Does this sound familiar? Every month you set a goal to save a small portion of your income, only to realize at month’s end that there’s nothing left to save.
Where does it go? After paying for necessities like a house payment, utilities and food, most of us manage to fritter away money on treats, small luxuries and inefficient use of resources.
The good news is that if you can identify these little leaks in your finances, you can quickly save some money. Try turning it into a game by going through this list of 18 ways to save, and seeing how many you can do in a week.
1. Keep the change
Retain the change from each of your cash transactions for one week and store it in a jar or piggy bank. At the end of the week, count the coins to see how you did. Depending on how much cash you spend, you may reach your goal by following this one simple tactic.
2. Reduce transportation costs
Download a mobile app like GasBuddy to locate the best gas prices in your area. You can also try carpooling with co-workers or using public transportation for a week.
Check out: “The 30 U.S. Cities With the Best Public Transit.”
3. Avoid restaurants and coffee shops for 1 week
Brew your own coffee to start the day, and decline colleagues’ invitations to eat lunch at restaurants this week. Pack your lunch instead, and invite co-workers to join you in the park or plaza.
Taken seriously, this effort can make a real difference over time. Check out: “How Slashing My Lunch Costs Saves Me $200,000.”
4. Skip costly entertainment
Don’t pay to see a play or movie. Instead, find free entertainment at local community events. There’s also the library, which is jam-packed with books and DVDs that you can borrow for free.
For more ideas, check out “More Fun for Less Money: 17 Ways to Save on Entertainment.”
5. Find free workouts
Consider canceling your gym membership and instead embrace the great outdoors or group workouts. Check the local recreation or community center for free exercise classes. Or, try finding free fitness programs on television or the internet, or at the library.
6. Carry cash only
Force yourself to save by setting a cash-only budget for the week. Take out a set amount of cash from the ATM at the beginning of the week — then leave debit and credit cards at home. Having to stretch your cash throughout the week will help you focus on spending for essentials only. (And don’t forget to save your change.)
7. Sell some stuff
Head to a local consignment shop that will pay you on the spot for gently used goods.
Can’t find one in your area? Try an online equivalent. For consigning clothing as well as games and toys, there’s Swap.com, for example. The site aims “to be the largest online consignment and thrift store in the world.” For selling all kinds of used electronics, there’s Gazelle.
If you have a lot to sell, consider having a yard sale.
8. Get to work
Pick up a temporary side gig to quickly accumulate funds. Or, let your creative juices flow and sell your products and services to others. For inspiration, check out “107 Ways to Make Extra Money Every Month.”
9. Clip coupons
No newspapers lying around? No problem. Head on over to a website like Coupons.com, which is perhaps the largest source of manufacturer coupons. You can redeem them by printing them out and taking them to the store, or you redeem them electronically using a store loyalty card or Coupons.com’s free app.
If you prefer electronic savings, also check out free apps like Ibotta, which offers cash rebates.
10. Call your car insurance company
Inquire about any discounts that may be available. Also, raising the deductible on your auto or homeowners insurance will drop your premiums. Just be sure you have money in savings to cover your increased out-of-pocket expenses in case you have to file a claim.
Also, check out: “The Complete Guide to Getting the Best Possible Deal on Car Insurance.”
11. Decrease your energy consumption
Reach out to your utility company to schedule a free energy audit of your home. Also, unplug any chargers or appliances that are not in use.
Set the thermostat a little higher in summer to cut your air conditioning bill. Lower the temperature in winter and layer up on clothing. Also, consider hanging your clothes on a clothesline to give the dryer a break.
12. Don’t use your credit card
A high interest rate can greatly increase the cost of things you buy with your credit card if you don’t pay off the balance in full each month. Hide the magic plastic so you don’t increase the amount you owe on the card.
If you’re struggling with credit card debt, get some help. Go to our Solutions Center to get started.
13. Disconnect the cable
Freaked out by this suggestion? At least shave off the extras and try online television instead. Also, inquire about any discounts on bundles for which you may be eligible.
Switching from cable to online TV enabled Money Talks News writer Geof Wheelwright to cut his monthly TV costs from more than $100 to $45.30. See his article “How to Cut the Cable TV Cord in 2018.”
14. Skip the spa
It’s always great to pamper yourself, but it can also add up quickly. My last spa visit — which consisted of a manicure, pedicure and massage — cost well over $100.
15. Iron your own clothes
You can iron shirts and blouses, can’t you? No need to pay a professional unless an article of clothing truly requires professional handling by a dry cleaner.
16. Call your cellphone provider
If the provider isn’t willing to reduce your monthly bill, switch providers or get a prepaid plan. Also, check out the free or steeply reduced price options. They do the job just as well as the big boys. I know from experience.
One way to get just the right fit for your cellphone plan is through our cellphone plan finder, a tool that sorts through hundreds of options to match your requirements for the number of lines, data use and other options.
17. Track your expenses
The simple act of paying attention to all of your daily expenses may be motivation enough to spend less. Join a budgeting service like You Need A Budget so you know where your money’s going.
For more inspiration for getting expenses under control, check out “Reach Your Goals Without Making a Budget.”
18. Pick up some free cash
Does your employer match retirement contributions? If it does but you have yet to take advantage of the full match, add another $100 to your 401(k) and your account might get a free $100 from the boss.
For more guidance, see “Ask Stacy: How Much Should I Contribute to My 401(k)?”
Which leaks in your finances can you plug? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Kari Huus contributed to this post.