March 1, 2017

150 Ways to Save Money, Starting Today


Does it feel like no matter what you do, you don’t have much money left over at the end of the month? We’ve got ideas on how you can actually save money.

If you're saving up for a vacation, trying to build up wealth or somehow trying to get one of those emergency savings funds every personal-finance blog tells you to get, you've got to find savings somewhere. We've found them for you - here are 150 ways to save money that you can get going on right away.

Some of these saving steps are easier to take up than others; you'll have to break some longtime habits if you try the ones we've labeled as "mini challenge" or "tough." But all of them are doable - these are all practical suggestions for changing your ways and thinking differently every time you're about to part with your money so that you can save more of it.

WHERE TO SAVE MONEY AT HOME

  1. Go shopping without spending.
    To save money, you've got to rein in the spending. Get some friends and neighbors to gather up their gently used clothes, jewelry, and knickknacks and have a swap party. Trade in a great dress with friend who just returned to work after maternity leave, and offload that fuzzy, soft throw that's just not the right color to a neighbor who's in need of something cozy for his couch. You'll get the thrill of the spend without the hefty bill.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  2. Make a new deal.
    Interest rates have been super-duper low for a long while but it's not expected to last much longer. See if you can get a better rate on any of your loans and revisit the terms. Would you be better off buying a new car with a low rate today than continuing to spend money on your clunker? Could you refinance your home for a sweet rate? If you have equity in your home, would it make sense to take out some cash to pay off high-interest credit cards (only recommended if you are indeed nearly drowning in debt and need a lifeline). Be sure to do the math; you don't want to wipe out any potential savings you could get with the amount you have to pay in refinancing costs or transfer fees.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  3. Take a magnifying glass to your bills.
    Maybe you went green and stopped getting your bills in the mail long ago. Utility companies like it that way so you don't scrutinize all their charges. Get in the habit of logging in to your accounts or asking for those paper bills again, and take a hard look at where your money is going. Did you get trigger happy with the on-demand shows last month? Do you have international calling privileges but know no one outside the United States? Did your electric bill shoot up compared to the same time last year? Got a subscription you don't even remember signing up for? Time to find ways to cut back and make some corrections.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  4. Give your home an audit.
    No, we're not asking you to become an accountant. Check your windows and doors for heat escapes - and see if your energy company will help you out. Some states offer 0% loans and free assessments to get your energy savings in check. This could mean a new boiler, insulation, or simply ideas on how you can stop wasting money by letting your heat - a.k.a. your paycheck - seep out of your home.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  5. Give your appliances some love.
    Don't run out to upgrade your fridge just because it's no longer modern looking. Be diligent about giving your appliances a cleaning and they'll reward you by running more efficiently and lasting longer. Filters are there for a reason - be sure to replace them when their time is up.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  6. Become a student of YouTube.
    If something breaks down, it might just be an easy repair. You'll be amazed at how much info you can find on YouTube - often with step-by-step guidelines. That garbage disposal issue might be a simple fix instead of a $100 service call.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  7. Wash clothes less often.
    Unless you have a newborn baby who's constantly spitting up or has an issue with exploding diapers (and what infant doesn't?), there's really no need to wash clothes more than once a week. You'll save money on detergent, electricity, gas, and water when you keep to the "only on Sundays" rule.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  8. Be willing to be a little cold.
    Here's a tip that can be harder for some people than others. Try to take shorter and slightly cooler showers. Those steamy, relaxing waterfalls every morning are costing you money you don't need to spend day after day. Also cool it with the thermostat in the winter, layer up, and you'll be able to cut back on your heating costs.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  9. Eat where you live.
    Your dining budget is busting, but can you afford it? Americans spend an average of over $200 eating out on a monthly basis. Chances are you spend much more than that, when you consider your date nights, lunch breaks, plus whatever your spouse is eating when you're not together. Commit to cooking at home more often and becoming friends with leftovers, and you'll see at least an extra $100 in your wallet every month.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  10. Shop around.
    We're giving you permission to go shopping - but not at the mall or Amazon. Shop around to get a better deal on your homeowner's insurance and car insurance. Usually these policies are renewed annually as long as you don't make any claims, but other companies would like your business, too. See if you can do better and open up some more savings for you every month.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  11. Become an experiment.
    If you live near a trade school, you could get your haircut, makeup and even car repair at a serious discount - or even for free. As long as you're not a stickler for perfection, this can be a fun and rewarding way to save some dough.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  12. Become a DIY master.
    Anything you can make yourself is cheaper. Mega corporations don't want you to know that the pricey cleaning products they make can be made cheaper (and greener) in your home. Check out this list of nearly 70 do-it-yourself cleaning products.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  13. Act like an old-timer.
    People who lived through the Depression held onto their need for frugality. Pick up their habits and you can save as well. This means, among other things, turning off lights when you leave a room, unplugging appliances when not in use, air drying your clothes, and being skimpy with how much toilet paper you use.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

