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Did you know that some of the best ways to save money take little effort?
Don't get me wrong. I didn't say it was easy to get rich or save a ton of money quickly. But, if you set your mind to it, developing smart spending and saving habits is relatively simple.
While I am by no means a financial advisor, my husband and I have found easy ways to both save and generate extra income in the hopes of gaining financial freedom. For us, and probably most people reading this, it’s going to require a slow and steady pace and dedication.
Building a savings and climbing out of debt can seem daunting.
But, if you’re a hardworking individual striving for financial comfort, we laid out some creative tips below that have proven to work for us!
Money Saving Mentality
You know how they say everything you want to accomplish is 90% mental? Well, at least when it comes to creating personal cash saving habits, it is completely true.
Whether you’re trying to save money or get out of debt, you definitely need to set an attainable goal. Setting a SMART goal will keep your spending habits in check. If your goal doesn’t have a solid, personal reason or an end date, it will be difficult to build a habit of saving money.
Example: “I will not allow my savings account to dip below $XX. I will save an extra $XX by XX/XX/XX. I will give up X and add $X to my account each week. I am doing this because I want to pay off X by the end of this year.”
You might scoff at such extreme measures. But when you consider even $20 more per month might be the difference between paying off your car or not, you might think again.
Admittedly, I am a naturally frugal person. I love finding sales and deals and seeing the “you saved X amount of money on this purchase” at the bottom of my receipts.
People often ask me how I afford international travel while also buying and renovating a home. While there isn’t just one answer, there are a few favorite money saving methods which have helped over the years. More on that to come.
But here’s the thing, we all have different opinions on what is worth saving money for or not. For me, I’ve always valued experiences over material things. A once-in-a-lifetime trip (like Morocco) or unforgettable activity (like a hot air balloon ride) is worth the splurge in my opinion. On the other hand, my husband grew up poor. He barely had necessities much less small luxuries other kids had. In his mind, having a nice car, appliances, bed sheets, or fun toys (bikes, tech gear, etc.) means more lasting enjoyment. And he’s not wrong.
Moral of the story: decide what you really want. What are you saving for? Why? How much do you need to reach your savings goal? Are you really willing to do what it takes to get there?
These factors need to be taken into consideration when creating your budget and making your own list of the best ways to save money.
Remember, where there is a will, there is always a way.
First Step: Cut Costs
While this takes the least amount of effort, it might hurt the most at first.
It’s a basic concept. If you don’t spend money, you save money!
For instance, do you pay for a gym membership you rarely use? Do you subscribe to magazines, TV channels, or streaming services you could live without?
What about those monthly boxes of everything, nowadays? You know, the monthly plant deliveries, the curated box of treats, the shipments of fitness goodies, and others that are so popular right now.
Or maybe you “have” to get your coffee at a local café every morning. Could you cut it down to once a week instead and save an extra $80 each month?
Here’s a tip: write down each of your extra expenditures, then multiply each one by 12 (or whatever their frequency is within a calendar year).
Ouch. That no-big-deal, monthly $9 Amazon Prime subscription comes to $108, which could easily be $108 in your piggy bank or a one-way plane ticket. Let’s be honest, paying the subscription means you’re more likely to browse and overspend, too.
To clarify, I have nothing against Amazon (especially if you utilize Amazon Smile).
I just believe if we are going to discuss the best ways to save money, we need to be willing to make sacrifices to see the greatest positive impact in our budgets.
Again, if you can’t live without something, don’t. If that bi-weekly chiropractor visit keeps you in a healthy mental state, do it! I’m not saying you can’t enjoy life.
But if you’re constantly struggling to stay ahead of bills and unexpected financial frustrations, giving up extra expenses temporarily can help lift the burden. You might find you don’t really miss those extra things after all!
Money Saving Apps
I’ll be the first to tell you I am not a fan of a thousand apps cluttering my smart phone. But, as these devices pretty much run our lives now, we might as well make them as useful to us as possible.
As a disclaimer, there may be many other cash saving apps out there. These apps I’m sharing below just happen to work for me, personally!
Acorns – Saves and invests for you
If you want to get your feet wet in the investments category, Acorns is a good place to start. The app does provide informative reading material if you want to be more aggressive. But if you’re mostly interested in the savings aspect, Acorns makes this process super easy to understand, too.
Once you’ve filled out your personal info, Acorns will suggest statuses to set for your portfolio. Depending on the level you select, like moderate or moderately aggressive, Acorns shows what percentage your contributed funds will be distributed (large and small stocks, international, etc.).
I particularly like Acorns because it is completely hands-off, unlike apps like Robinhood where you have to be on top of your stocks to make a reasonable return.
As the picture below shows, you have the option of setting recurring withdrawals. By linking your bank and credit card accounts, you can also let Acorns round up every purchase to the nearest dollar.
There's a way to earn "found money" as well. By buying flowers for mom or school clothes from Old Navy, for example, you could earn $5 or 2% cash back to your Acorns account.
There is a small subscription to this app, depending on the level you choose. I only pay $1 per month.
But in total, I’ve probably saved close to $1000 with Acorns in the last 2 years, not counting the few times I’ve withdrawn. Obviously, the less you touch it, the better your chance of increasing savings!
GetUpside– Saves cash on gas - 4.7 star rating!
The GetUpside app shows you which gas stations in your vicinity reward the most cash back per gallon of gas purchased. In the Phoenix area, Circle K and Shell are the most rewarding, with an average $.13/gallon cash back.
What I really like about this app is it doesn’t require a downloaded receipt, at least not at the gas stations I frequent. I only have to let the app know which connected card I used and I’m good to go.
GetUpside also doesn’t exclude you from using your grocery rewards on gas purchases. For example, I can still use my Fry’s VIP rewards points at the gas pump, and GetUpside will simply prorate my cash back.
Lastly, earning cash back is a lot quicker than similar apps. For the past year and a half, I have earned $185 in gift cards. I have the option of letting it build up or cashing out for random gift card amounts at any time.
Ibotta, Fetch, & Receipt Hog – Cash back for downloading receipts
If you are really good at keeping your receipts, these apps might be some of the best ways for you to save money.
Out of these top-rated three, I’ve only used Receipt Hog. I gave it a try for a year to see if it was worth the effort. While I wasn’t religious about it, I did my best.
But after only earning about $30 in cash back, either to PayPal or a store gift card, it wasn’t worthwhile to me. Not that a free $25 gift card isn’t a nice reward to yourself! I just found it more of a pain to upload receipts (which sometimes weren’t accepted).
At the time, I was shopping only for myself, so that could be one of the big factors. If you have a larger family and do the bulk amount of shopping, I recommend at least giving one of these receipt apps a try!
Best Ways to Save Money on Groceries & Household Items
Kroger (Fry’s, for Arizona shoppers)
Technically Fry’s has an app, too. I use it on the reg to scour coupons! If you think coupons aren’t your thing, hear me out. Only a few minutes are needed each week to go through available coupons. Then you can sort your clipped coupons by department and save a ton of time shopping the aisles while you’re there. Or, save even more time if you’re a fan of picking up your grocery order, which, yes, you can also do with the Fry’s app.
Fry’s sometimes offers promotions for 2x bonus points for weekend purchases and other nifty deals, too. Another reason I use the app is to track how much I have saved year-to-date.
Back to the topic of receipt-saving, the end of each Fry’s receipt tells you how much you saved in total. But there is also a survey code on that receipt. If you fill out the survey, you automatically get 50 more points added to your VIP rewards for the month.
These points all add up for you to receive hefty discounts on gas purchases – up to $1 off a gallon at the pump!
Grocery Co-ops – Bountiful Baskets
There are a few produce co-ops in the Phoenix area, but Bountiful Baskets is the only one I’ve tried and enjoyed.
Every week is a bit different. But generally, there is a weekly variety basket, a choice of fresh, local bread or granola, or you can choose so many pounds of a specific, seasonal vegetable or fruit.
If you are into juicing or meal prepping, you know how expensive it can be to buy produce in bulk and keep it fresh. Picking up produce from a farmers co-op is one of the best ways to save money.
Plus, by shopping bulk with a co-op like Bountiful Baskets, you’re helping sustain local farmers, reducing unnecessary emissions, and getting food almost directly from the source.
Secondhand and Thrift Stores
Shopping secondhand is one of the best ways to save money. But it largely depends on whether you can handle sorting through Goodwill or feel comfortable buying from strangers on OfferUp.
I grew up with a mother who swerved for garage sale signs and knew every 50% Goodwill Saturday, so shopping secondhand is…well, second nature!
We live in a consumerist society.
With the way trends rapidly rise and fall, items like clothing and furniture are tossed frequently to make way for the latest style. And, while the majority of items in thrift stores truly are outdated and not yet old enough to be cool again, it’s easier to score fresh, unique looks than you think.
I could probably go on and on about all the amazing deals I’ve found while shopping at Savers, Goodwill, or even OfferUp!
But, bottom line, buying new is expensive.
If you’re trying to save money for things that matter more to you, try searching for gently used household furniture, books, wall art, or new ballet flats via secondhand, instead. I bet you’ll save 40% of original costs, at minimum!
We live in a society that is steering away from cash as fast as possible. Unless you’re a hardcore Dave Ramsey follower, you are probably like us and rarely deal with physical cash.
However, if you are a visual person, the clear piggy bank method could prove to be one of the best ways to save money. There’s something about seeing your cash pile up that makes you want to add more!
I remember storing my $5/hour babysitting money into a Mason jar under my bed for a year. I was so proud to count out $300+ and hand it over to the banker when I opened my first bank account.
Now, though, I hardly have cash on hand.
When we do, though, we made a general rule that every bit of cash we receive or find is stuffed into our Adventure Funds Briefcase that was given to us as a wedding gift. Whether it’s a large tip from one of our side hustles, a birthday gift, or spare change we happen to find in pockets and glove boxes, it goes in the briefcase.
We can literally watch our funds grow throughout the year!
Automatic Savings Withdrawals
If you really don’t deal with cash, you can set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking to your savings account each pay period.
Again, remember to make this realistic. Don’t set a lofty goal of $100 per paycheck if you can only afford to set aside $25.
