self control

How to Save Money in 35 Easy Ways

Photo: Paper Boat Creative/Getty Images

An enviously money-savvy friend once told me: If you’re in debt or want to know how to save money, the most important thing is to be honest with yourself about your needs. Maybe your monthly budget absolutely must include sheet masks or weed. Maybe you would *literally die* without an afternoon coffee, or perhaps your fancy gym membership includes the best saunas (even if you haven’t touched a treadmill). These are the rules: Evaluate your priorities, consider what you can compromise, and stick to a few non-negotiables. When you have those things down, you’ll be better equipped to carve out a small sum of money for yourself, week by week, without feeling deprived. Discover 35 small and easy ways to save money below.

1. Say “no” more often.
No, I don’t want to go to happy hour. No, I don’t want to fly across the country for a bachelorette party. No, I don’t want to give money to your nephew’s school play, ever.

2. BYOB.
When dining out, do some research and suggest a spot that has a BYOB policy. You don’t have to stick to just two-buck-chucks: Even a mid-range bottle will be cheaper than one from the menu, as the restaurant industry is infamous for marking up its wine offerings.

3. Get a city card.
Plenty of cities offer residents benefits. In New York, an IDNYC card will give you access to more than 35 New York City museums and cultural institutions, including free access with a plus-one to the swanky bar that sits atop the Met.

4. Get a library card.
Books! Remember them? You can rent them for free at an institution called the library — and this includes e-books and Kindle reads.

5. Cancel your gym membership.
Particularly smart if you’re not actually going to the gym. Plus, there are tons of free workout plans and videos online that’ll teach you ways to break a sweat without equipment.

6. Never, ever shop for food when you’re hungry.
This will wreck you: You’ll likely buy more than you’d planned, and ultimately end up tossing what you didn’t eat. Also consider sticking to the perimeter of the grocery store, where the staple foods tend to be placed, so you’re not lured in by a beautiful package of artisanal donuts.

7. Stop buying bottled water.
Every time you’re about to buy a bottle of water, remember that your purchase is a wild 2,000 times more expensive than tap water. Invest in a water filter or reusable bottle instead.

8. Start a lunch club at work.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could make lunch just once a week, and still have something to eat on the other days? Oh, the money you’d save. Convince a few co-workers to start a lunch club in which a different person will bring a big batch of something for the group each day. You’ll have to be organized about this, agree on certain dietary guidelines, and stay committed, but it can work.

9. Make a big pot of quinoa on Sunday.
Or rice, or farro, or some other kind of fiber-filled grain that can serve as the foundation of many different meals. It’s versatile enough to keep you from setting fire to your bagged lunch by Wednesday. For some inspiration: This one-pot Mexican quinoa recipe calls for just a few other ingredients, and it will last the whole week.

10. Freeze your bread.
Freezing your bread will keep you from throwing out half-consumed loaves that get moldy on the counter. When you’re hungry, take a slice out of the freezer and put it straight in the toaster.

11. Ditch pre-washed, pre-cut, prepared foods.
Bagged salads and sliced produce almost always cost more per serving. Also, prepared fruits and veggies are more likely to be contaminated with things like E. coli.

12. Don’t take sell-by dates too seriously.
Sell-by dates are more like suggestions from food manufacturers than law. If the food is moldy and discolored, you should probably toss it. Otherwise, if it passes the smell test, it’s probably okay to eat.

13. Go vegetarian.
If it’s a lifestyle you’ve been toying with, here’s an extra reason to take the plunge: Vegetarians save at least $750 more a year compared to their meat-eating counterparts, according to one study.

14. Stop buying coffee.
This is a painful one to write, but buying coffee every day can suck you dry. Brewing coffee at home can save hundreds of dollars over the year. Shop for coffee makers here.

15. Get rid of cable.
You’re watching most stuff on streaming services anyway, right?

16. Cancel your streaming services.
You can finagle someone’s Hulu password if you try hard enough — if you can get over the guilt.

17. Pay with cash.
Try taking a break from your credit card. Research shows that people spend more with plastic than they do with paper money. Instead of running a tab on your card, withdraw the amount of cash you feel comfortable spending each week. When the money runs out, so will your ability to get another drink. Then you get to go home.

18. Go generic.
You might buy name-brand household items like shampoo or toilet paper out of habit, but buying generic will save you. If you end up hating the taste, you can switch back to the brand you’re used to on your next shopping trip.

19. Buy men’s toiletries.
It’s a known fact that it’s more expensive to be a woman than a man. Men’s products like deodorant, razors, and soap are often less costly.

20. Make money while you shop online.
Plugins like Rakuten and Honey automatically scour the web for coupon codes and will also give you cash back on your purchases from certain websites. All you have to do is install them into your browser to reap the rewards. You’ll trade your purchasing data for the reality of being stalked by retargeted ads for eternity, but there are probably worse things.

21. Stop shopping online.
Ordering a 12-pack of sponges from your couch is way easier than going to the corner store to buy one, but the convenience will cost you. Whether you’re adding more to your cart to reach free shipping minimums, or you’re just addicted to the feel-good rush of dopamine that comes from buying stuff, there’s no doubt online shopping tricks you into shelling out more. If you can’t fully give it up, at least remove your credit card information from the stored keychain. This way, making purchases will feel a little more tedious, and you might be a little less inclined to buy.

22. For big purchases, wait a month before you buy.
Impulse buys feel so good, but the high goes away as fast as it comes. Put off an unessential purchase for 30 days. When the month is up, your desire may be weakened, or the item could even be on sale.

23. Commit to a spending freeze.
For a dedicated period of time, be it a week, two weeks, or a month, only spend money on what is completely necessary, like food and shelter.

24. Download a money-saving app.
Some of these will round up change to the nearest dollar and move the difference into your savings account, while others will automate transferring a piece of your paycheck into your savings. Whatever you choose, pick something that makes saving money second nature. NerdWallet has a nice list of apps.

25. Switch to a free credit card.
If you’re paying an annual rate on your credit card, pay it off and close it for a fee-free piece of plastic. To make sure you get one with better rewards, here’s a good place to start your research.

26. Automate everything.
If it can be automated, automate it. Sign up for texts that’ll alert you when you’re nearing a low balance to avoid overdraft fees. Have part of your paycheck instantly deposited into your 401(k). Set up recurring payments on monthly bills. All of this will prevent inevitable human error.

27. Do not succumb to out-of-network ATM fees.
Don’t be a sucker. Walk the extra block to the closest in-network ATM.

28. Hang-dry your clothes.
Ditch the dryer and hang your clothes to dry. Your clothes will last longer, as high dryer temperatures can damage fabric.

29. Buy medicine in bulk.
Prescription meds are often cheaper when you get them in three-month supply. Ask your doctor if they can make this happen for you. You’ll also be able to cut co-pay costs if your doctor requires a visit for every prescription refill.

30. Go green on household supplies.
Trade in paper towels for washable rags. You can also make your own cleaning solution with vinegar.

31. Turn electronics off.
The lights, the TV, the AC — leaving these items on can slowly but surely add up.

32. Adjust your home’s temperature before you leave.
Turning the thermostat back 7–10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours a day from its normal setting can save you around 10 percent a year on your energy bill.

33. Buy used stuff.
Now that everyone’s caught the Marie Kondo bug, thrift stores are an ideal place to shop. Finding a diamond in the rough is way more exciting than picking out your size from a standard clothing rack. Go treasure hunting on a budget and select only the things that spark joy, of course.

34. Cancel beauty appointments.
Nail, waxing, and hair appointments are luxuries. If you need to scrimp and save, these are the first things you might consider cutting back on.

35. Sell your stuff.
ThredUp will send you a free bag and mailing label so you can ship back a bundle of clothes you never wear anymore, and you’ll possibly make some money from it. eBay is a good option for more specialty items, and Etsy is great place if you’re crafty.

How to Save Money in 35 Easy Ways