Updated Oct 6, 2023
I’m writing this in the middle of sky-high inflation, miserable housings costs, and trips to the grocery store that leave you crying in the car after.
The cost of living is ridiculous, and you might be feeling the pinch. And even if you’re not, maybe you just want some extra to put away every month or spend on things you care about.
In this article, I’m going to walk through 17 creative savings ideas. These clever ways to save money will help you increase that oh-so-sexy cushion of free cash every month.
Here we go!
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- 1. Share accounts
- 2. Cut things you’re not using
- 3. Consolidate debt
- 4. Coupons
- 5. Money-saving apps
- 6. Discount grocery stores
- 7. Learn to cook
- 8. Eliminate food waste
- 9. Thrift
- 10. Make saving automatic
- 11. Hit the library or e-library
- 12. Look for write-offs
- 12. Wait to buy
- 13. Do the deep work on yourself
- 14. Debt snowball
- 15. Give yourself an allowance
- 16. Rent a room
- 17. Make Stuff
1. Share accounts
Sharing accounts can be one of the easiest creative savings ideas.
There are still a lot of streaming services and other types of accounts that can be shared. As more and more companies go towards SAAS models, software as a service that is, you can expect more and more things to come with a monthly payment.
I remember the good old days when Microsoft Office came in a box for a one-time fee. Now I have to keep paying again and again.
These monthly payments add up. So getting creative about sharing them with friends or family can really save some money!
When you can, whether you’re sharing with friends, family, or roommates, being able to share something like a Netflix account can add some to your bottom line every month.
Ideas for creative savings from sharing accounts
These are some examples of services that could be okay to share with friends and family. MAKE SURE to check the terms and conditions of each one to see if it’s okay for you.
- Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc. are all common targets for shared streaming accounts. It’s a grey area and they’re working to crack down, so make sure you check the legalities of sharing your account.
- Spotify and Youtube Music: These have family plans that can add multiple people, making sharing possible.
- Different online learning platforms have family plans that enable sharing; for example, check out platforms like Skillshare, Datacamp to see if they have options for sharing.
- Look at memberships for gaming sites like Xbox, Playstation Plus, or Nintendo Switch Online.
- If you pay for Dropbox or Google Drive, there could be ways to share this.
- Things like MyFitnessPal or Peloton can be shared!
- There are often ways to share memberships for shopping for things like Costco and Sam’s Club.
2. Cut things you’re not using
This is sort of the same idea, but how many things have you got sucked into paying for every month that you don’t even use? One of the clever ways to save money is to go through your credit card and bank statements from the last 2 months and see if there are things you are paying for that you don’t need.
Monthly payments get you because they seem so small, but they add up. That’s why one of the most clever ways to save money will always be cutting back on monthly payments.
For example, look at the list of services above. Are there some of these you’re paying for but don’t use?
Pro-tip, don’t just think about individual subscriptions. Think about parts of your subscription. Are you still paying for a bonus plan on your phone you signed up for that you don’t use?
Examples of services to cut if you’re not using them
- Fitness memberships: Fitness memberships are the hardest to cut because they’re aspirational. Yes, you didn’t go to the gym last month. But you will, right? Maybe you want to find some accountability or figure out a way to make it work. But if you’re not, but it. You can use the money elsewhere!
- Cable, Satellite, Streaming: Where do you watch TV? The average American has a glob of services they pay for, and use very few of. I had a friend who was paying $120/mo for a cable package to watch a hockey game twice a month. The rest of the time he just watched Netflix. Cut it all. You can always add it back.
- Add-ons: Sure you need a phone, but do you really need the extra voice mail features? Or you love Amazon Prime, but do you need the extra channels you paid for? Cut back on services within the things you pay for every month.
- Landline: If you’re still paying for a landline that only your mom and telemarketers call, might be time to cut it.
- Unnecessary insurance: When I had kids, I bought life insurance. I spent $240/mo on a whole-life policy until I realized a term policy was better. I now pay about $90 a month for my whole family. DON’T CUT THE INSURANCE YOU NEED! But make sure you don’t have coverage you don’t need.
3. Consolidate debt
Paying down debt is great.
But if you have a lot of debt, see if you can consolidate it into one payment, ideally with a lower interest rate.
For example, if you were paying two $5,000 credit cards debt at 18% interest, and you could take out a $10,000 line of credit at 7% interest, paying off your credit cards with your line of credit would save you money.
Then just pay that.
I’m not giving you financial advice here, so make sure to talk to your financial planner to find out if it’s right for you. (Jeez, I just sounded like a pharma ad.) And be careful! A lot of debt consolidation places are predatory and creepy.
Look up reviews and stick with credible institutions.