Every little bit counts. You have to look at it that way!
Just think, as long as you continue $25 bi-weekly withdrawals, you could have an extra $650 in your savings account in just one year!
While this method is technically more about money making than saving, it’s worked really well for us as one of the best ways to save money.
Our best advice is to use your side income strictly to cover debt or build your savings up. Don't allow yourself to think of it as "extra spending money" or you may find yourself spending MORE than you MAKE each month.
Warning: if you’re anything like me and have a hard time saying no to new opportunities, side hustles could get you in trouble!
Know your limits. Extra income is awesome. Networking and creating a side business does take hustle. But you are human and you deserve to live, too!
Some side hustle ideas include but are not limited to…
· Rideshare Driver
The world is (fingers crossed) getting back to normal, which means people are once again venturing out and in need of rides. My husband really enjoys driving for Lyft a few hours on weekends. The best part is, it’s flexible. But if you happen to own a car on the luxury vehicle list, you’ll earn 3x the amount a regular driver would!
· Donating blood, platelets, or plasma
If donating blood doesn’t freak you out, it can be monetarily rewarding. Right now, there is a critical shortage in hospitals for blood supply. Organizations like Vitalant are running incentives like $5 Amazon gift cards to encourage healthy individuals to donate. Also, if you create a profile, you’ll earn points with every donation which can eventually be used toward gift cards to treat yo’self.
Plasma is used to help patients with Leukemia and other diseases. Many places like BioLifeare paying new plasma donors up to $1000 for their first 8 donations. I’m unashamed to say I’ve personally donated plasma when I was saving up spending money for Iceland. The process is relatively painless and thoroughly clean. There’s usually a fun movie playing. Best of all, payment is instant!
· Tutor Online or In-Person
It’s been a while since I’ve worked as a tutor, but at one time I had a steady flow of clients through WyzAnt. You don’t have to have a degree, but they may require an assessment from you to ensure you know your stuff. The site also helps you set your payment preferences and communicate with potential clients. Earn anywhere from $18-$40 per hour, depending on your expertise.
· Amateur Photographer
Whether you are striving to be a professional photographer or just want extra income from your photography hobby, offering photography services can be rewarding for you and those around you. You could operate on donations or a super affordable fee while taking senior portraits or family photos. Or, you can attempt to sell your stills and landscape pictures through a stock photography site. Keep in mind, editing photos is a lot more involved than just snapping them! I really only do photoshoots upon request these days. But I do operate photobooths for a local events company, Got You Covered.
· Advertise your skills for service
Can you give guitar or dance lessons? Are you a handyman, artist, welder, or woodworker by trade? Some people use Fiverr or TaskRabbit, but Facebook is actually a viable option to get your name out there, too!
Money Saving Credit Cards
Now, I know credit cards are often hexed as evil. There’s a reason I saved this option for last.
But like anything, a tool can either be used for your benefit or your demise. Managing credit cards wisely can absolutely work in your favor!
To better understand how credit works, I highly advise taking a free credit course first. As a general rule, you should only use credit cards towards purchases you routinely make.
While you shouldn’t get a credit card solely for the sake of the rewards, it is good to know that while building your credit score you can also save some cash.
CapitalOne VentureOne Card
There are two versions of this credit card. Both require either good or excellent credit score. One charges an annual fee of $95 while the other is $0 – so you’ll want to look at the reward differences to determine what makes the most sense for you.
My favorite reason for owning the VentureOne card is that I can safely use it anywhere in the world Visa is accepted without incurring any international exchange fees.
All purchases earn 1.25% cash back. But if you shop directly from your CapitalOne account, there are ways to earn up to 10% cash back on purchases made to specific brands like Groupon, Macy’s, and tons of others.
All that cash back can be used to cover prior transactions – which I advise is the smartest way to redeem it!
This credit card is also beneficial for avid travelers. With the Chase Unlimited Freedom Card, you can earn 5% cash back on all travel-related purchases.
Not that you should make a habit of it while attempting to save money, but if you dine out and pay with this card, you’ll earn 3% cash back. All other purchases automatically earn 1.5% cash back.
The Unlimited Freedom card also allows you to redeem your cash back for an account statement credit.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of the best ways to save money. There are endless possibilities of ways to trick your brain into creating good spending habits.
You'll notice I also didn't mention any of those "surveys for cash" people claim to earn a "ton" of money from. While I've done them in the past, they never reaped any real money. But if you have the time and enjoy taking surveys for a couple bucks at a time, go for it! Like I said, every bit counts.
No matter what, it's going to take practice. Make small changes at a time.
If you splurge one week, even it out the next week. Keep moving forward with your savings goals and don't let guilt convince you otherwise!
As Christians, my husband and I believe in being the best stewards, or caretakers, of what God has given us to work with.
Along the same lines, we also place special emphasis on tithing. Everything we earn as wages from labor we give 10% back to God and the ministry we sit under. We have faith that by doing so, he will (and does!) continue to provide for and bless us in all of our endeavors!
But whatever you choose, we hope you do it whole-heartily, in absolute faith and wisdom, and that your savings plan serves you well!
Happy savings, friends!