100 ways to spend less and save more money in 2020

How to Save

100 ways to spend less and save more money in 2020

The economy has been great. We’re all making money hand over fist. But I’ve got some news for you, and you might not like it...

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100 ways to spend less and save more money in 2020

The economy won’t always be this way, and those of us who will emerge with a solid foundation once the economy finally recovers will be those of us who know how to save our money.

We all know how to spend. Most of us are experts. But when it comes to saving, it’s not as fun. But, here’s the deal: Saving money is what makes us adults.

It’s also what saves us from losing our shirts (or our homes) because we over-spent one too many times. But setting money aside doesn’t need to be difficult.

In 2020, it’s prime time for saving your dough. Why? Because the economy’s been great for far too long, and the other shoe is bound to drop. It might be in 2020. More and more economists are saying it will happen in the next two years, and those of us with the best savings habits will be sitting pretty on the other side.

How can you save some cash in 2020? Let’s begin.

100 ways you can save money in 2020

General tips and techniques

1. Eliminate debt ASAP.While making payments might seem more like spending than saving, interest on debt is money cost. Credit card and auto loan debts tend to be among the worst types of debt.

2. Set up automatic deductions from your paycheck. This is often the very best way to ensure you’re saving cash with every payday.

3. If your employer offers a 401k match, then take it! It’s literally free money.

4. Save bonuses. It’s tempting to spend bonus money, especially after a period of hard work or long hours. It’s okay to reward yourself, but resist the temptation to blow the entire bonus. Spend some—maybe 10%—save the rest.

5. Put most of your money in a savings account. In addition to earning interest, you’ll benefit from keeping your money further from your debit card. That moment you decide whether to make a transfer can be the moment you realize, “never mind, I don’t need this right now.”

6. Pocket raises. Instead of considering your raises “extra money,'' think of raises as years off of your working career. The more you save, the earlier you can retire.

7. Create a budget. If you haven’t defined your spending limits, you’re sure to blow past them.

8. Consider renting equipment. Instead of buying that tree trimmer or hedge clipper, consider renting that equipment instead if it’s a one-time use. Thankfully, in today’s sharing economy, even if your neighbor doesn’t have the tool you need, there’s tool collectives as well as rentals from big box stores like Home Depot.

9. Turn your darn lights off. Energy bills wreak havoc for a lot of us. Lights are a primary culprit. Only use lights when you need them, and when you leave a room, turn ‘em off.

10. Audit home energy use. If you have a smart home this is easy but even if you don’t have a fancy thermostat, many utility companies offer this service. Believe it or not, you probably have stealth energy draws that are costing you money each month.

11. Ditch the marketing emails. If those emails entice you to spend more money just because there’s a sale, unsubscribe. Now. OR set them to mark as read just in case you want to pull up today’s latest deal when you do need to make a purchase.

12. Try fixing it yourself first. Labor isn’t cheap for a repairperson. Try it. Learn from it. Next time, you’ll probably be much better at fixing those small but costly problems.

13. Check the library. Before you buy your next book, see if the library has what you’re looking for. If it does, then score! You just saved some cash. Books aren’t cheap.

14. If it doesn’t make you happy, sell it. Get rid of stuff that you no longer need. Not only will you get some cash out of the deal, but you’ll also declutter.

15. Think debit instead of credit. While you won’t get any credit card points if you’re using a debit card, you also won’t be tempted to spend money that you don’t have.

16. Talk to a qualified financial advisor. They can take a look at your specific situation and offers ways to save money and build wealth.

17. Volunteer for free admission. Festivals. Carnivals. Concerts. Sporting events. Many times, volunteers get free admission after their duties are complete.

18. Plan gifts in advance. That way, you can make or buy those gifts when they happen to be on sale rather than full-price before birthdays or holidays. Here are some minimalist gift ideas for even more savings.

19. Put together a swap meet. Hey, it’ll save you from buying something new, and it might actually be a little bit of fun shopping in your friends’ closets.

20. Preventative healthcare saves us cash. Especially dental cleanings. And regular doctor’s visits. The better we maintain ourselves, the better our bodies will treat us.

21. Comparison shop for insurance. The first quote may not be your cheapest option.

22. Refinance your mortgage when it makes sense. A reduction in your interest rate will immediately start saving you cash.

23. Think low-flow. In terms of shower heads. Low flow doesn’t necessarily mean you’re only getting a trickle of water. Believe it or not, you might be surprised!

24. Crank down on your water heater. The lower the temperature, the less gas or electric it’ll need to keep your water hot. Reduce it to around 115 degrees Fahrenheit if you can.

25. Close your curtains in the summer. This will help keep the summer’s heat out of your home, reducing the strain on your air conditioner.

26. Maintain your car. By regularly changing your vehicle’s oil, tires, etc., you're keeping it alive and operating at maximum efficiency for as long as possible.

27. Stop driving like a maniac. Believe it or not, the way that we drive our cars can have a profound effect on gas mileage.

