How to save money on daily living expenses

Whenever anyone starts talking about ways to save money, you probably know what’s next: the b-word. Yep, we’re talking about “budgeting,” and it’s a word that can send people into a fearful tizzy with images of tired adults poring over spreadsheets.

Fortunately, that couldn’t be further from reality. Starting a budget isn’t nearly as hard as it may seem, and there are tons of ways to cut back on everyday expenses that take pretty much no time, money or effort. Start some of these up, and you could find yourself saving thousands every year.

Ease up on the gas expenses

It’s no secret that riding a bike or taking public transportation saves money—plus, talk about great cardio and people watching. But when that’s not an option, there are other simple ways to cut back on gas costs

  • Slow your roll. Aggressive driving like speeding and hard braking actually lower your gas mileage. Practicing safe driving may just save you a speeding ticket while you’re at it.
  • Turn the car off. For every hour that you idle, you waste between a quarter and half-gallon of gas. Next time you’re stuck in stand-still traffic or in a parking lot, turn your car off—turning it back on wastes only a fraction of fuel compared to idling.
  • Avoid blasting the A/C. If you have to turn on the A/C, try not to set it to the coldest temp. Otherwise, channel your inner Labrador retriever and roll down those windows when it’s hot (no judgment if you stick your head out the window).

Stop pouring money down the drain on your water bill

Installing energy-efficient appliances is one of the best ways to save money on your water bill. However there are plenty of other small (and less costly) steps you can take that can also make a big impact.

  • Wash clothes with cold water. Forget the whole “wash colors in cold, whites in warm” thing—cold water gets the job done for all shades and can save a whole lot of energy.
  • Keep your shower under 30 minutes. Who doesn’t love a nice long shower, but shorter showers are better for your budget. Don’t worry—you’ll still be as sparkly clean.
  • Run full loads. Skip the half-loads for dishes and laundry—you can rack up major savings by only running your dishwasher and washing machine when they’re full.

Helpful tip: If you’re ready to switch to Energy Star appliances but are worried about installation costs, check out their rebate finder page and see how much you could save.

3. Charge up your electric bill savings

It’s a safe bet that when we were kids we all got told to turn off the lights when leaving a room—and our parents were definitely on to something. Here are some other easy ways to save that would make Edison proud.

  • Research on-peak hours for your area. Also known as “time of use,” on-peak hours are specific times during the day when electricity costs are jacked up. You could save money by doing laundry or running the dishwasher during off-peak hours when rates are lower.
  • Lower your thermostat when you leave the house. There’s no reason to keep an empty house toasty warm. Be sure to turn off or lower the A/C or heat when everyone’s out of the house to keep your bills down, or look into a smart thermostat to do the work for you.
  • Rely on natural lighting. Open the blinds or curtains and let the sunshine in. Save the lights for nighttime, rainy days or when you really need tem. Bonus: If you need the lights on, install energy-efficient bulbs to keep racking up those savings.

4. Never eat your costs again

Feeling like you’ll be stuck buying the generic, off-brand cereals and such for life? No need to worry—and no disrespect for the off-brands (which are both good and affordable). There are other ways to save money on groceries and on food in general:

  • Dine in instead of eating out. Cooking at home is one of the best (and often healthiest) ways to save money on food. Next time you get that terrible craving for tacos, look for recipes online and try making your own.
  • Use coupons at the store. There’s no need to go old school and cut out coupons from the paper anymore. Download some apps that make couponing fast and easy. Most major grocery stores have their own app; otherwise download a coupons app or research a coupon site and start saving.
  • Try not to waste. American households lose countless dollars to food waste. Buy food that has a longer shelf life unless you know you’re going to use it. Frozen fruits and veggies are a great option and so are durable types of produce like apples or carrots.

Practicing these simple money-saving tips is an easy way to hold onto more cash and even boost your financial IQ. Then you get to the fun part: deciding what to do with all the money you’ve saved. Will it go toward a kayak for two? Will it help you tackle some student debt? Will it cover a year’s worth of avocado for your burrito bowl? No matter what you choose, you earned it.

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This article is based on information available in February 2021. It is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific financial, investment, tax, legal, accounting, or other advice and should not be acted or relied upon without the advice of a professional advisor. A professional advisor will recommend action based on your personal circumstances and the most recent information available.