What are the best money saving tips?
While you can focus on saving a coffee or takeout meal here and there, it might take you a long time to reach that end savings goal.
Especially if it’s a big financial goal like going on a vacation, buying a home, or getting out of debt!
What strategies are the most effective for saving money?
What’s going to save you the most money in a year for your time? Even if you have a low income? Or a tight budget?
Here are the best money saving tips for your future. The top 12 ways you can save money for maximum immediate and long-term savings.
I’ve personally used these. I’ve easily saved over $30,000/year with these methods. The savings only grow every year as I learn from experience and refine my approach.
Related How to Save Money Articles:
- 18 Things I stopped buying to save $5000
- 11 Easy ways to chop your grocery bill in half
- 7 Important tips to simplify your life, save money and increase your productivity
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the disclosure for more information.
1. Optimize your money mindset
This is the most powerful strategy you can do!
To focus on savings, you need to shift your mindset about spending.
The best way to do this is through a No spend challenge where you don’t spend money over a certain period of time.
No spend challenge?
I know it sounds crazy! Painful! Why would you put yourself through this kind of discomfort?
Personally, I heard about the no spend challenge years ago.
I was interested, but kept putting it off because of Christmas or I was feeling exhausted and needed a treat… Any excuse you could think of – that was the excuse of the hour.
Until I went on maternity leave…
Our household income got cut in half…
And I HAD NO CHOICE but to do a no spend challenge.
Surprisingly, it’s not as difficult as you might think.
- I don’t need to spend money to eat well. Have fun. Get that occasional self-care I crave.
- I’m more handy than I think. I can fix that leaky bathtub faucet myself. I don’t need to hire a plumber.
- I have a lot of stuff with a lot of life left! It can also be repurposed! For example, if you have a plate or bowl that doesn’t match, you can put it under a planter that leaks water.
Here is my complete guide on the no spend challenge including:
- How you can get started
- What rules you should set
- How to successfully complete it
- What you should do at the end
2. Lower your overall debt interest rate
Ideally, you want to get rid of debt altogether, but in the meantime, lowering your debt interest rate is a must!
The first thing you should do is list out all of your outstanding debts and associated interest rates. This might include:
- Student loans
- Car loans
- Credit cards
Once you compare your interest rates, you can see how debt can be moved around to lower the overall interest you’re paying. Credit cards generally have the highest interest rates of 20-30% so you want to move away from these!
Work on transferring higher interest debt to lower interest debt, which might be:
1. Another credit card with an initial promotional period (usually 6 months) of 0% interest: It sounds crazy to transfer to a credit card. If you know you’ll be able to pay off the balance by the end of the promotional period, this might be a great option. It’s important to read the fine print. Understand if there are any hidden fees.
2. An unsecured line of credit: The difference between an unsecured and secured line of credit is that the secured line of credit is backed by an asset like a home or a car. If you don’t make payments, the bank can go after your asset. Unsecured lines of credit usually can have a higher interest rate of around 5%* vs. a secured line of credit.
3. A secured line of credit (e.g. a home equity line of credit (HELOC)): Secured lines of credit can have an interest rate of around 4.5%*.
4. Mortgage: Mortgages can have an interest rate of around 3.5%*. The disadvantage of going with a mortgage is that you often can’t pay off the outstanding loan until after a set period of time (e.g. 5 years).
*The interest rate will depend on the person’s credit history and situation.
3. Learn from personal finance experts
Many people can probably EVENTUALLY achieve their financial goals.
The FASTEST way is through applying best practices.
Learn from the personal finance experts who have already reached the goals you strive for. Read about their experiences. Challenges. Solutions.
You don’t want to waste time making their mistakes. You don’t want to miss opportunities.
Even just 1 personal finance book can change your life.
Imagine if you read 2 or more this month.
When I read Rich Dad Poor Dad, I learned how to use the appreciated value in my home to buy a rental property.
Now I earn regular rental income. This income stream has been crucial during my maternity leave when our household income was cut drastically.
Here are personal finance books I’m reading in 2019:
The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley
Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need by Grant Sabatier
Retire Early with Real Estate by Chad Carson
I’ve heard they’re excellent. I can’t wait to dive in!
