Watching your expenses on "the big three" - housing, food, and transportation - will make the biggest impact on your budget and likely where you'll find the most savings opportunities. Earning more can also give a big boost to your savings.

Most people spend the bulk of their money on three things: housing, food, and transportation. If you focus your money-saving efforts there it will make the greatest impact.

Also, finding ways to earn more money will make a huge impact as well. Every extra dollar is another dollar that can be used to save or pay off debt.

Here’s a list of 36 ways to save money – from big things like downsizing your car to little things like getting a cash back credit card.

Everything you can do to save more will make an impact. Little bits add up to large sums over time.

What’s Ahead:

1. Reduce eating out by cooking at home

It can take some time to find easy recipes you love, but cooking at home is not only cheaper but healthier too. Plus, it can also be an enjoyable experience. It doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming either. First, consider your schedule and plan ahead. Take a look at the days of the week when you are busiest and plan meals for those days.

Make a grocery list and try to stick to it when at the store. This will help you save time and money by avoiding impulse purchases.

In addition, make sure that you have your pantry stocked with staple items or ingredients to prepare quick meals. This way, if you’re in a rush or don’t have time to go grocery shopping, you can still create a nutritious meal. Try looking for recipes that use similar ingredients so you don’t waste food or money. And if you’re feeling adventurous, challenge yourself to try new recipes and experiment with different flavors.

If that feels like too much, consider meal kit delivery. It’s often cheaper than eating out and lets you experiment with cooking. You might find a few recipes you can start making on your own.

Get started: Best meal delivery kits – How they compare

2. Switch to a high-yield savings account to maximize your savings

There is one big benefit to the higher interest rates we’ve been seeing recently — your savings account is starting to actually earn a little bit of money. Interest rates have been extremely low for a long time which means that we haven’t been earning much money on our savings accounts, typically less than 1% even on high yield accounts.

But that’s changing. Today, rates are much better so if you haven’t shopped for a new savings account in a while now is the time.

Here’s our list of the top high-yield savings accounts.

3. Transfer your credit card balance

If you have good enough credit you can get a balance transfer card that offers zero percent for a period of time on balance transfers. This is a great way to reduce your interest charges and make a big dent in your credit card balance.

Here’s our list of best balance transfer credit cards.

Even if you can’t transfer your balance right now you can always call and see if you can have your interest rate lowered on your credit card. Especially if your credit has improved since you got the card.

4. Get a rewards credit card

Using a rewards credit card is one of the best ways to save money when making purchases. When you sign up for a rewards credit card, you’ll usually earn points or cash back every time you use your card. You can often get an average of 2% cash back on every purchase you make.

Here’s a list of our favorite cash back credit cards

Be sure to pay off your balance in full each month so that you don’t incur any interest charges or fees.

Whether or not to pay an annual fee is something to consider. Cards with annual fees often have tons of perks, but make sure they are perks you will actually use. Otherwise, opt for a cash back card with no annual fee.

Here’s a list of the top rewards credit cards.

5. Use travel rewards

Travel rewards credit cards offer rewards programs that can help you save on your travel costs, such as free airline tickets and hotels.

Often when you sign up you get a welcome bonus that is enough to get you some free travel. Then you also earn points or miles when you make purchases on the card that you can later exchange for free or discounted flights and hotels.

Get started: Best travel rewards credit cards – snag up to $1,000 in travel

6. Earn extra money

If you’re looking for an extra source of income to help with saving money or paying off debt, a part-time job or side hustle may be the way to go. There are plenty of opportunities out there–whether it’s working in a retail store, delivering food through a service like Uber Eats, or even teaching online classes.

Not only will having another source of income give you more flexibility when it comes to your budget, but it can also provide valuable work experience and transferable skills that could open up new career opportunities down the line. So if you’re serious about saving money and improving your financial situation, don’t discount the idea of adding a part-time job to your schedule. It could end up being a great investment in your future!

Get started: 40 ways to make extra money on the side

7. Save money on car insurance by shopping around and comparing rates

Car insurance is a necessity, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay an arm and a leg for it. By shopping around and comparing rates, you can find the best coverage at the most reasonable price.

Start by researching different car insurance companies online and taking advantage of any discounts they may offer. Additionally, look into bundling your car insurance with other policies such as home or renters insurance–this could save you even more money over time. Finally, take advantage of low-mileage discounts if applicable–some companies will give you cheaper rates if you drive less than a certain number of miles each year.