Coupons are still a thing. Full disclosure, I don’t have the patience to use them. But some of my friends do, and they can save a lot.
By this time, we’ve all seen shows on extreme couponing. You know, the ones about the people who get the groceries for free basically. That could be you!
Coupons work for just about everything, but one of the most obvious places is on your grocery bill. Groceries are sky-high right now with inflation, so getting that number down can make a big difference to your bottom line.
Best sites for finding coupons
- Official Websites and Apps: If you’re shopping at local stores, the place to start is always with their websites and apps. Or–if you’re old school–you can get the flyers.
- Coupon Websites: Many websites do coupon roundups: places like RetailMeNot and savings.com.
- Store Loyalty Programs: You can sign up for loyalty programs and get on email lists from your favorite stores to get coupons!
- Coupon Apps: Mobile apps like Rakuten (formerly Ebates), Honey, and Ibotta offer digital coupons, cashback, and discounts when shopping online or in-store.
- Newspapers and Magazines: Traditional print media still has a lot of coupons!
- Social Media: Follow your favorite brands on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Many share exclusive coupon codes and promotions with their followers.
- Coupon Trading and Swapping: Some online forums and communities allow coupon trading or swapping.
- Manufacturer Websites: Visit the websites of the manufacturers of the products you use regularly. They often offer printable coupons or digital discounts on their products.
- In-Store Kiosks: Some stores have coupon kiosks or machines near the entrance where you can print out coupons before shopping.
- Coupon Books and Entertainment Books: Some regions offer coupon books or entertainment books that contain discounts for local businesses and restaurants.
5. Money-saving apps
There are lots of different types of money-saving apps.
But I want to give a shout-out to Flashfood. It’s a fantastic app that lets you know when local grocery stores are getting rid of things, either because they’re about to expire, or they have too many, or the packaging is damaged.
You browse the app and make your payment, then pick up your food at the store! It’s a great way to save money on groceries.
Best money-saving apps
- Acorn: Rounds up your purchases to the next dollar.
- Wise: Good rates on sending money internationally
- Flashfood: Discount purchasing from grocery stores
- Ibotta: Discount shopping app & points
- RatePunk: Discounts on travel
- Good RX: Pharma discounts
- Rakuten: Earn cash back on qualifying purchases
6. Discount grocery stores
Since we’re talking about food here, what about changing grocery stores? I live in a pretty small town, and we have three grocery stores here.
The same basket of groceries at the high-end grocery store costs twice as much, and the stuff doesn’t taste any better for the most part. (There are a couple of things we splurge on at the ‘fancy’ store.)
If you don’t already shop at a no-frills grocery store, making the change to one can save a lot in groceries.
7. Learn to cook
You might think I’m talking about avoiding restaurants. But I’m not (necessarily).
This is not just about eating out. Learning to cook can save you in more ways than this.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, pay attention to what the most expensive things are. Often it’s the prepackaged meals, processed and ready to serve.
While it’s not 100% true all the time, often the raw ingredients, the stuff around the outside of most grocery stores, are often the cheapest. Veggies. Meat. Dairy. Eggs.
By learning to cook, you can save yourself a lot of money. Take a pack of ground beef and turn it into 4 healthy meals. A whole chicken has way more flavor and can serve you two family dinners.
8. Eliminate food waste
Another great way to cut back on your grocery bill is to make sure you use your groceries.
There’s nothing worse than shelling out for nice fresh produce and having it go bad in the fridge. It’s a waste of money.
So learning to properly preserve your food to get as much life as you can out of it can be a clever way to save money and avoid food waste.
This might be obvious, but sometimes thrifting is a huge savings. And, thrifting can have the bonus of being good for the environment.
There are all different types of thrift stores. Some of them are more selective, filtering through their products and charging a bit more for it.
Some of them just throw whatever they have out and let you fill a bag for $5. When I was growing up, my mom particularly loved these ones.
Next time you think about buying a new outfit, why not check the thrift store? And it’s not just for clothes. You’ll find dishes, appliances, books, furniture, and even household rental materials at thrift stores.
Common thrift stores
- Salvation Army
- Value Village
- Plato’s Closet
10. Make saving automatic
One of the clever ways to save money that has nothing to do with spending has to do with banking. This is the tip given by personal finance writer David Bach in his book The Automatic Millionaire.
Bach recommends putting your savings on autopilot. Basically, set up your account to take out a pre-set amount every month and put it in savings, investments, or wherever. You won’t notice it’s gone, but it will add up.
Doing automatic saving is a neat little psychological trick too, because you will naturally adapt to the money you have left over (within reason).
How to set up automatic savings
- Figure out where you want your money to go (often it’s savings or investments).
