Save Money

20+ Simple and Effective Ways to Save Money

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Are you looking for some simple yet effective ways to save money? Here are my top tips that we use within our household to save money.


Cut Cable

We haven’t had cable TV for over 10 years. It’s not that we don’t watch TV, I honestly love watching TV whenever I have downtime, but we use services such as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video on a rotating basis. We’ve found we don’t need to have them all, all the time but currently we get Hulu basic through our cell phone provider for free, we get an Amazon Prime subscription from my parents for Christmas every year (which we use HEAVILY), and every once in a while we’ll subscribe to Netflix if a series I like comes out with a new season, such as Virgin River.

Especially if you don’t watch a lot of TV or if you like to watch certain shows that could be streamed for free or a lower cost service such as Hulu, Netflix, Peacock, Paramount, or Disney+ it might be worth subscribing to a service or two instead of having such a huge cable bill.

If you know you’re going to use a service all year, you often can get a price break if you subscribe for the full year in advance. Otherwise, picking and choosing every few months can work as well. Either way, as long as you don’t subscribe to too many services at once, you’ll be saving money over what you were spending on cable.

Recently, we have decided to have a streaming subscription item on our budget for $20 a month. Since I watch the most TV, I get to choose what that $20 is made up of. Right now it’s the ad-free version of Paramount+, Netflix with ads, and Hulu with ads because I got Hulu for just $1 a month during Black Friday sales.

Also, getting an antenna can get you local channels. Here is a blog post by my husband regarding how we set ours up in our old house.

Best shows to binge watch on netflix, hulu, prime video
A blog post I wrote about my favorite series to binge watch

No Home Phone

It seems weird to me still but we don’t have a home phone but we have no need for one. My husband and I have cell phones and we figure if someone were to come babysit the kids sometime they’d either have their own cell phone or we’d leave them with one of ours. It just doesn’t make sense to have one at this point.

These days, a home phone isn’t all that expensive if you already have internet through a service provider, but every little bit helps when figuring out how to save money at home.


Cheaper Cell Phone Service

We were loyal Sprint customers for over a decade and T-Mobile customers before that. When T-Mobile acquired Sprint and had us switch over we started to their service and all of that we started thinking about our options. The service was fine but we kept hearing about less expensive options out there that use the same towers so it made sense to look elsewhere.

We did our due diligence and created a detailed spreadsheet, as we do before any financial decision, and spent months mulling over our options.

Eventually we landed on Ting Mobile due to price, no contracts or hidden fees, great coverage since they partner with the nation’s largest networks, and great customer service.

We went from paying $90 a month for two lines through Sprint to $20 base price for two lines with data being extra. We are home most of the time on our home WiFi so don’t use much data. Most months we just pay an additional $10 for data whereas in the summer when we’re out and about more it’s more like $20 for data. Even then we are just paying $40 total for two lines with Ting Mobile compared to the $90 we paid for two lines with Sprint/T-Mobile.

They do have other plans as well, if you use a lot of data and want a more consistent bill you can go with one of their other plans instead of the flex plan that we have.

You can bring your own phone to Ting, like we did, or buy one from them if you need one.

As a bonus, if you sign up through my link you can get a $25 credit! So if you don’t use a whole lot of data like us you basically get your first month free! If you do use more data that’s ok too, you still get the $25 credit 🙂


Subscribe and Save

Many online retailers have subscribe and save options for items that are used often. We have our vitamins, some pantry staples, and other routine purchases on subscribe and save through Amazon Prime so we get up to a 15% discount on those items each month!

So if you already have Amazon Prime for watching shows and movies, then you can also use subscribe and save to save even more!


Cash Back Apps

Cash back apps can be especially great for saving money on groceries. They are as the sound, you make the purchase and within a week generally the cash back is added to your account. Some have a stipulation that you need to reach $20 or so back to cash out whereas others, such as Rakuten, will send you a paper check with your earnings without you even asking.


Rakuten Cash Back

Rakuten, formerly Ebates, can be used at hundreds of retailers via app, desktop, or Google Chrome extension. I have the Google Chrome extension enabled and it’s awesome, it reminds me each time I’m at a checkout that I should see if I can get cash back, which generally is just with the click of a button. Super simple!

