Looking for ways to save money on a tight budget? We’ve got your back!
Saving money doesn’t take super-human discipline or million dollar paychecks. Real people can save money too. It’s one of the most important life skills you can learn, and there’s no better time to start than now!
If you’re worried about where to start, don’t be. Even today’s super savers had to start somewhere. Heck, there was even a time when I was broke, in debt, and barely scraping by.
Once I learned how to save money, my life changed forever. With a few simple tehcniques, I no longer worry about living paycheck to paycheck. My family doesn’t have to scrape by. Even if we lost our income, I know we’d be OK because the money-saving skills I’ve learned will carry us through.
When searching for ways to save, you have three basic options to get ahead – saving more, earning more, and spending less. These are all legit ways to improve your finances, and a combination of all three usually yields the best results.
Once you’ve covered all the ways to save money on a tight budget, check out this list of ways to make extra money as well!
So, what do you say? Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- 61 Effective Ways to Save Money Fast
- 1. Make some easy money
- 2. Automatically save your spare change
- 3. Get refunds on price drops
- 4. Automatically negotiate bills, save on old subscriptions, and more
- 5. Start an online savings account
- 6. Get a free 401(k) audit
- 7. Do your own taxes
- 8. Improve your credit score
- 9. Try a balance transfer
- 10. Save on insurance
- 11. Use shopping portals
- 12. Get paid to drive
- 13. Deliver food
- 14. Automate your bills
- 15. Plan meals ahead of time
- 16. Try a discount cell phone provider
- 17. Have a monthly plan
- 18. Track your spending
- 19. Build an emergency fund
- 20. Pay yourself first
- 21. Make your savings automatic
- 22. Track your progress
- 23. Try “no spend” days
- 24. Focus on the big items
- 25. Eat at home
- 26. Brown bag it to work
- 27. Eat leftovers once a week
- 28. Try breakfast for dinner
- 29. Shop for sales
- 30. Go meatless once a week
- 31. Use restaurant coupons
- 32. Ask for discounts
- 33. Threaten to leave…and mean it
- 34. Cut the cord to cable
- 35. Turn down the heat
- 36. Open the windows
- 37. Don’t let others spend your money
- 38. He who has the most toys doesn’t win
- 39. Save money on nights out
- 40. Invite friends over for a night in
- 41. Hit a matinée or Netflix and chill
- 42. Cut back on expensive hobbies
- 43. Budget for it
- 44. Refuse to buy into the fashion game
- 45. Shop at garage sales
- 46. Save on kids items
- 47. Use credit card rewards
- 48. Travel off-peak
- 49. Pick the cheapest days to fly
- 50. Don’t commit to just one points program
- 51. Make the most of your points
- 52. Set a travel budget…and stick to it
- 53. Drive when possible
- 54. Fly coach
- 55. Go to expensive destinations but book cheap hotels
- 56. Travel to cheap destinations and stay in nice hotels
- 57. Don’t eat at the airport
- 58. Buy a sightseeing pass
- 59. Visit the welcome center
- 60. Get the Southwest Companion Pass
- 61. Use a discount broker
- Learning How to Save Money
61 Effective Ways to Save Money Fast
As you probably know, there are a bazillion ways to save money. To learn how to save money and get ahead quickly, you need to focus on the right strategies. Use these 61 tips to help you save money faster!
1. Make some easy money
One of the best ways to save money fast is to make some extra pocket change. Even a few extra dollars a week can pay big dividends – especially when it’s combined with some of the other money saving techniques we mention.
Depending on the site you’re using, you can get paid to take surveys, surf the internet, watch online videos, and more! While taking surveys is never going to make you rich, it is one of the easiest ways to make extra money on your own time.
2. Automatically save your spare change
You know you should be saving money, but it isn’t always easy, right? Make it simple with Chime.
Chime is an online banking app that helps you save without lifting a finger. Every time you swipe your card, your purchase is rounded up to the next dollar, and your extra change is automatically deposited in a savings account. It’s super simple and your savings will add up quickly. (You can also track your spending, send money to family, and even get paid early!)
3. Get refunds on price drops
Do you hate buying something for full price, then seeing it on sale the next week? Well, you may be entitled to a refund of the difference.
