This guide provides 100 creative ways to save money on a low income or tight budget!
When it comes down to saving money, getting out of debt, and achieving financial freedom, the little things that you do day-to-day matter a lot!
Saving money should not be as difficult as many people think. While it may require some tweaks to how you currently do things, the changes do not have to be overly radical.
As expected, you will need some type of a budget; you will need to start paying attention to how you spend your money; and, you may need to embrace a “frugal” lifestyle.
Being frugal does not mean you should completely shut down your life and deny yourself the pleasures of day-to-day existence. Rather, it means you become generally smarter with your money.
Below, I list various ways and strategies to easily save money (and every day) on different categories of spending regardless of your income.
To get the full details of how to execute each money-saving strategy, click on the related article for more information.
If you are able to apply a few of these strategies, you will find yourself chipping away at your debt faster, growing your account balance, and moving a step closer to achieving your financial dreams.
Easy Ways To Save Money Every Day
Saving more money may require a few changes to your lifestyle, but that does not mean you need to turn your life upside down.
A few creative strategies to slash your monthly expenses here and there can get you on your way to significantly boosting your net worth. See the full list on how to save $5,000 or more this year.
1. Create A Budget: Start your savings journey the right way by keeping track of your spending and savings with budgeting apps like Empower, Pocketsmith, YNAB, Mint, Pocket Guard, Wally, and others.
2. Pack Your Lunch: Brown-bagging your lunch can save you thousands of dollars per year. By our estimate, my wife and I save about $2,800 every single year with this easy hack.
3. Eat Out Less: Apart from lunches, eating food prepared at home, in general, will save you lots of money without having to earn more.
The average American household spends over $3,000 on food outside the home, and for Canadians, about 30% of the annual food budget is spent on eating out. Want to cook your own yummy meals, check out the $5 meal plan for tips!
4. Make Coffee At Home: Coffee-lovers, don’t let your coffee drinking render you penniless! Choosing to buy all your coffees in cafes as opposed to making your own may be costing you as much as $1,155 per year. That’s a lot of money for coffee in my opinion.
5. Save On Movies: There are many tips and tricks for saving money on movie tickets if you must go to the theatres. Consider movie nights at home to save money and use a credit card or loyalty/rewards program that pays you back whenever you go to see the movies. A 1,275% markup on movie theatre popcorn is just one of many reasons why movies are expensive.
6. Cut Your Energy Bill: There’s a lot of savings to be had by lowering your energy usage every day. Here are strategies on how to easily cut your energy consumption.
7. Shop For Insurance: You can obtain cheaper insurance for your car, home, and life insurance by shopping around and comparing quotes. We save about $300 annually on our home insurance by shopping for the best deal available (similar coverage).
Term life insurance is more practical and is definitely cheaper for most people compared to whole life insurance. Learn about finding the best life insurance quotes in Canada.
8. Pay Insurance Premium Upfront: Paying your premiums upfront on an annual basis may get you up to 8% in discounts.
9. Bundle-Up Your Insurance: If the individual quotes you are being offered are reasonable, there are usually savings to be had when you obtain multiple insurance policies from the same provider.
10. Quit Smoking: Seriously, give this a good try and stop. This single tip can make a world of difference with your finances! Your smoking habit may easily cost you more than $1.1 million over your lifetime.
11. Walk, Bus, Bike, or Carpool: This will lower your transportation costs and save you hundreds to thousands of dollars per year. Walking and biking are also good for your health and the environment.
12. Hand-Me-Downs For Kids: Kids cost money – duh! Buying (or swapping) fairly used items including toys, sporting gear, and even clothing and footwear will save you a lot of money. Thrift stores are great places to find items in good condition and at reasonable prices.
13. Buy A Gas Friendly Vehicle: Choose a vehicle that is fuel-efficient to save on gas. Consider a hybrid, electric vehicle, or a smaller car.
14. Buy a Pre-owned Vehicle: A new car loses 10% of its value the moment you drive it off the lot. After 5 years, you may have lost about 60% of its value! Find out how to negotiate a good deal on a car.