Some sites offer 1% cash back but I’ve seen some with upwards of 12% back especially around the holidays. It’s amazing! Rakuten can be used at many of the major brands such as Target, Walmart, JCPenney, Kohls, Best Buy, Old Navy, Priceline, and many more!

If you sign up through my link here you can get $30 EXTRA cash back if you make $30 in qualifying purchases in the first 90 days of having an account. That means all you have to do is use Rakuten as you check out online, buying things you already would have purchased, and you’ll get cash back on those purchases PLUS an additional $30. Worth a try, right?!

I wrote a blog post ALL about Rakuten that you can check out here.

(If it asks you for my email address, it’s [email protected])

Image from Rakuten.com stating that 15 million people earn cash back with Rakuten, $2.2 Billion total paid to members since 1999, 14,000+ 5-star reviews on Trustpilot, and $63.50 the average cash back per member in 2020.
Graphic from Rakuten.com regarding their services and stats

Merryfield Cash Back

Merryfield is similar to Ibotta but it’s on “better for you brands” as they say. They work with a lot of the big brands such as Daiya foods, Stonyfield Organic, Primal Kitchen, Applegate, Canyon Bakehouse, and more!

You get 50 points per $1 when your paper or digital receipt includes any product from the participating brands you see on their app. This can be from any store, whether it’s a large store like Walmart or your local mom and pop grocery store. It just matters that you purchased items from the brands Merryfield works with.

I have my Merryfield account connected directly to my Target account so my digital receipts are automatically fed into their system and I get my points without having to do anything! When I shop at my local grocery store I scan the receipt when I get home and get the points that way.

They also have ‘Special Offers’ in which if you activate them you can earn extra rewards for a limited amount of time. An example of some special offers include if you buy Primal Kitchen Pasta Sauce you get 3,000 points which ends up equaling $3 back!

The points add up quickly and can be redeemed for gift cards to your favorite places such as Amazon, Apple, Target, Panera Bread, Starbucks, The Home Depot, and so many more starting at as low as 5,000 points which redeemed is $5.

Want to try it out? All you have to do is download the app and be sure to enter my unique code DK2AZ0 when you sign up.

When you submit your first receipt, you’ll get 2,000 points (or $2 back) and so will I. Check it out here https://merryfield.app.link/LTFxdm6JQxb


Ibotta Cash Back

Ibotta is the cash back app I use the most. Not only is it an app, you can use it on your computer, and you can install an extension on Google Chrome to make things even easier. Ibotta is free to use so you’ve got nothing to lose!

When using Ibotta, ensure that you select the offers you want to later redeem BEFORE you shop. I have a routine of scrolling Ibotta before placing my weekly grocery order and sometimes if there is a good deal on something that I had planned on getting in the next couple weeks, I might choose to get it now instead. Ibotta will email you when the cash is added to your Ibotta account and if you notice any is missing, you can contact them and they’ll take care of it quickly.

As quoted below from their own website, Ibotta partners with many leading brands and retailers. You can use Ibotta when you shop in store by snapping a picture of your receipt and uploading it or use it while shopping online by linking your online accounts to it. I use Ibotta for shopping at Target, Walmart, Shipt, and that’s just a small fraction of the 300+ stores they’re in. Ibotta can be used in grocery stores, department stores, specialty stores, health and beauty stores, clothing stores, online, restaurants, travel, kids and baby stores, home and auto expenses, pet supplies, sports and outdoors, subscription services, and more!

Ibotta is now one of the most frequently used shopping apps in the US, partnering with more than 1,500 leading brands and retailers. Ibotta has paid back over $1 billion to users in the last seven years and more than 35 million people have downloaded the app.

Company Background on Ibotta.com

Capital One Shopping Extension

The Capital One Shopping Browser extension is a great way to save money. If you install it into your browser, such as Google Chrome, it will come up when you’re at a checkout page asking you if you want to scan for coupons. I’ve saved a lot of money this way when I didn’t have a coupon code but then the browser extension knew of codes so it tried several in it’s database and BAM I saved money!

One thing to note is that generally you cannot have Rakuten and Capital One activated at the same time for the same shopping trip, so just compare the savings vs each other. Typically I go with Rakuten for % back but sometimes Capital One has a better coupon. With the browser extensions for both, it’s easy to switch back and forth.


