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Money-Saving Tips From the Masters

Experts rate the effectiveness of 34 popular ways to save

senior couple writing notes to keep track of budget expenses while sitting on the living room sofa

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En español | Everybody has advice about how you can cut expenses and build wealth, but which of these tactics are truly helpful? To find out, we asked more than 20 certified financial planners, authors and frugality bloggers to rate 34 common savings tips on a scale of 1 ("Don't bother!") to 10 ("Really useful!"). Then, based on the experts’ votes, we've ranked these money moves — both daily habits and occasional fixes — in order of their effectiveness. Start at the top to set your financial priorities and build yourself a comfortable retirement stash.

Championship Moves

(minimum average score: 7.5 out of 10)

9.7 - Increase the percentage of your salary you save each time you get a raise at work.
"Here's how to think about this: Each time the current you gets a raise, make sure the future you gets a raise.” —Dana Anspach, financial planner, Scottsdale, Arizona; author of Control Your Retirement Destiny (All judges scored this tip 9 or higher!)

9.2 - Exercise 30 minutes a day at least five days a week for better health and lower medical expenses. 
"One of the largest costs you're going to face in retirement is health care. One of the surest ways to reduce it is to stay as fit as you can.” —Skip Fleming, financial planner, Colorado Springs, Colorado

9.2 -  Identify a savings goal, create a separate savings account for it and set up automatic withdrawals from your paycheck. 
"Separate, automate and watch the savings pile up.” —David Mullins, financial planner, Richlands, Virginia

9.2 - Make a list of all your recurring subscriptions and cancel whatever you don't use frequently. 
"Review your credit card statement carefully! Many of us look carefully at only larger purchases, so recurring subscription payments of $9.99 go unnoticed for years.” —Carol Fabbri, financial planner, Denver

8.9 - Move your cash into a high-yield savings account. 
"Always smart, unless you prefer keeping all your accounts under one roof.” —J. Money, blogger for Budgets Are Sexy, Washington, D.C.

close up of an open pack of cigarettes sitting on money

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8.1 - Stop smoking. 
"Future health costs alone make it a 10.” —Mullins

8.0 - Every year, shop fresh or renegotiate all your service contracts (phone, internet, health club and insurance). 
"I call my internet provider frequently to ask for a better deal. They never disappoint.” —Maggie Kirchhoff, financial planner, Denver

7.9 - Meet friends for a walk, rather than for a drink or a meal. 
"Extra points if you pay yourself in a retirement or investment account what you would have spent.” —Mullins

7.7 - Declutter, and sell your unwanted stuff.
"Simplify, simplify, simplify!” —Nate Wenner, financial planner, Minneapolis

7.6 - Plan a week's worth of menus before you do your grocery shopping, and eat more homemade meals.
"Wait for midweek ads and plan meals around what's on sale and fresh in season.” —Jan G. Valecka, financial planner, Dallas

7.6 - Get a library card so you can borrow all your books and movies.
"I get all my audiobooks for free by linking my library card to an app on my phone. I love it!” —Kirchhoff

7.5 - Drop your landline phone. 
"Unless your phone, cable, TV and internet are already bundled, this is a good suggestion.” —Larry P. Ginsburg, financial planner, Oakland, California


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Runners-Up

(minimum average score: 5 out of 10)

7.3 - Switch to biweekly mortgage payments to pay off your loan faster.
"Overhyped. How about just adding an extra principal payment every month instead and save the enrollment fee? You are in control versus the mortgage company.” —Fleming

7.1 - Erase credit card numbers from websites so you can't click and buy. 
"Good for those with problems, not so much for those who enjoy convenience.” —J. Money

7.1 - Cut your utilities bill by adding insulation to your home and by sealing leaks.
"Only if the cost of insulation will be offset within a reasonable number of years.” —Thomas E. Murphy, financial planner, Dallas

6.8 - Unsubscribe from all store emails to avoid the temptation to grab a deal.
"Another idea: Diverting them all into one folder right away and skipping your in-box, so you can still use them any time they're needed.” —J. Money

6.6 - Wait 24 hours before making any purchase over $100.
"Do this for all online shopping. Leave your purchases in the cart for at least 24 hours before committing. That will reduce your impulse buys.” —Henk Pieters, financial planner, Newport Beach, California

Senior man changing in the lockers room at the gym

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6.5 - Turn down your water-heater temperature by 10 degrees.
"Shower at your gym. Spending more time at the gym not only improves your health; it gets you out of the house, builds your social network and saves on utilities.” —Pieters

6.3 - Raise the deductibles on your insurance policies. 
"People need to be careful with this. Not everyone can handle higher deductibles.” —DeDe Jones, financial planner, Lakewood, Colorado

6.2 - Stop drinking.
"If this were ‘Reduce drinking at bars and restaurants,’ I am all in with a 10.” —Jill Schlesinger, financial planner and author of The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money, New York City

6.2 - Put all your loose change into a jar each evening and make a bank deposit when it's full. 
"My mom does this. She saved $600 in spare change and donated it to charity at Christmas.” —Marguerita Cheng, financial planner, Gaithersburg, Maryland

5.6 - Use a credit card that gives you cash back on every purchase.
"Yes, but be careful not to overspend just to get the points!” —Luis F. Rosa, financial planner, Henderson, Nevada

5.6 - Take a home-repair class and stop hiring people for simple jobs.
"Look on YouTube for DIY videos.” —Valecka

5.1 - Get a to-go cup, brew your own coffee at home, and never buy another latte.
” ‘Never’ is a harsh word. Treat yourself once a week.” —Arlene Cogen, financial planner, Portland, Oregon

5.0 - Write down every penny you spend each day.  
"If you do this for 30 days, it will change your life.” —Murphy (This tip sparked the widest difference of opinion among judges.)

5.0 - Cut down on meat and eat a mostly plant-based diet. 
"What?” —Artie Green, financial planner, Palo Alto, California

Back of the Pack

(average score: below 5)

4.8 - Install a browser extension so you can be sure you're grabbing the best deals online.
"Be careful of how your data is being used, though. There's a privacy concern here.” —Katrina Soelter, financial planner, Los Angeles

4.8 - Buy clothing at yard sales or thrift stores, or on Craigslist.
"Don't buy new furniture. There's a glut of preowned furniture.” —Adam Kozak, financial planner, Eastchester, New York

4.6 - Pay cash for any purchase under $100, rather than using a credit or debit card.
"It's more important to pay the credit card balance monthly to avoid finance charges.” —Hank Fox, financial planner, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania

4.6 - Start driving for Uber or Lyft on the side and save your earnings. 
"Increased car-maintenance costs may not make this very effective in the long run.” —Soelter

4.5 - Adjust your withholding to have more taxes withheld; then save your bigger refund.
"Only for people who have a problem saving.” —Green

4.4 - Haggle for every purchase you make.
"Not effective for those who prefer nonconfrontational behavior. How much might be saved at the cost of higher anxiety about not getting a ‘great’ deal each time?” —Ginsburg

credit card frozen in a block of ice

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3.8 - Literally freeze your credit cards in a block of ice; defrost for emergencies only.
"I'd rather keep cards in a locked file with the interest rates attached.” —Valecka

3.6 - Learn to cut your family members’ hair. 
"You want your family to like you.” —Jones

Ellen Stark, a former deputy editor at Money, has written about personal finance for more than 20 years.

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