A woman in the kitchen of her Scottsdale home

In today's fast-paced world, finding ways to save money and reduce your budget has become more important than ever. Whether you're looking to pay off debt, save for a big purchase (like a house), or simply improve your financial well-being, making small changes can have a significant impact on your overall financial health. In this article, we will explore 20 practical ways to save money that anyone can implement in their daily lives.

1. Create a Budget:

The first step towards saving money is to create a budget. Take the time to analyze your income and expenses, categorize them, and set realistic spending limits for each category. This will help you identify areas where you can cut back and allocate more funds towards savings.

Start out by keeping track of every penny you spend for at least a month. This will give you a clear picture of where your money is going and help you identify unnecessary expenses that can be eliminated or reduced.

There are many free budget apps available. Below is a quick template to give you an idea of how to set up your personal budget:

  Expected Actual Difference
Mortgage/taxes/insurance or Rent      
Utilities (electricity, water, gas, trash)      
Phone, internet, cable      
Home maintenance and repairs      
Car payment/insurance      
Gas, maintenance, repairs      
Health insurance      
Clothing and personal care      
Gifts and charitable contributions      
Savings, retirement, college fund      
Tips and other      
Total Actual Income  
Total Actual Expenses  

Now that you see what should be included in a budget whether you use an app or an Excel or Numbers program, let's go through some of the items that you might be able to control.

2. It Might be Time to Shop Your Insurance:

A while back one of the first items to reduce costs would be to refinance your mortgage, but most people that purchased before interest rate increases can't get a lower rate than they already have. That is part of the problem of such low real estate inventory for today's buyers.

You might be able to control the insurance fees you pay for your home and vehicles. Insurance has been increasing a lot recently and some people are finding it difficult to get insurance. We just heard of a friend whose homeowner's insurance company dropped him because of a Google photo showing very tall trees on his property. He has already trimmed them down from that older photo but will now have to prove it and see if the shorter trees will be acceptable (they grow so unless he removes them completely the insurance company might just bow out).

I shudder to think of homeowners in Florida after the condo building collapse. I recently read an article about large and smaller insurance companies moving out of California. Wildfires are the biggest reason for California according to one article I read about Hartford Insurance. But most of these drop outs are because of worsening weather conditions in certain areas. Some of these companies will renew existing policies, but will not accept new ones.

hands over a Scottsdale house, a family, and a car

Flood insurance for those who live in a flood zone has escalated in every state. For this reason, it is becoming more difficult to sell a home in a flood plain.

If you have made claims it might be more difficult to get a new policy from another company. Most people get their mortgage insurance policies from the same company they get their auto insurance from. It's usually hard to get them individually from different companies and you usually can get a discount by bundling.

Be sure to see if you can get any available discounts. Some insurers will discount for zero claims over a time period, a senior discount might be offered, being with the same company for 5 years or longer, and certain safety features like alarm systems might save you some money. Talk to your insurance company to see if there is anything you can do to reduce your fees.

You might also be able to shop around your health insurance, but again, it depends on pre-existing health issues and other factors. It could help if you review plans and are able to make a switch.

3. Reduce Utility Bills:

Lowering your utility bills is an effective way to save money in the long run. Turn off lights when not in use (and use LED bulbs), unplug electronics when not needed, adjust your thermostat settings, and consider energy-efficient appliances to reduce electricity costs.

I'm always cold so when I visit my son's house in IL I have to increase the thermostat in winter and I also increase it in summer since he has the heat set around 4 degrees lower than I'm used to and the air conditioning 4 degrees too low. So I'm saving him some money with the A/C in the summer but I guess that gets negated when I visit in the winter. But the good thing in the winter if I'm too cold is that I just dress warmly and use blankets, which I also do at home if I'm cold. And I do get cold in AZ!

4. Trim the Tech

Don't be afraid to negotiate bills such as cable, internet, or phone service. Many providers are willing to offer discounts or better deals to retain customers. A simple phone call can potentially save you hundreds of dollars each year.

Many of us are stuck to expensive cable plans. Make sure you actually need and watch the channel bundles you're paying for. You might be better off getting the fastest Internet from your local cable company and shop around for the television programs you watch and movies from a different provider. The selection is ever-growing.

