other ways to save on everyday expenses.
From cutting your cable bill to making small changes to your everyday habits, these tips will help you save more, spend less and get on the fast track to financial success!
1. Save Money on Groceries
Grocery bills can really eat our wallets. Here are a few of our favorite ways to save money on groceries:
- Create a shopping list (and follow it). One of the best ways to save money while shopping is by making a 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.
- Buy generic brands. Try changing which brand you put into your shopping cart. It’s one of the easiest ways to save on groceries. Buying the store brand will typically save you up to 30% without clipping coupons. If you don’t like it, it’s easy to go back to the national brand.
- Clip coupons and use cash back apps. Check those bulk mail circulars for coupons instead of throwing them away. In addition to paper coupons, several members of Team Clark have experienced great success with cash back apps like Ibotta.
- Join a warehouse club. Joining a warehouse club can be 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 want to save even more at the supermarket, we have an article with 22 ways to save on groceries.
2. Save Money on Gas
Daily commutes and regular errands can empty our gas tanks quickly. Luckily, there are several easy ways to save money on gas:
- Drive less or consolidate errands. You may be able to save gas by combining all of your errands into one trip. It takes a bit more effort to plan, but it can help cut down on driving time. You may also be able to save on gas by working at home more, riding public transportation or carpooling.
- Download gas-saving apps. An easy way to find cheaper gas stations is to download a gas-saving app on your phone. Here are a few of the FREE gas apps out there:
- Use a credit card with gas reward perks. Did you know that some credit cards offer gas rewards? For example, the Citi Custom Cash® Card gives you 5% back (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back after) in your top spending category each month, and gas is an eligible category.
For more tips on how to save at the pump, check out these 20+ tips for saving on gas.
3. Save Money on Car and Home/Renters 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. If you’re a renter, check out this list of the best renters insurance companies and the ones to avoid.
4. Save on Utilities
When it comes to monthly costs, your utility bills are likely big expenses. One great way to lower your utility bills is by cutting down on your heating and air conditioning use. You can do this by dividing your home into zones that will let you heat or cool only the rooms or areas that are being used.
You can control each zone of your home with individual thermostats, or you can take a simpler approach for a less upfront cost. Simply close all of the doors and vents in rooms that aren’t being used to reduce wasted energy. You can also set up fans throughout your home to increase or redirect airflow. And don’t forget to close off your fireplace when it’s not in use to prevent air from escaping.
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.
The Department of Energy’s website says that switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills. In fact, it says that the average household saves about $225 in energy costs per year by using LED lighting. They recommend that you replace your home’s five most frequently used lights with bulbs that have earned the Energy Star rating.
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)|
In addition to using energy-efficient bulbs, consider setting up controls like timers and dimmers to reduce electricity usage. For more information on lighting choices, check out this page from the Department of Energy.
Additional ways to cut down on your utility bills include using an electric blanket, cooking strategically (outdoors in the summer; indoors in the winter) and sealing drafts around doors and windows.
For more tips, be sure to check out these 15 ways to save money on utilities.
5. Save on TV/Cable
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 hundreds of dollars per year.
According to a July 2022 report from bill-paying service doxo, the average American household cable bill is around $114 per month (though that sometimes includes internet service). By switching to a streaming TV service, you can easily save some real money each month.
Here are the prices for some of the cheapest live TV streaming plans:
|DIRECTV STREAM – Choice Package||Hulu + Live TV||Philo||Sling Orange + Blue||YouTube TV|
|Free Trial||5 Days||None||7 Days||None||10 Days|
|Local Channels Included||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|User Profiles Allowed||1||6||10||1||6|
|Cloud DVR Hours||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||50||Unlimited|
|Number of Channels||131||101||108||48||131|
If you know which channels you’d like to keep, check out our Live TV Streaming Channel Tool to find the perfect Live TV streaming service for you.
6. Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill
You could be overpaying for your cell service. One way to cut costs is by switching your cell phone carrier. Opting for a smaller carrier is a great way to save big.
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:
- Verizon: Visible, Twigby or Xfinity Mobile
- AT&T: Cricket Wireless, H2O Wireless or Consumer Cellular
- T-Mobile: Metro by T-Mobile, Mint Mobile, Republic Wireless, Boost Mobile or Tello Mobile
7. Save Money on Other Everyday Purchases
In addition to your regular monthly payments, everyday purchases can quickly add up. Here are a few ways to save on a day-to-day basis:
- Be intentional while eating out. Instead of grabbing fast food, make a simple, healthy snack or lunch to take with you when you leave the house. Try eating an inexpensive, filling breakfast before you head out for the day. You can also start the crockpot before you leave and know that you have a delicious warm meal waiting for you when you return. When you do decide to eat out, try and grab a deal if you can. Our team at Clark Deals regularly updates this list of fast food deals: 20+ great fast food bargains & freebies.
