10 Ways to Save Money

10 Best Ways to Save MoneySo many of the emails I get asking for help have to do with finances in marriage. You’re in debt, you’re not on the same page, and you don’t know what to do. So today I thought I’d write a post on the 10 best ways to save money! I asked you all for your best money-saving tip on my Facebook Page last week, and here they are, all consolidated.

When we hear the question “what’s your best money-saving tip”, though, we usually think about the regular purchases–groceries, clothing, entertainment. But the biggest parts of our budget are often our recurring expenses–our mortgage, car loan, credit card payments, utilities, etc. So the chance for the biggest savings is often in those big ticket items! I’m going to start with how to save money on those, and then move on to great tips on how to save money on our regular purchases.

Recurring Expenses–Bigger Ticket Items

1. Get Rid of Cable

Do you really need cable? My mother recently got rid of cable because it was costing her almost $70 a month for a basic plan, and all she really watched was the news. She can stream the news on the internet. Instead, she hooked up to Netflix and can now watch the British dramas she likes for less than $10 a month.

We haven’t had cable in 15 years, and we really don’t miss anything. It’s all on the internet anyway.

2. Shop Around for Loans, Insurance

If you need a new car, or you’re looking to renew your insurance, don’t just go with the bank because it’s easiest. Shop around for best deals on auto credit or on insurance. I often balk at doing this because I don’t have the time, but with a little internet research you can often get quotes quite quickly. Have a teen in your house? Pay them $20 to spend an hour getting you a ton of quotes. It’s worth it!

And if you don’t have great credit, auto credit express will help you out anyway. And many local mortgage dealers will as well. So if you need the car or the mortgage, look into it. But above all, start using the other tips so that your credit will improve!

3. Term Life Insurance is Good–every other life insurance policy? Probably not.

If you’re under 50, term life insurance is really pretty cheap, especially if you don’t smoke. Try to insure the main breadwinner in your family for at least $500,000, if you can, so that if the person were to suddenly die, you’d have a comfortable cushion.

But banks and other loan providers often try to “sneak” insurance in to other things, too. Mortgages often come with life insurance–if you die, your mortgage is paid off! It sounds great, but let’s say you owe $150,000 on the mortgage. I can pretty much guarantee you that if you went to an insurance company and took out an additional $150,000 in term life insurance it would be cheaper than the life insurance that goes with the mortgage. So opt out of that.

Opt out of credit card insurance schemes, too. Pay your credit card off in full, and you won’t need balance protection insurance in case of unemployment. And simply get enough term life insurance that these debts would be covered anyway without needing 5 or 6 different policies for each different loan you have.

The one type of insurance people don’t get enough of is disability insurance. If someone dies, it’s tragic, but it’s not nearly as expensive as if someone is in a horrific car accident or something and becomes disabled. And the latter is actually more likely than the former. When you’re disabled, you may have to remodel your house and bathroom and kitchen, you may need nursing care, and you may need other equipment. Don’t skimp here!

One of my regular readers, Leanne, has a great blog called Sensible Money Solutions! And she has some tips for saving money on house insurance, too.

4. Consolidate Your Loans

We often hear that statement, but do we know what it means? Basically, when you owe money in many different places, it’s hard to get a handle on how much you owe and on what you should pay off first. If you have multiple credit cards, and a car loan, and a personal loan, and a line of credit, that’s a lot of loans. Do you know which one has the highest interest rate? Do you know which one you should pay off first?

Often you can get a loan from a bank right now for about 6% interest depending on your credit rating, but many credit cards are charging three times that. Go to a bank and ask if they will help you pay off all of your loans by giving you a bigger loan at a lower interest rate.

One word of warning: often people prefer to have this consolidation loan in a line of credit, because then they have flexibility in paying it back. I don’t think that’s a good idea if you have a history of wracking up debt. It’s easy to not pay it back at all, or to only pay the interest. It’s better to get a fixed term loan–say five or ten years–so that you are making regular payments and shrinking that loan. It means you’ll have money coming out every month, but it also means that the loan will eventually get paid.

And one more tip: If you owe money on credit cards, don’t have money sitting in a savings account. Sure, it’s nice to feel like you have a buffer, but if you’re paying 15% interest on a credit card, it’s not wise to put money you do have in a savings account where it’s earning .25% interest. Put it against the card, even if you’re going to need that money in a month. It will end up saving you interest!

