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28 Creative Ways to Save Money [2023]

Updated: May 4

Affiliate Marketing Disclosure

With expenses seemingly higher than ever, Americans nationwide have been financially crushed by factors outside of their control. Inflation has crushed purchasing power, and new expenses, such as cell phone bills, have become more mainstream in the last two decades.

Unfortunately, wage growth nationwide has lagged, forcing Americans into one of two options:

  1. Living paycheck to paycheck

  2. Getting creative

Here are my most creative ways to save money that actually work.

Clever ways to save extra money

Without further ado, here are some of my most creative ways to save some extra money!

1. Save your spare change

One of the easiest ways to save money is to pay attention to your spare change. How often do you go somewhere, pay $4.29 for a coffee or latte, and then just shove your $0.71 in change into your pocket, never to be seen (or spent) again?

Thankfully, there is a better way. I highly recommend using Acorns to help you. Acorns is an app that you can link to your debit or credit card to, and the company will automatically round up your purchases to the next dollar, saving the difference.

You'll also have the option to invest your savings!

​Get a $10 bonus right now - just for signing up for Acorns!

2. Pursue cashback

Over the past year or so, I've really begun to embrace cashback as a way to save money, particularly when on a tight budget and need to make purchases.

After all, there are some things that you will need to spend money on - that is a fact of life.

But when you do, you can save some money by using cashback sites such as Swagbucks or Rakuten. I'm a huge fan of Swagbucks in particular since they also offer ways to make some money too! Plus, they have a whole host of retailers, such as Home Depot, Walmart, and others, that offer generous cashback!

Completing your purchase with a credit card that offers an additional 1-2% in cashback, you may be able to lower the effective cost of something by 5-10%, or more!

​Interested in Swagbucks? Use this link for a free $10 bonus when you create an account.

3. Buy used rather than new

There is a huge debate in the personal finance world about whether buying used items is worth the potential savings. I believe that it is for certain items.

Things like musical instruments and sporting equipment for your children are great examples of things that you can potentially save a lot of money on. Why spend lots of money when you're unsure whether they'll even like an activity?

To bolster your savings, I recommend that you imagine you're buying these items new. Then, challenge yourself to add the difference to your savings. Over time, it will make a difference!

4. Consider a fun staycation

Everyone wants to go on a beautiful vacation. And I have some savings tips to help you plan a vacation on a budget.

But when your wallet doesn't support it, you may opt to plan a fun staycation for your family. There are so many activities you can do, regardless of the time of year or where you live.

And you are highly likely to save some serious money along the way!

5. Negotiate as much as you can

There are few ways to save money better than challenging yourself to cut your utility and home expenses as much as you can. Of course, not everything is negotiable, but you'd be surprised by just how many things are!

If you are serious about cutting expenses, you may opt to start with these bills:

  • Cable

  • Internet

  • Cell phone

If you're a little shy or embarrassed to call up a service provider and try to negotiate down your bills, Rocket Money will do it on your behalf. I've written a Rocket Money review in the past, but they will actually negotiate your bills on your behalf.

In return, you'll pay 40% of your first year savings.

Rocket Money will negotiate bills on your behalf. You'll only pay a portion of your savings if you win.

Lower your bills now!

6. Use Groupon

Nobody expects you to spend no money on things that you enjoy. That's not feasible or maintainable. But when you do plan on spending a few dollars on something you want, check Groupon.

My wife and I are both nervous fliers, and found access to an airport lounge for just $20 on Groupon, complete with unlimited food and drink. But plenty of activities, such as museums, aquariums, and even restaurants, sell discounted gift cards and experiences!

It is probably the most creative way to save money that nobody ever talks about.

7. Give up alcohol for a month

If you like to enjoy a cocktail or a glass or two of wine most days, you'd be surprised by how much money you may be able to save if you give it up for a month or so.

"Dry January" has increased in popularity after the holidays for health purposes, but it can also be an excellent opportunity to recoup some extra money that you may have spent. Plus - you can can do it as a couple, family, or group.

8. Comparison shop grocery stores

My wife and I have recently started grocery shopping at Aldi in order to save as much money as possible. At first, we were apprehensive, but then we saw the amount of money we'd be able to save. We've even been impressed by the quality and selection of organic products.

If you're interested, I've written an entire piece designed to help you cook on a budget.

9. Try a new budgeting technique

Whether or not you've tried budgeting in the past, you may consider using a new budgeting strategy in order to find a few extra dollars to save each month. Don't be afraid to use a budgeting app like Trim or Rocket Money to help you here.

They both allow you to securely connect your financial account(s) in order to identify/cancel forgotten subscriptions. They also offer lots of personalized insights.

10. Embrace the 24-hour rule

Get familiar with the 24-hour rule as a way to save some money. Here's how it works. Each time you get the desire to make a larger purchase, say anything $75 or above, call a time-out.

Take 24 hours and then decide whether it is a purchase that you still want to make. You'll likely be surprised by how much money you won't spend once you think things through.

11. Do your own yard maintenance

Shoveling your own snow and mowing your own lawn can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars annually. In fact, this is one of the best ways to save money that nobody talks about.

And while it can be a little inconvenient at times, your future self will thank you for saving this money instead. Plus - it can be great exercise.

12. Open a new email account

Nothing is more tempting than the litany of retailer advertisements in your inbox every time you check your email. You may consider opening a new email account to conduct your personal business with so that you can avoid the temptation of all of these nonstop emails.

13. Complete cost/benefit analysis

One of the most creative ways I've personally saved money on things that I want to spend money on is to consider the cost/benefit analysis in advance of a purchase. For example, I try to only spend money on things that will bring me enjoyment that lasts as long as it would take me to earn money to pay the expense.

