With the price of—well, seemingly everything—rising these days, it’s a great time to hone your creative saving skills. While it’s easy to make a half-hearted decision to spend less, coming up with an actual plan to do so vastly increases your chance of success. Otherwise, you’re committed to making a change…right up until you hear that sweet siren’s song of the DoorDash app on those nights that you’re too tired to figure out what’s for dinner. We get it! See if you can incorporate any of these creative ways to save money into your daily routine and consider joining our More Money Challenge to help kickstart your savings plan.
Creative Ways to Save Money
There are a lot of different options for changing your spending habits so that you end up with extra money in your savings account but it’s important to seek out solutions that still allow you to enjoy life. Your spending should align with your priorities, and if getting some take-out at the end of a long week is a priority to you—do it! The goal is to create enough of a cushion in your checking account to indulge a little without guilt. Part of that is being more intentional about your indulgences.
Here are 10 creative savings tips and tricks:
Whether you jot it down in a notebook or track your expenses within your monthly budget, saving money all starts with awareness. Whenever you buy something, make yourself take a moment to write it down. Not only will you create a clear record of where your money is going, you’ll also force yourself to really “see” your purchases.
Now that so many of us use credit or debit cards instead of cash, it’s easy for money (and spending) to feel invisible, and somehow less real…until you need money you don’t have because you spent it.
It’s true that time is money and it’s easy to feel like you don’t have enough of either. Set aside a day to shop around for services such as car insurance, home insurance, landscaping, pool maintenance, personal care, gym membership, cell phone plan, cable tv, or other monthly costs that could be reduced. Admittedly, this activity doesn’t sound like a good time, but it could save you a ton of money you could use to finance future fun!
Better yet, can you eliminate any of those expenses? Can you do any of it yourself? (Disclaimer: don’t DIY insurance.)
While you’re at it, look at subscriptions and streaming services with a critical eye: do you need all of them, and do you need all of them at once? Could you get to the end of the Netflix library and then switch to Hulu for a while instead of juggling both at once?
Eliminate impulse purchases
Okay, so options one and two should help curb impulse buying because you’re going to have to record that spending which shines the bright light of accountability on it. Also, you’re going to shop around for a better price first, right? Right. But what other roadblocks can you put in place to avoid overspending?
Minimize temptation. Unfollow social media accounts or unsubscribe from the newsletters of your favorite retailers and implement a 24-hour cooling off period before going through the checkout process.
Before making any purchase, ask yourself: Do I really need this right now? Could I find this cheaper elsewhere? Is there another way to accomplish whatever need this purchase is supposed to fulfill? What else could I do with this money?
Plan “No Spend” days
Shopping is just a little too easy these days. From the almighty Amazon app to impressively targeted Instagram ads, everything you want or need is two clicks away. Make a commitment to have two or three days a week where you don’t spend money, no matter what. This might mean making some changes, like packing a lunch or making coffee at home instead of stopping at Starbucks. It’s very likely to lead to putting items into online shopping carts before abandoning them until another day (or maybe you’ll get lucky and forget about those items entirely.)
Only spending money on certain days of the week will bring more awareness to your overall spending, which might help reorganize your priorities and reduce emotional spending.
Keep the change
Even small amounts of money add up more quickly than you think. If you put one nickel into a jar and then increased that amount by five more cents each day, you’d have an underwhelming $1.40 by the end of the week. But if you continued that for a year, the end result would be an extra $3,339.75, with your largest daily investment being $18.25 on day 365. That’s a nice haul on an amount of money you’d be unlikely to miss!
Use coin wrappers to roll up change that you have around the house, save all of your $1 or $5 bills in a jar somewhere, and stop letting spare change disappear. Even small decisions like getting cash back at the register versus paying ATM fees can eventually make a difference.
Use what you have
A lot of us lead lives of excess in one area or another. Are you eager to try new makeup? Always stocking up on cleaning supplies? Reduce clutter while increasing your bank account balance by pledging not to buy more until you use up what you have.
Also, take inventory of the random gift cards that you may have collected over the years, figure out the remaining balance, and use every last dollar. It’s so easy to let that “imaginary” money go to waste. (Psst…it’s real money!)
Embrace your community
There are usually more resources available to us than we think. Make an effort to get more familiar with what’s available in your area. Did you know that a lot of local libraries have museum or zoo passes available or include a lending library of tools, cake pans, or other unique offerings?
Keep an eye on community Facebook pages or parenting groups for information about clothing swaps (or organize your own!)
Also, reduce entertainment costs by checking out free activities in your area—concerts in the park, open mic nights at coffee shops, free admission days at museums or nature centers, or outdoor adventures like hiking. Or expand your circle of friends by hosting a potluck or board game night!
Tame food costs
Eating is essential, but grocery store costs can easily feel out of control. Making a meal plan and sticking to a grocery list are both important steps to reducing costs, but actually doing either can feel tedious or limiting. It doesn’t have to be! Check out Erin’s post on meal planning for some helpful hints.
Also, take advantage of online grocery shopping and curbside pickup if your local grocer offers it. Even if it comes with an extra fee, having more time to make good choices—and fewer opportunities to be distracted by impulse purchases—can end up saving you a lot of money.
Take-out and delivery are tricky too. If you have a family tradition of ordering pizza once a week, could you buy a pre-made pizza instead or shift that tradition to something fun but more affordable, like baking cookies? Or pick it up yourself to save on delivery fees? If you’re going to splurge, consider buying something with larger portions so that you can reap the benefits of leftovers for lunch. There are a lot of creative ways to save money when it comes to cutting food costs.
Start a budget
A lot of people flinch when the word budget comes up because it seems…well, boring. Who wants to spend time creating something that tells you that you can’t spend money? I get that (oh boy, do I get that) but the hidden benefit of budgeting is that it gives you permission to spend without guilt.
Accidentally spending $100 on home decor at Target while you were supposed to be picking up laundry detergent? Not ideal. However, if you had already tucked $100 away into your Home Decor budget category, that money was mentally set aside and now you’re not “stealing” from upcoming bills to be paid. What if you had $80 in your Home Decor category but an extra $20 in your Dining Out category? If you want the home decor more than you want taco Tuesday, you’re all set — just move that money around.
YNAB encourages flexible budgeting and a healthier money mindset. You don’t need a life of forced minimalism, casting away all earthly goods and entertainment…you just need to make sure that you have the money you’re spending and that you’re spending it on something that matters to you.
Looking for ways to make more money? Check out this short video about side hustle ideas.
Reset spending with the More Money Challenge
If you really want to reset your relationship with money, join our free 30-day More Money Challenge—it’s a simple email series that you can join anytime.
YNAB’s More Money Challenge encourages you to set a savings goal and follow three rules: track your spending, only buy essentials, and no dining out. It also includes a workbook with a savings tracker, transaction register, meal planner, and pantry, fridge, and freezer inventories.
Yeah, it involves some (temporary!) sacrifices, but the average participant saves $1000 of extra cash while learning to live on less and getting more clear on their overall financial goals. And isn’t that what finding creative ways to save money is really all about?
How would you use that extra cash? Build an emergency fund? Pay down credit card or student loan debt? Save up for a new car or a vacation? Indulge in guilt-free food delivery for a while?
As long as your spending aligns with your priorities, whatever you do with that extra money is up to you.
The best way to save money involves sticking to a budget! If you’re ready for a flexible money management method and app that helps put your creative savings rewards to work for you, try YNAB for free for 34-days. No credit card required!