By following these steps and doing some research, you can be sure to get the best rates possible on your car insurance–saving you money and giving you peace of mind all at the same time!

Get started: Best car insurance for young adults

8. Downsize your car

Cars are extremely expensive, with the average American spending about $800 per month on their car. Cars are often the second biggest expense in someone’s budget.

Reducing your car payment, getting a more fuel-efficient car, or just one that is less expensive to repair will all save you big bucks over time.

If your car is worth more than you owe consider selling it and buying something cheaper. Bonus points if you can pay cash for your next car. If you do owe more than it’s worth, then focus on getting that debt paid down as quickly as possible so you can upgrade your finances by downgrading your car.

There are big savings to be had when it comes to cars and you can make a huge impact on your finances over a long period of time by making a conscious effort to spend less in this area.

Related: Can you sell a financed car?

9. Cancel any unnecessary subscriptions, like cable TV or magazines

Cancelling unnecessary subscriptions is a great way to save money. Start by making a list of all the services and subscriptions you have. This will help you get an overview of what you’ve been paying for over time and determine which ones are no longer needed. Once you’ve identified them, it’s time to take action.

Most companies will allow you to cancel your subscription online or over the phone. So start going through those one by one to cancel.

Even if there are subscriptions you want to keep, call and see if you can get a lower rate or “right-size” your plan. Often times we end up paying for service levels we never use.

Get started: Trim and Truebill cut out costly subscriptions you don’t use

10. Meal plan

By taking the time to plan out meals for the week, you can make sure that you’re only buying what you need – which will help you avoid waste and keep your grocery bills low. Additionally, making a meal plan also helps to ensure that you have quick and healthy meals ready when hunger strikes – so it pays off in more ways than one!

When creating a meal plan, consider creating a grocery list based on your plan–this will help make sure that you don’t spend money on unnecessary items. Finally, try to make use of leftovers–this is a great way to get the most out of your groceries and stretch your budget even further.

Related: 23 ways to save money on groceries

11. Shop at thrift stores and consignment shops instead of buying new clothes

While shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops you can not only save money, but you might also stumble upon some unique pieces that are not available elsewhere.

Once at the store, take your time looking through the items and try them on if necessary. Many thrift stores will have a wide range of sizes, styles and brands, so it’s important to know what looks good and what fits well before making a purchase. Be sure to inspect the item for any defects or signs of wear before buying as well. Then just enjoy the process of finding new (old) clothes that you love. You may even discover some hidden gems!

With a bit of patience, shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops can be an enjoyable and budget-conscious way to update your wardrobe.

Here are some thrift store hacks that can save you even more.

12. Make coffee at home

We know it’s a little trite, but making coffee at home can save a lot of money. Start by investing in some good quality coffee gear such as an insulated travel mug or carafe, reusable filters, and hight quality beans. It doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy – just make sure that it’s right for you and your lifestyle.

It can actually be really fun to start experimenting with all the different coffee options out there.

Also, deciding to make coffee at home doesn’t mean you can’t ever get Starbucks. But starting off with a homemade coffee can really cut down on your coffee budget.

13. Sell unused belongings online or at a garage sale

Selling your unused belongings is a great way to make extra money and declutter at the same time. Start by assessing what you no longer need or use, then decide whether it’s worth selling. Consider its condition and determine if it’s still in good working order. If so, list it for sale online – there are plenty of websites that allow you to do this quickly and easily.

Alternatively, you could host a garage sale in your local area – these tend to draw higher numbers than online listings as people can see the items first-hand. Make sure that you put up signs around your neighborhood with details like date, location, and any items that are for sale. This will attract potential buyers and help you to make more money from your items.

Here’s how to make the most money at your garage sale.

14. Make a budget and stick to it

Creating a budget is one of the most effective ways to save money and take control of your finances. The first step is to figure out what your expenses are each month – this includes things like rent, groceries, utilities, and any other regular payments. Once you have a clear understanding of these costs, you can start to plan out how much money you need each month for your day-to-day living expenses.

Next, decide on a realistic spending limit for yourself and make sure to stick with it. It’s important to be conscious of your spending habits; try setting aside a certain amount each week or month that you can use for treats or leisure activities, but remember to stay within your budget. You could also consider using cash rather than cards when making purchases so that it feels like ‘real money’ is leaving your pocket.

Making and sticking to a budget can help you stay on track financially, while still allowing yourself some flexibility to enjoy life. It can take a bit of work and effort, but the long-term rewards are worth it in the end!

