Gregory DeVictor is a trivia enthusiast who loves to write articles on American nostalgia.
Trimming the excess fat from your budget is not as difficult as it might seem. Although you may have little control over your mortgage or day care costs, you can save hundreds of dollars every month on groceries, utilities, cell phone charges, transportation costs, bank fees, prescriptions, entertainment, and much more. This article teaches you over 25 ways to save money every day.
How much money can you expect to save each month by trimming the excess fat from your budget? That is the $64,000 question since results vary from household to household. Variables include income, size of household, spending habits, time management, level of enthusiasm and discipline, willingness to change, and prospects for the future. Here are some guidelines you might consider:
- If your income is $50,000 or less, try to eliminate $250-$500 a month in nonessential expenses. That adds up to $3,000 - $6,000 a year.
- If your income is between $50,000 and $100,000, try to eliminate $500-$1,000 a month in unnecessary expenses. That adds up to $6,000-$12,000 a year.
- If your income is between $100,000 and $150,000, try to eliminate $1,000-$2,000 a month in unneeded expenses. That adds up to $12,000-$24,000 a year.
How to Save Money on Utilities
1. If you’re not using an appliance, unplug it.
2. Turn off the lights in a room you are not using.
3. Don’t keep the television on if nobody is watching it.
4. Install compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). According to EnergyStar.gov:
If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that's earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.
By changing one bulb, you could save $40 or more over the lifetime of the bulb. By changing five bulbs, you could save $200 or more over the lifetime of the bulbs. By changing 10 bulbs, you could save $400 or more over the lifetime of the bulbs.
5. Raise the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer. They do not have to be on the coldest setting.
6. Don’t leave your holiday or outdoor lights on during the day.
7. Turn off your outdoor lights when you get home.
8. According to the United States Department of Energy, you can save about 10% in annual utility costs by installing a programmable thermostat.
9. Have your furnace tuned up every two years and save up to 15% in fuel costs.
10. Clean or replace furnace filters once a month. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy consumption.
11. Soak your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher.
12. Run full loads of laundry and dishes.
13. Do multiple loads of laundry in succession. Your dryer will work more efficiently because it will not have to keep warming up.
14. Did you know that the permanent press cycle on most washing machines uses about one-third more water than the regular cycle?
15. Check the progress of your dryer periodically. This allows you to untangle sheets, bath towels, jeans, or overalls so that they will dry more quickly.
16. Buy a water-efficient toilet. If your toilet was manufactured prior to 1994, you are probably losing about two gallons of water every time you flush.
17. Repair leaking faucets. A dripping faucet can waste over 300 gallons of water a month. That adds up to nearly 4,000 gallons a year.
18. Since it takes about 70 gallons of water to fill a bathtub, taking a shower is more cost-effective.
19. Water your outdoor plants and lawn early in the morning before the sun burns off moisture.
20. Pay your utility bills on time to avoid late charges.
How to Save Money on Banking
Bank fees can add up. According to CNBC.com, “Americans spend more than $15 billion in bank fees even though free checking still exists at many credit unions and online-only banks.”
Here is a list of 30 common bank charges:
- Account research fees
- Balance inquiry fees (online, by phone, or at an ATM)
- Cancelled check copy fees
- Cash deposit fees
- Charges for redeeming rewards points
- Fees to replace a damaged, lost, or stolen debit card
- Direct deposit fees
- Dormant account fees
- Early account closure fees
- Fees for depositing international items
- Fees for returning original checks with paper statement
- Fees for transferring money from checking to savings, and vice versa
- Foreign transaction fees
- Human teller fees
- Minimum balance fees
- Mobile banking fees
- Money order fees
- Monthly maintenance fees on checking accounts, etc.
