A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

56 Almost Effortless Ways to Save Money

How to be cheap without really trying.


Separate your bananas

This keeps them yellow longer. Bananas produce ethylene, a gas that causes them to ripen, and separating the bunch can slow down that process. Here are 10 creative ways to save money that you never thought of before!


Make lettuce last

Seal lettuce in a zip-top bag with a moistened paper towel to add days of leafy goodness.


Extend the life of your razor

Shake the excess water off your disposable razor, then dip it in rubbing alcohol and store it in a dry place (do not leave it in your shower). This will clean the blade, stave off rusting, and add weeks of shaving life. (Try these 12 tricks that every great money saver uses!)


Flip and rotate your mattress

Flip your mattress and rotate it every three months to extend its life span. As for couch cushions, don’t just flip them—swap them with one another so they don’t become molds of your family’s backs and butts.


Use less

Halve the amount of soap, toothpaste, shampoo, and detergent you use—you probably won’t notice a difference. And your clothes should feel just as fluffy with only a quarter of a dryer sheet. These easy ways to save $20 a day won’t disappoint, either.


Avoid the dryer

Unplug your dryer. That lint you see is from your clothes slowly being disintegrated by all the tumbling. Stick with our gentle friend the clothesline. If you do use a dryer, zip up metal zippers, before they mug other garments. (Don’t miss these incredible ways to save money without feeling the pinch!)


Save your lipstick

Scoop out that remaining bit of lipstick from the tube with a lip brush. You’ll be surprised at how many applications remain.


Maintain your shoes

Have the soles of your leather shoes lined with rubber to prevent them from wearing down. And don’t wear them two days in a row. Leather shoes are susceptible to moisture and will last longer if you give them a day off.


Air your soap

Do you air your bar of soap before using it? Many frugalistas swear this will allow it to harden and last longer, without affecting the lather.


Be a rewards hog

Sign up for free custom rewards programs. No matter where you live, plenty of retailers offer rewards and discounts by earning points on purchases, saving you big bucks even when you spend. (Here are 20 things amusement parks won’t tell you about saving money!)


Make lists

Writing a list before you go to the store will stop you from making impulse buys and unplanned purchases—just make sure you stick to it!


Cook in bulk

Make double, triple, or even quadruple servings of your favorite recipe and store it in the freezer. When you need a quick meal, just heat one up. Plus, buying food in bulk will be much cheaper in the long run. (Try these tips from restaurant workers for how to save money dining out!)


Go dark

Turn your lights off during the day or when you are out of the room. Keeping them on wastes energy and sends your energy bill soaring through the roof. Don’t miss these 11 genius tips for saving money on every household bill.


Choose energy-efficient bulbs

Although energy-efficient light bulbs might cost more at the forefront, in the long run they’re a great investment. LEDs and CFLs have much longer lives than normal incandescent bulbs and use far less electricity.


Care for your car

Clean or change out your car’s air filter every few months. A clean air filter can improve your gas mileage by up to seven percent, saving you more than $100 for every 10,000 miles driven in an average vehicle.


Shop the sales

Plan your meals around what’s on sale at your local grocery store. After a few months, you’ll have a much smaller food bill—and a fuller stomach. Steal these 19 money-saving tricks every frugal shopper uses at the grocery store!


Stay in and socialize

Enjoying your friends’ company doesn’t necessarily mean you have to splurge on a night out in the city. Invite your friends over for a potluck or to crash on the couch for a cheap movie night.


Keep your hands clean

Washing your hands frequently—especially after you’ve used the bathroom or handled raw foods—will help you avoid all kinds of viruses and bacteria, saving you hundreds in medical bills.


Don’t store your credit card online

Take your credit card information off of your online accounts. It’s much harder to shop and spend money online when you have to enter your card number and expiration date again and again.


Shop post-holidays

Take advantage of post-holiday sales by doing your shopping for gifts and decor a few days after the holidays end. While most people do this for Christmas, it can work for any special occasion. Make sure to check out how to save money while shopping for Christmas trees this holiday season.


Make your own gifts

Save money on gifts by making your own, or by giving friends a certificate that offers a night of free babysitting or a free week of watching the dog while they’re out of town. Because these gifts are personalized and heartfelt, the receivers will be sure to appreciate them all that much more.


Buy generic

Buy generic brands of medications, toiletries, or foods. They are just as good as the name brand, and the few cents they’ll save you will add up to big bucks almost instantly.


Check your tires

Make sure your tires are inflated to the correct levels. For every two-PSI of air pressure under the recommended level in your tires, you lose one percent of your gas mileage. And since most people’s car tires are five to 10 PSI below the normal level, that could add up to improving your mileage by five percent. (Home Depot employees share their secrets for how to save money on your next home project!)


Cut the fat from your phone bill

Comb through your phone bill and make sure you aren’t paying for any services you aren’t using. Cut them, or switch to a smaller company that offers you the same service for less. Save even more money by ditching your landline in favor of your cellphone.


Become a part-time vegetarian

Cut down on eating meat and opt for protein-packed alternatives like beans, eggs, or nuts, which cost far less per ounce. (Make sure you know these 10 easy tricks for saving even more money at Target!)


Fix leaks

Cracks in your doors and windows could be escalating the cost of your energy bill. Taking the time to air seal your home will keep the A/C in (and your dollars from leaking out!)


Get coupon savvy

Create an email account to use exclusively for printable in-store coupons, online coupon codes, daily deals, and other special savings offers. Once a week, comb through them and select the best to use at your next visit to the grocery store. Here’s how to get coupons every chance you get.


