How to Save Money: 101 Genius Tricks
Benjamin Franklin — a man who knew a thing or two about frugal living — once warned: “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”
From grocery shopping to impulse buys, the choices we make every day have a huge impact on our budget. With these 101 money saving tips, you’ll learn how to spend less and pocket more no matter the day or time of year. Incorporating as many of these hacks into your life as possible could be a real game-changer for your finances — especially since it’s nearly impossible not to find something new on this list that you haven’t tried before.
If you really want to learn how to save money, you can look to your habits. The things you do every day can make a big difference in your pocketbook. Here are some of the lifestyle tweaks you can make to reduce your costs:
- 1. Introduce a ‘no-spend’ day into your week
- 2. Abide by the ‘30-day rule’
- 3. Replace beauty products with DIY alternatives
- 4. DIY cleaning products
- 5. Brush and floss twice a day
- 6. Take up biking
- 7. Minimize your commute to work
- 8. Carpool with a coworker
- 9. Find new routes to avoid temptation
- 10. Plan your errands
- 11. Beware the ‘treat yo self’ mentality
- 12. Stop buying fast fashion
- 13. Visit your local secondhand store or online consignment shop
- 14. Strive for ‘inbox zero,’ at least for promotional emails
- 15. Track down free events in your city or town
- 16. Plan cheap, fun dates with your significant other
- 17. a night in on occasion
- 18. Become a master Craigslist-er
Want to take more control of your personal finances? Try introducing a no-spend day into your week where you don’t spend money on anything (except maybe essentials, like a subway ride to work and back).
If this turns out to be really tough, you’ll also get some useful insight into your spending habits.
If some intriguing but nonessential item catches your eye, wait 30 days before you buy. If you still want it after a month, then go ahead and take the splurge. In many cases, the wait will make you realize you can do without.
Beauty products can be expensive, and a lot of them are filled with harmful chemicals. Consider making your own from just a few ingredients. Coconut oil, for instance, can be used as a skin moisturizer, hair conditioner and makeup remover. I’ve made my own dry shampoo with cornstarch, cocoa and a few drops of an essential oil.
Look on natural beauty websites and YouTube for tutorials.
While you’re saving money with DIY, consider making your own cleaning products. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish just using vinegar as the main ingredient in your home cleaning closet.
How can brushing and flossing save you money? Dental care is mighty expensive. Take preventive action today to avoid big expenses in the future.
Apart from the initial cost of a bike, biking is a form of transportation that is mostly free of charge, minus the occasional tuneup. Plus, biking has been shown to make people happier and healthier. Win-win!
Is your commute costing you a lot in subway fare or gasoline? Maybe your boss will let you work from home a couple days a week.
Alternatively, perhaps it’s time to move closer to your workplace or even find a new job. Long commutes cost more than just money — a University of Waterloo study showed them to be a major drain on people’s well-being.
Do you have any co-workers who live nearby? If you drive to work, consider carpooling to save gas and money.
Do you have a favorite bakery or boutique that you pass by all the time? If you can’t help yourself from stopping in, consider switching up your route to avoid temptation. Out of sight, out of mind.
I like to plan my errands in a way that is efficient and that batches them. I try to run all my errands on one day of the week so I’m not constantly out. The more you go out, the more likely you are to make impulse buys or find other ways to spend money.
Plus, when I batch all my errands, sticking to a list keeps me efficient so that I don’t spend all day running around.
The ‘treat yo self’ mantra could destroy a savings account.
Instead of treating yourself with fancy spas and fine leather goods, practice free self-care. You can try meditating, exercising or writing in a journal.
Each time I walk into a Forever 21, the clothes are completely different. Stores like these have a rapid turnover, because their clothes aren’t built to last.
Fast fashion has a higher price tag than you realize. It encourages people to throw out clothes and shop continuously. Consider investing in higher quality pieces with classic looks that will last a long time.
Instead of buying brand new, look for hidden treasures at a secondhand clothing store in town or online. Buffalo Exchange, Tradesy and eBay are always worth a look. (Selling clothes online and off could be a boon, too.)
If you like shopping, promotional emails can majorly disrupt a budget. To avoid temptation, unsubscribe from your favorite stores. Sales don’t save you money if you weren’t planning to shop in the first place!