HOW TO FIND SAVINGS WITH FINANCING AND BANKING

  1. Switch to a checking account that sets up an automatic savings plan.
    You can set up a repeating automatic deposit from your checking to your savings, which is a great way of saving without having to do anything past the initial setup. Many banks, like Chase and Bank of America, waive the checking account fee if you set up a monthly automatic transfer of at least $25 - saving you even more cash.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  2. Free yourself of fees.
    Many checking accounts charge fees if you fall below a certain balance or you don't keep a minimum combined balance. You could easily be handing over $180 a month on this one bank fee! That's money wasted for absolutely nothing. Consider switching to a free checking account, like Capital One 360, where there's no minimum requirement, or look for banks that will waive a monthly fee merely by setting up a direct deposit from your employer.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  3. Focus on your debt.
    While setting asides funds is a smart goal, focus much of your energy on paying down your priciest debt, which is usually credit cards. If you have an ongoing balance, always pay more than the minimum balance and set out a payment plan that will wipe out the debt sooner rather than later.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  4. Ask for a break.
    If too much debt is keeping you down, then see if your credit card companies will lower your interest rate. As long as you're a good customer and always pay on time (and you're not near the top of your credit limit), they may be willing to lower your rate by several points - which will be a huge savings if you carry a high balance (which we don't recommend, by the way!). Nancy Hellmich of USA Today points out that 65% of people who ask to have their rate lowered are granted their wish.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  5. Set up more than one savings account.
    It's really hard to save when you keep dipping into your savings. Set up a separate savings account that you don't check often - perhaps one that is online only - that you use only for emergencies or a long-term goal, like next year's vacation.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  6. Make a balance transfer.
    This is an example of spending some money to save a lot of money. By signing up for a balance transfer (which usually comes with a fee), you can move your pricey credit card debt onto a card with a lower interest rate (or even a temporary 0% rate) and make fast inroads on getting your debt down to zero. Only consider this option if you have at least a few thousand dollars as a balance, or else any savings you make will be minimal.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  7. Record where your money goes.
    People have all sorts of excuses as to why they don't keep track of what they're spending - but if you actually see the numbers in black and white, it's often an eye-opener that shows you where you can save and cut back if you're overspending. Set a time, like a Sunday evening, to look over the past week's expenses and see what you've purchased. If too much of your money is going to iTunes or Starbucks, re-assess your music and caffeine needs.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  8. Invest in budgeting software.
    Budgeting software has become easier than ever, and will do the math for you if you just spend a few minutes to pop in the numbers. It'll keep you in line and your spending in check.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  9. Sign up for alerts.
    Set up alerts so your bank warns you if your account gets too low and you might overdraw. Always get alerts for your credit cards when payments are due - so you never end up paying a late fee.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  10. Keep a rainy day jar.
    A great way to save money is to make it a game - and actually keep a jar. Either put all your loose change in there every night, or commit to putting a dollar or two in every day, and you will definitely see how that money adds up by the end of the year!
    Difficulty level: Easy

  11. Pay attention to which credit card you use.
    Some cards will give you as much as 5% cash back on certain types of purchases, others have special rewards that you'd only know about if you visit their website. As you review your credit card statements, also get in the habit of checking the latest offers for current card holders - if they have a deal related to a purchase you need to make anyway, you'll pocket some extra change next month.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  12. Watch your credit score.
    While you're checking out your credit card info, also look at your credit score (many will share your latest score for free). If it gets low, you'll lose money by having to pay higher interest rates on car loans, a new mortgage or even your next credit card. The higher your score, the more creditworthy you are, and future lenders will reward you with lower interest rates.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  13. Consider small investments.
    Many online brokerages, such as OptionsXpress or TradeKing, have either no minimum or a small minimum to start. Look into investing in some mutual funds, which are a low risk way to watch your money grow.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  14. Look for low fees when using a discount broker.
    If you're planning to invest through an online discount broker, do your research. Brokers run the gamut for fees they charge for trades, so make sure you invest with someone who won't charge you a high fee-per-trade.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  15. Pledge to never pay a late fee.
    Most credit card companies will let you set your own payment deadlines. Don't let varied deadlines or piled-up bills become an excuse for paying any bill late. Come up with a schedule - perhaps right before the first of the month and mid-month - to go through your bills and pre-schedule payment. If you need physical reminders to not miss a bill, don't sign up for paperless billing or be sure every account you have sends you a notification by email at least 10 days before the due date.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  16. Consider debt consolidation.
    If you're paying off loans or high-interest credit cards, you might want to look into a debt consolidation loan where you can possibly get a better rate and make only one payment. And if you own a home, consider a HELOC (home equity line of credit), because you can consolidate debt and write off any interest you pay.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  17. Check your statements.
    This can really save you money in the long run if you're getting hit with hidden fees, your spouse signed up for a gym membership he forgot about, or you ever get charged for purchases you never made.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  18. Develop a December fund.
    Are you on a good track with your savings for most of the year and then the December spend cycle comes around? That's when spending can easily get out of control - entertaining and gift buying during the holidays plus skyrocketing heating charges add up to a difficult January and February when the bills come due. You can level out your cash flow by setting aside some money all year long to prepare for the December cash outflow (and, of course, try to rein in your spending that month as much as you can). Consider setting up a separate savings account for this purpose.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  19. Keep your goals focused.
    Setting goals is a good thing, but having one too many can actually be counter-productive. A Canadian study found that those who had a single goal in mind were ultimately more successful at hanging on to their money than those who were juggling multiple objectives.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  20. Don't forget to write them down.
    Once you've set your sights on a particular goal, jot it down on paper. The simple act of putting your savings goals in writing makes them more real in your mind, thus increasing the likelihood that you'll be able to achieve them. In one study, 61% of people who wrote down their goals reached their objectives, compared to 43% of those who only thought about what they wanted to do.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  21. Stay on top of when a "promotional period" is over.
    If you're on a "no interest for X amount of months" plan with a credit card or other lender, make sure you write down the exact date that the promotional period ends and interest comes due. If you haven't paid off your debt by then, you're going to be looking at a high APR, so save money by paying things off before interest is due.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  22. Picture yourself saving more.
    Here's a simple secret of highly successful people: They visualize their success. If you're having trouble saving for a particular goal (such as retirement), spend a little bit of time every day imagining your future self achieving it. This can motivate you to change your behavior so that it becomes reality. That's right - daydream your way to success!
    Difficulty level: Easy

