Saving money isn’t always easy. But sometimes it helps to think of it like an equation.
Adding to your income is one way to save. You can ask for a raise, find other employment opportunities or seek out a side hustle. You can even sell some personal items to put extra cash in your pocket.
But the addition equation isn’t an option for everyone.
Subtracting from your spending is another strategy for saving money — and it’s something everyone can do.
You can probably think of a few ways to reduce your spending immediately, but there’s no shortage of small life hacks that can make a big difference. And if you do more than one of them at once — or even all of them — they can add up quickly.
1. Make more meals at home.
This is a good idea that builds on itself.
When you make more meals at home, you end up with leftovers for lunch the next day. And when you don’t spend money on lunch every day, you hang onto your cash.
Depending on how much you spend on lunch, that’s anywhere from $700 to $2,000 in savings in a single year.
2. Break up with your barista.
Coffee is everywhere, and many companies offer free coffee for their employees. Even if it doesn’t taste as good as the $5 stuff, you can find ways to dress it up and get the job done.
Try making your coffee at home and bring it with you. Put it in a thermos to make it last longer throughout the day. It only requires waking up a bit earlier than usual.
3. Don’t buy name-brand.
You won’t notice the difference if you buy generic. This goes for cereal, over-the-counter drugs and other grocery items. The same principle applies for regular vs. organic produce.
4. Stick to your shopping list.
Impulse buys are budget-killers. Make a shopping list before you go to the grocery store and stick to it.
Would you rather have a spur-of-the moment box of Fruit by the Foot or the vacation you’ve been dreaming about for years?
Eat a snack before going to the grocery store. Those popsicles that wind up sitting in your freezer won’t seem so appealing when you’re not hungry.
5. Maintain a food calendar.
This goes hand-in-hand with making a list. Map out your meals for the week and establish a routine of weekly grocery store visits to make it happen.
Be thorough with your preparation. When it comes to saving money, it will help in the long run. Remember: Leftovers are your friend.
6. Buy in bulk.
If it’s a non-perishable item, buy it in bulk. Not only will you save money in the long run, but it will also be nice to already have that can of diced tomatoes when you want to try a new recipe.
7. Don’t grab that large cart.
What we see affects how we act. Studies show that larger dinner plates are leading to larger portion sizes. And that means people are eating larger meals.
When you go to the grocery store, look at your list and choose the smallest cart you can. By not taking the largest cart available, you can resist the urge to fill it up with things you don’t need.
8. Skip the soda.
Make water your go-to beverage. If you cut an unnecessary cost like soda out of your budget, you get the added benefit of cutting sugar out of your diet.
Those fizzy fountain drinks are the biggest up-charge in a restaurant. Skip the soda and you’ll feel better in the long run.
9. Keep the car in the garage.
Running your car every day slowly drains your bank account. There’s gas, parking and tolls — and the mileage means increased repair and maintenance costs.
If you can, give public transportation a shot. You’ll save money, and it can free up time to read books or listen to podcasts. If public transit isn’t an option, try carpooling with a co-worker, friend or neighbor. Just make sure the carpool is balanced — you drive one week, they drive the next.
10. Hop on the thrifty train.
Thanks to the popular show on Netflix, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” has people emptying out their closets like crazy. Thrift stores are being flooded with high-quality goods that were hardly ever worn. It’s never been easier to update your wardrobe without spending a ton of money.
It’s good for the environment. It won’t break the bank. And it may even spark some joy.
Pro tip: Keep it simple. Buy colors you like and items that work with your current wardrobe. As enticing as that pineapple shirt might be, it won’t work with everything. Go with colors and patterns that mix-and-match easily.
11. Minimize your media.
Paying iTunes every time you want to watch a movie, or shelling out a few bucks to Amazon when you want a new book for you Kindle can add up. Instead, visit your local library and see what they have on offer.
While you’re at it, look closely at all of your digital subscriptions. Do you need to pay for that audiobook service? Are there streaming services you could split with a friend or loved one?
Free solutions are often available, and every dollar counts when you’re focused on saving money.
12. Search for a cheaper phone plan.
The best cellphone plans used to cost big bucks, but those days have passed. You can meet your data demands with a cheaper provider, since most have significantly expanded their coverage areas.
Cellphone providers want to compete for your business. Shop around and find one that allows you to prioritize your bottom line.
Consider a smartphone that doesn’t require you to pay a monthly fee. The added benefits of those phones are hardly noticeable, but saving $30 every month is.
13. Don’t make it easy for yourself.
Logout of Amazon. Don’t save your credit card information in your browser. Autofill makes it easier to spend money online.
Those extra few seconds could be all you need to make a smart decision: saving money.
14. Automate your finances.
Many banks let you to make automatic transfers to your savings account. Even if it’s only a few dollars a day, you’d be shocked how much you’re able to build up your savings.
Moving large amounts of money is more noticeable, but a small amount every day won’t affect your day-to-day financial behavior. Plus, it can give you a nice cushion for a rainy day or an unexpected emergency.
15. Maximize your employee benefits.
Brush up on the details of what your employer offers. If you can get a spending account for transportation, see if you can make that work for you. Some health insurance packages incentivize going to the gym.
Employee benefits are a win-win situation. You save money, and your healthy decisions actually help you save money.
16. Avoid marketing traps.
Some people say you should lean into deals offered by companies, like a promotional interest rate on a credit card. But the more you engage, the more likely you are to use their products — and that’s how you end up spending money.
Too-good-to-be-true promotions exist because they work. they wouldn’t do them. Giving away your email address in exchange for a small reward will likely cause more problems than it solves.
17. Go green to save green.
We already know making smart decisions with your money can lead to a healthier lifestyle. But it can also help you be more eco-friendly.
Try something as simple as planting trees on your property. The trees can block the sun and reduce your reliance on things like air conditioning and reduce your energy costs. Plus, it will feel like you’re doing your part for the earth while you’re saving money.