This post contains affiliate links. At Returns Rinse Repeat, we want out readers to be financially successful, so any reviews are honest and unbiased. Learn more here.
Be conscious of your spending…
1. Track your spending
The first step to saving money is to know how much you are actually spending! Begin tracking how much you are spending on everything- and I mean everything. From the big purchases all the way down to the daily coffees. This will help you analyze exactly where your money is going every week and where you can cut back.
2. Create a budget
Once you know where your money is going, begin setting boundaries and goals for how much you want to spend. Create categories such as home costs, eating out, entertainment, alcohol and begin working to reduce spending in each applicable category.
3. Use a budgeting app
If you are looking for a good way to track your spending, try budgeting apps. There are hundreds out there that can help you track and reduce overall spend. A few good ones include Mint and You Need a Budget.
4. Calculate how much purchases cost in hours per work
A great way to deter spending is to calculate how many hours you would actually have to work to buy the item. For example, if you are looking at buying a $150 purse and you make $15/hr… it is going to take you over 11 hours (after taxes) to afford that purse.
5. Try a money saving challenge
Want to make saving more fun? Try a money saving challenge. There are plenty out there so take a look and choose the one that’s right for you- or do a few at once! One of the more popular challenges is the 52 Week Challenge, in which the first week you save $1, the second week you save $2, the third week you save $3 and so on until at the end you have over $1300 saved up.
Focus on sound financial goals…
6. Set up automatic savings
If you are having trouble saving after at the end of every month- start at the beginning. It is very tempting to spend what we have in our account. By saving at the beginning, you reduce the visible amount you have available to spend which can help cut down on unnecessary purchases while helping you to grow your savings.
7. Build an emergency fund
Start saving for an emergency fund. This can be $500, $1,000, or 3 months’ worth of salary. By saving for that up front and not waiting for a crisis to hit, you won’t have to resort to loans or credit card debt to pay off the emergency which can cost you far more in interest.
8. Pay off credit cards every month
Credit card debt can make purchases far more expensive than they actually are through interest. Once you have paid off existing credit card debt through savings, aim to pay off your monthly bill in full at the end of every cycle. If you are unable to do this, evaluate what you are spending money on and reduce where you can until you can manage every bill.
9. Set up automatic bill payments
Setting up automatic payments serves two purposes. For one, it can help reduce late fees from forgetting to pay different bills. Secondly, some companies will actually give you a discount on your monthly bill for setting up monthly payments! Check out your student loan provider, cell phone provider, etc. to see what they offer.
10. Contribute to your 401k
Investing is all about time, and the earlier you can start contributing to your 401k the better. However, it is important to take a look at your financial position and make sure that you are paying down any debt that has a high interest rate first. At a minimum try and contribute up to your employer’s 401k match….
11. Contribute up to your employer’s 401k match
Some employers will match an employee’s contribution to their 401k up to a certain percentage. This is FREE MONEY. You should try and do everything you can to arrange your finances in order to be able to meet this match.
12. Create short-term financial goals
It is much easier to save money when you are working towards a tangible goal. Start by analyzing your financial position and writing out what you want to achieve in the short term. Is it paying off credit card debt? Saving an emergency fund? Whatever it is, write it down, and track your progress towards achieving your goal monthly.
13. Create long-term financial goals
After you have determined your short-term goals, define what your long-term goals are. This can include paying off your mortgage early, investing in real estate, or retiring early. After you have defined your goals, list out the steps you will need to take in order to achieve them. Defining a clear end goal will help you on your path to achieving it.
14. Invest in your financial education
The first step to understanding what you want to do with your money to achieve financial independence and happiness is putting some effort towards learning about it. There are many great resources out there- websites, books, podcasts, and more! Don’t be afraid to dive in.
15. Save/invest any tax refunds or raises
When you get a raise or a sum of money, like a tax refund, it can be tempting to use that money to buy a luxury item for ourselves or slowly increase our monthly spending. This is called lifestyle creep and it is a major reason why so many people live pay check to pay check. Automatically contribute extra earnings toward debt pay off, savings, or investing as soon as you get it, so you never have time to miss it.
16. Hold your savings in a high interest savings account
For years, I kept my savings in my general low interest banking account (0.01%) and LOST money as inflation rose and my savings account balance did not. This year, I finally woke up and transferred my savings to a high interest savings account (1.74%). While having your savings in an online bank may mean that you cannot immediately access the funds, your money is making money for you by just sitting there. I highly encourage you to take a look at online banks such as Wealthfront or Ally.
17. Check your credit score frequently
Many websites will let you check your credit score for free (just make sure they are reputable) and even credit cards will give you monthly updates. Take advantage of these offers to understand why your credit score is what it is and let these checkups help guide you towards raising yours. By checking your credit score frequently, you will better understand how your decisions affect it.
Focus on conscious spending…
18. Use the 30 day rule
Many of us run in impulse purchase mode and love the thrill of the purchase. The 30 day rule can help deter that need for immediate gratification. Every time you want to make a purchase, write it down on your list and wait 30 days. Chances are, you won’t actually still want the item at the end of the 30 days! If you do, consider purchasing it.
19. Track sales to capitalize on savings from 30 day rule list
Once you put items on your 30 day list, start keeping an eye out for sales that pertain to your items. That way, when the 30 days is up if you still want to buy the item- you may get it on sale.
20. Buy used
You can save a significant amount of money buying resale items. Try shopping at thrift shops. Sometimes you can find beautiful, vintage items for a fraction of the cost of a normal retail piece. You can also save money buy purchasing refurbished cell phones/computers.
21. Buy quality products
When you do buy new, consider the quality of the item you are buying and how long it will actually last. I spent the better part of my 20’s buying relatively cheap pieces of clothes, only for them to shrink on the first wash or be worn out within a year. I now focus on buying good quality items to ensure I have them for longer.
22. Get a library card
Libraries are a GREAT way to enjoy a free source of entertainment. Libraries today even have digital check outs that you can do right from your own home. Use this method as a way to grow your financial literacy as well.
23. Evaluate and cancel subscriptions
People’s lives today are littered with subscription. TV subscriptions, subscription boxes, subscription emails. While many of these are affordable on their own, they can add up when you have 10+. Write down all of your subscriptions and evaluate how much value you actually get from them. Limit yourself to a few you actually use- you can always re-add later.
24. Unsubscribe from marketing emails
Marketing emails are way more effective than you think. When I went through my shopping addiction phase I would open up the emails from my favorite clothing retailer every DAY. And when a sale was on… which was frequent… I was in. This was not good for my saving habits and made me feel like I was missing out if I didn’t get in on the deal. Since then, I have unsubscribed from most marketing emails- and not having the offers flashed in my face every day has done wonders for my budget.
25. Go through your home and donate what you don’t need
Sorting through all of the items in your home can be a serious wake up call to just how much stuff you have accumulated over time. It can also highlight how little you use most of the items in your home. When I go through my closet and realize how little I wear some of the items, it helps me think twice about the next time I want to make a purchase.
26. Make a list of purchases from the previous month
Another great way to evaluate your spending habits is to make a list of all of your non food purchases from the previous month. How many of those items are you actually happy you purchased? You may be surprised. Many people lose interest by the time the purchase hits your front door.
Optimize your current plans…
27. Cost compare cell phone plans
Every 6 months, take a look at your cell phone providers plan and cost and compare it with competitors. You may find the high cost of your plan may not actually be worth it. It can be worth it to swap providers if you are in the market for a new phone, as a lot of times swapping providers can come with discount purchase options.
28. Cost compare car/home insurance plans
Similar to the cell phone suggestion above, compare your car/home insurance plans every 6 months. You may find that swapping insurers periodically may require some work but can pay off in companies competing for your business.
29. Replace light bulbs with LED lights
Begin swapping all of your lights in your home to LED lights- which are more energy efficient. This will help save you money in both the short and long run.
30. Install programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats, like the NEST thermostat, are a great way to efficiently control the temperature in your home. You can set your thermostat to detect when you leave the house, so that it will automatically adjust the temperature. Programmable thermostats can also be set on a schedule to minimize energy usage.
