100 Ways To Save Money Fast

Lasting financial success takes time. It takes time for investments to accumulate, for the power of compound interest to work and for career moves to pay off.

The problem is that when you face a financial crisis, you usually don’t have a lot of time. Bills are piling up. Debtors are calling. A big expense just got dumped on your plate. You need to make financial changes, and fast.

In those situations, frugality is the key. Effective ways to cut your spending without drastically cutting your quality of life is what you need. Choose from among these tips and apply them to your life where they make sense to cut your spending down so that you have the resources to get your bills paid and stabilize your financial situation.

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    100 ways to save money fast

    1. Write a list before you go shopping. Before you go into a store for any reason, make a list of what you intend to buy. A grocery list will help you keep focus there, but it’s good for niche stores, too, like bookstores or clothing shops. Do any research about sales or which item to buy before you enter.
    1. Find a better bank. Ideally, your bank should have no-fee checking, a wide ATM network and good online banking services. If your bank regularly hits you with account maintenance fees or ATM fees, look for another bank. Here are some great full service banks that offer these features and some great online-only banks that excel at online banking in particular.
    1. Turn off the television. Television consumes electricity, usually involves a costly service and is laden with advertisements even within the shows themselves (product placement). Consider watching less television and replacing that time with something else, like many of the items on this list.
    1. Stop collecting, and start selling. Rather than accumulating more and more possessions (meaning you have less and less time and energy to give to each one), consider aiming for a small number of possessions that you really love and use. Start by selling off some of your unused stuff.
    1. Sign up for free customer rewards programs. If you’re already making a purchase at a store, see if they offer a free customer rewards program and, if they do, sign up. Create a new email address just for these rewards programs so your regular email isn’t overwhelmed with offers, then check that email if you’re considering making a purchase. These programs will often result in discounts and rewards on things you’re already going to buy.
    1. Pay off your rewards credit card in full each month. If you’re a credit card user, get into the habit of paying off your card in full each month. This ensures you’re not hit with finance charges or interest. Once you’re in that habit, focus on using a rewards credit card that matches your spending habits so that the rewards are a pure benefit for you.
    1. Master the 30-day rule. The 30-day rule means if you’re about to make a major purchase (say, anything over $20) that isn’t absolutely necessary, wait 30 days before you buy. Stick that item on a wishlist somewhere, and come back to it in 30 days. If you still want it, go for it! If you don’t want it any more, then you’ll have saved yourself a lot of cash on something you didn’t even really want! This is a great way to get around bad buying impulses.
    1. Master the 10-second rule, too. The 10-second rule simply states that if you’re about to make any purchase, think for 10 seconds about why you shouldn’t buy it. Do you really need it? Do you already have something like it? Can you borrow something like it? If you begin to have doubts, just put the item down. You can always buy it some other time!
    1. Invite friends over. There’s a strong temptation to go somewhere for social events, but going somewhere often results in having to spend money just to enjoy someone else’s company. Instead, mix it up sometimes and have friends over. Have a movie night at home. Borrow from strategy #74 and have a low-cost dinner party.
    1. Repair clothing. Many minor clothing issues are easily resolved with a bit of thread and a needle. Rather than tossing a shirt with a fraying seam or a missing button, do the simple repair yourself and get a lot more life out of that garment.
    1. Don’t spend big money entertaining your children. This is particularly true for younger children, but often older ones as well. Children mostly want time, not stuff. If you prompt them for stuff, they’ll come up with a list, of course, but it’s time together that they really crave. 
    1. Pay off your credit cards. Avoid putting additional money on your credit cards until they’re paid off. Every charge you make on a credit card pushes the balance in the wrong direction, increasing the interest you’ll owe. Learn to live on the cash in your checking account.
    1. Negotiate rates with your credit card company. If you’re carrying a credit card balance, talk to your credit card issuer about lowering the interest rate. 
