Everyone always wishes they had more money. The truth is everyone has access to at least an extra $500 in their existing family finances; you just have to know where to go look for it. Today, you’ll discover just that: the 25+ best ways to save money, each one generating $500 or more!
25+ Ways to Find $500 in Your Existing Finances
Who couldn’t use an extra $500 in the bank? What you don’t know, is no matter your income level, you already have it. And you can find it by being more aware of where your money is going. By focusing on six key areas, you will uncover the places in your everyday life and activities where small changes or insights can generate $500 or more in savings.
6 Categories of Focus
To help you determine what works best for you and your family, I’ve organized these methods into six key areas, and ordered them from those most easily attainable to those that might require a little more time and effort.
Choose what’s right for you… click the links below to jump to each section.
- The Expense of Convenience
- Food – Your Largest Variable Expense
- Be a Savvier Shopper
- Analyze Your Bills
- Tap into Your Assets
- Make it a Lifestyle Change
You can also use the printable checklist and worksheet available for download at the end of this post to help you calculate exactly how long each will take you to get there, and how much money you can find!
Please remember: Any one of these can generate $500 in savings – some in weeks or months, others over a year or more, some may be in a single transaction. And here’s the thing – with 25+ of the best ways to save at your disposal, you don’t have to do them all. If you just can’t give up your daily Starbucks run and your monthly yoga membership is essential to your mental health, you don’t have to give those up. Choose something else on the list – you’ll still get there!
But imagine the possibilities if you implemented two of these, or 10! What could you do with an extra $500? or $5,000? How much can you find?
The Expense of Convenience
We have turned into a society that demands instant gratification. While technology has made this possible in some areas, in others, it comes at a cost.
Time is money. And if something is convenient, we are often willing to pay a premium for it. But sometimes, we need to step back and ask ourselves two questions:
- Is it actually saving me time?
- How much am I paying for convenience?
Answering those questions will tell you if the trade-off is worth it. Here are 4 big areas we all spend for convenience worth taking a closer look at, as well as my method for finding more time in your life.
Your Daily Coffee Run
According to Acorn’s Money Matters report, the average American spends over $1,100 a year on coffee, and over 40% admit to spending more on coffee than they invested in their retirement.
That breaks down to about $3 a day, or about $4.21 every workday. I pay $39.99 for a box of 120 K-cups at Costco, or $0.33 per cup. Buy yourself a nice insulated travel mug, make your coffee at home or in the office, and save $500 in less than 6 months.
Americans don’t like to cook. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Consumer Spending, the average household spends over $3,300 a year eating out.
Many spend far more – and that doesn’t take into account all the food we buy intending to cook that goes to waste. Meals prepared at home cost as little as half as much as eating out. You’ll save even more if you’re drinking alcohol while out.
Eat out even 50% less often, cook at home instead, and you’ll save as much as $750 in a year.
For a family of 4, that’s over $1,200 a year! And it can be replaced entirely with tap water, which is nearly free. Ditch the sugary drinks, invest in eco-friendly and BPA-free stainless steel water bottles for the whole family, and fill ‘er up!
Maximize Your Time
If you don’t yet believe time is money, just look at the more than $5,000 we spend for the above three conveniences. The only thing we wish we had more of than money is time.
This year, with my 3 kids at 3 different schools, I found myself with less time than ever… even with all 3 in school for the first time. What I quickly realized was I had time, it was just more disjointed and I had to use it more wisely.
By implementing two key elements, I maximized my time:
- Block Scheduling
A daily or weekly routine provides a consistency in your life, that will then allow you to block schedule your time effectively. Fill in your must-dos, then block time for errands, chores, and other specific tasks.
I won’t put a specific dollar value on this one – other than to say that by doing this, you can find the time to make everything else on this list happen.
Food – Your Largest Variable Expense
The best places to look to find money in your existing family finances are the largest expenses. And after house and transportation costs, which are more difficult to change overnight, food is the next largest household expense.
According to the latest Consumer Expenditures Survey, the average household spends over $7,700 a year on food, including both groceries and eating out, or about $600 a month. Note: the average household has 2.6 people, so your food budget may be greater given the size of your family.
Any methods you can employ to reduce your monthly food expenses will pay off significantly over time. Determine how much you spend on food each month, and set a goal to reduce it by just 5-10% and you can save $385-$770 a year. Try these 7 strategies to find the best ways to save on your monthly grocery bill.