Paper Coupons

Coupons can be extremely helpful in lowering costs, even if you aren’t aspiring to be a crazy couponer! Sure, back before I had food sensitivities I used coupons all the time and got some amazing hauls for pennies on the dollar! I even made a big coupon binder that I was quite proud of! I don’t do that anymore partially because I don’t go into stores currently, and because there aren’t a lot of coupons out there for the products I buy these days.

Anyway, for typical products, coupons are awesome. You can find coupons in your local newspaper if you get one, you can also find them on coupons.com where you can select the coupons that you’d like to print, then print them off and bring them to the store with you.

Coupons can also be found on the websites of your favorite products. Many products will have a coupon section of their site, even with just one or two coupons, but they’re often for a decent amount off and worth searching out.

There are some amazing couponing websites out there as well, some of which I used to follow heavily!

My husband asked me to point out that it’s important to use coupons to buy only things that you actually need. Don’t get 5 of something just because of a deal if you don’t think you’ll ever use them. (Yes, he’s speaking from experience with my extreme couponing of the past…ha! He makes a very good point though).


Limit Dining Out

In all honesty, we don’t dine out at all. We haven’t for years due to being gluten-free, among other allergens, it’s just safer to eat at home. However, I know that for most people dining out is a staple of their lives. I used to loathe cooking so would eat out often when I was single, I get it!! It is something that is relatively easy to cut or at least decrease when needing to save money though.

Think about how much the meal you’re eating at a restaurant would actually cost you if you made it at home. Often, the cost of one or two people dining out could feed a family of five if they made their own meal at home. Just something to think about.

  • Start Small: You could start with just cutting out one meal a week that you tend to dine out for instead of cutting out all four, or however many nights you eat out or on-the-go.
  • Snacks: Pack quick snacks like Larabars that will give you energy and keep you full for a fraction of the cost, time, and calories as french fries at your favorite fast food chain.
  • Reusable Water Bottles: Instead of having to run into the gas station or stop at a fast food restaurant, bring along a few reusable water bottles full of water the next time you leave the house. Whether it’s for a trip to the beach, a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s, or to the local park, it’s always good to have some extra water with and even better when the container is reusable and already full.
  • Pack a Lunch: Instead of sending your kids to school with lunch money, pack them a lunch. Instead of going out for lunch during the work day, pack a lunch. You can still sit outside if it’s nice out, or sit in the breakroom to chat with coworkers, or whatever you want to do but it doesn’t have to cost you so much. If you spend $15 per day on going out to lunch that adds up to $75 during a 5-day work week or $300 a month!
  • Coupons: If you really feel the need to dine out or just have some days that you can’t muster up the energy to cook, I get it. Try to find places that have coupons either on their websites, their apps, or advertised deals such as kids eat free on Tuesdays. Then at least you’re cutting costs a little bit.

Meal Plan

Since you won’t be eating out as much, meal planning is a great way to save money. How, you ask? When you plan for what you’re going to eat and only buy the groceries for those meals, you don’t end up with expired or wasted food in the back of the fridge or cabinet.

As I’ve written before, I use the meal planning website and app called Plan to Eat which you can read about more here. I highly recommend at least trying out the free trial to see if it is something you feel will work for my family. I honestly don’t know what we’d do without it. (Ok, yes I do, evenings and meals would be even MORE chaotic than they already are with 3 little picky eaters.)

Also note that every year they have 50% off sale for Black Friday, that’s when I always renew my subscription.

Meal Planning with Plan to Eat
My Blog Post about Meal Planning with Plan to Eat

Money Saving Laundry Tips

Wash in Cold Water

Wash clothing and linens in cold water. Most things last longer when washed in cold water anyway. Using cold water means less electricity used to warm up water in your water heater which equals less money spent on electricity.

Use Less Detergent

Use less detergent that you’re currently using. Often, especially with high efficiency (HE) washers, you don’t need as much detergent as the bottle says. If your clothing seems slimy or coated a bit when you take them out of the washer, that may be an indicator you’re using too much.

Ditch Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softener

Dryer sheets and fabric softener are loaded with chemicals that cling to your clothing for the desired effect and then seep into your skin through your clothing. In recent years there have been numerous studies revealing that chemicals found in dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners can cause adverse health effects. They also make towels less absorbent and other fabrics less able to wick away sweat.

