How to Save Money: The Ultimate Guide

If you are serious about turning your money situation around chances are you are looking for ways you can save money. Imagine finding extra money in your budget to fund vacations or pay off debt faster.

This guide will help you save money on everyday and monthly expenses to help you reach your money goals.

The hopes are to help you save money without you having to feel deprived. Saving money can feel restrictive and sometimes makes you believe you can’t spend money. However, the aim is to generate intentional spending versus sporadic or impulse spending. You can cut things out of your budget that are not adding value to your life and apply the savings to the things you do value. For example, many people dream of traveling but feel they cannot afford it. According to CNBC, on average Americans spend $3,000 a year eating out. Cooking at home could save enough for a decent vacation. 

How to Save Money:  Step 1. Determine Expenses

Knowing what you are spending money on lets you see what your potential savings targets are. Typically we spend money daily, weekly, and monthly. In this step, you will want to list common expenses for each time frame.

Your expenses may look a little different but these are just to help you brainstorm where your money is going.

 

Examples of daily expenses:

  • Starbucks
  • Lunch
  • Groceries (depending on how often you shop)

Examples of weekly expenses:

  • Gasoline
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment (movies, bowling, concerts)
  • Shopping (clothing, gifts)

Examples of monthly expenses:

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Utilities (gas, electric)
  • Phone
  • TV
  • Internet
  • Gym Memberships
  • Subscriptions (Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, magazines, newspapers)

 

I would encourage the use of an app like Mint or Personal Capital to help you track your spending. The apps will let you create categories and automatically organize your spending into the appropriate categories. At the end of a month, you will be able to see the total amount spent in that category.

 

How to Save Money:  Step 2. Evaluate The Value of  Your Expenses 

In this step, the value of your expenses does not mean how much monetarily they are but how much quality the expenses add to your life.

For example, I used to have a terrible addiction to Diet Pepsi. I would spend $2.13 daily treating myself to a bottle of pop. At the end of the month that’s an average of $64. When I examined my habit I found that it didn’t add much value to my life but rather depleted it. It took money out of my bank account and added fluff to my derriere (not in the good JLo looking way either). So I had a choice to make. I could keep up my habit or forego it altogether. By giving it up I was able to apply the money I saved on things that would improve my health like supplements and organic food. For me, that’s a long-term investment that will likely save me money in medical expenses.

You will need to look at your expenses in the same way. What are your goals? Will hanging on to an expense get you closer to your goal or keep you from it? 

How to Save Money:  Step 3. Eliminate or Reduce

Now that you have determined how valuable your expenses are to your quality of life it’s time to decide if you are going to eliminate them or reduce them. In my example above I eliminated pop and reapplied the savings to healthier and potentially cost-saving items. I could have also cut back by half and still applied some savings elsewhere (pay down debt or stuff into savings). Try to pick an option that you are likely to stick with long-term.

Let’s take a look at possible ways to save money.

 

Daily Expenses:

 

  • Coffee or Energy Drinks:  If you frequent Starbucks on your way to work for that morning pick-me-up and are looking for ways to keep your coffee habit, consider joining their rewards program. You could earn yourself some free coffee. Not a Starbucks fan? Google rewards for your favorite chain to located any free membership programs. If you are an energy drink consumer try to catch the sales at the convenience stores and stock up. It’s not uncommon to find ‘buy 3’ deals that save a lot of dough. If you have an Aldi nearby you could try their $.99 version and save yourself $1.40 ($42/mo) on average compared to the name brand drinks.
  • Lunch:  If you eat out every day during lunch you could save loads of money just by packing a lunch each day. By packing a lunch it may mean staying in the office during the break, resulting in you needing less time to eat. With the time saved, you could negotiate with your boss to leave earlier on days you eat in. You could also balance out your days by packing lunch every other day and eating out on the others and still save a considerable amount.
  • Groceries:  Studies have shown that the more we stop at the grocery store, the more we are apt to overspend. Instead of shopping daily consider shopping weekly or even monthly for groceries.

