There are many ways to save extra money and pay off extra debt, but the most effective thing you can do is change your bad spending habits to ensure you will be able to save consistently going forward.
We’ve compiled some of our favorite tips for household habits that can help you save more:
1. Be on the Lookout for Sales
Finding bargains and sales to save money is something you’ll want to do regularly. Make it a habit to check for discounts and sales near you. Join social networks like Nextdoor, or join a Facebook group devoted to sharing information about local bargains and discounts.
You can still use the traditional methods, like local bulletin boards where sale flyers might be posted, or your local newspaper (or newspaper’s website). If you make a regular habit of looking for these kinds of sales, you’ll save money every time you take advantage of this kind of information.
2. Stop Relying on Credit Cards
Using credit cards when cash will do is a bad habit that everyone should break. Make it a habit to do your regular quick spending with cash – or debit if cash isn’t an option.
That way, you’ll know how much money things are really costing you and you’ll be more likely to think twice before swiping that plastic. Save the credit cards for those times when the extra security or convenience of using credit is essential.
3. Sort Mail Right Away
When the mail comes into the house, it can pile up and add to your disorganization and stress. If a bill sinks to the bottom of a pile of junk mail, you’ll be more likely to be late and incur extra fees. Avoid this by creating a regular habit of reviewing your mail as soon as it’s brought in. Trash anything that is junk, and sort bills to be paid immediately.
You’ll also spot coupons or sale opportunities this way; often a mailer that advertises a local sale is limited to one weekend or special occasion—if you sort your mail right away, you’ll be less likely to miss out on these kinds of events.
4. Look Over Your Bills
While we’re talking about sorting your mail, it’s important that you actually review and prioritize your bills when you pay them. If you have a lot of transactions on your credit card bill or debit card statement, you might miss something that is fraudulent or a duplicate transaction. Especially during the holidays, scammers try to sneak through fraudulent transactions when they think their victims will be less likely to notice them.
It’s not just bank statements and credit card bills you should review carefully. You might spot unwanted charges on your cell phone bill or cable bill—maybe someone signed up for a premium channel, or an introductory discount rate has expired. Review your bills so you can dispute things that aren’t legitimate or cancel services that aren’t worth the cost.
5. Conserve & Save
There are lots of ways to conserve and reduce your cost of living. Making these kinds of activities into habits will ensure that you never stop doing the right thing and that everyone else in the household will follow your lead.
Some of the things you can do to conserve and save in your household include:
- Wash your laundry in cold water whenever possible.
- Don’t over-dry your laundry.
- Insulate your water heater.
- Turn down your water temperature.
- Maintain your appliances.
- Use your blinds or window curtains to control the temperature in your house.
- Use a timer to take shorter showers.
Besides saving money, there are other benefits to these tips, both to you and to the planet. The lesson here is that it’s not a bad financial move to be more environmentally conscious, and in fact will make it less expensive to run your household.
6. Cook at Home
Cooking at home is cheaper and healthier than dining out. It’s also easier once you make it a habit. Doing meal prep on the weekends can set you up for an entire week of lunches and dinners that might otherwise have turned into expensive and unhealthy takeout.
Meal planning and preparation are part of a larger lifestyle that can only be done by changing your habits. Making this a regular thing will really save you money and let you control your family’s nutritional intake.
Another kind of food to always prepare at home are snacks. This is a sneaky expense that people fall into when they aren’t prepared. But if you’re in the habit of cooking for yourself, start bagging up snacks to take on the go, so you’re not using vending machines or stopping at convenience stores. This is the same principle as making coffee at home rather than buying it outside your home, but it goes beyond coffee—try to replace any snacks you buy during your regular days with something you can make at home more cheaply.
7. Shop Wisely
When shopping, comparison shopping to get the best deal is important, but it can backfire on you. If you’re driving all over town hunting for the best possible deal, you’re more likely to do unnecessary buying at various locations, put wear and tear on your car, use up expensive gas… it’s best if your shopping destinations are few and planned in advance.
8. Don’t Skimp Where It Matters
Another way shopping frugally can backfire is when you don’t spend enough on a particular item. Some items are too important to buy the cheapest possible option. One big one is your mattress. A bad bed can wreck your sleep, leading to problems with your health, lost productivity… as they say, you spend 1/3 of your life in bed, so be sure to sleep on a decent one.
Other things might cost you more if you skimp out. If you buy very cheap shoes, they’re likely to wear out quickly, where a good pair that costs more might not need to be replaced for a long time. Resoling, adding toe taps, replacing heel caps are a cost-effective way to prolong the life of high quality shoes and boots.
Computers are the same. A cheap computer might only last a year and a half before it becomes obsolete, where a good one could last for six to eight years. Spending more up front (after careful budgeting, of course) will save you money in the long run.
9. Set Written Goals
We’ve learned how vital it is that everyone write their goals down. A written goal is more likely to be achieved, and if you don’t record your goals this way, it’s easier to give up on them and move on.
Don’t ever give up! Saving and securing your finances is too important. Create financial goals often, and get in the habit of writing them down. If you don’t meet them, figure out what went wrong and make adjustments. Even a goal you failed to achieve can be valuable if you have it written down.
