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15 Small Ways You Could Save Money in 2023

Your guide to nickel-and-diming your way out of debt

Photo montage of a firefighter putting out a nicker that is on fire
Doug Chayka

I got into an old-fashioned standoff with my 12-year-old last week over a dollar. He wanted to spend it, just for the adrenaline rush. I argued that if he put it in his piggy bank, he could save for something big, something he actually wants or needs.

“It’s just a dollar,” he protested. “It won't make any difference.”

That same day, my husband and I had an emergency meeting about our finances. Where was all our income going? And how had we not managed to save a dime in years?

I wasn’t following the same financial lesson I’d given my own kid. As adults, we too often look to big fixes to save us. A tax refund! A lottery ticket! A “loan” from our parents! We don’t look for small savings, like the dollar burning a hole in my son’s pocket.

If you’re looking to make a change in 2023, here are 15 small ways you could save money.

Check gas prices by phone. Gas costs too much. You can either complain about it or be a hunter-gatherer. Free apps such as GasBuddy, Geico, WEX Connect and Waze will help you find the best deals, which might be just a few blocks away.

Install motion detectors. Don’t be the dad who storms from room to room, angrily turning off lights. Let motion sensors do the work for you. They can be connected to lights, fans or any other electrical device, programmed to turn off when you leave.

Unplug everything. Power consumed by products that are plugged in but not in use can account for up to 10% of your home’s energy use. Kimberly Palmer, a spokesperson with personal finance website Nerdwallet, suggests using a power strip or a Wi-Fi-enabled strip you can turn off with your phone, so you can disconnect multiple plugs at once.

Ask for lower credit card fees. No, seriously. Last year, people who asked their credit card companies for a reduction on annual fees had a 9-in-10 chance of success, according to a LendingTree study. You could even get late payment fees waived.

Stay away from the crowds. You could save about 20% on drinks and 35% on food by eating at restaurants during their happy hour rather than peak dinner hours. Track down the early-dining discounts with apps such as Checkle and AppyHour. Use this same strategy for vacations, traveling off-season when everybody else is staying home. You could save hundreds in hotel stays during nonpeak months.

Ask for generic prescriptions. The cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor costs $430 for 30 10-mg tablets. Atorvastatin, the generic version of the exact same drug, costs $128 for the same dosage (or as low as $4 with a coupon).

Order your groceries online. It could help you “stick to your list and avoid tempting food displays that lead to unnecessary purchases,” says Andrea Woroch, a financial advisor. Sure, there are delivery fees — most delivery services cost about $10 a month — but you’re saving money and time. Look for coupons at sites such as CouponFollow.com to find deals including $20 off your first order at Vons, 15 percent off Kroger grocery shipments and $10 off your first delivery of $20 at Instacart

Automate your comparison shopping. Nobody has the free time to check every store to find the best deal. Palmer recommends online tools PriceBlink, InvisibleHand and Ibotta to do the heavy lifting, finding where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. You can also use the apps to find coupon codes to lower your price even further.

Keep your cash working. Inflation typically brings increased interest rates, a fact you can use to your advantage. Don’t let cash pile up in a no-interest checking account. Transfer your bill-paying money into a checking account that pays interest. Then put money that you may need in the next few months into a savings account or money market account.

Have an “eat me first” spot in your fridge. Americans throw away 30 to 40 percent of their food. Jerusha Klemperer, director of the sustainable food organization Foodprint, suggests designating a shelf or bin in your fridge bowl for all the leftovers that should get priority over items that’ll last longer than the next few days.

Threaten to leave your cable or internet provider. We’re not saying be a jerk about it. But a friendly reminder that your customer loyalty isn’t implied can go a long way. When you call, ask for the “loyalty” or “retention” department, says Barry Gross, founder and president of BillCutterz. “Those workers have more freedom to give you a sizable discount — as much as $30 to $75 off your monthly bill — than the people in the regular customer service department.”

Get a free haircut. If you’re willing to let a student practice on you, sign up to be a hair model at SalonApprentice.com. The haircut is free, “you just have to pay the tip,” says Marilyn Anderson, author of How to Live Like a Millionaire When You’re a Million Short. If you want a barber with a bit more experience, many salons have happy hour specials, from New York to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Score refurbished tech. It’s like getting a used car but for computers and phones. And you’re not buying from some sketchy dude online, who may have infected his old tech with God knows what. Go straight to the top manufacturers such as Apple, Bose, and Samsung, which sell “refurbished” products through their websites.

Cover your windows. Homes lose about 30% of heating energy through their windows in the winter, and 76% of sunlight that falls on double-pane windows becomes heat in the summer. Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews. recommends installing blackout curtains. “Leave them closed in the summer to block the sun, but open them in the winter during the day to let it in. Then close them to trap that heat in your house at night.”

Follow the $1 Rule. This savings strategy — coined by Bernadette Joy, founder of Crush Your Money Goals — gets you to consider how often you’ll actually use something before buying it. Would this new purchase pay for itself if you earned $1 or less for each use? Before buying a $40 pair of sneakers, Joy says, “I calculated that I would probably wear them once a week for a year, or at least 52 times.” It's also useful, she says, in making large purchases such as technology or furniture.

[Additional reporting by Beth Braverman and David Schiff]