  23. Focus on the "why" instead of the "how."
    When you've got your mind set on saving money, it's easy to become super focused on what steps you're going to take to do it, but don't forget the reasons why you're doing it. Maybe you're saving for the arrival of a new baby or for your dream vacation. Use that goal as your motivation. Focus on the image of you on a safari ride in Africa, rather than focusing on having to cut off those daily Starbucks lattes.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  24. Make it part of your financial routine.
    Building the savings habit takes time and a shift in mindset. Don't think of saving as this thing you are doing for the sole purpose of reaching a fixed goal. Instead, make it a part of your regular money management practice, and it'll be much easier to stick with it. A Rice University study found that when people think of saving money as a repetitive action rather than a task to reach a goal, they sock away 78% more overall.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  25. Run the numbers.
    Need something more visual? Sometimes, seeing how much money you could have if you stepped up your savings game can be enough to put you on the right path. In a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, workers were given written projections estimating what their retirement accounts would be worth in the future. After seeing these cold, hard numbers, they increased their contributions by more than $1,100 per year on average.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  26. Read up on the benefits of saving.
    If you're not on the savings bandwagon yet, reading about its advantages can trigger a desire to be more careful with your cash (in the same way that reading about that exotic faraway land can make you want to visit it). In one experiment, workers who were asked to review literature about their company's 401(k) plan that highlighted the maximum contribution rate increased their elective deferrals into the plan by 2.9%.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  27. Use reminders to stay on track.
    Using text or email alerts is a good way to remember when your bills are due, and it also proves effective at helping you to save money. A group of researchers from Boston College found that participants who received visual reminders were 3% more likely to hit their savings goal, and they saved 6% more overall.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  28. Make a contract with yourself.
    If you're really struggling to save, you may need some tougher forms of motivation to kick your butt into gear. Try creating a contract with yourself that includes some sort of penalty clause. In one Yale study, smokers were asked to contribute to a savings account over a 6-month period. As long as they were able to give up cigarettes by the end of the study, the money would be theirs. When it was all said and done, those who had signed contracts were 6% more likely to reach both goals.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  29. Create obstacles to draining your savings.
    These days, with ATMs located on just about every street corner and the ease of mobile and online banking, it is easy to pull money out any time you want. While this is a good thing generally, unfortunately it also means that it is all too tempting to take from your savings account. Research shows that when it's harder to get at the cash, it's possible to save up to 80% more each year. Make it harder to get your hands on the cash by moving your savings to an online bank, putting it into a CD, or leaving your ATM card at home.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  30. Rethink your money mindset.
    Do you think of saving as an impossible-to-attain goal? How you think about money plays a big part in shaping your savings skills. And it all started years ago. The "money scripts" (or attitudes toward money) that persist in your head began with your childhood experiences. It all ties in to how you handle your finances as an adult. If you struggle with saving, here's the good news: it is possible to change the script. Stop telling yourself you'll never be able to save.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  31. Use actionable language when describing your goals.
    It's great that you're talking about your goals (after all, acknowledging it is the first step!), but talking about what you plan to do doesn't guarantee that it'll get done. Try saying "I am saving money" instead of "I will save money." This tiny shift in language will help you achieve a higher level of success.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  32. Take a gamble (the savings kind).
    Prize-linked savings accounts are a relatively new banking product, but they're catching on in a big way. The idea is simple: each time you make a deposit, you're entered into a lottery of sorts and the winner gets a cash bonus. While there's no guarantee that you will win, research shows that people who open one of these accounts save more of their income each year.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  33. Get an accountability partner.
    There's no shame in confiding in someone that you're trying to save or pay off debt.
    In fact, having a friend to offer encouragement will even help you to reach your goal. Boston College researchers found that when people who were struggling with debt asked friends for support and motivation, they were 50% more likely to stay on track.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  34. Look at your parents' savings habits.
    Physical characteristics aren't the only things we inherit from our parents. Scientifically speaking, your DNA accounts for about a third of what influences your spending and saving choices. But don't blame your parents and use "it's in my genes" as an excuse! Take a look at what financial missteps your parents might have made, and see if you can avoid repeating them in your own life.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  35. Use websites and other resources to compare financial products.
    When it comes to saving money, there's nothing like a well-informed consumer. A couple of times a year, watch out for the latest credit card deals, offerings by mortgage lenders and financial products such as budgeting software. There's a wealth of information out there, so do your research, read the fine print, and then make an informed decision on whether you should switch accounts or perhaps benefit financially based on the information you find.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  36. Use inertia to your advantage.
    In some instances, doing nothing can work in your favor if you're trying to increase your savings. When UCLA researchers decided to test a new 401(k) strategy that automatically increased annual contributions, they found that 80% of the participants stuck with the plan for more than 3 years because they didn't need to put in any additional effort to save the extra money. This is one of the only times you'll hear that being lazy works to your advantage!
    Difficulty level: Easy

