Person tracking spending and putting money into a piggy bank.

10 Small Steps to Generate Big Savings

This content was originally published on June 15, 2020, and updated on January 29, 2024.

Are you trying to save money to buy a house or a car, to create an emergency fund, or to go on a vacation? Building a nest egg doesn’t have to be grueling. Here are ten painless ways to boost your savings.

1. Track Your Spending

The first step toward saving is knowing what you spend. Apps like PocketGuard, Monarch, and EveryDollar may make it easier to stay organized. 

Some budget tracking apps can import transactions directly from your bank or credit card account, but you’ll still need to enter cash expenditures manually.

At the end of the month, take a closer look. You may be surprised to discover how much money slips away on small expenditures that add to a large chunk of your disposable income.

2. Use Cash

There’s a psychological advantage to using cash for daily expenses. Watching cash dwindle in your wallet is much harder than swiping a card. Cash payments eliminate the “spend it and forget it” phenomenon that comes with using plastic.

3. Earn More from Your Credit Card

Paying with cash may help you spend less. But it’s also true that you can get cash back with some credit cards. So, if you decide to use a credit card for some expenses, make sure you’re earning the most cash back possible, that there’s no annual fee, and that you can pay off the balance each month. 

4. Curtail Automatic Subscription Payments

Signing up for services that automatically renew each month or year, such as streaming services, gym memberships, music subscriptions, and data storage, is easy. While each service may seem like a nominal expense, they add up quickly—and are often underutilized.

Take inventory of every automatic payment and cancel everything you don’t need or use. Many banking and budget-tracking apps include tools to help you spot subscription payments.

5. Save on Shopping

Inquire about ways to save money wherever you shop. 

Ask your grocery store about registered shopper savings. Search their digital app or sale flyers to find the best prices and clip coupons on what you need.

Ask retailers about matching competitors’ prices. Many will!

If you are purchasing something from an individual, politely ask if they would take less for the item. And, of course, when buying a house, ask your real estate agent about negotiating for a lower price!

6. Discover Discounts

Ask your insurance agent if they offer any discounts (AAA memberships, alum discounts, multiple policy discounts, etc.). You can also put your car insurance “on hold” when you are out of town and your cars are in your garage. (Ask your agent how.)

Many insurance companies offer discounted rates on all policies if you pay your bill annually instead of semi-annually or monthly. The savings can be substantial! Just ensure you set that money aside each month so you’re ready to pay the bill when it comes due.

7. Renegotiate Monthly Services

Call your cable, internet, and phone providers. Companies often have promotions, and a simple call may result in a lower monthly bill. 

Alternately, a personal finance app called Trim promises to help users save money by negotiating bills for you (and keeping a small cut of your savings). Trim also offers free subscription cancellation services.

8. Lower Your Utility Bills by Using Less

You may not be able to negotiate rates with your power supplier or water provider, but there are numerous ways to trim their bills.

Consider getting an energy audit to pinpoint ways to reduce your electricity usage. (Call your electric company to see if they offer this service free or cheaply.)

Typically, one of the best and easiest ways to shrink energy consumption is to add insulation to your attic. Often, the savings in heating and cooling bills quickly offset installation costs. After that, you can pocket the savings.

Likewise, a new programmable or smart thermostat can trim enough off your bill to pay for itself in a few months.

Replace your incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LED lightbulbs.

If you need to replace major appliances, select ENERGY STAR-certified appliances and compare the annual energy costs between models.

During the summer months, you can take a closer look at trimming your water bill. Reducing your hot water usage can also reduce two bills—water and power—at any time of the year. 

9. Hit the Pause Button

If you see something you’d like to purchase, give yourself a waiting period of at least 24 hours and stick to it. Impulse buying wastes a lot of money and often leads to buyer’s remorse, a blown budget, and a cluttered home.

If you genuinely need something after your waiting period, you will still need it. In that case, research buying outlets and ensure you’ve found the best deal. Also, consider used and pre-owned options to save even more.

10. Tweak Your Saving Systems

Try these minor adjustments to save even more!

When you pay with cash, throw the change in a jar and deposit it into your savings account once a month. For non-cash payments, check out apps like Acorns and Qapital, which round each charge up to the nearest dollar and add your spare change to a small investment account.

Automatically deposit a portion of your paychecks directly into savings.

Ask your employer to maximize your 401K matching so you don’t leave any “free” money on the table. If your employer offers a flexible spending or health savings account, use it to make your family’s medical bills tax-free.

There are many small changes you can make to start improving your savings. And remember, small steps can add up to big rewards!