Save Money on Everyday Purchases

5. Pay with Cash

The biggest cause of debt is people spending without a real knowledge of how much money they have in their account. Now that my daughter is paying her own way in university she’s taking the cash approach. She has figured out how much money she has each week for food, entertainment, and general spending, and she’s taking that out in cash at the beginning of each week. When the money’s gone, it’s gone. And she won’t use her debit card.

I received an email recently from a woman who is a stay at home mom, and who does the finances in her family. Her husband works full-time, but he also spends beyond their budget.  She writes:

I ask my husband before he makes a big purchase to please talk to me so that we can see if it is doable or if there are other options. There have been several times where he just spends 200 to 300 dollars without saying anything. And I’m left thinking our account has been hacked or something. He gets mad at me when I ask him to communicate with me because he says it’s his money and I don’t work.

That’s a tough one, but I firmly believe that going to a cash system can help people figure this out! The root of most money problems in marriage is communication. There’s no magic way to get him to stick to a budget; you just have to sit down and talk about it. But if you do sit down, don’t say, “I think you’re overspending.” Say instead, “What do you think is the maximum that we can spend each week each?” And once you’ve both figured out that number, then suggest that from now on, you leave the debit and credit cards at home and you simply take out that cash at the beginning of each week.

I know this is a huge problem in many marriages, but you’ve got to talk about it! And switching to cash is often the best way to stop these impulse purchases. It also gets out of the “you need to check in with me” dynamic that many people don’t like.

6. Use What You Have

“Shop your cupboards first!”

The average family has an extra $300 of food in their cupboards at any one time. And that’s ALL households. If you were to look at only the households with kids, where we grocery shop a lot, I bet it would be more than that.

And here’s another scary thing: the average family throws out 40% of their food. Almost half of fruits and vegetables don’t even make it to your stomach, because they go bad before you eat them.

So eat up what’s in your cupboards, and then shop with a menu plan from now on so that you only buy what you need. It actually leads to a lot less waste, even if you do feel like your cupboards are bare!

Here’s a much longer article I’ve written on how to use what you have.

7. Don’t Buy Stuff You Would Throw Away

Don’t buy disposable stuff. Use tupperware instead of saran wrap or baggies. Use rags instead of paper towel. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable. (And if you’re not too grossed out by it, you can even make your own cloth sanitary pads, which are way cuter and more comfortable).

8. Stop Eating Out!

One of the biggest items on many families’ expense sheets is eating out. This adds up so much faster than you may think. A lunch costs $10, which may not seem like much. But do that twice a week and you’re at $80 a month, or $1000 a year. And dinners out when you have kids get expensive, too!

To stop the lure of eating out, cut down on activities that will leave you rushed at the dinner hour. Buy a few frozen meals (I normally don’t recommend this, but in this case it’s a good idea) that you will use only on nights when you’re too tired/sick/busy to cook, so that it keeps you from ordering pizza.

And what about those snacks that we buy when we’re out? Keep bottles of water with ice in them to take when you go out. Buy granola bars or other treats that you can keep in your car to munch on if everyone wants something sweet. It’s cheaper than ice creams all round, and easier on your pocketbook!

9. Menu Plan–and Then Shop Wisely

I’m not going to say much about this one because I have a whole post on how to save money at the grocery store. But in general, when we’ve planned what we’re going to eat, and we buy only that, we’ll find our expenditures shrinking.

10. Stop the “Buy Now” Messages from Coming Through!

Here’s a counterintuitive one: stay away from malls and stores. Seriously. Only go shopping when you actually need something. Don’t go to a mall just to hang out with a friend. Don’t go window shopping. Only go out with a list, when you need something.

And cancel the catalogs and try to stay away from TV commercials. Don’t fill your head with all the things you could be buying–fill it with more fun with your family instead!

Bonus: 11. Plan Your Big Purchases

Menu planning and making a list for your everyday purchases saves a ton. But so does planning your big purchases!

When most of us buy something big, like a car, a computer, or furniture, we pay for it AFTER we buy it. It’s forced savings, really. We purchase it, and then we pay the credit card or loan payment every month.

You save a ton if you do that savings BEFORE you purchase it.

