How to Save Money: The Best Creative Hacks

You’ve heard it before when researching the best ways for how to save money.

“Give up your daily Starbucks habit to save $XXX per year!”

Sure, it can be a simple way to save, but is that actually going to happen?

Essentially, that is a metaphor to get you to assess your regular habits to see where you’re wasting money.

One change isn’t going to make or break your budget, but combining effective, creative hacks can make a great difference.

And I’m not just talking about “hacks” like turning off your lights or automating your savings. We all know that.

So I’ve spent some time researching and found the best hacks to help you save. Whether that’s on groceries, at home, or on vacation, there are many easy ways to save money that you may not have thought of.

Check it out some of these clever ideas:

46 Effective Ways to Save More Money

1. Only grocery shop on certain days

Find what day your local grocery store starts their deals each week and shop on that day. Many websites will tell you Wednesday, but it can vary. This is typically because you have two sets of deals (the current and previous weeks) that the store will accept.

2. Eat a meal before grocery shopping

Impulse shopping. We’ve all done it. Eat beforehand and you won’t have those mid-aisle cravings.

3. Download your retailers app

Often, stores will offer you personalized and easy to access deals through their app. Download and check it out. I’ve personally saved $250 so far this year using these, which I think is some pretty awesome progress.

4. Use a price-comparison tool

There are a lot of comparison tools out there, but I would recommend checking out:

Even if you already do a lot of comparison shopping, this will, at the very least, save you time.

5. Pack a picnic for date-night

Saving money on date night can be a post on it’s own, but a great, fun way to save money in order while winning some points for effort is to make dinner yourself and pack a picnic.

Not only do you not spend extra money on marked-up items at restaurants, but you also won’t need to tip for table-side service.

6. Use those old pantry items instead of shopping as often

We all have those cans or boxes of food in our pantries that have sat there for months.

Challenge yourself to find unique recipes to make with that unused food before going to the grocery store next time.

7. Never use a hotel or airline’s website to book travel

Sites like Priceline, Expedia, Kayak, Booking.com, and more are all fantastic options for finding the best travel deals. You’ll get discounted packages instead of relatively full-priced options.

8. Use Airbnb or couch surf on your next vacation

Instead of going with a regular travel brand, stay at someone’s house instead to save quite a bit of money. Keep in mind Airbnb doesn’t offer the same guarantees many hotel brands offer in terms of room condition, amenities, etc., but it can be a great option to save money.

9. Buy discounted gift cards

A great option for saving money during the holidays as well, use websites like http://www.cardpool.com/ or http://www.giftcardgranny.com/ to buy resold gift cards at a discount.

Make sure not to buy gift cards for stores you don’t shop at simply because they’re on sale. Focus on stores you’re at often and you can save money on your regular trips.

10. Get haircuts at a trade school

People learning how to cut hair need to practice somehow. And to get that practice, they’ll charge next to nothing.

11. Invest in your health

I’ve detailed why investing in your health is one of the best investments you can make. In the short term, however, getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising will help keep sickness at bay so you don’t have to miss work, spend money on medicine, or time (and money) at the doctor’s office.

12. Save that extra water from your shower

OK, we all know you can save money by taking shorter showers, but what can you do about all of that water you’re wasting while you’re waiting for the water to warm up?

Take a 5-gallon bucket and place it underneath your shower stream while you’re waiting. Then, you can use that water for any plants or grass you may have outside. This can help you by not having to water as much.

Most shower heads run 2.5 to 3 gallons per minute, so that water can add up over time.

13. Turn down your water heater setting and buy an insulation cover

Again, using less water (or hot water specifically) can save you money, but the next step is to actually turn your hot water heater’s temperature setting down. Your water heater won’t need to work as hard to heat up your water, in turn saving you money on your gas or electric bill.

You can also spend $20 – $30 on a water heater insulation blanket. According to Energy.gov, it can save $20 – $45 annually. So in the grand scheme of things this isn’t a huge help, but it adds up!

14. Manage your water temperature for laundry

While hot water technically sanitizes better due to the heat, if you have simple load, consider using cold water instead to save money.

15. Cut back on your drinking and smoking

A common tip to save money is cutting back on your regular coffee-drinking habit. But if you’re going to give up any regular & expensive habit, I would suggest you look at any drinking or smoking habit you have.

Why?

Both (and smoking in particular) are extremely detrimental to your health. And remember how I just suggested you invest in your health?

And they’re expensive. If you partake in either of these habits, I challenge you to write down how much you spend on them for at least two weeks or at most a month. How much money are you potentially wasting? How much money are you spending on an unhealthy habit?

16. Find workouts for free online

Instead of joining a gym or purchasing workout plans, stream workouts or classes online for free.

17. Create your own household cleaners

Rather than spending money on chemical-filled cleaners for various uses, find some cleaning solutions online that you can create at home.

Greatist offers some great recipes that you can use for a DIY project.

18. Build your own mini air conditioner

Of course you can save money by keeping your thermostat a few degrees higher during the summer, but the really creative hack is building your own portable air conditioner.

Two great tutorials can be found on YouTube and Business Insider.

19. Don’t waste money on greeting cards

A lot of savings tips start with DIY for good reason. One of the DIY tips you can use is to make your own cards. Draw a small picture, write a heart-felt message and you’re good to go.

20. Have a potluck instead of going out with friends

Eating out adds up, particularly when you’re with a group of people.

Appetizers, drinks, dessert…

Instead, offer to host a potluck where everyone brings something different. You get a wide variety of food and in the end you are still spending time with those who matter.

21. Find free admission days at local museums

Rather than going on days that you need to pay or going to another event/location, museums can be a great activity that doesn’t have to cost money.

22. Build a garden in your backyard

Consider building your own garden in your backyard. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it will allow you to grow some of your own food like vegetables or herbs.

23. Ignore the soda and hydrate with water!

Not only is water much less expensive than other options (don’t buy bottled, but perhaps try a filter or drink from the tap) but it also is significantly healthier without any added sugars.

24. Double up your recipe

Not only does it save time, but you will then have extra that you can use for another meal later that reduces your cost for a lunch or dinner. Just make sure to properly store your leftovers and eat it soon. Most American’s throw away a ton of food each year and they’re just wasting money doing that.

25. Keep dessert simple

Rather than buying a large tub of ice cream or going out for something, consider buying a bag of chocolate chips (that is if you like chocolate) for a few dollars. For dessert, grab a spoonful to satisfy your sweet tooth and avoid an expensive treat.

26. Carpool to work or when running errands

Talk to people at work and see how they get there. Is anyone on your way, living near you, or passing by you? See if you can figure out a fair carpool situation

If you know some of your neighbors, talk about when you’re needing to go to a store and perhaps you can carpool.

27. Find alternative transportation

There’s always the option of public transportation to work, but if you live nearby consider riding your bike or walking.

Even if you still keep your car, remember to call your auto insurance company and adjust your yearly mileage to reflect your new habit. This can save you money each month.

28. Keep extra weight out of your car

If you drive often, make sure you keep as little extra weight in your car as possible. While it might not seem like much, the more weight in the car the harder your engine has to work. And that translates to lower gas mileage.

29. Combine cell phone plans with extended family

As long as you’re confident in others ability to make on-time payments, talk to nearby extended family members about sharing a phone plan and splitting the costs.

30. Willing to travel out of the US for dental work?

While I certainly advocate you do your research before taking this step, dental work is signficantly cheaper in Mexico than it is in the United States. While only you can decide if you’re comfortable enough doing this (and you will have to take into account travel costs), I will simply say that I’ve read about people and know people (my grandmother, specifically) who went to Mexico and saved quite a bit of money.

31. Take extra condiments from restaurants

Ketchup, salt, pepper, napkins (not a condiment, I know), all are options that you can stock up on if you happen to find yourself in a fast food restaurant.