Let me know if the comments below if you’ve already read these and what you think.
4. Focus on trimming your highest costs
Housing and transportation are usually the top costs.
There are many ways to lower housing and transportation costs. Many of the below strategies we’ve done ourselves.
Strategies to save on housing costs:
- Move in with your family
- Move to a smaller home
- Move to a cheaper city
- Rent with a roommate
- Rent out part of your home
- Pay off your mortgage
Strategies to save on transportation costs:
- Take public transportation
- Walk or bike
- Don’t speed
- Maintain your car
Some of these methods might seem extreme. Keep in mind that you’re not going to live this way for the rest of your life. These are short-term sacrifices for the long-term gains.
If we hadn’t focused on lowering our housing and transportation costs for 3 years, it would have easily taken us 10 years longer to buy our dream house. While it’s important to lower your costs as a whole, you’ll make huge progress towards your goals by focusing on your largest expenses.
5. Limit your non-essentials
I’m not just talking about the smoking, gambling, and alcohol.
Non-essentials can include:
- Yoga classes
- Take out meals
There are a lot of non-essentials that can FEEL like essentials.
For every non-essential purchase, you need to ask yourself:
Do I really need this item?
What am I getting from this item that I don’t ALREADY HAVE?
It’s nice to treat yourself every now and then.
Sometimes you get caught up in the latest trend. You feel like you need to have the newest iPhone. Or buy the sweater you saw an actor wear in a magazine.
You forget that your cell phone is working perfectly and you have a closet full of sweaters. Or there are ways to get non-essentials for FREE or cheap!
Sometimes you just need to ignore the advertising. Ignore the fact that your family and friends have these products.
You can also use the 30 day rule. What is the 30 day rule? When you think you need an item, wait 30 days. If you still feel like you need it after 30 days, then you can consider getting it.
Here are 2 other important questions.
1. What’s the OPPORTUNITY COST of buying this item?
Opportunity cost is what you’re MISSING OUT ON if you make this purchase.
For example, say you’re eyeing a $100 coat. The opportunity cost of that $100 is:
- Over $60 extra in 10 years if you put it in a savings account that pays 5% annual interest. (Imagine if you put more than just $100.)
- $100 you could have put towards your big financial goal like buying a house
- 2 different coats that costs $50 each (if you shopped around or waited until there’s a sale
- Something else you need that costs $100 like groceries!
2. How much of your TIME are you trading for your money?
What is each hour of your life worth? Say you make $35/hour and you spend $35 on a meal. Then you’re trading 1 hour of work for that meal.
Would you work 1 hour for that 1 meal? Is the meal so worth it that you’d work an extra hour of the day to eat it? (I learned about this insight in the book Your Money or Your Life, which is about the 9 steps to financial freedom. This book is life changing. I highly recommend it. You can read my full review of the book here.)
Say you decide to eat 5 $35 meals a week, that’s $175. That’s 1 month of groceries for me!
If you feel like you really need this item, here are some tips to keep your costs down:
- Buy it used through thrift stores, yard sales or online marketplaces (e.g. Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, eBay and Varagesale)
- Buy a product that’s basic and doesn’t have all of the gadgets. More things can go wrong with it the more features it has.
- Use something you own that can be repurposed or fixed to fit this need
- If this is a gift, consider giving something you own that can be regifted or used to make a gift
- Think about what happened to your current product. Was it not well maintained? Is there anything you could have done along the way to prolong its life span?
- Buy for quality and not for quantity. For example, it’s better to buy a pair of jeans that’s high quality (and possibly more expensive) that’ll last you 20 years than one that’s low quality (and cheap) that you’ll have to replace in 1 or 2 years.
Non-essential purchases can add up fast!
Thinking about what you’re giving up and what you can now do for purchases puts things into perspective.
6. Keep track of your cash flow
You need to lay out:
- What income is coming in
- What expenses are going out – line by line
- Categorize your expenses (e.g. groceries, take-out, utilities etc.)
- Sum up your categories
You can do it over the last month. Use your credit card and bank statements. Download the data and paste it into Excel.
Laying out all of the transactions can be overwhelming.
Take your time. Do it over a period of a few days if you need to.
This is an important step especially if you’ve never done it before!
You have to get that financial reality check!
