17 Sneaky Savings Strategies

by Ron Haynes

Saving money is a worthless endeavor if you don’t really “save” it. Too many times, I have personally started doing frugal activities and later noticed that somehow the savings vanished. I never really saved any significant amount of money because the money just got absorbed by something else. I’ve had to “start saving my savings” to really make a difference.

Maybe you need to trick yourself into saving money. Maybe you’re one who sets a clock 10 minutes fast just so you can arrive “on time.” If this describes you, or if you’ve discovered that your savings seem to disappear like mine, you’ll love these sneaky savings strategies. How you use the money is up to you, but I would suggest:

Dangling $20If you’re interested in tricking yourself into saving money, here are 17 specific strategies (actually they’re tactics but I love alliteration), to save money. The big picture is avoid spending your savings on frivolous stuff that you really don’t need!

1. Borrow and save. Every time you get a book from the library, deposit half the cost of the book in a high yield savings account.

2. Send yourself a bill for savings.
People give high priority to printed bills so think of your savings as a bill that simply MUST be paid. You have no choice in the matter. Period.

3. Love those singles. When you leave the house every day, carry only five dollar bills and put all your ones into a savings “jar” when you get home. Every Friday, deposit the entire amount into a savings account … and don’t count it until you’re already at the bank. Then transfer it to a high yield account such as those at Ally Bank.

4. Your own restaurant. Learn to fix your favorite restaurant meals at home and save the cost difference. If a family of 5 eats out once per week, they can easily save $150 per month, plus making your own southwestern egg rolls is a lot of fun!

5. Your own tip jar. If you go out to eat, tip yourself the same amount as you tip your waiter.

6. Make it an even amount. Round up all your purchases to the next $5 or $10 (you pick) and save the difference.

7. Have you just paid off a bill? Save the same amount you were paying (unless you’re applying that money to another bill).

8. Join the club. Do you shop at a store that requires you to join their “savings” club? Deposit that saved amount (usually at the bottom of your receipt) into your savings account when you get home.

9. Get an ROI on that movie.
When you return a movie (hopefully on time), pay yourself the late fee.

10. Charge your own admission.
If you rent movies from an online movie service or from Redbox (and who doesn’t these days?), pay yourself $2 for every movie you watch.

11. Eat healthier AND save money. Forgo dessert when you eat out and save the amount it would have cost. Double the benefit!

12. Gift yourself the gift of less stress. Open a Christmas Club account and save a certain amount each month, even if it’s only $10. You’ll never miss it.

13. Make ‘em pay YOU. Regardless of what they sell, if you’ve switched companies for price reasons, save the difference. Think of phone companies, internet access, cell phones, your credit card, and others.

14. Can a lighter light bill mean a heavier wallet?
It can if your utility bill came in a little lighter this month. Save the difference!

15. There’s cash in that lunch box.
Brown bag your lunch at least 3 times per week and deposit the savings every Friday.

16. Own your own laundry mat. Drop a quarter into a jar every time you use your own washer or dryer.

17. Make cash rewards really work for you.
If you use a cash rewards credit card (and pay it off faithfully every month), deposit the cash rewards.


18. Use coupons? Save the amount you don’t spend.

The key is to start saving something today and you can start by saving your savings. It doesn’t have to be a set percentage, a set amount, or large sum. Even if you’re on a tight budget, these small amounts will add up over time. Saving money doesn’t have to be hard (it isn’t hard to make extra money either) but it IS important to involve your whole family. Plan a treat for everyone when you reach your savings goal, such as such as a day at the zoo, the park, or a museum.

What other sneaky methods can you think of to save money?

photo credit: quinn.anya

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Simple Sapien

Ha, that is a clever way of looking at savings! I am usually pretty good about putting away a nice amount each month, but for those who aren’t, these are great tactics. I personally use an ING Direct savings account. My motivation to put in money is to think about the interest I will be earning from it. If I have this much I will make this much, and so on. Great article!

By the way, I am one of those people who sets my clock ten minutes fast, hehe.

- Jack Rugile
Simple Sapien


#Simple Sapien→
Thanks Jack,
I’ve never been able to trick myself with the 10 minutes thing. I just compensate when I know about it!

Gracia Fraile

I love these tricks! We are already putting away in a jar all our small change, but not our Euro coins. For us this would be extremely difficult since right now we’re doing a no-spend end of the year experiment and thus counting our money to the last cent. However, I can see this becoming a future tradition in our household.


“I never really saved any significant amount of money because the money just got absorbed by something else. I’ve had to “start saving my savings” to really make a difference.”

Very true. A good friend of mine recently told me about how he redid his budget to free up a couple hundred dollars a month. After the first month of his new budget he went out and bought some new furniture. Oh well, it’s a start!


I’ve found that I fall prey to that too. It really hits me hard when I look back and think about how much I’ve wasted but I’m resolute that I’m going to change. Another thing I plan to do is save half of my next raise…no matter what.


I put my savings in a separate savings acct to prevent the moolah from being “absorbed”. These sneaky suggestions are fun. I like the library one. These days I just automatically move my money into my savings acct when I get paid. If I don’t see the money I can’t miss it. It works.


#Gracia Fraile→
Thanks for stopping by to comment Gracia!
I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Maybe after your experiment is completed you can implement some of these ideas and save even more.

Stop by and comment anytime!


Great ideas for saving a little extra money. I stumbled it for you!

Sara at On Simplicity

I like the idea of charging myself per movie–that’s definitely something I wouldn’t have thought of. I’m pretty good at sucking it up and saving, but this might be a fun way to develop an appreciation for the specific things I do that contribute to that saving (cooking at home, enjoying low-key entertainment, etc.). Very cool post, Ron!

