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You will not get rich by saving pennies. The best path to wealth is through investing and saving big on living expenses. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the small things. Little things add up, and even saving a tiny amount can help you build a huge nest egg.
I asked some of the greatest minds in money blogging what small things they do to save money, and they delivered with a wide array of methods to help you start saving. These little things add up over time, so pick your favorites and get to saving!
Little Things Add Up – Small Ways to Save
Make Your Own Coffee
Making your own coffee is on every list about saving money. In fact, it’s even spawned a sexist book claiming that women don’t get rich because they blow all their money on lattes. Obviously, that’s not true, and foregoing your favorite coffee drink will not automatically make you rich. I also don’t advocate stripping your life of every little thing that brings you joy – so if your morning coffee drink is the one thing that you look forward to every day, keep indulging it!
However, if it doesn’t bring you joy and you’re only stopping for coffee out of habit or because it’s easier, maybe it’s time to rethink things. You can get a cheap Keurig for less than a hundred dollars, and even the compostable k-cups (to be environmentally friendly) come out to less than a dollar a cup. My last Starbucks trip cost me over $7, and we only got one small latte and a black coffee. Coffee at home for less than a dollar definitely saves a ton of money.
Brown Bag Your Lunch
Kevin from Just Start Investing saves a ton of money by packing his own lunch. It’s nearly impossible to even buy a fast-food lunch for less than ten dollars these days, and a regular restaurant is even more expensive.
I’m with Kevin on this one. I can buy a loaf of bread, some lunch meat, chips, and a vegetable snack for less than the cost of one fast food meal, and it will last me the entire week! If you’ve been eating out every day for lunch, you could potentially save forty to fifty dollars every week. That can add up big over time.
Freeze your Bread
I love bread. It’s my favorite thing to eat. I’ll get the fancy French baguettes and make bruschetta for lunch, or get an Italian loaf to toast and pair with hummus, or even eat a New York-style bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. The problem with these fancy breads is that they get moldy before I can eat them.
I was spending so much money buying these fancy breads throwing them out two days later when they inevitably started to grow mold. But my boyfriend introduced me to a magical waste-reducing phenomenon. He told me if I froze the bread, it would be just as tasty when it was reheated.
I was skeptical. When I was little, my mom used to freeze the generic hot dog buns, and they were always slimy when reheated. However, I decided to give bread freezing another chance. And you know what? It’s magical. All you have to do is pop the bread in the microwave for a few seconds, then heat it the rest of the way in the oven, and it’s just as good as it was fresh. My mom only used the microwave, it’s the added step of the stove that makes it taste like new.
Make Your Own Chicken Stock
Speaking of reducing food waste, Robyn at A Dime Saved saves money by making her own chicken stock. She uses scraps and leftovers to make jars of stock that she can freeze and use whenever needed. Not only does this save money, but homemade is always better than store-bought, and probably has far less sodium.
Run Water through Your Shampoo/Soap Bottles
Want to make your hygiene products last? When you only have a tiny bit left, rinse the bottle with water and shake it. This will allow you to use the last remaining morsels of whatever precious product you use. This method works on shampoos, conditioners, body washes, hand soaps, and even dish soaps.
Of course, you don’t want to water it down too much so that it’s more water than soap. It takes a certain bit of artistry to get the mixture just right. We used to do this all the time when I was younger, we could make that last bit of shampoo last at least a few extra days.
Don’t Buy Travel Size
Speaking of hygiene products- do you tend to stock up on the cute little travel-sized bottles before you head out on a trip? Marjolein at Radical Fire has a great bit of advice for you. Those travel kits are overpriced!
Instead, buy a few re-usable travel-sized bottles. Fill these with your normal stock of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash before you go. You only have to buy the bottles once, and you’ll find that the normal size is far cheaper than the travel size when compared ounce to ounce. Find out what else she stopped buying to save money.
Use a “Keep the Change” Program
If your bank offers any type of keep the change program, you should enroll in it. My bank rounds all debit card purchases up to the nearest dollar and puts the spare change into my savings account. I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years just by having this program. If you use your debit card for most of your purchases, you will see how quickly these little things add up for yourself.
Save Your Spare Change
If you tend to be a cash user, save your spare change. I went through a cash-only phase and put all my change in a giant jar, which I turned in every few years. Sometimes I’d have upwards of two hundred dollars! This money usually went to my vacation spending fund, but that gave me an extra few hundred bucks with which to splurge on my travels.
Pick Up Pennies
If you don’t have any spare change to save, you can always find some! How many times do you see pennies, nickels, and even dimes just chilling in the parking lot? Those coins are legal tender.
The next time you see small change on the ground, pick it up and add it to your stash. These little things add up, and you’ll have a few bucks saved before you even know it!
Roll Your Coins Instead of Using Coins Star
Turning in that spare change can cost you. Those fancy coin star machines, while convenient, take a hefty fee. If you want to turn your change into cash, they are going to take nearly 12%! You will get a bit of a better deal if you chose a gift card option, but that means you won’t be able to use your money the way you want to.
Instead, roll your own coins and take them to your bank. If you have an account, no bank will turn down your legal tender. Yes, it’s more time-consuming, but you can deposit the money directly into your savings account, and the bank won’t charge you any fees.
Don’t Use Instant Pay
Nowadays, we have a ton of app options for accessing and transferring money. Venmo, Cashapp, PayPal, and others allow us to instantly send our friends and family cash and even conduct business transactions.
Some of these services charge you a fee regardless (I’m looking at you PayPal!) but some of them are free if you don’t mind waiting a few days for your money. Cashapp charges a three-dollar instant access fee, but “normal” transfers which take a couple of days are free. If you don’t mind waiting a few days, you can save money by using the free option.
Use Your Bank’s ATM
Speaking of fees to use your own money – ATMs are notorious for charging fees. The ATM charges you a three-dollar fee for the pleasure of using it, and your bank charges you a fee for daring to use an ATM they don’t own.
To avoid these charges, you can simply use your own bank’s ATM and access your money for free. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done. My bank’s closest ATM is over an hour away, which is why I switched back to using my debit card for most of my purchases.
Jesse from The Best Interest Blog saves money by knowing his weaknesses. Impulse buys can be a huge budget buster, so it’s smart to examine your spending and see what types of things you tend to buy on impulse. Avoiding those things can save you money.
It’s junk food for me. I’ve been known to spend an extra twenty to thirty dollars on horrible junk like cookies and potato chips. To prevent this, I’ve started making a list when I go to the store and sticking to it. I also eat before my shopping trip. We all know that hungry shopping leads to buying more things.
Being smart about your electrical bill is a great way to save small amounts of money. Sanjana at Youbethree saves money by running her major appliances at off-peak times. Using energy-efficient appliances and cold-water cycles can save you even more.
Saving money by conserving power is a tricky thing. It’s hard to quantify how much you save because most electric bills aren’t broken down by appliance. However, there are a lot of ways to save in the energy department, and if you use even some of them, you will start seeing lower bills.
Examine Your Subscriptions
John at Financial Freedom Countdown saves money by examining his reoccurring subscriptions. Things like cable bills, internet bills, and even insurance can be negotiated down. Calling these companies and asking for a lower price can help you keep the services you love while reducing costs.
I’ve talked about saving money by choosing generic brands for groceries, but it works for a plethora of other items as well.
I was a teenager in the nineties in Chicago. That meant everything was about the Chicago Bulls. Now I was a Bulls fan just like everyone else, but my brother became obsessed with Scotty Pippen. He decided that he would only wear Pippen’s latest shoes, which cost between $100-$200. I, on the other hand, was incredibly happy to spend twenty bucks on Walmart’s latest special. This meant that my parents would buy me shoes, while my brother had to save up and buy his own. And although he constantly made fun of me for my footwear choices, I always had more money than he did.
Now that I’m an adult, I chose places like Payless for my shoes and purses. I choose generic prescriptions, cleaning supplies, journals, kitchenware, and more. I’ve probably saved thousands of dollars over the course of my life by choosing generic. Those little generic buys here and there add up to massive savings.
Save Plastic Bags
While we’re on the topic of shopping, Wallet Squirrel has a fun hack for saving money related to those plastic shopping bags you get at the grocery store. He reuses them to save on trash bags, lunch bags, and any other type of bag he might need.