So if you need a car every five years, then right after you get a car, start saving for the next one. We buy a new computer every three years, so we’re putting money aside every month for that before we need to. And we have a bank account just for that purpose.

And don’t buy a new car, either! Did you know that most new cars are purchased by the middle class, not the upper class? People with a high net worth buy used cars, because it makes no sense to buy a new car. If you do, you’re just paying for the depreciation. We try to buy cars with about 20,000 miles on them. They’re virtually new, and they look great, but they’re vastly cheaper, because cars lose a ton of value as soon as you drive them off of the lot.

We’ve made friends with a car dealer in our small town who sells and services used cars. Now, whenever we know we’re going to need a car soon, we’ll call him a few months ahead of time and tell him what we’re looking for, and he’ll keep his eyes out. It works out great!

So save first, and know when you’ll need to buy big things. That way you won’t have to take out large loans.

Okay, so that was 11 tips, not 10, but I thought of the last one after I named the post!

Now it’s your turn: what are your big tips for saving money? What one tip are you going to implement today? Let me know in the comments!


  1. My big tip would be the budget program (YNAB) we started using.
    We are in a good place with our finances but would become extremely stingy, trying to do every thing as cheap as possible and than suddenly splurge on something big.
    It has helped me a lot to know that I have money in my personal entertainment budget and can decide to pay for lunch with a friend (or decide to invite her over to my house instead and have our lunch come out the grocery budget).
    I no longer feel guilty about buying myself a new top, cause I know there was money in the budget.
    Having a budget helps me to save money 😉

  2. My hubby and I have tried using cash and decided it didn’t work for us, but we found an alternative that works. When we finalize each 2 week budget my Sweetie texts me our food budget total. Every time one of us spends money we deduct it from that total and text it to the other person. This gives us a running total and we don’t suddenly run out of money between checks.

  3. We haven’t had cable in years either and don’t feel like we’re missing anything. (Okay, except DUCK DYNASTY, which I’ve never watched and everyone says we must. LOL.)

    FABULOUS tips, Sheila! The only thing I’d add is: Tell your kids no. I see parents overspend on their children quite often, just unable to say “No, you cannot have that.” Sometimes it’s “keeping up with the Joneses” and sometimes it’s just not wanting to disappoint our kids, but it’s a good lesson for kids that we have limited resources and must pick and choose how to use them. It’s the reality they will likely face in their own future, and it will help if they’ve seen a good example from their parents.
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…Has the Mainstream Embraced BDSM? Should You?My Profile

  4. Re #7 (wasting food) — I think the biggest problem people have with produce is not knowing what to do with less-than-perfect odds and ends left in their fridge. Or maybe fruit that is a little too mushy to be pleasant eating, but still not *bad* exactly. The most helpful thing I ask myself is: How could I make this taste good if we had nothing else? Truly, you can use almost anything up this way. You can make soups with almost any leftovers, or fry them all together in a skillet (almost anything tastes good this way, who knows why), or for leftover fruit you can make a crumble or smoothies.

    Added bonus — once the word gets out that you’ll eat basically anything, people start bringing you their extra food. We get a lot of garden produce, stuff from people’s overflowing pantries, etc., because people get over-run and think to themselves, “hey, I know who will eat this!” 😉

    Freezers are also a wonderful tool. I have a big chest freezer and it helps me save so much money because I can buy foods that we already eat when they’re on sale and stock up until the next sale. It’s great!

    • I love that! That’s my secret for smoothies, too. Anything can go in there! And I use veggies that aren’t super crisp for my chicken stock.

      • Oh, I love the chicken stock idea! Fruit in smoothies makes sense, but I never know what to do with the potatoes that have eyes or the carrots that are a little dried out. Good tip!

        • You can take all your veggie scraps (peelings, ends etc) and freeze them to put in your stock later. Then you don’t have to waste fresh veggies and you’re using up all the vegetable.

  5. We say no to our kids quite often! LOL And we are making them pay for stuff more and more often now (they are 10 and 14). They do get a small allowance, but, for example: They both wanted some candy this weekend. So I said, I’m not buying it. You take it out of your allowance.

    Also, if you don’t like the idea of cloth menstrual pads and are used to tampons. Try the Diva Cup (or similar product). They cost between $25-$35 and that is less than the cost of one year’s worth of tampons! I love mine! You can leave it in longer and you almost forget you’re having your monthly.