28. Don’t drive everywhere. If you can help it. Assuming you’re relatively healthy and mobile, there’s no reason to drive to the supermarket less than a mile away.

29. Don’t go away on vacation. You can still take time off. Stay at home instead and save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

30. Have people come visit you. That is, rather than the other way around. Hosting tends to be cheaper than traveling—provided you’re equipped for it. Avoid remodeling your bathrooms to impress your guests if you can help it.

31. Take care of your clothes. Wash and dry your clothing according to instructions on the tag.

32. Launder less. If it doesn’t stink or isn’t stained, it probably doesn’t need to be washed.

33. Wash your clothes in cold water. Most garments don’t need to be washed in warm temperatures.

34. Shower less. Unless you’re working up a sweat or getting dirty on a regular basis, you don’t need to shower every day.

35. Stop using toilet paper. Gross as it sounds, ditching toilet paper may actually improve your cleanliness while reducing your environmental impact and saving you money. Some experts recommend using a bidet instead.

36. Grow your own food. If you have the space, time, and conditions for it, cultivate produce in your garden rather than buying it at the store.

In restaurants

37. Order water instead of soda (or alcohol) at restaurants. A couple bucks per meal may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time.

38. Drink before you go. This was the only way I could afford to drink in college. Provided someone else is driving or you’re within walking distance, consider drinking alcohol before going to a restaurant instead of buying booze while you’re dining. Instant savings.

39. Consider going for lunch instead of dinner. Lunch pricing is usually cheaper than prime time, which is typically at dinnertime.

40. Choose the smaller portion. It’ll help your waistline and also your pocketbook.

41. Stop picking up the check (all the time). If you’re dining with other people, it’s okay to split the check rather than offering to fund everybody’s meal.

42. Brown bag it. I know, it’s not as much fun to eat at your desk. But if you need to save money, your daily lunches out is a source of money drain.

43. Take advantage of free coffee. A lot of workplaces offer coffee for free to their staff. Take advantage of that as much as you can. Don’t pay for coffee when there’s a free alternative.

44. Eat out once a week. Or, limit yourself to whatever works best for you. But, make sure it’s an actual “limit”. Five times a week won’t work!

In grocery stores

45. Eat the food in your fridge and freezer first. Before you go shopping for new food, look at what you already have and see if you can’t make something with it. A good cook is a creative cook.

46. Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Most of us tend to buy more when we’re itching for a meal or a snack.

47. Plan your meals instead of winging them. Meal plans help focus your buying efforts in the aisles.

48. Buy generic foods whenever possible. Name-brand foods are more expensive simply because those manufacturers KNOW people will spend more for them. It doesn’t always mean better quality. For the best of both worlds, shop at Trader Joe’s!

49. Reduce junk food purchases. Every bag of chips is fairly cheap, but over time, it adds up. Why? Because most of us always buy those bags of chips. Always.

50. Is organic really worth it? You might be surprised at how similar those more expensive “organic” options are to the regular stuff. Buying organic is only worth it some of the time.

51. Buy enough for double the recipe. Making double creates leftovers, and leftovers means we have food to eat the next day. No need for a trip to Subway for lunch, right?

In any store

52. Enforce a waiting period before buying stuff. If you still want that item in a week, consider the purchase.

53. Stop buying warranties. While warranties CAN save us money, statistics clearly show they wind up costing us more money in the end. Instead of warranties, do this instead.

54. Don’t buy during prime time. Buy during sales or discount periods (almost every store offers discounts throughout the year).

55. Think (and think again) before buying electronics. We all buy electronics, and most of the time, they aren’t cheap. Do you really, really need that pair of $300 headphones?

56. Use Groupon and other discount services before paying full price. You might be surprised at how much you can find on Groupon.

57. Maintain a spending limit. Go into Target with a limit, and make it a realistic one. That’s right, a limit of $1,000 won’t work. You know that.  :)

58. Don’t be cheap. Believe it or not, it’s possible to go too cheap with things, especially clothes. Buying quality merchandise that will last often saves us more money in the end.

59. Use coupons. You don’t need to become one of those “couponers”, but using coupons when they exist are easy ways to save some cash. Who doesn’t get those 20% off Bed Bath and Beyond coupons in the mail, anyway?

60. Buy in bulk. There’s a reason—or a 24-pack of reasons—people of all income levels love shopping at Costco. You can save on some (NOT all) regular household purchases by buying in bulk—think snacks, paper towels, dog food, etc. The less perishable, the better.

61. Buy refurbished. Appliances, computers, phones, tablets, video game consoles—many refurbished things run like new and can be bought for a fraction of the cost.

62. Try money-saving apps (like Honey). These apps will automatically attempt to use known coupon codes at supported ecommerce stores. I’ve saved plenty using apps like this.