Check out your local newspaper, alternative weekly or town website for free events. If you’re paying off student debt in a high-cost city, keep in mind that expensive cities offer free events, from music to plays to festivals to art shows. Saving money doesn’t have to mean you never leave your home!
You don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a romantic date. Instead of dinner and a movie, look for free events, go for a scenic walk or have a picnic with your special someone.
Similarly, you don’t have to go out every single weekend. Save money by staying in sometimes. Skip happy hour with your co-workers. Invite a couple of friends over to play board games instead of going to the club. It’s a great way to have fun without spending a lot of money.
People sell just about everything on Craigslist. Before buying new, check the site for any amazing finds. You might even get some freebies.
And Craigslist isn’t the only place to look. When my sister was getting rid of her love seat, she asked on the family group text if any of us wanted it. I got a little extra seating downstairs for $0. Check Facebook, your network and other resources before you shell out for a new, full-priced item.
One way to economize is to take advantage of different money-saving apps and strategies. Here are some of the best ways to save — as long a you stick to your budget and only buy what you planned:
- 19. Clear your browsing history and logout of social media accounts
- 20. Abandon your online shopping cart
- 21. Search for promo codes before checking out
- 22. Use online rebate sites
- 23. Install coupon-finding apps
- 24. Use a stacking strategy for your rewards
- 25. Check for Groupons before paying full price
- 26. Take advantage of price-matching policies
You might be surprised to discover that many online retailers, including Amazon, use a trick called dynamic pricing to show you a higher price. It’s based on spending patterns and demand. You can get a less-biased price when you clear your browsing history (aim for getting rid of cookies) and log out of your social media accounts.
Looking to get a discount on a planned purchase? Abandon the cart before checkout. With some retailers, if you abandon a cart with items inside, will send you an email offering a discount if you return and complete the purchase.
In order for this to work, you need to log in to your account with the retailer and then leave your cart with items chosen for at least 24 to 48 hours.
No matter where you shop, there might be a promo code for that online retailer. Do a quick search before checking out. All you need to do is Google the store’s name, plus “promo code.”
I’ve saved money on shipping, as well as received anywhere from 10% to 35% off my purchase just by looking for promo codes before finalizing my checkout.
There are plenty of online rebate websites that can help you save money and even get a little back. Sites like Swagbucks and others all provide you with a way to earn points and cash back on what you spend.
I regularly use Swagbucks. With the browser plug-in, I get points for what I spend at participating online retailers. It’s particularly helpful when I buy airfare or book a hotel stay. I redeem my Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards since I do a lot of online shopping on that site.
There are a bunch of apps that find and apply coupons online. Honey, for instance, searches the web for the best discounts. RetailMeNot tracks sales from various merchants, while SavingStar locates grocery-store deals.
Already mentioned above is the use of credit card rewards to earn cash back and save money on travel. When you combine your credit card rewards with online coupon and rebates apps, you can make your spending even more efficient. I also like to stack with loyalty rewards.
One of my favorite examples is how I book travel using Orbitz, which partners with Swagbucks and has its own loyalty program. So when I book travel, I activate my Swagbucks earnings. Plus, I pay with a rewards credit card. This stacking strategy allows me to take advantage of three different rewards with a single purchase — one that I would have made anyway.
Whether you’re getting a haircut, taking an exercise class or going out to dinner, Groupon might have a discounted option. Before paying full price, check the site for great deals.
You can take your online price comparison skills and use them in the real world. Did you know stores like Target and Walmart will price-match items? For example, if you find the same vacuum cleaner online for a lower price, those stores will match it.
Before you buy, look online for a discounted price. If you find one, ask the store to match it.
We all have to eat and drink, but we don’t all have to spend a ton of money on meals. Learn how to save money by paying attention to how you get your nutrition.
- 27. Make a grocery list, and stick to it
- 28. Bring your lunch to work
- 29. Drink tap water, not bottled
- 30. Avoid soda
- 31. Skip the brand names and buy generic
- 32. Make drinks at home instead of going to the bar
- 33. Organize a potluck with your friends
- 34. Buy high-use items in bulk
- 35. Plan your meals
- 36. Go out to lunch instead of dinner
- 37. Seek out cheaper groceries
- 38. Grow your own delicious veggies
- 39. Make coffee at home
We’ve all been there — you show up at the grocery store hungry and start grabbing snacks off the shelves like you’re on an episode of “Supermarket Sweep.”
Grocery shopping while hungry is a recipe for overspending. To avoid this, make a grocery list of exactly what you need, and stick to it when you’re in the store. Make sure to eat beforehand, too.
Do you eat out for lunch Monday through Friday? Making lunch at home is a much more affordable option. You can still get away from your desk by eating outside or going for a walk after.
Just as daily lunches will eat up your budget, so will frequently eating out. Between markups on food and drinks, taxes and tip, you’ll likely spend a lot more eating out than cooking at home.
Bottled water is expensive, not to mention unnecessary for lots of people. If you have clean, drinkable tap water, then opt for that over bottled water.
If you’re not sure about the quality of your tap water, you can get a drinking water test kit or invest in a water filter to help remove impurities.
While we’re on the subject of drinking water, you can save money if you stick to your tap water instead of buying soda. This works whether you’re getting a drink to take with you or eating out.
Invest in a good water bottle and refill it as needed throughout the day. If you like a little flavor, use crushed fruit. I love adding cucumber and strawberries to my water.
Plus, not only can you save money by drinking water, but you’ll also be healthier. Regular soda drinking comes with an array of health risks, and that can increase your health care costs down the road.
If you usually buy items with brand name recognition, consider swapping them out for their generic counterparts. The ingredients are more or less the same, so why pay more just for advertising?
Alcohol has a huge markup at bars and restaurants. You can buy the same cocktail ingredients, wine or beer at a liquor store for a fraction of the cost.
You and your friends can alternate hosting duties at your homes, so you don’t sacrifice social time. You can also find local restaurants that let you bring your own wine or beer.
Love to meet friends for dinner? Try organizing a potluck instead of going to a restaurant. Everyone can bring one dish and collectively, you’ll have an amazing, cost-effective feast. Bonus points if each potluck has a theme.
Do you live near a Costco, BJ’s or Sam’s Club? Warehouse chains like these let you buy items in bulk with a lower markup than other stores.
While you might pay more money upfront, you’ll save in the long run with a bulk purchase of household supplies and nonperishable foods.
One way to avoid going out more often (and to eat healthier at the same time) is by planning your meals ahead of time. Planning ahead allows you to shop more effectively. You can do even better if you use coupons and sales flyers from local grocery stores to help you organize a low-cost menu for the week.
There’s nothing wrong with going out to eat every now and then. When you do, though, you can save money by going to lunch instead of dinner. Much of the time, lunch costs less. That means a smaller bill and a smaller tip.
I love Whole Foods, but the saying, “Whole Foods, whole paycheck” exists for a reason. Where you grocery shop has a big effect on your bill. Look for discount chains like Aldi. Also, pay attention to the types of foods that are cheaper at different stores. One of my local stores is known for the lowest-cost produce, while another regularly sells meat at a discount.
You can also save on some items by going to the day-old store. When I was growing up, my mom used to go to a discount bakery with goods verging on being expired. She’d buy several items and freeze what we wouldn’t use immediately.
Groceries are a major part of many people’s budget, so finding the cheapest ones could save you a lot from week to week.
Do you have a green thumb? If you’ve got a little space, you can grow tomatoes, kale and other veggies. Produce doesn’t get any more local than your own backyard. Pay special attention to vegetables that can be frozen or canned for use during the winter.
I also like to dry my own spices for use during the winter. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to buy basil, thyme, rosemary or other herbs at the store.
Unless you need a latte to function, consider reducing the number of coffee drinks you buy out. As a replacement, make your own at home with a coffee machine or French press.
The average cup of coffee costs about $3, versus closer to 30 cents when you make it at home. By making coffee at home, you could save $2.70 per cup. If you’re a daily drinker, that’s daily savings.
Those coffee runs to Starbucks do add up. Making coffee at home instead is one of the easiest ways to save money every day.
Who doesn’t love an extended vacation? The good news is that travel doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg — you can even travel while repaying student loan debt. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of every travel dollar:
- 40. Stop taking so many taxis
- 41. Take an uberPOOL instead of an UberX
- 42. Plan your road trip for gas usage
- 43. Get strategic about buying airfare
- 44. Look for cheap lodging options, like a hostel or campground
- 45. Pay attention to your travel destination
- 46. Use a card with no foreign transaction fees
- 47. Travel during the slow season
- 48. Look for free passes
- 49. Sign up for partner rewards
Taxis are one of the most expensive transportation options out there. If you’re spending a lot in an area, consider alternatives, like biking, walking, taking the subway or using a ride-share service.