    • I was going to recommend the Diva Cup :) I swear it made my cycles ten times more pleasant. I actually think I have shorter periods and less cramping since I switched, and (tmi) I feel so much cleaner. I never really like tampons, so I made the switch straight to a diva cup. I think it took me maybe two cycles to get the hang of it.
      Natalie recently posted…And the diagnosis was….My Profile

  6. I think another big tip (the one that helped us the most) is to start budgeting. Watching your money makes you handle it more carefully.
    Jay Dee – SexWithinMarriage.com recently posted…How does porn use harm a marriage?My Profile

  7. When budgeting, make sure you also budget money to go into a savings account, even if it’s just a small amount at first. That way you will build a savings account so that when an unexpected expense does come up (and they will) you know how you will pay for that expense without having to use credit cards, loans, borrow money from someone, etc.

  8. A Budget has been a huge life saver actually! I have created a spreadsheet that outlines when we will pay each bill and I even have an idea of how much money we will have at any given point in the future (1 year span)….My husband and I have set mini financial goals for our savings and when we’ve hit those goals we take our kids to do something fun..whether it’s out to a restaraunt or to see a movie (with a stop at the dollar tree for snacks lol). For us it is not only incentive to stick to our financial goals but it also helps us stick to our healthy eating lifestyle with a splurge ever so often. It also gives the kids a great window into saving. When they see parents do it, they will more likely do it themselves! And since we’ve started budgeting seriously our kids have learned to swallow the ‘no’ at any store and say yes ma’am…they don’t expect stuff so much (unless they are with grandparents!!)…in fact they ask alot less now.

    The only thing i must say I don’t 100% agree on is not saving while paying debt off. We have unsecured debt that we are paying off, but we are also putting back savings as well, because if we didn’t, we would charge up credit cards when an unexpected life event happened! Once we get to a point that we’ve built up ‘X’ amount of $ in our savings, we may slow down and work on paying debt off faster…but it is important to have a cushion so we can use cash instead of credit for emergencies!

    Great article :)

  9. When I was single and lived alone I had gone through a period where my money was gone as soon as I got it. I went to a system where I would pull out cash from the bank, leaving only enough in my checking account to pay bills I couldn’t pay in cash, and divide my cash between envelopes for specific purposes. I had an envelope for rent (my apartment complex accepted cash for rent payments), tithe, gas, groceries, pet care, etc. It took a while, but I was eventually able to see the light at the end of the financial tunnel. Unfortunately, my husband is not on board for that type of system.
    Tracy recently posted…Humble PieMy Profile

  10. Mint.com is a really good budgeting site that my husband and I use. It’s very well-organized so that you can see big-picture things easily, but you can also quickly navigate to see itemized spending and budgets. It also has a free app :-)

  11. Great tips. Some we use:
    1. Write down everything you spend every month on a piece of paper – everything! Total at the end of each month and it gives you an idea of how much you are spending a month – actually spending – versus what you “think you are spending”. If you keep a historical log, it gives you a very good indication of when your “heavy spending” months are (i.e. taxes, house insurance, car insurance, Christmas etc.) so you can budget accordingly.

    2. Buy used toys for your young kids or do a swap with other moms to mix the toy selection up

    3. Use your credit card points to get GCs. We save hundreds of dollars clothing our kids at Old Navy with GC earned from our credit card rewards points.

    4. Sell your kids cloths at consignment stores. Works mostly for kids under six but a great way to get some cash back and you can always buy some of their clothes there with the money you make!

    5. Put the word out that you are happy with hand me downs. Didn’t have to buy my son any clothes except for special occasions for years.

    6. Shop consignment yourself. You’d be surprised how many high fashion clothes are out there. My mom basically dresses herself via consignment stores, Salvation Army, Thrift shops. She knows her labels and picks up designer clothes, cashmere’s and the likes. Bit of time involved but can be very beneficial.

    7. Use your freezer (or two in our case!). Can buy bulk on sale, freeze fruit from the summer, make your own soups, sauces etc. and freeze to use when needed. And as you said, eat out of your freezer and pantry!

