18 clever ways to save money — and take a bite out of inflation

If you’re like us, you’re probably wondering why it’s become so difficult to save money. Consumer prices are increasing, and a significant portion of your once-disposable income is likely going toward groceries, gas and other necessities.

You need a few money-saving tricks — and we’ve got them for you. Whether you’re on a fixed income and looking for innovative ways to create more pocket money or you’re simply looking to stretch your dollar, you’ll benefit from incorporating these practices into your finances. None will make you independently wealthy, but they can boost your earnings and take some of the bite out of inflation.

💰 Turn your savings into your hardest-working employee

Your money shouldn’t be gathering dust in your bank account. Rather, it should be laboring to increase your net worth.

Instead of thinking of savings as just a possession, make your money work for you with safe investments you can find at most financial institutions. You’ll be astonished at how significantly you can increase your balance with even a few simple changes to the way you bank.

1. Store your money into a high-APY savings account

The current national average APY for savings accounts is a low 0.46%. But you can do a lot better than that with accounts that can boost your balance with no or low minimums or monthly fees.

Right now, the best high-yield savings accounts are offering up to 4.5% APY — and some go even higher. Think of it: A $50,000 balance in a 5% APY account would yield a return of $2,500 a year. That’s $2,200 more than you’ll get by parking those funds in a savings account earning the national average. And many HYSAs compound interest daily or monthly, leading to higher savings for you.

2. Earn bank and cash management account intro bonuses

Banks and cash management accounts routinely offer new customer bonuses for opening an interest-bearing checking account, savings account or both. In some cases, these bonuses can be worth $1,000 or more.

There are often a few hoops to jump through, such as receiving a specific number of direct deposits into your account within a few months and keeping that amount in the bank for at least 90 days. But if you’ve got the means to float money with a bank or two at a time, you could quite easily earn a couple thousand dollars each year from bank account welcome bonuses alone. Just note that banks typically stipulate a cooldown period before you can earn another bonus from them, so read the fine print.

3. Create a simple CD ladder

A certificate of deposit is a type of deposit account that can earn significant interest. Each CD comes with a term that’s like an expiration date. By pledging to the bank that you won’t withdraw your funds for a specific period of time, you get a guaranteed return rate on that money after that expiration date, when the CD matures.

For example, if you open a CD with a six-month term, you’re agreeing with the bank that you won’t touch your money for six months. (You can withdraw it early, but you’ll lose a few months of earned interest as a penalty.)

If tying up a large amount of money for an extended period of time freaks you out, a CD ladder can be a way to leverage high rates without locking up your cash into one CD. In short, you can open multiple CDs with varying terms.

For example, you may open:

One CD with a three-month term

One CD with a six-month term

One CD with a nine-month term

This way, a portion of your savings is unlocked every three months. After a CD matures, you can choose to reinvest it in another CD or simply deposit it (and your earnings from interest) back into your go-to savings account.

Dig deeper: High-yield savings account vs. CD: What to know when rates are high

💸 Place confines on yourself to avoid overspending

Whether you’re on a fixed income or you’re able to generate extra money when you need to, the act of budgeting is wildly important. You should be able to account for nearly every dollar that exits your pocket.

Budgeting doesn’t mean depriving yourself — it just means being smart about your purchases.

4. Use cash more often

There’s something gut-wrenching about handing over physical notes at checkout. The cash leaving your possession affects the brain differently, whereas you might otherwise happily swipe your credit card with a shock when your statement arrives.

One way to stick to your budget is to withdraw the amount of cash you’d like to spend each month — and stop spending once it runs out to reanalyze your budget. As your wad becomes smaller, you could be forced to get creative to make ends meet until the next month, when your funds are replenished.

5. Use budgeting software to know exactly where your money’s going

Many of the best budgeting apps can help you to spend below your means simply by summarizing your spending in a digestible way. You enter your goals and link your financial accounts — such as credit cards, bills and loans — and the app automates a lot of the tedious stuff for you. Most turn your finances into color-coded graphs within dashboards that can help you to better understand your spending habits and sniff where you might be spending too much.

Also remember to budget for disasters. Earmarking even a negligible amount of money from each paycheck for emergencies like car repairs, unexpected medical bills and other of life’s curveballs can make a world of difference. When a situation arises in which you need to spend it, withdrawing the sum of those incremental deposits can feel like free money.

6. Order grocery pickup

Perhaps the ecosystem in which impulse spending most commonly thrives is the grocery store. Go in for a bag of lemons, come out with a bottle of Japanese whiskey. It’s the store’s job to distract you from your focus on household staples.

The most effective supermarket blinders might be grocery pickup. With in-store or curbside pickup, you shop online with your favorite supermarket by typing in what’s strictly on your grocery list, and you pick up your order without ever stepping too far inside. Many grocery stores provide this service for cheap — and sometimes for free with a minimum order. Even if you must pay a small fee, it’s likely insignificant when compared to the frivolous purchases you may have otherwise tossed into your cart.

7. Unsubscribe from tantalizing emails and apps

I used to have an app called LastBottle on my phone. It’s an app that sells a different hand-picked wine each day at fire-sale prices. I had to delete it — I was going broke saving money.

If you subscribe to an email newsletter, a shopping app or anything else that tempts you into spending money that you otherwise wouldn’t, cut it out of your life.

💳 Put a bit of elbow grease into your credit card strategy

First, a qualifier: Credit cards aren’t for everyone. If you’re one of those aforementioned impulse buyers, it’s better to keep your distance from a tool that enables you to so easily overspend.

But if you’re the kind of person who spends only what you can comfortably pay off each month, credit cards can earn you lucrative cash back and other rewards simply by swiping for the things you’re buying anyway.

8. Find a credit card that complements your spending habits

You can get what’s effectively a solid rebate for your everyday spending simply by funneling your purchases through the right credit card.

The key is to find a card that earns bonus rewards in your most common spending categories. For example, if the lion’s share of your budget is dedicated to grocery shopping and restaurants, you’ll want a card that nabs you boosted rewards on dining and supermarkets.

If you don’t want to juggle multiple cards, open a flat-rate cashback credit card that earns a solid return on all purchases, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card that earns 1% back when you make a purchase and 1% back when you pay off that purchase, effectively earning you 2% everywhere. That way, you won’t have to fuss with bonus categories.

9. Use your credit card’s spending offers and benefits

Many credit card issuers publish deals and offers that are sort of like digital coupons you can find in your card’s app or online account. Once you enroll and fulfill the terms of the offer, you get bonus cash back, a statement credit or whatever carrot the specific offer provides.

American Express cardholders, for example, can take advantage of Amex Offers like $200 off stays of $500 or more with a specific hotel chain, or 20% cash back at a retail store. Offers are typically personalized to your spending — which means you might save on items already on your list.

And don’t forget lesser-known perks like travel insurance, cellphone protection, extended warranties, free express shipping and more that can smooth out the unexpected when traveling or buying high-cost items.

Screenshot of Amex Offers

Screenshot of Amex Offers, courtesy of AOL editor

10. Pay for your travel with points instead of cash

If travel makes an appearance on your list of financial goals, consider opening a travel rewards credit card. Lots of cards offer welcome bonuses that can be enough for several free nights at a hotel, an inexpensive round-trip ticket to Europe or even hundreds of dollars off a scenic cruise.

And the best provide long-term benefits through bonus categories and travel portals that can earn you boosted rewards or points on stays, airfare and conveniences along the way, often justifying the annual fee for frequent travelers. You can then put those points toward satisfying a future bout of wanderlust.

11. Earn rewards with a unique twist on the cash envelope system

Popularized by financial guru Dave Ramsey, the cash envelope system is a budgeting method in which you identify and dedicate an envelope to each of your monthly expenses: groceries, gas, entertainment, you name it. You then use these envelopes as a physical manifestation of your budget. Once the envelope is empty, you can’t spend anymore.

There’s just one problem: You don’t earn cash back when you pay with cash. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to incorporate credit cards into this method.

Instead of cash, you can use your cards to purchase Visa gift cards for each envelope in your desired denomination. You’ll often earn rewards on the purchase, and you’ll still be constrained to the dollar amount of each gift card.

Just note that Visa gift cards often come with an activation fee. This can negate the rewards you’ll earn when using your credit card, so be sure to buy only during a store promotion that offsets that fee (they are frequent, and a site like Cashback Monitor can help).

12. Pay down debt with a 0% balance transfer credit card

If you’re currently carrying credit card debt, the biggest step you can take to improve your financial situation is to pay it off as quickly as possible. Carrying a balance month to month and paying the interest that balance accrues is tantamount to throwing away your income check.

Opening a balance transfer credit card that offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers can be a solid way to catch your breath from under high-interest debt. With this type of card, you move credit card balances from high-APR cards to a new credit card with lower interest and better terms, the best offering no interest on transferred balances for a specific period of time — from 12 months to 18 months or longer, depending on the card and your credit score.