I know, the plastic bags aren’t exactly environmentally friendly. Reusable is the way to go if you don’t have a good use for the plastic. But I use my plastic bags to clean the litter boxes too. I would just be buying plastic trash bags for this task anyway, so may as well use the free ones!
Cutting coupons can be annoying. But it can also save you a nice chunk of change! And with all the advances in technology, you don’t even have to cut anymore.
All you have to do is look online for coupons before you check out. This works while shopping in the store as well! For example, Michaels pretty much always has a 20% off coupon. When you are checking out, just bring the coupon up on your phone and have the cashier scan it. Bam! 20% off with no cutting and no extra time wasted.
A lot of stores have online coupons, and it only takes a few seconds to look them up while you are waiting in line. It’s definitely worth the effort.
Drink Water from the Tap
One of my favorite ways to save small is to drink tap water. Bottled water doesn’t seem expensive, but once you realize that you’re paying five bucks a week to drink glorified tap water, that five bucks seems like a waste.
Instead, just drink normal tap water. It’s far cheaper than bottled water, and generally just as good. If you are worried about the chemicals or metals in your tap water, you can always get a Brita, which will both filter it and allow you to keep it cool in the fridge. You could also splurge on one of those fancy faucets that automatically filter tap water. Drinking water from the tap will save you small amounts of money both at home and….
And at the Restaurant
Did you know that beverages are one of the biggest upsells in the restaurant industry? One fountain drink costs most restaurants about ten cents, but they charge you two to three dollars for it! And don’t even get me started on alcoholic drinks!
Our good friend Max from The Free Times avoids shelling out extra money by ordering water when going out for dinner. If everyone on your bill opts for water over traditional drinks, you can save ten to twenty dollars every time you dine out! That savings really adds up, and you can use the savings for an extra dinner out each month!
Sadly, this doesn’t apply as readily to my European friends. If you order water at a restaurant in Europe, you will most likely be an upcharge for bottled water.
Earn Savings Account Interest
We can’t talk about little things without discussing the paltry amount of interest that most savings accounts offer. Even the “high interest” savings accounts are cutting back their interest rates to 1% or less.
But still, 1% is better than 0%, and having cash on hand in a savings account for emergencies is always a good idea. Instead of keeping that money under the mattress earning nothing, find a higher-yield savings account and earn a tiny amount of interest.
Use a Cash Back App
Sometimes using a cashback app like Ibotta can save you huge amounts of money, and sometimes you only get the ten-cent “any item” offer. But hey, ten cents is ten cents, right? And those little savings can add up big over time.
Ibotta isn’t the only cash-back app available. There are tons of apps that will give you cashback on everything from groceries to gas to online purchases. Check out this guide to cashback apps to find out which ones are worth your time.
Little Things Add Up Quotes
I am not the only one who thinks little things add up. There are tons of quotes and sayings from famous people throughout history about this very concept. Here are a few of my favorites.
“Beware of Little Expenses, A Small Leak Will Sink a Great Ship” – Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was known for being wise. Although this quote is the exact opposite of what we are saying in this post, the spirit remains true. Little things, whether expenses or savings, will add up. Small leaks in your budget can hurt you just as much as small savings can help.
“Great Things are Done by a Series of Small Things Brought Together” – Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh was most likely referencing his art, but this quote can apply to anything, even saving money. Sometimes, amassing a great deal of money in an emergency fund can be achieved by making small changes and saving pennies here and there. Those little things add up both in painting, in savings, and in any other task that you set out to accomplish.
“It’s the Little Details that are Vital. Little Things Make Big Things Happen” – John Wooden
John Wooden was a basketball player and a coach. He won 10 championships in 12 years while coach of the UCLA college basketball team. And he believed a lot of his success was due to small things. This can be applied to savings as well. Paying attention to the little details may not seem like a huge deal, but starting here will help you pay attention to the big things as well.
“Little by Little, a Little Becomes a Lot” – Tanzanian Proverb
This proverb sums up the entire point of this post. Little things add up. It takes time and effort for those little things to become a lot of things, but it’s definitely worthwhile. Use this list to cut out some of the little things that don’t matter and see how over time they add up to huge savings!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.