15 Creative Ways to Save Money That Actually Work

L. S. Wynn
L. S. Wynn

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Saving money doesn’t have to be hard. Even if you don’t earn that much, or if you’re trying to get out of debt, there are many simple and creative ways for you to spend less, take control of your finances, and get the most out of your everyday purchases.

With the help of our readers, our research team explored 763 money-saving tips. We set out to find the best tools and practices that can actually save you a considerable amount of money, without wasting your time on pointless clicks, complicated signups, or annoying scams.

We’ve handpicked 15 of the best ideas that actually work and are surprisingly easy to do -- with any of these, you can save a notable amount of money, with very little effort.

1. Automatically save money while you shop online with Capital One Shopping

Wisegeek rating: 4.9 stars, 208 reviews

Capital One Shopping free browser extension works seamlessly in your browser as you shop, allowing you get incredible deals and discounts on the products you want.

Just watch the savings pile up as Capital One Shopping constantly searches for better prices on your online purchases and automatically applies any available coupon codes.

You’ll also earn credits on most purchases, which you can turn into gift cards for your favorite online stores. Add Capital One Shopping to your browser in just two clicks and start discovering a better way to shop! As a heads up, Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the Capital One Shopping extension using the links provided.

  • Millions of users and $70 million in savings
  • Install in 30 seconds

2. Reduce your monthly bills with Trim

2. Reduce your monthly bills with Trim

Wisegeek rating: 4.7 stars, 37 reviews

Chances are, you’re probably spending more than you need to on bills. Signing up with Trim is a great way to quickly ensure that you’re getting the best possible rate on your cable, internet, phone, and medical bills.

Trim checks your monthly outgoings and negotiates with providers to get you a better rate, potentially lowering bills by up to 30%. Trim can also take care of canceling unwanted subscriptions, so that you can stop paying for services you don’t need!

Trim is dedicated to helping people build up their savings and get out of debt, and you can benefit from their high-yield savings account, spending alerts, overdraft detection, and other financial planning tools.

  • Members saved $1+ million last month
  • Create account in 2 minutes

3. Get free samples of amazing products with PINCHme

3. Get free samples of amazing products with PINCHme

Wisegeek rating: 4.8 stars, 67 reviews

Everyone loves freebies, but usually there’s a catch, right? Not with PINCHme -- all you have to do is sign up, create a profile, and you can start receiving free samples of great products. The samples are tailored to your profile and interests, and range from snacks and pet products to cosmetics and even kitchen appliances.

The only thing you need to do is to provide some feedback for the brands. You’ll never have to provide your credit card details or pay for any of your samples. Over 6 million people have signed up for PINCHme, and they’ve received over 20 million samples, from brands like Starbucks, Revlon, Hallmark, Playtex, and Walgreens.

  • Receive free products
  • Sign up in 30 seconds

4. Pay down student debt with lucrative Bold.org scholarships

4. Pay down student debt with lucrative Bold.org scholarships

Wisegeek rating: 4.8 stars, 204 reviews

Student debt can be a big burden, but Bold.org can help. Bold.org is a unique scholarship platform dedicated to democratizing philanthropy and helping to minimize student debt. You’ll find a wide range of valuable scholarships, fellowships, and grants that you won’t see anywhere else, donated by individuals and organizations that care passionately about making a difference.

By helping applicants create detailed and engaging profiles, Bold.org gives anyone with student debt the best chance of matching with awards based on their interests, major, or background. The sooner you start using Bold.org, the sooner you can access the thousands of dollars in funding opportunities added each month.

  • Win grants worth thousands of dollars
  • Apply to scholarships in a few minutes

5. Take control of your finances with The Penny Hoarder

5. Take control of your finances with The Penny Hoarder

Wisegeek rating: 4.6 stars, 54 reviews

Whether you’re interested in saving for retirement, investing, buying a home, or budgeting to make your paycheck go further, The Penny Hoarder has got you covered. You’ll find thousands of articles on a huge range of personal finance topics on The Penny Hoarder website, written by industry experts with a wealth of experience.

You’ll also find valuable advice about starting a business, working from home, advancing your career, and much more. Over a million people receive The Penny Hoarder daily email newsletter, which is full of innovative money-making strategies and helpful tips for saving.

  • Get incredible money-saving tips
  • Sign up in 15 seconds

6. Find the best possible deals with Honey

6. Find the best possible deals with Honey

Wisegeek rating: 4.8 stars, 89 reviews

Adding Honey to your browser (or downloading the mobile app) is a quick and easy way to make the most out of your online shopping experience. With the help of Honey’s shopping assistant, you’ll find out whenever there’s a better price on a product you’re interested in.

