The first step to saving dough is to have a go-to list of cost-cutting strategies in your pocket. Below are 73 ways to cut spending, some more orthodox than others. Find just a few that work for you and watch the savings add up. (See also:The 10 Things Everyone Should Be Saving For)
1. CANCEL CABLE TV
With so many streaming options like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, there's barely any reason to pay for cable TV. at all. Unless you watch a whole lot of new programming, it's even cheaper to buy your shows by the season through itunes.
2. FIND A CHEAPER CELL PLAN
Don't overpay for minutes or data that you're not using. Likewise, be sure to shop carriers every time your contract is up to make sure you're buying from the cheapest service provider (assuming they also offer the best coverage, of course).
3. SHOP FOR GROCERIES WITH A LIST
A list can help keep you from adding needless items in the shopping cart (chocolate chip cookies, anyone?) that can flatten your wallet while fattening your waistline.
4. SHOP YOUR HOME AND AUTO INSURANCE POLICIES
There are no discounts for loyalty these days. One expert I spoke with recently estimated a$600 – $800 annual savings by comparing insurance carriers every couple of years. That's a big bang for a couple of minutes worth of work.
5. BUY DISCOUNT PHARMACEUTICALS
Large retailers are increasingly offering discounted pharmaceuticals. GoodRX.com compares prescription prices to help you find the lowest costs in your area. Both Target and Walmart have a large list of generics that are priced at $4 for a month's supply. Shop Rite also offers a discount generics program as well as free short-term supplies of prenatal vitamins and diabetes medication.
6. THROW A POTLUCK PARTY (INSTEAD OF GOING OUT)
Going out to eat is expensive. Why not have your friends over, instead? If everyone brings a dish or drink, you can all eat like royalty for the night — for next to nothing.
7. LEARN TO SEW
Taking your duds to the tailor for button and rip repairs can add up, not to mention the price of scrapping the item altogether and buying new. Why not learn to sew and make minor repairs on your own at the fraction of the price?
8. ASK YOUR CREDIT CARD COMPANY FOR A RATE REDUCTION
If you carry a credit card balance, any reduction in rate can help shave a couple of dollars off your costs. Before you call, be prepared with any offers you've received from competitors and come to the phone with a script, like this one. If you have a $5,000 balance, a 5% rate reduction could save you $250 over the course of a year.
9. CONSIGN CLOTHES YOU DON'T WEAR ANYMORE
Clearing clutter not only saves space and time, but it can also pad your savings account, if you send your castoffs to your local consignment shop. Most consignors offer you a percentage of what the items sells for, keeping the remainder for themselves to pay for overhead and as profit. If you're not wearing the duds anymore, it can pay (literally) to clean house.
10. LEARN TO COOK
A recent study found that it costs $12.28 per person to dine out, on average. If you live in a major city or have champagne tastes (like me), it can cost substantially more. Cut your dining costs by at least half by cooking more of your meals at home.
11. COOK MEALS IN BATCHES
Save time and money by doubling or tripling recipes when you cook. It takes just as much effort to cook one meal but you'll end up with two or three nights worth of dinners (saving you time as well!) plus you can save cash by buying groceries in bulk. (See also: Save Time and Money With a Bulk Cooking Weekend)
12. OPEN YOUR WINDOWS
Cooling costs add up in the summer. Instead of turning on the air conditioner, open up the windows. You'll save money and air out the house at the same time.
13. TURN OFF THE LIGHTS
Don't let your electric bills get out of control. Listen to what dad always said and turn off lights when you leave a room.
14. UNPLUG UNUSED APPLIANCES AND GADGETS
Even if they're not in use, they're still draining electricity, so long as the plug is in the socket.
15. BORROW BOOKS, EBOOKS, AND AUDIOBOOKS FROM YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY
Voracious readers know that book costs can add up quickly. Save yourself some dough and borrow from your local library instead. Most libraries have added e- and audio books to their catalogs, so you can borrow in your favorite format.
Decluttering your home helps you find the things you already own — so you're less likely to make the mistake of buying items in duplicate or triplicate (of which I am guilty!). Bonus: You'll also save time because you'll know where everything is. (See also: Do This One Thing a Day to Defeat Clutter Forever)
17. USE LED LIGHTBULBS
A household can save over $6,000 by switching their home lighting from incandescent bulbs to LEDs. The bulbs cost substantially more up front, but they're extremely energy efficient. They can last between 11 and 17 years, even if used up to 12 hours a day. Over time, the higher up-front cost of the bulbs will pay you back in substantially lower energy and replacement costs.
18. CANCEL UNUSED SUBSCRIPTIONS
Unread magazine subscriptions needlessly clutter your space and drain your wallet. If you're not reading the issues, let the subscription go.
19. CANCEL UNUSED MEMBERSHIPS
It's easy to let memberships services like those to Netflix and your local gym run, even if you're not using them. Check out where you're being billed monthly for a service you don't utilize and get canceling.
