25 Painless Ways to Save $50 This Year


Is this the year to review and revamp your savings strategy? If so, consider making some small but tactical changes that can add up to big savings. Here are 25 painless ways to save $50 (or more) this year. (See also: 25 Ways to Save $5 This Week)

1. Frequent Your Local Library

Skip the downloads and bookstores; the library is still free. Your patronage keeps your library healthy and supports the local community.

2. Raise Your Deductible

If you’re a safe driver and are willing to gamble a bit, consider raising your auto insurance deductible. Higher deductibles typically mean lower premiums.

3. Pay for Your Gas at the Pump

Paying at the pump saves you from the carnival of fast food and sugary wonders that await most customers inside every convenience store. Skip the temptation and save a few bucks while you’re at it.

4. Check Your PMI

PMI, or Private Mortgage Insurance, is an extra fee assessed to every mortgagor who puts down less than 20% on the purchase of their home. However, when a homeowner’s loan-to-value ratio reaches 80%, the PMI charges should no longer apply. Trouble is, mortgage companies aren’t particularly inclined to voluntarily stop the fees. Check with you lender to see if should still be paying for PMI.

5. Brew Your Own Coffee

Brewing your own coffee can save time and money. After awhile you’ll wonder why you ever suffered through those long lines only to fork over $3 for a 50 cent cup of joe.

6. Skip the Drive-Thru

Nothing suspends good judgment like hunger. Avoid hitting the road on an empty stomach and being tempted at the drive-thru. Those glossy photos of combo meals combined with super-sized options won’t do your waistline or wallet any favors.

7. Renegotiate Your Cell Phone Plan

Cell phone companies restructure their plans all the time to stay competitive. Call your provider to see if there’s a plan that will give you similar services with a lower price tag. If you’re near the end of a contract period, use it as leverage as you negotiate a new contract or move to a month-to-month rate.

8. Travel Light

Checked baggage fees aren’t going away any time soon. When you fly, skip the extra charges by packing strategically using only a carry-on.

9. Shop Second Hand

Check out your local thrift store and discover the bargains that await in nearly every department. In most cases, your business will help local charities and keep your consumer dollars at home.

10. Let Your Garden Grow

Growing a bit of your own food can save some serious cash. Take a look at the fruits, veggies, and herbs you eat most often. Do you have room to grow some yourself?

11. Un-Bottle Your Water

Bottled water is a bummer for budgets and for the environment. Pick up a simple filtering system (or go rogue with tap water) and "make" your own.

12. Turn Off the TV

A great person once said "What television proposed, the mall disposed." Commercials and even regular programming are designed to make us want. Flipping off the TV is a revolutionary (and ultimately, a money saving) act. Flip open a good book instead.

13. Cancel That Gym Membership

Have a lingering health club membership that you don’t use but never get around to canceling? Redirect that cash to a Roth IRA and build your money muscle.

14. Carpool

Ridesharing of any kind helps save money on fuel, tolls, and wear-and-tear. Set up a carpool program at work or with friends who have similar schedules and save some serious cash by year’s end.

15. Go to Matinees

Want to rekindle the exhilaration of playing hooky as a kid? See a matinee in the middle of the week. Matinees are a great way to reclaim part of your day — at a much lower admission price.

16. Celebrate Small

Does it seem like holidays have gotten out of control? From Valentine’s Day to Halloween and Christmas, folks are spending like crazy on decorations, supplies, or gifts. Scale back, set a budget, and give the gift of less stress.

17. Mow Your Own Lawn

Industrious school kids may hate me for suggesting it, but mowing our own lawns and shoveling our own sidewalks is great exercise. Cut back on expenditures by adopting a do-it-yourself attitude this year.

18. Stay In

Make one date night a month a night to stay in together. Rent a movie and cook up some romance in the kitchen.

19. Go Generic

The labels might be ugly, but the savings are beautiful. If you haven’t already, compare your favorite brands to their generic equivalents. Is there a noticeable difference that’s worth the brand name up charge?

20. Dry Clean Less

Dry cleaning taxes our wallets and the environment. As you replenish your wardrobe throughout the year, gravitate toward clothes that don’t require dry cleaning.

21. Pack a Lunch

It’s common to pack to a lunch for school, work, or a picnic. But why not consider brown-bagging it for a road trip, long commute, or any other time when you’d normally have to eat out? It can save time, calories, and a few bucks, too.

22. Reevaluate Your Cable Service

Believe it or not, a few cable companies are actually customer focused. Making a simple phone call to explore discounts, bundling deals, or promotional offers can sometimes save you cash. Often, just the threat of losing a customer will prompt some companies to give you a temporary deal on rates.

23. Use Cruise Control

If long commutes are part of your routine, depend on cruise control to keep you safely within posted speed limits. These days, one ticket avoided is hundreds saved!

24. Empty That Storage Space

Extra space is great when we’re in transition due to a big move or downsizing, but many of us keep paying rent to storage facilities long after we need to. Resolve to clear out your storage space, move to a smaller unit, or reorganize your home to get that monthly hit off the books.

25. Watch Your ATM Fees

ATM fees can add up quickly and are really just a convenience tax. Draw a line in the sand and make 2013 the year you say "no" to these charges. Organize your withdrawals so you’re using an in-network ATM or withdraw larger sums after each pay cycle so you always have cash on-hand.

What’s your way to save in 2013? What tips have I missed that can help our readers save $50 or more this year? Let's crowd source some ideas below! 

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Guest's picture

Turn off the heat overnight and wear a sweatshirt and use an extra blanket! Use a fan in the summer!

Guest's picture

Great point about packing your lunch. I'm always flabbergasted at the amount of money I spend on fast food and snacks. It really is worth the money saved to find the time to prepare your own meals as much as possible.

Guest's picture

I went to this hoping to see a few usable suggestions...ha! It has been so long since I have had that kind of disposable income. I have been under and unemployed for so long now that I am far, far beyond all that... Let me know when you have suggestions about how to see a doctor, pay your electric bill AND get your kid some new shoes in the same month....

Guest's picture

Another good way to avoid ATM fees is to use the "cash back" option when purchasing something at the store ;) Helps the store and helps your wallet.

Guest's picture

Cheaper than going to a matinee is to not see movies at all. I haven't seen anything in theaters in several years... As for gifts, years ago, my dozen closest relatives and I made the decision to do a Secret Santa instead of full-on gift-giving. Takes away the uncertainty of knowing whether anyone else will get you a gift and lets us spend quite a bit less than we would otherwise. I would have the same sort of discussion with a significant other about Valentine's Day, birthdays, and anniversaries.

Guest's picture

Great tips! My favorite is shopping second hand, I'm a big thrifter because I save a ton of money and I am more likely to get a unique product! My whole apartment is decorated with painted and re-covered furniture I found at thrift stores and it looks nothing like the ikea catalog apartments my friends live in (and it cost less than half the price too!)!