Several big name stores (like Amazon.com, Target, Macy’s, and more) have price adjustment policies that allow you to claim a refund when a price drops. This could end up saving you hundreds on certain transactions.
Paribus is a free app that scans your email for receipts. When the price drops, they’ll automatically file a price adjustment claim for you. It’s as simple as that.
4. Automatically negotiate bills, save on old subscriptions, and more
Don’t know how to save money? Start by getting rid of the things you no longer use.
Every few months, go back through your expenses and look for ways to cut out the waste. Keep your eyes peeled for new discounts and promotions, and be sure to note any monthly bills you’re still paying but don’t need.
Better yet, you can do this all automatially. Trim is a free tool that helps you identify all of your monthly subscriptions, even those that are hard to find. When you locate a bill you’re no longer using, just tell them to cancel it, and they’ll do it for you. Trim also helps negotiate your cable bills, finds cash back deals, and more.
5. Start an online savings account
Generally speaking, online savings accounts offer a heck of a lot higher interest rates than what you’ll find at a traditional brick and mortar bank. So, you’re already earning more there. Having a separate account for savings is also a great way to help you spend less. You can read more about our favorite online savings account here, or check out some of the other offers below.
6. Get a free 401(k) audit
You may already be saving for retirement, but do you know how much it is costing you in fees? Saving half a percentage point could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the long run. That means lots more money in your pocket for retirement.
Blooom offers a to analyze your retirment accounts and show you exactly how much those 401(k) fees are costing you. They’ll also provide some suggestions to improve your retirement account, and they’ll do it all for FREE. Get your free 401(k) checkup here.
7. Do your own taxes
Using an accountant to do your taxes can get really expensive. With modern tax prep programs, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t do your taxes yourself. You can even start your taxes FREE with TurboTax Online Federal Free Edition. Start off free and upgrade as needed.
These programs are cheap, easy to use, and will save you a ton of money. Your taxes aren’t that complicated. I do my own and have for years.
8. Improve your credit score
Did you know that your credit score can impact your insurance rates? It’s true. Credit Sesame is a great place to monitor your credit score for free. You’ll receive monthly credit score updates and alerts whenever anything changes with your credit, helping you to combat identity theft quickly. They’ll even give you $50,000 in identity theft insurance for free.
9. Try a balance transfer
One of the best ways to save money is to get out of debt fast! Debt is the biggest obstacle standing between you and the life of your dreams. So, the question is, how do you slay this beast?
Paying off high-interest credit card debt is a good start. Try transferring your credit card debt to a 0% interest balance transfer card. You won’t have to make interest payments for months, which means that you’re entire payment goes toward the principal on your debt. Pay it off during the promo period and you’ll find yourself way ahead. (Just be sure you don’t use it to dig yourself a deeper hole!)
10. Save on insurance
Speaking of insurance, at least once a year, take a look at everything you spend money on and question it. Do you need it? Can you find it cheaper? Is there a better option? Compare car insurance quotes, investment programs, entertainment expenses – everything you have. Question it, shop around, and find more ways to save money!
11. Use shopping portals
Shopping portals are an easy way to save money shopping online. Not only do they provide discounts, some of them even give you cash back when you click through their link!
My favorite site to use is Ebates. Just head to the site, decide where you’re going to shop (like Amazon.com, Kohls, Target, etc.), claim great discounts, and earn cash back for shopping. Use this link to get started with Ebates!
12. Get paid to drive
Again, making a little extra money is a great way to save even more. So, why not get paid to drive? Use your own car, work on your own schedule, and make money people around. It’s that simple. Learn more about driving with Uber here.
13. Deliver food
Don’t want to drive people around in your car? I get it. Try delivering food instead. Start driving for UberEATS and make extra money right away!
14. Automate your bills
Many companies offer a discount if you agree to make automatic payments. Additionally, you should never miss another payment and incur a late fee. Automate your bills and stash that discount away in your savings.
As an added bonus, try paying every bill you can with a cash back rewards credit card. Not only are you getting the discount for automatic payments, you are also getting more money back into your account.
