Are there times you wish your finances were a little more in shape? Do you find your debt too heavy and savings too slim? It’s time to trim the fat from your budget and beef up savings!

Saving money doesn’t just happen; it starts with a commitment. Decipher your needs and wants, and limit how often you splurge on things you could do without. You may find you can get by—and live just as happily—with significantly fewer and less costly purchases. Try these ideas and brainstorm some of your own.


  • Plan a menu for the week before you go grocery shopping. Select fruits and vegetables that are in season, and get the best deals by planning your menu around grocery store specials.
  • Pack a lunch to take to work. And while you’re in the kitchen, pour some coffee into a travel mug so you’re not tempted by the local coffee shop.
  • If storage space permits, buy items you use frequently in bulk.
  • Don’t let food spoil. Divide and freeze meat in family-size portions. You can thaw only the amount you need. You can also freeze herbs (with a little oil or water in an ice cube tray), milk and bananas that are becoming overripe. Wash produce right before you use it—moisture can cause produce to mold.
  • Call the toll-free number on the package of favorite products or look online to see if the manufacturer offers coupons.
  • Dine out less. Keep a stash of leftovers in the freezer to help you resist heading to a restaurant after a long day at work.
  • Drown the bottled water habit. Buy a filter if you’re not satisfied with the quality of your tap water. Bonus: You’ll be helping to save the environment at the same time.


  • Take up hobbies that are free, such as joining a library book club or gardening in your yard.
  • Borrow movies, magazines and newspapers from the library. You may also be able to borrow e-books without leaving home.
  • Volunteer at fairs, festivals and theaters for free admission.
  • Stay out of malls and avoid catalogs, which can spark your desire to spend money.

Raising Kids

  • Plan game or movie nights at home with friends and family.
  • Organize family sporting activities in your yard or local park.
  • Attend your children’s school events. Children will remember the things you did together rather than the things you bought them.
  • Keep children’s birthday parties intimate. Rather than an extravagant party at a destination site with zillions of classmates, host a slumber party for your child and two close friends.
  • Volunteer together as a family. Bonus: Your children may start to understand how to be grateful for what they have.

Looking Good

  • Host a clothing swap party with friends. You’ll know where the items came from and have some fun passing along old garments you never wear.
  • Visit a barber or beauty school for discounted haircuts and spa treatments.
  • Unsubscribe from daily deal emails and sale announcements. This may seem counterproductive but think about what actually happens. When you get one of these daily deal emails, you often purchase an item you had not been in the market for simply because it’s a “good deal.” This isn’t actually saving you money unless it’s an item that you would have purchased anyway.

Go Green to Save Green

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. They’re more energy-efficient and last longer.
  • To get the best gas mileage, keep your tires properly inflated and clean the junk out of your trunk to avoid excess weight.
  • Swap DVDs and books with friends or check them out from the library. Encourage kids to start a game-borrowing club with friends. Each child plays his or her video game for a week and then passes it on to the next player in the club.
  • Seal air leaks around your home with caulking and weather stripping to save on heating and cooling costs.
  • Zap vampire power by unplugging cellphone chargers when not in use.
  • Make your own cleaning supplies. They’re less toxic and less expensive. Plenty of recipes are available on the Web. Just search for “green cleaning supplies.”