Cut down on lavish food habits…
31. Plan out your weekly meals and coordinate with grocery list
To cut down on impulse purchases at the grocery store, create a weekly meal plan and only purchase what is on your list. Having a set plan will also help you reduce the number of times you eat out. Even if you want to plan meals out, you will be more in control of your spending through proactive planning.
32. Make meals big enough to have leftovers
When you do make your weekly plan, include some meals as leftovers. By preparing larger portions of food, you will save money on the initial ingredients. This will also help you eat more home-produced meals and help out your wallet.
33. Bring your lunch to work
Sometimes eating lunch out is a way to escape the work day but those $10 meals can add up. Pick lunch spots where you can bring your own meal or set goals to try and bring earlier in the week so you can enjoy Friday lunches with the office.
34. Use coupons
Now, I am not saying you need to obsessively cut hundreds of coupons in attempt to save ten cents on every can of corn. However, you can find weekly ads or general coupons for most grocery stores and you should take advantage of the sales available. For example, my local Kroger sends me coupons every few weeks- some of which will literally be free items. I would be crazy to pass that up.
35. Track how much you’re eating out
My husband and I use a wall calendar and write down every time we buy a meal out. This serves as a great visual reminder of how much we are spending. You can use anything to track meals out, including your calendar on your phone, a shared note between you and your partner, or just a physical list.
36. Reduce how many times you’re eating out
Once you start tracking how much you are eating out it will become easier to set goals to reduce how much you’re purchasing your meals. My husband and I first set out to only eat lunch meals out twice a week and dinner meals out three times a week. By tracking our progress, it makes it easier to make headway.
37. Make your coffee at home
For many people, coffee is a necessary staple for every day life. If this is the case for you, purchasing your coffee out can ADD UP. Similar to tracking how much you eat out; track how many times you purchase a coffee- and how much it costs. Set a goal to reduce this by bringing your coffee from home. Starbucks sells creamer now as well, so you can use that to make a replica of your favorite drink!
38. Drink water
Drinking anything but water at restaurants adds up. While alcohol is the main culprit for driving up the bill, soda and coffees make their mark. Make an effort to drink water only at a majority of your meals and save the specialty drinks for opportune times. Not only will this help your wallet, it will help your health.
Evaluate your work out habits…
39. Evaluate your gym membership
How often are you using your $50+/month gym membership? If the answer is not enough to justify the price, then cancel the membership. Or seek out a lower cost ($10/mo) membership at a neighboring gym. Some gyms even offer more selective packages, like a fixed number of visits per month, at a discount when you bring up cancelling.
40. Work out online and outside
There are loads of free online workout courses for all different styles. You can find yoga, pilates, weight lifting- whatever your hearts desires. You can try programs like Blogilates, which is free, or workout apps like Aaptiv which are low cost online programs. When push comes to shove, there is always working out outdoors which is 100% free.
Save while traveling…
41. Use Google Flights to plan your trips
Google Flights is an amazing resource to help find the cheapest airline flights- and it is completely free. You can set your departing airport and look at flights all over the world to determine where you can fly cheapest. It also has the ability to search for the cheapest trip within a given time period.
42. Travel hack using travel credit cards
Travel reward credit cards can be a great way to amass free flights and travel perks. However, you should only use this resource if you can pay off your bill in full every month. If you love to travel, why not put your monthly purchases towards points for free travel. You can read more about travel hacking here.
Go after big ticket items…
43. Carpool to work
Carpooling can be a great way to reduce your monthly spending. Most obviously, you will immediately save on your gas bill as you will be splitting it amongst your carpoolers. Overtime, you will also save by putting less miles on your car which will help reduce the general maintenance costs of the vehicle as long as increase the amount of time you will be able to drive it.
44. Buy a fuel-efficient vehicle
When you do have the opportunity to purchase a vehicle, do your research and make sure it is a reliable model with good fuel efficiency. This will help cut down on your overall monthly gas spend as well as routine maintenance over time.
45. Evaluate refinancing your mortgage
Your home mortgage is most likely your largest reoccurring payment. Take a look at average interest rates and talk with a professional regarding potentially refinancing your mortgage to see if it makes sense for you. This can be a great way to reduce your monthly payment if the numbers make sense.