15. Plan meals ahead of time
Saving money on food is a lot easier when you plan your meals in advance. Before you go shopping, browse the weekly ads and look for coupons. Plan your meals around the sale items, be flexible with your plan once you’re there, and you’ll cut your grocery bill in no time.
Meal planning systems, like the $5 Meal Plan, can also save you a lot of time and money. For just $5 a month, you can get an entire month’s worth of meal ideas that save you the headache of searching for recipes. Plus, most meals cost just $2 a person or less. In my opinion, these are definitely worth checking out.
16. Try a discount cell phone provider
Old habits die hard, but you can also save thousands of dollars each year by switching cell phone companies. The big dogs no longer have a monopoly on good cell phone service. You can leverage new technologies and discount providers to get high quality cell phone service. Heck, you can even get a rad smartphone. Two of our favorite companies are Ting and Republic Wireless.
17. Have a monthly plan
I know you don’t want to hear this, but a budget is the most important tool you can use to save money on a tight budget. Luckily, a budget doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t mean you have to go without. In fact, a budget actually helps you get what you want by ecouraging you to use your money more efficiently.
Simply put, a budget is your financial plan for the month. My favorite type of budget is called a zero-sum budget. This tool helps you:
- Control your money
- Remember and plan for bills
- Avoid overspending
- Prioritize your needs and wants
- Get what you really want by using your money more efficiently
Seriously, a budget is one of the most powerful financial tools at your disposal. Learn how to create a budget with this guide, and you’ll start saving money in no time!
18. Track your spending
Tracking your spending is your budget’s sidekick. While your budget lays out the plan for the month, tracking your spending provides the actual results. Additionally, it helps you identify and fix any problem areas within your budget itself.
Want an easy way to track your expenses AND create an easy-to-follow budget? Tiller is a great way to do both. Set up your account in minutes, and the program automatically updates your progress daily. It costs just a few bucks a month and can save you a ton of time and money. Use this link to try Tiller for FREE! for a month.
19. Build an emergency fund
Learning how to save money means preparing for the unexpected. These expenses always pop up, and – if you don’t have a cushion they can derail your budget and your progress. That’s why you need an emergency fund.
An emergency fund is a pile of money you stash away specifically for financial emergencies. (Find our step-by-step guide to building an efund here.) Start by saving $1,000 for when things go wrong. Eventually, you’ll want to keep 3 to 6 months worth of expenses stashed in it. When you hit that mark, you should be adequately prepared to handle almost anything thrown your way.
One of the best way to start an emergency fund is to open an online savings account that use use specifically for your efund. Online accounts work great because your money stays separate from your general savings but is still accessible when you need it. That way, you don’t spend it accidentally!
20. Pay yourself first
If you want to save money, you have to make it a priority. There’s no better way to save than to pay yourself first.
Think of your savings as an expense – your most important expense. Before you pay your other bills, you need to save money for yourself. That means sticking some money in your 401(k), stashing money in your savings account, and putting a big fat check in your Roth IRA BEFORE you pay other bills. That way, no matter what happens, that money won’t disappear. You’ve made saving your most important financial priority.
Also, take advantage of free money whenever you can. If you have access to a work sponsored retirement account, save at least enough to qualify for your employer match. So, if your employer matches 4% of your salary, save at least 4% of your own money to max out the benefit. That’s free money just waiting for you to claim it. Don’t let it go to waste!
21. Make your savings automatic
If you have trouble saving money, make it easy for yourself. Automate your savings so you don’t even have to think about it. By automating your savings, you eliminate the need to make physical deposits. It also decreases the chances that you’ll spend it before you save it. When you automate your savings, it’s almost like you never had the money to begin with.
Most retirement plans allow you to directly deposit money into your account. You can do the same thing with other types of savings accounts too! Just directly deposit money into savings accounts, Roth IRAs, and emergency fund accounts. A program like Betterment will even mange your entire investment account for you.
If you want, you can even automate the rest of your financial life. After transferring money to the proper accounts, set up automatic bill pay to pay your bills on predetermined days each month. Sure, the initial setup takes a little time, but you’ll spend just a few minutes a week once it’s ready. (Just check in a few times a month to make sure everything is running smoothly!) You’ll save more money, pay your bills on time, and have a good idea of how much you have left to spend each month.
