Saving Money

Plants growing from piles of money

Saving money for the future can help you have money for surprises that come along, like filling a cavity or buying a present for a relative’s wedding. Saving money can also help you reach your goals, like buying a house, saving for retirement, or children’s higher education.

This module focuses on how to build daily habits that reduce expenses and build up savings.

This module takes about 30 minutes to complete. By the end of this module, you will know how to…

…save money by making changes to your daily habits.

…save money by decreasing your recurring monthly expenses on things like bills, loan interest, and insurance.

…reduce expenses in innovative ways.

Complete the following pre-learning check to test your knowledge. Answer “true or false” to the three statements below. Click on the blue box to find the correct answer.

Reducing expenses always means consuming less.

False, sometimes you can reduce expenses simply by switching companies while still maintaining the same level of service. For example, you can save money by refinancing your loans, switching your phone, cable, and internet carrier, or changing your insurance provider.

Sometimes, a large one-time effort can pay off in big savings in the long run.

True. For example, acquiring quotes from competing insurance companies or switching to a cheaper phone carrier can save you dozens of dollars per month. All it requires is the one-time effort of searching for better deals or asking for quotes.

There’s no point in keeping your savings in a bank or credit union account because they pay so little interest.

False, banks and credit unions are safe places to keep money and if you start a habit of putting a little money regularly in a savings account you’ll be surprised how fast your balance will grow.

Ways to Save Money

Small Ways

  1. Use a piggy bankMan inserting coins to a piggy bank

Store all your leftover coins and bills in a piggy bank and deposit them directly at your financial institution. Private coin depositing kiosks charge an extra fee, but your financial institution should deposit your change for free.

  1. Take advantage of free entertainment

Many museums and national parks have days of free visits. For example, a museum may be free on Tuesdays. Check out your local museums and national parks and visit them on free days. Also, libraries are full of free entertainment so make sure to check out your local library.

  1. Use the 30-day rule before you buy an item

When you get the urge to buy a new item, wait 30 days and then see if you still want it. If 30 days seems too long, at least wait a couple of days and see if you still want to spend that much money on the item. Also, that gives you time to search for the best deals for the item if you still want it.

  1. Go for the creative and meaningful, rather than expensive gifts

A nice gesture as a gift, like cooking dinner or baking cookies, or something you made yourself like a piece of art or a craft, are often more meaningful gifts than expensive ones.

  1. Keep an eye on your monthly subscriptions

One way to save money is to switch from cable to streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV, or HBO Max. Streaming service subscriptions also add up, so pick one or two that house your favorite shows to keep from having monthly fees for many different providers.

  1. Save money on transportation

Save money by trying to drive less. See if you can carpool, walk or bike more, use public transportation, or work from home when you can. Anytime you drive, you use gas and put miles on your vehicle.

Big Ways

  1. Automatic transfers

You can set up automatic periodic transfers from your checking account to your savings account. You may be able to do this on your financial institution’s website by yourself, or by contacting the financial institution. If you set up the date of automatic transfers to be a few days after your payday, you will make sure you will have the funds in your account. Even saving $50 per month will add up to $500 in just ten months, and $500 is a good start to an emergency fund.

  1. Planned grocery shoppingWoman shopping for fresh produce

Buying food at grocery stores instead of eating at restaurants is one of the easiest ways to reduce spending. Use lower-cost grocery stores, sign up for loyalty programs, check their coupons, and be sure to write a shopping list to avoid impulse buying. In addition to saving money, homecooked meals are healthier in general than take-out or fast food.

  1. Keep good health

Healthcare expenses add up, especially later in life. You can save a lot of money on healthcare expenses by following these tips:

Inforgraphic with the following text. Diet and Exercise: Choices Today for a Healthier Tomorrow. Eating a healthy diet and exercising often can help control or delay health issues associated with aging, like high blood pressure and diabetes. Set short-term goals to achieve and maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine. Make these 5 tips a priority every day: Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Choose foods that are low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Pick whole grains and lean sources of protein and dairy products. Practice all 4 types of exercise - endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. For more information about healthy eating and exercise, go to

In addition,

  • Keep good dental hygiene. Brush your teeth twice per day and floss every day.
  • Drink less alcohol and do not smoke.
  • Drive carefully and follow driving laws.
  • Get your blood pressure regularly checked.

Making these lifestyle changes will allow you to live a healthier and longer life and will save you on health- and dental care costs.

  1. Shop around for loans and insurance

Car loans, mortgage payments, student loans, and insurance payments are a large chunk of monthly expenses. Keep an eye on your loans and contact other financial institutions to see if they can refinance your loan with better interest rates. Consider the costs that lenders might charge for refinancing (like closing costs) to see if changing your lender is really a good deal.

Shop around for better deals on auto, home, and other insurance. Sometimes you get extra discounts by bundling your insurance plans. Contact insurance companies and get free quotes for their insurance offers. You can save a lot of money by having lower rates on your loans and insurance.

Mortgages: Should I refinance?

How to Repay Student Loans

  1. Shop around for phone, cable, and internet plans

Mobile phone companies sometimes offer good deals to new customers. It may help to take advantage of a deal from another phone carrier and save monthly. The same goes for cable and internet plans. Companies usually offer bundle discounts too if you receive multiple services from the same company.

  1. Reduce your monthly expenses on electricity, water, and gas

Reducing electricity and water bills can bring you great savings if you make small changes at home. For example, turning off lights when not in a room, fixing leaking faucets, using LED light bulbs, and always turning off electric equipment like computers and TVs after use are great ways to lower the bill. You can save on car repairs and gas by avoiding speeding and keeping tires correctly inflated.

Here are more tips for renters on how to save energy and water at home: Simple Steps to Save Energy, Water, and Money at Home

Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program provides rebates for things like insulation, heat pumps, and energy efficient water heaters and heating and cooling systems: Focus on Energy also provides free energy-saving kits for renters.

If you own your home, installing a smart thermostat, replacing old toilets with water-efficient ones, and upgrading appliances to energy-efficient ones when they break can save a lot over time.

Here are more tips on how to save electricity: Energy Saver

Here are more tips on how to save water: Start Saving Water

Take advantage of public benefits for which you may qualify.

You may be eligible for public benefits such as FoodShare, energy assistance, childcare assistance, and Medicaid, among others.

Click on the links below to learn about assistance that may be available to you.

211 Help Starts Here

ACCESS connects you with the help you need when you need it

Additional Resources

Here are more resources for other strategies to reduce spending and save money:

Making a Spending Plan

Retirement Planning Basics

How to Save Money Using Health Insurance

UW-Extension Money $mart has an excellent resource about Saving Your Money

Even more savings tips here! 54 Ways to Save Money

Test your knowledge

Saving Money QuizTake this 10-question quiz to review the basics and test your knowledge. You can take it as many times as you want.

Certificate of Completion

If you’d like to certify that you’ve completed this module, be sure to contact a UW-Madison Extension Financial Educator to find out about program requirements.