Times are tough and money is tight. With rent freezes ending and eviction protections sunsetting along with an unsure future of unemployment benefits, Americans are on the lookout for ways how to save money each month.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can start saving money each month right now.
Below are 10 simple suggestions for how to save money each month by cutting down on some luxuries and re-evaluating the places your money goes.
These easy-to-follow recommendations are simple fixes you can do today, items that can be canceled or reduced, not difficult existential life changes like refinancing your high-interest debt or moving investments around or renegotiating your healthcare insurance or selling off all your stuff on eBay. These are all things you can do right now to save $500 a month or more by just eliminating a few creature comforts.
The average cell phone bill is about $95. But most people don't really need everything that comes in a standard, major provider plan. People often carry more data than they need and unlimited calling is irrelevant to most in 2020. A budget cell phone plan for a small carrier or one of the large companies' budget subsidiaries is more than plenty for most users, and it still runs on the big guys' networks.
A reasonable budget plan with eight or so gigs of data can cost as little as $40 a month, and you don't even have to change your phone number or get a new phone.
Monthly Savings: $55
You are what you drink. Not only will your bank account thank you for cutting back on your beverage spend, but you might just see health benefits, too.
Are you one of the 63 percent of Americans that count bottled water as one of your “most preferred" beverages? Well, that habit could be costing you hundreds. The average household spends around $20 a month on bottled water. In most of the nation, tap water is perfectly healthy and tastes just fine and, more importantly, only costs between $2 and $20 a year.
Still like cold, bottled water? Hit up Amazon for some reusable, washable BPA-free water bottles that look just like the ones you buy from the store and fill them with tap water. Chilling tap water removes most of the taste, but if you still don't like it, a faucet filter or a Brita pitcher will still save you immediately.
Monthly Savings: $20
Now that you've cut your bottled water habit, time to end your Coke habit. The average household spends $70 a month on soda/pop, much more than water. Once you start cutting the soda routine in favor of water, you'll find you may not even miss it, and it's certainly a lot healthier.
Can't cut your soda consumption completely? Invest in a home carbonator like SodaStream.
Monthly Savings: $70
OK, this may scare some people but money is tight and it's time to eliminate the daily coffee shop visit. Even while more people work from home, a morning errand to Starbucks or Dunkin' or Tim Hortons is still routine for many. But the average American spends a ludicrous $60 a month on café coffee. But switching to brewing at home (in a pot, not with a single-cup system like Keurig) brings that figure down to under four bucks a month.
And believe us, you can make a great cup of coffee at home, and you don't even have to put your shoes on.
Monthly Savings: $55
One of the hardest things for people to give up is their cable. For most, cable has been ubiquitous in their houses for their entire lives. We love streaming shows, but don't want to give up the ability to watch cable news, live sports, live award shows or the latest episode of “Drag Race" or “Westworld" before everyone starts talking about it on Twitter. But you can do both and still save money.
The average U.S. cable bill is more than $110 a month. But you can still get your streaming and all your live network and cable shows (and news and sports) with an over-the-top IPTV service like Hulu Basic + Live TV for just $55 a month, which gets you all your favorite cable networks.
Need more variety? Most people already are Amazon Prime members, so Prime Video is already streaming to your home. Verizon cell phone subscribers get Disney+ for free. AT&T mobile customers receive HBO Max on the house. New iPhone, iPad or Mac purchasers get Apple TV+ for no charge. Don't forget, you can always pull in your local broadcast channels — with their primetime schedule, news and live sports — for free with a digital antenna. Even if you add on Netflix, that's just an additional $10 a month that you can even split with friends.
Monthly Savings: $45
A few dollars here, a few dollars there. Music and entertainment subscriptions are just a few bucks a month, but if you have enough of them, they can really add up. If you pare down your number of subscriptions, you can save a bunch. Here's the monthly cost of several popular subscription services:
You can get all the music you want with free Pandora or Spotify plans. Spread out your storage between Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. Get audiobooks from the library rather than Audible. Drop a few online newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Go to your Apple or Google Play stores and unsubscribe from paid services and games you don't use often. Seem like a lot? Use a free service like Trim that analyzes and finds subscriptions you're not using and cancels them.
Monthly Savings: $5 – $46
The average household spends $225 a month in dining out, delivery and to-go orders. While most of us have greatly curtailed or stopped going to restaurants to eat, we've replaced that with more take out and more delivery dinners, and are even doing it more often than ever before. Those numbers add up.
While it's not expected that you suddenly become Bobby Flay and make every meal at home, you can cut down. Count the number of times you order or pick up food and simply cut that number in half, and make meals yourself the remaining days. And when you order, search the web for coupons or order on a day that offers a daily deal. Download apps from national chains and take advantage of all their discount codes and free offers.
Can't cook? Sure you can. Plan ahead to make it easier, or use a meal planning app. Watch free YouTube tutorials. Know what you're going to make before you go to the supermarket. But if it's truly not in the cards, consider pre-made items from your grocery store or a reasonably-priced subscription service.
