26 Creative Ways to Save Money

What if I offered you $60,000 to never watch Netflix ever again?

What if I gave you $400,000 to never eat out for lunch on weekdays?

What if I told you that you can retire a millionaire without breaking a sweat?

One of our biggest failures as a society is that we don’t teach young people anything about money in school. We learn about the pilgrims and Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the Pythagorean Theorem, but most of us never learn about compound interest or how to do our own taxes or how to save for retirement.

Truth is, you can have your dream retirement. Those figures quoted above aren’t hypotheticals. You could have as much as $60,000 more in retirement by saving just eleven dollars per month instead of subscribing to Netflix.

You don’t need a PhD in finance and you don’t need to make great stock picks to reach financial security. You just need to understand one simple concept:

Sacrifice small now. Live BIG later.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

A note on the Estimated Monthly Savings: These figures are based on whatever national averages I could find online (with some quick math and rounding and assumption-making). Obviously your mileage may vary, but I think this helps to start putting real numbers to concepts.

1. Cancel Netflix

The first week will be hard. The second week will be even harder. And then, all of a sudden, it’ll start getting easy. You’ll realize you don’t even miss it. You'll read more and talk more and you’ll have tons of extra time. And who know . . . maybe you’ll start having great conversations at work, too, now that you don’t have to talk about that latest twist in that one show that—let’s be honest—is just okay.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $11

2. Cancel Amazon Prime

Want to know a secret? We canceled Amazon Prime over a year ago, and we have yet to pay for shipping on anything. We just wait to make sure our purchase is more than $25, and shipping is always free. We have to wait a couple more days for things to arrive, but it’s totally worth it. And really, you don’t need Prime Video (and this is coming from a guy who stars in a show available on Amazon Prime Video, so you know I’m serious).

Estimated Monthly Savings: $12

3. Buy Pre-Owned Cars

I can’t think of any reason to buy a new car (you can trust me, I dumped away a lot of money when I bought a new truck years ago). New cars are one of the worst financial investments you can make (other than maybe magic beans—but even those worked out for ol’ Jack). The second you drive a new car off the lot, its value goes down about 10 percent. After just one year of driving it, it’ll lose another 10 percent.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $137

4. Get Off the Avocado

Here’s a rule: buy only what’s on sale!

Look. I get it. They’re amazing. They’re a superfood. They are “good fat” (which is what I tell my wife my love handles are!). But avocados also represent a problem: spending too much on groceries. You can eat healthy and get the nutrition you need without buying the most expensive, trendiest food in the produce section. Here’s a rule: buy only what’s on sale!

Estimated Monthly Savings: $5 (one avocado per week at $1.25)

5. Buy Gently Worn, Previously Owned Clothes

Thrift stores are your friend. And a great number of people are so capricious when it comes to clothes-buying that you can usually get brand new stuff for practically nothing. My wife bought me a pair of slacks for work from Goodwill. They were brand new. Two bucks. And my legs look great in them—ask anybody.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $80

6. Coupons 4 Life

When I was growing up, my mom was known as “The Coupon Lady.” With five boys and a husband to feed, she knew the power of coupons! She saved thousands of dollars over the course of years. Get out the scissors or find a good app and start collecting those coupons!

Estimated Monthly Savings: $60

Diamonds are not a girl’s best friend. A well-funded Roth IRA is a girl’s best friend.

7. Smarter Thermostat

No. You don’t need a “smart thermostat” to save money. But you do need to be smart about what temperature you are setting your thermostat at. The warmer you can keep it in the summer and the cooler you can keep it in the winter, the more money you’ll save! The Department of Energy estimates that each degree saves about 1 percent on your bill.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $7

8. If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow

There’s no law that you have to flush your toilet every time you use it. And you can further save money on your water bill by not letting the water run forever and ever while doing the dishes, brushing your teeth, or even showering. Also, #savethewhales.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $10

9. Get a Cheaper Cell Phone Plan

Americans are spending more than eighty dollars on their cell phone plans (more if you have a family plan). Fifteen years ago, that would have been obscene. Even considering $0.10 for every text sent or received, that would have been considered too much money for cell service. Now, we pay it and don’t bat an eyelash. But there are cheaper providers out there. Just so you know I’m not making this up, I pay between fifteen dollars and twenty dollars per month for my plan.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $60

10. Give More Money Away

There’s an interesting effect that giving generously has. You oftentimes end up spending less. You realize the power of money. You realize how great a gift it is. And you are more aware of how you’re spending it. You want to start really saving? Start really giving!

Estimated Monthly Savings: Okay. This one is impossible to determine, but many financial advisors will tell you that the happiest and wealthiest people they know were also the most generous (before they were wealthy).

11. Use Cash as Much as Possible

Study after study has proven that using a credit card leads to spending more (how much exactly is hard to pin down). This is because using cash creates an immediate response—you feel it. Using a credit card, on the other hand, delays that feeling of loss or obscures it all together. Further, it’s much harder to “impulse buy” (say, an app or song for $0.99) or splurge when you are using cash.

Estimated Monthly Savings: Impossible to say, but some studies show you can spend up to 100 percent more (i.e., double) when using credit cards for every purchase.

12. Eat Out Once a Month

If you’re eating out with your family a lot, or ordering takeout, you’re probably spending hundreds of dollars per month. The average cost of a commercially prepared meal is around $12 per person. Compare that to the average cost of a meal prepared in the home, which is $3 per person. So instead of a vague goal of “eat out less,” try being specific and just eat out once per month.

Bonus: because you tend to eat less and healthier when you eat at home, you will most likely lose weight and feel better.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $134 per person

13. Pack Your Lunch

Brown baggin’ it for work will save you hundreds of dollars. But it’s going to take some resolve. If your coworkers eat out often, chances are you’re getting invited to eat out often. Stick to your guns (make a joke of it . . . and, if you “blame it on the budget,” maybe you’ll get a free lunch here or there!).

