9 Unconventional Ways to Reduce Spending
You’ve likely read the same savings tips over and over. Create a budget, cut cable, lower the thermostat, buy second-hand, invite friends over for a board game, and never enjoy takeout or barista-made coffee again. Don’t worry, even though game nights can be great, we’re not here to repeat what you know.
If you’re living on a tight budget, you probably also have savings hacks and spending habits that would surprise others, but they work for you. Here are a few additional ideas that might seem unconventional—and that’s exactly why they’re worth considering.
How to cut spending on activities and entertainment
Spending money on experiences and entertainment can feel more worthwhile than buying products, and there are ways to do it without overspending.
1. Rotate subscriptions
Canceling every subscription might save you a lot of money, but that’s not necessarily realistic. Instead, list all your subscriptions and see if there are any selective ways to save.
For example, instead of having three streaming services, rotate between the different options based on the shows you want to watch. Some platforms even offer deals for returning subscribers, which can increase your savings.
2. Look for family plans
You also might be able to save on subscriptions by joining a family plan, but review the terms and conditions. Some subscriptions specifically say you can share plans with friends. Others require everyone to live in the same household.
3. Check out the library
Libraries offer a lot more than books—you can get free ebooks and audiobooks using Libby, free movies on Kanopy, or a bit of everything on Hoopla. Some libraries also offer additional in-person services, such as tool-lending libraries for DIY projects and toys for young kids.
How to reduce spending on food
Food can get expensive, especially when prices rise while packages shrink. But you can eat well while saving money.
1. Stack deals, coupons, and rewards apps
Many supermarkets have weekly or monthly sales, but that’s only the first level of savings. You can also use manufacturer’s coupons and savings apps like Fetch and Ibotta, which offer rewards when you make certain purchases and upload a picture of your receipt. Sometimes you can stack all three to get items for an especially low cost.
2. Create a weekly meal plan
Planning your meals offers several savings opportunities. You can save time because you can choose a meal from the list to make, and save money because you’ll have a shopping list with exactly what you need for the meals. Plus, you can avoid food waste—saving you even more money—by planning lunches with the previous dinner’s leftovers.
3. Look into local CSAs
Farms sometimes sell produce directly to consumers via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions. It might be cheaper than buying similar products at a local store, and you can sometimes lock in a rate with an annual membership. Plus, you’re guaranteed to get seasonal and fresh produce.
How to cut spending on monthly bills
It can be easy to forget that your monthly payments aren’t set in stone. The best part is that even a small change in a bill can lead to significant savings over time.
1. Look for sustainable savings
Going green can sometimes be a win-win-win. For example, adding insulation might make your home more comfortable, lower your utility bills throughout the year, and result in a lower carbon footprint.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Get an energy audit: Hire a professional or conduct your own energy assessment to look for savings opportunities. There could be some low-hanging fruit, such as blocking air leaks, insulating ducts, and investing in more-efficient light bulbs or ENERGY STAR-certified appliances.
- Look into local and state rebates: Homeowners might qualify for cash rebates and tax incentives for certain energy-efficient upgrades. Use the North Carolina State University’s DSIRE database to learn more about opportunities in your area.
- Renters can also save: Some incentives are only available to homeowners, but the U.S. Department of Energy has tips for renters as well.
Sustainable lifestyle changes—such as making a habit of using less water or electricity—can also further reduce your bills.
2. Review your insurance policies
Shopping for insurance is never fun, which may be why people don’t review their policies more often. But consider how changing your deductibles and coverage could affect your insurance premiums. And use online services to quickly gather and compare rates for homeowners, renters, and auto insurance policies. You don’t need to wait until your policy is up for renewal—you can get a refund if you cancel a policy early.
3. Negotiate monthly expenses
Many people know that calling your internet service provider every year and asking for a lower rate can often lead to savings. But you can also try to negotiate:
- Cable bills
- Medical bills
- Entertainment and news subscriptions
- Cell phone bills
- Gym memberships
- Home security bills
Bonus: the three-step savings stack
Many savings pros use a three-step method to save money on everything from household supplies to eating out. It can take a little time to figure out—and use—this method, but the savings can really add up over time.
- Buy a discounted gift card. First, look for discounted gift cards to save money on many types of purchases. For example, you might get a $50 gift card for $40 at big-name retailers like Target and Amazon. You can also look for discounted gift cards on sites like GiftCardGranny or Raise, and apps like Fluz.
- Use a rewards portal. Earn miles, points, or cash-back rewards by going through a shopping portal when you shop online. You can use Cashback Monitor to compare the rewards rates at varying portals—many also offer sign-up bonuses for new users. Some rewards portals, such as Rakuten, let you link a debit or credit card to earn cash back from select in-store purchases as well.
- Stack coupons and deals. You can use coupon codes and shop sales to make your discounted gift cards go even further. Rewards portals will often stack as well.
Put your savings to work
Saving money opens up new opportunities. You can start building an emergency fund in a high-yield savings account and earn interest. Or pay down high-rate credit card debt to save on interest payments and lower your credit utilization ratio, which can quickly improve your credit scores.
You could also use the money to help improve your credit scores and build over $350 in savings with the Ava Credit Builder account. A higher credit score can help you qualify for lower interest rates, which can save you money on credit card, mortgage, and car payments. In some states, having good credit can even help you get lower insurance premiums.