That’s how many Americans have ZERO savings, according to GoBankingRates.com.

And less than half of Americans have over $1000 socked away, which basically means one unexpected emergency or expense and you’d be in quite the pickle.

Even if your discipline isn’t the greatest, doesn’t mean that budgeting and saving money are outta your league. We’re going to teach you the best ways to save money each month, that require the least amount of willpower.

In this post, we will cover:

  • How a budget can save you money
  • How to negotiate what you’re paying on some of your biggest bills
  • Money challenges that actually make it fun to save

This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure for more details.

creative ways to save up money




Learn exactly how to reduce your credit card, insurance, and utility bill rates with just a call or two!

  • A sample script for you to follow
  • Pointers on how to best deliver each line
  • Tips on how to keep records of your calls, in case you need to follow up

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The best ways to save money

For most people, trying to save more money is exhausting.

That’s because all money decisions, even small ones, require discipline, mental effort, and willpower, which kinda requires your brain to be on it’s A-game. If it’s not, things like fatigue, stress, and your general emotional state can easily derail all of your best efforts to handle your money well.

Most of the money-saving tips you can find require a ton of ongoing effort for a teeny, tiny return. The truth is, constantly putting in all that work to save a few pennies here and there probably isn’t gonna improve your financial situation much, and it’ll probably wear you out.

Instead, a much better strategy is to focus on the smartest ways to save money that give you more savings for less effort.

Top 5 money-saving tips

Follow a daily budget

One of the biggest downsides to traditional budgets is that most people don’t look at them again until the end of the month. By then, if you’ve gone over budget, it’s already too late to fix anything.

If you follow your money moves daily, you’ll notice a lot sooner if you’re getting off track, and you can plan or re-budget if needed.

On top of that, having a daily budget allows you to delegate your spending decisions to something else, so you don’t have to rely on your own discipline and willpower to do all the hard work of managing your finances.


If you don’t already have a daily budget, be sure to check out our step by step tutorial on how to create a budget calendar.

Once you’ve made a budget calendar for yourself, break it in and start letting it do most of your money management for you.

  • When the need or opportunity to spend comes up, check your calendar and see if it’s something you budgeted for.
  • If it is, go ahead and spend as budgeted, then cross it off your calendar.
  • If it isn’t on your budget, you can either decide to always make that a hard “no,” or give yourself the flexibility to choose if you’re willing to make the spend anyway, at the expense of reducing what you’ll put towards your money goals.

Letting your budget making your spending decisions for you might sound scary, but it can actually be quite liberating. You get all the savings, without any fuss, hassle, or willpower required.

Even if you give yourself the option to veto your budget, subtracting the amount from your money goals balance is an important reminder that with any decision to spend, there is always a trade off.

It’s perfectly fine to spend off budget once in a while, but it’s also good to remind yourself that doing it too often does takes away from your opportunity to do bigger things in life. Our brains aren’t necessarily wired to always be constantly thinking about that trade-off, so consulting with your budget regularly can help you keep yourself in check.

Using a daily budget helps you stay on the financial course that you set for yourself, but if you want to level up and have more money to put towards your money goals, reducing how much you spend on your recurring set expenses using the next few tips is the best way to do that.

Downsize your life to upsize your savings

When it comes to cutting expenses to save money, focusing on recurring ones are definitely the way to go. That’s because once you find a way to reduce that set expense, the savings carries forward month after month without any further thought.

If you focus on trying to save in areas where the costs aren’t set, like with your groceries for example, that pretty much means you’ll have to make a diligent effort not to spend a lot every single time you grocery shop. That’s much restraint means repeatedly putting your willpower to the test, which, for most people, gets old pretty fast.

So don’t make things so hard for yourself. Address the expenses that you have over and over again, because making a one-time effort to reduce them results in keeping more money in your pocket month after month.

One way to pull that off is to downsize in certain areas of your life, which can save you a ton.

For example, let’s say that going from a single family home to an apartment saves you $400 a month in rent. You’re not just saving $400–that’s $400 this month, and another $400 the next month, and $400 again the month after that! All in all, you’d be saving almost $5000 in just one year!