- Automate your withdrawals
11. Hit the library or e-library
Instead of buying new books, hit the library to get them there. Most books don’t need to be owned. And, bonus, most libraries now have access to e-library books.
So you can often get books on a phone or eReader, check them out for a set period of time, then they will disappear. It’s a great way to save on buying books.
Make sure to check out these awesome books on making money!
12. Look for write-offs
This tip mostly applies to business owners, but is there a tax write-off you can take advantage of? I own my own business, so when I need to buy a computer or office furniture, the business pays for that. I end up with a tax write-off, so it costs me less in the long run.
And if you don’t own your own business, some tax jurisdictions will give different types of write-offs for expenses related to working from home, traveling to meet with customers, etc.
Do your research.
Common tax write-offs for creative savings
- Charitable Donations
- Mortgage Interest
- Medical Expenses
- Student Loan Interest
- Home Office Deduction
- Education Expenses
- Child and Dependent Care
- Self-Employment Expenses
- Business Expenses
12. Wait to buy
It’s probably the oldest psychological trick in the book, and maybe it’s not a new money trick for you. But it is a clever one.
Can you wait to buy something?
That thing you really feel like you need today. Give it a couple of days, and see if it still feels as urgent. If it does, then maybe buy it. But a lot of the time you will find that you lose interest.
And, if you’re like me and don’t always have the discipline, leaving a debit and credit card at home and just bringing some cash in your wallet can be a great way to rein in quick spending.
13. Do the deep work on yourself
Let’s get philosophical for a minute here. A lot of us spend money for different reasons. Some people spend money to celebrate. Some people spend money to try to make themselves feel better when they’re sad.
That’s me. It’s not about spending money. But when I’m in a dark place, I have a tendency to drop money on things to try to cheer myself up. This can dig a hole pretty quick.
So if you can recognize your money mindset and identify some of your weak spots, try to figure out what it really is that’s making you want to spend. And confront that instead. It will cost less.
Questions to ask yourself…
- Are there people or situations you need to walk away from?
- Are you doing work that fulfills you in some way? (AKA Are you self-medicating because you hate your job?)
- Are there certain times or seasons you spend more THEN beat yourself up for it?
- Do you believe in yourself and your future?
14. Debt snowball
This is an idea made popular by Dave Ramsey. The debt snowball basically means that you start with your lowest debt and pay it off in its entirety, then move to your next biggest, and so on.
Oh, and make sure you make your minimum payment on all your debts while you’re doing this.
Dave Ramsey says to ignore the interest rates, and just focus on getting the smallest debt out of the way. He likes the psychological boost that you get from paying one of them off.
And each debt you can clear creates a little extra cash flow for the next one, assuming you are not continuing to dig yourself into debt.
15. Give yourself an allowance
One of the hard parts about getting in control of your spending is that it feels like you’re being punished all the time. It can feel a little bit like when your parents told you not to do something.
You know, like when they told you not to watch that r-rated movie.
Didn’t that just make you want to watch it more?
One of the challenges of personal finance is that a budget can feel like a constraint, and sometimes we want to rebel against it. So one of the things that was a huge help to me was having a weekly allowance for spending on things.
We set the amount pretty high, more than I even usually spend. The result is that by the time I go out for coffee a few times and buy an occasional cheeseburger, I often still have cash left over.
Instead of feeling poor, I look into my wallet and see twenties left over and feel rich. It’s a neat psychological trick.
Don’t always punish yourself for spending. Look at what Ramit Sethi says makes up your “rich life” — AKA spend on what matters to you, and not on things that don’t. (And watch his series on Netflix!)
16. Rent out a room
Since one of the biggest parts of any budget is going to be housing, are there ways you can cut your housing budget back?
One approach to creative savings can be to look at your place of living as a potential revenue source. Whether you own or rent, you can often look at renting out part of your house or even just a room. In fact, having a roommate can save you a lot.
17. Make Stuff
Last but not least for our creative ways to save money, make stuff. If you’re at all crafty, you could make things like Christmas and birthday presents yourself. Instead of buying something for everybody at the office. Maybe you could bake something. Or maybe share a handmade gift.
If you have the time and patience, this can be a good money saver.
If you were feeling a little bit short on cash, hopefully reading this article helped. And this is just a start. There are so many clever ways to save money out there.
The trick is to keep your mind open, look around at what you have, and don’t be too proud to do what you gotta do.
No keeping up with the Joneses. Put yourself and your wealth-building efforts first. You won’t regret it.
And while you’re at it, maybe you need to earn a little more. Creative savings is great, but so is adding a little more to the other end.
Here are some articles to help you with that.