By these laws, spending $80 on a dinner out for two is permissible only if the time I spend looking forward to it (plus the time there) lasts longer than the time it takes me to earn the $80.

Do keep in mind that this is not a foolproof strategy. You still need to be smart and make sure that you can afford these purchases. But it can provide a great guide for avoiding expenses you may regret later.

14. Freeze unused food

Stop wasting food by freezing what you don't use before it goes bad. Raw meat is most commonly frozen, but you'd be surprised by the number of items that you can freeze until you are ready to use it. Items like produce, dairy, and even prepared foods such as lasagnas or soups can be frozen until you are ready to eat them.

Of course, your freezer will only save you money if you remember to defrost and actually use what you put in it.

15. Cut the cable cord

Speaking of cable, consider cutting the cord if it isn't something that you watch or can afford. My wife and I are an example of millennials that actually still watch cable, but if you're not actually using what you're paying for, you may be able to save well over $100 per month. That's $1,200 annually!

16. Don't pay for drinks at a restaurant

If your budget is a little tight, you may also consider skipping drinks the next time you go out to eat. Not only are the prices of such items, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, high, but they are oftentimes the highest margin items on restaurant menus.

17. Embrace potlucks

My wife and I hosted our first Thanksgiving this past November, and while we provided much of the food (including the turkey), we were not afraid to take our family and friends up on their offers to help us out. With this in mind, don't hesitate to lean on others when they offer to bring things. Others may not offer, but may still show up with a bottle of win, and that is a win!

18. Complete a no-spend challenge

There are entire communities on Facebook (and elsewhere on the Internet) dedicated to completing no-spend challenges, where for stretches lasting weeks or months, you are encouraged to only spend money on things that you absolutely need. Don't underestimate the positive power that an engaged community can provide!

19. Try the 30-day spending rule

One of my favorite and most creative ways to save some money is to embrace the 30-day spending rule. It goes like this: if you're interested in making a purchase for something that you want, agree to put it off a month and see how you feel at that point in time. Once a month passes, if you still want to make your purchase, you can. But you may find that you feel less inclined to make that same purchase.

20. Say "no" to lifestyle creep

Lifestyle creep is when you increase your expenses over time, either as a result of an increase in earnings or independently. My wife and I subscribe to this rule strictly. When we receive bonuses, raises, or get promoted, we do not go out and spend extravagantly on anything. Sure, we'll go out for a nice dinner, but not until we've increased our retirement saving rates first.

21. Get a library card

Libraries are cheap and can provide you with a great opportunity to borrow books you are interested in reading for free! What can be even more valuable, though, is the deals and agreements that they oftentimes have with local museums, aquariums, and other educational locales in your area. As a library member, you may be able to bring your family to experience these attractions at a discount.

22. Invest in a home gym

This can sound counterproductive at first, but investing in a home gym can help you to save money on costly gym memberships. It will take you some time to come out ahead financially, but many companies also offer annual stipend benefits that you may use in order to help subsidize the costs. You may also be able to get gently used treadmills on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace at a sizable discount!

23. Run multiple errands at a time

This is especially true for those living in rural locations. Instead of wasting gas leaving the home to run one errand at a time, you are likely better off running multiple errands at a time while you are outside your home or commuting to/from work.

24. Limit your meat consumption

Inflation has hit grocery stores hard over the last couple of years. One of the hardest-hit goods has been the price of meat. To help save some extra money (and potentially improve your health as well), you may consider buying, and thus consuming, less meat than you were before. Substituting rice and beans oftentimes provides a creative alternative.

25. Join retailer reward programs

If you tend to favor the same retailers for purchases, you'll likely want to consider joining any reward programs that may be offered. I am not telling you to open credit cards, but rather to see if there are any other programs that you could take advantage of. My wife and I have a Target RedCard (debit) for example, which earns us 5% off purchases, including gift cards. We even used it to save money on our Disney trip.

26. Put your savings on autopilot

This strategy is not so much creative as it is smart, but I highly recommend that you automate your retirement savings so that you don't even need to think about it each time you get paid. It will also help you gain comfort in living off a little less income.

27. Work on your credit

One of the best ways to save some money is by focusing on your credit score. Having a good credit score is one of the best ways to limit what you'll pay in interest on auto loans, mortgages, and other expenses. In fact, it could potentially save you hundreds of dollars per month!

Here is how I achieved an 800 credit score by 26.

28. Refinance debt

Our current interest rate environment in 2023 may not be ideal for refinancing, but in more normal times, refinancing can be a great way to lower your debt payments. You may be able to refinance your student loans, mortgage, and auto loan.

Get creative to save even more money

When you really get the creative juices flowing, the options to help save money are almost limitless. I do have a couple of tips to help you find as many ways as possible to help you.

First and foremost, learn to see every purchase as an opportunity to find a way to pay less. When you really start to get into that creative mindset, a lot of options will open up.

Second is a tip to help you harness this mindset. Each time you want to spend money on something, you'll want to go through a repeatable process in your head. For example, I do the following:

  • I comparison shop: I make sure that I do my homework as to what features I'm getting and whether I need them. Then, I check a retailer's competitors, as well as Amazon, to see if I can potentially pay less money.

  • Can I save in another way? Is there any other way in which I can save money? I go through all of my options, including rewards programs and the likelihood that this product or good will go on sale seasonally?

  • How will I pay? Using my 2% cashback credit card is equal to getting a 2% discount, which is great! But I also keep in mind that there are other ways to lower the cost, such as Rakuten, which also lowers the cost of a purchase!

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own consulting practice.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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