10. Cut Entertainment Spending
Entertainment is a category where a lot of people spend more than they realize. These days, it’s easier than ever to cut back in entertainment. Look at your cable TV package; do you really watch most of these channels? For more and more people, it makes more sense to cut the cord and ditch cable.
With a smart TV or set-top box like Apple TV or Roku, you can watch the shows you like through the internet, and stop paying for all the content you never watch.
Also, be on the lookout for free events, concerts, classes, etc. Your local paper will have a never-ending source of information about things to do in your area that cost little or nothing to attend.
11. Automate Bill Payments
One way to ensure your finances are organized and free from unnecessary late fees is to automate everything you can. Every bill you can predict should be scheduled to automatically come out of your bank account. Set reminders to check those bills that aren’t the same every month, so you can use online bill pay to pay those quickly.
12. Communicate Regularly
Everyone in your household needs to be on board when you start changing your savings habits. If you’re trying to implement these tips, make sure you talk to your loved ones and get them on board.
If you’re trying to sort junk mail as soon as it’s delivered, but someone else in the house is shoving it into a drawer, then you’ll be frustrated as you work against each other. Talk through your goals and get everyone to participate, and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
13. Economize Your Landscape
Think about your yard, and the costs that go into maintaining it. Are there ways to make your landscape lower-maintenance, and save money over time?
If you’re replacing plants every year, think about perennials that will come back on their own. Where can you cut back on the need to water your lawn? Adding a patio or deck out back can enhance the value of your home and cut down on the need to water a large patch of grass.
If you hire someone to help with your lawn, think about ways to make that job easier and cheaper. If you have a bed of mulch or gravel against fencerows and around trees, then there might be no need to weed-eat. Negotiate for a lower lawn-mowing rate when you eliminate any time-consuming tasks.
14. Always Plan Ahead for Holidays
Start thinking about the next holiday right now. Don’t wait until the “season” starts to begin planning your holiday spending. Especially for more expensive holidays, it makes sense to save all year round.
The goal is to get through the year without adding to your credit card debt, but too many people stumble at the end when shopping for Christmas presents and the like, and don’t have enough money left to finish their shopping.
The key is to track your spending, so you know how much the holidays really cost you, then start budgeting for that amount all year round. If all of your holiday shopping costs you $600 this year, then you only have to save $50 per month next year to be fully prepared. Saving extra every month is much easier than coming up with hundreds more during a busy holiday season, or paying off a credit card balance for years to come.
15. Maintain Your Vehicle
Vehicle maintenance is a cost that will save you more money down the road. By keeping your vehicle serviced and running well, you avoid big expenses for tow trucks and repairs that could have been prevented.
Some of the extra costs from delayed auto maintenance are more than just financial. Find a mechanic you can trust, and listen when they tell you to replace your brakes or tires—getting into an auto accident because you put off necessary maintenance will hurt more than just your pocketbook.
16. Save Extra Funds
We’re talking here about any “found” money that comes your way. It could be a gift, tax refund, or proceeds from a yard sale. Instead of treating that money like it’s free to spend, save any extra funds. If it isn’t part of your paycheck or other expected income, then it wouldn’t be in your written budget.
Save it right away and pretend you never saw it! This is one of those habits that should become automatic—if unplanned income rolls in, your only thought should be to add it to your savings.
17. Learn Basic Home Maintenance
Especially if you’re a homeowner, or hope to become a homeowner, it’s important to learn some basic home maintenance. These days, there’s a YouTube video for everything, so before calling an expensive handyman, watch a video and see if you think you can do the repair yourself.
Don’t try anything dangerous—just figure out what’s easy enough to do yourself, and stop paying professional rates for simple repairs.
18. Lend & Share Tools and Equipment
If you are doing work around the house don’t immediately run out to buy expensive tools you might only use once. Join a local tool lending library, or rent the tool from a local home improvement store, or use social media like Nextdoor to coordinate with your neighbors. Trading tools with each other might get you just what you need without a costly trip to the hardware store.
19. Contribute to Savings
This entire list is about saving, but the important habit is to actually contribute to a savings account of some kind. Getting better at managing your money is great, but if you’re just spending the extra funds on luxuries, you’re robbing yourself of important future goals.
Get in the habit of setting aside every extra dollar you save into a secure savings vehicle, and keep your long-term goals in mind when deciding what to do with this extra money.
This could be the single most important habit on the list to encourage. Create a budget and put it in writing. Making budgeting a regular activity will make it easier and less time-consuming. And the more often you create a written budget and practice using it, the better you’ll be at planning your spending and predicting how much money you’ll need to spend on your various budget categories.
A big part of this critical budgeting habit will be tracking your spending. This is the kind of thing that will be different for each person—maybe you’ll keep receipts, put notes in your smartphone, or enter purchases into a spreadsheet—however you do it, track spending so often that it becomes second nature.
That’s the point of making these activities into habits. Once a good habit is formed, it will be difficult to stop doing it, and you won’t feel inconvenienced by the extra work that goes into saving money and spending more wisely.