Little changes can make a BIG difference.
Americans report spending around $100 a day on average—over and above home and car payments and basic household expenses, according to Gallup poll data. But what if you could shave off 10 or 20% of those daily expenses? What if you could save $10 or $20 a day—every day—without compromising your lifestyle?
Saving just $10 a day would mean $3,650 more each year to invest in your future. Saving $20 a day adds up to about $600 a month or $7,300 each year! Save $7300 for 20 years compounded at 5% and you’ll have $253,450—over a quarter of a million dollars! That’s quite a result for small, painless changes you can start making right now.
Some of these suggestions may take a bit of your time to research, reduce, or eliminate a recurring expense. Some may take a bit of creativity or a willingness to adjust a habit. Just remember: a lot of small consistent changes add up to a BIG difference.
20 Tips to Save $20 a Day
#1: Cut your cable costs.
Even if you enjoy watching TV or movies, it is no longer necessary to shell out $1200 each year or more (the average household cable cost) for television and entertainment packages. A streaming Netflix account costs less than $10/month. Or even better—buy a Chromecast device for less than $50 and stream YouTube and other videos from your smartphone.
Are you a sports fan who “needs” ESPN? Here are 10 ways to watch ESPN without cable. (Unfortunately, none of them are free.)
If you decide to not give up cable, it’s usually possible to negotiate your rate. Here are nine tips to do it.
#2: Make your home more energy efficient.
According to the US Department of Energy, the typical US family spends at least $2,200 per year on energy bills—most on heating and cooling. Another study estimates that consumers pay about 7 percent of their income on energy, reports Move.org.
If you plan on staying in your home for any length of time, energy-saving measures make sense:
- Insulate your roof or ceiling.
- Replace any missing or damaged weatherstripping around doors.
- Switch to LED bulbs to use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs.
- When replacing appliances or toilets, purchase water-efficient models.
- Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees, not the typical default setting of 140.
- Consider energy-efficient window coverings.
We can also stand to make ourselves more energy efficient, as saving on utilities also requires adjusting behavior:
- Turn off idle electronics when not in use.
- Adjust your thermostat by one degree to use less heat or air-conditioning during the day.
- Program your thermostat to substantially reduce energy usage when you are away from home (even just for the day).
- Don’t heat (or cool) rooms you are not using.
#3: Make your car more energy efficient.
The average American spends about $1400 a year to fill up their tank, according to Fool.com. To improve your gas mileage:
- Check your tires for proper air pressure.
- Clean out your car and your trunk—excess junk can weigh a lot!
- Replace your air filter and spark plugs.
- Use only the recommended motor oil.
- Take your foot off the gas—literally! Driving slower improves gas mileage.
- If you commute to work or put significant miles on your car, consider a hybrid or electric model.
#4: Slash your dry cleaning bill.
Men and women who dress in professional work clothes spend around $1500 annually on dry-cleaning—not counting the cost of dry-cleaning down comforters, curtains or coats.
To clean up your spending, shop for clothes you can machine wash or learn how to launder delicates and certain “dry clean only” items yourself. This helpful post from the Penny Hoarder goes into more detail, and we’re sharing her Pinterest infographic.
#5: Eat out less—or hack dining out.
Eating out is a major expense for many families as well as for individuals who may not enjoy “cooking for one.” Business Insider reports that Gen Xers spend over $4k per year eating at restaurants, and Millennials spend over $3400 per year—more than Baby Boomers, who can better afford it!
If you enjoy it, there’s no need to give it up, but be savvy. Often you can make a meal out of appetizers, share an entrée, or enjoy the happy hour or early-bird dinner specials. And don’t hesitate to suggest a potluck with friends instead of going out!
#6: Start a garden.
Produce at the grocery store adds up—but seeds are cheap! Gardening can also be a fun hobby or a wonderful activity to do with your family or neighbors. Plus—it’s nice to know where your food comes from!
#7: Book your next vacation or business trip on AirBnB.com.
Hotels are great, but sometimes you can find wonderful places to stay—often for less—on AirBnB.com or VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner). As a bonus, you might get to enjoy the amenities the owner has provided for guests: the paddle board on the lake, the beach blankets and cooler, or the snow shoes at the mountain cabin!
#8: Automate your savings.
The biggest mistake people make with saving money is leaving it up to chance, intending to save “what’s left over.” The IRS collects taxes from employee paychecks off the top—and you should, too. Don’t let money burn a hole in your wallet or checking account. Set up automatic deposits into your savings account (or whole life insurance policy, if you pay premiums monthly.)
#9: Increase your savings amount or percentage.
Already saving automatically? Wonderful! Now simply increase the amount by adjusting your automatic deposit or transfer that goes to savings or perhaps a retirement account.
If you are saving with a whole life policy, see if you can increase your paid-up additions. The extra dollars will go virtually straight to cash value and will also increase any future dividends (not guaranteed, but historically reliable) and the policy death benefit.
#10: Find an affordable health insurance alternative.
Our writer/editor Kate Phillips switched to Liberty Healthshare three years ago and has saved thousands in monthly payments—plus has a lower “deductible”! (It’s called an “annual unshared amount,” but it’s the same idea.) She explains how this health insurance alternative works in “Why I left Obamacare for a Health Insurance Alternative” and “Medical Cost-Sharing Plans: Can They Replace Your Insurance?”
