If you’re looking for ways to eliminate expenses, reduce debt, build savings or an emergency fund, you’re in luck. There are dozens of effective ways to do just that, many of which you can start right now.
From cutting back on utilities and swapping insurance providers to finding inexpensive entertainment options, here are the 37 best ways to lower or eliminate expenses.
Table of Contents
1. Cut the cord
According to a 2020 report from DecisionData, the average American household cable bill is over $217 a month. Cable companies often upsell their services by offering packages that include things like premium channels or landlines. They also commonly charge for things like cable box rentals and broadcasting fees.
It’s easy to get caught up in promotional pricing or immediate discounts. But when the cost inevitably goes up after the first year, many people keep paying anyway. By cutting out things you don’t need or by switching to streaming, you could save $50 to $100 a month.
2. Review your cell phone plan
Around 97% of Americans own a cell phone, so it’s not surprising that cell phone plans are part of people’s monthly expenses. Yet, far too many people overpay for their plan.
For example, many people have unlimited text, talk, and data, which often come at a higher fee. However, not everyone uses these benefits. If you cut back and use just what you need, you could end up saving money.
There are also no-contract plans, which are often more affordable and easier to cancel without a fee. Smaller phone carriers, like Consumer Cellular, are also often cheaper than larger ones like Verizon. Whereas Verizon costs around $80 a month, a basic Consumer Cellular plan costs $25-$60 a month.
If you’re overpaying for your cell phone, consider switching plans or providers.
3. Shop for cheaper internet service
When it comes to your internet service, there are two ways to cut costs:
- Switch to a provider with better rates.
- Call your current provider to try to negotiate.
Internet service costs vary from around $35-$80 a month. For example, a standard Xfinity plan costs $34.99 a month. Google Fiber, on the other hand, starts at $70 a month. If you’re paying too much for internet and there are cheaper options in your area, consider switching providers.
If that’s not an option, contact your current service provider and see if you can negotiate a lower rate or more basic plan. They’re not obligated to agree to the change, but they might, especially if you tell them you’re considering switching providers.
4. Check your subscriptions
The average consumer spends around $273 a month on subscription services. This includes things like:
- Streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney+
- Food delivery services like Hello Fresh
- Online shopping subscriptions like Amazon Prime or Chewy
- Magazine or newspaper subscriptions
Make a list of your subscriptions and cancel any you don’t regularly use. While you’re at it, check which ones are on autopay. Research shows that people who use autopay are more likely to keep paying for the service, even if they aren’t using it.
Whatever services you’ve got, you could save quite a bit of money by canceling the ones you don’t use. And if you do use them, sign up for a service like Experian Boost, so your subscription payments will help build your credit score.
5. Work out at home
A monthly gym membership costs anywhere from $30 to $80 a month, though some facilities cost more or less. This doesn’t count the initial membership fee, which often exceeds the monthly fee and is typically required.
Don’t pay for a gym membership unless you have to. Instead, use a free or inexpensive workout app like MyFitness Pal or Nike Run Club. And, if you live in an apartment complex with a gym, skip the extra fees and exercise there.
6. Consider a cheaper place to live
Moving is expensive, but if you’re trying to eliminate expenses, it might be wise to live somewhere cheaper. For example, if you live in an expensive downtown neighborhood, consider moving to a less expensive neighborhood once your lease is up.
Check out the average cost of rent in your area to determine if it makes sense to move. If you don’t want to go far, you can also downsize to a smaller place. Or you can get a roommate to split costs.
Think about any additional costs that come with moving, too. Things like the price of gas could increase significantly if you end up living far from work.
7. Drive a different car
The price of gas is $4.18 a gallon nationwide right now. Prices are expected to continue to rise in the coming months.
If you don’t already drive a fuel-efficient vehicle, it could save you money in the long run, to switch over to one. In the meantime, see if you can carpool with a coworker or friend to cut back on gas expenses.
Depending on where you live, you could also start taking public transportation. Most cities have at least a basic bus service, while many also have a light rail or metro.
8. Shop for cheaper auto insurance and homeowners insurance
According to Bankrate, the average cost of full coverage car insurance is $1,655 a year or $138 a month. Prices typically vary based on things like state, the driver’s age and driving history, and the vehicle itself.
