You’re likely spending more money every day than you realize. Two dollars here for this five bucks there for that. It starts to add up. We are going to show you 20 things you can do to save money daily.
The average American spends $140 per day, but that number includes things like housing, retirement savings, and health care. Once you subtract those, the breakdown looks like this:
- $25 Transportation
- $18 Food
- $15 Other
- $7 Entertainment
- $4 Clothing
That’s $69 a day, $25,185 per year! And while we can’t really get that number to $0 every day, there are plenty of things you can do daily to save money.
I have never had a car, but I have always lived in cities where a car was not a necessity. I know that isn’t realistic for everyone, but there are definitely ways you can cut down on transportation costs.
1. Under Your Own Steam
Even if you can’t give up your car entirely, you can cut down on how often you use it. Are there no errands you could do on foot or by bike? Could you walk or bike to work? Not everyone can but more of us can than currently do.
Walking and biking are better for you and for the environment than driving. Laugh at the thought of all those people stuck in traffic as you cruise around on your bike or your own two feet. The great thing about commuting to work on bike or foot is that you ride or walk at the same pace every day. You never have to factor in extra time to get somewhere in case there is a traffic jam or a long detour due to construction.
2. Ride Share
If you live in a relatively but not entirely walkable or bike-able place could you get by using ride-share services like Uber or Zip Car? You can still have access to a car when you need one but with none of the expenses incurred when you own a car.
3. Be a One Car Family
If you and your partner both have cars, could you live with one? What if one of the cars got totaled and you were forced to live with one car for a few weeks? What would you do? Well, sell one of the cars and do that.
Set up a carpool with workmates, walk, and bike more often, and rely on ride-sharing services when you both need a car at the same time.
It’s Always Food
You have to eat of course, and we don’t want you subsisting on Ramen noodles. But most of us are spending way more on food than we need to. There are so many painless ways to cut down on food expenses.
4. Stop Buying Lunch
Seriously, stop doing this. Or at least, stop doing it every single work day. It’s not even as if you enjoy that wilted salad or soggy sandwich you eat at the same place every day. It’s just that you haven’t taken the time and planned ahead to bring a lunch.
There are a million websites devoted to work lunches, and they cover all levels of cooking ability. Even easier, just make an extra serving or two of whatever you’re having for dinner, put it in a container while you’re cleaning up the kitchen and voila! Lunch is done.
Hell, even keep things like a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter or some of those tuna packets in your desk drawer.
5. Plan Your Meals
Americans waste $40 of food each month. A big part of the reason for that is that we don’t plan our meals. You need ingredients to make dinner, so you dash into the grocery store, grab a few things that can be turned into a meal, and make dinner.
A few nights later, you do the same. But you only used a little of the ingredients you bought a few days ago. This is how food gets wasted. If you took the time to plan your meals for a week, less of that food would go to waste.
You bought a head of broccoli to steam as a side, and you still have half of it left. Because you have a meal plan, the other half will be an ingredient in your frittata. Meal planning allows you to “repurpose” ingredients, so you aren’t buying brand new ingredients for every meal and throwing out the unused stuff because it went bad.
The other thing that often happens when we don’t plan our meals is that we order in or go out to eat which costs even more than wasted ingredients.
Take a few minutes each week to plan a handful of meals. You don’t have to cook every night. On the nights you do cook, make a double portion, so you have leftovers to eat on those nights you don’t feel like cooking.
6. Shop Around
You can get most grocery store circulars online so when you’re planning your menu for the week, take a look at them first and build your menus around what is on sale for the week. Also be sure to check out any ethnic grocery stores in your area.
They often have much lower prices on things like produce, staple items, and spices than bigger grocery stores. More exotic ingredients too so you can have some fun trying new things.
7. Bulk Up
If you see a sale on something you regularly use like tomato sauce or frozen vegetables, stock up while they’re cheap. If you see perishable items on sale like a big bag of onions, and you can’t eat all of it yourself, ask a friend if they want to split it with you.
If you buy meat in bulk and freeze it, just be sure you store it properly to avoid freezer burn and having to throw it away.
8. Dining Out
Eating out is a significant source of pleasure for most of us, but it can get expensive. There are lots of ways you can eat out without spending a fortune.
Check Groupon for restaurant discounts (never do this on a first date), order two appetizers rather than an appetizer and an entree, go to expensive restaurants for lunch rather than dinner, lunch menus often offer the same food but at a lower price.
Find out if your city does a restaurant week program. Where I live in New Orleans, we have a whole month of this in August when tourism is slow.
A Lot of Other
Other is the vaguest category, but it’s also the easiest one to cut because most of that spending is on little silly stuff that you don’t give much thought too because the amounts of each purchase are relatively small.
9. Drink Water
Stop buying things like coffee, tea, soda, and Gatorade when you’re out of the house. Drink water. It’s better for you and most people don’t drink enough. If you want more flavor, put a squeeze of lemon in it or make one of those fancy infused waters by adding slices of cucumbers to a pitcher of water.