Get started: Budgeting in your 20s – How and why to get started

15. Use cash back apps when shopping to get money back on your purchases

Using cash back apps when shopping can be an automatic way to save money without too much extra effort. All you need to do is download the app onto your phone or tablet, then connect it to your bank account, credit cards, and other payment methods. Once you’ve done that, you can start using the app whenever you shop online; it will track your purchases and give you a certain percentage of your spending back as a cash reward.

It’s important to check which retailers are eligible for cash back before making any purchases; some offers may only be available at certain times or locations. Be sure to keep an eye on your account details as you may need to manually redeem rewards every now and then.

Get started: Cash back and reward apps – Are they worth it?

16. Take advantage of discounts, like student discounts or membership rewards

Anytime you can score a discount is worth it. Student discounts are particularly popular, so make sure you’re aware of any that may apply to you; many stores offer special deals for students or those who sign up for their loyalty program.

It’s also worth checking to see if your employer offers access to discounts. Often times companies have agreements with retailers to offer discounts to their employees, such as a percentage off your cell phone bill.

Additionally, remember to look out for seasonal sales and clearance items that could be discounted further than usual. Finally, if all else fails then don’t be afraid to ask for a discount from the vendor – you never know, they might just say yes!

17. Buy in bulk to save money on the things you use often

By stocking up on staples like canned goods, paper towels, and other household items, you can make sure that you always have what you need without having to spend extra time or money purchasing them every week. Additionally, buying certain items such as clothing or electronics in bulk can also lead to considerable savings – so it pays to keep your eyes open for good deals.

When buying in bulk, consider taking advantage of any available discounts or coupons. Also, be sure to plan ahead and decide which items are worth purchasing in large quantities–otherwise, you may end up with more than you need. Finally, be sure to check expiration dates and make sure that you’re able to use the items before they go bad.

18. Join a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club to save on groceries

If you want to take buying in bulk to the next level, joining a warehouse club like Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s is an option to save money on groceries. These clubs offer members bulk discounts on food, drinks, and other items by buying them in larger quantities. The range of products available at these stores is often impressive – you could find anything from fresh fruits and vegetables to toiletries and cleaning supplies.

Before signing up for a membership, it’s important to do your research first; check out the different deals offered by each store as well as their individual policies. You should also keep in mind that you will likely have to pay an annual fee in order to join the club. Additionally, consider your family’s eating habits and the size of your home – buying food that you can’t eat before it goes bad isn’t really saving money.

Related: Is a Costco membership worth it?

19. Carpool or take public transportation instead of driving everywhere

Carpooling or taking public transportation is a great way to save money and help the environment at the same time. Carpooling involves sharing a vehicle with another person for trips, such as commuting to work or running errands; this can be done either through an online rideshare service, by joining a carpool group, or simply by asking friends and family if they are interested in carpooling with you. Taking public transportation is also an economical option, as many cities offer discounts and fares that are much cheaper than driving yourself.

This isn’t an all-or-nothing option. If carpooling to work or school only works out a few days a week, that’s still better than driving every single day. Simply keep an eye out for carpooling opportunities as they arise.

20. Use coupons when shopping, both online and in-store

Couponing isn’t what it used to be. No more cutting out little squares from the Sunday newspaper and storing them in a plastic accordion file. These days you can use apps that do all the hard work for you.

It’s also worth signing up for email newsletters from various retailers as they often contain exclusive offers or codes that you won’t find anywhere else.

But be sure you don’t buy things you don’t need or weren’t planning on buying. It’s easy to get caught up in a good deal and spend money you weren’t intending to spend.

Get started: 11 best websites for finding coupons and deals online

21. Buy used

So much of what we buy can easily be bought used and it’s a great way to save money. I recently bought an exercise bike for $150 that Costco is currently selling for twice the price.

Apps like Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, and Offerup make it easy to find what you are looking for.

Make sure to check the condition of each item and, take your time when browsing. Don’t feel pressured to buy something right away – there are usually plenty of other options out there so don’t settle for something just because it looks good in the moment.

Also, always make an offer lower than the asking price. Sellers of used items expect to get less than asking so feel free to negotiate.

Related: The best items to buy used vs new

22. Switch to a cheaper cell phone plan

Switching to a cheaper cell phone plan is an easy way to save money on your phone bill. Take the time to shop around and compare different providers – look at their rates, coverage areas, data limits and other features before making your decision. Many companies offer discounts if you pay for service in advance or bundle multiple services, so consider these options as well. Additionally, it may be worth seeing if any of your friends or family members have plans that can accommodate you – they may let you join for a rate lower than having your own plan.