Track your cash flow so that you know what your current savings rate (income – expenses) is. That way you’ll have a baseline. You can set a realistic savings rate goal to work towards!
When you can see all of the numbers especially over a period of time, you can see how much money goes towards each category. You can evaluate purchases. Look for ways to cut costs.
You don’t have to do this exercise every month.
I find it enlightening to do it a few times a year so I can see the big picture. Understand how my savings rate has changed. See if I need to focus on lowering specific expense categories.
7. Negotiate contracts for regular expenses
You might think that because a company advertises a rate – that this rate is not negotiable.
There are many contracts that are negotiable.
Here are a few:
- Cell phone
- Home insurance
- Car insurance
These are ongoing expenses. Cutting these costs will impact your bottom line!
Here are best practices I’ve used to successfully negotiate contracts:
- Negotiate 2 months before your contract ends
- Speak with the customer loyalty/retention department (you need to speak to the people who are authorized to give you better rates)
- Check your current provider’s promotions
- Mention the competitor’s rates (make sure you’re noting competitors that actually apply to your area (e.g. you can get decent cell phone coverage in your area) and consider any initial sign up fees)
- Check with your employer or membership association for group discounts
Even armed with these practices, some people hate negotiating.
I used to cringe at the idea of negotiating. Then I took a negotiation class in my MBA. It was the best class I took in the program!
Negotiation is a life skill! It’s not just for lawyers and mediators.
If you are uncomfortable with negotiating, learn from a negotiation book. Getting to Yes is an international bestselling book about how to negotiate. It’s based on the work from the Harvard Negotiation Project. It can be applied to every type of negotiation.
8. Meal plan strategically
The idea is simple. Plan your meals for the week or a few days. Prepare the ingredients and make the meals in one day.
But meal planning is far from simple! I’m a few years into it and I’m still learning new best practices.
If you’re new to meal planning, get help from experts.
If you do meal planning incorrectly, you could easily spend MORE money meal planning than you would eating out!
The $5 meal plan is a great way to ease yourself into meal planning. For only $5 a month, you get a month’s worth of meal plans including grocery lists. It works out to $2 per meal! It also saves you so much time!
They offer a 14 day FREE trial which includes approximately 40 recipes (regular or gluten-free – it’s your choice). If you feel the plan is not right for you, you can cancel at any time. No questions asked!
If you’re an experienced meal planner, here are meal planning tips I use:
- Write it down! This is a simple thing that I used to not do. Once I started writing everything down, it made a huge difference in time and money savings! You could easily see what could be pre-chopped or batch cooked in advance e.g. if I’m having rice for 3 meals, I could prepare 6 cups of rice on Sunday to have throughout the week.
- Discuss meal planning with your family and friends. Trade recipes. It’ll make it fun and help hold you accountable.
- Include vegetarian meals as they’re often cheaper
- Keep meals for the week simple: 2 types of breakfasts, 6 types of dinners (lunch is leftovers), 2 types of snacks, the remaining meals are leftovers.
- The meals should use similar ingredients to reduce waste e.g. quinoa bowl for breakfast and quinoa in your taco for dinner
- Each meal should have only a few ingredients e.g.
- overnight oats with blueberries and coconut for breakfast
- a quesadilla with chickpeas, cheese and corn with a side of salsa for dinner/lunch the next day
- apples and cucumbers for snacks throughout the day
Here are grocery shopping tips I use to keep costs down:
- Buy what’s significantly on sale (I look for the 50% off stickers for foods that have to be eaten that day) and then freeze it for later (for fruits and vegetables, I usually just refridgerate it.). You can then use it for a meal plan the following week.
- Buy in bulk. When I don’t see 50% off sticker sales, I often buy in bulk, especially meat. You can repack all of your meat in ziplock bags and freeze them so you only use what you need.
- Shop around until you know what’s generally cheaper at different grocery stores. You don’t have to go to 3 grocery stores in 1 day. You can visit a different grocery store each week. Over time, you’ll understand what the regular and sales price points are for the foods you regularly purchase at each grocery store. Always check the unit price as a yellow sales tag doesn’t always mean it’s a good price point. This is handy to know if you can’t buy 50% off or in bulk. If the sale supply runs out, you can also get a rain check.
- Use a grocery store coupon app like Checkout51 (U.S. and Canada) or Caddle (only in Canada) to get cash back on your grocery receipt
Here are tips to keep grocery costs down if you’re often tempted to buy more:
- Buy groceries only once per week. Every time you go to the grocery store, you are tempted to buy something you might not need.
- Never shop at the grocery store when hungry
- Shop with a list so you don’t buy more than what you need (Always check your pantry and fridge before you make that list.)
- Shop by yourself and leave the kids at home
- Use the free grocery pick up service, which also forces you to meal plan
- Buy online so you have less impulse purchases
Related: How to save money on groceries
9. Involve your family or close friends
You are only 1 person. There’s only so many resources you have access to. Your family and close friends have access to other resources. They have knowledge and skills you don’t have.
You’re stronger as a team than you are as an individual.
Ask for help if you need it. This could be for a loan. Help with fixing an appliance. Maybe their best tips on how they save money.
You just never know what the answer is unless you ask.
It doesn’t make you weak to ask. It makes you resourceful.
You might be one of those people who hates asking for help. I get it! I used to be one of those people.
You have to realize that the people who don’t ask for help – they get left behind. They lose out on the opportunity. They might achieve their goals, but they’ll get there so much slower.
Here’s an example of someone who asked and got rewarded.
A friend of my brother’s just completed his MBA. He had a huge student loan he needed to pay off. My mom helped loan him the money through a mortgage because it was a cheaper rate than his student loan interest rate.
Now he’s saving easily thousands in interest! He helps her with minor projects around the apartment every now and then. It’s a win-win scenario.
Of course, this set-up involves a lot of trust. You wouldn’t do this with people you don’t know very well.
10. Meet with your partner or spouse regularly about finances
If you have a partner or spouse, meeting regularly about your finances helps you be on the same page on where your money was spent and where it’s going. You can be more intentional with your money decisions and focused on your financial goals.
Like the point above, if you’re working on your household finances by yourself, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
Every family has their system.
Some families like keeping everything separate. They split all the bills down the middle. For example, one person pays the mortgage while the other person pays all other expenses like food and utilities.
Some families have all of their finances joined.
Regardless of your system, working together on the household finances will help with:
- managing your everyday finances (ensuring bills don’t get missed!)
- mostly importantly, identifying opportunities for savings as well as investing!
For example, there could be extra cash that can be moved into another account that’s generating a greater rate of return.
With all the numbers on the table, you can find money that can be put together to take advantage of investing opportunities. That way your collective money is always working to generate the best return.
I know some people don’t want to share their financial situations.
A few reasons could be:
- one partner makes significantly more than the other
- one partner doesn’t think he or she is skilled in managing finances
Even if one partner makes significantly more, financial contributions are only one type of contribution. Non-financial contributions like managing household responsibilities or taking care of the children are arguably just as valuable as financial contributions.
At the end of the day, 2 heads are better than 1.
You don’t have to be a financial management specialist to see opportunities.
Anybody can look at how much you’re spending on groceries, look through the receipts, and assess where you can cut costs.
11. Set up automatic savings
You’ve probably heard the term “Pay yourself first”.
The concept has been recommended by personal finance experts for years. The idea is to think of yourself as a bill you need to pay each month. Before you pay your credit card and other bills, you pay yourself first and put money in your savings account. You have no choice but to save money.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay your bills. You should absolutely pay your bills on time.
This just means that you’re prioritizing savings. You’re ensuring that you’re actually saving and not spending all of your money on fun things.
What if you don’t have any money left (after paying bills) to pay yourself?
You have to make more money or lower your costs.
The habit of paying yourself first forces you to change other aspects of your life (outside of your savings bill). It forces you to be creative. To analyze your finances. To look for other ways to make money. That’s the magic of the concept.
How do you pay yourself first?
The easiest way to pay yourself first is to set up an automatic debit from your chequing account. If you have an RRSP matching program with your company, you could also set this up.
If you’ve never done this before, you could start small like $20/month. You could always increase the amount as you become more comfortable.
12. Have more than 1 income stream
You can only alter so much on the expenses side:
The amount you can save = limited to the difference between your earnings and your costs.
