Saving money can be a tricky thing—you make a budget and think it’s under control, but life has this ability to get in the way. Yes, cutting out frivolous expenses can be a good way to lower your bills, but never dining out or being able to hang with friends can really put a damper on your social life. That’s where being creative comes in—with a little imagination, you can learn to cut costs in all areas of your life.
One of the best parts is that you don’t have to use these penny-pinching tips all at once—you can rotate them on a monthly basis or only when you need to put a little extra cash in the bank. No matter your reason for lowering your monthly expenses, you’ll be able to achieve your financial goals with these 19 creative ways to save money. We’ve done all the legwork for you—now scroll through and get saving.
1. Institute a cash-only rule. Put those credit cards away for a while—we like the idea of freezing them (but that’s not at all practical), so keep them somewhere safe other than your wallet. This way, you’ll only be spending money you already have.
2. Get a credit card with rewards. Big traveler? Get a card that lets you rack up air miles. Foodie? Get a cash rewards card that earns you more points when you spend on groceries and dining.
3. Save your spare change. The Acorns app automatically rounds up your credit card purchases and invests the change for you. It’s kind of like a piggy bank, only much better.
HEALTH AND BEAUTY
4. Get your hair done by a stylist-in-training. Lots of salons look for “models” who will let their stylists-in-training work on them. Often, these color and cut services are free of charge (and don’t worry, there’s always someone senior supervising).
5. Do at-home manicures. All those trips to the salon can add up (especially when you’re accustomed to splurging on a chair massage). Invest in some nice tools and colors, and do your own tips on the regular.
6. Put money into an HSA account. If your employer offers a Health Savings Account (HSA), it’s wise to contribute a portion of your paycheck each month. Because the money goes in pre-tax, you save in the long run on doctors' visits, prescriptions, and other medical procedures.
7. Go generic when possible. When it comes to your medical prescriptions, see whether a generic is available. Some prescriptions are actually going over the counter (like Flonase nose spray), and you can now buy the generic in bulk on websites like Amazon.
8. Opt for online exercise classes. Gym memberships can run you upwards of $200 a month depending on where you live. Streaming classes from favorite studios like Physique 57 and Ballet Beautiful mean you can do the same workout from the comfort of your home at a fraction of the cost.
HOME AND TECH
9. Adjust your hot water heater. If you don’t want to cut down on your shower time, switching your hot water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees or below will help you save energy (and lower your bill).
11. Forgo dry cleaning. Hand-wash delicates and then use a standing garment steamer for pressing (we like the Salav Dual Bar Garment Steamer, $90). It may take a little more time, but you’ll stop paying those outrageous drying cleaning fees.
12. Host at your place. Play hostess with some coffee, tea, or a bottle of wine (or cook a simple dinner). You’ll get to catch up in private, and you won’t be throwing down major cash.
13. Look for no-cost activities. Do you or any of your friends get free tickets to museums through work? Is there a local street fair that doesn’t have an entry fee? Get crafty when it comes to your activities. Trust us, your friends will likely enjoy saving some cash, too.
14. Do happy hour instead of dinner. If you pick the right place, you can actually leave happy hour dropping around $20 for some drinks and bar bites (far less than if you met your friend for a meal). More places have extended happy hour until 7 p.m., meaning you can still make it if you don’t have a 9-to-5.
15. Catch an early movie. Several movie theaters offer discounted ticket prices before noon (as in almost half the price). This means you don't have to think twice about getting popcorn.
FOOD AND DRINK
16. Ditch cocktails while out to dinner. Have you ever noticed how much higher your restaurant bill is when you’re having a few drinks with dinner? Institute a food-only rule when it comes to restaurants, but have a pre-dinner drink or nightcap at home if you’re in the mood.
17. Look for circular specials. Really feeling salmon this week? Chances are, it’s on sale at a grocery store in your neighborhood. You may not have the time to do extreme couponing, but you can still cut a few dollars each week.
18. Make your own coffee. If you’re a big fan of picking up a coffee on your way to work, start making your own at home or in the office (a new study shows that on average, Americans spend more than $1000 a year on getting their daily coffee fix). However, treat yourself to your favorite barista-crafted drink once a week—you pick the day.
19. Bring lunch to work. Spending even $7 a day on lunch adds up if you’re doing it often. The trick here is to make meals you’ll actually look forward to having; this way you won’t be tempted to buy something at your favorite take-out place.
Be sure to read about the amount of money you should save every day, and tell us your favorite creative money-saving tip in the comments.