Issuers often charge a fee of around 3% that applies to each transfer, but the money you’ll save on interest can be worth it. And you’ll need to pay off your full balance before the offer expires to avoid racking up more needless interest.

📲 Hack your everyday expenses with simple apps

The ubiquity of technology is a two-edged sword. Few things in life are more aggravating than sitting down to a meal and being handed a QR code instead of a menu, for example.

But several apps are worthwhile, are simple to use — and can save you money over time.

13. Use money-saving browser extensions

If you shop online with any regularity, consider taking a couple of seconds to download a free browser extension such as Capital One Shopping that can save you money without effort by:

Scanning the web page you’re on and then scouring the internet for a cheaper price, letting you know when it’s found a better deal.

Automatically compiling and entering as many relevant promo codes as it can find at checkout to find you the highest savings.

PayPal Honey is a similar extension, but Capital One Shopping alone has saved me $988 by directing me to alternate websites where I can buy what I’m after for less.

14. Use shopping portals and cashback apps for everyday spending

Shopping portals and apps can reward you for making purchases you planned to make anyway, with the best cashback apps returning a percentage of what you spend — from 1% to 15% and higher — as cash, gift cards or points you can build toward future savings.

Just start your online shopping trip by browsing for your desired merchant through a site like Rakuten or an app like Dosh. You’ll be directed to the official store website or a shopping portal that monitors your activity and records your purchase. You won’t notice any difference in your shopping experience, and money you save over time might be paid out as cash or gift cards, depending on the site.

Some shopping apps even reward you for in-person purchases. You can shop online for pickup later or scan your shopping receipt to earn rewards after you’re home.

Cashboard Monitor is an excellent tool that aggregates discounts to show you where you can find the best return. It’s not uncommon to see popular stores offering promotions of 10% back and double rewards.

15. Use gas apps to save at the pump

Gas has gone from a peripheral annoyance to a primary budgeting topic. And it can be among your most painful credit card swipes. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the cost.

Free apps like Upside and GasBuddy are designed to help you save money at the pump with the ability to:

Locate the cheapest nearby gas station.

Track your fuel consumption.

Offer you cash back for scanning your gas station receipt.

To boot, you can enroll in a gas station’s free loyalty program to earn additional cash back or rewards. And by using a rewards credit card for your purchase, you can stack savings and earn even more.

🛜 Be shrewd with your recurring expenses

Do you really need all those memberships and subscriptions? Do you even know which ones you’re paying for? It’s time to stop paying for services you’re just not using.

16. Find (and dump) subscriptions you don’t need

It’s the set-and-forget bills that can drain your livelihood if you’re not careful — monthly expenses like Audible or Paramount+ that you can’t remember buying in the first place. Or perhaps you’re paying for free trials that you forgot to cancel before the renewal date.

Enter some financial details into a service like Rocket Money, and you’ll quickly find all the subscriptions you’re currently paying for, some of which may surprise you. Rocket Money can cancel — and even negotiate a lower bill for — any subscriptions you choose.

17. Liberate yourself from cable and satellite

It’s hard to imagine 30 years ago that cable and satellite would become dying media. The future is streaming: Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV and other cable TV alternatives give you the most popular channels — often at a sharp discount over cable — as well as unlimited DVR storage and access to a wide variety of on-demand content.

Unless a streaming service doesn’t offer an obscure channel that you absolutely love on cable, you’re almost certainly better off cutting the cord and ditching the dish.

18. Keep tabs on your internet bill

Internet service providers are intrinsically evil, in my opinion. I’ve never met a provider that didn’t try to pull a fast one on me by clandestinely raising my monthly bill under the cover of night.

Don’t forget to look over your internet statement each month to prevent a covert upcharge. And to avoid paying more than you need to, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount or haggle for a lower price, especially if you see a better deal with a competitor.

Bottom line

You don’t have to use every tip on this list to save a little money. Introducing even a few creative changes to your financial life can make a big difference to your wallet and your budgeting bottom line.  

Sources

A look at consumer prices in March, by the numbers, AOL. Accessed April 21, 2024.

National Rates and Rate Caps, FDIC. Accessed April 21, 2024.

About the writer

Joseph Hostetler is a finance writer who specializes in credit cards, travel rewards and saving money. His expertise has been featured in such leading financial sites as Yahoo Finance, CNN, Business Insider, AP Buyline, The Points Guy and Million Mile Secrets, among others. Joseph has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in free travel thanks to the miles and points he’s earned through credit card secrets and strategies he writes about daily. He’s also a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).

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