Monthly Savings: $110
It's pretty obvious you didn't want to go to the gym anyway. The average gym membership subscriber overestimates the amount of time they'll go to the gym by up to 70 percent. You're literally only using 30 percent of your membership. Time to ditch the gym and do it yourself. You're not as tied to your membership contract as you think. In most circumstances, you can get out of it with little notice.
The average gym membership is a whopping $50 a month while going out running or biking, utilizing apps and free videos on YouTube, and using that free equipment at the park (which in some places can be really nice) don't cost you a thing. Your apartment complex may even have its own gym, just check with management for coronavirus closings, hours and rules. And it goes without saying, if you're paying for a Peloton or Mirror subscription, it might be time to consider canceling that for a few months.
Monthly Savings: $50
What do you know about your car insurance? Do you just get a renewal in the mail and return it paid as is? You may be throwing out a lot of money for no reason. In fact, 40 percent of drivers in the U.S. haven't comparison shopped for car insurance in more than three years. It's time to do some shopping.
If you're a good or relatively safe driver, you could save an average of $417 a year on car insurance just by shopping around for a better deal. Give a call to all of the big car insurance companies (and the small ones, too), tell them your situation, your current rates and that you're simply going to choose the lowest rate you get and see what they give you.
Monthly Savings: $35
You don't have to sit in the dark or sacrifice your comfort level to save on energy costs.
When we rent, we don't often think about energy efficiency. Kitchen and ceiling lights, thermostats, major appliances and HVAC units usually come with the apartment and we take them for granted as not our problem. But it's you that's paying the bills. One of the first things you can do to save money is to replace your bulbs with energy-efficient LED lights.
The average home has 40 bulbs in the house, so maybe you have half of that in an apartment. Make a bulk purchase of LED bulbs and replace the incandescent ones in your lamps, recessed lights and fluorescents in the kitchen or bathroom. Even just replacing your five most-used bulbs can save up to $75 a year, and they're replaced much less often — even years — so imagine the long-term savings. Oh, and don't forget to turn out the lights when you're not in the room.
Monthly Savings: $5
It's possible that your apartment's thermostat is still one of those ancient dials. Even if you have a newer digital model, if it's not programmable, you could be heating up your monthly electric bill.
Programming your thermostat to shut off or turn down when you leave for work and raise the level back when you're heading home can save beaucoup bucks. Even if you're staying home more often than you used to, a programmable thermostat can still save you money.
Set it to a more efficient temp for bedtime and raise it back automatically for the morning. Going away for the weekend? Lower the air or heat and set it to come back on when you get home. Models that can be programmed by cell phone are even more dynamic. A programmable thermostat can save you around $130 a year, and you can probably even ask your landlord to purchase and install it.
Monthly Savings: $10
Hear us out. You don't have to spend so much to get a haircut or style your hair. The cost of an average haircut in the U.S. is $36 ($28 for men, $44 for women), about once a month. Yes, we have been letting haircuts go during the coronavirus crisis, sporting longer and bigger hair than we've probably ever had. But now that we can (mostly) safely get our hair cut again, the expense is again on the books.
If you cut your hair at home, you could save all that money. But realistically, that's not going to happen. You could save a bunch just by switching to a discount spot like SuperCuts or Great Clips. But why not cut that bill in half by going to a beauty or cosmetology school? Students need heads, and you have one. You can get a very good, nearly-professional haircut for half the price. And yes, schools are open, and everyone is wearing a mask.
Monthly Savings: $20
Even if you may not admit it, there's a good chance you play the lottery. Most Americans do. Every week, you spend money on the chance, the hope, of winning it big. Despite the rallying cry of “somebody has to win," it's probably not going to be you.
The average American spends $25 a month playing the lottery. Want to know the secret to winning money? Don't play. You will win $300 a year right there just in savings.
Monthly Savings: $25
If you follow each of these steps, here is the potential savings:
|Ideas||Potential Monthly Savings|
|Change your cell phone provider||$55|
|Switch to filtered water||$20|
|Cut out the soda||$70|
|Stop going to Starbucks||$55|
|Cut the cable cord||$45|
|Cancel subscriptions||$5 - $46|
|Eat out less||$110|
|Cancel your gym membership||$50|
|Shop for cheaper car insurance||$35|
|Get more energy-efficient||$5 - $15|
|Spend less on haircuts||$20|
|Stop playing the lottery||$25|
|Total potential savings||$495 - $546|
In the end, with just these 10 steps, you'll save a grand total of $500. Give or take a few bucks here and there depending how much you cut eating out or how well you negotiate your car insurance or if you hold onto a Netflix subscription, it doesn't take too much to see how to save money each month, probably enough to cover a third of your rent or put away in savings if your job situation is fluctuating.
These simple tasks for how to save $500 a month or more don't require you to pay off your debt or refinance your car or trim down your retirement savings. But these daily luxuries you can curtail combined with more robust savings in investment or changing healthcare plans or deferring your rent can double or triple your savings.
Even if you don't follow our steps on how to save money each month, please, cut down on the soda. Your body will thank you.