No matter your age, net worth, gender, ethnicity, hair color, or favorite movie, how fast you build wealth comes down to one crucial variable: the gap between what you earn and what you spend.
The higher your savings rate, the faster you will build wealth. You could earn a million dollars a year, but if you spend a million and one dollars, you end the year poorer than you started it.
Some savings strategies offer huge monthly savings, but require significant life changes. Others yield small results but require only small behavior tweaks.
As you explore creative ways to save money, set ambitious goals, such as living on half your income. Don’t shy away from the big ideas, such as house hacking to score free housing. But if you want to start smaller, you can skip to the “Easy” section.
Even if you only implement one money-saving tip, I will have accomplished my mission. You will save more money to build wealth and passive income faster.
Huge Savings, Huge Life Changes
Everyone wants massive results with minimal effort.
On the one hand, the ideas below do create a huge impact. They require relatively few changes — but major ones.
Start here, because these ways to save money offer the greatest opportunity to shift your savings into overdrive.
1. House Hacking
For most people, housing marks their largest expense. Which makes it the largest single way to save money, by reducing or eliminating it.
In traditional multi-family house hacking, you buy a multi-unit property, move into one of the units, and rent out the other(s). Your renters essentially pay your mortgage for you.
Not that you need to move into a multi-family property to house hack. There are many other ways to house hack that do not require purchasing a new property. Never use the guest room in your house or apartment? Create an account with Airbnb and have others pay to take up your unused space! Or rent out storage space, or host a foreign exchange student, or rent out bedrooms, or any number of other creative ways to save money on your rent or mortgage payment.
Most important of all, review the numbers. Are you saving money from house hacking? Use a house hacking calculator to find out exactly how much you would be spending, charging, and saving.
2. Move for Lower Cost of Living
Brian Davis, the co-founder of SparkRental, has lived overseas for nearly six years. He enjoys not only lower housing costs (actually no housing costs, as he house hacks), but also lower cost of living in general.
But you don’t have to move quite so far from home to enjoy a lower cost of living. Consider that the median home in San Francisco ($1,385,625) costs more than 17.5 times the median home price in Cleveland! (More on the cheapest real estate in the US here.)
Which says nothing of grocery prices, parking fees, restaurant prices, and entertainment costs. Or, for that matter, taxes.
3. Move to a Lower-Tax County, State, or Country
Do you know how much you are paying in taxes based on where you live compared to other cities or countries? If you don’t, you should. The difference between the state with the lowest taxes vs highest taxes is nearly 8% of their income. New York residents pay roughly two-and-a-half times the state taxes as their counterparts in Alaska do, as a percentage of their income.
As a quick example of just how widely property taxes vary by county, spend 30 seconds playing with this interactive map of property taxes by county:
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Taxes play a huge role in the amount you could be saving per month. Even if you are not looking to move, take a look at how your state compares to others and the amount you could save by living somewhere new!
4. Get Rid of a Car
Yes, depending on where you live, cars can be essential to live. But if you have more than one car in your household, you may want to consider getting rid of one.
Not only are car payments expensive and promote further debt, take into consideration the amount you pay on car insurance, car maintenance, gas, parking, and all the other incidental costs. All of these bills together can add a significant amount to your monthly spending. The average annual cost per car in America clocks in at $9,282, according to AAA.
Transportation is the second largest expense for most Americans. If you live in a city near your workplace and grocery stores, sell your car and stop spending on something that sits on the street most of the time!
Lifestyle Changes for Greater Wealth (and Health)
Beyond the major life changes typically required to slash your housing or transportation costs above, there are other lifestyle changes you can adopt to save more money. They still require you to live differently, but that’s the cost of building wealth and passive income fast.
5. Stop Drinking Sodas & Sweetened Beverages
Not only will you feel better physically, but cutting out soft drinks will save a tremendous amount.
According to the USDA, the average American household spends $2,239 annually on sodas and sweetened drinks. Instead, stick with water or homemade tea and coffee. By making this minor change, you can improve both your physical and financial health.
