Welcome to our ultimate guide of ways to save money and eliminate your debt faster. We have assembled a comprehensive list of ways to help you save more money every day without having to earn more money.
A few minor adjustments to your daily spending habits can have a dramatic impact on how much you are able to save over the course of a few months or a year.
Cut Spending Around the House
- Wash clothes in cold water, not hot or warm. The detergent does the cleaning, not the water temperature, and you can soak heavily soiled clothing in cold water with detergent before putting it in the washer.
- Switch to basic cable or get rid of cable TV completely. You can use Hulu or Netflix instead to get access to thousands of TV shows and movies for less than $15 a month — or free!
- Set your thermostat 2 degrees lower in the winter and 2 degrees higher in the summer.
- Weatherproof your house to save on electricity costs.
- Reduce phantom energy by unplugging electronics when not in use. Power strips come in handy here!
- Line dry clothing to save energy.
- Bundle cable with phone and internet service.
- Ditch the landline and use your cell phone, or vice verca.
- Invest in a programmable thermostat.
- Switch out old incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFL.
- Water your garden and lawn with rainwater captured in barrels.
- Use water from cooking pasta to water your household plants.
- Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth, shampoo your hair or shave.
- Have a pickup or trailer? Take your own trash to the dump!
- If you think your property tax assessment is too high, challenge it.
- Clean out your lint trap on your dryer weekly to help your dryer run more efficiently, and help prevent house fires. Built-up lint is the second leading cause of fires in your home so you may save more than money!
- Replace expensive hobbies with new ones, like hiking or DIY crafts at home with the kids. Not only will you save money, you’ll also help strengthen relationships in your family.
Reduce Your Cost of Transportation
- Sell a car if you have an extra car in your household.
- Start carpooling to work.
- Use public transportation whenever possible.
- Walk whenever possible.
- Rotate tires often to make them last.
- Use GasBuddy.com to find the cheapest gas in your area.
- Avoid high octane gas unless your car requires it.
Saving on Groceries and Shopping
- Use websites like The Grocery Game or Coupons.com to use coupons.
- Grow a garden, even on a patio using containers, to save on produce.
- Re-grow store-bought produce at home for “free” food. Food that can be regrown from scraps includes: garlic, romaine lettuce, green onions, celery.
- Replace one meat-based meal a week with a meatless alternative using protein-rich foods like quinoa.
- Shop for grocery deals on Amazon to save up to 15% by subscribing.
- Warehouse clubs like Costco may help you save when you buy in bulk — but make sure you know your prices before you buy. Buying in bulk isn’t always a good deal!
- Use up leftovers with a weekly soup night.
- Use rags instead of paper towels to clean up spills.
- Vinegar is an easy replacement for fabric softener — and many other expensive products.
- Switch to store brands, which are usually just as good, or identical to, the brand names. You can save from 25 to 50% with this simple switch.
- Always go grocery shopping with a list to avoid impulse shopping and only get what you’ll need. Plus, you’ll avoid those extra runs to the grocery store to pick up what you forgot — and a few extra things.
- Use cash when you buy. Studies show that people spend more when they use plastic versus paying with cash, which helps you connect the real cost of what you’re buying.
Saving on Clothing
- Turn to thrift stores, consignment stores and online stores that sell gently used clothing for kids and adults.
- Mend clothing before you throw it away.
- Borrow one-time use items like formal dresses.
- Wear clothes more than once between washings to save on energy and help your clothes last longer.
Save on Entertainment and Dining
- Staycations beat vacations when you want to save money. Look for local entertainment before you plan a trip across the country.
- Vacation during the off-season.
- Use Redbox and Netflix instead of going out to the theater.
- Find knock off recipes to make yourself instead of dining out at your favorite recipes.
- Dine out no more than once per month.
- Create a menu plan to avoid wasting food or going out to eat at the last minute.
- Freeze fully prepared casseroles and leftovers so there’s always something ready for dinner.
- Pack lunch for work and school.
- Watch for free events in your city, whether it’s concerts in the park or free entry to the local museum on a certain day.
Cutting Costs with Kids
- Make disposable baby wipes yourself. Start by cutting a roll of paper towels in half, then remove the cardboard holder. Place the roll in a plastic container, like an empty wipes box, then mix together 2 tablespoons of baby wash and baby oil and 2 cups of water and pour over the paper towel roll. Put on the lid and shake, then let it sit for at least one hour and shake before use.
- Make baby food yourself. This is really easy! You can cook vegetables and then run them through a food processor, or process canned and fresh veggies and fruits. Pour the pureed food in ice cube trays and freeze so you always have ready-made food. Make sure you buy sodium-free canned foods, though!
- Cut your own child’s hair.
- Pick up toys on clearance and store them away for birthdays, Christmas and more.
- Host birthday parties at your house or the park instead of renting a venue.
- Buy tons of school supplies at back to school sales. You’ll never beat these prices and you’ll always have supplies on hand.