    8. Use Groupon or the like to get deals on activities/events/hotels etc.

    9. Many are cancelling their land lines and just going with their cell phones as their main numbers.

    10. You can split a side of beef with several friends and you’ll have packaged meat to freeze and use all winter.

  12. Great tips, Sheila! Thank you for the mention in #3. :-)

    One more tidbit regarding consolidation loans… if you get one, cancel the credit cards that went into the loan. Otherwise, the temptation is there to rack the cards back up again, leaving you with the consolidation loan AND the credit cards to pay back. Not a good scene, but it happens way too often.
    Leanne recently posted…Teaching kids about money using chores: An updateMy Profile

  13. Thank you for all the tips! I have to agree with the dinner one! My husband and I cook dinner every night. Since it is just the two of us we have the left overs for lunch. I also make premade breakfast bowls and granola bars instead of buying them already made. One it saves a ton of money and two it is way healthier! :)
    Cassie recently posted…Words of Affirmations-Notebook of Love LettersMy Profile

  14. As a Financial Advisor for nearly a decade, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with you on the advice of buying only Term Life Insurance Policies. The reason Term Insurance is so cheap is because it pays out in less than 2% of cases, and does almost no good for someone. If you’re young, starting a family and don’t have a lot of discretionary income, a Term Policy in the early years is a great idea.

    Now I’m not going to promote the idea that Whole Life Insurance is any better, because it certainly is not. You get a bank account savings rate and you pay an arm and a leg for insurance

    So what’s the solution? There is a happy medium with Variable Universal Life or Indexed Universal Life. Time and time again, over the long term, they outperform a whole life insurance policy, cost less than Whole life and you gain the advantages of Tax Free withdrawals and tax deferred growth. But what about Buy Term Invest the Difference? With VUL or IUL, you aren’t limited to your contribution amount unlike a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA, where contributions under age 50 are limited to $6,000 a year and with Roth’s, not able to contribute if you earn over $150,000 a year. The insurance is permanent too. The fees you would pay in an IUL and VUL are far less than the amount of taxes you would pay on withdrawals from a Traditional IRA or a standard Mutual Fund account. But that is only for those who qualify. I sell a great deal of term insurance but ONLY when it’s 100% suitable.

    Making a blanket statement saying term insurance is the only way to go is giving people really false information. People who read your blog value your opinion (as uninformed as it can be), when the best advice is to meet with a professional like myself, who keeps the best interests of his clients in mind (if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a job).

    There is no one-size-fits-all solution for things like life insurance, so ignore Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman (who neither are licensed in our industry BTW, otherwise the SEC would fine them for giving some of the advice they broadcast), when they make statements like that. You wouldn’t go to WebMD to get a diagnosis for cancer would you? That’s what a professional is for.

    • Thanks for your perspective!

      We took a look at that option, but decided that term life + retirement savings was a better idea for us, because by putting the difference of what we would have spent on an indexed plan into retirement savings we had a better return since we could control where the investment income went. Our motto has always been to save as much as possible. But if people have a hard time doing that, then an indexed plan is likely a good idea because it’s a “forced” savings.

      • I was going to say the same thing about term insurance. Universal Life works a little differently in Canada than it does in they US (which I’m guessing is where JM is from due to the fact that he called it Variable of Indexed, terms we don’t use in Canada). There are some great universal life programs out there in Canada that have just as good return as any other investment options out there with the additional advantage of things like bonus interest (which can often add up to paying for the insurance plus putting funds into your savings portion!) and methods to get your money out tax free. In most cases, the tax free advantage far outweighs any extra cost that someone might spend on getting permanent vs term insurance. I’ve done a ton of comparisons and I have rarely seen the “buy term and invest the difference” model out perform a well set up universal life policy. Another big bonus: Universal Life investments are creditor proof. Very good info to have, especially if you are self-employed!
        Tessa W recently posted…Word on Wednesday: Wisdom of the YoungMy Profile

  15. These are great tips! I’m already doing some of them, but there are others that I could start doing as well.

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. Any comment that espouses an anti-marriage philosophy (eg. porn, adultery, abuse and the like) will be deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are replying to another commenter, please be polite and don't assume you know everything about his or her situation. If you are constantly negative or a general troll, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Sheila Wray Gregoire owns the copyright to all comments and may publish them in whatever form she sees fit. She agrees to keep any publication of comments anonymous, even if you are not anonymous on this board.

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge