Though you may not feel a day-to-day tug on your purse strings, the truth is Americans shell out a lot of money every day—$164.55 on average, to be exact.
That’s upwards of $60,000 each year. And if that’s not shocking enough, consider this: the median household income in the United States is $67,521.
It’s no wonder that, according to recent research, more than half of all Americans (54 percent!)—or 125 million U.S. adults—are living paycheck-to-paycheck.
So what can you do if you find yourself in a situation in which you’re struggling to pay your bills after satisfying your expenses? Here a dozen low-effort ways to trim the fat when it comes to your daily spending:
1. Make meals at home
In 2019, the average American consumer spent more than $3,500 a year, or nearly $10 per day, on “food away from home,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meal planning can significantly cut these costs, since you’re shopping intentionally and sharing ingredients between meals. Plus, you won’t be paying added costs, like a tip for your server.
2. Walk (or bike) to work
In NYC, a single subway ride costs $2.75. Multiply that by two, and you’d be spending a minimum of $5.50 on commuting costs each day. Though it isn’t always possible, walking—or even biking—to work not only reduces the costs associated with commuting, but is also better for the environment.
3. End unnecessary subscriptions
That recurring Netflix charge or your Peloton subscription (supposing you actually use it!) may feel non-negotiable, but there are surely a few items there that can be eliminated or, at the very least, reassessed. Make a list of any subscriptions you have, then ask yourself: How often do I use this? If the answer is infrequently or never, ask yourself a second question: Do I really need this? If the answer is no, go ahead and cancel that subscription. And if this exercise seems time-consuming, remember this: Even a $15 monthly subscription to HBO Max will run you $180 over the course of a year.
4. Reevaluate your insurance policies
Similarly, take a hard look at your insurance policies—homeowners and auto policies are a great place to start—to see what you’re paying. Often, very comparable policies can vary by hundreds of dollars, so it pays to shop around—especially if you’ve held the same policy for quite a while. Take the time to get quotes from competitors to see if you can save. Even if you don’t switch, you may uncover potential discounts your current insurer provides for doing things like taking a defensive driving course or installing a monitoring device in your current vehicle.
5. Carry cash
Rather than whip out your credit card every time you head to the store, carry a finite amount of cash. Use that money as your spending money for the week, so you can better track it. As it dwindles, resist the urge to take out more—once it’s gone, it’s gone.
6. Use coupons
Of course, you can use paper coupons, but today there’s a more modern way, with apps like Ibotta and the browser extension Honey. You can set up notifications, so you’ll be alerted to current deals or promotions running, plus take advantage of coupons that will help you save.
7. Get cash back
Likewise, there are plenty of browser extensions and websites, like Rakuten, that essentially pay you to shop at over 2,500 stores. The concept is simple: Stores pay these companies a commission for the referral, then they share the commission with you in the form of cash back. It’s totally free—and a great way to save a few bucks every time you shop.
8. Use price comparison sites
Websites like Pricegrabber let you seamlessly compare prices at various retailers to find the best deal. Other sites, like CamelCamelCamel, will even show you 90 days of price data, so you can see when the best time to shop is. You can even set alerts to get notified if the price of a product drops, so you can jump on the deal.
9. Use credit card point
While you never want to put more than you can afford on a credit card, it’s a good idea to use a rewards-based card for anything you’d normally spend on. At the end of each month, check in to see how many points you earned. Then, swap those points for cash back or gift cards to retailers you usually shop at.
10. Wait for sales
Rather than buy something extravagant like a TV on a whim, wait for the big sales that usually happen around major holidays, like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Black Friday. Sure, you’ll have to plan a little bit, but shopping strategically will ultimately save a fair amount of money.
11. Buy discounted gift cards
When you buy unused gift cards on a site like eBay or Card Cash, you can score heavily discounted store cards. For example, you may be able to get a $100 Starbucks gift card for just $80, essentially netting you $20 in bonus funds—a great way to feel a little bit better about what you’re spending on something like coffee.
12. Shop second-hand
Whether at your local thrift store or on a site like Poshmark or Facebook Marketplace, you can score some seriously good deals on the second-hand market. Some particularly great items to get second-hand include antique housewares, clothing, baby gear, and electronics. In some cases, these items may even be new, just without the box or the tag.
13. Use loyalty points
If you regularly shop at certain stores, chances are you’re racking up points you can use toward future purchases. Many grocery stores have these types of programs, as do clothing retailers and electronic stores. To help offset your spending, see if you can cash in some of these points to use on your next purchase.