20. BUY USED
Consignment stores are good for more than just selling. You can often buy high end brands at a fraction of the price at your local consignment shop, eBay, or from sporting goods resale shops. Great finds can also be found at yard sales and estate sales.
21. SET UP A BABYSITTING CO-OP WITH FRIENDS
Long gone are the days when a local teen would watch your kids for $3 an hour. Today's babysitters charge anywhere between $10 and $20 per hour, depending on where in the country you live and how many kids you have. Instead of breaking the bank to get some much needed quality time with your partner, set up a babysitting co-op with other local parents.
22. BROWN BAG YOUR LUNCH
One online calculator estimates a New Yorker can save $31,200 over 10 years by packing a lunch instead of going out. Even workers in less pricy cities can see substantial savings from a homemade lunch. (See also: 25 Quick, Cheap Lunch Ideas)
23. PERFORM ROUTINE MAINTENANCE ON YOUR CAR
Your car's regular service isn't the place to scrimp. Changing your car's oil and filter every 3,000 – 10,000 miles (depending on what your owner's manual recommends) is the best way to avoid engine failure, which can add up to thousands of dollars in repair or replacement costs. That's just for starters. To avoid costly repairs, follow your auto manual's recommendations for air filter changes, tire rotations, brake checks and more.
24. WEAR MORE TRADITIONALLY STYLED CLOTHES
Following fashion trends can be expensive, particularly for women. Traditional or conservative style choices go out of fashion less often, meaning you can update your wardrobe less frequently.
25. PLANT A VEGETABLE GARDEN
According to one blogger, the Burpee Seed Co. estimates a $1250 produce yield for every $50 a family spends on seeds and fertilizer.
26. CHECK OUT FREE OR CHEAP COMMUNITY EVENTS
Most communities offer free or inexpensive community events like these, found in New York City. Check out your local chamber of commerce or township website for what's available near you. Most often you can stay entertained without spending a dime.
27. DITCH YOUR CAR
According to AAA, the average annual cost of owning a car is $8,876 per year. If you live in a walkable area or in a city with a good transportation system, you could easily forego that cost.
28. PACK YOUR OWN VACATION SNACKS
Most major theme parks will let you carry your own snacks through the gate and the savings can really add up. A snack-sized serving of grapes costs $3.69 in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom while you can buy an entire bag at the grocery store for about the same amount. Pack a backpack on your next day trip and you can shave beaucoup bucks off your final day's tab.
29. PACK SNACKS AND COFFEE FOR YOUR CAR TRIP
We all want to break up a long drive with a stop at Starbucks. In my area, a tall frappuccino costs over $4. Add in another for my spouse and some snacks for the kids and a little diversion can add up to over $20. Instead, bring some brew from home and pack kiddie snacks in a couple of ziplock bags.
30. NEGOTIATE FEES WITH SERVICE PROVIDERS
Everything is negotiable, so… negotiate!
31. USE COUPONS
32. VACATION WITHIN DRIVING DISTANCE
Airfare rose 2% in 2013 and flyers coughed up $3.4 billion in fees last year. Bring down the cost of your vacation by going Griswold style and packing up the station wagon (or minivan).
33. EXERCISE AT HOME
34. PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS
The average household owes in $7,221 in credit card debt at an average fixed rate APR of 13.02%. All that interest adds up to money that's needlessly being paid out to credit card companies. Stop the cycle, pay in cash, and stash those payments in your own account. (See also: How to Wipe Out Your Credit Card Balance)
35. SAVE YOUR LOOSE CHANGE
Put it in a jar at the end of each day and watch the pennies add up.
36. QUIT SMOKING
A pack of cigarettes costs $5.51, on average, and THEY KILL YOU.
37. BREW YOUR OWN COFFEE
One blogger estimates the cost of a cup of home brew at 16 cents per cup. Compare that to your local coffee shop.
38. USE FEE-FREE ATMS
Find one here.
39. PAY EXTRA TOWARD YOUR MORTGAGE
Calculate your potential annual savings here.
40. WEATHERPROOF YOUR HOME
You'll save on energy and replacement costs by insulating pipes, installing storm doors and windows, and caulking cracks.
41. BUY CLOTHING ON SALE
Retailers want to make room for new merchandise at the end of a season and usually slash prices to a fraction of what you'll find at high season. Take advantage of the savings by buying off season and preparing for the following year.
42. BUY CONSIGNED CLOTHING ONLINE
43. BUY HIGH QUALITY CLOTHING
Don't like to buy used? Invest in higher quality duds that will stand up to wear and tear over the years. The upfront cost may be higher but over time you'll be shopping far less often.
44. LEARN TO IRON
The average two-piece dress costs $12.47 to dry clean. Iron your pieces at home and you can stretch the time between dry cleanings.