UberPOOL, where you share your ride with other passengers, tends to be cheaper than UberX. While you’ll need to set aside some extra time to reach your destination, you’ll cut the cost of your trip substantially.
Love road tripping? Use a gas calculator like the one from the U.S. Department of Energy to figure out how to plot a trip that is likely to save you money on gas.
There are some tried-and-true tactics when it comes to finding cheap plane tickets. You should use a price-comparison site like Skyscanner to find the best fare. You’ll also find the best deals if you keep your dates flexible.
Travel expenses can add up, but you can keep your lodging budget low if you avoid pricey hotels. Consider camping or staying in a dorm or private room in a hostel.
A couple years ago, I spent two weeks in Canada, and the Canadian dollar was about 30% lower than the U.S. dollar. By paying for everything with my U.S. dollar credit card (and paying it off upon my return to avoid interest), I pretty much got everything at a discount.
Look for destinations where the U.S. dollar is strong relative to the local currency and save on your vacation accordingly. I spent some time in Hungary and the Czech Republic this past summer, where my dollars went further than I expected.
It can get pricey when you travel abroad. Currency exchange fees can be a real killer. Plus, if you use a credit or debit card, you might get hit with foreign transaction fees.
But not if you use the right card. I like using travel rewards credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. It saves money on travel, letting you enjoy your destination more.
You can travel during the off-peak season with your kids, as long as you’re careful about the timing and you make an effort to keep their schoolwork from suffering. Go on a trip during the school year, and you might be surprised at how much you can save.
Don’t forget to look for deals and free passes while you travel. I like to check Groupon in the area I travel to.
I also like stopping at the hotel desk to see if they have deals. I once got two-for-one at a water park, just because I asked at the hotel desk for promotions.
You can stack travel rewards when you use partner rewards. For example, some hotel partners come with extra points for my Delta SkyMiles program. I have a credit card that also provides points for certain purchases. By using my branded miles credit card at a partner hotel (you usually have to register it on the credit card website), I get extra miles. And of course, I also get my hotel loyalty points on top of that.
This strategy has worked for me with car rentals and even with Amtrak, for when I take the train and look to build my loyalty rewards.
Many of us have recurring bills we pay. From health insurance costs to gym memberships, chances are you make regular payments to keep a number of services. Here’s how to save money on them:
- 50. Review your cellphone plan
- 51. Get a family plan
- 52. Consider a pay-as-you go plan
- 53. Share a Netflix subscription with a friend or family member
- 54. Look for reduced prices on your prescriptions
- 55. Consider a Health Savings Account
- 56. Save money on car insurance
- 57. Cancel the gym membership
- 58. Cut the cable
- 59. Identify and stop unused subscriptions
- 60. Review your insurance coverage needs
Look at your cellphone plan to see if you can cut costs. Do you have lots of leftover data per month? Would switching carriers save you money?
Despite what salespeople might say, it’s usually cheapest to pay the full price of a phone upfront. The pricier option would have you get a free phone but also get locked into a multi-year contract.
Compare your options to find the most cost-effective one for your needs.
While you’re looking at saving money on cellphone service, consider a family plan. Sharing with a sibling or your parents can mean a lower overall bill for everyone.
Look at the total bill, and then split it among everyone. It might surprise you to learn how much you can save.
For several years, I used an inexpensive Tracfone for my cellphone. My son’s first cellphone was a cheap touch-screen Tracfone that didn’t have contracts. You can find providers like Cricket and Republic Wireless that offer low-cost, pay-as-you go options, along with inexpensive phone options.
“We love people sharing accounts,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings once told TechCrunch. Sharing passwords isn’t a problem — in fact, the Netflix CEO encourages it!
Instead of paying for your account, share a subscription with one or more friends. Just look out for account limits.
Not all pharmacies charge the same amount on prescriptions. According to Consumer Reports, drugs can cost 10 times more at one store versus another.
Shop around for the best deal. If you’re paying out of pocket, check to see if you’re eligible for a FamilyWize discount.
If you can afford a high-deductible health plan, consider opening a Health Savings Account (HSA). You can save money on your taxes and prepare for unexpected health costs.