Vir Taaj

Get an ROI on that movie. so true…

i really loved the post, Ron :)


Great article, I am implementing some of these myself. I like the idea of paying yourself when you view a film or do the laundry. Check my blog “Slowfit” for some ideas on eating healthy and saving money.

Million Dollar Journey

Great article Ron and congrats on the coverage. My “sneaky savings” tip would be to put away all the change you receive when using cash to buy things. This can end up to be quite a substantial amount by the end of the year.


#Million Dollar Journey→
You got that right. We managed to save enough over 5 years to take a trip to Disney World with the kids. Of course, we added some large amounts at times, but that small change really does add


These are some interesting little tips that don’t seem to be too frugal as well.

Thanks for the ideas


I commited to putting all “extra” money into savings. It didnt matter if it was a penny found on the ground, a tax refund, OT, or a rebate of $2.99 from some new product I tried. I keep it in a separate acct from my automatic savings. How easy is it to find a buck on the ground and just pocket it? It didnt matter the amount, it was the fact I was doing it, since for years I would claim I didnt have money to save. I still stick by this rule, years later, no matter how well I *think* I’m doing financially.


It really is a mindset isn’t it?
Thanks for sharing your experience!


I love your tricks!
The trick about keeping your watch 10 minutes fast never works for me cause in my head I know that it is not time yet… he he he
I have tutored in past years to make some extra $$ and now I refinish furniture and sometimes paint for that extra little help!
I have a piggy-bank which is made of clay and there is just one little opening for putting the money in… no opening for taking it out. You have to break it to take out all that money or you have to really shake shale shake to get “some” money out. I put all the loose change and any other money from tutoring or finishing projects in it. I always break it in December and then start all over. Last December I had $ 843.00 in it….. paid an extra 500 towards the mortgage and the left over I used to pay for a round trip to North Carolina!
Not bad…..


That is so COOL! I’m glad you liked the post and keep up YOUR good work in saving just a little here and there. It really adds up, doesn’t it?


hehe… I loved your list… actually about billing yourself for savings… we are currently saving for a downpayment in our future house and when I do the monthly budget I budget for it like it is a payment I HAVE to make and period… no trading there… other things are flexible but not that… I even have a sheet where I record the bill payments, when they are due the balance the payment that month and when and how it was paid and that savings are in that list. I changes the way you see savings… Thanks for sharing :) I am new to your blog… I will be stopping by more often :D


Thanks for stopping by and commenting! You’ll have that down payment a lot sooner with your great attitude! Keep me posted and drop back by when you get the chance. :)


Oh… another thing I wanted to share… Everyday we put our change in saving jars… at the end of the year we take them to the bank and change it and use it to buy Christmas presents :) It has worked so far… in the past years we’ve changed around $200 in average… and that’s more than enough for simple and economic presents in Christmas for everybody ;)


I actually do your number 18 suggestion and I’ve saved over 4,000 dollars since January! I somehow tricked Hubby into letting me keep whatever I started to save using coupons “just for me” so I have been thinking of what to do with the money. Saving it seems like a good idea lol. It’s amazing how much you can save by using coupons and rebates for items you get every week. I’ve come to really appreciate those little slips of paper and the amount of food we seem to have over-flowing in our refrigerator and pantry. In times like these, it is a blessing to open up those two things and see so much food that you worry how you are going to eat it all up.
We also save our dollar bills every month and deposit it in a separate ING account. I plan to use it for any Christmas gifts I haven’t gotten yet.


That is GREAT! I’m so glad it works for you and thanks for sharing your real world experience with “saving your savings.” $4,000 is a ton of money! Woo Hoo!


I just came across your blog! This is a great post!! I especially like the rounding up and the laundry ideas! Although there are many on there I think I want to try and use that to snowflake my debt :)


Glad you liked it! One I didn’t mention was to always order the free water at restaurants and pay yourself the cost of the sodas or tea. With my family of five, we saved an average of $10 every time we went out to eat. There are all sorts of ways to save money if you look for them. Thanks for commenting!


I really like the idea of putting a quarter into a jar everytime I do laundry. That’s usually not a problem when family members leave change in their pockets! lol Enjoying your blog! Thanks for the tips.


Linked over from Frugal Dad :)

I like the laundry mat idea – only I think I’ll try $1/load.
That would be the way to save up for a new washer :)

The library one would break me! With no TV, I must check out
10-15 books a week.(Speed reader) It would eat my whole paycheck! LOL!


You could always lower the amount!


This is a great post. I have the bad habit of spending that extra money I have saved on things that are completely not necessary. Again great post and much needed during these hard times!!



Hey! Your 19th tip of paying for sodas NOT drunk is genius! I have no kids yet but hopefully some day will. Giving the kids a dollar each time they opt for water with their meals or when they’re thirsty will be a great way to trick them into saving their teeth. That may not save me money on short term but I’m sure that will help reduce long term dentist’s costs. You should recommend this tip for parents!!!

Thank you!


as a former server @ applebee’s, i always had tons of $1 bills. i recommend saving singles to everyone. i put mine in a shoebox under my bed, taped closed with just a slot in the top to slide in the cash. then at christmas time i opened the box and counted up my singles and used them for gift giving. i saved about $500 in 5 months! of course, when i came home from college with a stack of 500 singles, my family was questioning my place of employment… :lol:

Frank Costello

On your “Make Them Pay You” item. ……excellent point. To expound a bit….

Go through all of your communication related bills….you would be amazed at all of the excess cash we spend needlessly…….Cable, cell phone, landline, calling directory assistance and ignoring the yellow pages…….

fred bloggs

start with automated payment for an amount you know you won’t miss – $5 a week say. after a month, add $2 – not enough to miss. after a month, add another $2. pretty fast, you’re saving money you thought you would miss, but not missing it. works for charity giving, too.

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