Finally, remember that switching to a different provider doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to get a new phone – most providers allow customers to keep their current device when transferring from one plan to another.

Get started: Best cheap cell phone plans – Cut your cell bill in half

23. Use the library

Obviously, you can get free books from the library. Most libraries now offer access to digital books, e-books, audiobooks and magazines – all of which can be accessed from your computer or mobile device without having to leave home.

But so often the library can give you so much more than just free reading. They often have tickets to museums, movies you can rent, subscriptions to magazines and more.

If you have preschoolers there are always fun and free activities happening at your local library.

24. Save money on gifts by making them yourself

Whether you’re crafting something for a friend, family member, or even just a co-worker, creating a unique and personal gift can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Plus, it gives you the chance to use your creativity in new and exciting ways – you never know what kind of amazing creations you might come up with.

If you have a special skill use that. If you know how to knit or crochet you could make a scarf or blanket. Making homemade soap is a fun project and is always well-received.

If you don’t have any particular craft skills you can always bake. Everyone likes baked goods.

25. Save money on entertainment by going hiking

Not only can hiking be a good form of exercise, but it also gives you the opportunity to explore your local area and enjoy some fresh air. Plus, many parks and trails are free to access – making it the perfect choice if you’re looking for something low-cost yet rewarding.

When choosing your destination, think about what kind of terrain you’d like to explore as well as how far you’d like to go. Consider inviting some friends along – this can be a great way to make your hikes even more enjoyable!

26. Put any extra money you have towards your debt or savings

It can be easy to want to spend the extra cash on something fun, but it’s important to consider how much this might cost in the long run – will paying off that debt now save you more money than if you splurge on something else?

When deciding what to do with your extra funds, consider setting some goals – whether it’s saving up for a holiday or reducing the amount of debt you owe. Once you have a plan in place, make sure to keep track of where your money is going – this will help you to stay on track and ensure that you’re making the most of every penny.

Debt course cta

27. Find cheaper alternatives to the things you regularly buy

When looking for cheaper alternatives, consider what your needs are as well as your budget – this will help you to narrow down your search and ensure that the item or service you choose meets all of your requirements. Also, be sure to check reviews from other consumers – this will help you find the best value for your money. Finally, if possible, try buying in bulk – this is often a great way to save money, especially on items like food or cleaning supplies.

For example, a friend of mine was buying two or three iced coffees every day for both her and her husband. She discovered a local convenience store had a membership program for $20 a month which provided unlimited iced coffee, saving her hundreds of dollars a month.

28. Automate your savings so you save money without even thinking about it

By setting up automatic deposits, you can make sure that a portion of your income goes directly into a savings account, keeping the temptation of easy spending away from those funds. Additionally, automated transfers are also great for staying on top of bills and other expenses – so you don’t have to worry about missing payments or late fees.

When setting up automatic payments, make sure to take advantage of any available options or features. For example, you may be able to set up different accounts for specific purposes (such as vacation fund or emergency fund). Also, consider using online tools or apps to help you budget and track your progress. This will make it easier to stay on top of your finances and ensure that your automated savings are working for you.

With careful planning and dedication, you can make sure that these funds are contributing to your long-term financial success.

29. Save money on your energy bill by making your home more energy-efficient

Making your home more energy efficient can take some work up front but it’s a way to save money on everyone’s least favorite bill. Some of the most common ways to make a home more energy efficient include investing in double-glazing windows, switching to LED lighting, installing insulation, and sealing any drafts around doors or windows.

You may also want to consider purchasing some green appliances; look for products that have higher efficiency ratings and use less energy than other models. If you’re looking for even bigger energy savings, consider a renewable energy system such as solar panels or a wind turbine.

See if your electric company will conduct a free energy audit of your home. I know here in Phoenix the local power company offers this service for free. They even provide a kit to help your home be more energy efficient which includes a bunch of led lightbulbs and low-flow shower heads.

30. Invest in a programmable thermostat and save on your energy bill

By setting up an automated temperature schedule, you can make sure that your home stays comfortable without leaving the air or heat running when it’s not needed. This way, you can avoid wasting energy and keep your bills down.

For example, let’s say you leave for work each day at 8:30 and arrive back home at 5:30. If you live in a cold climate, you could have the heat turn down each day at 8:30 so the house is cooler all day, but then start to heat up again at 5:00 so that you don’t come home to a cold house – but also didn’t spend money heating a house all day that you aren’t in.