If you need a caffeine lift during the day, drink the free coffee in your office. If your office doesn’t have coffee, buy a cheap coffee pot and bring it in. Buy some tea bags and stash them in your desk. If Gatorade is your thing, stop. You shouldn’t drink items the color of anti-freeze.
10. At the Check Out
There are so many tempting little things at check out counters. And not just at the grocery. Every check out counter these days seems to have all sorts of treats for sale whether you’re at the hardware store, the home improvement store or even the auto parts store.
Leave that stuff alone! You don’t need a pack of gum or mints. You don’t need a magazine about barbecuing. You don’t need tiny bottles of hand sanitizer. Put it back!
11. Stop Paying Fees
We pay all kinds of fees, minimum balance fees, overdraft fees, late fees. Most of these can be avoided. There is so much competition between banks that there is no reason to pay fees for things like keeping a minimum balance or getting a paper statement.
It’s the old brick and mortar banks that charge these ridiculous fees so why not join the 21st Century and join an online bank? Chime Bank charges only two fees, one for using an out of network ATM but there are more than 24,000 in network machines in the US and a fee when you load your Chime Card via debit rather than direct transfer.
If you’re getting hit with late fees on your credit cards or utility bills because you forget to make the payments before the due date, get organized. Set an alert on your phone for two days before the bill is due, write the due dates on a desk calendar.
If you are late paying bills because you don’t have the money, see if you can change the due dates, so your bills are more spread out over the month. Utility companies may not be willing to do this, but credit cards and student loan servicers often allow you to move due dates.
No reason to be bored to save money. There are lots of ways to entertain yourself that are cheap or free.
12. Go to the Library
If you haven’t been to the library since you were a kid, you’re missing out! Libraries offer much more than books. You can borrow video games, board games, game consoles, and movies. Many libraries offer activities for both children and adults.
Some libraries have day passes to museums, zoos, and botanical gardens. Some even have things like sports equipment and hobby supplies patrons can borrow.
13. Free Magazines
If your idea of an entertaining evening is to curl up with a stack of magazines, that can become an expensive hobby. But there are tons of places to get free magazine subscriptions. Stay tuned for an article on this.
14. Google Free Things To Do
Even if you live in a small town, there are likely all sorts of free events you aren’t aware of. Do a Google search for “free events in X,” and you might be surprised what you find. Free lectures, music, plays, festivals, free museum or zoo days.
15. Use Groupon
Groupon has all kinds of discounts on entertainment activities like video games, DVD and CD box sets, city tours, bike rentals and rock climbing classes.
16. Say No
Sometimes you just have to turn down an invitation because it’s more money than you can or should spend. Don’t feel awkward about explaining why you just can’t afford it right now.
People will understand. What they may not understand is why you keep turning them down with no explanation. Your friends might start to think you don’t want to spend time with them.
If it’s appropriate to suggest an alternative, a less expensive restaurant, for example, you can do that. But sometimes there won’t be a cheaper alternative if you’re asked to go to a specific concert for instance, and you just have to turn it down.
We all need clothes, but we spend way too much in this area. There are plenty of ways to look good without spending a lot.
17. Build a Capsule Wardrobe
A capsule wardrobe is made up of a few essential pieces like skirts, pants, blouses, shirts, blazers, sweaters, and coats that are classicly cut, so they don’t go out of style, of good quality, so they don’t wear out, and in neutral colors so they can be worn together.
The capsule wardrobe is then enhanced with inexpensive seasonal or trendy items like scarves, ties, and jewelry. Capsule wardrobes save space and time because you don’t have 5,000 things you have to decide between wearing.
18. Buy Quality
When it comes to key wardrobe pieces, buy the best quality you can afford. “Fast fashion” sold at places like H&M and Forever 21 are cheaply sewn together from cheap fabrics. They disintegrate after just a few washes.
Buy well-constructed pieces made from natural fibers which look better and last longer than cheap synthetics.
19. Buy Used
You can save a ton of money when you shop for clothes online at places like Poshmark and eBay or at a reasonable thrift store. It’s incredible what people sell and donate. You can often find clothes that have never been worn, the original price tags still attached.
If you have children, you should definitely be shopping at thrift stores. Kids outgrow clothes so fast that you can find tons of hardly worn clothes often for less than a dollar per item.
20. Rent It
If you have a formal event to attend, don’t buy a ball gown or tuxedo that you won’t wear again for years or maybe ever. There are lots of places, both brick, and mortar and online where you can rent formal wear, even shoes, and bags.
What Could You Do With…
Even if you only cut back in one or two of these areas, you could save a few thousand dollars a year. Many of us strive to keep the significant expenses down like housing and healthcare but when it comes to daily expenses, sometimes we aren’t as careful.
It’s easy to overlook a few dollars here and a few dollars there, but you can see, it adds up to about $70 a day.
That’s money that you spend on things that aren’t even particularly enjoyable, lots of that money is spent out of habit, like buying coffee every morning on your way to work. That money could be helping you pay off debt, go on a vacation, or save for retirement.
By saving money daily, we can get closer to achieving our financial goals.