    1. Transfer your credit card balance via a zero interest offer. If #13 doesn’t work for you, look for a zero interest balance transfer offer. This will allow you to move your balance to a new card, and that balance will be interest free for a time, often 12 or 18 months. When you make payments on it, all of the money goes to reducing the balance instead of vanishing in the form of interest payments.
    1. Clean out your closets. Pull everything out of your closets and storage spaces, figure out what items you actually want to keep, and put those back. Everything that’s still out of the closet should be sold off. Take that money and use it to pay down debts.
    1. Drink more water and less soda and juice. Water is incredibly inexpensive. Juice and soda cost more. Furthermore, juice and soda can have long-term health consequences. 
    1. Skip fast food. Fast food is convenient and it seems like a good deal sometimes, but in terms of the calories you get, it’s not a great deal. Buy a box of granola bars and keep some in your car if you want a convenient and much cheaper snack option when you’re out and about. Use other meal prep strategies in this article when you’re dining at home.
    1. Quit smoking and drink less. Alcohol and tobacco are all vices that damage your long-term health while also costing you financially. Dump those habits! 
    1. Save soups and casseroles. When you make soups or casseroles, make some extra batches and freeze the extras. This makes for an easy and quick meal when you’re busy.
    1. Use the library. The library offers free books for checkout, sure, but did you know that many libraries allow you to check out things like DVDs and Blu-rays and tools and other equipment? Libraries also have free clubs, presentations and other activities.
    1. Turn off the lights. A 75-watt lightbulb eats up approximately one kilowatt-hour of energy every 13 hours. A kilowatt-hour of energy costs you $0.13. So, if you leave many bulbs on for long, it starts to add up. The solution is twofold: Turn your lights off when you leave rooms, and install energy-efficient LED bulbs that provide similar lighting for much less cost.
    1. Lower your thermostat. Rather than setting your thermostat to “perfectly comfortable,” aim for a temperature that’s a little lower in the winter and a little higher in the summer. Wear a sweatshirt in the winter, and take off your shoes and socks in the summer.
    1. Open the windows. Rather than using energy to achieve a livable temperature in your home, open the windows and keep ceiling fans running. That will use far less energy than your AC or furnace. Use them only in the most extreme times, when open windows and fans aren’t cutting it.
    1. Run your ceiling fans in the correct direction. There are a number of great energy saving ceiling fan tricks, but this one is likely the best. There’s a little switch on your fan that sets the direction that the blades turn. In the winter, you want the blades to spin clockwise when you look up at them. In the summer, you want them spinning counterclockwise. This keeps warm air in the middle of the room in winter and cool air in the middle of the room in summer.
    1. Buy appliances based on reliability. Reliability should be the top factor that you consider when buying home appliances if you want to maximize your dollars. Use Consumer Reports for reliability data and stick to models and manufacturers with great reliability scores for the type of appliance you’re buying. When you buy an appliance that lasts 15 years instead of 10, you’re buying only two of them over the course of 30 years instead of three.
    1. Use the grocery store flyer. This is the core strategy for effective low-cost meal planning for busy families. Each week, grab the grocery store flyer from your store of choice, identify some on-sale ingredients you want to use, and make a meal plan based on them. Then, build your grocery list from that plan.
    1. Switch to your local discount grocery store. Do a price comparison of local grocers by buying a week’s worth of groceries from each and comparing prices on the common things. Start shopping at the one with the lowest average prices. Some discount grocers include Aldi, Fareway, and Lidl.
    1. Don’t browse at stores for entertainment. “Retail therapy” is something many people practice, but it actually makes financial problems worse, not better. Find other ways to entertain and de-stress, like going on hikes or giving yourself blocks of uninterrupted free time for hobbies.
    1. Choose a hobby that involves making things. Move away from hobbies that orient toward collecting and consuming things and more toward hobbies that involve doing or making things. Some examples of hobbies that center around making things that are easy and low cost to get started are baking, cooking, knitting, crocheting and making fermented foods.
    1. Make a maintenance schedule. A home, auto and appliance maintenance checklist is a combined list of all ongoing maintenance tasks. Go through the list once a month and take care of everything that’s due. This extends the life of your cars and appliances and makes costly home repairs much less frequent.
    1. Cancel unused subscriptions and memberships. Got any magazines you don’t read? Gym or other club memberships you don’t use? What about streaming services? Cancel them! Go through your bank and credit card statements to make sure you haven’t missed any!
    1. Look for a used option first. Whenever you’re considering buying anything nonperishable, consider looking for a used option first. Of course, this won’t always be a great fit, but it works for a lot of things, from musical instruments and sporting goods to small kitchen appliances and clothes.
    thrift store teacups
    From tea cups to T-shirts, make it a habit to shop used first and you’ll often find what you’re looking for at a big discount. Photo: Laura D’Alessandro
    1. Shop around for a new insurance package. Homeowners insurance and auto insurance are always big expenses. There’s a lot of money that can be saved by shopping around and getting discounts for switching. Here’s how to shop around for car insurance and homeowners insurance.

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    1. Remove your credit card numbers from your online accounts. Having your credit card number stored in an online account might seem convenient, but it’s actually a temptation. It makes it just so easy to tap a few times and make a purchase. 
    1. Do holiday shopping right after holidays. Right after a holiday, decorations and other items related to that holiday go on steep discount at lots of stores. Buy Christmas paper and lights right after Christmas. Buy spooky Halloween items right after Halloween. Buy egg-dyeing kits right after Easter. Then, just put them in storage until next year.
    1. Join a volunteer program. Spending your free time doing volunteer work means that not only are you doing things that don’t cost you money, you’re likely also learning useful skills along the way. For example, a day spent working on a Habitat for Humanity house is a free day of activity, plus you learn some useful carpentry skills.
    1. Try generic or store brand versions of items. Rather than buying the familiar name brand version of everything, give the store brand version a try. You’ll often find that the store brands work just as well and you’ll save going forward. 
    1. Switch to term life insurance. Term life insurance protects your family in the case of unexpected death.
    1. Make as many meals as you can at home. Cooking at home is almost always cheaper than eating out. The drawback, of course, is the labor and the know-how. The solution is to get into the cooking groove by making simple, inexpensive, but tasty meals at first until you get the kitchen skills.
    1. Buy cars based on reliability and fuel efficiency. When you’re purchasing a car, focus on reliability and fuel efficiency. Reliability means fewer repairs and a longer lifespan, particularly if you follow the maintenance schedule, and fuel efficiency means fewer stops at the gas pump.
    1. Swap babysitting with your neighbors. If you have young children, babysitting is an ongoing cost. One great solution is to talk to the parents of your children’s friends and discuss regular babysitting swaps, giving you and your partner a free date night. 
    1. Learn to jazz up leftovers. Almost all leftovers can be used effectively. Many meals can just be directly reheated, but what about spare items? Here are smart ways to use leftover bread and leftover rotisserie chicken!
    1. Cut down your wardrobe. By this, I don’t mean that you should toss out everything you don’t wear. Instead, put most of your wardrobe into storage and wear a small subset of your clothes until they start to wear out, then “shop” for replacements in storage. This way, you don’t have to buy clothes for a very long time.
    1. “Brown bag” your lunch. Instead of eating out for lunch with coworkers, bring your own lunch from home. Encourage your coworkers to do the same thing so that you can enjoy camaraderie while eating together.
    1. Try making repairs yourself. Instead of throwing up your hands and calling a repair person as soon as there’s a problem, try fixing it yourself. Start by looking at YouTube for a video on how to handle the problem and, if it looks possible, give it a shot. Many simple repairs are quite easy, like fixing most plugged toilets or handling a leaky faucet.
    1. Get in the habit of taking notes on your phone. Whenever you have a good idea for saving money or anything else you might want to remember, jot it down on your phone. Then, once every day or two, review it. This will keep good bargains or money-saving ideas from slipping your mind.
    1. Move to a lower cost-of-living area. If you can find work in a different area, make the conscious decision to move to an area with a lower cost of living, particularly if you can maintain your salary. This is a great option if you work remotely.
    1. Look for free events. Check out your city’s website as well as any free local newspapers. Both are great sources for free events in your town: free concerts, community festivals, business grand openings.
    1. Properly inflate your car tires. Underinflated tires increase friction with the road, which means faster wear on your tires and worse fuel efficiency. Once a month, check the air pressure in your tires and fill them to the maximum recommended pressure.
    1. Ride a bicycle. Want to cut down on your transportation costs? Use a bicycle for your commute or, if you have detachable bags on your bike, use it for simple errands like groceries. 
    1. Take public transportation. If you live in a city, you can save a ton of money on fuel, car wear, and parking by simply using public transportation options. 
    1. Walk. If your destination is just a mile or two away, consider walking instead of driving. 
    1. Carpool. If you consistently commute to your workplace (or some other place), see if there are others who consistently commute there as well, at similar times. If so, work out a carpool arrangement. If you can ride-share twice a week, that means a 20% reduction in wear on your car and fuel costs due to work each week.
    1. Cut your own hair. If you have a simple, short haircut, it’s easy to cut your own hair with clippers and a mirror. Simple, longer haircuts can be done with scissors and a mirror, but are often better done with someone else. Save stylists and barbers for more complex hairstyles.
    1. Get a slow cooker. A slow cooker is one of the best investments for your kitchen. There are countless slow cooker recipes that require you to mix in a bunch of ingredients and set the slow cooker on low before you go to work, then come home to a delicious meal.
    1. Buy staples in bulk. You can save a lot of money buying nonperishable food items and household supplies in bulk, provided you consistently use them and have a place to store them. Buy large quantities of these items on sale or buy the largest bulk packages you can and you’ll usually save money.
    Costco detergent
    Buy generic products, and buy them in bulk — especially if they’re non-perishable. Photo: bnilsen
    1. Pay attention to price per unit. Although bulk buying usually saves money, it’s not always true. Learn how to compare the prices of items per unit, not just the sticker price. Compare food items by serving or by weight, and many household items by use. 
    1. Eliminate unused services. Take every bill you get regularly and go through it line by line, looking for any charges you don’t use or don’t understand. Contact the issuer of the bill and request that the items be eliminated.
    1. Cut the cord of cable/satellite television. If you’re watching less television (see tip #3), why not just eliminate cable/satellite television entirely? Replace it with over the air television and a streaming service or two and you’ll save quite a bit per month.
    1. Consolidate your student loans. Consolidating your student loans into a single loan with a locked-in low interest rate can make your monthly student loan payments lower while also saving you money over the long haul.
    1. Use a simple razor. Instead of using a cartridge razor with expensive cartridges, or an electric razor that’s very expensive to begin with and uses expensive blades, try switching to an old-fashioned safety razor. The individual blades are very inexpensive, cutting your cost per shave down to literal pennies. It takes practice, but you can get a perfect, amazingly close shave with a safety razor.
    1. Go through your employee benefits in detail. If your job provided you with an employee handbook, look through it carefully and see if there are any benefits you’ve overlooked.
    1. Make your own cleaning supplies. Many home cleaning supplies are easily made with just a few inexpensive products. For example, you can put 2 cups of water and 1/4 cup white vinegar in a spray bottle and it makes a fantastic window cleaner.
    1. Have a money-free weekend. A money-free weekend is a full weekend, from Friday evening to Monday morning, where you commit to not spending any money at all. It’s not nearly as tricky as it seems and you might just pick up a new hobby or interest along the way.
    1. Don’t speed. Driving significantly above the speed limit only saves you a moment or two at best on shorter drives, introduces an increased risk of speeding tickets and an increased risk of accidents, and eats up more fuel to boot.
    1. Buy a smaller house. A bigger house means a bigger mortgage, bigger insurance rates, bigger property taxes, bigger utility bills and bigger maintenance costs. Consider a smaller home, and remember that most of the difference in space would just be used to store stuff you don’t really need.

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    1. Optimize your commute. Make sure that you’re driving the most efficient commute to and from work, aiming to minimize mileage and temptations. The best commute is the one that takes you directly home with the shortest distance, ideally not going near places where you’re tempted to stop. 
    1. Always ask for fees to be waived. Whenever you get an invoice or a statement with extra fees tacked on, ask what they are and, if you can’t see the point, ask for them to be waived.
    1. Eat less meat and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Meat is far more expensive per calorie than most fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and shifting to less meat will reduce your food bill. 
    1. Air seal your home. This means going to every window and door frame in your house and making sure that no air is leaking through. This prevents cool air from escaping your home in the summer and keeps warm air inside during the winter, causing your AC and furnace to run less. Most of the steps are really inexpensive and just involve a caulking gun and a tube of caulk. Here’s a great guide to air sealing your home.
    1. Plan “looser” vacations. When you plan a vacation, make it more “loose” than you normally would. Rather than pre-filling every day with tons of activities, loosen it up and let serendipity strike you when you’re traveling. You’ll often find free things to do and unexpected things to see when you’re out exploring.
    1. Sign up for the automatic repayment plan for your student loans. Many student loans offer an interest rate reduction if you sign up for automatic payments. It will not only reduce your monthly bill (or reduce your number of payments), it will also ensure that you’re not late in the future out of forgetfulness.
    1. Change your oil and air filter on your car. These are car maintenance tasks that you can pull off yourself with simple tools. Your car manual (and YouTube) will show you everything you need to know. 
    1. Have a potluck dinner party. Invite people to have dinner with you and ask them to bring plenty of a side dish and/or a beverage and/or an item for the grill. This means you only have to cover a portion of the food and everyone gets to have an inexpensive delicious meal with friends.
    1. Pack food and beverages for road trips. If you’re going on a road trip, buy snacks and beverages at the grocery store in advance. If it’s a long trip, pack a meal, too. Keeping yourself out of convenience stores and fast food places will save you cash.
    1. Consider the possibility of downsizing a car. Do you have two or three cars? Could your household operate with one fewer car? How often are all autos in use? If it’s rare, are there ways around those situations? 
    1. Make your hobbies geared toward participation. Many hobbies, such as reading, board games, video games or hiking, can easily turn into a collecting hobby (which is expensive) rather than a participation hobby (which isn’t). Set hobby goals for yourself centered around actually doing things rather than accumulating stuff. Make a list of books you’ve read and aim to add to it, or a list of trails you’ve hiked, or video games you’ve conquered.
    1. Get into a “meal-prep Sunday” routine. Set aside a few hours each Sunday to make meals in advance for the week ahead and beyond. This encourages more eating at home by freeing up time when you’re super-busy (weeknight evenings) and doing those tasks when you’re not so busy (Sunday afternoons).
    1. Have a “make ahead meal” party. With some planning, you can turn your “meal-prep Sunday” into a social event. Invite some friends who are also into meal prepping and share some of the tasks. This can actually make it easier to buy lots of ingredients in bulk, too, such as large bags of rice.
    1. Invest in a deep freezer to store more “make ahead” and bulk foods. If you get into a routine with make ahead meals, you might find a deep freezer to be a great investment. You can fill that freezer with meals made in advance as well as take advantage of food sales.
    1. When your furnace or AC fails, look at geothermal options. In many areas, geothermal heating and cooling can actually be much more cost efficient than a traditional AC or furnace. Such systems rely on a steady temperature deep underground to efficiently heat or cool your home.
    1. Cancel your landline. Unless there’s a strong reason to keep your landline, cancel it if you have a cellphone.
    1. Take a class each month to learn a money-saving skill. Devote some time each month toward learning a skill that can save you money in the long run. YouTube can help. Spend some time learning how to cook something you’ve struggled with, or how to fix a toilet, or how to repair a leaky faucet. Learn these things when there’s not a crisis so that you feel prepared to handle the problem when there is one.
    1. Anticipate replacement needs. Don’t wait until something is broken before you start thinking about replacing it. If you’re doing a maintenance schedule (see #30), you’re very likely to notice major problems starting to crop up before they become a crisis. 
    1. Keep an ongoing grocery list. Whenever you notice something you need, jot it down. This increases trust in your grocery list (tip #1) so that you spend less time in the store tempted by impulse buys and can focus on your list instead.
    1. Do authoritative research on expensive purchases. Take the time to stop by the library and look at their archives of Consumer Reports or other trusted publications.
    1. Use a pump bottle in the shower. Most shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap bottles dispense far too much at a time, meaning most of it just runs down the drain. Get a pump bottle for each, fill it up, and use a couple of pumps when you need them. 
    1. Get a roommate. Having a roommate can significantly reduce your rent or mortgage, your utilities, and even other expenses depending on how you share things.
    1. When you shop for clothes, start at secondhand stores. Don’t just rush for expensive full-priced clothing stores when you need new pants, shirts, blouses, or dresses. Instead, start by examining the racks at secondhand stores, then move to discount and clearance racks.
    1. Ask around on social media. Don’t just go buy something you discover that you need. If a secondhand version is fine, ask your social circle if anyone has this thing stowed away in their closet. 
    1. Plan a camping vacation. Camping is an extremely inexpensive vacation if you have the necessary gear. If you want to try out camping and see if it’s for you, borrow gear and give it a whirl. If it clicks, then start slowly investing in camping gear. You’ll either have one very cheap vacation, or you’ll open a door into a lot of them!
    1. Widen your search range when booking hotels. If you need a hotel room for some reason, don’t just focus on hotels in the exact city where you need to be. You might find far less expensive hotels if you’re willing to drive 10 or 20 miles each day.
    1. Consider generic medications. If you take a name-brand medication, talk to your doctor and see if there is a generic version of that medication that can meet your needs. Generic medications can save you a ton of money on your prescription costs.
    1. Go where you can haggle. For example, if you need to buy fresh vegetables, go to a farmer’s market. If you buy several items from one vendor, you can often haggle a little on the price. 
    1. Save worn clothes. When an article of clothing becomes too worn for professional use or for wearing socially, you can still wear them around the house or when working out. Old button-up shirts are perfect for cleaning the house, for example, as there’s no crisis if you damage them.
    1. Make a debt repayment plan. A debt repayment plan is an organized list of all of your debts, usually listed from highest interest rate to lowest. Make minimum payments on each debt and make a big extra payment each month on the highest one on the list.
    1. Have an emergency fund. An emergency fund is a pool of cash set aside to handle emergencies. The best way to build one is to do it automatically, with a small automated weekly transfer from your checking account. Leave it alone until you need it!
    1. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re going to make mistakes during your financial turnaround. Don’t beat yourself up over spending too much. Just aim to do better tomorrow. 
    1. Always keep looking ahead. Focus on what you can do going forward, not what you did in the past. We all have financial regrets, but we can’t go back and undo them. All we can control is today.
    1. Never give up. The road might feel impossibly long. Don’t give up. Focus not on the mountain in the distance, but on putting one foot in front of the other right now. Saving $5 might not seem like much (that’s one Trenta vanilla cold brew a day, right?), but if you save $5 each day, that’s more than $1,800 in a year.

    We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Trent Hamm

    Founder & Columnist

    Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.