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Budgeting Tips: 15 Small Ways to Save Big Money

Key Takeaways

Split It

Instead of giving up the fun things in life, split meals and streaming services with friends.

Go Local

Libraries, museums, parks — the local (often free!) options are endless.

Make the Switch

Switch to a credit union for fewer fees and better interest rates.

If you’re a typical Millennial or a Gen Zer, you’ve probably spent plenty of time slashing your budget to save money. You cancelled those subscription boxes and bought a cheaper gym membership. You even got a roommate to cut your rent a little.

But, because it’s 2020 and the economy is trash, you’re still uncomfortably tight on money.

So now you’re scouring your budget again to find more things to cut. There are some expenses in there that may not be “necessities,” but you’re still struggling to nix them because they help make your life a little more enjoyable.

We’re not here to shame you. Cutting corners is hard, and we want to have fun and enjoy our lives just as much as the next person. A financial advisor might tell you to cut all the fun things out of your life, but we’re not going to do that. Instead, we’re going to give you a few little ways to save money that can really add up without making you absolutely miserable.

NOTE: Some of these tips shouldn’t be used until after social distancing is over. Unless you’re out of groceries or medication or you have an “essential” job, you better be staying home right now!

Stop Eating Out, Bish!

Okay, you don’t have to stop eating out entirely. (We told you we wouldn’t shame you for your financial decisions, didn’t we?)

But it’s no secret that food is social, and we definitely don’t think you should have to say no to seeing your friends to save money. Instead, encourage them to save money with you.

Rather than going out to a restaurant with your friends, invite them over to cook! Throw some chicken in the crockpot or make a homemade pizza — whatever suits your vibe. Cooking can be even more fun than eating out, and it’s almost always cheaper. Swap out your weekly get together at Chili’s for a night in, and you might just save upwards of $20-30 a week — that’s over $100 in savings! Have fun making your dinner together, and then enjoy the taste of success.

Welcome to Chilis Meme

Switch Grocery Stores and Shop Weekly

While we’re on the topic of food, consider switching grocery stores. We all love Whole Foods and Target … until we’re in the checkout line.

This doesn’t mean you need to shop at Walmart or the Dollar Store (though both are good options for saving $$$). Other grocery stores like Aldi, Homeland or Kroger often have better rates.

Then, try to shop every week but buy only what you need for that week. Food waste is a huge money suck. So if you plan ahead, you can avoid spending money on food you’ll never eat.

Consider using curbside pickup if it’s available — that way you’re not tempted to buy things no on your list.

Saving on Spinach?

Put that savings to work and start earning more interest with a credit union savings account.

Find Your Credit Union

Single-Life Serving Sizes

How many bags of baby spinach have you thrown away because they went bad? Lost count? Us, too.

One thing that makes grocery shopping so difficult is that so many of us are living on our own. And they don’t make single-serving sizes of spinach (or anything else, really).

Simpsons salad for one gif

Instead of buying bags of too-much spinach, try your local farmers’ market. They often have smaller portion sizes for produce at affordable prices. That way you can eat healthy, eat cheap AND support your local farmers without wasting food (and money). Everyone wins!

Check the Event Calendars

Want a fun day in your city? No need to go to the same bar you go to every Saturday and spend $50 on tequila shots. Instead, check out free events near you on Facebook or your city’s event calendar. On any day of the year in any season you can probably find cheap or free activities like ice skating, culture expos, outdoor concerts, flea markets and food truck festivals. Ten bucks for the best street tacos in town is far better than $50 at the bar.

Museum Deals

GQ recently ran an article about how museums are terrible date spots. AHEM — we beg to differ.

Many museums have student discounts. Some are even completely free for students.

Not a college student? Unless you still have your student ID laying around, you can also check if there’s any day of the week where admission is free. Many museums are free on Sundays, so grab a friend and learn something, dammit! It’s a lot cheaper and more interactive than sitting in a college lecture. (But don’t skip class. We don’t condone that.)

Having Fun 👏 Isn’t Hard 👏 When You’ve Got A LIBRARY CARD

little ways to save money with a library card Arthur gif

Love reading? Don’t buy books — get a library card!

No, you don’t have to actually GO to the library. Use an app like Libby to download ebooks and audiobooks to your phone or e-reader. You’ll support libraries (they need it!) and read fo’ free. And there’s no limit on how many library cards you can get! If there’s multiple libraries in your area (or even your whole state) get as many as you can.

Libraries are also a great way to get involved in your community and often host free events like movie nights, guest speakers and crafting events.

Cut Your Memberships

We love Brooklyn Nine Nine, so we’re not about to sacrifice our Hulu account. And lord knows we need our premium playlists to make it through the age of social distancing, so we can’t cancel Spotify — and we won’t tell you to do the same (unless you want to).

Instead, get together with your friends to buy a family plan! A family plan on Spotify allows 6 people to listen at a time for $15. That means you each get Spotify for $2.50. A pretty sweet deal.

noice brooklyn 99 gif

There are other ways to cut membership costs, too. Want to keep going to yoga but don’t want that $150 charge every month? Try ClassPass! You can pick a membership level depending on your budget ($29 for 15 credits, for example) and use those credits at any participating studios and gyms. Some places have classes that only take 1-3 credits. That can get you, like, 8 classes or more for a fraction of the price.