6. Make Coffee at Home (or Work)
Quit spending $5 every morning to stop at your favorite coffee shop on your way to work and instead brew some coffee at home and bring it with you! While $5 never seems like a lot in the moment, especially on a groggy Monday, it can top $1,000 each year if you buy coffee most days each week.
If you like iced coffee, try freezing your leftover coffee in ice cube trays. You can then plop it into your coffee each morning for undiluted iced coffee made to your taste.
7. Quit Smoking
Smoking is expensive. With the average cost of cigarettes at $6.28 according to SmokeFree.org, a pack-a-day smoker blows $2,292 per year on cigarettes alone. Just by quitting, you could save and invest thousands more dollars each year.
Cigarettes keep you poorer and less healthy. Do whatever it takes to quit smoking, to simultaneously live longer and actually have the money to enjoy it.
8. Eat Less Meat
By eating a vegan or vegetable-based diet, you could shed your spending and shed the extra pounds at the same time. Robyn from A Dime Saved shares the following advice for moms on a budget:
“Have you ever considered going vegan to save money? Beans, rice and other non-animal proteins are much cheaper than meat and chicken and if you do it properly it can be extremely healthy as well!”
As Robyn points out, adjusting your lifestyle to eat less meat contributes to more than just physical health. Plant-based ingredients can save you money as well! And, for that matter, reduce your environmental footprint.
You don’t have to cut out meat entirely. Try picking a couple nights each week to stick with plant-based dinners (think “Meatless Monday”).
9. Learn to Cook
No more DoorDash or Uber Eats! Learning to cook will not only churn up your creative side but also promote healthier eating and save you money.
And the better you get at it, the more fun you have with it, to boot. I can now cook nearly all my favorite meals from scratch, and they taste better than even upscale restaurant versions.
10. Pack Your Own Lunch Every Day
Food constitutes the third largest expense for the average American. Which makes sense, we need food to live. However, the way most Americans spend on food ends up costing them much more than they originally budget. Not only will you most likely eat healthier, but by making your own lunches every day you could end up saving $100 a week!
11. Pay Off Your Credit Card in Full Each Month
Not only will paying off your credit card in full each month keep you accountable for not overspending but you won’t get penalized either. Interest fees can creep up and make paying off your debt even harder.
Try the debt snowball method if you find yourself with unsecured debts, such as credit card balances, personal loans, or student loans.
12. Track Your Spending & Savings
Keep a financial log of your savings rate, investable net worth, and FIRE ratio from the previous month. (FIRE ratio refers to the percentage of your living expenses that you can cover with passive income from investments.) That which gets measured, gets done! It also keeps your financial progress front-of-mind.
In addition, track your spending each month. Not only will you keep yourself accountable, you’ll get an accurate gauge of where you spend your money. Just by having the knowledge of what you spend money on, you automatically know where you can cut back.
At the end of the month, go through your credit card purchases. If you see five trips to the mall, it offers a clue that you are spending a lot on clothing and accessories.
Allie Fleder, the COO of SimplyWise, a retirement savings organization, shares firsthand how by saving receipts and holding yourself accountable for your spending may make a big difference in your monthly passive income.
“Start saving receipts — paper and digital, and reconcile them with your accounts. While keeping a budget can be hard, getting into this kind of a practice forces you to be more aware of your spending. It’s also a great way to find when you have been overcharged or double-charged (whether on groceries or a medical bill), which happens more often than we think.”
13. Partner with a Money Mate
Find a buddy who wants to save money too! Once a week, review each other’s spending and keep one another accountable.
At the beginning of each month, share your savings rate from the previous month. And your net worth, and your FIRE ratio. It keeps you motivated, when you’re accountable to someone else!
And no, you don’t need to go out to dinner or drinks to do it. Do it by phone or video chat if that’s easiest, or share a homemade meal or a backyard beer around the fire pit.
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Fun and/or Easy Ways to Save
Not every money-saving idea requires a major lifestyle change. Try the following if you need a quick or easy way to get started.
14. Grow Your Own Food
Amber Kong, lead content strategist at CreditDonkey, offers her own food-based advice:
“One unique way to keep some money in your pocket during difficult times is growing your own food.
If you happen to have a large patio at your disposal, don’t waste it on ornamental plants like flowers and bushes. You can grow a wide variety of herbs, fruits, and veggies in your backyard that are super easy to take care of. After a few months of producing some of your own food, you’ll see the difference in the supermarket’s bill.
Even if you don’t have a backyard, you could grow your own food indoors with some devices you can find at a very affordable price. It won’t only save you money but also provide you with fresh food every time you need it.”
As a side bonus, gardening and growing food becomes a hobby. A money-saving hobby that could replace an expensive hobby, helping you to save more money in several ways!
15. Plan Your Meals
We all know not to shop for groceries when you’re hungry. Not only do you spend more, but you generally purchase foods you wouldn’t normally. By planning out your week’s meals and only going to the store once per week, you could save yourself a lot of unnecessary spending.
In that same mentality, eat your leftovers! Ben Renolds, the CEO of Sure Dividend, explains the power of leftovers:
“Eating your leftovers for lunch and dinner can save you money and prevent you from wasting the food you bought and made. However, some people might not like the taste in the microwave. Instead, you can reheat leftovers in the oven and spice it up a little.
Whether you’re adding a bit more mozzarella cheese to your noodles or a few spices to your meal, you can recreate the flavor and save more money on remaking a meal for lunch or dinner the next night.”
Making small life changes such as this could potentially save you over $100/month. That is an extra $100 you could be investing for passive income and greater wealth.
16. Know What to Buy Used vs. New
You can’t buy food used. But you can buy plenty of other things used, that plummet in resale value but don’t lose their functional or aesthetic value.
Like the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. For example, one of the largest moving expenses is furniture. Instead of going into a furniture store and purchasing everything new, go onto Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and see what is being sold by others near you.
The same goes for electronics such as TVs and smartphones, silver, crystal, home décor, bicycles, home gym equipment, clothes, baby paraphernalia, and more. Often, you can find items in near-new condition selling for a fifth of its retail price!
17. Ditch Your Gym Membership If You Work Out Less than Once a Week
Over half of gym members show up less than once a week, according to Fit For Everywhere. Yet the average gym membership costs roughly $800 per year.
If you use your gym membership at least once a week (ideally more), then by all means keep it. But too many people keep their membership simply to avoid admitting defeat to themselves by cancelling it.
Gym membership is a privilege, not a right. You have to earn it by creating the habit of working out before, not after, opening a membership. Start with at-home or outdoor exercises, establish the habit of working out at the same time every day, and save yourself the $800 each year.
18. Cut the Cord (Ditch Cable TV and Landline Phone)
Do you really need a landline? I didn’t think so.
You probably don’t need cable TV either. Most of today’s best new shows originate from streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and HBO.
You don’t even need cable for Sunday football. If you want more football options than you can get over HD local broadcasts, just buy NFL GamePass.
19. DIY Projects
You could spend an arm and a leg on contractors to update your home or rental properties. Or you could learn how to make repairs and home improvements yourself.
For that matter, you can even DIY your own furniture or home decor personalizations. See a mirror at Pottery Barn that you loved and can’t stop thinking about? Instead of spending the $200 retail price, learn how to recreate the effect yourself.
You really can learn anything on YouTube nowadays! By doing home projects yourself, you can save money while also learning new things.
20. Become a Social Media Influencer
Think about the brands you spend the most money on. Use your personal brand (yourself) to reach out to these brands and get paid to promote them! Not only do you save money on products you would have had to buy otherwise, but you also create relationships with companies that could boost your brand.
While not for everyone, if you are active on social media and enjoy engaging with brands, this could be a fun and creative way to save money.
You won’t identify with every savings trick above. However, if you can take away just one way to save each month, you will be astounded by how much you will save per year.
Humor yourself. Take one of these creative ways to save money and try it for three months. At the end of those three months, measure your progress, and then try another idea for how to save more money.
Before you know it, you’ll have a higher net worth, more passive income, and a fast track to FIRE.♦
What are your creative tips for how to save money? How do you save more money each month?
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About the Author
Emma Dudley is a data marketer by day and financial writer by night, early on her journey to financial independence. She lives in Baltimore but loves international travel, and enjoys the challenge of cutting-edge fashion on a cut-down budget.