22. Track your progress
When you do something long enough, things get tedious. That’s why it is important to track your progress.
You need little wins every once in a while. By watching your net worth grow, you’ll get the chance to pop champagne and celebrate. Plus, you’ll be able to tell if all of these awesome changes are getting you where you want to go. We like to use a free tool called Personal Capital. Just follow the link to read our complete review.
23. Try “no spend” days
Every few weeks, try having a “no spend” day. A no spend day is exactly what it sounds like – a day where you don’t spend any money. If you really want to get cray cray, challenge yourself with a no spend week!
24. Focus on the big items
Need to save money on a tight budget? Start by tackling the big stuff first.
Yes, clipping coupons and eating leftovers can have a positive effect on your bottom line. But, initially, these small measures aren’t going to save enough to keep you motivated.
Eliminate your credit card debt. Look for ways to lower your rent or car payment. Eat out once a week instead of once a day. Save over $1,000 a year by using a discount cell phone provider. Pick the low-hanging fruit first, then make smaller adjustments. Instead of saving pennies at a time, you’ll be saving hundreds!
25. Eat at home
If you’re not careful, eating out can cost you a small fortune each month. I know, because that is where most of our flexible income used to go. Not only do you have to worry about the price of the meal. There’s also the tip, drinks, and more.
When we realized that we were spending close to $1,000 a month on food, we immediately made the switch to eating at home. By learning to cook and eating in, you can stash that money away and provide an immediate boost to your savings!
26. Brown bag it to work
Grabbing lunch during the work day is habitual for a lot of people. But, those quick lunches could be costing you big time.
Let’s assume you spend just $10 a day on lunch, plus $1 for a drink. That’s $400 a month. If you stopped eating out for lunch, you could save enough for a vacation in just a few months.
That’s real money player, and you could save it just by bringing your own lunch to work! What would you do with an extra $400 a month?
27. Eat leftovers once a week
One night a week, try eating leftovers for dinner. Not only will this give you the night off from cooking, it will save you money as well. Eat what you have and save. How simple is that?
28. Try breakfast for dinner
OMG! I love me some breakfast for dinner! Eggs, pancakes, french toast – it doesn’t matter. Having breakfast for dinner isn’t just delicious, it’s one of the best ways to save money on food.
Don’t like breakfast for dinner? (#thatscriminal) Try serving something else that is cheap one night a week. Find a cheap dish you like, and have at it. When a meal is cheap, it makes it all the more tasty!
29. Shop for sales
When you’re at the grocery store, don’t just buy products based on their brand name. Shop for sales and save yo’self some dough! Instead of sticking with Kellogg’s, try the General Mills brand that’s on sale instead. Better yet, go generic. These days, store brands taste just as good as their brand name counterparts.
Better yet, combine sale items with a store or manufacturer’s coupon. You don’t have to go full-on extreme couponing. Just grab the savings where you can and stash it away to use later.
30. Go meatless once a week
Looking for more ways to save money on meals? Try going meatless once a week. Buying meat is expensive and can really increase the size of your grocery bill. Besides that, most of us eat too much meat as it is.
Instead of basing every meal around the meat, go vegetarian one night a week. You’re sure to discover new foods you didn’t even know you liked, and you’ll save money doing it.
31. Use restaurant coupons
When you do go out to eat, make sure to use coupons. Heck, when we go out to eat, we plan where we’re going based on the available coupons.
Just because it’s a special event doesn’t mean you can’t save money either. We’ve even been known to use coupons for birthday and anniversary dinners! It might sound lame to you, but we’re laughing all the way to the bank.
32. Ask for discounts
Usually, when you want something, you have to ask for it. Again, most companies aren’t going to give you a discount just for being you. However, if you ask, you might find they offer discounts for making your payments on time. Or, you can just flat-out ask for a rate reduction because you’ve been so loyal. The worst they can say is no.
33. Threaten to leave…and mean it
When a company jacks up your rates, the best thing you can do is ask them for a discount. If not, threaten to leave…and mean it. There are plenty of other companies who would love to do business with you. Plus, your current provider probably spent a lot of money to secure you as a customer. They’d rather not see you go. Ask them to reduce your rate, threaten to leave, and then do so if they won’t.
