When it comes to saving money, we often “discount” the little things (Yep. That was a pun). Most people don’t really believe that changing a few weekly habits could actually make it possible for them to pay off their mortgage, take a dream vacation, or save toward another great, big goal.
But, that just isn’t true. As you’ll see, when it comes to frugal habits, it’s often the small things that make the biggest difference.
In this post, I’ll cover five small, easy changes you can make today that could save you thousands of dollars in a year.
Watch the Video
For an in-depth look at which small changes will make the biggest impact on your goals, watch this video.
1. Eat Out Less
Hang onto your hat! A study from PopMenu recently revealed that the average American family not only ate out more in 2022, even though restaurant costs went up significantly.
Fifty percent of those surveyed shelled out an average of $500 a month on eating out.
On the surface, $125 a week or $500 a month doesn’t seem so bad. Yet, when you do the math and multiply it by twelve months, you’ll quickly find that your restaurant habit is costing you $6,000 a year.
How much will you save?
That means, if you cut your eating out expenses by two-thirds, you could save $4500 in the next year.
2. Do a Grocery Receipt Audit
Fifteen years ago, I was feeding three hungry boys and I was pregnant with our fourth child. I was constantly overspending our food budget.
I, honestly, thought I was doing everything I could to cut our expenses.
But, one day (almost on a whim) I decided to try something new. I called it a grocery receipt audit.
After arriving home from shopping I looked carefully at each item I had purchased.
- Was it junk food?
- Was it necessary?
- Was it full price?
- Was it on the list?
- Could I have gotten it cheaper elsewhere?
The entire grocery receipt audit took me less than five minutes.
Yet, after a few weeks, it helped me became aware of flaws in my my grocery-shopping habits.
I began consciously questioning each item that went into my cart.
As a result, I made simple changes like buying cheaper (and healthier) options for less money than I had been paying for the overpriced or unnecessary items which had previously been in my cart.
As an end result, I was able to cut my food bills by twenty percent.
We recently received an email from a YouTube viewer about how much money she saved with her first audit. With a couple of quick, easy changes to her buying habits she realized she would save over $400 a year.
Here’s what she said about the effect of doing a grocery audit. “I realized that $5 a week on anything adds up to $260 a year that I began to seriously question each item I buy. I’ve cut out a few $5 bad habits.”
How much does the average American family of four spend on food?
According to the USDA, the average grocery budget for a family should be about $1000 for those on a “thrifty plan”. If you follow less-strict buying habits, you will spend nearly $1600 a month on the USDA’s Liberal Food Plan. These food plans include two adults between the age of 20-50 and two grade school age children.
Okay, let’s do some simple math. At these prices you’ll spend $12,000 a year for the thrifty plan and $19,200 a year for the liberal plan.
How much will you save?
Accepting the numbers given to us by the USDA as the norm for the average family, by simply cutting your weekly grocery bills by twenty percent, you’ll save between $2400 and $3800 a year – just from the one, simple, 5-minute weekly task of auditing your grocery receipts.
3. Cancel Cable TV
Since we’ve never paid for cable in our 35 years of marriage, we were honestly shocked when a YouTube viewer wrote us that when she cancelled her cable subscription, she saved $200 a month!
Yet, US News and World Report recently verified an average price range of $31 to over $200 when cable is bundles with other services, like phone and internet. However, the stated price of services does not include a whole host of additional fees and taxes.
The article pointed out that part of the problem is that cable companies generally lure new customers by offering an introductory price.
Additionally, by offering to bundle your services (such as a TV, internet, and phone), the consumer loses sight of exactly how much each service is costing. Since the hassle of breaking up services into individual pieces overwhelms them, they continue to pay the bundled price, rather than call to get a reduced price package.
How much will you save?
Assuming that you have expanded basic cable and spend $75 a month, cutting the paid TV cord will save you $900 a year.
4. Reduce or Eliminate Meat-based Meals
The average price of a pound of ground beef had risen to $4.81 by the end of 2022. Granted, you could get meat on sale or buy a cheaper type of meat. But, many people do pay full retail price.
If your family is average, you eat around 274 pounds of meat per person per year. For a family of four, that’s over one thousand pounds of meat every year. That means at an average cost of $5 a pound, a family will shell out $5000 a year just on meat.
How much will you save?
Although this cost will vary based on what cuts or type of meat your family eats, consider cutting meat consumption in half. You’ll pocket an average of $2500 dollars a year.