31. Stop buying impulse items and save money in the long run

Avoiding impulse buys is one of the best ways to save money in the long run. Always shop with a list and stick to it. If you see something you want to buy, add it to the list and give it a few days. See if the impulse sticks around.

Institute a waiting period before making purchases. After a few days you may realize you’d rather save that money. Or you may still want to make the purchase, but at least you will have given it enough thought to know you are making a wise choice.

32. Challenge yourself to save money by setting a specific goal

Setting concrete savings goals is one of the best ways to motivate yourself to save money. It can be anything from saving a certain amount each month, creating an emergency fund, or paying off debt–whatever it is, make sure you set a goal and give yourself a timeline for when you want to achieve it.

You can have fun with it too. There are lots of savings challenges out there, such as to save every $5 bill that you come across to saving one extra dollar each day ($1 on day one, $2 on day two, and so on).  Get with a friend to come up with a savings goal and do it together.

Once you’ve identified your goal, come up with strategies that will help make it happen–whether it’s cutting back on everyday spending, creating a budget, or automating your savings. Track your progress and reward yourself when you reach certain milestones.

Having a specific goal in mind can make it easier to stay motivated and avoid the temptation of spending money on unnecessary items. It’s also a great way to challenge yourself and build healthy financial habits that will last for years to come.

Get started: The 52-week money saving challenge

33. Borrow items instead of buying them

If you’re in need of something for a one-time use or special event, don’t forget that you can always borrow items from friends and family instead of buying them yourself. This can save you a lot of money, while also avoiding the hassle of having to store those items when they’re no longer needed.

Whether it’s a tool for a home project or a dress for a special occasion, there may be someone who already owns it that would be willing to lend it out. Don’t hesitate to ask around–chances are, someone might just have what you need! And as long as you take good care of the item and return it promptly, this could end up being a great way to save money while still getting the items you need.

34. Find free or cheap events happening in your area

Entertaining yourself doesn’t have to break the bank. There are tons of free or cheap events taking place all the time–all you have to do is look for them!

Check out your local newspapers and websites for signs of free concerts, art shows, festivals, or other activities. You can also follow organizations on social media to find out when they’re hosting special events or offering discounts.

Additionally, many cities offer discounted movie tickets and museum admissions, so it pays off to check in advance and plan ahead. Finally, don’t forget about DIY projects at home–you can get creative with crafts or try out a new skill like baking or painting without spending too much money.

35. Cancel your gym membership and save money by working out at home

If you’re paying for a gym membership but don’t use it often enough to justify the cost, it may be time to cancel and switch to working out at home. This can save you money in gym fees while also giving you more control over your fitness routine.

There are plenty of ways to get a good workout without leaving the house. You can find free or low-cost streaming exercise classes online, purchase some basic equipment such as dumbbells and resistance bands, or simply head outside for a run or walk. Many people find that exercising outdoors is not only cheaper but also offers mental health benefits.

Get started: 6 tips to help you quit your gym membership

36. Do your own home repairs and save money on hiring someone else

With some basic tools, research and patience, most minor repairs are easily within reach for the average person.

Before tackling any repair project, it’s important to do your research and understand what you’re doing. There are plenty of YouTube videos that can teach you how to safely handle basic repairs such as replacing a broken faucet to fixing that weird noise the washer is making.

You’ll be saving money and also building valuable skills and confidence to tackle the next home repair.


I’m sure not every item on this list applies to you. Some of them you may already be doing. Some of them might not be reasonable for you to do right now. But take the money-saving tips that work for you and start applying them.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly the savings will start adding up.

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About the author

Total Articles: 144
Since 2009, Kevin Mercadante has been sharing his journey from a washed-up mortgage loan officer emerging from the Financial Meltdown as a contract/self-employed “slash worker” – accountant/blogger/freelance web content writer – on Out of Your He offers career strategies, from dealing with under-employment to transitioning into self-employment, and provides “Alt-retirement strategies” for the vast majority who won’t retire to the beach as millionaires. He also frequently discusses the big-picture trends that are putting the squeeze on the bottom 90%, offering work-arounds and expense cutting tips to help readers carve out more money to save in their budgets – a.k.a., breaking the “savings barrier” and transitioning from debtor to saver. He’s a regular contributor/staff writer for as many as a dozen financial blogs and websites, including Money Under 30, Investor Junkie and The Dough Roller.