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR HEALTH NEEDS

  1. If you are paying for a gym membership, use it.
    You might have had the best of intentions at the start of the year and purchased a gym membership, but if you've forgotten about that recurring payment, take advantage of the facility to get yourself in shape. If you have the ability to cancel without paying early termination fees and still want to get healthy, you can bike ride or jog for free.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  2. Check your insurance for a gym rebate.
    Some insurance companies give you a rebate (usually at least $100) for keeping yourself in shape. It may be for a gym membership or for taking a few fitness classes throughout the year. But they're not going to remind you about this - so check and see if yours offers it.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  3. Make the most of gym offers.
    Many gyms will offer a free week to try it out, and others will give temporary deals to friends of their members. If you're willing to drive around to try out different places, you can get a stream of free exercise opportunities.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  4. Use a walk-in retail clinic for minor issues.
    If you have a minor ailment, need a vaccination or just have a cold, drugstore clinics like CVS' "Minute Clinic" or Wal-Mart's "Healthcare Clinic" are much less costly than the copayments you'll get socked with after an emergency room visit. They can cost as little as $33, according to Kimberly Lankford of Kiplinger, and are usually staffed by nurse practitioners or physician's assistants who are more than capable of handling your minor health needs.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  5. Check your doctor's billing.
    Sometimes it can get confusing, especially with all the medical lingo. Make sure you're being charged for tests you actually had or medications you were actually prescribed - and if you're unsure, call your doctor's office for clarification. You can ultimately save a ton of money if you were inadvertently billed for a procedure you never had.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  6. Don't buy over-the-counter medicines at convenience stores or grocery stores.
    Go to a drug store if you want to buy aspirin or ibuprofen, or even cold medicine. It's much cheaper, and they usually have generic brands at drug stores at a lower cost than name brands.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  7. Buy generic prescription drugs.
    Most generic drugs are just as good as the name brand. Even if you have insurance, generic drugs have a cheaper co-pay - and if you don't have insurance, name-brand drugs will cost you a fortune. Check with your doctor if you can take the generic, and you'll save a ton of dough.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  8. Don't overspend on eyeglasses.
    Not all frames and lenses are created equal - and many are quite expensive. Stay away from the freestanding eyeglass stores and find mega deals at big-box and warehouse retailers.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  9. Buy prescription meds through your insurance's mail-order program.
    Most major insurance companies have mail order programs that will give you the drugs you need at a discount.
    Difficulty level: Easy

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES/FOOD

  1. Find the real (not advertised) deals.
    If you're spontaneous and willing to search, you can find produce, bread, and meat marked way down because they're about to expire. Your best bet is to look for these small displays of "on sale today" offers before the new flyer comes out (when stores try to offload food that they bought too much of).
    Difficulty level: Easy

  2. Shop all at once.
    Making multiple trips to the store during the week is not good on your wallet. The more times you walk by that tempting display of soda cans you really don't need, the harder it is to not grab a case.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  3. Stick to in-season produce.
    Your food will be yummier and less expensive when you buy only what's in season (so no strawberries in winter).
    Difficulty level: Easy

  4. Buy generic.
    Supermarket brands have come a long way, and nowadays generic items taste the same or even better than the name brand. All it takes is a simple side-by-side comparison to see the big price difference, and you'll find your taste buds will be more open to the idea.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  5. Build your weekly menu based on the supermarket flyer's front page.
    The real sales are on page one - supermarkets will deeply discount one or two meat items a week and entice you with a few other product deals. Build your main dishes around those offers, and you'll save big week after week.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  6. Do the math at the grocery store.
    Some sale items at the supermarket aren't so great - they just sound good. Buy "10 for $10" is only a great deal if (1) you actually need those 10 items now and (2) one of the items is usually $1.50 or more.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  7. Shop with one hand.
    Grocery shoppers who have taken up the habit of shopping with a device in one hand see sweet savings. In-store scanners can give you access to one-time savings, and mobile apps can give you access to coupons that don't require scissors. Some apps, such as Checkout51, let you get money back after you've made your purchase. You scan your receipt and they will deposit cash into your account based on whether you bought certain brands. Once you reach a $20 credit, as reported by Joanna Prisco of ABCNews.com, you can request a check be mailed or allow your savings to accrue.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  8. Compare size/weight of items.
    Manufacturers play games with you - they keep their box and bag sizes the same, but not the content inside. As reported by Today.com, food sizes are shrinking. It's a good idea to see how many ounces or pounds you're getting for that hefty price you're paying - and when you compare two similar items side by side, go with the one that's less expensive and offers you more product.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  9. Look for discount days.
    Some grocery stores offer deep discounts on certain days of the week (e.g., Safeway's "$5 Fridays") - so stay one step ahead of the game and you'll save money when you buy the items you use on those days.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  10. Be smart about buying in bulk.
    If you have the storage space and the need, it's almost always cheaper to buy in bulk. But always be strategic about your purchases - you won't save money by buying something you're never going to use. It's mostly smart for non-perishables such as canned goods and paper towels.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  11. Be boring.
    Variety is not the spice of life when it comes to your keeping your budget. You're more likely to overbuy when you try new recipes week in and week out, buying a variety of new ingredients with every meal. Limit the new meals and rotate in some go-to simple meals that don't cost much, like pasta nights.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  12. Pay attention to expiration dates - and know what they mean.
    Dairy products such as milk, cream, and eggs with close expiration dates are usually put at the front of the shelf. Reach further back and check the expiration date - it will usually be later than the products at the front. You'll save money by not purchasing items that will go bad within days. At the same time, don't fear expiration dates - "sell by" dates are for the retailer, not you. You get a few days after that date before you need to throw away the item.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  13. Stick to the perimeter of the store.
    Supermarkets stock their deals at the front of their aisles. You can build your weekly menu by what's offered in the weekly flyer or shop along the edges of the store for the healthiest and best priced items.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  14. Never shop on an empty stomach.
    Go in with a list and make a bee-line to all the items on it. If you've got hunger pains guiding your way around the store, you're going to make some impulse (and likely pricey) purchases.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  15. Watch out for "buy one, get one free" deals on perishables.
    "Buy one, get one free" deals always seem good, but not if you won't use that second item before the expiration date. It pays to get a non-perishable with that kind of deal, however.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  16. Get in the "rhythm" of your local stores deals.
    Store deals are cyclical - the same discounts usually roll around again after a couple of weeks. If you know you use a certain item - especially if it's something that can be frozen - wait until it goes on sale again and buy enough of the product to tide you over until the next sale.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  17. Check square footage of paper goods.
    Don't judge paper towels or toilet tissue by the number of rolls they offer - judge it by the square footage, listed right on the front of the package, or unit price per square foot, as suggested by many consumer saving sites such as southernsavers.com. Some stores even have the price per square foot listed so you don't have to bring a calculator and do the actual math. Those 10 rolls of 200 square feet of towels at 10 bucks aren't nearly as cost-effective as the 6 rolls of 350 square feet at 10 bucks (you'll pay 5 cents per square foot for the 10 rolls vs. 3 cents per square foot for the six rolls).
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