We recently switched our T-Mobile service to Mint. So far, so good and it cut our monthly phone expense by more than 50%. If you get family or friends to join Mint you get a credit towards service. The amount depends on what tier your referral chooses but it usually equals around 3 months of free service for you. If this article helps, let me refer you.

Family on a laptop in their Scottsdale home

Are you the type of person who spends money on phone or tablet games and apps? I will admit I've spent a few bucks over the years, but it's probably less than $100 - maybe less than $50. I know people who have received a huge bill of over $1,000 for spending money on games like Candy Crush. They didn't even realize it until the bill came through on their charge card. It was just mindless spending.

Every day when I open my Ipad I check my App Advice and its daily Apps Gone Free list. You can get apps without ads or other limitations. You can get free lifetime app usage vs having to pay annual fees. Just be careful to make sure it isn't a free trial as those started creeping in and if you don't cancel you'll end up paying. Just read the description on the App Advice list. Are these apps like Candy Crush or Cody Cross or other big name games? No, it's usually apps I've never heard of like fun games I end up loving and some of the calming noise apps that you usually have to upgrade to use. But there are language learning apps, apps for kids, video and camera apps, etc. It's free so check it out. If you're bored with Candy Crush or the like you might find a real gem.

5. Try to DIY:

Mother and daughter painting a wall in their Scottsdale homeInstead of hiring professionals for every task, consider tackling some DIY projects around the house. From simple repairs to basic maintenance, learning new skills can save you a significant amount of money over time. You can search YouTube for many step-by-step DIY home maintenance tutorials.

I'm lucky that my husband grew up in a family construction company and can fix almost anything. I'm not handy and I know this isn't for everyone. Some just don't have the time with work and family. But as we know, most service providers will charge at least $100.00 for a simple repair that you might be able to handle on your own.

Instead of purchasing expensive cleaning products, consider making your own using simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. Not only are these solutions cost-effective, but they are also environmentally friendly. I've made DIY bug repellant - it didn't work. But we use a vinegar solution a lot for cleaning

You can find recipes online to make your house smell great with essential oils or to create a calming atmosphere, conditioners to use in your hair, facial scrubs, and all sorts of things. By making them yourself you can be assured of the ingredients used.

6. Food Savings:

I'm sure you're aware of cutting coupons and using store apps to save money and only buy things when they're on sale. If it's something you use, take advantage of BOGO sales and buy as many pairs as you like (unless there is a restriction on amounts). Some charge cards offer higher cash-back awards at grocery stores for differing months of the year. I think our American Express always gives 5% cash-back. At least that's what my husband tells me.

Planning your meals in advance not only saves time but also helps you avoid impulse purchases and reduces food waste. Create a weekly meal plan and make a shopping list accordingly to stick to your budget. It's easy to say to make a list and stick to it, but how many times have you run in without a cart to get one thing and end up dropping stuff because you grabbed more than an armful? Other times I've just given up and went to get a cart.

Mom and daughter grocery shopping

I've been trying to get myself to compare prices between the stores I shop at by taking a picture with my phone of items I know each different store carries. It's not as easy as it sounds unless you create some kind of list you can access on your phone while shopping. You could compare online but sometimes online prices are different than in-store.

I don't have a Costco or Sam's Club card. I've been to those stores with other people that are members and I've never been impressed enough to pay for the privilege of shopping there. But for some that want those volume discounts, it might make a big difference.

7. Grow Some of Your Own

This can be a bit controversial. No matter what you decide to grow, there is going to be money spent, prep, and continuous care. To create a garden you have to first dig it out of your yard and protect it from birds, rabbits, etc. Then you have to plant the seeds, fertilize, and water.

If you don't have enough room in your yard, or you don't have a yard, you'd need to start a container garden. To start and maintain it will cost time and money. But either way you start it, you should hopefully be able to go back next growing season and with a little prep the money outlay won't be as much.

A mother and daughter gardening in their Scottsdale home

The thing I don't like is that everything is seasonal. When we've had a good crop of tomatoes we had to give most away. I suppose if you're into canning you can keep more for future use. We have fruit trees and my husband will squeeze the excess fruit and freeze the juice.