Consolidate Your Grocery Trips
How many times do you go to the store in a week? Maybe you have to stop for “just one ingredient” for dinner, only to walk out with $50 worth of stuff.
If you maximize your time, and routinely schedule your trips weekly, you will save both time and money. Less gas, fewer impulse purchases, and less wasted food.
The ERS and USDA estimate we waste 133 billion pounds of food available for consumption at the retail and consumer level. This amounts to $161 billion worth of food each year.
How much of the food you purchase ends up the trash each week? Meal planning is one major way to reduce spending at the grocery store. By planning out your meals each week, you buy only what you will cook and end up with less food in the trash. Also, by having a plan, you will eat out less too!
Not sure how to start? Start with How to Save Money on Groceries with Meal Planning here, including my 5 simple steps for building your weekly plan and a FREE printable planner and grocery list!
Make a List
Use a list when you shop. Meal planning makes this really easy, and meal plans you purchase often even include the grocery list! This serves dual purposes: by thinking about what you need before you shop, you can
1) Avoid duplicating what you already have at home and
2) Be more disciplined when you shop and not make impulse purchases.
Buy WHOLE Foods
What are WHOLE foods? The less processed your food, the more affordable it is likely to be. As an example, you can buy a whole chicken for less than boneless chicken breasts. Similarly, you can buy a whole butternut squash for less than the pre-cut cubes.
With processed foods, you are paying for someone else’s time, as well as packaging. As an added bonus, less processed foods are often better for you too!
Shop Specials & Seasonally
In the US, we spend nearly $1,000 a year per household on protein (meats, poultry, fish and eggs) and another $835 per household annually on fruits and vegetables.
If you plan your meals by shopping protein specials and using seasonal produce, you will get the most bang for your buck and find significant savings in these two categories. Seasonal produce is also what is typically on special.
Family Finance Mom tip: if you use grocery delivery services like Peapod, shopping specials is easy! They separate them out for you right on your phone.
Buy In Bulk
There are definite savings to be had by buying in bulk. If you have the storage space and consume the volume, it is definitely worth doing.
Stick to non-perishable and freezable items to avoid overspending and wasting food.
Make Your Own Cleaning Products
We spend nearly $1 billion every year, or over $750 per household, on household products, including laundry and cleaning supplies. These often appear as extra expenses in your grocery bill, adding as much as $60 each month.
You can make your own with affordable everyday ingredients like vinegar, water, baking soda, and essential oils for cents on the dollar relative to their retail counterparts. Check out these DIY recipes for
- Homemade Laundry Detergent
- Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
- 17 Ways to Clean Your Kitchen with Baking Soda
- Homemade Citrus Cleaner
Stay tuned for a 2019 Family Finance Mom series with more recipes.
Become a Savvier Shopper
We can’t avoid shopping entirely. But you can be much smarter about how you shop. In 2017, the average household spent $60,060. By deploying these 4 shopping tips, you can literally save on just about every single purchase you make. If you can save 1% on average across everything you buy, that’s up to $600 in savings a year.
Sign Up for Savings
Almost every single retailer now has a rewards program. While some only come with branded credit cards (just say no!), many are completely FREE aside from tracking your purchases and providing your contact information. To these, I always say YES! Most of these rewards programs offer immediate savings off your purchases at checkout.
Common places to sign up for rewards or savings programs:
- Grocery stores
- Gas stations
- Clothing retailers
Additionally, there are many FREE rebate and referral sites you can shop through that offer you cash rebates on all your purchases made through them.
How does this work exactly? They earn a referral or affiliate commission on your purchase and share part of it back to you in the form of a rebate. Others are basically paying you for sharing your purchasing data. And some just keep tabs on all the coupons and referral codes out there for you.
There is no cost for you to join, and many also offer referral credits for inviting your friends to join too. These programs include
- Ebates – rebates for online shopping
- Ibotta – rebates for uploading receipts from in-store shopping and linked rewards cards
- Honey – tracks coupon and referral codes for everywhere you shop online
Shop using these all year, and save your cash rebates to pay for all your holiday shopping at Christmas!
Never Buy Online at First Sight
Ever wonder how when you go search for something online, but don’t buy it right away, you start to get ads and even coupon offers for it everywhere you look?