HOW TO SAVE ON YOUR ENERGY EXPENSES

  1. Pay your high utility bills with a cash-back credit card.
    Most people pay their monthly utility bills via check or a debit card. A great way to save - and make money - on your utility bills is to pay with a cash-back credit card each month. You get something in return and a little bit of room to pay off what you owe.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  2. Invest in an automatic, programmable thermostat.
    If no one's home all day, there's no need for the air or heat to be on (unless you have pets and it's unbearable). Program your thermostat to go on only when you're in the house or when your home reaches a certain temperature, and you'll watch your heating and air bills go down.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  3. Look for rebate programs.
    And after you've purchased those energy-efficient appliances, there's a good chance your local utility company will offer you a rebate in the form of cash back or a discount on your bill if you send in your receipt and the proper form. So do your research through energy.gov/savings - even before you buy - for a great way to keep cash in your wallet.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  4. Buy gas appliances.
    In most locations in the U.S., natural gas is cheaper than electricity. If that's true in your 'hood - go with gas and save money.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  5. Use your fireplace.
    A wood or gas-burning fireplace will not only save on your heating costs, it's beautiful to look out and a great way to spend time with loved ones. And if you have an open wood-burning fireplace, consider adding an insert, as explained at BobVila.com, which makes it more energy efficient by preventing much of the warmth from escaping through the chimney.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  6. Check your bills each month.
    Utility bills are loaded with taxes and fees that none of us understand but can't really combat. But don't just pay your bill because it arrives in the mail - if it's high and you know you haven't used a lot of gas or electricity the prior month, make sure you see what you're being charged for and call if you're concerned.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  7. Monitor your own usage.
    While you can't possibly know every kilowatt or ampere you use, you should know if you used a lot of air conditioning or heat the prior month. Billing errors are made all the time, so be aware of what you're using so you know if it jives with what you're being billed.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  8. Turn down your thermostat and get yourself a "Snuggie."
    According to Energy.gov, lowering your thermostat 10-15 degrees while you're not home or sleeping can save you up to 15% a year on your bill.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  9. Unplug your appliances.
    Appliances - especially TVs and computers - suck energy when they're not in use - so if you want to save on your electric bill, unplug them. Cell phone chargers and other gadgets are also easy enough to unplug. Collin Dunn of the Huffington Post writes, and the Department of Energy concurs, that these "phantom energy" items can account for up to 10% of your electric bill.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  10. Don't let your old gadgets sit around taking up space.
    Look into trade-in programs and selling opportunities for getting some cash back for things you aren't using, including phones, tablets, and ink. Tech hobbyists are willing to hand over cash for parts.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  11. Check your data usage.
    If you're paying for an unlimited data or voice plan and only using 10GB or 100 minutes a month - it's time to re-assess your usage. You're overspending, and you'll save quite a bit by downgrading your plan.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  12. Be willing to make a switch.
    TV and cell phone providers offer promotional deals all the time. If you've been a loyal customer and inquire about such a deal, threatening to leave if you don't get a break, they may take you up on it. You may also find that it's worth breaking ties for a year or two to get the savings.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  13. Act old-school with all your gear.
    Technology moves at a fast pace, but unless you're a tech geek or programmer, computers and other gear don't become outdated that quickly. When you truly need something new, go for "new to you" rather than "all the latest bells and whistles." Time your purchase right, go after last year's model, and be open to "gently used." Timing is everything; for TVs, for example, the best time to buy is January and February for two reasons: the Super Bowl, and current year models come out in March (so they're clearing out the old and making way for the new). See if you can buy floor models and "manufacturer refurbished" items.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  14. Go on a cell phone family plan.
    Make sure your plan includes all your family members - and if you have a parent or child who doesn't live in the household, consider putting them on the plan too, and save even more money for you AND them.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  15. Stay away from warranties (usually).
    When you do need to make a purchase, keep your wits about you when asking about adding on a warranty. They are rarely worth the price that's tacked on - whatever you're buying will likely last longer than the warranty period and you're probably not going to need it. Plus, all four major credit card networks - Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express - offer extended warranty protection for up to a year when you use the card to buy eligible electronics.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  16. Consider leasing your next phone.
    If you like to switch carriers for the best deal and you don't have money to put down on your next phone, leasing is a fairly new option that could save you money in the long run.
    Difficulty level: Easy