- Use your credit cards 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. Just be careful not to overspend as interest fees accumulate quickly. If you aren’t sure which credit card to choose, start with one of our top picks for the best rewards credit cards.
- Pay in cash whenever possible. If you aren’t 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. 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.
- Comparison shop. Before you make any purchase, take some time to make sure you’re getting the best deal. At ClarkDeals.com, we use Google Shopping to make sure we’re posting the lowest prices available online.
- 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.
- Shop used, refurbished or generic. You can shop for used items on Facebook Marketplace, ThredUP, OfferUp, Craigslist and eBay. Additionally, you can buy refurbished phones, laptops, musical instruments, vacuums and appliances to reduce the price. Just be sure to do your research by reading reviews, familiarizing yourself with the return policy and checking seller ratings.
- Wait a day before making a purchase. When it comes to making a purchase (particularly a big purchase) be patient instead of rushing to the register. Give yourself time to shop around for something similar or wait for a sale. 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 simply closing the browser. Waiting a day before making a purchase is a great way to prevent buyer’s remorse!
8. Other Ways To Save Money
For even more ways to save money, consider the following tips:
- Look for free entertainment. The library is a great source of free entertainment. Libraries provide access to thousands of free books, DVDs and music. 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.
- Cancel unused subscriptions. If you have any subscriptions or memberships that you aren’t using enough to justify the monthly expense anymore, cancel them! If you’re paying for several different streaming services, try to narrow your list down to just the one or two that you actually watch. Check out our top picks for the best streaming services for help with deciding which streaming service(s) you want to keep. To determine whether or not you should keep a subscription or membership, ask yourself the following questions:
- When was the last time I got real use out of this product or service?
- Is it worth what I’m paying for this service, or can I find it cheaper?
- Is this something I can live without for a while?
- Work out at home. If one of your subscriptions is a monthly gym membership, consider working out at home instead with free workout apps. Here are a few of our favorite home workout apps:
- Shop for cheaper internet service. 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.
- Pay off debt early. Paying off your debt early will help you avoid bigger interest charges over time. Whether you’re dealing with credit card debt, student loans or a mortgage, you’ll save big by paying more now rather than later. For a step-by-step walkthrough, check out our guide on how to get out of debt. You can also find more resources for dealing with debt on Clark.com.
- Save on prescriptions. Money expert Clark Howard has long said that you can’t control what Washington does about health care. All you can control is how you handle the expense of health care and prescriptions in your own life. Keeping a list of generics, getting free antibiotics, using apps to shop around and using Costco’s pharmacy are all great ways to save on prescriptions. For more information, check out our full article on ways to save on prescription drugs.
- 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 could save quite a bit simply by asking a friend instead of a salesman.
- Make your own gifts and household products. If you have any weddings or birthdays coming up, consider making your own gifts instead of heading to the store. Making candles, cookies, soap and food mixes can be inexpensive and fun. 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 on home essentials.
- Drive a different car. You could save big money, 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. As of August 2023, that added up to a savings of $10,184! 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.
- Refinance your car loan. If you don’t want to swap your current car, you may be able to reduce your monthly payments by refinancing your auto loan at a lower interest rate. If you decide to refinance, be sure to check out this step-by-step guide on refinancing a car loan.
- Consider cheaper housing. 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. You may also be able to save by refinancing your mortgage. If you don’t already own, you may consider the costs of renting versus buying. Additionally, if you’re able to find a roommate, this can be another great way to reduce your living costs.
How To Save Money: Techniques To Build Your Savings
Now that we’ve reviewed several ways to spend less money, let’s cover a few techniques that can help you accumulate more money in your bank account.
If you’re having a hard time getting started saving money, we’ve got some steps to get you on a path to a more stable financial future.
1. Create a Budget
Just as you wouldn’t start a journey to an unfamiliar place without some kind of map, you can’t really get to a place where you’re saving money without having an idea how to get there. That’s where creating a budget comes in.
A budget lets you see all the money you’re taking in (income) and all of the money that you’re spending (expenses) in one place.
If your expenses exceed your income, you will soon be in debt — if you’re not already. If your income and expenses are roughly the same each month, you are living paycheck-to-paycheck.
The only way to save money is to make sure that you are making more than you are spending each month, and creating a budget is the best way to ensure that.
If you are in debt, your budget should account for paying it off as quickly as possible. It doesn’t usually make financial sense to “save” money when you’re really losing money every month in interest charges.
2. Set Savings Goals
Once you’ve created your budget and hopefully cut your spending to the point that you’re actually spending less money than you’re making, it’s time to set some goals for yourself and create a plan for how you’re going to achieve them.
Your very first goal for yourself when you start saving money is to build an emergency fund. Your goal with the emergency fund is to have enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses saved somewhere like a high-yield savings account.
You want this money to be easily accessible because it’s there to cover unexpected large expenses or a reduction in pay.