Thanks to the magic of online pixels and cookies, retailers can now track our behavior. They know we were eying up that dress or new vacuum. And they want to lure you back to buy it. Here’s where patience pays off.
Take a look, but don’t buy right away. Not only is this great for impulse control, I guarantee you’ll get an email with a coupon code or an ad with a coupon will appear in your Facebook feed in the next 24 hours to lure you back to purchase.
Comparison Shop for Everything
Modern technology makes it easier than ever to find the best price on everything before you buy it. For any item that costs over $100 or any item you buy often enough to total $100 in expenditure over time, comparison shopping for it is worth the time and effort.
Two easy ways I do it:
- For large purchases, I shop online first and compare prices. If I’m in a store, I can compare right from my phone prices at competitors
- For less expensive grocery items, I take pictures of price tags with my phone and save them in albums. I do this for items like milk, paper goods, cereal, snacks, ALL the time.
Just this week, we were in the market for a new cordless stick vacuum. I saw one I wanted at Costco, took a picture of the price, but I didn’t buy it on sight. I came home, and price compared online – I found the exact same make and model on Amazon for $50 less. Comparison shopping pays off.
Family Finance Mom tips: for really large purchases (over $500-$1,000), don’t be afraid to negotiate and even make retailers compete for your business. We have done this at furniture stores, appliance stores, and with home service providers.
Shop Second Hand
When my first child was born, everything had to brand new. By the time the third arrived, I knew better. Kids burn through clothing so fast in the first years of life, I learned to embrace hand-me-downs and shop secondhand for massive savings.
In the US, we spend nearly $240 billion a year on apparel. That breaks down to just over $1,800 per household. Shopping secondhand can get you the same goods for 90% off or more, saving you as much as $1,600 a year.
Analyze Your Bills
Every month you get hit with recurring bills. And each and every one of those bills is an opportunity to save. Make the most of your time by analyzing your largest bills first, then work your way down the list.
Renegotiate Your Largest Bills
Housing costs are the single largest expenditure for all households. Included in that are utilities, which we spend nearly $500 billion on every year. This equates to over $3,800 annually per household, or $317 monthly.
There are a couple ways to approach reducing your utility bills.
- Get a quote from a competing provider. Then, present it to your existing provider and ask them to match it or switch service providers.
- Enter into a pre-payment or monthly plan. Many electric, gas and propane providers will help you normalize your monthly bill over the course of the year, instead of having huge heating bills in the winter and electric bills in the summer. This can also help you lock in a favorable energy rate, saving you $100s every year.
Adjust Your Thermostat
According to the Department of Energy, adjusting your thermostat can save you about 1 percent for each degree of thermostat adjustment per 8 hours. You can save up to 10% on your energy bill but adjusting your thermostat by 7-10 degrees whenever you will be away for 8 hours or more or while you are sleeping.
Reduce your energy costs even more my setting it a few degrees warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. Energy utilities average about $1,900 per household – so 10% savings could save you as much as $190 annually.
Share Cell Phone Service
Do you and your spouse share a cell phone plan? Did you know you can even share plans as extended family?
Individual unlimited data plans with my provider, AT&T, start at $70 a month. But I can add up to 4 phone lines under the same plan for $160 a month, or $40 per line. Share the plan with your spouse and parents or in-laws to save all of you $30 per line. That adds up to $60 per household monthly, or $720 each year.
A quick chat with online customer service, informed me that you can actually add up to 10 lines on any AT&T plan, dropping the price per line to as low as $37 per month.
Bundle Insurance Policies
All families should carry home (or renters) insurance, auto insurance, term life insurance, and potentially even an umbrella policy. These policies cost the average household about $3,000 annually or $250 per month.
There are major savings to be had by
- Bundling your policies with a single provider
- Using an independent insurance agent to shop your policies and find you the best coverage at the best price
- Paying annually or bi-annually vs. monthly
You should also re-evaluate your coverage annually to make sure it is adequate and to re-assess pricing. On average, discounts for bundling policies can save you from 5% to 25% for each policy, totally $150 to $750 annually.
Also, if your insurance provider offers monthly payments, know they typically charge an installment or monthly processing fee for this.
Review Monthly Membership and Subscription Fees
There’s a growing trend for software, content and even retailers to offer monthly, recurring charges for their services. And with good reason – it’s great for their business!