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON HAVING FUN

  1. Log out of your favorite accounts.
    The reason your Amazon orders have grown so big and your iTunes account is out of control? It's so easy to buy. When you're logged in and your credit card info is on file, transactions go through in seconds - before you get a chance to feel any regret. Make it a bit harder on yourself (build in some time to question your purchases) by making yourself log in every time to the places you like to shop the most.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  2. Refuse to play games on your phone.
    Imagine this: Playing games that don't demand extra money from you when you want more coins or strategies. Unlike apps, board games are one-time-only purchases that you can play over and over again. The temptation to constantly buy isn't there.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  3. Turn your next party into a pot-luck.
    Everyone likes a party, but not everyone can afford to throw one. But if you're willing to open your home and buy a few snacks, most people will be willing to bring the booze or a side dish in order to chill with their friends. You'll have a great get-together without having to foot the bill yourself.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  4. Limit your book and magazine purchases.
    If you're a constant reader, set up a book budget (perhaps one Kindle purchase a month), and go to the library for the rest of your entertainment. You can access ebooks for your Kindle, borrow the latest bestsellers, read the latest magazines, and you could get free passes to nearby museums simply by having a library card.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  5. Look into classes offered by your local rec center.
    Many recreation centers offer free or low-cost sports programs, classes and even summer camps that will keep your kids occupied and productive without you having to pay through the nose.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  6. Book vacations way in advance.
    The further out you book a vacation, the less you'll pay on airfare and hotels. So if you want to keep money in your pocket, plan way ahead. And use a helpful travel site, as Stacy Rapacon of Kiplinger reports.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  7. Have a daily budget when you go away.
    For some reason, it's so easy to spend money when you're on vacation or away from home. You want to experience everything the locale has to offer, so you're often sucked in to paying for touristy things or pricey souvenirs. If you plan ahead of time and know exactly how much you can spend each day, you'll be ahead of the game.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  8. Do a vacation swap.
    Just want to get away from the routine? Then see if you can swap places with a friend who lives in another state for a week. You'll save big by avoiding a hotel stay and still experience a change of pace (and you won't have to pay for the cat sitter!).
    Difficulty level: Tough

  9. Consider a family road trip.
    Airfare has really risen in recent years. And even though gasoline prices have risen as well, you'll save much more money by taking a vacation by car than by air.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  10. Go camping.
    Imagine being at one with nature and not having to spend a whole lot of cash to make that spiritual experience happen. Sleep under the stars in your own tent instead of an expensive hotel room - and you'll appreciate not only the outdoors but the cash that stayed in your pocket.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  11. Be a cord cutter - or not.
    Decide what you're going to do and stick with it. Cut cable, have one streaming service, and occasionally download movies? Or cable all the way, where you can have access to movies that are not always the most current? Mixing it up and being glued to the TV at all hours will cost you money.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  12. Change your viewing habits.
    Streaming services are so convenient - a little too much, actually, considering how easy it is to buy a movie at a press of a button. Be a stickler for watching no more than one movie a week (or at least less than you do now). Never purchase a movie; be patient and wait to rent it or limit yourself only to whatever movies are playing on your favorite streaming service. When it's time to splurge at the theater, only go to matinees.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  13. Bring your own snacks to movie theaters.
    Some theater owners frown upon this, but if you can put some healthy kale chips or gummy bears in your purse for you and the kids to munch on, it's much cheaper than spending the exorbitant prices on movie theater snacks.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  14. Become that friend.
    Let your friends know you're trying to cut back and that you're only going to pay your fair share when the bill comes. If they want to splurge on cosmos and appetizers, that's cool ... but if you're not, why should you pay for it?
    Difficulty level: Tough

  15. Don't bring kids on expensive vacations when they're too young to remember.
    If you've always wanted to see Paris and all that it has to offer, then let the grandparents watch the kids while you and your spouse have the time of your life. There's no need to spend extra money on vacations for children who are too young to remember or appreciate the location (that includes you, DisneyWorld).
    Difficulty level: Easy