45. SET GIFT PRICE LIMITS
The average cost of Christmas for families in 2013 was $801. Birthdays and holidays don't have to be as expensive if you talk to your loved ones and set a price limit on gift giving. It's the thought that counts, anyway. Right?
46. BUY A SMALLER HOME
Because lower utility bills, lower maintenance costs, less to clean, less to furnish, and lower tax bills. Need I say more?
47. LIVE CLOSE TO WORK
One blogger estimates you can buy a house priced $15,900 more for each mile you live closer to work.
48. MOVE TO A CHEAPER CITY
According to one online calculator, it costs half as much to live in Chapel Hill, NC as it does to live in New York City. Make your own comparisons.
49. GET A ROOMMATE
Half the rent, half the utilities.
50. PAY YOUR BILLS ON TIME
51. DOWNSIZE TO ONE CAR
Save on the added insurance and maintenance costs of the extra set of wheels.
52. DOWNSIZE TO A SMALLER CAR
A sedan has a lower sticker price and also guzzles less gas than an SUV.
53. SKIP THE CREDIT CARD WITH THE ANNUAL FEE
There are plenty of reward cards available that don't tack on an unnecessary annual fee.
54. CANCEL YOUR LANDLINE
91% of Americans carry a cell phone so there's little reason to maintain the expense of an additional land line.
55. SEND YOUR KID TO A CHEAPER COLLEGE
In his latest book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell argues that the academically gifted will rise to the top at a lower-tier school and that there are many esteem-boosting advantages to this education strategy. You and your kid can also save a whole heck of a lot of money in the process.
56. KEEP DRIVING YOUR BEATER
A paid off car has one major advantage over a new car: It's paid off. Think twice before you upgrade to a newer model with a hefty monthly price tag.
57. CREATE A PERSONAL WAITING PERIOD
One study found that North Americans spend more than $4 billion per year in impulse buys. Create a cooling off period for yourself and go home to think about a purchase, before you make it. You'll be surprised by how much you'll save.
58. USE CLOTH DIAPERS
For new parents who can stomach the added responsibility, cloth diapering can save a family several thousand dollars by the time baby turns two and a half.
59. SKIP YOUR SUPERMARKET'S PRE-CUT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
The markup is high and they expire faster. Cut your own and save.
60. BUY GENERIC GROCERIES
Generic groceries usually taste just as good as their more expensive brand-name counterparts. They're also cheaper.
61. EAT HOMEMADE SOUP
Invest in a $20 crock pot and throw all your leftovers in the pot. Dinner is made when you get home from work, it was cheap, and it's good for you. Triple win. (See also: Thursday Night Soup: Delicious Soup From Leftovers)
62. MAKE YOUR OWN BREAD
Baking bread is easier than you think. A homemade loaf also costs a small fraction of a store-bought loaf.
63. FREECYCLE YOUR CASTOFFS
Declutter your life by taking advantage of your local freecycle community. You can also find a few new things for yourself, at zero added cost.
64. MOW YOUR OWN LAWN
The cost to hire a service to mow your lawn averages between $0.06 and $0.31 per square foot. Mow your own and you can save a bundle over time.
65. GO TO THE MATINEE
From the movie house to Broadway theater, matinee showings are substantially cheaper. If you're paying for a few friends or family members, the cost can be cut dramatically by watching a show in the afternoon instead of evening.
66. MAKE FRUGAL FRIENDS
Frugal friends can help you keep your savings goals on track, inspire you with new ideas, and won't encourage you to break the bank on the newest trends.
67. HAVE YOUR SHOES REPAIRED
Repairing quality footwear is usually more cost effective than buying cheaper shoes more frequently. A quality pair of men's dress shoes can last for 10 years or more, particularly if they're resoled or re-crafted. A good cobbler can extend the life of your shoes for decades.
68. BUY CHEAPER WINE
The research shows that we really can't tell the difference between an expensive bottle of French wine and a cheaper bottle of domestic swill. Save yourself the bucks and buy cheap. If you're serving guests and want to look upscale, invest in a decanter, just for show.
69. SHOP CONSIGNMENT SALES FOR KIDS CLOTHES AND TOYS
There are consignment sales throughout the country where parents sell their castoff toys and clothes for a fraction of the cost of buying new. Find one near you and save big.
70. DRESS FOR THE WEATHER
Before you crank up the heat, grab a cardigan to stay warm. Offset the cost of high fuel costs with appropriate winter gear in the house. Sweaters, fingerless gloves, and fleece pants help keep you warm in cold weather.
71. VACATION IN THE OFF SEASON
A September beach vacation can cost half of what it costs in July or August. (See also: Top Travel Reward Credit Cards)
72. VACATION VIA A HOUSESHARE PROGRAM
Services like Airbnb give you the opportunity to find unique vacation accommodations while you save a few bucks. You can also earn some cash by renting out your own place while you're out of town.
73. DRINK AT HOME
Skip the expensive bar and have your nightcap at home with friends.