15. Buy Regular Fuel: Most cars do not require premium fuel to run efficiently. Buy regular gasoline and save the additional 15 to 40 cents per litre – potentially hundreds of dollars per year.
16. Buy Cheaper Gas: Buy regular gas and buy it cheaply. Use websites/apps like Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas in your area. Use a cashback or points rewards card to pay for gas for even more savings.
17. DIY Car Maintenance: Replace your car’s wiper blades, cabin and engine air filters, fluids, and more by yourself to save money. Here are 13 car maintenance tasks you can easily do yourself.
18. Drive Light: Lighten the load your car lugs around by removing unnecessary items and luggage. An additional 100 lbs of load in your car lowers its fuel efficiency by 1%.
19. Visit Yard Sales: You can get great deals on equipment, tools, and other items at yard/garage sales. Use Craigslist, Kijiji, Yard Sales Search, Garage Sale Hunter, and others to find them in your area.
20. Re-Think Your Gym Membership: I agree that health is wealth and if you are keeping your New Year’s resolution and visiting the gym regularly, keep your membership. If not, forgive yourself, cancel and stop wasting money. Consider a home gym if you can find the motivation…it will save you money.
21. Save On Haircuts: Learning to cut your own hair will save you money. We save close to $1,000 annually by cutting our own hair. I have not been to a barbershop in more than 7 years.
22. Check-out The Dollar Store: You can get some items for cheaper at dollar stores and not lose out significantly on quality. Better still, focus on buying run-of-the-mill items like freezer bags, lunch bags, duct tape, picture frames, greeting cards, disposable plates, and spoons, etc. from these stores. Make sure the item you are paying for is worth a dollar.
23. Cancel Unused Subscriptions: If you are not really reading those magazines cluttering up your home, it’s time to cancel your subscription and save the money and your sanity.
24. Visit The Library: Save money on buying books by borrowing from your local library. You can also utilize their free activities, classes, workshops, tool rentals, and more.
25. Learn Sewing: Learn to sew/mend/repair clothing and save money by doing so. Due to my wife’s sewing skills, we are able to save $$$ every year on kid’s clothing that would otherwise need to be replaced.
26. Plan Vacations Early: Start planning in advance, create a vacation fund to save the cash required, and utilize travel rewards card offers to earn some money back. Consider a staycation, and instead of travelling abroad, visit local attractions to save money.
27. Embrace DIY: Honing your DIY skills will save you a ton of money over time. See how I saved about $1,500 when I stripped, cleaned, stained, and sealed our deck. Be practical and only undertake tasks that won’t land you in trouble. There are many useful DIY sites to use as your source of inspiration.
28. Don’t Keep Up With The Joneses: Forget about impressing people who don’t give a hoot about you. Live within your means and save some money at the same time.
29. Learn To Negotiate: Very few things are set in stone… most are negotiable. Be willing to ask for more (in income) or less (in expenses). I have negotiated our phone, internet, and cable bills for the last two years and saved 75% on the cost per year.
Best Cash-Back Apps To Save Money Every Day
1. KOHO (Canada): Earn 0.50% to 2% cash back on every purchase using the reloadable KOHO prepaid Visa card. It also pays 1.20% interest on your savings and you get a free budgeting app. Get KOHO ($20 bonus with CASHBACK referral code).
2. Rakuten (US & Canada): Earn up to 40% in cash-back on your online purchases at over 2,000 stores. Join Rakuten ($30 bonus).
3. Ampli (Canada): Free app to earn cash back on your grocery shopping…up to 30%. Download Ampli. Get a $5 sign-up bonus.
4. Caddle (Canada): Get free cash-back on your everyday purchases, plus get paid to answer short surveys and watch videos. Join Caddle.
5. Swagbucks (US, Canada, UK): Earn $50/month for taking surveys, shopping online, and completing other tasks. Join Swagbucks ($5 bonus).
Practical Ways To Save Money On Groceries And Other Shopping
Food occupies a significant portion of most budgets. In 2018, the average U.S. household is expected to spend over $7,000 on food, and for Canadians, the numbers are much higher.
The ability to save on groceries and your other shopping can mean the difference between living from paycheque to paycheque and attaining debt freedom. Save hundreds of dollars annually with these grocery-shopping tips.