Instead of spending your hard earned money on fabric softener or dryer sheets, purchase wool dryer balls that will last significantly longer and be better for your health. Dryer balls reduce the time it takes to dry your clothing as well, which will also cut down on costs.

If you notice that your clothes have some static cling after drying with dryer balls, try reducing the amount of time that you’re drying your clothing. That generally will solve the problem and be better for your wallet too.

Wool Dryer Balls - Natural Fabric Softener, Reusable, Reduces Clothing Wrinkles and Saves Drying Time. The Large Dryer Ball is a Better Alternative to Plastic Balls and Liquid Softener. (Pack of 6)
Wool Dryer Balls - Natural Fabric Softener, Reusable, Reduces Clothing Wrinkles and Saves Drying Time. The Large Dryer Ball is a Better Alternative to Plastic Balls and Liquid Softener. (Pack of 6)
by Handy Laundry
  • SUPERIOR QUALITY WOOL – 100% New Zealand premium wool with no synthetic fillers, rolled into tight, extra-large balls and felted for a natural, long lasting product.
  • REUSABLE FABRIC SOFTENER – Replace chemically infused dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners with an eco-friendly and natural alternative that will last more than a thousand dryer loads.
  • SPEED UP DRYING TIME – As the dryer balls tumble around in the dryer, they lift and separate laundry allowing the hot air to circulate better and dry faster.
  • SAVE ENERGY COSTS – Reduce appliance usage and electricity bills by shortening drying time up to 25%
  • REDUCE STATIC CLING – Toss them into the dryer and your clothing will dry faster, fluffier and softer, with fewer wrinkles and less static cling.
 Price: $ 11.99 ($ 2.00 / Count) Buy now at Amazon

Limit Empty Calories

Limiting empty calories such as soda/pop, candy, chips, etc. If your body isn’t being nourished by the food you’re spending money on, then why spend money on it?

I have to say a caveat here, I’m an offender of spending money on things that don’t nourish my body. I looooovvveeeeee chocolate. Due to being gluten, dairy, and soy-free I have to buy the expensive chocolate if I want chocolate, which you’d think would make me cut down on consumption, but no. I tend to stress eat my chocolate. This is The Way it Really Is so I want to be honest with you, as always. I’m not great at following this particular advice but wanted to put it out there for anyone with more willpower than me – ha!

One thing I don’t partake in anymore is drinking a lot of soda. Sure, we get a case of soda every once in a while but it generally lasts us well over a year as it’s just an occasional treat. Whereas in my younger years, I drank a few cans a day.

Another cost-cutter is no longer drinking alcohol. I’ve saved an estimated $22,000+ not drinking alcohol in the past 10+ years since I stopped drinking. Granted, I drank quite heavily, but I rarely went to bars so I’m guessing that number wouldn’t be that atypical for a person over 10 years of going to the bar, buying rounds for friends, etc. often. Just something to think about in terms of saving money and living your best life.


Home Haircuts

I started cutting my husband’s hair and my 3 sons’ hair during the beginning of the pandemic when the haircutting places were closed. After a couple times we invested in a better clippers and it’s actually been quite awesome. My twins have similar hair, seeing as they’re identical, but my oldest and my husband have different hair so it’s sometimes difficult to adapt from person to person as someone who hasn’t been trained in cutting hair, but it works out. I have been cutting my hair as well. The hardest part is the back of my hair and ensuring that the framing around my face is even. I like it though, it’s fun to do.

Before I cut everyone’s hair at home, we went to Great Clips so it’s not like we spent a lot of money but $25 per person with all 4 boys needing haircuts every 6 weeks or so, it adds up. I figure we save at least $600 per year with cutting our hair at home.

Below I’ve linked the clippers I recommend for cutting my boys’ hair.