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR CAR

  1. Consider lowering or raising your deductible.
    Your insurance premium will go down when you raise your deductible, so if you'd like to keep some extra cash in your pocket and you know you'll have enough to cover the deductible, then this is the way to go. But if you're a bit accident-prone and a high deductible will hurt you in the long run, then lower your deductible and pay the higher rate now - which can save you thousands later.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  2. Upkeep, upkeep, upkeep.
    Oil changes, tire rotation, belt and routine checks. That's all it takes to save you money down the road.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  3. Take advantage of gas rewards programs.
    Many grocery chains offer discounts of up to 20 cents per gallon at specific gas stations just by shopping there and being a club member. So if it means driving a minute or two out of your way to go to the fuel station with the discount, it's well worth it.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  4. Don't trade in your car.
    Everyone knows that a car dealership will low-ball you when it comes to trading in your car - or if you don't know that, you do now. If they won't give you what you think your old car is worth, take it to CarMax or a similar car-buying service, as Jerry Hirsch of the latimes.com reports. You'll usually get more money for your car and will save money on your new car by using it for the down payment or cap cost reduction.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  5. Bring someone who knows how to negotiate when buying or leasing a car.
    Many people find the car-buying process extremely intimidating. If that's you, don't go alone - bring someone who's been through the process before and is a good negotiator. Trust us, you can save thousands of dollars that way.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  6. Consider car leasing instead of buying.
    While this has long been debatable - which is better, leasing or buying? - it often depends on your needs and your desires. If you know you're not the type to keep a car for long, consider leasing. You won't own it, but your monthly payment will be lower than if you purchased the car - and, if you're savvy, you usually will only pay drive-off fees out of pocket.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  7. Check the air pressure in your tires.
    When tires aren't properly inflated, fuel efficiency goes down. Save money on gas by monitoring your tires.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  8. Buy or lease a pre-owned car.
    The second you drive a new car off the lot, it depreciates. You can save thousands of dollars by purchasing a pre-owned vehicle, which is often only one or two years old. Many of these cars come in as lease returns, so they're low in miles and kept up very well. Plus, there's usually more room to deal on a used car, saving you even more.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  9. Keep valuables out of sight.
    Thieves are more likely to break into your car when they see something like coins or electronics in plain sight. Even items such as phone chargers and Apple USB cords are hot items to steal - so hide them in your glove compartment.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  10. Lighten your load.
    Check what's rolling around in the back of your trunk and try to keep it as clear as possible so you're not carrying excess weight around every day - which affects your gas use.
    Difficulty level: Easy

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON PET CARE

  1. Find a neighbor to care for your pets while you're away.
    It's very expensive to board a pet - so if you're taking a vacation or will be gone for several days, it's worth it to see if any of your neighbors would be willing to take care of your pet for you. Offer to help them out when they go away. You can offer to pay them a stipend since they'll need to come over once or twice a day - which will still be cheaper than boarding them.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  2. Be nosy at the vets.
    Of course we love our pets, but vets can get be very expensive, and you might not be too keen on paying 300 bucks for your pet's physical. Make sure the vet is only ordering tests that your pet needs on your visit - and ask to see a cost breakdown of the exam or test they're performing before you agree to anything. And as the Humane Society reports, you can often negotiate a payment plan with your vet.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  3. Do your research on pet insurance.
    If your dog or cat is still a baby, then it might be cost effective to purchase pet insurance, because it can really help with expensive emergency bills and save you a ton of money in the future. But if your pet is older, the premium will go way up, so consider skipping it now and paying for possible out-of-pocket costs later.
    Difficulty level: Easy

  4. Don't overfeed them.
    If you're at work all day, you might consider leaving a large bowl of food for your pet while you're gone. But if you have the kind of animal that tends to overeat, you'll be causing more health problems for them (which will cost you in the future).
    Difficulty level: Easy

  5. Take friend's hand-me-downs.
    If a friend just purchased a new cat tree or dog house, ask them if you can have their old one. These are expensive items that will save you a fortune if you just take a hand-me-down.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  6. Research veterinarians.
    There are low-cost veterinary clinics out there that do great work. Since vet fees are very high, do some research in your area and see if there's a low-cost vet nearby.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON SCHOOL, WORK, AND PLAY

  1. Avoid the back-to-school craze.
    Back-to-school time is big business, and these costs can really add up, with new backpacks lunch boxes, pencils, pens, etc. But seriously, how many pencils does your kid need? Your child probably has an arsenal of markers and pens they've barely used - so instead of buying them a brand new set because it's on the teacher's list, just use the ones from last year.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  2. Donate your time instead of your money.
    With so many cutbacks, schools often ask for monetary donations from parents. Consider donating your time to your teacher's classroom or to the office instead of writing a check - your time will probably be more valuable to them than your cash.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  3. Keep track of the money you do donate.
    Any time you give money to a tax-exempt organization, it's a tax deduction that'll bring down your taxable income and minimize what you owe the IRS.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  4. Keep away from brand names when your kids are young.
    There's plenty of time for brand-name clothing and shoes when your kids become teens - because that's when they'll really care what others think of them. Save yourself a ton of cash while they're young and don't know the difference between Target and Tommy Hilfiger - you'll be spending the money on designer jeans soon enough.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  5. Don't feel like you have to buy something from every co-worker selling something from their kid.
    Girl Scout cookies, magazine drives, wrapping paper, chocolate - all schools have fundraisers, and most parents want to see their kid achieve a prize by selling the most. Decide how much of your money will go toward such causes per year - and then stick to it.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  6. Make the maximum contribution to your 401(k).
    If you're fortunate enough to work for a company that will match your 401(k) contribution and you can afford to contribute the max, do it. Not only will you be saving money - but your employer will be saving it for you as well. As Emily Brandon reports in U.S. News and World Report Money, an employer can potentially match $1,800 to your plan if you make $60,000 a year.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  7. Up your 401(k) contribution every time you get a raise.
    Your retirement isn't "set it and forget it"; keep an eye on how your funds are growing and increase the percentage you set aside when you get a raise or switch jobs. In addition to saving for later, you'll save money now by reducing your taxable income.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  8. Slow down when driving to work.
    If you wake up and leave a little earlier, you won't have to rush to work and you can reduce your speed, enabling you to save on gas, according to fueleconomy.gov. Plus, you can invest in a cash back card that gives you a high percentage back on gas purchases, saving you even more on fuel costs.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  9. Give yourself a curfew.
    The later you stay out after work with coworkers or with friends on the weekends, the more you'll spend. The best way to keep money in your pocket is to manage your time effectively - both work and play.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  10. Don't go to clubs that have a drink minimum or cover charge.
    This is money down the drain, especially if you don't drink alcohol and you have to pay seven bucks for a club soda. Consider going to clubs that have free entry and a "pay-as-you-drink" policy.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  11. Have cash-only nights.
    It's easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of night life, especially when a credit card may tempt you into buying a round of drinks to impress your friends. Credit cards have their place, but only when your judgment is at 100% capacity. When you know you're going to have a long, fun night, decide how much you're willing to spend. Stick to cash and leave the credit cards at home.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  12. Order big at restaurants.
    It's wise to avoid pricey appetizers, but don't feel bad if you get large portions that you can't possibly finish at one seating. You just got yourself tomorrow's (and maybe the next night's) dinner!
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

