Whether you’re saving up for a big goal or paying down debt, cutting costs is one of the best ways to do more with the money you have.
And you have plenty of options for trimming expenses without feeling like you’re depriving yourself, which isn’t the point anyway. It’s about spending your money in ways that reflect your priorities in life.
After all, the Easterlin paradox has already proved that money makes us happier only up to a certain point — so use it to buy your happiness up until it ceases to do that. And we have many ways to changing our spending to better reflect our values. Some low-hanging fruit: the fact that we under-utilize our gym memberships by 67%.
So cut the fat down to wherever is comfortable for you and spend guilt-lessly on whatever brings you greatest joy.
Because you can cut costs in so many ways across multiple categories, I’ve grouped the ideas for each area of your budget. Use what works for you and discard the rest. If you’re in a real bind financially and have already cut your expenses to the bone, it’s best to earn more. Check out this list of 44 ways to make more money.
Follow in the footsteps of early retirees like Mr. Money Mustache and the couple behind Go Curry Cracker, and keep your rent and mortgage lower than you might otherwise be able to afford.
2. Get a roommate.
If you’re single, or even if you’re a couple, you can cut your housing costs substantially by living with a roommate who will also then chip in for all the utilities, plus shoulder some chores.
3. Move in with family.
Depending on your age, you may have the option of moving in with your parents or other relatives who could host you either for free or very little. There’s no shame in being financially prudent (but a lot, deserved or not, when you’re in debt) — just be sure to sock away your savings so you can eventually get your own place.
4. Refinance your home.
It costs money to do this, so crunch the numbers to determine whether refinancing will indeed save you money. Calculate your break-even point and compare quotes at LowerMyBills.com.
5. Challenge your property tax assessment.
Because years can elapse between assessments, you may be paying more than your fair share in property taxes. You could also make a case for lower taxes if there were mistakes on the last assessment or if certain factors were missed or not considered.
Our second-biggest expense tends to be transportation, so keeping costs low here is where you’ll likely get your next-biggest buck for your efforts.
If you live in a pedestrian-friendly area, this is the cheapest mode of transportation. Absolutely free, and you get exercise!
7. Take public transportation.
If you live in an area with good buses, subways, etc., this will keep your transportation costs to a minimum — plus it’s usually faster than walking.
This is a favorite strategy of Mr. Money Mustache’s, and yours truly is also a fan. It has the advantages of being faster than walking but still providing an opportunity for exercise, and of being cheaper than public transportation and, depending on where you’re going, sometimes even faster. But practice good bike safety and parking it securely with quality locks. The savings you get from a bike become moot if you keep having to buy new ones.
If you do need to drive, save on gas costs by carpooling.
10. Share a car.
Just because you’re a two-person household doesn’t necessarily mean you need two cars. Try getting by with one to save on car costs, insurance, gas, maintenance and more.
11. Search for a better rate on car insurance.
If you shop around, you may be able to find a deal better than what was available when you last searched. But don’t compromise your coverage for a low rate — if you have an accident, you could end up on the hook for a lot more than what you’ll be saving.
12. Refinance your car.
If rates are lower than when you purchased your car, or if your credit situation has improved, you may be able to get a better deal. But your car has to be worth more than what you still owe on it. Find out more here.
13. Buy a hybrid car.
If you plan on keeping your next car for a while, buying a hybrid can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Use this comparison tool by the U.S. Department of Energy to find out your break-even point and yearly savings.
14. Buy cheap gas.
If carpooling, biking, public transportation, walking, etc., aren’t going to cut it for you, at least save on gas with Gas Buddy.
15. Rotate your tires and keep them properly inflated.
Our wheels shoulder the burden from driving differently. Front wheels taking the brunt of braking and weight. The right and left wheels wear differently from a lot of high-speed right turns off highways. Rotate them (along with the spare) every 7,500 miles or so — and you won’t only save less frequent tire replacement but also by improving the handling of your car, which in turn cuts down on gas. Keeping your tires properly inflated can boost gas mileage by 3%.
16. Take excess weight out of the trunk.
An extra 100 pounds there pushes your gas prices up about 2%.
17. Tune your engine.
For a gas mileage lift of 4%.
18. Don’t let your car idle.
It’s almost literally like burning money.
19. Drive less aggressively.
Speeding, quick acceleration and braking are inefficient. According to FuelEconomy.gov, more careful driving cuts your gas mileage by 33% on the highway. Getting a device that gives you feedback may help improve your mileage as much as 10%.
20. Don’t speed.
Gas mileage usually decreases at speeds above 50 mph, and for every 5 miles over that threshold, your gas costs increase about 15 cents a gallon.
Regular monthly bills can also add up over the years. Here’s how to keep them at a minimum.
21. Get off a cell phone contract.
If you’re shopping for a new phone, installment plans offer a better deal than a multiyear contract. If you’re in a multiyear contract now with a termination fee, see if it makes sense to move to a different provider and if the company will pay that fee for you.
22. Comparison shop for the best cell package for your needs.
Sites like MyRatePlan and WhistleOut will suss out the best deal for you.
23. Try a smaller carrier or a pay-as-you-go plan.
If you have access to wifi most of the time, if your usage varies and so pay-as-you-go or prepaid makes more sense, or you’re less picky about coverage or device selection, then smaller carriers like the popular Republic Wireless, Consumer Cellular, Net10, Straight Talk, TracFone, Ting, and Virgin Mobile can offer you service for a song.
24. Use Skype, Vonage, Whatsapp and other call and texting apps to minimize mobile minutes and texts needed.
Get smarter about your cell phone usage. Call other Skype users for free, or use Vonage, which also uses the internet to make calls. With texting apps like Whatsapp, your messages won’t count toward the total on your mobile bill.
25. Cut the land line.
As more and more people rely on their cell phones, you may find your hardly use the land line anymore. If so, try relying on your mobile completely, or switch to a low-cost service like Vonage…
To see the other 76 ways to save money, read more @