22 Cost-Cutting Life Hacks to Make Saving Money Easier
Cutting costs at home is a sure-fire way to put money back into your pocket. In this article, we take a look at some of the fastest and easiest ways to save money.
Contributing Writer at Tally
August 31, 2022
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 almost anyone can do.
You can probably think of a few ways of cutting costs at home 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
A typical restaurant meal may cost around $13 or more, on average. This compares to an average of closer to $4 for a home-cooked meal.
In other words, restaurant meals cost more than three times as much as their home-cooked counterparts. And in many areas, restaurant costs can be quite a bit higher — not to mention the costs associated with tipping, delivery and service fees for delivery apps.
With inflation on the rise, restaurant prices are getting higher and higher. The National Restaurant Association reported that, on average, restaurant menu prices have increased by a whopping 7.6% in the last 12 months alone.
To illustrate potential cost savings, let’s look at an example.
Say you typically get lunch out every day at work. It costs you $13 per day, five days per week. That’s over $260 per month on lunch alone.
If you swapped out this daily lunch for a home-cooked meal, the cost would decrease to around $80 per month. That’s a total cost savings of $180 per month, or about $2,160 per year.
2. Pay down high-interest debt
Data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shows that the average American household spends over $1,000 per year on credit card interest and fees.
Reducing your debt load is a win-win. You’ll pay less in interest, plus you’ll have lower monthly expenses as the cost of debt payments decrease.
3. Start tracking your expenses
One of the most powerful steps you can take towards saving more money is to start tracking your expenses. By doing so, you can get a handle on what you’re spending every month and then make changes where needed.
The reality is that many people simply aren’t sure how much they are spending on certain things. You surely know how much you spend on rent or your car payment — but what about variable expenses like groceries or entertainment?
To start tracking, it’s helpful to use a budgeting app like Mint, which is free to use, or YNAB, which is subscription based after a free trial. Track your spending for a few months, then analyze your spending habits to see if they align with your goals.
4. Build a budget
Once you have tracked your expenses for a few months, you’ll have some solid data on where your money is going each month. From there, it’s time to build a budget.
This is where you can start making adjustments to your spending patterns. If you notice that you’re spending more than you'd like on groceries, you can try to trim that down by making some simple low-cost swaps.
5. Evaluate your biggest expenses first
Before you spend too much time optimizing small expenses like coffee or entertainment, it’s wise to take a careful look at your major expense categories.
For instance, can you reduce your housing expenses by moving to a smaller home? Can you shop around for better rates on insurance, e.g., health, automotive, homeowners?
By focusing on these big categories first, you can potentially uncover some helpful ways to significantly reduce your expenses — and then move on to optimizing other spending categories.
6. Break up with your barista
The vast majority of Americans drink coffee daily, and many choose to pick up a latte on the way to work.
Coffee brewed at home costs around $0.25 per cup, while the average coffee at a cafe costs $2.70. That’s more than 10 times as much.
Plus, many specialty coffees cost far more than $2.70. For a daily latte or specialty drink, many Americans are shelling out more than $5 per day.
For daily drinkers, a $5-a-day habit could cost $150 per month. For coffee brewed at home, the cost drops to just $7.50 per month. That’s a savings of $142.50 per month, or $1,710 per year.
7. Don’t buy name-brand
You won’t notice the difference if you buy generic items. This goes for cereal, over-the-counter drugs and other grocery items. The quality of many generic and store brands is just as good as the name brands, but the cost is significantly less.
8. 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.
Small impulse purchases may not seem like they would have much of an impact, but over time, the costs can be quite significant. An extra $10 in impulse spending on a weekly grocery run would add $40 per month, or $480 per year, to your grocery bill.
Wondering how much you should spend on groceries? The answer might surprise you — especially with rising food costs these days.
9. Maintain a menu plan
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.
Meal-prepping can also help you save money on food costs, as can buying seasonal produce. Keeping favorite meals in your menu rotation can make this strategy easier to maintain.
10. Buy in bulk
If it’s a non-perishable item, consider buying 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.
In fact, paying for a membership to a bulk warehouse store may be cost-effective. One survey found that prices at Costco were up to 70% cheaper than standard grocery stores on select items. Of course, it's important to stick to your list when shopping at a warehouse store and not be tempted by impulse purchases.
11. 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.
The same principle applies to shopping. 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 are likely to resist the urge to fill it up with things you don’t need.
12. 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 — and your wallet — will feel better in the long run.
13. 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 probably 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.
If your household has multiple cars, the savings potential of dropping down to one car is huge. In fact, becoming a one-car household could save you up to $6,517 per year.
14. Hop on the thrifty train
The popular Netflix show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” has people emptying out their closets like crazy. Thrift stores are being flooded with high-quality clothes 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.
15. 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 your Kindle can add up. Instead, visit your local library and see what they have to offer. You can also likely utilize your library card to access Libby, an app that allows you to borrow eBooks and audiobooks from your local library.
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 share with a friend or loved one?
Free solutions are often available, and every dollar counts when you're focused on saving money and cutting costs at home.
16. 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.
The average cell phone bill in America now exceeds $144 per month. That’s over $1,728 per year.
Fortunately, many budget carriers exist, providing opportunities to cut down your spending. Cell phone providers want to compete for your business. Shop around and find one that allows you to prioritize your bottom line.
17. Don’t make it easy for yourself
Creating “friction” between you and optional purchases can help you spend less money. In other words, making it more difficult to make impulse purchases can really cut down your discretionary spending.
By logging out of online shopping websites and not saving your credit card information on file, you can allow yourself to mindfully pause before making a purchase.
18. Automate your finances
Many banks let you make automatic transfers to your savings account. Even if it’s only a few dollars a day, you may be surprised how much you’re able to build up your savings in a relatively short time period.
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.
19. Maximize your employee benefits
Brush up on the details of what your employer offers. Make sure that you’re fully utilizing employee benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, health savings accounts and others.
To explore your benefits, speak with your workplace human resources department.
20. 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. Giving away your email address in exchange for a small reward will likely cause more problems than it solves.
21. 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.
And simple daily decisions, like biking to work instead of driving, can reduce costs and improve your health and wellbeing.
22. Use home cleaning hacks to save money
If you go down the cleaning aisle of your local supermarket, you will see hundreds of different options. There’s a cleaning product for virtually every surface in your house.
But with a little creativity, you can make universal cleaning solutions that can help with cutting costs at home. Read through our cleaning hacks guide to get some ideas.
Ultimately, saving money is all about exploring your specific situation to find opportunities for cutting costs at home. What works for you may not work for others — so it’s important to explore all your options.
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