(Also, there’s a secret ClassPass membership that’s only $9 that isn’t advertised on the app. If you get the $29 membership and then try to cancel, they’ll give you a $9 membership with fewer credits. That’s still a few classes a month for the price of a fast food meal.)


Want to go to fancy events and fundraisers in your city? No need to buy a ticket! Just sign up to be a volunteer, and then attend the event for free. You’ll be helping out a great cause, and you’ll get to party the night away (maybe with some free drinks and food involved)!

And remember those libraries we talked about? Look for literacy programs and spend a (free) Saturday giving back to your community.

Have a Picnic

When the weather is nice, it’s super tempting to find a porch for some day drinking. Instead of hitting up that pricey rooftop bar, head to a park! Pack a cooler with cheaper drinks and food and camp out in the sunshine with your friends.


small ways to save money by scootering

Love exploring downtown? Going to a basketball game? Or maybe you’ve been eating in and cooking for weeks and now you’re meeting your friends for that once-a-month night out. No shame! But you can still save money.

Why buy a $15 Uber or pay for $30 parking? Instead, hop on a Lime scooter or find a bike to rent. You can scoot around downtown for a couple bucks. It’s way more fun than an Uber, and it’s hella cheap. Just, please, obey the rules and don’t scoot drunk. You can get a DUI on a scooter.

Turn off Your In-App Purchases

We may not all be Phone gamers, but those of us that are often fall prey to in-app purchases. And those 99 cent and $4.99 purchases can add up over the course of a year — sometimes to the tune of a few hundred dollars.

The theme of this post is this: the little things add up. So do yourself a favor and turn off in-app purchases in Settings. If there’s a game or Gem pack you really want, you can turn off the restriction easily — but at least it makes you pause and think about if you really need to make that purchase before you just hit the button.


Okay, we know we just told you to not spend money on apps, but there are a few that you could find helpful when saving money. Apps like Clarity can help you set a budget, keep track of recurring bills and expenses (and cancel those subscriptions you don’t want) and show you how much money you’ve spent on certain items over the course of six months or a year for a much needed reality check about where your money is going.

Sometimes, we don’t realize how much we spend on certain things until we total it all together. (Just ask Maggie, our resident gamer and chronic 99-cent-app purchaser, who found out she spent $500 on apps in 2019…)

timmy turner gamer gif

Other apps such as EveryDollar connect to your accounts and automatically load in your transactions. You can then drag and drop into different sections of your budget so you know exactly how much money you have left.

Save Up Your Points

There’s no need to sign up for store credit cards (unless you’re really, really, really good about paying them off every month and the points you earn outweigh the annual fee), but many stores do offer rewards programs.

Let’s say you need new shampoo and soap and all that jazz — if you buy it all in the same place, like Ulta, you’ll start earning points on things you already had to buy anyway. So that new hair dryer you’ve been needing for a while? You’ll be able to buy it with points instead of cash!

Just make sure to be patient — don’t be tempted to spend that $6 in points on shampoo when you could save up. And don’t go spending a ton of money on unnecessary things just to earn more points faster. That defeats the purpose.

Use Coupons

Okay, so we all like to make fun of extreme couponers, but let’s be real, they’re onto something. As long as you don’t buy needless items just to be able to use a coupon, you can save quite a bit of money. Luckily, many stores such as Target have apps now that make finding and using coupons easy.

Honey BooBoo coupon queen gif

Cut the Utility Bill

Listen, we get that this is your only time to practice your Grammy-award winning solo with perfect acoustics or day-dream about your celebrity crush or win that imaginary argument. But cutting your shower by just 5 minutes will make a HUGE difference in your water bill. AND it’s better for the environment.

It’s estimated that you use 2.5 gallons of water every minute you shower — that’s a lot of water considering it is possible to run out of water if we use it faster than it gets recycled.

Energy not included in your rent? If it’s freezing, you could turn up your heater to, like, 70 … or you could keep it low — like 60 — and purchase a space heater. It’ll use less energy and keep you warm. Then you can target certain areas of your apartment instead of trying to heat the whole damn place.

Sell Your Sh*t

We can almost guarantee there are plenty of items in your closet or utensils in your kitchen that you haven’t worn in ages, so get rid of them! Take clothes to a consignment store or use an app like Poshmark. If there’s something you need (like a new pair of jeans to replace the ones that just ripped) you can even use the funds you get on Poshmark to get a new pair! And kitchen utensils or that blender you never use can be sold on Facebook Marketplace or other online garage sale apps.

Having trouble deciding what to sell? Try having a Packing Party. Get your friends together to help you pack all your stuff into boxes. Then, over the next month, only unpack the things you need as you need them. At the end, there will be a lot of stuff left in boxes — sell it all! The only exception might be clothes that are out of season. You don’t want to have a packing party in the summer only to get to winter and realize you sold your coat.

Switch to a Credit Union

So you’ve had the same bank your parents have had for years now. You’ve probably never even thought of switching. But when comparing credit unions vs banks, you’ll find that a credit union offers a lot of ways to save money. Lower fees, higher interest rates on savings accounts and lower interest rates on loans, to name a few.

Again, the whole point of this post is that the little things add up, for better or for worse. Just like small, 99-cent purchases can add up to $500 a year, so can the savings you get on fees, the extra interest earned on savings, and the lower interest rates on loans you get with a credit union.

Every Little Bit Counts

Better interest rates, fewer fees — it all adds up in the end.

Find Your Credit Union

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