HOW TO SAVE MONEY WHILE SHOPPING

  1. Tell yourself you're in control.
    The number one reason people have trouble saving money is psychological. They simply think that they can't do it. And if that's what you tell yourself, then you're already setting yourself up for failure. In a university study, researchers found that people who merely felt powerful (didn't matter if they actually were or not) saved a lot more compared to those who didn't. So, change your mindset to "I can do it," and you'll return home from shopping trips with shorter receipts.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  2. Stuff your wallet with new bills.
    Keep the plastic at home to avoid spending more than you have, and ask the bank teller for brand-new bills before you go shopping. You'll be setting out your budget for your excursion and limiting how much you'll want to part with your new money. Research shows that you're more likely to spend old, worn bills first and hang on to those crisp tens and twenties longer.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  3. Put up your blinders at the register.
    Temptation really digs in by the register - and the stores know it. Look at anything but the racks of gum and magazines. Be strong!
    Difficulty level: Tough

  4. Always comparison shop.
    Impulse buying is for non-savers. Before you add anything to your shopping cart, do a Google search or look at your favorite shopping app to see if you can get a better deal. (The same applies to credit cards - compare a few to see which one will give you the kind of rewards or cash back you need.)
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  5. Look for a gift card before you buy.
    Many people received gift cards they didn't want and are selling them at a nice discount. If you plan to go to that particular retailer anyway, you might as well get some dollars off your purchase.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  6. Avoid temptations.
    You can't save money if you're constantly spending it, and that's exactly what junk mail wants you to do. All those tempting catalogues, coupons from your favorite retailers and local shops are sugar candy to your wallet. Take the little bit of time it takes to opt out of junk mail and call the numbers on the catalogs, and also be sure to shred what you get before you grab your credit card. If you must stay on top of the latest deals, sign up for email subscriptions but filter them out of you inbox so you look at them only when you have spare change.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  7. Always shop with a basket.
    There's a reason some stores only offer you carriages - they want you to fill them to the brim. Stick to a basket or your own two hands whenever possible so you can only buy what you can carry.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  8. Read care labels before you buy.
    Are you a sucker for how a shirt looks online but ignore the material? If you're not careful, you could end up with hefty dry cleaning bills or clothing you only wear once because you didn't wash it correctly.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  9. Do the "did I remember" experiment.
    When you spot something you're convinced you have in a store, make a mental note to come back to it after you've done your shopping. If at the end of your visit, you've forgotten about it or you're no longer as interested, it was truly an impulse buy and probably not something you really need or want.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  10. Be aware of your mood when spending.
    We've probably all needed "retail therapy" from time to time. This is because buying new things makes us feel good when we're having a particularly bad day or week. But have you ever convinced yourself that this one item will totally cheer you up, only to end up regretting it later? A study shows that being sad causes people to spend more and make purchases without worrying about the cost. Shopping as a pick-me-up may provide temporary gratification, but you may just end up with an empty wallet and shoes you'll never wear.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  11. Shop with a purpose.
    Being too relaxed could result in the same effect as shopping while sad. Be mindful as you shop, and avoid throwing things in your cart you don't need or won't even want later. Whether you're on the hunt for a birthday gift or just making your weekly grocery run, walk into the store with a clear idea of what you want to buy and what you want to spend. This ensures that you get in and out without dropping more cash than you need to.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  12. Track your spending.
    Keeping tabs on your spending is not only an essential part of budgeting, it also helps with saving money. The simple act of writing out everything you buy can reduce impulsive spending. Once you're able to start cutting out those unnecessary purchases, you can start focusing on saving.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  13. Put a lid on credit card purchases.
    Paying with a credit card is great if you're trying to earn reward points or cash back, but it can be a savings killer if you're not careful. Psychologically, using credit increases the odds that you'll pay more compared to when you use cash in otherwise identical shopping situations. Maybe this is because paying in cash forces you to see how much money you're parting with, while there is no immediate sense of loss with just swiping a credit card. If you're shopping using a credit card, remember this point and imagine it as real money you're handing over. You'll be able to keep your spending more in check.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  14. Be thankful.
    Expressing gratitude on a regular basis is a healthy habit to have, and it can also help you make progress towards your savings goals. When you have a thankful attitude, you're less likely to want immediate gratification in the form of money. In one study, participants who demonstrated a thankful attitude when offered two different cash amounts more frequently opted to delay gratification to score the higher payday.
    Difficulty level: Mini challenge

  15. Take up sewing or be nice to someone who can.
    One loose thread shouldn't mean your favorite outfit has to go in the trash.
    Difficulty level: Tough

  16. Never go shopping to feel better.
    As deal hunters, we know shopping can be really fun and it can make any day feel better, to be honest. But when money is tight and saving is a top priority, shopping should only be done when you truly need or deserve something. Have the right motivations, and you'll find you'll get better at saving money.
    Difficulty level: Tough

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