I think gardening is more of a hobby for those that love doing it more than a way to save enough money that is worth the time and effort spent. I feel the same about sewing your own clothes. I used to sew and realized I hated it and the clothes didn't always fit correctly and I didn't enjoy altering. In the end, I could have bought something and paid the same or less.

8. Cut Back on Dining Out:

Dining out can quickly drain your budget. Every time we go to a restaurant I ask my husband, "How can large families afford this?" (He doesn't usually answer). Or young people starting out in life.

A couple in a Scottsdale restaurant with a waitress taking their order

Instead, try cooking meals at home and packing lunches for work or school. Not only will this save you money, but it will also allow you to eat healthier.

When I splurge on something like filet mignon my husband will comment on how much they cost. I remind him that if we went to a restaurant instead we'd pay much more and not even get filet mignon for the price. Then he agrees and shuts up.

I have shown houses with stoves and ovens that look brand new like they've never been used. And I find out that they never were used! Some people do not cook. For those people, a way to save money is to check out happy hour at different places. It's usually located in the bar area and you can get some good food discounts. Frozen foods are getting better and many stores are offering prepared food that will be less expensive than dining at a restaurant, and you won't need to leave a tip.

If you're open to learning how to cook, YouTube will show step-by-step instructions on different recipes and food prep. Watch some cooking shows on TV, and some of the shows have an accompanying website, although most charge a fee to use the site and get the recipes. There are many other recipe sites that offer written instructions and step-by-step photos and/or videos. You can sign up for free daily recipes - I recently signed up for Food Network recipes.

I used a recipe site last night to make a pork loin with apples that was restaurant quality and tasted better than most dishes I've ordered and paid a lot more for. I love to cook - it's the clean-up I don't like, but my husband usually does that or at least helps. If you like the dish you can save it to your computer in a Recipes folder or a program like Evernote.

Don't be like my sons who refuse to eat leftovers. I think most food tastes better the next day or two. If you're like my sons, then cut recipes in half or quarters if need be, although it's difficult to halve one egg (who knew).

Freeze foods so they won't go bad. I freeze my bread since I don't use it all the time. If we buy meat where we won't use it all then we freeze the raw meat for another meal. If we make a recipe that turns out to be way too much for one or two leftover meals we'll freeze it in a freezer bag. Yes, those bags cost money but are much less than food waste. And there are reusable food containers too.

It's nice to go out to eat once in a while but when I've done it over a long period, like when on vacation, I miss home-cooked meals. I'm also allergic to wheat and even though I tell the server, I've questioned whether my meal was prepared without it.

If you're living paycheck to paycheck you don't need to spend $5.00 and more for a cup of coffee. You can make dupes at home and save a lot of money. The same goes for bagel and donut shops, bakeries, etc. If you can afford it then no problem. But if you really can't, stop that fast food habit and make your own or buy similar items in the grocery store where you can get a lot more for the same price as one item in a specialty shop.

9. Take Advantage of Loyalty Programs

Sign up for loyalty programs at your favorite stores, restaurants, or online retailers. These programs often offer exclusive discounts, coupons, or rewards that can help you save money on future purchases.

When I lived in Illinois I didn't notice any loyalty programs from food establishments like there are here in Arizona. It's not just full-service restaurants. My local ice cream shop offers a discount after so many purchases. The last time I went to the area boba shop I got a free one because I've been signed up there for a while.

A lot of grocery stores now offer gasoline discounts. We used to be able to get our gas about two blocks away and they unfortunately switched it to a farther place, but it's still worth the savings.

10. Buy Secondhand:

My granddaughter got me to reconsider going to Goodwill and other secondhand/consignment stores. I rarely buy clothing there but I've come across some great decor/artwork, household items, and even furniture - including our kitchen table.

Although I have one of those big multi-function machines, I wanted an easier-to-use electric boiled egg maker. I found one cheap at our local Kiwanis Marketplace. I bought one of my most favorite cooking pans from Goodwill - it has four little circles to make perfect eggs or pancakes in and you just flip it to the griddle side to finish the cooking. I think I paid $2.00 for it and I use it a lot.