They offer you a seemingly low first month’s fee, sometimes even a first month for free. You sign up, forget about it, and they collect a monthly fee (that often escalates after the introductory rate) forever. Until you wake up and cancel it.
If you use these services – great – but be sure to review the charges hitting your account every month and cancel those you don’t because they can really add up. You may also want to take a look at eliminating redundant services.
- Content providers: Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify
- Channels via content providers or cable providers
- Style boxes: StitchFix, LeTote, Gwynnie Bee, Ipsy, Birchbox
- Wine or food boxes
- Gym memberships
My husband and I have in the past subscribed to Showtime via Amazon Prime to watch a specific show, but we don’t use it regularly. It’s $5.99 monthly, adding up to $72 a year. Add a few channels, a music service, a style box or two, a wine of the month club, and your gym membership and your easily spending over $2,000 a year on an automated basis.
Avoid Late Fees, Bank Fees and Interest Charges
Pay your bills on time. Late payments often incur immediate late fees of $25 or more plus interest charges on the balance. Paying late every month could cost you over $300 annually.
Similarly, don’t make payments your bank can’t cash – overdraft fees also start at $25 per incident. Link your savings account to your checking account to avoid these entirely.
Tap Into Your Assets
Start looking at everything you own through different eyes. It’s all money you spent, and some of it you can potentially get back if you are willing to part with it. Here are 3 key areas to start with…
Monetize Your Closet
We spend $1,800 per household every year on shoes and clothing. How much of your closet do you actually wear?
If you have name brand clothes, shoes and purses collecting dust in your closet, sell them and turn them into cash. There are a number of online services, like Poshmark, Facebook marketplace, as well as local resale or consignment shops that help facilitate this.
Sell Off Your Attic and Garage
What else do you have collecting dust in your storage areas? Is your attic full of baby gear your last baby has outgrown? Are there strollers you no longer use in your garage? Do you have a set of clubs from when you took up golf for a season?
Stop saving things you haven’t used in years. Sell them and turn them into cash in the bank.
Refinance (or Reconsider) Your House
Housing is the single largest expense for households, with mortgage costs or rental expenses being the largest component of that expense.
You may be able to reduce this major expense in a few different ways:
- Refinance your mortgage at a lower interest rate
- Downsize or relocate to a more affordable home
- Sublet excess space to family or a friend
Make It a Lifestyle Change
Just like being healthy is not accomplished with a single diet, being better with money doesn’t come from tracking spending for a month or just pursuing one of these options. It takes discipline to create long-term, wealth-creating change.
But if you’ve made it this far down the list, you are ready to make that change.
Stop Impulse Spending
Last month, I asked you on Instagram what was stopping you from reaching your financial goals… and the most common answer was “Impulsive Spending.”
Ending impulse spending takes discipline, but I have a few quick tips to help you get there:
- Know your triggers: fill in the blank “I spend because…” Is it emotional? Is it event-driven? Is it a specific place (looking at you Target!) or sales emails or ads?
- Eliminate the triggers: once you name your triggers, they are easier to avoid or eliminate. Don’t shop when you’re emotional, avoid or limit trips to Target, and unsubscribe from all those store email lists!
- Budget for Fun Money: if you go total austerity, you will end up binging and blowing it. If you know you have some wiggle room and spending money, you are more likely to stick with it
- Sleep on it: vow to buy nothing on first sight. If it’s meant to be, it will be there when you come back another day
Track Everything You Spend
When you diet, you count calories. When you want to save money, you count every dollar you spend. The very act of paying more attention will help you spend less.
How many of the above spending statistics did you find shocking? You will be appalled when you realize exactly how much you are spending on certain categories. Once you are armed with the facts of what you are actually spending, it’s far easier to change those habits.
Keep Life Simple
Your life, holidays, home, and travels don’t have to look like your neighbor’s… and they certainly don’t need to look like anything you see on Instagram or reality TV.
A recent survey found that 57% of all Americans plan to spend an entire paycheck on the holidays. You don’t have to do that.
Use Free Alternatives
The more you start to reign in your spending, the more you will realize how much you pay for things you can actually get for free.
Use a library card to read for free (even ebooks!). Stream music for free and don’t pay for upgraded ad-free service. Shop your own closet for events. Watch the endless free content you get from subscriptions you already pay for like Amazon Prime or Cable.
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