“The average adult in the USA spends $1,497 a month on non-essential items”

according to research commissioned by Ladder and conducted by OnePoll

American Non Essential Spending


Which of these non-essential spends are you guilty of? In what ways do you overspend, even when your budget is tight?

We’re beginning our list starting with the most effective ways to start saving more money so, of course, we need to look at the EXTRA money we’re wasting.

Okay, maybe not wasting because brunch last Saturday was very memorable and you got a few comments on your Instagram pictures. Also, you’re just not you without your morning cup of coffee so, totally worth it. 

We’re not sugar-coating it today. You need more of your money to go towards the important stuff like bills and paying off debt.

Still need to be convinced?

The reason why you should save money is that having money saved up prepares you for the unexpected events in life and in the pursuit of saving more, you’ll discover that through the process you’ll find discipline, creativity, the ability to plan, and the lessening of the stress that surrounds the concept of money in our lives.

Let’s free ourselves from the burden.


Related Article:

Judy explains more easy ways to save when money is tight


Here’s the breakdown

(Starting with the most effective)

Eliminate Unnecessary Cost

1. Cancel your subscriptions

It’s likely your subscriptions fall into the category of things we enjoy rather than the things we need.

Sure we love our endless tv shows and being plugged in to pop culture but when you’re looking to save money, take a break from subscription services and apps you pay for to make yourself an easy extra $30 or more every month.

You can always pick up where you left off. Plus, you’ll have more shows to catch up on!

2. Drink only water

Drink more water

Take another look at the graphic up top.

Drinks with friends is the second largest extraneous expense for the average American! And for some of us, that’s just one night out!

Water is free or pennies on the dollar so enjoy the health benefits of hydration and sobriety.

If you’re looking for extra money to pay the bills I recommend making a small investment in a large water container of your choice. Make this container part of your every day carry and notice how much easier it is to drink water when it’s within arm’s length!

Find water boring? You can make water interesting with zero or low-calorie flavoring. You can carbonate your water for extra fizz.

No matter how you take it, drinking water is the frugal drink and your body will thank you for it.

3. Eat at home – as much as you possibly can

Couple eating at home

Coming in at third on the list because, well, you have to eat right?

You’re going to make eating choices that cost you money starting at your very next meal! This is an expense that you must adjust rather than eliminate.

Make eating at home enjoyable by planning ahead for your weekly grocery trip. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple at first.

There’s nothing you can’t make tasty with salt, pepper, butter, or onions and garlic. Simple carbs like pasta and rice, beans, and cheaper proteins such as chicken, turkey, and pork can be the super-saver staples!

Bonus tip:

If you do find yourself going out to eat focus on being mindful of your choices. Stick with water and if you have a say in where you’re going to eat, be the voice for the cheaper option.

Even offer to cook with your friends and family. I promise the experience will be just as enjoyable.

4. Make entertainment affordable

Take a minute to think about the entertainment you enjoy and freely spend money on. Challenge yourself to find the alternative activity, the cheaper option.

If it’s an internet thing you’re into then find that free wifi! If it costs money try to share the expense with a friend. Google “how to do X for free or cheap”.  There’s always a way.

I hope I’m not surprising you that most people share their entertainment accounts. That’s what friends are for! If you find your friends aren’t able to help, reach out to your community and public services.

Keep an eye out for public events and meetups. Make a “cheap list” of activities you’ve always wanted to try.

Now that you’re pinching pennies, you have everything to gain from trying something new!

5. Live in a cheaper place

Effective? Definitely. Practical?

Well, this might not be possible for you without making significant changes but with more people than ever working from home and the rising cost of living in major cities, moving might just be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Here are the top 5 cheapest states you could be living in right now:

  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas 
  • West Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • South Dakota

Benefit from a higher standard of living, maybe save more on taxes and experience someplace completely new.

For those of you who have always wanted to travel you might be surprised to know you can live for much less money and get far more for your dollar in another country.

And you can stay for a long time because many of these countries offer long term visas.

Here are some of the cheapest and safest countries to consider:

  • Portugal
  • Slovenia
  • Czech Republic
  • Malaysia
  • Costa Rica
  • Uruguay
  • Panama
  • Vietnam

6. Commute all the time


Ridesharing is all the rage these days and just an app click away. It’s so convenient the money seemingly disappears as 10-20 dollar rides stack up quickly.