My son has found some retro games and systems. He was trading/selling some of them and would fix the game systems if they weren't working properly and then sell them online. Some crafty people do that with furniture finds. And we've noticed the people who buy a bunch of cheap but nice-looking clothing (maybe some designer labeled) and they're obviously going to sell them online.

china display at Kiwanis Marketplace in Cave Creek AZ
One of our favorite resale shops is Kiwanis Marketplace in Cave Creek

My daughter and granddaughter have bought used shoes. That kind of crosses the line for me but heck, I've rented used bowling shoes until I bought my own. I suppose you can kind of clean the inside with a spray.

Recently I was introduced to Mexican Train Dominoes. I bought the game at Target for around $25.00, and it's pretty generic. I found a much nicer one at Goodwill for $6.00 (it even makes a train sound) so I gave the $25.00 one to my son. I would have returned the Target one but it's just in a blank silver box and I guess we threw out the cardboard cover it came with.

Some secondhand stores are nicer than others. There are many great consignment shops in the Phoenix area and I have a list of the stores in Scottsdale and Cave Creek. Check out different ones and see if you can find one or more in your area that is clean, has a good selection, and good prices.

11. Do Those High-Priced Makeup and Personal Care Items Really Make a Difference?

I'm always amazed at some of the young YouTubers or TikTokers who use expensive designer makeup and hair care. I always wonder how they can afford it. Not all of them are successful influencers raking in a lot of money.

I was recently shopping online (to purchase at a local store) for a good waterproof mascara. I always read the reviews. It is interesting to read comments about how people love some of the drugstore makeup as much as or more than the high-end items they've purchased.

I have a couple of eye shadow palettes (cheap by Elf or Maybelline). I only use a few of the different colors. When the influencers whip out their designer palettes full of different colors you can tell they don't use them all. That's a waste of money. If they could get a smaller group of colors that are replaceable then that would be a better investment.

young makeup influencer

I've also purchased lipstick and other makeup online and paid much more than in department stores and I wasn't very happy with them. Did you know that you can return used makeup in most stores? It's much easier to return to Target or Walmart than having to repackage and ship out makeup from an online retailer, and many times you have to pay postage and a fee for the return.

I will spend a little more for shampoos without sulfates and the other bad stuff, but lately I've seen cheaper shampoos jumping on the less-toxic ingredients bandwagon. I usually buy sales as I switch shampoos with every washing so my hair doesn't get used to any one of them.

And I refuse to believe that a $30.00+ can of hairspray is any better than a much cheaper version you can get at Target, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Sallys, etc. It's sticky liquid in a spray bottle. Prove me wrong!

12. Just Use Less!:

use less save more sign

I have come to the realization (and I have read articles and watched shows mentioning it) that as consumers we use too much of the everyday products we purchase.

Some people use wads and wads of toilet paper. My son had a friend who would come over to our house, use the bathroom, and clog it up with wads of toilet paper almost every time. My grown daughter lived with us for a time and the toilet paper really got used very quickly when she was here. Those people need a bidet!

I trained my husband to use less toothpaste. We've all grown up with the TV commercials where they put a large squeeze of toothpaste on the brush. That amount is not needed. It isn't going to clean your teeth any better than half or a quarter amount. Try it and your toothpaste tube can last a lot longer.

I just saw on a TV show (and I've been doing this for years), that a much smaller amount of laundry detergent is needed than what is recommended. Manufacturers want you to use more so you'll buy more of their products at a faster pace. I usually fill the cap 1/4 of the way and my clothes get clean. I also use cold water for most everything. Cold water removes stains better than hot.

Water usage can be wasteful and costly. Taking showers until the water runs cold is silly. You're not getting any cleaner. Letting water run endlessly while washing up, brushing your teeth, overfilling cooking pots, using too much to boil foods, etc., can all add up. In many areas water is not cheap and plentiful.

13. Be Careful and Read the Fine Print With Online Shopping

Always read the return policy for anything you are buying online. Some give you a shipping label and it's free to return. If not,a person putting a shipping label on a box you might have to pay for the return shipping plus a return fee.

Shipping fees for some things can cost more than the item you're purchasing. I've canceled a bunch of orders once I get to see the shipping, and it's usually the last thing right before hitting the Buy button.

I'm more and more hesitant to buy on Amazon and other sites. There are so many stories of fakes/dupes, items that are not returnable that might have been damaged during shipment, stale, moldy, and crushed food, obviously used and dirty things, etc.