Philips Norelco Multigroomer All-in-One Trimmer Series 5000, 18 Piece Mens Grooming Kit, for Beard Face, Hair, Body Hair Trimmer for Men, No Blade Oil Needed, MG5750/49
Philips Norelco Multigroomer All-in-One Trimmer Series 5000, 18 Piece Mens Grooming Kit, for Beard Face, Hair, Body Hair Trimmer for Men, No Blade Oil Needed, MG5750/49
by Norelco
  • All in 1 trimmer for face, head and body styling: 18 pieces for all your trimming needs
  • Maximum precision with DualCut technology includes 2x more self sharpening blades that remain after 4 years of use
  • To deliver maximum torque and power, the trimmer includes a full metal motor and a drive train that's been reinforced with tempered steel. Automatic voltage : 100 - 240 V
  • Our unique cutting guards are reinforced with ultra strong fiberglass material to prevent bending and buckling, ensuring an even trim every time; Blade material: steel
  • Lithium battery delivers 3 hours of cordless run time, or use while plugged in for continuous use.
  • Includes: 1 metal trimmer, 1 detail metal trimmer, 1 nose and ear trimmer, 1 extra-wide hair trimmer, 6 hair trimming guards, 3 beard trimming guards, 2 stubble trimming guards, 2 body trimming guards, 1 storage bag and 1 cleaning brush.
List Price: $ 39.99 You Save: $ 10.03 (-25%)  Price: $ 29.96 Buy now at Amazon

Things You Could Do Without

There are many things that seem to be necessities when you use them everyday but often are not. At least while money is tight, these things could be reduced or eliminated all together for a while.

These things may include:

  • Anti-aging creams
  • Make up (especially really expensive make up)
  • Hair services such as highlights, blowouts, and professional color
  • Professional nail services
  • Car washes & detailing
  • Cleaning service
  • Name brand products
  • Subscription services you don’t really use
  • Gym membership (if you don’t use it frequently)

I’m certainly not saying you should stop taking care of yourself or doing the things that make you feel good, that’s important as well. Just putting the idea out there that when thinking about cutting costs, those are some things that you may realize you can cut ties with for the time being at least.


Budget

This is my #1 tip but I knew if I put it first, you wouldn’t read further. Lol! I know everyone is sick of hearing about budgeting, However, without budgeting, we wouldn’t be where we are today in terms of being financially secure.

We have a monthly budget and we stick to it. It may be hard to do some months but it’s important to stick to it otherwise, what’s the point of having one?!

My husband has been a fan of Dave Ramsey for years and got me into his practices as well. We started on the baby steps right away.

Find life-changing books, tools and products in the Ramsey Solutions online store.show?id=ipknPBrfROI&bids=991964

We started having biweekly budget meetings back when we first got married, combined all of our money into one checking account, and started a monthly budget. Back then we both were employed full time and we didn’t have kids yet. It was good to start then and once we decided to have me become a stay-at-home mom five years ago, we could easily look at our finances and see if it was viable.

We have budget categories for everything from food, mortgage payment, fuel, kids needs, utilities, holidays, etc. We also have a certain amount of money each month for each my husband and I to spend as we see fit. We keep that around $50 and generally don’t spend most of it because we just don’t need a lot these days that doesn’t fit into the budget elsewhere.

Do things come up that weren’t in the budget? Sure! Suddenly our twins have outgrown their shoes and they’re going to need new sandals as well. That wasn’t in the budget this month so we had the choice of waiting another month and putting it in the next month’s budget to buy then or being overbudget. We decided for the health and safety of our twins to just overspend this month, but if it were something for us like new socks, we would have waited and budgeted for it in the next month.

We are fortunate enough to have money leftover every month after our expenses so when something comes up such as new shoes and sandals, we can roll with the punches and if needed, dip into our savings account, that we have been putting money into for years.


The Way it Really Is

What it all comes down to, is there are many ways to save money and many blogs that will tell you how. These are some of the things we do within our household to save money that we started at least 9 years ago and they work! It’s an adjustment, that’s for sure. Living within a budget was a HUGE adjustment for me. When I was single I would spend what I wanted on whatever I wanted and then at the end of the month I’d add it up so I at least knew where my money had gone but I didn’t plan ahead. I spent within my means but it wasn’t the best scenario.

Budgeting, having biweekly budgeting meetings with my husband, limiting dining out, cutting cable, cutting out alcohol and soft drinks, etc. are all little steps that really can add up to a more comfortable way of living once you get used to it.


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Founder, Professional Blogger at The Way it Really Is, LLC | [email protected] | Website

As a mom of identical twins and a son two years older, I have gained invaluable experience in the realm, and chaos, of parenting. With a Master's Degree and Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, I spent years as a school psychologist, helping children navigate through their educational and emotional challenges. Now as a stay at home mom and professional blogger, I combine my areas of expertise to help you in your parenting journey.

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