#11: Use it or lose it!
Check your recurring expenses and get honest with yourself about what you’re using and what is a waste. If you get your money’s worth from your gym membership, telephone landline, magazine subscription, credit monitoring service (CreditKarma does a pretty good job for free), Netflix account or Spotify app, great. If not… give them a boot!
#12: Find a better cell phone/data package.
Cellular companies are always coming up with new plans and packages to stay competitive. However, they won’t typically reach out to let you know you can have a better deal! Ask about prepaid options. Reports according to the Tax Foundation, going prepaid will eliminate wireless taxes and fees and save you 18.5%!
And it may be time to switch carriers. Not sure about those new budget carriers? According to CNBC.com, Cricket and h2o run off the AT&T network, while Total Wireless uses the Verizon network.
#13: Entertain yourself.
Remember when kids used to play outside, we all had about seven channels on our TV, and no one touched a phone unless there was a call to be made or answered? Entertainment has become a commodity and companies prefer to sell it to us in expensive, recurring, high-tech doses. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s resurrect the joys of:
- Playing catch with a kid.
- Relaxing—or playing—at a park.
- Snuggling with pets.
- Reading a book from a library (they still exist!)
- Climbing a tree or building a tree house.
- Hiking—or as one meme put it, “Binge watch a mountain.”
- Having a good old-fashioned conversation.
- Family game nights with card games, Monopoly or Pictionary. (You don’t even have to wait until the power goes out to do this!)
#14: Make a safe bet with your money.
The average American spends about $400/year on gambling and just over $200/year on lottery tickets. (For some reason, those are considered separate categories.) While many Americans don’t gamble at all, it’s common for those who do to spend 5% of their income on it, reports USA Today.
A new report from the Federal Reserve Board confirms that 40% of Americans can’t cover an unexpected $400 expense. We think an emergency fund is a much safer bet than a lotto ticket or a slot machine!
#15: Be your own coffee shop.
Skip the coffee shop latte and you can save about $100 every month. Better yet—make a bulletproof coffee at home and skip the high carb breakfast, too! “Bulletproof coffee” is coffee blended with healthy fats (grass fed butter, coconut or MCT oil) to make a creamy, tasty coffee drink that can increase focus. For some, this can even replace breakfast!
#16: Drink water.
It’s amazing how much Americans spend on beverages! Analyzing 2011 data from all stores that sold groceries (including drug stores and supermarkets), the US Department of Agriculture made this startling find: American households spent more money on soft drinks than any other food item! And that wasn’t counting the spending on bottled teas, flavored water, sugary energy drinks, or alcoholic beverages. Drinking filtered water in your own glass or beverage thermos can keep you happy and hydrated while saving you dough.
#17: Shop dollar store deals.
Scarves, gloves, extra reading glasses and dishes for $1 each!? You bet! While buying low-quality doesn’t always make sense, dollar stores are very handy for “extras and spares,” and for holidays, parties and events. Get holiday or birthday cards, gift bags, ribbons and party decorations at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.
#18: Cash in on discount store and cash back cards.
Target’s REDcard (credit or bank/debit-linked options) will save you 5% off your purchases with no annual fee. Home improvement fans may get more use out of the Lowe’s Advantage Card’s 5% discount. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card gives you 5% back on all Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market purchases, which can really add up! You also earn 2% back for spending at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores, and 1% for all other purchases. It uses a “point” system and points are applied to future Amazon purchases. There is no annual fee, but you do have to be an Amazon Prime member.
There are also many options for cash-back credit cards you can use anywhere. Some will pay as much as 5% cash back in certain or rotating categories, or 1.5 to 2% cash back on everything all the time. Get the lowdown on cash-back cards from this Nerdwallet.com review and Cardratings.com.
And keep in mind: if you don’t pay your cards off monthly, they won’t save you money—they will cost you plenty!
#19: Cashback apps are the new coupons.
Still clipping coupons? There’s an easier way to save! The popular iBotta app can help you find sales and discounts offered by 289 stores. Checkout 51 lets you scan your receipt to save on purchases after you’ve made them—such as after grocery shopping. This review tells you how it works. It’s way easier than traditional couponing—though virtual coupon quantities can be limited.
#20: Share stuff!
Share a ride to work. Share a Netflix account or Costco account with a roommate. Share a dinner entrée with a friend and order your own starter salad. Share the ladder or yard tools you rarely use with your neighbor—then borrow your neighbor’s sewing machine and rolling pin. Share a Lyft or an Uber ride instead of taking a taxi. We tend to just buy what we need—even when we can borrow or share something. If you have a community blog or Facebook page—perhaps a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group for your area—these can be great ways to find resources (or get rid of what you’re not using!)
What are YOUR favorite ways to save?
How have you cut expenses recently? How do you plan on saving more this year? Please share in the comments below—we’d love to know how YOU save $20 a day. Maybe we’ll learn a good tip from you!
And if you have questions about your personal finances or life insurance, contact your trusted Prosperity Economics Advisor. (Need advice or help you can trust? Contact the Prosperity Economics Movement.)