There are lots of places in your life that you could downsize:

  • Housing
  • Car
  • Cell phone or cell phone plan
  • Wardrobe

Yes, these are big changes, but they come with an equally big potential to save. And again, you only have to make these moves once to start seeing major, permanent improvements to your cash flow.

If you’re worried that you’ll struggle to make due by giving up a level of comfort you’re already used to having, here’s our promise to you: none of our suggestions are actually fatal.

In all seriousness, the human mind is pretty resilient. No matter what kind of change you introduce to your life, you’ll always find a way to work with it and get used to it.

It doesn’t take as much stuff as you might think to be happy, and you can learn to find joy and satisfaction in knowing that the changes you are trying can really benefit yourself and your family in the long run.

Make saving fun with some money challenges

Money challenges are like little games or competitions that help you keep your spending in check, and are one of the most creative ways to save money. Some of our favorite challenges include:

save money on groceries icon with produce, milk

Pantry Purge Challenge
See how long you can go without grocery shopping by relying solely on your pantry, fridge, and freezer to feed your family.

icon for no - red with white dash

No-Spend Challenge
Count how many days you can go without spending any money other than to pay for the monthly bills you receive.

piggy bank with coin inserted at top

Save-Before-You-Spend Challenge
Every time you spend money, you have to transfer an equal amount to your savings.


To make it even more fun, get your family and friends in on the challenge to make it a full-on competition. The idea of winning bragging rights or even a small prize might be precisely what brings out the fierce saver in you!

Purge your subscriptions

Another easy recurring expense to target is subscriptions. Ten dollars for a monthly subscription doesn’t seem like much…until you realize it’s $120 bucks a year. And since most families have 4-5 subscriptions of various sorts, you could be looking at $600 or more a year.

Whether it’s streaming media services, gym memberships, or any other type of subscription, finding a way to eliminate it from your budget means money saved. Every. Single. Month.


Purging your subscriptions is such a smart way to save more money, there’s actually an app for it. Download the Trim app for help to find and cancel your unwanted subscriptions.

Negotiate your bills down

One of the best ways to lower some of your biggest bills is to simply ask for a discount or options for reducing your service. You can negotiate stuff like:

  • Credit card interest rates
  • Cell phone plan monthly rates
  • Gym membership fees
  • Cable or satellite TV charges
  • Rent

The beauty of this strategy is that you only need to ask once, but the savings carries over every single month after that! Even though you won’t get a “yes” every single time, you’d be surprised how often you can get what you want, simply by taking a shot and asking.

If you’re willing to ask, you’re already halfway there, but we’ve got a few more tips for maximizing your chances of getting the answer you want:

Do a little research
Know what line items you’re paying for and how much, then find out if any competitors are offering better prices or better terms, so you have the perfect reason for asking for a discount.
Speak confidently
Make your ask firmly and be willing to repeat your request a few times, even if the person you talk to says they can’t help you. If they won’t give in, politely ask if there is a supervisor or customer retention team that may be able to offer something.
Be polite
Negotiating does not require you to be a jerk, so don’t be that person. There is a way to explain how it might make more sense for you to take your business elsewhere, without being a punk about it.
Get the rep on your side
Talk to the rep like you’re in it together, that you know they can help you find a way to keep your business and that you’d appreciate the convenience of not having to switch. This isn’t about steamrolling anyone. You goal should be for both parties to walk away feeling like they reached a fair middle ground.


Learn exactly how to reduce your credit card, insurance, and utility bill rates with just a call or two!

  • A sample script for you to follow
  • Pointers on how to best deliver each line
  • Tips on how to keep records of your calls, in case you need to follow up


Check out our list of creative ways to save money and learn how to save money each month. Our best money-saving tips allow you to save the most money with the least amount of mental effort, and can even help you lock in recurring savings month after month.




stacy trinh aka aunty chang headshot


STACY, aka AUNTY CHANG, is a personal finance blogger set on a mission to show people that there's more to money than just the numbers. With two rental properties and a six-figure 401k by her 30's, she's on track to retire early without sacrificing work-life balance to get there. She wants to teach others how to identify their goals and use money to make them happen. Dual income, no kids, based in Hawaii.

Hangs out on Keeping Up with the Changs: Facebook | Twitter