Homeowners insurance costs between $1,300 and $1,800 a year, or roughly $108 to $150 a month. How much you pay depends on things like where you live and the age and type of home you want to be insured.
Before your current policies run out, start shopping around for cheaper rates. Most insurance providers will let you switch to a new policy even if you’re in the middle of one. Just be sure to let them know so they can cancel or refund the remainder to your account.
If you’re not sure where to start, sign up for a search engine that can help you find the lowest rates. Assess your total coverage and any deductibles you might have to pay, too. That way, you’ll get the best plan for your needs.
9. Take up biking or use public transportation
If you live in a major metropolis like Seattle or New York City, you might not need to use a car that much. You might not even need to own one in the first place, which can cut down on things like auto payments, gas and car insurance.
These big cities often score high on the walkability scale. They also tend to have interurban biking paths and dedicated bike lanes for cyclists. Even mid-sized or small cities usually have public transit you can take to eliminate expenses like gas and parking.
10. Buy quality appliances
While it might be tempting to buy the cheapest appliance, it’s not always the best idea. Splurging for a mid-tier or high-quality appliance could end up saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars in the long run.
Higher-quality appliances often last longer, meaning you won’t need to replace them as often. More expensive appliances are also sometimes more energy-efficient, so using one could also lower your utility bill.
The next time you’re in the market for an appliance, do your research. See what past customers are saying and weigh your options. If you can’t afford the higher price tag but can wait, hold off on the purchase until you have the funds.
11. Take care of routine maintenance
Routine maintenance on the filters, vents, pipes, and wiring of your own can prevent major issues from happening later. Keep your vents clear and change out your HVAC filters regularly. These small tasks can increase the efficiency and lifespan of these things, thus saving you money on more expensive repairs.
It’s also recommended to contact a licensed plumber or electrician once every two or three years for a general checkup. They can let you know if they see any problems in your pipes or wiring before they arise. If you have an older home, you might want to do this more frequently.
12. Consider mortgage refinancing or a home equity loan
Mortgage interest rates are on the rise, but they’re still lower than most major credit cards and other personal loans. According to Bankrate, the average interest rate on a 30-year mortgage refinance is 5.07%. The average credit card has a 16.44% interest rate.
If you’re a homeowner, have home equity, and need to eliminate expenses or pay down debt, consider refinancing your mortgage. Doing this could give you a lower interest rate on your mortgage and reduce your monthly payments. Be sure to check your math, though. It may cost more in the long run to refinance a 30-year mortgage if you’ve got a 2.8% interest rate. In that case, it may be worth getting a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. Either of those would allow you to keep your low 30-year mortgage rate but still consolidate debt at a rate lower than you’d pay a credit card company.
13. Save while shopping
A recent CNBC report found that the average consumer spends an extra $7,400 a year on weekly splurges. These splurges include things like online shopping, dining out or trips to the cafe, entertainment, memberships, and subscriptions.
Plan out more of your meals and make a shopping list before you go out. Only get the things on that list. This will give you a clear idea of what you need and help prevent impulse buys or overspending.
If you’re still tempted to buy more than you need, consider using a curbside pickup service instead.
14. Check for coupons, rebates and discounts
If you want to eliminate expenses, start using coupons, rebates and discounts. These are helpful for in-store purchases, as well as for online shopping.
Install a browser extension like Honey or Rakuten that automatically finds coupons and discounts and applies them for you. For more cashback rewards, discounts, and rebates, check out sites like Cashback Monitor or Cashbackholic.
15. Cook extra and freeze leftovers
Double your recipes so you have leftovers to freeze and take out at a later date.
For example, if you make a large batch of something like pasta or stew, label and freeze them. That way, you’ll have food for those nights when you don’t have time to cook or if you haven’t planned out dinner.
As an added benefit, you can cut costs on dining out. Plus, using that extra produce or meat now will keep it from spoiling in the refrigerator.
16. Drink water
If you have good tap water or a reliable filtration system, drink more water. It’s good for you and much cheaper than soft drinks, juices or alcohol.
The same principle applies when dining out. A nonalcoholic beverage from a restaurant costs anywhere from $2.50 to $4.00, on average. These small expenses add up, especially if you eat out often, so order water with your meal instead.
17. Make your own coffee
It might be extreme to suggest cutting out cafes altogether, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cut back. Buy a coffee maker and travel mug and start brewing your own at home. This can save you hundreds of dollars every year. Plus, you can still make going to the cafe a special treat.