If you have a car, then auto insurance is a major monthly bill. Comparison shop once or twice a year when your policy is up for renewal. Get new quotes and ask your current insurer to match (or beat) the best offer. You can use a car insurance website to generate quotes, or call a local auto insurance broker to help you find a lower price.
Do you actually go to the gym? If not, one of the easiest ways to save money each month is to ditch that useless gym membership. Get an accountability buddy and work out at home or outside.
You knew it was coming. But it’s just so easy to get rid of cable and save money each month that it can’t be left off any list that tells you how to save money. Replace cable with a streaming service and rake in the savings.
Other subscriptions might be holding you back. Maybe you signed up for a free trial and forgot to cancel. Perhaps you used to read that online magazine, but it’s no longer a priority. Review your bank and credit card statements to identify unused subscriptions and cancel them.
You can get help with this process by using apps like Truebill and Trim to make the process easier.
One of the keys to saving money in the long run is making sure your assets are properly protected. Review your home, auto, life and health insurance needs.
If you want a lower insurance bill, you can increase your deductible. Be careful, though. A higher deductible leads to lower monthly premiums, but you have to be prepared to pay more out of pocket. A good emergency fund can help you cover these costs.
Also, do you have adequate coverage? If not, you might need to make adjustments. This is essential if you want to reduce the chances of an unexpected disaster wiping out your finances.
What you spend heating and cooling your home can really add up over the course of a year. Along those same lines, how you manage your car can also have a big impact. Use the following tips to reduce what you spend on energy and car use.
- 61. Remember to turn off the lights
- 62. Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
- 63. Use a smart power strip
- 64. Don’t blast the heat
- 5. Seal your windows with plastic
- 66. Get a free home energy audit
- 67. Have your furnace serviced regularly
- 68. Use fans during the summer
- 69. Avoid using the stove and oven during summer
- 70. Remember to change your car’s oil regularly
- 71. Check to see if you really need premium gasoline
- 72. Use gas apps to help you find lower prices
- 73. Drive defensively
If you leave the lights on, you’ll end up with an inflated electric bill. Remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room to save money and help the environment.
Replace your old-school light bulbs with LED or CFL light bulbs. These bulbs use less energy, so it lowers your bill. Plus, they often last longer. You might need to fork over a little more upfront, but these bulbs can more than pay for themselves over time.
Plan the way you use your appliances by getting a smart power strip to manage your electricity consumption. TVs, computers and other items can suck away some of your power as “vampires” and drive up your bill. Plug those appliances into a smart strip you can flip off overnight and you’ll see some savings.
Anyone who lives in a cold climate knows how high the heating bill can climb in January and February.
Just like the lights, remember to turn the heat down when you’re not in your apartment or house. Reducing the heat at night can help save money, too.
Turning down the heat won’t help much if it’s all escaping through your windows.
If your windows aren’t the best, try the old trick of sealing them with plastic during the winter to prevent heat loss and lower your bill.
Check to see if you can get a free energy audit in your area via the U.S. Department of Energy. Experts will show you ways to go green and save money on electricity.
An efficient furnace will work better and save money on your heating bill. Make sure to service the furnace and also switch out the filters regularly.
Go as long as possible without the air conditioning. Use low-energy fans during the summer to circulate the air.
Another trick is to open your windows and use fans to send air through your home during the night. In the morning, after the house has cooled down, shut the windows. With this method, you might get well into the afternoon before you need the air conditioner.
Plan meals that won’t require you to heat up the house. I grill outside a lot during the summer.
It’s also possible to eat more cold meals, use a crockpot or Instapot and use the microwave to keep from heating the house (and turning on the air conditioner to cool it down).
Along similar lines, you should take care of your car with regular oil changes. The small cost of an oil change pales in comparison to the cost of extensive auto repair.
Not every car needs premium grade gasoline. You might be spending more money than you need to with each fill-up. Check to see if your car really needs it, and then if it doesn’t, switch to a lower grade that can save you money.
You can save on gas by using a free app like GasBuddy that plots out gas prices. Get the best prices every time you fill up.
Drive the way we teach our kids. Accelerate gradually and brake slowly as you approach lights. Practice different defensive driving skills and don’t speed, so that you’ll get better gas mileage and save on gas.
One of the best ways to get your finances in shape and save money every day is to focus on fees and interest you don’t need to be paying. Check out these everyday tips to save money and start plugging the leaks in your daily budget.