34. Cut the cord to cable
Speaking of leaving, one of the best ways to save money each month is to ditch your cable company. Gone are the days where cable TV is your only option. New technologies and streaming services can help you cut your cable bill by thousands each year. Read all about how you can do it here.
35. Turn down the heat
One of the simplest ways to save money is to turn down the heat. When it’s cold outside, you don’t need to crank the heat to 75 just to stay warm. Throw on a pair of slippers, cover up with a blanket, and watch the savings roll in.
36. Open the windows
In the summertime, nature provides a great way to cool off your house. It’s called a breeze, and you can take advantage of it by opening up your windows. Just crack those babies open, enjoy the fresh air, and save money on your electric bill. If you want to get really wild, create an awesome draft by opening a door or using a fan! Now that’s some serious savings!
37. Don’t let others spend your money
First of all, there are a lot of people who love spending other people’s money. They’ll invite you to expensive events, ask you to buy expensive clothes and items to prepare for them, and then ask you to do it all over again next weekend.
Don’t let them.
Sometimes, you just have to say no. They may be OK with carrying $15K in credit card debt, but you’ve made the change to save money and get ahead.
Explain what you’re doing and why. Don’t let them guilt-trip you into spending on what they want. Stand firm. The people who care about you will understand. You might even inspire some of them to join your new journey!
38. He who has the most toys doesn’t win
We spend far too much time working our butts off to buy stuff we don’t need (and can’t afford) to impress people we don’t even like. Somebody will always have more. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You’ll never win.
39. Save money on nights out
When I was younger, I spent countless thousands of dollars at clubs and bars…and what did I get for it? A headache and a case of the runs.
It’s easy to spend a couple hundred dollars each weekend on entertainment. But, that frivolous spending is keeping you from being able to afford doing the things you really want. Eliminate it, and save money.
40. Invite friends over for a night in
Rather than going out, invite your friends over for a night in instead. Turn on some Pandora, have a few drinks, and enjoy each other’s company. Play some cards or have a game night. Staying home can be a blast! Plus, you’ll actually get to hear each other when you talk.
41. Hit a matinée or Netflix and chill
Still want to do dinner and a movie? How about lunch and a matinée instead? I love going to the movies, and seeing a matinée is an easy way to save. Prices are generally several dollar cheaper, so you can still see the show at a pretty steep discount.
Better yet, rent a movie and save even more. Now, you don’t even have to go to the video store. Just use your Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription to watch great movies on a dime.
42. Cut back on expensive hobbies
If you’re really looking for ways to save money, cutting back on some of your most expensive hobbies can be a game changer. Look, I like golfing as much as the next guy; but, if I’m trying to get out of debt or save for a huge goal, I’ve got to cut out the most expensive hobbies. Maybe you love shopping or perhaps going to concerts is more your thing. Find out which expensive hobbies are costing you your dreams and get rid of them…at least for now.
43. Budget for it
All of this isn’t to say that you can never have any fun. The best thing you can do with your fun money is to schedule it in your budget. If you budget it in, you’re being deliberate with your money. You’re not committing random acts of spending. Save on the things you don’t want so that you can spend on the things that you do. Stop spending. Start living.
44. Refuse to buy into the fashion game
Ah, fashion…it’s such a shell game. Designers are constantly changing what is “in” and creating cool new trends for one reason only: To move more product. Don’t fall for the trap. You’ll spend thousands trying to keep up with this season’s new trends. Plus, they’re going to change in about 3 months. It’s a hamster wheel you’ll never be able to get off. Just say “no” to the fashion game.
45. Shop at garage sales
Garage sales and consignment shops are a great place to find fashionable clothing at a huge discount. Why pay $40 for this season’s look when you can pay $1 on last season’s fashion and still look great? Garage sales are also a great place to find kids clothing, used furniture, and kid’s toys. Some places are hit and miss. Others are a gold mine.
46. Save on kids items
Speaking of kids, don’t go out and blow your entire paycheck on kids clothing and toys. First of all, they don’t care what they wear or play with. They’ll be happy with anything you give them. Second, kids are hard on clothes and they grow out of things quickly. Save your money, buy used, and let somebody else take the sticker price hit instead.