 

Weekly Expenses:

 

  • Gasoline:  Transportation is a necessity so finding ways to save are important. Take advantage of carpool options for both you and your kids if they are available. If you don’t mind public transportation, you could calculate whether you would see savings by using the bus versus driving every day. Some grocery stores are now offering gas coupons to their patrons. The more you spend on groceries with them typically results in steeper gas discounts. Membership retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club offer discounts at the pump to members in which savings can add up quickly.
  • Groceries:  Meal planning is a great way to get ahead of your grocery budget. Planning will ensure that every item you purchase will get used. When you make a list and stick to it, you set yourself up to avoid impulse purchases.
  • Entertainment:  Our weekends don’t need to be filled with expenses just to pass the time. There are often free events hosted by communities and organizations. To find these events visit your city’s parks and recs website or simply Google free stuff to do in your town. Another option is to come up with your own free or inexpensive things to do. Here are some ideas.
  • Shopping:  Accumulating stuff is a trend in our society. That means people are shopping a lot and usually for things they do not need. First, you must be intentional with your shopping. Is the item a want or a need. If it’s a want is there a way you can borrow or rent the item? For example, I have seriously been considering purchasing an air fryer. I held off because I couldn’t justify storing a clunky appliance I would only use periodically. As luck would have it someone gifted my mom one and she will gladly lend hers to me.  This saves me the expense and added clutter to my home.

Monthly Expense:

 

  • Mortgage/Rent:  If you rent, have you been a long-term tenant at your complex? Use your good report to negotiate some perks. Either ask for lower rent, or ask to have some utilities included your rent that wasn’t prior, or see if you can offset some of your rent by offering to do maintenance on the grounds. If you carry a mortgage research interest rates and determine if refinancing to a lower rate or shorter term loan will save you money.
  • Utilities:  Take a look at your supplier of natural gas or propane and see if they are giving you the best rates. Call around to the competitors and find out if there are any advantages to switching. Some companies sweeten the deal for new customers in order to generate new business. In smaller communities and rural areas, there isn’t always the option to switch suppliers due to the lack of competition. In this case, try to purchase the bulk of your natural gas or propane during the summer months when they offer their lowest rates. Sometimes you are able to lock in that low rate for the rest of the season if you buy into the offer. Follow the same steps with your electricity provider to see if you can strike any deals.
  • Phone:  If you still have a contract with a major cell service provider check out some of the prepaid wireless providers like Republic Wireless or Cricket Wireless. You are still able to utilize the coverage areas of the major cell service providers at a fraction of the cost. This is made possible because the prepaid services use the same towers. Our family made the switch and after adding two lines(4 lines total) we still save on average $20/month.
  • TV:  Like phone services, major satellite and cable companies can have costly monthly fees. Consider dropping those subscriptions altogether. Instead, try leveraging your smart TV and signing up for Netflix and/or Hulu. If you don’t have a smart TV you can purchase a Roku to install the same apps to get shows and movies.
  • Internet:  When you are looking to lower your internet bill first research what the competitors are charging. Your ISP may be willing to match a competitor’s lower rate in order to keep your business. If not, you can always switch providers. Another way to save is to lower your internet speed or purchase your own modem or router instead of renting one for a monthly fee.
  • Gym Membership:   Being honest about how often you use your gym membership could save you hundreds. You may feel guilty for canceling, but ditching the membership doesn’t mean working out. YouTube is a treasure trove of free workouts you can do in the privacy of your living room for absolutely nothing. You could also do a little internet research and find a program tailored to your goals from top sites like Muscle & Strength.

How to Save Money:  Step 4. Allocate Your Savings

Your new found savings will need to be told where to go. If not, they will likely vanish without a trace. Take a look at your long-term goals. Do you wish to be debt free? Would you like to retire early? Travel more? Below is Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps to financial freedom. The steps are designed to help you set up a small savings in case of an emergency. This protects you from racking up credit card charges or securing more debt as you tackle the next steps.