Does this sound familiar? Every month you set a goal to save a small portion of your income, only to realize at month’s end that there’s nothing left to save.
Where does it go? Well, there are the necessities like the rent or house payment, utilities and food. But most of us manage to fritter away money on lots of little things, treats, small luxuries and inefficient uses of resources.
The good news is that if you can identify these little leaks in your finances, you can quickly save some money. The other good news is that while many of these expenditures bring a little joy or comfort, they’re also unnecessary. And once you have scraped together some savings, you can make that money earn more money for you.
Try turning it into a game by going through this list of 18 ways to save, and seeing how many you can do in a week. Most of us could easily save a hundred bucks by employing these tricks. You may be able save much more.
If you’re in a bind or just want to stash a little extra cash, here’s how to make your savings grow.
1. Keep the change
Retain the change from each of your cash transactions for one week and store it in a jar or piggy bank. At the end of the week, count the coins to see how you did. Depending on how much cash you spend, you may reach your goal by following this one simple tactic.
2. Reduce transportation costs
Download a mobile app like GasBuddy to locate the best gas prices in your area. You can also try carpooling with co-workers or using public transportation for a week.
3. Avoid restaurants, coffee shops for 1 week
Brew your own coffee to start the day and decline colleagues’ invitations to eat lunch at restaurants this week. Pack your lunch instead, and invite them to join you in the park or plaza.
4. Skip costly entertainment
Don’t see a play or movie. Find free entertainment at local community events instead. There’s also the library, which is jam-packed with books and DVDs that you can borrow for free.
For more ideas, check out “More Fun for Less Money: 17 Ways to Save on Entertainment.”
5. Find free workouts
Consider canceling your gym membership and instead embracing the great outdoors or group workouts. Check the local recreation or community center for free exercise classes. Or try finding free fitness programs on television or the internet, or at the library.
6. Carry cash only
Force yourself to save by setting a cash-only budget for the week. Take out a set amount of cash from the ATM at the beginning of the week — then leave debit and credit cards at home. Having to stretch your cash throughout the week will help you focus on spending for essentials only.
7. Sell some stuff
Head to a local consignment shop that will pay you on the spot for gently used goods.
Can’t find one in your area? Try an online equivalent. For consigning clothing as well as games and toys, there’s Swap.com, for example. The site aims “to be the largest online consignment and thrift store in the world.” For selling all kinds of used electronics, there’s Gazelle.com and NextWorth.com.
If you have a lot to sell, consider having a yard sale.
8. Get to work
Pick up a temporary side gig to quickly accumulate funds. Or, let your creative juices flow and sell your products and services to others. For inspiration, check out “20 Unusual Ways to Earn Extra Cash.”
9. Clip coupons
No newspapers lying around? No problem. Head on over to a website like Coupons.com, which is perhaps the largest source of manufacturers’ coupons. You can redeem them by printing them out and taking them to the store, or you redeem them electronically using a store loyalty card or Coupons.com’s free app.
If you prefer electronic savings, also check out free apps like Ibotta, which offers cash rebates. To learn more about it, see “Earn $50 in Cash Bonuses This Month With Ibotta Mobile App.”
10. Call your car insurance company
Inquire about any discounts that may be available. Also, raising the deductibles on your auto or homeowners insurance will drop your premiums. Just be sure you have money in savings to cover your increased out-of-pocket expense in case you have to file a claim.
11. Decrease your energy consumption
Reach out to your utility company to schedule a free energy audit of your home. Also, unplug any chargers or appliances that are not in use.
Set the thermostat a little higher in summer to cut your air conditioning bill. Lower the temperature in winter and layer up on clothing. Also, consider hanging your clothes on a clothesline to give the dryer a break.
12. Don’t use your credit card
A high interest rate can greatly increase the cost of things you buy with your credit card if you don’t pay off the balance in full each month. Hide the magic plastic so you don’t increase the amount you owe on the card.
13. Disconnect the cable
Freaked out by this suggestion? At least shave off the extras and try online television instead. Also, inquire about any discounts on bundles for which you may be eligible.
Switching from cable to online TV enabled Money Talks News writer Geof Wheelwright to cut his monthly TV costs from more than $100 to $45.30. See his article “How to Cut the Cable TV Cord in 2017.”
14. Skip the spa
It’s always great to pamper yourself, but it can also add up quickly. My last spa visit, which consisted of a manicure, pedicure and massage, cost well over $100.
15. Iron your own clothes
You can iron shirts and blouses, can’t you? No need to pay a professional unless an article of clothing truly requires professional handling by a dry cleaner.
16. Call your cellphone provider
If the provider isn’t willing to reduce your monthly bill, switch providers or get a prepaid plan. Also, check out the free or steeply reduced price options. They do the job just as well as the big boys. I know from experience.
17. Track your expenses
The simple act of paying attention to all of your daily expenses may be motivation enough to spend less. Join a free expense-tracking service like PowerWallet, then check in daily to see where your money’s going. PowerWallet will automatically send you money-saving coupons based on what you’re buying, too.
For more inspiration for getting expenses under control, check out “Reach Your Goals Without Making a Budget.”
18. Pick up some free cash
Does your employer match retirement contributions? If it does but you have yet to take advantage of the full match, add another $100 to your 401(k) and your account will get a free $100 from the boss.
For more guidance, see “Ask Stacy: How Much Should I Contribute to My 401(k)?”
What costs could you cut or what leaks in your finances could you plug? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Kari Huus contributed to this post.