- Notary fees
- Online bill payment fees
- Out-of-network fees
- Overdraft fees
- Overdraft protection transfer fees
- Over-the-phone bill payment fees
- Paper statement fees
- Returned deposit fees
- Returned mail fees
- Stop payment fees
- Traveler's check fees
- Wire transfer fees
Would you want to pay $1.00 to replace a lost or damaged debit card? How about paying $1.00 for a printed ATM statement or a roll of quarters? What about paying $3.00 to use a human teller? And it doesn’t stop there. Miami.CBSLocal.com reports that "For a dollar a month, some banks allow you to go straight to the front of the phone line, skipping other callers on hold."
Here are 10 banks that offer free or low-cost checking:
- Ally Interest Checking
- Bank of Internet USA
- Capital One 360
- Discover Bank
- Everbank Yield Pledge Checking
- FNBO Direct
- Key Bank
Fabulous Freebies That Will Add Joy to Your Budget
Here are 10 websites where you can score lots of free stuff including free groceries:
- AllYou.com—Receive over 50 birthday freebies as well as coupons for groceries and household items.
- Coupons.com—Find coupons on over 2,000 brands on everything from laundry detergent to canned tomatoes.
- FreeSamples.org—Get free beauty, food, health, household, and pet samples. You can also receive free household and restaurant coupons.
- SmartSource.com—Find free coupons for groceries, beauty aids, and weight loss products.
- TheBalance.com—Receive free food and beverage samples including cereal, chips, coffee, crackers, and entrees.
- TheKrazyCouponLady.com—Find over 4,000 free grocery coupons.
- Get free samples from Procter & Gamble at PGeveryday.com.
- Receive free coupons from Kraft Foods at KraftFirstTaste.com.
- Find free Kellogg’s coupons at KelloggsFamilyRewards.com.
- Score a free piece of chocolate every month at participating Godiva boutiques. To qualify, you must sign up for Godiva’s Chocolate Rewards Club at Godiva.com/get-rewards.
Miscellaneous Ways to Save Money Every Day
1. Stop smoking cigarettes. According to 247WallSt.com, "A person who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day in New York state will spend more than $4,000 a year, which is roughly 10% of the average American income before taxes."
2. Do you really need 100 cable channels? Why not switch to basic cable and use the money that you save to pay off debt or boost your retirement savings.
3. If you've been eating out more than twice a week, consider eating out no more than once a week, once every two weeks, or even once a month. You will appreciate eating out more and be amazed at how much money you can save. When eating out, always look for half-priced dinner specials.
4. Stop spending $5.00 or more on a latte and muffin every morning while on the way to work. Use the money that you save to pay off debt or build up emergency savings.
5. Give up the daily or weekly lotto. Your chances of winning on a single ticket are one in 175 million. If you're spending $10 a week on scratch-off tickets, that adds up to over $500 annually.
6. Are you looking for something to do this weekend? Get a free newspaper and check the listings for free or low-cost theatre, exhibits, festivals, kid stuff, etc.
7. Sign up with every free customer rewards program that comes your way and receive discounts and freebies. Here are some of the most popular rewards programs:
Grocery store fuel perks programs: You can save 10 - 20 cents off a gallon of gas for every $100 you spend on groceries, prescriptions, and qualifying gift cards.
- Giant Eagle
Department stores, drug stores, etc.:
- CVS ExtraCare Program
- DICK’s ScoreCard
- DSW Rewards Program - This is one of the best customer rewards programs around. For example, when you sign up to receive DSW emails, you will receive $10 off your next in-store or online purchase.
- JCPenney Rewards
- Kohl’s Yes2You Rewards
- Nordstrom Notes
- Petco Pals
- Target REDCard
- Walgreens Balance Rewards
- West Elm Rewards Program (The Key)
Restaurants, pizza shops, coffee bistros, etc.:
- California Pizza Kitchen
- Coldstone Creamery
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Jamba Juice
- Jersey Mike’s
- Moe’s Southwest Grill
- Pizza Hut Rewards
- Red Robin Royalty
- Rita’s Italian Ice
- Starbucks Rewards
8. If you cannot show up for a medical appointment, call in advance and reschedule it because you might be charged a no-show fee. In an informal poll, almost one third of the medical practices surveyed said they charge a fee for no-shows. Although $25 seemed to be the standard amount for a no-show fee, one practice charged $50.