5. Lower Your Electric Usage
The average monthly electric bill across the US is currently about $160 a month. Much depends on your home’s location, size, energy efficiency, and heating/cooling equipment. The average home uses 1100 kilowatts of electricity each month. By using targeted methods to lower our energy usage, our home consumes less than half that amount on average.
Illinois had the fourth largest percentage increase in electricity in 2022, with New Hampshire being the highest. However, we just heard from a Connecticut YouTube viewer that their supply costs will double this month. Meanwhile, a viewer from Sweden reported that their utility bills TRIPLED in just one month.
The question is: How much money can you save simply by changing the way you use energy. Things like “turning off lights” and lowering your thermostat don’t take long, but over time, they can save you big money. Remember, it’s all about doing the math.
How much will you save?
If your average electric bill is $160 each month and you lower it by 30%, then over the course of a year, you’ll be saving nearly $600 in one year.
Is it possible to save that much money?
Yes! We’ve heard from a lot of viewers and readers, telling us that they have saved money by using the strategies we recommend.
How Much Money Will You Save?
The grand total the average person will save using these five strategies combined is $10,500.
Let’s just say you aren’t average. You’re like us: You pinch pennies until they hurt before spending them. If you even shave 10% off your regular expenses – then you could have a cool grand extra in your bank account in twelve months.
We truly believe that everyone can make changes which will allow them to spend less and save more.
But, maximizing savings begins with a written monthly budget which actually reflects how much money is coming in … and how much money is going out.
If you’ve tried budgeting in the past, but you’ve given up, our 4-step budgeting method will take you less than 30 minutes to set up.
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Grab our free guide to learn ten ways we reduced our expenses so we could reach great, big goals.
10 thoughts on “5 Small Changes That Help You Save Big Money”
Hi, currently a citizen of Australia. Ground beef now close to $14.50/ kg. I don’t like meat prefer to eat fish. No cable or even internet I use the library.. power I’d say three times that of Sweden! It’s so hot and humid here in. Australia we need the fan on all the time !
Can you show us your fav vegan recipes?
Living here is now about a cost close to $300 a week groceries , factor into that recent floods and floods causing a errosion of cattle, feed and crops.
Many people lost their homes and farms.
Australia is a land of extremes with either fire or flood.
Yet we wouldn’t have it any other way. We care for our homeless, we take in and care for all the sick with no fee and we provide for one another. Rich or poor we are all the same. Esp in health. We have a extremely high sense of excellence in health care rich or poor everyone is treated the same. No one is left without
The cost of living truly IS higher in Australia than it is in the States. I have several $50 weekly menu plans on the website where I show what I fed my family for no more than $50 a week. You might find them helpful. Here’s a link to find them all: https://underthemedian.com/category/50-menu/
Thanks for the recipes. I’m going to try lentils. For your sloppy joes or most things, what color of lentils do you use?
Brown lentils. They are the more common kind.
Your title is the key to another way of “saving” money.
Each night when I come home I empty the small change from my pocket(s) and wallet. I put them into a “piggie bank”.
At the end of a year I had several hundred dollars.
Granted it is a cheat, not a real saving, just a “hidden” savings account. But, at the end of the year you do have a small bag of money to spend.
The hardest part is counting it all up. Then you have to take it to the bank. Most stores refuse to take bags of small change.
Yay! I’m so glad you got my play on words in the title. You’re right. I had a friend who emptied his pockets of change every night for several months when he wanted to save up to pay cash for something. He proved to himself that he really DID have to money, it was a matter of “small change”.
We already do 4 of the 5 thanks to you and Larry. Still eating meat so not saving as much there BUT we always shop sales for meat 🙂 Thank you so much for helping us try to live a good frugal life.
Sondra, it sounds like you have a really good system in place for spending less money. Well done!
I love your blog and YouTube channel. I listen to you on Youtube as I commute 45 min each way. I’ll set up a series of your videos to play ( safety first) so that I focus on driving while I listen. Sometimes, I set it up to play the same video on. This way I
reinforce the points I’m wanting to learn. On average, I play 25-30 videos a week. Thank you for making my commute so educational.
Wendy in Alabama
P.S. I’m currently shopping for new tires. I’ve been educating myself for years regarding smart tire purchases. A suggestion would be to have Under the Median do a segment on wise tire shopping to assist others in making wise tire purchases.
Wow! We’re excited to be making your commute with you every day. We need tires, too. We’ve just started looking and the ones we want are on back order. Very frustrating.