Whether it’s to work or fun there’s likely a cheaper way to get where you need to go. If you live in a metropolitan city public transportation is actually convenient and you’ll discover that time can be spent in a valuable way.

Getting extra work done, reading, or catching up with the world on your phone.

Even if it’s just a temporary measure to get your finances in order the saving benefit is clear. Commuting can potentially save you several hundred dollars per month and if you’re able to make the lifestyle switch you’ll benefit from savings over the long term. 

Many cities offer monthly passes and quick swipe cards. Don’t forget to ask about discounts if you’re a student, elderly, or in a public service role.

Ask yourself if this a possibility. If it is, give it a try!



7. Only buy things that last and that you will re-use

Buying things that last a lifetime isn’t just for generation x and baby boomers. Save money by really researching products before you buy.

Buy stuff that lasts longer. Look for products with lifetime warranties and raving reviews over a long period. Maybe even ask the older generations about those buy-it-for-life products. Chances are they would be proud to show you their best-ever buys.

Philips record player

Shop with the mindset of asking yourself these questions:

  • How often will I use this?
  • How easy is this item to fix?
  • What will it cost me to maintain?
  • Is this an item that’s designed to be re-used?

From your car to household appliances and clothing consider the lifetime of that item and how it will fit into your life.

All the best products have reviews online so even if you see something in-store, spur of the moment, head home and do some research first and come back confident you’re buying the very best and practical.

Bonus tip: If you’re buying non-reusable items that you’ll always need, go online and buy generic, well-reviewed products. Things like shaving cream, toothpaste, and paper towels usually aren’t much better in name brands.

8. Work at home

This tip isn’t for everyone, however, if your job doesn’t absolutely require you to be in a physical location then dare to ask “How can I do this job at home?

Maybe it’s taking a leap of faith and going into business for yourself.

Experience the compounding financial benefits of saving on transportation, time (time is money right?), and taxes!

That’s right when you work for yourself at home you can deduct supplies and expenses from your taxes.

Be prepared to make a strong case with your employer if you’re working in an office. If you can prove that by working at home you’ll get more done and save them money, they might take you up on your offer.

Even getting the ability to work at home part will net noticeable financial gains. You’ll never know if you don’t ask so if you see even the smallest chance to work remotely, take it.

If you’re working at home right now due to recent events, hold on to this work situation! Take full advantage and work hard to keep your current arrangement.

9. DIY lifestyle

Kids learning how to use tools

Youtube and Google are your new best friends! Challenge yourself to solve problems that usually cost you money. Becoming self-sufficient is a joy and you’ll find your life enriched with interesting and new challenges!

My advice is to start small with easy fixes. Change your car’s oil, install a new faucet, learn how to maintain a common appliance.

Always ask yourself first how something can be done and then muster the courage to try!

The financial benefits are immediate and very satisfying to realize. The first thing you’ll realize is that most parts from the manufacturer aren’t that expensive. The second thing you’ll notice is how much you really saved from repairs you used to be billed by a repairman.

Upfront, you will be required to invest in the form of tools, parts, and time.

Just wait for the right opportunity, do a little research, pick a project you can handle, and save that money!

10. Create a hard-limit budget – The 50,30,20 Rule

Have you always wanted to know what goes into a successful budget?

We have an excellent article on this tried and true rule of saving explaining how much money should be budgeted for each category of life’s expenses. It looks like this:

The 50,30,20 Rule


You’ll develop the ability to quickly place expenses in one of three categories.

Essential expenses, personal spending, and savings.

Always ask before making purchases: “Does this fit my budget?”

Thinking this way will save you money and make it clear what is really important to you.

Judy, can you help me budget? 

Here’s a full video for you where Judy explains how to break up your paycheck into these savings areas.

11. Prioritize your spending further

The road to financial freedom is pretty straight forward.

Writing plan on whiteboard

Putting income aside, your extra funds should be prioritized in this order:

  • Pay off all your debt
  • Build an Emergency Fund (6 months of living expenses)
  • Maximize your contributions to tax-advantaged accounts (Employer matched 401K and Roth IRA)
  • Consistently contribute to Savings and Investment accounts

Learn about the steps to financial independence in our full breakdown. 