And without ever having to search for them, any available promo codes will be automatically applied at checkout. Honey users save an average of $126 a year, while also earning Honey Gold rewards when they shop at over 30,000 online retailers, such as Amazon, Macy’s, Groupon, and Pizza Hut.

  • Join the 17 million people saving with Honey
  • Get started in 30 seconds

7. Save up to 90% on your next flight

7. Save up to 90% on your next flight

Wisegeek rating: 4.5 stars, 67 reviews

It sucks to overpay for flights. That's where Scott's Cheap Flights comes in. This free tool tracks when flights drop in price and notifies you directly, so you can save thousands of dollars per year. One of our readers recently bought a roundtrip flight from Colorado to Australia for just $331.

  • Members save up to 90% on flights
  • Sign up in 20 seconds

8. Make money while you sleep with Acorns

8. Make money while you sleep with Acorns

Wisegeek rating: 4.6 stars, 39 reviews

Acorns is a fantastic way to start investing, without having to think about it! With Acorns, your everyday purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the difference is automatically placed into a diversified portfolio of smart investments compatible with your financial profile.

You can also deposit extra cash or set up a recurring transfer to help you earn more. For just $3/month, Acorns gives you access to an Acorns Later retirement account and an Acorns Spend checking account.

Best of all, there are no account minimums or trade fees, so you can start growing your money with Acorns right away!

  • Grow your money while you sleep
  • Get started in a few minutes

9. Supercharge your cash rewards with Drop

9. Supercharge your cash rewards with Drop

Wisegeek rating: 4.5 stars, 43 reviews

Spending money is a fact of life, so why not get rewarded for it? When you shop with the free Drop app, or install the new Drop extension for Google Chrome, you’ll get up to 2% cash back for the everyday purchases you’re already making, such as Postmates orders and Lyft rides.

Your purchases automatically earn you Drop points that can be redeemed with retailers like Starbucks, Walmart, and Netflix. And you can even use Drop in conjunction with other cashback apps, browser add-ons, and credit card rewards programs.

  • Earn up to 1-2% cash back
  • Install in 1 min

10. Set up an automatic savings plan with Capital One 360

10. Set up an automatic savings plan with Capital One 360

Wisegeek rating: 4.4 stars, 49 reviews

Setting up an automatic savings plan is an excellent habit for consistently adding to your nest egg, and it’s much more reliable than remembering to manually transfer funds to your savings account each month.

You can automate the process by scheduling a recurring transfer from your checking account, or by having a portion of your paycheck go straight into your savings account via direct deposit.

The sooner you set up an automatic savings plan, ideally into a high-yield, fee-free savings account like Capital One 360 Performance Savings, the sooner your money will start to grow!

  • Build up your savings
  • Set up an account in 10 minutes

11. Get the best rates on your loans with Credible

11. Get the best rates on your loans with Credible

Wisegeek rating: 4.4 stars, 31 reviews

If you need a personal loan to open a business, renovate your home, or go back to school, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the best possible rate, while avoiding hidden fees and charges. With loans available from $1,000 to $100,000, Credible gives you access to great rates from 10 vetted lenders in just two minutes.

Credible also makes it easy for you to save money by refinancing and consolidating your existing debt. You can compare personalized offers risk-free, without worrying about damaging your credit score.

  • Get the best loan rates
  • Get started in 2 minutes

12. Clear the clutter and earn cash (with Facebook Marketplace)

12. Clear the clutter and earn cash (with Facebook Marketplace)

Wisegeek rating: 4.3 stars, 27 reviews

If you have unwanted items lying around the house or garage, why not turn them into extra cash? From furniture, toys, and baby items to clothing, electronics, and even vehicles, there’s an interested buyer for everything on Facebook Marketplace.

If you already have a Facebook account, you can post an ad in seconds and immediately start talking with potential buyers in your local area. Within hours, that old bicycle could be off your hands, and a chunk of change could be sitting in your pocket!

  • Turn unwanted items into cash
  • Start selling in a few minutes

13. Never miss a way to save with Earny

13. Never miss a way to save with Earny

Wisegeek rating: 4.4 stars, 12 reviews

Earny is a free browser add-on that helps you shop smarter, so that you’ll never overpay for products or services again. Just by activating Earny, you can get up to 20% cashback when you shop with thousands of online retailers.

Earny has loads of other useful features, including a watchlist to get real-time price alerts, additional cashback possibilities when you share links with friends, and help with compensation claims if your Amazon delivery arrives late. You’ll even get access to refunds if prices drop after you make a purchase. How cool is that?