9. If your employer has a flexible spending account, don't lose another dollar and use it. A flexible spending account--also known as an FSA--is a tax-advantaged plan that allows you to set aside a portion of your earnings to pay for qualified expenses such as medical and dependent care. Money deposited into an flexible spending account is not subject to payroll taxes, thus saving you money.
10. Even if you have health insurance or Medicare, you can still save 10%-80% on hundreds of prescription medications at GoodRX.com. You can compare prices for all FDA-approved prescription drugs at virtually every pharmacy in America. GoodRX’s database includes big pharmacy chains (Walgreen’s, CVS/Pharmacy, Costco, etc.), supermarket pharmacies (Safeway, Kroger, Albertsons, etc.), local pharmacies, and mail-order pharmacies.
11. If you receive a gift card that you don’t want, you can sell it online and get up to 93% cash back on its face value. You can also buy other people’s unwanted gift cards and save up to 65%. Choose from thousands of retailers including Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Disney Store, Dunkin Donuts, Exxon, Home Depot, Kroger, Olive Garden, Red Robin, Safeway, Sears, Shell, Starbucks, T. J. Maxx, Target, and Walmart.
12. To help you shop smarter, here are the best products to buy for each month of the year:
- January – Cold-weather apparel, Christmas decorations, linens, bedding, towels, televisions, fitness equipment, and watches
- February – Cold-weather clothing and discounted Valentine’s-Day gifts
- March – Frozen foods (March is National Frozen Food Month), St. Patrick’s Day items, and cold-weather apparel (what’s left of it)
- April – Mattresses and jewelry (Never buy jewelry close to holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s Day.)
- May – Furniture and mattresses over Memorial Day weekend
- June – Father’s Day deals, gardening supplies, and lingerie (Victoria’s Secret holds one of its semi-annual sales during June. The other one is in December.)
- July – Clothing and outdoor gear during Fourth of July sales, house paint, and personal electronics during Christmas in July sales
- August – Patio equipment, lawn mowers, swimwear, laptops, and back-to-school supplies
- September – Summer clothing, patio equipment, lawn mowers, swimwear, cars, and iPhones
- October – Candy, cars, jeans, outdoor furniture, and camping gear
- November – Black Friday deals on tablets, laptops, gaming systems, and home appliances
- December – Christmas decorations beginning the day after Christmas
© 2018 Gregory DeVictor
Gregory DeVictor (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on April 11, 2018:
Eurofile, thank you for your kind words. Be sure to enjoy the rest of your day!
Liz Westwood from UK on April 11, 2018:
This was a brilliant article, crammed full of very useful money-saving tips.
Gregory DeVictor (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on March 23, 2018:
Mary, thank you for your comment. Yes, I sometimes manage to buy a box or two of vanilla wafers when I go shopping at Aldi.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 23, 2018:
Great tips but I think once in a while you need to treat yourself.
Gregory DeVictor (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on March 21, 2018:
Larry, thank you for your kind words. I’ve always wondered whether the indoor TV antennas really work, so I’m glad that you have had success with them. Since I moved to Pittsburgh, I have had basic cable, which includes about 15 shopping channels. (Shopping channels have never been my thing.) Recently, I have been seriously considering getting rid of the cable altogether. I can live stream local Pittsburgh news on my computer and can watch some of my favorite television shows on my computer. I have an Amazon Prime account and one of the benefits is Prime Video. There are lots television shows, etc. included in the membership. So why have cable too? Thanks again for reading my article.
Larry W Fish from Raleigh on March 21, 2018:
A lot of great tips there, Gregory. Some I am already doing and some I will have to start doing. My wife and I are both on Social Security so we are always looking for ways to save. One thing I would like to point out is that we got rid of our cable TV service and bought an MOHU indoor TV antenna. We live close to a major city, their antennas only have a 30 to 50 mile range depending on the antenna. We get ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and 25 other channels. We don't need anymore. We also have Netflix to watch movies. A great article, enjoyed it.