32. Only buy a small drink at restaurants

Are you eating in at a fast food restaurant? Do they offer free refills of drinks? Even if you have multiple people, get one small drink, a few straws and share the beverage. There are free refills, so just keep going back instead of spending extra money for a large drink or multiple cups.

33. Golf a lot? Pick up spare balls on the course.

As long as no one is playing nearby where you may be taking someone’s ball, pick up any forgotten balls on the course. Find any balls that went over the fence at the driving range. There isn’t a need to go back and buy expensive sleeves of balls when so many are simply lost on the course.

34. Going to school? Graduate sooner.

Easier said then done, I know. Going to a university is thought of as a four-year commitment. It doesn’t necessarily have to be. While some programs are set up to need four years, there are certain ways (it will be specific to each program) to accelerate your progress so you don’t have to pay as much over the long haul. Take an extra class or two each semester if you can or research if a summer or winter class would be cheaper or allow you to get ahead. It will require a lot of hard work, but the savings could be well worth it.

35. Exchange clothes with friends or family occasionally

Rather than going out and buying new items, get together with friends or family and give away what you don’t wear anymore. Then, you can pick out new options too. Of course, you have to like what your friends wear for this to work, and be similar sizes, but it can at least be worth a shot!

36. Shop quickly

Don’t linger. That’s where impulse buys come in. Have your list, get in and get out.

37. Unplug unused electronics

Depending on what you read, this can either be a great way to save some money or a useless hack. For the most part, it depends on just how many things you have plugged in.

Native Energy suggests you could save $100+ per year by eliminating as much “phantom power” use as possible.

The biggest culprits?

DVR, cable box, audio equipment, or charging a computer.

38. Ditch cable

While not a huge “hack,” if you cancel cable, get an over-the-air HD antenna, subscribe to a service like Sling TV and Netflix, you’re spending $29/month plus a one time cost for the antenna. That small savings adds up! Check out other services you can use to cut the cord over here

39. Visit garage sales

Rather than spending on marked up items at stores, try browsing garage sales on the weekend to see if there are any household items you can pick up for cheap.

40. Ditch Microsoft Office

Google Drive apps are free, so why not use those instead? Plus it’s easy to share and collaborate on those files if need be.

41. Wash your hair less

This method has gained in popularity recently and while some swear off washing their hair all together, simply cleansing your hair every other day or twice a week could be a good compromise.

42. Simply ask for a discount

Ask a store, restaurant or service if they have any coupons/discounts available. Perhaps they have deals for new customers, people who are repeat visitors, etc.. The worst they can say is no, but at lot of people are hesitant to ask.

43. Ask about any corporate discounts your company offers

This could be a discount on hotels, phone plans, travel deals, etc. For example, I can receive an 8% discount on my phone plan by verifying my work email address and I was able to find out about that by asking HR.

44. Ask friends of family to take more formal photographs and edit them yourself

Rather than paying a photographer, ask someone you know to take pictures for an hour at a nice location outside. Don’t just take one of a certain pose and be done with it though. Take many of each pose to ensure that you can pick the best one. If you’re taking pictures for an hour, you should have a couple hundred pictures.

Then, download a program called GIMP, which is essentially a free Photoshop. Use some of the basic image editing tools to make your best snaps look like a professional took then.

45. Wear some of your clothes more than once

When it comes to shirts or pants, consider wearing some of your garments more than once. Obviously use your own discretion here, but this has the potential to reduce how many loads of laundry you have to do.

46. Don’t spend money on goods, spend money on experiences

We may hear a lot of extreme debt payoff or general savings stories, but the majority of the population does not operate that way. We spend money on things like eating out, new clothes, vacations and more. What I challenge you to do is control that spending and spend money on experiences instead of material goods. There have been many studies out there that discuss that materials don’t increase your happiness but experiences do. And think about it. In 20 years, are you going to remember that week-long trip you took or that brand new TV you spent a ton of money on?

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