- Keep younger kids entertained with homemade crafts ideas. You can get really creative here and read up on craft blogs. For example, skip the expensive sprinklers and poke holes in an empty 2-liter, then tape it to your hose for an instant sprinkler, or use everyday items to make fun toys, accessories and home decor items.
Reduce Medical Expenses
- Always ask for a generic medication, which may cost as low as $4.
- Give up smoking to save on cigarettes and healthcare!
- Ask your doctor or hospital for a discount for paying in cash.
- Cancel the gym membership and work out at home.
Save on Insurance and Finances
- Raise your insurance deductible, but make sure it’s affordable.
- Get all of your insurance from the same company to get discounts.
- Ask about any discounts you may qualify for on your homeowner’s insurance and car insurance.
- Review insurance policies every year to make sure they suit your needs and you’re not paying too much.
- Consolidate student loans to get a lower interest rate.
- Transfer all credit card balances to a single card with a lower interest rate. Look for a 0% interest promotion and pay off your balance before it expires.
- Do your own taxes. You can save over $100 by using tax software to do your taxes rather than hiring a professional. This route is best if you have a simple tax situation, however, and it may get complicated if you own a business, for example.
- Ask your creditors for a lower interest rate, or to have late fees or annual fees waived. Some options to get lower rates include calling your credit card companies, negotiating with the bank for a lower interest rate on a HELOC, refinancing your mortgage (assuming you’ll reduce your interest rate by at least 1%), and moving credit card debt to a single card with a lower interest rate.
- Get access to a low interest loan using a peer-to-peer lender if you have great credit and a stable job. Sites like LendingClub.com can help you find a lender for a fixed rate loan up to $25,000 that may be 20 to 30% lower than your credit card. Use this money to pay off your debt and get a much lower, single monthly payment.
- Get a rewards credit card and use it to get cash back on your necessary spending. Make sure you never pay interest by paying your balance in full every month! If you don’t have the discipline to do that, skip this idea.
- Pay insurance annually or semi-annually. Life insurance costs less if you pay annually rather than monthly or quarterly, and car insurance usually has quarterly or semi-annual savings as well.
- Take advantage of flexible spending accounts (FSAs), which allow you to pay for many child care, medical and dental expenses with pre-tax money. Contact the HR department at work to find out how.
Cutting Costs with Online Shopping
- Wait 48 hours before making a purchase to avoid impulse buys.
- Shop for Christmas gifts early and get the best prices during the off season.
- Look for discount coupons or programs before you shop online, such as RetailMeNot.com or Ebates.com, which gives you a percentage cash back.
Bonus: How To Eliminate Your Debt Even Faster
Now, how can you best maximize all of that money you’re saving? There are a few proven strategies that will help you eliminate your debt as fast as possible.
Make a List Of Your Creditors
Itemize all of your creditors on a spreadsheet or a piece of paper. Putting everything in black and white may just open your eyes about how much debt you really have, or give you some relief when you find that things aren’t as bad as you thought.
This will give you a realistic look at what you’re facing and help you prioritize your debt payoff strategy.
Negotiate With Creditors
You can have great success by simply calling up your creditors and asking for a lower interest rate, or to have your late fees or annual fees removed. Many credit card companies will immediately lower your interest rate to avoid losing business which can save you thousands of dollars.
Create a Budget
Everything begins with a real budget. Analyze your spending over the last 6 months to come up with a budget that takes into account your necessary spending, not the “wants.”
Put yourself on a bare bones budget until you get the debt paid off and see how much you’ll have left over each month to apply to your debt.
Be realistic, though, and don’t overlook even minor expenses like a daily coffee or you’ll be reaching for the credit cards again before the month is out.
Pay 3x The Minimum Due
Credit card companies usually require a monthly payment of just 2% of your outstanding balance. Of course, this won’t help you pay down that debt and a balance of $13,000 at a 15% interest rate will take 25 years to pay off if you stick with the minimum payment.
Always pay more than the minimum and aim for three times the minimum due.
Prioritize Your Payoff Strategy
Once you have your budget ready and you know how much you can put towards debt every month, you need a plan of action. Where should your money go first? There are 3 main strategies you can use here:
- Highest Interest First: Using this approach, you’ll put extra money first toward the debt with the highest highest rate. This is the fastest repayment plan to get you out of debt and saves you substantially on interest charges.
- Smallest Balance First: This method is endorsed by financial guru Dave Ramsey and is also referred to as the debt snowball plan. The theory behind this idea is you’ll get one debt paid off as fast as possible to give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you on track while freeing up some extra money to put towards larger debts.
- Non-Revolving Debt First: Revolving debts like credit cards allow you to borrow more money when you’ve paid down your debt, whereas non-revolving debt, like a car loan, does not. With non-revolving debt, once the debt is paid, the loan is gone. If you have trouble keeping up the discipline to stay debt-free, this approach may be right for you.
Don’t Forget the Emergency Fund!
Finally, don’t abandon your savings efforts while you’re paying off your debt. Make it easy by automatically scheduling payments into your savings account every week, bi-weekly or monthly to build up an emergency fund for those unpredictable moments in life.