47. Use credit card rewards
Using credit card rewards is by far the best way to save money when traveling. We’ve used points and miles to take more than 20 domestic and international trips over the past 21 months…and for just pennies on the dollar. You can find our current list of the best travel credit cards here.
48. Travel off-peak
One of the best ways to save money on flights and hotels is to travel during off-peak times. By traveling during the “slow” season, you can save up to 50% (or more) on some flights and hotel stays. For Europe, this means traveling between November and March. If you want to travel to the Caribbean, try May through November.
49. Pick the cheapest days to fly
Just like traveling off-peak, certain days of the week are cheaper to fly. Generally speaking, Tuesday and Wednesday flights can save you a ton of money. Also, try flying out first thing in the morning!
50. Don’t commit to just one points program
Be flexible with your favorite travel brands. You don’t necessarily want to commit to a single points program because they don’t always have the best deals, especially if you’re traveling on credit card rewards. Drop the brand loyalty and save money.
51. Make the most of your points
Although programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards are great for saving money, some redemptions are more valuable than others. Additionally, being flexible with your travel dates can help you make the most of the points you already have.
52. Set a travel budget…and stick to it
Setting a budget while you’re on vacation can be difficult. Sticking to that budget can be even tougher. However, if you want to save money you’ve to to stay strong!
Plan ahead and start a travel savings account. Doing so could allow you to take two trips a year (or three or four!) instead of just one.
53. Drive when possible
Flying to a destination, especially when you’re traveling with kids, can get expensive fast. If you have the option, try driving instead. For the cost of gas, you can reach your destination with some cash still in hand. Use that savings to enjoy your stay…or book another trip.
54. Fly coach
55. Go to expensive destinations but book cheap hotels
One of our favorite ways to save money on travel is to go to awesome locations but book cheap rooms! Why book a ridiculously nice room in Rome or Rio when you can stay for much cheaper. You’re traveling there to see the world…so get out of your room and do it!
56. Travel to cheap destinations and stay in nice hotels
On the flip side, when visiting the cheapest places to travel, you can find decent hotel rooms for a lot less. Consider a cheap yet beautiful travel destination. Then, find a room that suits your budget. Chances are, you’ll be able to find a nice room for a lot less.
57. Don’t eat at the airport
Airport food is expensive and (usually) not very good. Pack some snacks, save some money, and don’t eat at the airport.
58. Buy a sightseeing pass
If you’re traveling to a large city with tons of tourist attractions, try using a city pass to save money. These passes can help you get discounted admission to some of the city’s best sites, plus it may give you a few ideas of places you didn’t know you wanted to see. Additionally, these passes can usually save you a lot of time by giving you “skip the line” access.
We’ve got a ton of city pass reviews available on this site. Follow the link to see if there’s a sightseeing pass available for your next destination!
59. Visit the welcome center
Another great way to save money when traveling is to visit the welcome center. There, you’ll be able to find information about area attractions, entertainment, and restaurants. More importantly, they usually have a bunch of coupons you can use for discounts all around the area.
60. Get the Southwest Companion Pass
Earning the Southwest Companion Pass allows you a companion to fly with you for free on any Southwest flight you book with cash or points. We’ve used it to fly all across the US and the Caribbean – including flying our kids to Jamaica. Since Southwest updated their policy on earning signup bonuses with consumer cards, this – unfortunately – takes a lot more work than it used to.
61. Use a discount broker
Don’t let your retirement savings get gobbled up by high fees. Use a discount online broker instead. There are several online brokers with a great reputation that can save you huge money by charging fees that are far less than typical brokerage houses. The best part is that a lot of them make saving for retirement completely automatic. Learn more about our favorite online brokers for beginners here.
Learning How to Save Money
Saving money isn’t complicated, but it can be hard to do. Focusing on the right ways to save money helps you see big results fast. This keeps you emotionally invested, which means you’ll save even more. And, once you understand how to save money, it’s a skill you’ll take with you for the rest of your life.
So, what are you waiting for? Use these tips to start stashing mad cash in no time!