Make your own java

A homemade morning cup o’ joe will save you an average of four or five dollars a day (sorry, Starbucks!), which adds up to hefty savings in just a month. And try buying your coffee beans in bulk rather than in individual cups—it’s a cheap as well as environmentally friendly habit.


Go cold turkey on cable

Cancel your television and cable bill. With services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, you can now watch almost anything immediately, and for a fraction of the cost of cable TV. Plus, you’ll avoid all of the ads for products you don’t need. Check out this list of 7 great cable TV alternatives.


Plan your meals

Every Sunday, make a list of the meals you will eat for the entire week. Planning your meals in advance will keep you from spending extra money at the grocery store, since you won’t be purchasing food that will eventually go to waste when it spoils. In fact, making meals from foods already found in her pantry helped this woman save nearly $5,000 each year.


Skip the dry cleaner

Dry clean your delicate clothes at home using Dryel, a do-it-yourself kit that will save money and time by avoiding a trip to the dry cleaner’s.


Just quit already

Give up expensive habits like smoking and drinking. Not only does it damage your health, but it damages your wallet, too.


Try a virtual workout

Online fitness classes can save you big bucks on a gym membership. You can stream anything from yoga to Zumba to kickboxing—all for the low price of free.


Brown bag your lunch

Since dining out is the number one expense for most households, opt to bring a brown bag lunch two to three days per week, instead. You’ll be doing your waistline and your wallet a huge favor.


Use less water

Turn off the water while you’re scrubbing dishes. It could save you 200 to 500 gallons of hot water per month, which adds up to big savings on your monthly bills.


Make your own air freshener

Save on fancy, fragrant aromatic sprays and make your own air freshener using baking soda and an essential oil of your choice. It will smell just as delightful as the real thing, without the extra buckaroos.


Catch the matinee

Going to matinee movies instead of evening ones will save you a few bucks on tickets. Plus, don’t be afraid to smuggle in a few snacks to avoid splurging on over-priced popcorn and candy (come on, everyone does it).


Learn to sew

Instead of throwing out clothes once they lose a button or catch a snag, learn a few sewing tricks to repair them; it will add years of longevity to every item in your closet.


Snack before you shop

Eat a snack before you start grocery shopping. Studies show that a rumbling tummy will encourage you to put more food in the cart than you actually need.


Stop wasting food

Know your expiration labels; by tossing food away before it’s truly expired, you could be adding unnecessary costs to your grocery bill. Perishables are often still safe to eat beyond the “sell by” and “use by” dates, as long as they’re stored right.


Hoof it

Instead of driving, walk or bike to get around your community whenever possible; not only will you work in some extra exercise throughout the day, but you’ll be saving on gasoline, too.


Lighten up your trunk

The junk in your trunk is taking a big hit to your gas mileage. An extra 100 pounds in the car cuts fuel economy by 2 percent, while ditching the weight of all those empty water bottles and fast food bags could save nearly $40 a year.


Freeze everything

You don’t have to eat instant, preservative-ridden food to have a long-lasting meal. When stored in a freezer, fresh bites like vegetables, bread, and meat can last up to two years.


Talk to your utility bill

Running your appliances during “peak” hours means a big spike in your utility bill. Talk to your utility company about their “off-peak” hours and start taking advantage of the savings.


Read grocery prices like a hawk

Always make sure you compare the “unit price” stickers of items at the grocery store, and you could get more bang for your buck. Even though the overall price of a product may be higher, you may be getting more of the item by purchasing the more expensive one.


Don’t pay for things you don’t use

Cancel any memberships that you’re not using, including magazines, online subscriptions, and gym memberships. Now you can use that savings on activities you truly enjoy.


Slow cook your meals

Using a slow cooker to make meals will be just as fast as ordering takeout, and it will save you big bucks in the long run; instead of $10 or $15 per meal, a homemade dinner costs just a few dollars.


Try home remedies

If you’re feeling under the weather with a minor cough or nausea, home remedies like honey and ginger could do the trick. It will avoid the costly visit the doctor, as well as all of those pricey medical bills.



Remember that television, computer, stereo, blender, toaster, and coffee maker that you leave plugged in all day? They’re all sucking energy from the wall without using it, which is sucking money from your wallet. Unplug these items when you’re done using them, or use a power strip that you can easily turn off with a single button.


Upgrade your thermostat

Invest in a programmable thermostat; it will allow you to keep the temperatures a few degrees hotter or cooler during the day, when nobody is home.


Take advantage of your library

Reading provides an easy, cheap vacation (without leaving your front door). Renting books from the library are even better, making your next adventure cost absolutely nothing.


Save your loose change

Save your loose change instead of always tossing it in a tip jar; you now have a guilt-free fund with which to splurge on that pumpkin latte.


Look for low-cost activities

Take advantage of free or inexpensive events in your community. Local newspapers and websites often highlight free or low-cost parks, museums, upcoming film showings, sports events, and other places to gather with friends and family for a fun (and cost-effective!) night out.


Reuse grocery store bags

Grocery store bags make great trashcan liners, especially for small bins; they save some money while reducing your environmental footprint.


Plan out your cash spend

Withdraw a specific amount of cash each week, according to what’s comfortable in your budget. Not only will you avoid being sidelined by ATM fees, but you won’t overspend your budget once you run out of cash.


Stick to water

Drink water instead of buying sugary, expensive drinks like sodas, juices, and beers. It will be good for your health, your waistline, and your wallet. Save even more money by using a refillable water bottle instead of the plastic ones.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a tech and consumer products writer covering the latest in digital trends, product reviews, security and privacy, and other news and features for RD.com.