- 74. Avoid ATM fees
- 75. Use your credit card strategically
- 76. Pay off your credit card each month
- 77. Be intentional about which payment method you use
- 78. Open a free bank account
- 79. Avoid convenience fees
- 80. Just say no to food delivery fees
- 81. Watch out for credit-card convenience checks
- 82. Extended warranty fees
- 83. Baggage fees
- 84. Shipping fees
- 85. Late payment fees
- 86. Overdraft fees
The average ATM fee for withdrawals eclipses $4. Some ATMs even have double charges, one from the machine and one from your bank.
I found that out the hard way after using an ATM at my nearby grocery store. The ATM took out $3, and my bank charged an additional $3.50. When I realized I was paying $6.50 to take out $20, I quickly stopped using that ATM.
Look for fee-free ATMs, or use the ATM at your bank. Some grocery stores also let you get money back when you pay with a debit card. That way, you can get cash without worrying about ATM fees.
If you have a credit card that offers cash back or travel points, remember to use it in ways that maximize your rewards.
Some cards have rotating cashback categories. One month you’ll save money on gas, and the next you’ll save on shopping at Amazon. Don’t change your spending habits, but pay attention to your purchases to get the best rewards from your normal expenses.
Every time you carry a balance, you run the risk of paying interest on your credit card. If you really want to save money, then you definitely need to avoid interest. Pay off that credit card every month.
Do you find yourself spending more freely with a credit card? You’re not alone. In fact, a long list of studies over the last couple of decades indicate that consumers spend more when they use plastic. That means you are more likely to carry a balance — and get stuck paying the interest.
If using a credit card encourages you to spend more money, save it instead by using a different payment method, like Dave Ramsey’s envelope system.
Does your bank have account fees? If so, consider switching to one of the many banks with free checking accounts.
You shouldn’t be paying fees for savings accounts either. Pay attention to the types of fees charged by financial institutions, and do your best avoid them.
When you pay $1.50 here and $3.00 here in the name of convenience, you might be surprised at how it all adds up.
Whenever possible, look for ways to avoid convenience fees. For example, sites like Fandango and StubHub charge a fee for completing purchases. Look for apps that won’t charge you these fees. It’s one of the best ways to avoid getting nickeled-and-dimed.
If you like to order in, try to avoid food delivery fees. You can easily filter your options with a site like Grubhub.
It’s tempting to use that convenience check from your credit card to pay a bill or even get cash. However, once you use that convenience check, you might be stuck paying extra. Even if you get a promotional 0% APR, you might still be subject to a fee that reduces the efficiency of the convenience check.
Do you really need that “protection” plan? An extended warranty might mean an additional fee that you probably don’t need to make.
Check your credit card benefits to see if you get free extended warranty coverage before you accept an unnecessary cost.
Many major airlines charge baggage fees. However, you can avoid these fees by traveling light and using a carry-on.
It’s also possible to get a break on baggage fees when you use some credit cards, or when you fly with certain airlines.
Watch out for shipping charges. When you can avoid these costs, you can save over time. Many online stores offer free shipping when you spend a certain amount, although it’s also important not to buy extra items just to avoid the shipping fees. Carefully plan your purchases so that you can get free shipping.
With some retailers, it’s also possible to get free shipping to a local store, where you can then pick up the item. This can be a good solution if a local retailer doesn’t have the item you want.
Make an effort to pay your bills on time to avoid late payment fees. Just about any service provider can charge a late fee. My cable company charges a fee of $25 if I pay more than five days late.
Make sure to send your payments well ahead of time, so they get there as expected. Setting up an automatic bill pay on your student loans, for example, can also help you avoid late fees.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), revenues from consumer overdraft and non-sufficient fund fees total as much as $17 billion each year. If you’re among those who get charged these fees, it’s important to take a step back and do what you can to avoid them.
Pay attention and track your spending. It’s especially important to do so, since one of the dirty tricks banks use to charge you fees is to apply debits before applying credits, no matter the order of the transactions. That can really add to what you pay in fees.
Consider this: The CFPB reports that the majority of debit card overdraft fees occur on transactions that amount to $24 or less — and the median overdraft fee is $34. For a three-day “loan” on that overdraft fee, said the CFPB, that amounts to an APR of 17,000%. Yikes!