The amount you can earn = unlimited
To increase your savings rate, you need to increase your income.
While it would be ideal to have a higher salary, sometimes it’s easier to add a side income.
Here are some additional income streams we’ve added:
- Part-time job income
- Dividend income
- Interest income
- Rental income
- Money from selling our possessions
Part-time job Income
There are a lot of part-time jobs you can do. I’ve had friends that work part-time as a Waitress or a Bartender on the weekends.
If you’re a mom or someone who needs flexible hours or a work-from-home job, you can become a Pinterest Manager (managing a blogger or a company’s Pinterest account) or a Proofreader (proofreading ebooks which just involves a tablet!).
Here’s a list of other work-from-home side jobs that are lucrative:
- SEO Writer – earn more than $20,000/month
- Virtual Assistant – make $100/hour
- Transcriptionist – earn more than $100,000/year
- Scopist – earn $4000/month
The best part-time jobs are the ones you see as hobbies! The ones you would do regardless of if you made money from it.
The hobby I’m loving right now is blogging.
I’ve been surprised to see that it’s actually making money! This is how I got my first affiliate sale in my 3rd month blogging.
Dividend income is when a company gives you money for owning a share on a monthly or quarterly basis.
If you’re new to the stock market or generally interested in investment options, The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need gives you a broad overview of different investment options and who they’re suitable for.
If you’re famliar with stocks and dividends, here are discount brokerages. You can open up self-directed investment accounts and buy stocks that have high dividend yields.
Ally Invest (only in U.S.): Ally Invest is an online stock and options broker. It provides low trading fees of $4.95 per stock. There are more than 100 commission free ETFs. There is no minimum account requirement.
Questrade (only in Canada): Similar to Ally Invest, Questrade is a discount brokerage that provides Canadians with access to low cost investing for U.S. and Canadian stocks and options as well as forex trading. You can trade stocks for $4.95. Most ETFs are free to purchase. A good practice is to use small leftover cash from dividends to purchase ETFs because it’s free and you might as well have your cash continue working for you.
Interest income is when you get paid the interest rate for loaning out funds. This is a great way to diversify from the stock market.
Here are 2 marketplaces that connect investors with borrowers for loans:
LendingClub (only in U.S.): LendingClub connects investors and borrowers through an online marketplace of loans. The average historical returns for loans is 3.77-8.03% from January 2008-March 2017. You can earn up to 100,000 United miles when you open up an account with LendingClub today.
Lending Loop (only in Canada): Similar to Lending Club, Lending Loop provides high, structured returns (5.9-26.5%). It’s Canada’s first and only regulated peer-to-peer lending platform. It provides investors with the opportunity to support small and medium businesses in your neighbouring communities while making good returns. If you’re interested in signing up for an account, click here to get $25 once you lend $1500 to businesses on the platform. You can read my detailed review of Lending Loop here.
Real Estate Income
There are a lot of ways to make money from the real estate market. Currently, we’re making rental income. We made this move after reading the book Rich Dad Poor Dad.
I highly recommend checking this book out! Even if you’re not interested in making money through real estate, it has some great insights on how to have a rich mindset!
Money from selling our possessions
I love this income stream because it accomplishes 2 goals:
- Gets rid of clutter in the house
- Makes a hundred dollars or more each month
I highly recommend doing research on your collectors and vintage items. People collect all types of things.
My mother in law is a tin collector and has bought an old tin for $20. My husband collects bobbleheads often for $20-50 each. Both of these items were initially free with the actual purchase.
Related Making Extra Money Articles:
Recap of the best money saving tips:
- Optimize your money mindset
- Lower your overall debt interest rate
- Learn from personal finance experts
- Focus on trimming your highest costs
- Limit your non-essentials
- Keep track of your cash flow
- Negotiate contracts for regular expenses
- Meal plan strategically
- Involve your family or close friends
- Meet with your partner or spouse regularly about finances
- Set up automatic savings
- Have more than 1 income stream
Have you done some of these savings tips? What tips would you recommend? Comment below!
Related Money Saving Tips Articles:
- 18 Things I stopped buying which saved me $1000’s
- 11 Simple ways to decrease your grocery bill by 50%!
- 60+ Easy ways to reduce your electricity costs
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