63. Don’t buy into Black Friday. Oftentimes, we don’t actually save any money on Black Friday. Some of us buy much more at full price to destroy any savings, and very often, retailers will mark up prices on merchandise in order to make it appear as if things are on sale during Black Friday.

Subscriptions

64. Cancel or disable auto-renewals. This will give yourself the option to consider or not.

65. Ditch cable or satellite. Consider switching to a streaming service to save some cash. Or better yet, rely on OTA (Over The Air) HD television service, which is 100% free.

66. Don’t commit to long-term contracts. Give yourself the option to ditch the service if it no longer works for you.

67. Choose the right phone plan. Do you really need unlimited data?

68. Re-evaluate every month. Your needs, habits, and desires will change over time, and you might find that you no longer need that monthly magazine subscription to Vibe or Audible account.

69. Take advantage of referral programs. If you like the product or service, referral programs very often offer cash back or free stuff in exchange for referring family or friends.

70. Threaten to cancel. Believe it or not, many subscription services will offer you a deal during the cancellation process. Audible, for instance, will give you 50% off three months if you tell them you’re canceling because the service is too expensive.

Tips for spending less as a new parent

71. Wait to buy nice baby clothes. Your baby will grow out of their clothes every few months at least.

72. Buy second hand. Clothing, cribs, strollers—as long as it still functions, why let it go to waste? Your baby doesn’t care about discolorations or chipped paint. They’re going to make a mess on it anyway.

73. Ask friends and family for hand-me-downs. Everyone who’s ever had a kid has something they no longer need.

74. Avoid “cute” purchases. Skip the sailor hats, lace dresses, and miniature smoking jackets.

75. Never leave the house unprepared. Bring formula, snacks, changes of clothes, and other essentials with you wherever you go.

76. Buy generic medications. There’s no reason to buy name brand. By law, generic medicine is no different in terms of effectiveness, dosage, strength, safety, quality, or how it’s used.

77. Make baby food at home. Much of what you can find in jars and cans is really just pureed fruits and vegetables. If you have a blender, you can make your own—but be sure to do it carefully.

Habits to cut from or add to your life to save money

78. Quit smoking. It’s expensive and terrible for your health.

79. Quit vaping. It’s cheaper and (maybe) healthier than smoking, but not doing it is the healthiest and cheapest option.

80. Quit drinking. Alcohol costs the US economy billions of dollars every year. Beyond the money you’ll save by not buying booze, you’ll also avoid drunk purchases (including 2am falafel).

81. Eat healthier. Less meat. More plants. More fiber. Fewer ingredients per item. Research shows eating this way can actually save you money.

82. Stop going to Starbucks. Is your daily coffee habit worth another decade of working? Make it at home/the office or let go of caffeine completely.

83. Start flossing. Two minutes a day can save you from serious dental bills.

84. Start running. Aerobic exercise is one of the best preventative health measures out there.

85. Start cycling. Bike to work if you can. You’ll get a workout in while saving money on gas.

86. Go to bed earlier. A well-rested mind makes better financial decisions. A well-rested body avoids the doctor.

87. See a therapist. Many of us pick up unhealthy, unproductive, and expensive coping mechanisms rather than dealing with our issues head-on. Don’t assume you can’t afford it—there’s a sliding scale, free service, or community support group for virtually everyone.

Avoid buying new stuff you don’t need

88. Don’t buy a new car. If your old car is still running, there’s no reason to abandon it.

89. Don’t buy a new phone. Apple wants you to drool over every new iPhone model that comes out. Don’t fall for it.

90. Don’t buy a new computer. Clean it up, get it repaired, or buy refurbished instead.

91. Don’t buy a new house. Unless you’re selling your old one and downsizing.

92. Don’t renovate your house. Unless it’s totally necessary.

93. No new clothes. You probably don’t need them. Patch what you have or buy used.

94. No new books. Read the ones on your shelf—the ones you never cracked open—or immerse yourself in an old favorite. For new titles, there’s always the library.

95. No new toys. Teach your kids to make their own toys and get in touch with their boundless inner stores of creativity.

96. No new gifts. See our list of 100+ ways to save money this holiday season.

Buy it for life

97. Buy a good pair of boots. Many manufacturers design boots to resist wear and tear for decades and hundreds of miles.

98. Buy a reusable bottle. Ditch plastic bottles and buy something that will last—but make sure not to lose it.

99. Buy a cast iron pan. It’s versatile and virtually indestructible. Even a cast iron in rough shape can be restored with relative ease. Don’t spend more than $30 on one.

100. Buy a high-quality set of knives. Keep them sharp and care for them properly and they’ll last forever.

However you choose to spend less and save more money in the coming weeks and months, remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Many new year’s resolutions fail because people try to change everything at once—without reflecting on the “why” and “how.”

Start small, set specific goals, and be realistic, and chances are good you’ll end up with some serious cash stored away by this time next year.

What money-saving tactics do you hope to adopt in 2020?

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Steve Adcock
Steves a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence.