How to spend less money: 10 tips WITHOUT drastically changing your lifestyle

by Rob Bertman, CFA®, CFP® in Budgeting
April 16, 2024

How to spend less money: 10 tips WITHOUT drastically changing your lifestyle

Saving money is a challenge today, because spending money has never been easier.

Grocery shopping and spending on food is a breeze with food delivery. Amazon has mastered frictionless transactions, and Apple Pay is ubiquitous.

Plus, costs are going up. How much you spend on groceries seems to be higher than they were a few years ago.

That being said, there are ways to spend less money overall even as prices rise, and you don’t have to scrutinize every purchase to come up with extra money each month.

Take a look at these 10 money saving tips below and pick just one (ok maybe two) of them to start implementing.

Why should I spend less money?

The top predictor of financial success and financial freedom is the ability to have extra money left over at the end of the month.

Without saving money, you can’t do things like pay off debt, invest for the future, and reach major financial goals.

When you have money in your bank account like an emergency fund, you can avoid credit card debt, monthly payments, and financial stress in general. 

Plus, juggling bills and living paycheck-to-paycheck makes it hard to get on the same page with money.

If you can save money, it solves a lot of problems.

How can I train myself to spend less money?

Believe it or not, you don’t have to learn how to stop spending money altogether or dramatically change your spending habits to save money fast.

It doesn’t have to take hours and hours each week or to use a complex budgeting system in order to get there.

There are plenty of ways to spend less money without drastic changes and switching from credit to debit cards.

My favorite tip to save money is this one…

The easiest way to spend less money – Count your daily transactions

count your transactions

The average family I work with has 7-8 transactions per day. Spending money this often leads to “death by 1,000 cuts” when it comes to overspending.

The more often we spend, the more opportunities we have to overspend. So the simplest way to start saving money is by counting your transactions.

This tip was one that caught the attention of KDKA, the local CBS channel in Pittsburgh when I was interviewed for their segment Living with Inflation.

You’ll find additional savings because this will limit impulse purchases.

Forget about tracking the total dollar amount spent. Families who can lower their daily transactions from 8 to 6 will automatically see a decrease in their monthly spending.

Other ways to spend less money

Aside from counting how often you spend money, there are plenty of other ways to save money without having to upend your lifestyle.

Cancel unused subscriptions

cancel unused subscriptions

We are certainly in the subscription economy!

Everything is a monthly fee and it’s actually causing us to spend more money instead of less.

For example, cutting the cord doesn’t really save much if you have Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, Hulu, Disney+, Peacock, Paramount…

People often forget that you can cancel these…and then rejoin later. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions, because there’s no reason to spend if you haven’t watched them over the last month.

Aside from streaming services, you can look at gym memberships this way too.

Review your cell phone bill

How much you pay for your cell phone plan is pretty easy to find, but there are often so many other charges that make the bill much more expensive than it has to be.

Take a look at your most recent cell phone bill to see how much you’re spending on the other things like an insurance plan, a fee to upgrade early, and cellphones on a repayment plan.

By eliminating these excess services per line, you can save hundreds and even thousands of dollars per year depending on how many lines you have.

Keep a list for food shopping

grocery shopping

The easiest way to spend less money at grocery stores is to keep a list.

A grocery shopping list will make sure you don’t buy more than you need while and will also make sure you get everything during your trip. This will avoid extra trips which leads to extra impulse shopping.

There are other ways to cut costs on groceries aside from taking advantage of electronic coupons, making sure you buy generic instead of name brands, or creating a weekly meal plan.

Compare prices on things especially the produce and proteins. We get so used to just grabbing what we need without looking at prices then we’re surprised when we see the total.

If you see two items that could work, look at the price and go with the cheaper item.

Also, be conscious of how much food ends up in the trash. That’s a sure sign that you can save money at the grocery store.

Track your spending

The key metric and habit if you want to save money over the long term and have more money at the end of the month is to track your spending.

Sign up for a budgeting app, so you can review your transactions for the week and check how much has come in and how much has gone out.

Don’t worry about setting a bunch of budget categories. Just keep it simple and spend 5 minutes a week tracking your spending either in your savings account or checking account or by using a budgeting app.

This quick review will help make sure you reach your savings goal.

high interest debt

Yes, interest paid on debt is an expense that you can cut.

I often see money in the bank while carrying credit card balances alongside it.

Yes, it makes sense to keep some money in your checking account as an emergency fund and perhaps in a high yield savings account now that they are paying a good interest rate.

But the priority should be paying off debt with low balances and high interest rates. It’s tough to keep up with your living expenses while also trying to play catch up on debt.

Every $1,000 you use to pay down credit card debt could save you $25 in interest PER MONTH! Those interest rates are brutal!

Spend time figuring out the order in which you’ll attack your debt. Start paying down one at a time.

Unsubscribe from promotional emails

Retailers have mastered customizing their content directly to you based upon your interests.

This can sabotage your savings goals.

Want to know a secret? You don’t need to know about promotions unless you were planning to buy something. (Ok, so it’s not a secret.)

There are ALWAYS promotions and store sales available, but these emails are a trigger for us to spend more money shopping online.

Hit the unsubscribe button! You know your favorite stores and can browse their website when you are truly ready to buy something.

Do things on the cheap where you can

Thrift stores, free events, yard sales, public transportation, and using your library card can go a long way to help you save money.

There are plenty of bargains to be had and you can have a good time without spending a ton of money.

We have saved a ton on gardening tools and even a ladder at garage sales. We also use the library rather than order movies on Amazon Prime or Apple TV. Check out a book or audio book at your local library rather than buying it.

Check your local website for the free stuff happening in your community. You can have a great experience and save money at the same time.

If you’re going to do some online shopping, check out eBay first.

The less you spend, the more you’ll add to your savings account.

Focus on the spending not the savings

on sale

Do you ever think to yourself, “I’m getting 5% cash back by using this card!” or “Wow! There’s a 20% sale right now!”

Instead of looking at the savings, focus on the spending when using a cash back credit card.

Think about it, using a 5% card on Amazon or Target saves you $1 per $20 that you spend.

You don’t have to switch to a debit card, but don’t let that $1 “savings” entice you to spend another $19. It’s fool’s gold.

Focus on the big purchases

big ticket purchase

A car payment or a big mortgage can make saving money extremely difficult.

Any big purchase can derail a family’s ability to save money.

For some reason, some people tend to spend more time vetting their streaming services than they do on these items.

If you want to save the big bucks, put in a proportional amount of research for the amount of money you’ll be spending.

Search for the best deal and never pay full price for these items, because making a big purchase can really provide big savings.

For example, when buying a house, you’ll definitely want to understand the utility bills. For example, what’s the energy usage and amount showing on the electric bill? Would buying a smart thermostat or energy efficient appliances make sense?

Also, what are the insurance rates for that type of car or that type of house?

The point is that the choice you make here matters much more than whether you buy a morning coffee or not.

Focusing on a money saving mindset on these big ticket purchases will pay off big!

Spend less money without up-ending your life

There are plenty of ways to save more money easily without having to sell your car, move, or live on low cost groceries.

The most impactful for my clients has been counting their daily transactions on their fingers, but be sure to pick the one that will work best for you.

Try one or two on to see what works best for you. 

Use these tips to hone your budgeting skills, drive you to improve your spending habits, and get better with your personal finances.

If you need more help, here are your options.

If you want more tips but don’t want to talk,