30. Prepare a Grocery List: A well-organized grocery list will keep you focused when in-store and also save you from frequent return trips to the store.
31. Earn Cash Back on Groceries: Save a few hundred dollars every year by effortlessly using these cash-back grocery apps: Caddle (Canada only), SavingStar, TopCashBack, Ibotta (the U.S. only), and Berry Cart.
When combined with the best budget apps, you can save a ton of money every month!
32. Buy in Bulk: Buy non-perishable grocery items in bulk when they are on sale. Get a chest freezer for items like meat and fish that can remain in excellent condition for up to 6 months when they are properly frozen.
33. Be Wary When Buying Organic: Purchasing healthy food can be good for your health and ultimately your wallet. However, take organic labels for what they are worth and ensure you are getting value whenever you pay premium prices.
34. Buy Produce in Season: Purchase what’s in season to save money. Process and store whenever possible if you want to use it all year round.
35. Buy Generic: Generic brands of a product may be just as good but sell at half the price.
36. Use a Calculator: Retailers are professionals in the art of creating savings illusions. Use your phone’s calculator to ensure you are interpreting the discounts being displayed correctly.
For example, “buy one and get one 50% off” is at most a 25% discount on your total purchase (not 50% as your lizard brain is wont to think!).
37. Check Your Receipt: If your grocery shopping always involves a full cart, do yourself a favour and scan your receipt before leaving the store. Cashiers are human and they may erroneously scan an item more than once, costing you money.
38. BYOB: Bring your own bags to save on the cost of purchasing store bags. While this may not save you more than 5-10 cents per bag, it does add up.
39. Eat Before Shopping: An empty rumbling stomach will make you spend more in-store since more food items will catch your eye.
40. Scan Purchases to Earn Money: Some companies are willing to pay you to scan your weekly grocery purchases in exchange for rewards including cash. They include the Nielsen Homescan (Canada) and National Consumer Panel (U.S.).
41. Cook in Bulk: This will save you money and time when you cook a lot of meals at once for later use.
42. Earn Cash-Back: In addition to groceries, you can earn cash-back from your other online shopping when you use rebates sites (and apps) like Rakuten, Swagbucks, Receipt Hog, MyPoints, Mr.Rebates, Great Canadian Rebates, Paribus, and Dosh.
43. Comparison-Shop: Compare prices for items across several retailers to get the best deal possible. Price-comparison sites abound and include Price Grabber, Nextag, Price Finder, and Shopzilla.
44. Use Coupons: Use coupons when they are readily available to save on purchases. Find coupons online at Coupons.com, Save.ca, Redplum.com, Smartcanucks.ca, Redflagdeals.com, and many others.
45. Buy Quality Items: Don’t be cheap. Buy quality if you intend to use an item for some time to save on frustration, time, and money. Do your research and read user reviews in order to make an informed purchase.
46. Avoid Extended Warranties: They are often a waste of money and you are better off putting that money into a savings fund for replacing that item sometime in the future. Your credit card may also double the manufacturer’s warranty up to an additional 1 year.
47. Shop Brands On Sale: Save on branded clothes and footwear by buying them out of season when they are on sale at steep discounts. You may also be able to find them for cheap at discount clothing stores.
48. Do Holiday Shopping in Advance: Shop holiday items out of season. Consider buying holiday decorations and gifts after the holiday season in preparation for the next one. For example, Christmas decor is significantly cheaper after December 25.
49. Avoid Impulse Purchases: If you feel the sudden urge to buy it right now, the right call is probably to wait a day or two to mull things over and be sure you are meeting a need as opposed to a want. The extra time would also allow you to research and compare prices should you choose to proceed with the purchase later.
50. Don’t Window Shop: Be wary when your intention is to just go window-shopping. Many a budget have suffered from unintended purchases following what started as a casual look around.
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Fast Ways To Save Money On Your Credit, Banking, and Investing
Banks are places where you expect to put your money and have it grow. However, if you are using your bank wrong, the reverse is the case – you could be leaking money on a daily basis and sinking your net worth.
Do you have a credit card, investment, savings, and chequing accounts? Here are some easy tips to up your financial game!
51. Cut Investment Fees: Save thousands of dollars every year by investing right and avoiding unnecessary investment fees. Keep things simple by indexing. If you are uncomfortable with going DIY, consider a robo-advisor.
52. Cut banking Fees: Save hundreds of dollars every year by signing up for a no-fee banking account. These include Ally and Schwab bank in the US, and EQ Bank, and Simplii Financial in Canada.
53. Use a High-Interest Savings Account (HISA): Get the most from your savings account with a HISA that offers a much higher interest rate than your big bank does. In Canada: EQ Bank, Wealthsimple, and more. In the United States: Discover Bank, Ally, Synchrony, etc.
54. Use a High-Interest GIC/CD: Compare the best rates available on GICs/CDs to get the most for your short and long-term savings. Compare rates at EQ Bank (Canada) or Nerd Wallet (US).
55. Set Up Automated Savings: Pay yourself first by automating your savings efforts. Apps that can help you set aside money painlessly include Moka and Wealthsimple (Canada); Acorns, Digit, Qapital, Stash (US), and more.
56. Save Your Cash Windfalls: Put any extra cash received to good use, including tax refunds, commissions, bonuses, inheritances, etc. Build your emergency fund, pay down debt, save, and invest.
57. Save Salary Increases: When your salary goes up, your savings should do so as well.
58. Use Cash More Often: It is easier to overspend when you are paying with a credit card. You can keep yourself more accountable by paying in cash. Consider using the “cash envelope” budgeting system.
59. Save Loose Change: Get a piggy bank (anything that can hold loose change securely) and put aside spare change to save money effortlessly.
60. Use Rewards Credit Cards: Earn hundreds to thousands of dollars annually by using a credit card that offers rewards (cash-back or points) when you use it to make purchases. Even better, look for one with zero annual fees. Don’t forget to pay off your card balance monthly to avoid paying interest.
61. Pay Off High-Interest Debt: It is a no-brainer! If you are carrying credit card debt, pay it off first and save yourself 20% or more in fees. Do this before you consider saving or investing.
62. Use A 0% Balance Transfer Credit Card: If you have racked up credit card debt and ever-increasing interest payments are making your life miserable, consider moving your CC debt onto a card that offers a promotional 0% balance transfer interest rate.
Pay off your transferred balance as soon as possible, preferably within the promo period. A lower-rate personal loan may also help you pay off your debt faster at a lower rate.
63. Automate Bill Payments: Avoid late payment fees and save money. Poor payment history will damage your credit rating and make it impossible for you to qualify for the most competitive rates when next you seek out a credit facility.
64. Improve Your Credit Score: Pimp up your credit score and get the best rates possible. A small difference in interest rates can amount to savings of thousands of dollars every year. Get your FREE credit score from Borrowell (Canada) or Credit Sesame (US).
65. Avoid Overdraft and Credit Card Fees: Spend only what you have and save on overdraft and/or NSF fees. Pay your credit card balance within the grace period to avoid paying interest.
66. Don’t Wait For Tax Refunds: Reduce your tax withholding and stop extending the government a free one-year loan when you can save or invest it to generate returns. Ask your employer to update Form w-4 (US) or Form TD1 (Canada).
67. Maximize Your Registered Retirement Account: Max out your tax-deductible retirement account contributions 401k or RRSP. Your investment returns continue to grow and remain sheltered from taxes until you withdraw money in retirement.
68. Maximize Employer-Sponsored Savings Plans: When your employer offers to match your contributions in any way, take them up on their offer and don’t leave free money on the table.
The Best Apps For Taking Control of Your Finances
1. Moka (Canada): This app automatically rounds up your purchases and invests your spare change to build your net worth. Download Moka and get $5 free.
2. Wealthsimple (Canada): Wealthsimple is Canada’s most popular robo-advisor. Easily invest in low-cost ETFs and have everything managed automatically. When you open an account here, you get a $75 cash bonus.
3. Wealthica (Canada): This free service is great for tracking your net worth. Simply add your investment and bank accounts and track your money on one single dashboard. Sign up here.