“Surveys show, no matter how the question is asked, that roughly half of Americans cannot handle a simple financial hiccup in their lives — some part of our car breaks, or something in your home needs repairing or replacing or whatever it is that’s a surprise — you don’t have anything to draw on,” Clark says. “That’s why having savings in an ‘oops fund’ or emergency fund is so important.”
If you’re not prepared for the unexpected, you might find yourself in a position where you’re forced to borrow money. You’ll then have to pay back that money — plus interest — which is going to slow down your overall savings plan.
In addition to your emergency fund, other savings goals you might set for yourself include:
- Paying off debt
- Saving enough to buy a car
- Saving enough for a down payment on a house
- Saving for retirement
Having a concrete goal or goals will help keep you on track with your savings. In fact, the closer you get to reaching your goal the more you may find yourself saving in order to make your dream a reality.
3. Track Your Spending
Once you’ve taken a close look at your earnings and expenses as well as set savings goals for yourself, it’s time to put all of your hard work into action.
If you can, remind yourself to check in with your budget at the end of each day. Are you spending too much in any one category? It’s important to keep track of your purchases in order to take control of where your money is going and meet your financial goals.
There are several apps available that can make this process a bit easier with features like automatically deducting money from certain categories in your budget based on real-time transactions.
If you’re interested in trying a budgeting app, here are a few of our favorites:
|App||Best For||Price||App Ratings|
|Mint||Tracking Expenses||Free||App Store 4.8
Google Play 4.3
|Empower||Investments||Free||App Store 4.7
Google Play 4.3
|You Need a Budget (YNAB)||Strict Budgeting||$14.99/month or $99/year|
34-day free trial
|App Store 4.8
Google Play 4.6
|PocketGuard||Avoiding Overspending||Free||App Store 4.7
Google Play 4.4
|Quicken||Premium features||Simplifi: $47.88/year|
Home & Business: $119.88/year
|App Store 4.1
Google Play 2.6
|Honeydue||Couples||Free||App Store 4.5
Google Play 3.5
Whether you use a budgeting app, a spreadsheet, an envelope budgeting method or simple pen and paper, make sure you keep track of your spending. This is the only way to stick to your budget and meet your savings goals!
4. Pay Down High-Interest Debt
Earlier in this article, we talked about paying off debt early as one way to reduce expenses. Reducing your interest (and eventually eliminating monthly payments altogether) is a great way to spend less each month. However, it can also help you save more.
As you begin tackling high-interest debt, you’ll start finding more and more money available in your monthly budget. Instead of allocating it to something like “entertainment,” keep each of your budgeting categories at the amount you’re already used to. Then, take the extra money you’re no longer spending on high-interest debt and put it into your savings account instead.
If you have more than one debt that you’re currently paying down, consider using the money from the first paid-off debt to help on your next one. Here’s Clark’s take on two of the most popular methods for paying off debt this way:
5. Switch Bank Accounts
As you start to save more money, it’s important to make sure it’s stored in the best place. For example, 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 eliminate 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.
6. Automate Your Savings
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.
7. Meet Your Company 401(k) Match
Set up a meeting with the human resources 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 to 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, Managing Editor at Clark.com. “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. For example, if your employer offers a 401(k) match, make sure you’re contributing enough to meet the match!
8. Make More Money
Our final tip is very simple: to save more, make more!
Fortunately, you don’t have to pick up a part-time job or even leave your job for a higher-paying opportunity. With so many online networks, freelance jobs, selling platforms and side hustles available now, there are tons of legitimate ways to extra cash on your own schedule.
In the past, I’ve been a shopper for Shipt (review) and Instacart (review) as well as driven for DoorDash (review) and captioned audio files on Rev (review). All of these are relatively simple ways to make some extra cash.
For more ideas, check out these 23 easy ways to make extra money.
Saving money — whether it’s by reducing daily spending or by building up your savings account — takes some planning and good decision-making on your part. But, it’s probably the most important thing you can do to give yourself peace of mind and a bright future.
While it’s easy to eliminate some expenses immediately, many of the tips listed in the first part of this article will save you just a few dollars 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:
- Free Budget Worksheet: The CLARK Method To Create a Monthly Budget
- 6 of the Best Budgeting Apps in 2023
- How To Budget With a Cash Envelope System
- Google Sheets: The Free Budgeting Tool You Probably Haven’t Tried
Once you’re ready to start reducing monthly expenses, try following just one expense-cutting 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.
As you begin to save each dollar, make sure it’s going to the right account. Build an emergency fund and pay off high-interest debts first. You can also talk to your employer about ways to automate your savings and maximize the benefits your company offers to help build your investment accounts.
Then, 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 our Clark.com Community!
- August 28, 2023: Updated the amount of savings for driving a more fuel-efficient car based on the latest national average price of gas.