No matter what you do on a day-to-day basis, there are times of year that are budget-busters. Holidays, back-to-school and other seasonal events can cause problems. You can minimize the damage with the following tips:
- 87. Shop your closet for last year’s school supplies
- 88. Back-to-school clothes year-round
- 89. Buy when items are on sale — not around a season
- 90. Buy Halloween candy a little bit at a time
- 91. Don’t fall for Black Friday myths
- 92. Consider a homemade holiday
- 93. Use a gift drawing
- 94. Create rules for holiday spending
- 95. Plan finger foods for holiday entertaining
- 96. The dollar store is your friend
- 97. Set aside money year-round
- 98. DIY holiday decor
- 99. Use decor year-to-year
- 100. Shop after the season is over
- 101. Sell or return unwanted gifts
The last two years, I haven’t bought new school supplies for my son. Why? Because I got organized and realized there were usable notebooks, colored pencils, pens and folders from years past.
Before spending on back-to-school, see what you already have. You might be surprised.
There’s no reason to spend a ton of money for back-to-school clothes. Instead, shop clothing sales year-round, as needed. Consider buying clothes one or two sizes bigger so you can purchase them during end-of-season sales. Just buy two or three fresh pieces for the kids’ wardrobes at the start of the school year, and then plan the rest throughout the year.
You might be surprised to discover that Memorial Day sales, Presidents Day sales and other shopping events aren’t always the best deals. Instead, track items you know you’ll buy and pay attention to their lowest prices. Buy at that point, and don’t get caught up in the hype.
Start buying Halloween candy two or three months ahead of time. Look for sales, and buy a little at a time so that it doesn’t break your grocery budget in one week. Your only concern is not eating the candy before the end of October.
Black Friday isn’t always the best time to make purchases, and you don’t want to fall for the hype. Make a list, be clear about your goals and don’t get distracted by “deals” that might not really be the best price.
Encourage your family members to do homemade holiday gifts rather than spend a lot of money buying items.
Rather than buying gifts for everyone in your circle, see if you can do a drawing. Everyone draws a name out of a hat and gets a present for that person. That way, you don’t end up overwhelmed by all the gift-giving.
One of the best strategies is to create rules around holiday spending. Set a limit, or put away the credit card. When you sit down and create rules, you are more likely to reduce what you spend.
Rather than having a big sit-down dinner, plan finger foods for holiday entertaining. Let people mingle and munch on small plates. You can even plan a potluck so you aren’t on the hook for all the food and drink costs.
My mom introduced me to the joys of the dollar store. You can get decent serving platters for a buck apiece. Package of small paper plates? $1. Streamers? Wrapping paper? Other decor? Simple and low cost. I still couldn’t believe it when I walked out with everything I needed for a holiday (except food) for less than $12.
Don’t scramble to create a budget last-minute. Instead, use your spending as a guide for what you’ll need next year. Then, each week or each month, set aside some money in a high-yield account.
For example, if you know you’ll spend $700 during the holidays and $500 on back-to-school, set aside $100 a month. You can even break it down to a weekly savings goal, or try strategies like the 52-week plan to boost your ability to save for seasonal budget-busters.
You’ll build up the reserve you need to draw on, rather than feel like you need to turn to credit cards.
Look for ways to create low-cost holiday decor. I have an abundance of vases from flowers delivered to me, so I fill those with pine cones from the yard, or with extra ornaments. It’s quick and easy. There are plenty of ways to make holiday decor simply and inexpensively.
There’s no reason to buy new decorations each year. Use the same decorations as long as possible. It saves you money, and your home still looks festive.
If you must shop for holiday decor, wait until the after-holiday clearance sales. These can help you freshen your look next year for cheap. I also find that I can buy next year’s holiday cards at a steep discount by shopping at after-season sales.
Finally, make sure to sell or return unwanted gifts. Even if you don’t have a receipt, you might be able to get in-store credit — to get something that you can actually use. If you get really desperate and no one will take the gift, donate it to a thrift store and help someone else save money. (If you itemize, it could also be a tax deduction.)
If you truly want to implement ways to save money, you should keep track of your expenses. There are a bunch of great budgeting apps to help you, like YNAB (You Need a Budget) or Mint.
By tracking your habits, you’ll know exactly where your money is going. That way, your balance won’t be a surprise when you check your bank account.
Try incorporating some of these 101 savings tips into your life, and notice how your savings grow.
You could even start putting money away for retirement or using it to pay back your student loans as fast as possible. If only Benjamin Franklin could see you now!