4. Trim (US): Free service that automatically saves you money by cancelling unused subscriptions, finding deals, negotiating lower internet and cable bills, and more. Try Trim for FREE.
Smart Ways To Save Money Around Your Home
A mortgage is the biggest debt most people carry. While there may not be much you can do to get rid of your mortgage right away, there are many options to speed things up to become mortgage-free quicker.
In addition, there are several ways to save thousands of dollars around your home this year.
69. Cut Your Water Bill: Slash a few hundred dollars this year by taking small steps to use water more efficiently. Install low-flow fixtures, run full loads in the dish and clothes washer, use rainwater for your gardening, take fewer baths and shorter showers, and more.
70. Become A Landlord: Rent out a room that is sitting empty in your home and make some money to offset other costs including, property taxes, utilities, etc.
71. Pay Off Your Mortgage Faster: Accelerate your payments (e.g. accelerated bi-weekly), make occasional lump-sum payments, round up your normal payments, etc. for significant savings and a reduction in your mortgage amortization period.
72. Get A Competitive Mortgage Rate: Shop around for the best mortgage rate possible and don’t just settle for what your traditional bank offers.
On a $400,000 mortgage, a 0.25% point difference in rates could mean savings of $600+ per year. Compare rates in Canada using IntelliMortgage.
73. Choose a Variable Mortgage: Research shows that a variable mortgage will likely save you money in the long term. Check out how to choose between a variable and a fixed rate mortgage.
74. Decline Mortgage Life Insurance: Mortgage life insurance is expensive and is a declining benefit. Consider using a standard life and disability insurance instead to protect your loved ones.
75. Prepare A Bigger Down Payment: Plan a bigger down payment (20% or more) on your new home to avoid additional thousands of dollars in mortgage or home loan insurance costs.
This includes the Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) in the U.S. and CMHC mortgage insurance (Canada) that are designed to protect lenders should you default on your loan.
76. Replace Incandescent Bulbs: Use CFL or LED bulbs to save on electricity usage and cut your energy bill. LEDs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and can last for decades.
77. Time Outside Lights: Install a timer on outdoor lights to save on your energy bill.
78. Upgrade To Energy-Efficient Appliances: Save 10-50% on your energy bill by replacing older appliances with ENERGY STAR® rated ones. You could save up to $110 per year by just changing out your pre-1994 washer.
79. Use A Smart Power-Strip: Phantom loads, standby power, vampire power…all these refer to the continued use of electricity by electronics and appliances when they are turned off.
Use a smart power strip or simply unplug to ensure that only electronics being used are consuming power and save up to $200 per year.
80. Summer-Proof Your Home: Cut your energy bill in summer by closing curtains to keep radiant energy from overheating your home, use fans to increase ventilation, and set your thermostat as high enough as comfort would allow.
81. Winter-Proof Your Home: Replace weatherstripping and caulk where necessary to reduce your energy use by up to 25%. Insulate your basement, attic, and other crawl spaces.
82. Lower Water Temperature: Your water heater is set to 140 °F (60 °C) by default and can be lowered to 120F (48.9 °C) without a loss of function/comfort, saving you 10% in water heating costs.
83. Dress in Layers: In summer, put on fewer clothes to stay cool and pile them on in winter to stay warm. This will allow you to turn up/down the thermostat and save on energy.
84. Use A Programmable Thermostat: Save money on heating and cooling by using a thermostat that can be programmed to adjust your home’s temperatures around your schedule and comfort.
85. DIY Furnace Service: Keep your furnace running when you most need it by replacing the filter regularly, cleaning and vacuuming debris from registers and surrounding areas, and ensuring intake and exhaust pipes are always open.
86. DIY Air Conditioner Service: Vacuum debris and remove any obstruction to airflow, insulate pipes, straighten bent fins, and turn off in winter to avoid damage and to save money on repair/replacement costs.
87. Plant A Garden: Grow your own vegetables and herbs to save money.
88. Sell Your Clutter: Continuously find ways to dispose of items you are no longer using or which are not necessary.
89. Cut or Trim Down Cable: There are several cheaper alternatives to traditional cable. Check if you can watch your favourite show through services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Videos, Sling TV, and HBO NOW.