Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that average household spending in America is about $57,000 a year. And that’s on an average $74,664 income. Yikes!

Granted, some of these expenses were attributed to things like insurance and Social Security that we don’t have much control over. But those were far from the largest expenses.

You might wonder why I’m telling you this. Well, if you’re here, it’s probably because you’re ready to get your finances under control, am I right? And I’m here to tell you that saving money doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, we’ve got a few genius little hacks that will make tightening the budget hardly noticeable. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned. Or at least, that’s what my grandma always said!

Hack #1: Play the Restaurant Coupon Game

It might surprise you to know that the average American family spends over $3,000 a year on eating out alone. It surprised me! That is, until I took a look at my own bank statement (gulp). This accounts for the largest part of controllable expenses for most families, but it can actually be one of the easiest to cut back on.

So, here’s the hack – make a decision to eat out no more than twice per week, and only at restaurants you can find coupons for. This is great for families because you can create a competition out of it. Whoever finds the best coupon gets to pick the restaurant (obviously the restaurant they found the coupon for). Or you can come up with some other prizes, like swapping chores.

It sounds hard, but if you’re careful to plan all your meals at home over the weekend, it will become much easier than you think. And your family will soon come to love the restaurant coupon game.

Hack #2: Meal Plan Like a Ninja

Seriously, you will be shocked by how much money you save when you actually sit down and make a meal plan every week before you shop. The Penny Hoarder has a great article here about how to make one that you will actually stick to. And that really is key. If you can find an app or printable that you like using, you will be more likely to stay with it.

Hack #3: Become the Slow Cooker Queen

If you will learn to throw your meals in your crockpot every morning, you will save loads of cash. Seriously! Think about how often you decide to swing by McDonald’s on your way home instead of preparing the meal you had planned because you’re just short on time. There is definitely no shortage of recipes available online for this and in fact, there’s a whole slew of slow cooker freezer meals you can prepare ahead of time and just throw them in before you head out the door.

Hack #4: Negotiate Your Bills

Cell phone and cable companies have a ton of competition. For this reason, it’s actually not too difficult to get better rates on both. Most of the time, if you will call and tell them you’re thinking about switching to a competitor, they’ll come back with a better deal. You can even hire an expert to negotiate for you.

Hack #5 Shop with Discounted Gift Cards

Sites like Gift Card Granny and Card Pool buy, sell and trade gift cards and offer them at discounted rates. You can often get huge discounts from your favorite establishments, but even 3% is better than nothing.

Hack #6: Save the Softener

Most of us use costly fabric softener in our laundry to reduce static, but did you know you can do the same thing with a ball of aluminum foil? Yep, just wad up some foil and throw it in the dryer with every single load.

But if you enjoy the smell you get from the softener, buy the liquid and pour a little of it on a washcloth. That cloth can be used in 4 to 5 loads, making it possible to use very few bottles per year.

Hack #6: Watch Free Movies

No, I’m not talking about the movies showing for free on your network channels. I’m talking about your local library. Many people don’t realize that their local library houses sometimes hundreds of movies you can check out for free. People donate movies all the time, so there are often many great ones that are new. Some libraries even have games.

Hack #7: Listen to Free Audio Books

Never pay for an audio book again. Apps like Overdrive connect with your local library to loan audiobooks any time you want.

Hack #8: Designate No-Spend Days

Make a decision to designate one day a week as a “no-spend” day. That means no one in the family spends a single cent from the family budget. You’ll be amazed at how resourceful you can become when you don’t have any other option.

Hack #9: Filter Your Own Water

If you just can’t drink your tap water, buy an inexpensive pitcher that filters it for you. This little trick alone will save you hundreds of dollars a year on bottled water.

Hack #10: Hustle on the Side

It may not sound like much of a hack, but earning a little extra cash on the side can make budgeting and saving a whole lot easier. During my slimmest years, I made it a point to only go out to eat or buy clothing when I could make the extra money from selling something or earning it online.

Talk about motivation!

Conclusion

Saving money doesn’t have to be as hard as we sometimes try to make it. I’ll bet if you implement even a couple of these hacks, you’ll be surprised at how much you saved and how effortless it seems.

What’s your best money-saving hack?

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