12. Automate saving and expenses with your bank account

Once your budget is all written out take the time to automate all of your savings! Starting with your direct deposit you can split it up into separate bank accounts.

You can even use a separate bank with several accounts, each labeled for their purpose. Take advantage of automatic monthly transfers in your online banking portal to transfer specific amounts, each month, on payday.

This way you’re hitting your budget goals automatically and if you’re like most people, the temptation to spend simply isn’t there if you don’t see the funds in the accounts you regularly spend from.

13. Withhold income for taxes

Nobody likes paying taxes but we don’t have to be surprised with a big bill every year come April. Double-check your withholdings with your employer and ensure you’re setting enough aside to be paid off, maybe even getting some money back rather than owing a large lump sum which negatively affects the rest of your budgeting efforts.

What I’m saying is plan ahead! Taxes don’t have to be stressful.

To get even more out of your taxes don’t miss this article!:


14. Exercise cheaply and often – Invest in your health

Few efforts make as big of a difference as a healthy diet and exercise but you already know that!

Let’s think about it in terms of saving money:

  • By eating whole food you save on the marked-up cost of processed and packaged foods.
  • You’re eating a healthy amount of food with more nutrition so you don’t need to consume as much food overall, which saves you extra money.
  • You save on future bills related to poor health and buying larger sized clothing.
  • The extra energy you have when your fit allows you to work harder, more efficiently, and make more money in the long run.

Riding bicycle in nature

An exercise you enjoy is always available at a low cost. It’s the cost of a pair of running shoes, a gym membership, the gas to get to a trailhead.

It really does take an investment mindset to see the cost-benefit of exercise. It’s always so readily available to us yet it requires us to think about how expensive it will be to fix problems we could have avoided by getting regular exercise.

Invest in yourself and save more money.


15. Find the cheapest alternatives to your favorite hobbies

Here’s another good reason why you should save money: You get to challenge yourself to try new things!

Being tight on money doesn’t always mean your days have to be boring. Take this chance to try those cheaper activities you’ve wanted to try.

Instead of browsing social media for cool-looking pictures create your own! Go out and start creating photoshoots with friends and family. Capture the world and share it. Instead of browsing articles get out a pen and paper and write! Send real letters.

If your classic hobby is socializing you can still do that by being the host! Set up backyard hangouts and picnics in the park. It’s a fraction of the cost of a night out and the important part, the friends you share the experience with, are still there.

Some hobbies just plain cost money like anything involving motors or traveling far distances. Take a break knowing you can come to those activities once you have all of your finances organized.

16. Find cheap getaways

Tent in forest sunrise

Getting away doesn’t have to be expensive in fact, it can be a financially sound decision.

Just like your search for new hobbies, the key things to look for in vacations should be:

  • A place where your living costs are actually less than average.
  • A place you can continue to work while you getaway.

Plan ahead

Knowledge is 100% of the battle when finding getaways on the cheap. Use flight data sites, even google has this feature, where you can search for the cheapest flights of the year and the cheapest flights from your nearby airports. From there, find out which of those cheapest flights takes you to the most affordable destination.

Once you know where to go you want to make a plan of what accommodation you can afford, what activities get you the most fun for the least, and everything else should be planned well ahead.

And if you can’t travel or just don’t want to find those places close to your home that are definitely worth checking out.

Imagine the campground just up in the hills. The public beach you can go to any time. Even an affordable Airbnb in a different neighborhood or nearby city.

The Final Word

The thing to realize here is that this is the opportunity to expand your horizon while getting back on track with your finances for a while.

You’re reading this because you want to know the best ways to save money on a tight budget.

Well, here you have it. You now have the missing piece of the puzzle and that is the actionable steps you can take to save and make more money.

It’s part of our learning curve and it’s the part of our journey to financial freedom that involves a period of sacrifice. That’s okay. You’re okay and I believe you’re going to do great.

Soon you’ll be in a period of flourishing, spending on fun and experiences. And when you find yourself searching your pockets for extra cash, revisit this list from the top.

You don’t have to be perfect but you do have to take action.

Good luck!

Let me know in the comments below which tip made the biggest difference for you!

Need More Information

We have crafted a valuable library of family financial planning worksheets. These will help you get organized as you begin the planning process!