18. Sign up for loyalty programs
Sign up for a loyalty program at any place you regularly shop. Many retailers, including REI, Wayfair, and most major grocery stores offer these programs. They’re typically free and come with regular discounts or other perks such as special birthday rewards.
19. Use apps to earn cashback
Some credit cards offer cash back, which is essentially a small percentage of the amount spent using that card. However, credit cards can lead to overspending or debt problems.
If you’re worried about that, consider using a website or app that offers cashback instead. Even if you’ve already made a purchase, you could qualify for cashback by keeping track of your receipts.
Here are a few cashback apps that can get you some of that spent money back:
With most cash-back apps, you can request a direct transfer to your bank, Venmo, or another mobile payment account once you’ve accumulated enough cashback.
20. Be smart about credit card use
Most consumers have at least one credit card. Oftentimes, these cards come with great rewards or points like travel points, free miles, or cashback.
However, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of overspending with a credit card or maxing out your limit. No matter how amazing the points or rewards are, only use what you can afford.
Try to pay off your credit card balance in full every month. This will eliminate expenses in the form of interest fees. Whatever else, avoid missed or late payments as these could damage your credit score and lead to greater financial issues.
21. Comparison shop
Whether you’re shopping in person or online, always compare prices before purchasing. Don’t just check major retailers like Amazon. You can often find the same item listed elsewhere at a lower price.
Also, shop generic whenever possible as you could save. This goes for anything from food to medication. For example, generic medications cost up to 85% less than brand-name ones, according to the FDA. You will need to get the go-ahead from your primary healthcare provider before switching, though.
22. Buy pre-owned items
If possible, purchase pre-owned items instead of new ones. These are often much less expensive and can result in some major savings. For things like apparel, home decor, and electronics, check out the following sites:
- Facebook Marketplace
You can also get plenty of refurbished items, including:
- Computers or laptops
- Musical instruments
- Kitchen gadgets
23. Declutter and sell what you aren’t using
You can also sell items you don’t need or use, such as clothing that’s in good condition, dishes, or furniture. Doing this can help someone else out, as well as increase your savings and declutter your home.
24. Join a warehouse club
Places like Costco and Sam’s Club are great options for bulk buys and discounts on things like household goods, gas, and groceries. The cost of a basic (Business) membership at Costco is currently $60.
Before getting a membership, make sure you’ll use it often enough to offset the cost. Additionally, only buy what you need. If you buy something that spoils or sits in a closet collecting dust, it’s not a bargain.
25. Borrow instead of buying
You can cut expenses quite a bit by borrowing things instead of buying them outright. There are several places you can go to do this. For example, Nextdoor is a platform that connects neighbors and public service providers to one another. Try it out — you never know who might be willing to work out a deal or temporarily swap equipment with you.
Things you might consider borrowing include:
- A dolly you’re only going to use once for moving
- Karaoke machine for a party
- Power tools for a home improvement project
26. Plan your restaurant excursions
Along with meal planning, pack your lunches (or dinners) ahead of time to avoid dining out or takeout. You can also load up the slow cooker before work so you have food ready when you get home.
As convenient as restaurants are, the average meal — without a tip or beverage — costs around $10. If you eat out for lunch every weekday, that’s easily an extra $50 a week or $200 a month.
27. Use cash to pay
Another way to eliminate expenses is to use cash to pay for purchases.
Unless you’re strategically collecting points or are using the purchase as a tax write-off for business expenses, leave the credit card at home and use cash instead. That way, you can budget how much you should be spending in advance and stay within that range. Plus, since there’s no interest to worry about, this can drastically reduce the risk of accruing debt.
Another option is to create a cash-based weekly or bi-weekly fund. This can help limit how much you spend on shopping, day-to-day purchases, and dining out.
You can also leave behind your debit cards to avoid temptation. Or, contact your bank or credit union and ask them if they can set a spending limit on your card. Check for any fees before agreeing to anything.
28. Avoid impulse purchases
Impulse buys are quite common. Indulging oneself in even a small purchase can have a short-term positive emotional impact. It also feeds into the whole instant gratification idea.