  • Earn up to 20% cash back
  • Install in 1 min

14. Access amazing daily deals with Wise Bread

14. Access amazing daily deals with Wise Bread

Wisegeek rating: 4.3 stars, 27 reviews

If you’re serious about saving money, you should get to know Wise Bread. By signing up to the Wise Bread newsletter, you’ll receive a free, handpicked list of 20 awesome deals, delivered to your inbox every day so that you can save money on the products you love.

Wise Bread also features a wide range of helpful articles on personal finance, frugal living, and life hacks to help you thrive, whatever your budget.

  • Get the best deals online
  • Sign up in 30 seconds

15. Save hundreds of dollars by making your own gifts

15. Save hundreds of dollars by making your own gifts

Wisegeek rating: 4.2 stars, 18 reviews

Between Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, graduation, and anniversaries, gift-giving can really add up, and it can put a major strain on your bank account. And sometimes, a store-bought present just isn’t personal enough for the occasion.

If you’re really interested in saving money -- and developing your creative side -- consider making your own gifts, especially when you’ve got a long list of recipients. There are some fantastic ideas for making beautiful gifts on websites like wikiHow and DIY & Crafts, from customizing journals and picture frames to crafting your own soap and candles. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to create something memorable for a fraction of the cost of a store-bought gift!

  • Avoid the holiday spending crunch
  • Find a gift idea in 30 seconds

Best Money Saving Tips

Everyone wants to save more money, but it’s something that most people struggle with. The basic concept is simple (just keep your money instead of spending it), but it’s hard to practice. It can be especially challenging for people who have experienced financial insecurity or who tend to be more impulsive.

If you’re new to intentionally saving money, start with the basics: understanding how you’re spending money now. Track your income and expenses, and create a monthly budget. A budget should be extremely detailed, especially if you’ve never tracked your spending before. Keep a note of every purchase you make, from monthly bills to convenience store snacks. For most people, it takes a few months of comprehensive tracking to really see how they spend money.

Once you know what your current spending looks like, you can make changes. The first thing to do is make sure you aren’t spending more than you make. Once you’ve mastered that, you can see if there are areas where you can cut back to allocate more money for your savings or retirement account.

The most important thing to understand about saving money is that something is far better than nothing. Maybe it’s not feasible for you to save 20% of your paycheck, but you could save 5%. You might not choose to give up all nonessential spending, but maybe you could eat dinner out once a week instead of every other day. The key is to figure out a strategy for yourself that is realistic and sustainable.

Once you have mastered budgeting, you can start to work on saving more and making long-term financial plans. You could try doing a no-spend challenge or saving up toward a specific goal, like a dream vacation. No matter what your savings goals are, these tips can help you reach them.

Tip 1: Automate good financial habits

If you’re like many people, you have an incredibly busy schedule that just doesn’t give you the brain space to actually remember to save money. You might not find it an emotional struggle to move that money to a savings account or reduce your spending – you just don’t remember to. If this is you, then automation can be a great way to increase your savings and improve your overall financial management.

If you want to save a certain amount of money each month (or a specific percentage of your income), automate it! You may be able to divert a portion of your paycheck automatically if you use direct deposit. Most banks allow you to create automatic transfers between accounts, so you could set up a rule to move a set amount from your checking to your savings account every month.

You can also use automation to solidify some other good financial habits like paying your bills on time. If you want to take it a step further, consider downloading a financial app that automates additional savings or investments. Some of these tools will round up purchases to the next dollar and invest or save the difference for you.

Tip 2: Maintain your motivation with clear goals

It’s hard to save money for months and years on end when it doesn’t feel like you’re accomplishing anything. This is especially true if you are younger and most of your savings is going into a retirement account. However, it’s essential to keep saving for retirement even when it’s tough.

For non-retirement savings, however, there are some things you can do to keep yourself motivated. Make realistic, detailed goals for yourself. Reminding yourself of these concrete things can help during times when money is a bit tight or you just really want to buy a new, shiny thing that you don’t need.

For example, if one of your money management goals is to lower your debt, you could keep a tracker showing how much you’ve paid off. Seeing your progress can be encouraging. You may also want to create a reward for yourself. For example, maybe you will treat yourself to a nice dinner after you make your final student loan payment.

If you want to start saving money for big purchases to avoid taking out loans, make those goals real for yourself. Get a picture of the vehicle, home, or vacation you’re saving for. Keep it somewhere that you’ll see it often. If you like online shopping, for example, having a picture of your dream home near the computer may help you avoid making impulse purchases that eat into your savings.

Tip 3: Take your time on big purchases

Many people find it hard to maintain an emergency fund or rainy day account because they end up spending the money. It might be fairly easy to reach your goal of getting $1,000 in your savings account, but could be a lot harder to avoid spending that extra money on something you really want.

Impulse buying can have consequences no matter what you purchase, but large purchases are especially impactful. One thing you can consider doing is implementing a time limit on nonessential spending, especially for purchases over a certain amount.

For example, if you decide to upgrade your TV, don’t just purchase a new one with a credit card or dip into your savings. Instead, make yourself wait a bit. Waiting a few weeks or even a month to purchase something gives you the chance to really consider the purchase and decide whether it’s worth the money you are going to spend on it. You may also use the time to do some research to see if you can find a better price before making the purchase.

Tip 4: Figure out your priorities

You can learn all the money-savings tricks in the book, but they won’t do you any good if you don’t implement them. Many people eventually give up budgeting and saving money because they lose motivation.

Of course, you may need to take a break from saving money in certain circumstances. For example, getting an unexpected medical bill or dealing with a broken furnace are times when you might need to spend that emergency fund. But it’s important to know how to get yourself back to saving money once the emergency ends.

The best thing you can do to help yourself stay motivated is to figure out your financial priorities. What do you really want? The vague goal of “good financial management” isn’t always enough to help during those times when saving money is hard.

Take the time to think about why saving money truly matters to you. Do you want to be able to pay for your child’s college tuition? Is your plan to retire early? Are you looking forward to buying a forever home or traveling? If you can narrow down your financial priorities, you can remind yourself of them when you’re tempted to stop budgeting or make questionable spending decisions.

Tip 5: Find a budgeting method you can stick to

Most people need to follow some sort of budget to consistently save money. This can be challenging if you try budgeting and hate it. Maybe it’s too much work or you don’t remember to write down your expenses or you just get burned out on it after a few months. If you feel like this, you aren’t alone. Budgeting burnout is something that most people experience from time to time.

One way to help yourself stick with a budget is finding the right method. There are countless ways to make a budget and track your expenses. You might prefer the tactile feel of a traditional paper ledger and pencil. Maybe you like using the computer better. You can set up your own budget using a spreadsheet or choose one of the available budgeting software programs on the market.

If even the computer is too old-school for you, try an app-based budget. Many of these apps allow you to link your accounts, and they automatically record and categorize all your transactions. You can see all your expenses from various accounts and credit cards. Most apps also have some built-in analysis tools that can show you how much you spend on essentials vs. nonessentials or tell you how much to save each week to meet a certain goal.

Commonly Asked Questions on Saving Money

There are so many online resources about money management that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the available information. Here are answers to some of the most common questions.

What is the $5 trick?

Also known as the 5-Dollar Challenge, the rules are simple. Every time you get a $5 bill, put it away – don’t count it, don’t spend it, don’t add it to your budget. Just put it in a safe place. Many people have reported saving thousands of dollars of extra cash this way. If you don’t typically carry cash, try doing so for all your nonessential spending.

How can I save $1,000 fast?

There’s no single answer to this question, but there are some simple ideas that you could try.

  • Switch from soda to water.
  • Use your local library.
  • Bring lunch and make your own coffee instead of buying it.
  • Meal plan, hit the grocery store, and cook at home.
  • Cut satellite or cable TV.
  • Choose generic instead of brand-name products.

Implementing several of these changes at a time could allow you to save $1,000 in as little as a month.

What is the 30-day rule for saving money?

Here’s the rule: Wait 30 days before purchasing any nonessential item. If you see something you want, write it down along with the seller, date, and price. Then wait 30 days. If you still want it then, buy it. This rule is especially helpful for people who struggle with impulse buying.

What is the 70-20-10 rule for saving money?

The idea is to divide your income between spending, saving, and sharing. Spend only 70% of what you earn, save 20% of it, and give 10% of it away. The spending category includes everything from bills to nonessentials. An emergency fund and 401(k) both count as savings. You can give to any charitable cause, like a seasonal fundraiser or religious organization.

How much of your paycheck should you save?

How much money should you save? The simple answer is: as much as possible. The more money you can put away for retirement or an emergency, the better. If you want an exact percentage, however, most financial professionals suggest saving between 20% and 30% of your paycheck.

How can you eat well and save money when living as a student on a tight budget?

As much as possible, cook for yourself instead of eating out. Meal planning can help you reduce your grocery budget, especially if you buy in-season produce and plan meals that use similar ingredients so you don’t end up throwing out extra ingredients.