You cut your cable. You brown bag your lunch most days. And lattes? You gave them up long ago in the name of saving money.
So why does it seem like you’re still struggling to make ends meet? Maybe you need some fresh ideas for cutting costs and improving your budget. We asked financial planners, authors, bloggers and more to share their most creative and effective tips.
1. Treat your savings like a bill.
“Determine how much and how often you can save (monthly, biweekly) and treat your savings like it’s a recurring bill. Automate your savings through direct deposit via your employer and make saving one less task to manage month to month. Alternatively, you can schedule an ongoing automatic transfer from your checking to savings account through your bank. Thanks to technology, there are also convenient apps like RIZE and Digit that make savings a real convenience.” ― Holly Reid Toodle, certified public accountant
2. Call your service providers and negotiate discounts.
“Most saving advice is about cutting back (bleh) and a lot of earning advice is time-consuming and overwhelming. But here’s something that people can do within a week or even today: You can negotiate your bills on things like credit card rates, gym membership fees, cable fees, cell phone fees and car insurance. With a quick phone call, you can get these costs lowered, putting more money directly in your pocket and essentially earning back money. Even if you only save $10 a month, that’s still a savings of $120 per year. The key is to be nice and cordial, firmly asking what better plans they have to offer you. If things don’t go as planned, call back.” ― Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich
3. Ask your employer about discounts.
“Many corporations offer significant savings to employees on a range of things from phone bills to gym memberships; you just may not know about it. Check in with your human resources team and see where you could be taking advantage of corporate discounts.” ― Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate for finder.com
4. Start using cash back apps.
“Using cash back apps, you can get money back on items you are already buying anyway. Apps such as Ibotta partner with brand name products to offer cash back on their items. You can expect to get anywhere from $0.25 all the way up to five dollars or more, depending on the item. They are always uploading new products and offers, so it never gets stale.” ― Dustyn Ferguson, blogger at Dime Will Tell
5. Then stack cash back and rewards.
“A lot of people use cash back or rewards credit cards, but there are a few ways you can multiply the effect by stacking a few different cash back or reward offers. For example, if you purchase through Ebates, you can earn cash back from Ebates and still get the rewards from your credit card. You can also use cash back apps like Drop and Dosh that link directly to your credit card. My favorite way to triple-stack rewards is to go through Ebates and purchase discounted gift cards at Raise.com, and pay with a cash back credit card. I get a nice discount on the gift card from Raise, cash back from Ebates, and cash back from my credit card.” ― Marc, blogger at Vital Dollar
6. Follow the “one item in, one item out” rule.
“Here’s how it works: For any non-consumable item you purchase, you must sell another item (the items don’t need to be related to one another). This accomplishes two things: 1. You will think more about each purchase because you may not want to get rid of anything, and 2. You will likely use the items you own regularly. Otherwise, off they go! I personally implemented this with clothing and home decor the past few months, and it’s been a great system.” ― Rachel Smith, blogger at Budgets and Kale
7. Make extra payments on your mortgage.
“This might sound counterintuitive, but I highly recommend making extra payments on your mortgage if you want to save money. I know what you’re thinking: ‘How does spending more on my mortgage save me money?’ The answer is interest. Every year you keep your mortgage, you pay more interest. If you make just one extra house payment each quarter, you can pay off your house five years sooner!” ― Rachel Cruze, New York Times best-selling author and personal finance expert
8. Switch to biweekly garbage pickup.
“We realized that we did not create enough waste to need weekly pickup. Call up your garbage company and see if they will do biweekly pickup instead. We are saving around $15 per month doing so.” ― The Savvy Couple
9. Try the “half payment” budget method.
“This payment method is a good idea for those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck and feel like they are unable to cover their bills in a timely manner. I add up all of my bills and divide them by two. Half of my bills are paid out of my first paycheck and the other half is paid out of my next paycheck. This has given me so much financial freedom, and it has removed a huge burden off of my chest.” ― Shatoria Smith, accountant and creator of Coin Countin Mama
10. Stop paying to go to the movies.
“Sign up to participate in movie screenings. Not only are they free, but you get to see blockbuster movies sometimes months before they come out. You can go to sites like gofobo.com and lionsgatescreenings.com to sign up.” ― Tracy Taylor, certified public accountant
11. Use your grocery store’s app.
“Download your favorite grocery store’s app and enable notifications. You might see a free product or discounted item on your grocery list in a popup, allowing you some wiggle room in your budget or a few more dollars to put toward your next goal. Amplify your savings by using your cash-back rewards card. Plus, some stores allow you to scan the items you buy and check them off in your app’s cart, and the store will then send you more relevant discounts and freebies based on your actual purchases.” ― Jason Speciner, certified financial planner and founder of fee-only firm Financial Planning Fort Collins
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.