But it’s also easy to overspend because of perceived deals or discounts. Smart marketing tactics encourage impulse shopping through a combination of the following:
- Promotions or discounts
- Strategic product placement
- Friendly customer service
- Positive store environment
While you might be tempted to buy something that catches your eye or is on sale, try to be patient. If you need it, take some time to shop around for better deals first. Otherwise, try to follow your list as closely as possible to cut back on overspending.
29. Cut the lights
The average cost of electricity in a residential household is between $80.24 and $143.95, depending on the state. If you’re trying to cut down on utility bills, here are a few things you can do:
- Turn off any lights you’re not using
- Unplug small electronics
- Insulate the gaps around the water heater, windows, attic, door trim, and basement
- Use cold water instead of hot water
All of these options can reduce energy usage and cut down on utility bills.
30. Turn the thermostat down (or up)
Another way to eliminate expenses is to install a smart thermostat. These devices can track how much energy you’re using throughout the day so you know where to cut back. They can also be set to a timer based on your household’s schedule.
Depending on where you live, turning the thermostat up (or down) could save you on heating and air conditioning.
31. Find free entertainment
Having fun doesn’t always mean spending money. There are quite a lot of free options out there.
Look for free concerts or community events in your area. If the weather’s decent, have a picnic outside or go hiking.
If you have a subscription service like Amazon Prime, use that for streaming movies or episodes. Along with this, see if there are any free or discounted days for the local museum.
32. Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
Energy-efficient light bulbs use up to 75% less energy than traditional ones. These cost more money at first, but the long-term savings can add up. Don’t switch all at once, though, or you could be spending quite a bit on things you don’t need. Wait until your current bulbs are starting to flicker or die and then make the change. And in the meantime, keep an eye out for sales at places like Costco or Home Depot to stockpile the new bulbs for less.
33. Set long-term financial goals
If you don’t have a personal budget yet, now’s a good time to make one. Budgeting apps like Digit and Mint are great options for beginning budgeting.
While you’re at it, make some short-term and long-term financial goals. That way, you can stay motivated to continue cutting expenses and increasing your savings.
Common long-term goals include:
- Paying off debt
- Establishing a fully-funded emergency fund
- Planning for a major event (retirement, trip, honeymoon, etc.)
34. Automate savings
One of the simplest ways to save money and eliminate expenses is to automate your savings. Most banks let you schedule an automatic transfer each month. All you have to do is determine how much you want to be transferred and the date. Just make sure you schedule the transfer for after you get paid.
If you have a side gig and don’t immediately need the funds, set up a direct deposit into a savings account, too. That way you’ll have more money in case you need it.
35. Start an emergency fund
An emergency fund is different from a savings account in that it should only be used for emergencies. It can help when you have unforeseen bills or other expenses, but it can also give you peace of mind. Ideally, the emergency fund should be enough to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses.
To start an emergency fund, review your current budget and see if you can put away any extra money. Start small, but try to be consistent. Even $20 or $50 a month adds up.
Set up a separate, high-yield savings account meant only for the emergency fund. You should have relatively easy access to the account in case you need it.
If funds allow, or if you receive a tax refund or bonus, increase how much you set aside. And, if possible, increase your monthly goal until the account is fully funded.
36. Pay off credit card debt
Credit cards are convenient, but they come with interest which can make paying them off tricky.
Say, for example, your current credit card balance is $1,200 with 20.00% APR. If it takes you a year to pay it off, you’ll end up paying an extra $111 in interest alone. In other words, that $1,200 balance becomes $1,311.
The sooner you get rid of credit card debt, the less interest you’ll have to pay.
37. Sign up for a free budgeting app
With a free budgeting app, you can easily track your income and expenses at any time. This will give you a good idea of where your money is going. Many budgeting apps categorize your purchases, so it’s also a great way to find areas where you’re spending too much. Knowing this can help you eliminate expenses each month or week.
One great budgeting app is Mint. It combines most of the features you’d get from having several apps into one. This includes:
- Subscription tracker
- Different budgeting tools like a credit card payoff calculator and a travel budget calculator
- Credit score monitoring
Since Mint keeps track of your bills and subscriptions, it can also notify you when payments are due and when subscription costs increase.
The bottom line
If you want to eliminate expenses and start saving more money, there are many options. Start by creating a realistic budget or signing up for a budgeting app. Take a look at where you’re overspending and find ways to cut back. Try also to limit your spending on things you don’t need, like dining out, unused subscription plans, and the gym.