Estimated Monthly Savings: $80

14. Buy in Bulk

You haven’t lived until you’ve finished off seven pounds of baked beans. Now, if you do that in one sitting, you probably won’t be saving any moolah, but if you buy in bulk (and cook in bulk, freezing what you don’t eat), then you can save hundreds of dollars.

If you do everything on this list, you will save roughly $1,226 per month!

Estimated Monthly Savings: $55

15. Hold Off on Getting a Pet

Pets are cute and cuddly and great companions. They are also money-suckers. You’ve got food and toys and healthcare costs and boarding fees . . . and it all adds up quickly. Maybe just get a really fluffy pillow, eh?

Estimated Monthly Savings (Cat or Dog): $58

16. Take Staycations

There’s no rule that says you have to fly to Hawaii to have a vacation. There’s no rule that says you should spend your youth traveling the world. If you can afford it (i.e., if you have the spending money after funding your retirement and paying off debt), then that’s great. But if not, that’s okay. Learn the art of the “staycation” and enjoy your own town or city.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $93

17. Love the Local Library

One of the first phrases you perfect when learning Spanish is Donde esta la biblioteca? (Where is the library?). And yet, these days, not many people take advantage of the awesomeness that is their local library (despite paying taxes for it!). They have movies and books and classes and events. Seriously, check it out.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $25

18. Use Duct Tape

Why buy new when you can fix? And if you’re anything like me, my dad, or Red Green (if you’re a Millennial—or even a Gen-Xer—google it) . . . then you love Duct Tape. If you don’t care what it looks like, you can save hundreds of dollars using duct tape.

Estimated Monthly Savings: This depends on how many things you break in a week and how good you are with a roll of this silver savior.

19. Reuse Plastic Bags

We haven’t bought gallon-sized zip lock bags in years. Why? Because my wife is amazing (and frugal) and washes the bags after each use. It’s kind of awesomely annoying. Gosh, I love her! Plus, she thinks I look great in those Goodwill slacks, too.

Estimated Monthly Savings: I don’t know . . . like $2? Don’t scoff. It adds up!

20. Drink Water

The average American spends $70 per month just on soda. I am not going to even get into how unhealthy that is. That’s downright expensive! If you drink nothing but water, you’ll save a ton of money (but you may have to buy a new wardrobe due to getting into great shape!).

Nothing is impossible.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $70

21. Drink Bottom Shelf Liquor

Unless you’ve got the Queen of England coming over, there’s no reason you can’t slum it a bit with your liquor. It might burn a bit more going down, but you know what goes down even smoother than top shelf liquor? Dollar bills into your wallet.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $15 per bottle (Makers Mark Bourbon [$30] vs. Old Crow Bourbon [$15])

22. Just Stop It with the Craft Beer

We get it. You like hops. You like flavor. Those cheap beers taste like water. Well guess what? Your grandparents drank that cheap stuff, and if it was good enough for them then it’s good enough for you!

Estimated Monthly Savings: $15 (24-pack of Founders All Day IPA [$35] vs. 24-pack of Bud Light [$20])

23. Brew Your Own Dang Coffee

Don’t even get me started on coffee! You can very easily brew this at home very, very cheaply. But, for some reason, the average American spends $3 per workday on coffee. That’s over $90 per month. On coffee.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $70

24. Get Better at Homemade Gifts

I believe that diamonds are not a girl’s best friend. A well-funded Roth IRA is a girl’s best friend. If you start giving away homemade gifts (but good ones!), you can save a ton of money, and people will really appreciate your time and effort. Bonus points!

Some homemade gift ideas: recipes in a jar, bath products (like soaps, bath salts, scrubs, and foot soak formulas), picture coasters, candles, picture frames, or oven mitts.

Estimated Monthly Savings: $50 (the average American spends $700 per year on gifts!)

25. Stop Buying Lottery Tickets

Sorry. You’re not going to win. But you know what has great odds? The stock market! (Since 1950, the S&P 500 has never lost money in any twenty-year period!) I’ve seen several different stats on how much Americans spend on lottery tickets, but let’s just lowball that figure and say it’s $200 per year. If you instead invest that money (roughly $17 per month at 8 percent), you will have over $85,000 more in retirement!

Estimated Monthly Savings: $17

26. Cancel Your Gym Membership

Your New Year’s Resolution this year should be saving money. And a great way to do that is cancel your membership (especially if you aren’t going, which data shows about 67 percent of paying members don’t!). Run outside, do pushups and sit-ups and burpees—they are all free!

Estimated Monthly Savings: $60

If you do everything on this list, you will save roughly $1,226 per month! This means that if you’re twenty-two and retire at sixty-seven—and you’re putting this $1,226 away for retirement each month—you will have over SIX MILLION dollars when you retire.

This might not be realistic for you in your current situation, but I invite you to go back through the list above one more time. Nothing on it is unrealistic or impossible.

Even if just a few items on this list are relevant to your life, the fact remains: there are small things you can do RIGHT NOW to start saving a little more money. And when you get a raise at work (congrats!), put all of that toward retirement. When you get a nice refund check from the government, fund your IRA instead of spending it. When you get an email from an African prince in need of your help and promising riches, well that one you probably should just delete.

Start small. Make it a goal to save $100 more per month. Even that small amount—just $100 per month (I would be willing to bet most people can find $100 in their budgets)—starting at the age of twenty-two and retiring at the age of sixty-seven, with an 8 percent return, could net you $500,000 more in retirement!

Sacrifice small now. Live BIG later.

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