I ordered clothing from a store in China and they sent my return box back. I had to pay $100 to ship it to them and they wouldn't accept it. Plus, I had a bunch of clothes I couldn't wear. I will no longer order anything that I will have a difficult time returning, and I try to only order online if I can return it to a local store.

14. Reduce Entertainment Expenses:

Instead of going out for expensive activities, explore free or low-cost entertainment options such as local parks, museums with discounted admission days, community events, or hosting game nights with friends.

I was surprised that when I went to a movie theater recently I got tickets for $5.00 each through Fandango. It wasn't a first-run showing but I'd rather not be in a crowd in a theater so I can wait. For me, there are only certain movies I care to see in a theater. Most of them are just fine on our big-screen TV and sound system where I can pause if I need to use the bathroom.

15. Cancel Unused Subscriptions:

Review all your subscriptions and cancel any that you no longer use or need. This includes streaming services, gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, and more. Redirect those funds towards your savings or other essential expenses. There are programs and apps for this.

16. Use Cashback and Shopping Apps and Websites:

Take advantage of cashback apps that offer rewards for everyday purchases. By scanning receipts or linking your credit cards, you can earn cashback on groceries, gas, and other essential items.

Shopping apps like Rakuten, Honey, Capital One, Karma, etc. can help save you money with online purchases. They can also let you know if the item has had a recent price reduction and some will compare prices through different vendors. You can even compare prices just doing a Google search for a specific item. I have saved money from using these apps, and not just cash back.

Cash back app on a phone

You can also sign up for sites like Groupon, Brad's Deals, and Living Social for special sales on many items and services. You can set them up for where you live so you can score discounted tickets to places like museums, boat rides, and other entertainment venues. I've saved a lot searching these sites first if I know I'm going somewhere specific.

There is a selection of dining cards that will offer restaurant discounts. I have used Restaurant.com to find local places and it's usually buy one, get one free. It gives you a chance to try some new places. We've found a couple favorite restaurants using this.

17. Do Some Credit Card Shopping:

Some people will sign up for a bank credit card when they're young and use it forever. There are many options out there. There are cards that will give you cash back or points to get gifts or travel.

credit cards

I've had a Southwest Airlines card for many years and went a very long time without having to pay for flights. I even earned a companion pass for a few years when I was doing a lot of traveling. I always wanted to check out a better travel card but since my Mom in California passed away (at 95 years) and we live full-time in Arizona (we used to have a 2nd home here when we lived in Illinois), I only go to IL a few times a year to visit friends and family. So I'm not going to switch now.

If you have a lot of credit card debt and are paying high-interest rates, you might want to check out opening a new 0% credit card. That 0% is usually only good for a year or so, but that might help you pay off the debt quicker. Be careful of opening too many cards as that can affect your credit score down the road. Don't have too many cards and open lines of credit as it can affect your credit score.

Be careful about canceling a credit card if you're planning on buying something big in the near future, like a home in Scottsdale or a car. Canceling a card can ding your credit score. We have upgraded our Southwest Airlines cards and have canceled the ones we no longer use, but we have good credit so haven't felt any repercussions.

18. Avoid Impulse Buying:

Before making any non-essential purchase, give yourself a cooling-off period of at least 24 hours. This will help you determine if it's a genuine need or just an impulse buy. Often, you'll find that the desire to purchase fades away.

19. Automate Savings:

Set up automatic transfers from your checking account to a separate savings account each month. This way, you won't be tempted to spend the money and will gradually build up your savings without even thinking about it.

20. Prioritize Financial Goals:

Finally, prioritize your financial goals and remind yourself regularly why saving money is important to you. Whether it's achieving financial independence, buying a home in Scottsdale, or traveling the world, having a clear vision will motivate you to stay on track and make smarter financial decisions.

a household budget book and pen


Saving money and reducing your budget doesn't have to be overwhelming or restrictive. By implementing these 20 practical tips into your daily life, you can gradually build up your savings while still enjoying the things that matter most to you. Remember, every small change counts towards achieving financial stability and creating a brighter future for yourself and your loved ones.

Posted by Judy Orr on
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