How to Save Money – 28 Ways to Save Money (2020)

how to save money fastI’ve written about my saving strategies and frugal living before, but I’ve decided to write an updated post in a numbered list format on how to save money and the various ways to save money on a day to day basis.  This post was inspired by similar posts on other blogs like CashMoneyLife.

Included below are 25 28 ways that I save money:

  1. I use a points or a cash back based credit card that gives me the best return for my spending.  Here’s a post and picture of what’s in my wallet.
  2. I arrange my banking so that I don’t pay any fees and use a discount brokerage that minimizes my trading expenses.  The current favorite of Million Dollar Journey readers for a low cost, no frills discount brokerage is Questrade (I have a TFSA and RRSP with them).
  3. When buying consumer items, I try to separate my “needs” and my “wants”.
  4. When I find something that I “need”, I do comparison shopping or wait until it goes on sale.  If I find the item online, I check Ebates or Great Canadian Rebates or for additional cash back opportunities.
  5. I try to watch movies at home (or use Netflix) instead of going to the movie theatre.  However, since we enjoy the theatre, we still visit the movies on occasion.  Here is how to maximize Scene points.
  6. When making a big purchase, like a mortgage or a vehicle, I negotiate and shop around for the best rate.  This will save you thousands in the long run.
  7. I drive with gas efficiency in mind.
  8. In addition to reducing trading fees, I keep our ETF/mutual fund management expense ratios (MER) as low as possible by using indexed ETFs/mutual funds.
  9. I try to save energy around the house with CFL’s, programmable thermostats and proper insulation.
  10. We do laundry once / week (we do more now because of kids, but try to be as efficient as possible).
  11. I brown bag my lunch to work.
  12. I prepare my lunches in bulk and store them in individual plastic/glass containers.
  13. I cook at home whenever possible.
  14. I perk my own coffee (or drink the coffee at work).
  15. This is more of a healthy lifestyle choice, but I don’t smoke, do drugs, and minimize drinking.
  16. I use basic cable instead of the fancy cable packages.
  17. I combine my cable/internet/telephone with the same provider to take advantage of the discounts available.
  18. I use term insurance instead of universal life or whole life insurance.
  19. As with anything else, I shop around for my insurance products.
  20. I pay a higher deductible on insurance products to reduce the premiums.
  21. I buy with quality in mind in the expectation that it will last a long time.
  22. To please my reading habit, I go to the library (or get publishers to send me free books for review) :)
  23. I make my deposits into my high interest rate savings account and RRSP automatically on a bi-weekly basis.  Basically when I get my paycheck.
  24. When purchasing a home, I save for a large down payment to reduce mortgage insurance fees (CMHC).
  25. I buy clothes when they wear out, not when they go out of style.
  26. I track my spending/budget with Excel or (recommend not connecting your bank account, only credit cards).
  27. When my income increases, I aim to keep lifestyle inflation at bay.  Basically, I bank my raises.
  28. To save money on car rentals, I watch the fluctuating prices on Expedia and when a low price shows up, I bid slightly lower on Priceline.

What are some ways that you save money? Do you follow the frugal living lifestyle?


FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.
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The Financial Blogger
12 years ago

I try to stop my dishwasher once the rinse stage is over. I do not need the machine to dry dishes, you can simply open the door and wait 30 minutes.

I take the bus and the metro to go to work. I save about 250$ a month like that!

BTW, forget about #3 when you have kid. We do laundry everyday and it is not enough ;-)

12 years ago

Great tips! I like having publishers send me free books to review as well. Of course, I always give them away afterward. ;)

canadian dollars
12 years ago

Funny. #11 reads like you don’t do drugs (too much)! hehe

12 years ago

FT, Just wondering why you need any life insurance when you don’t have any children and your rate of savings is so high? Do either you or your wife make significantly more than the other does?

My husband and I have basic (1.5 times salary) term insurance with our companies but have never added anything beyond that. Of course, if we had children we would definitely add some.

Frugal Geek
12 years ago

Make mortgage lump sum payments every time you feel you can do it (even as little as $100). On early stages it will save double.

12 years ago

I use solar lights at night in my apartment. They are for areas where I do not need too much lighting, like when I get up to use the bathroom at night. The lights charge during the day and they give lots of light at night.

If you have children you can use them as night lights and this saves money.

12 years ago

As an expansion on number 9, I never buy anything on first sight (other then the necessities). I go home and think about it before I buy.

Smart Spending
12 years ago

Tricks of the car-selling trade…

Beware the car salesman who acts as if he’s on your side. In fact, beware all car salespeople. Million Dollar Journey alerts us to an article called “Confessions of a car salesman” at, a Web site that’s an excellent resource if you’re …

12 years ago

If you buy mutual funds (and I know some of you don’t like them) only buy high quality, low MER, no load funds…this will save you thousands over the years in management fees…

12 years ago

I don’t carry cash. I find when I don’t have money in my pocket I’m less likely to by anything on impulse.

12 years ago

I do the majority of the points you listed.

I also never carry cash around – definitely saves the impulse purchase and forces you to use the CC – which gets you more loyalty points (not carrying a balance, obviously).

I turn the car off at longer lights and train crossings. If you take the same route to work everyday, it should take 2 weeks or so to figure out how long certain red lights are. For new cars, any pause longer than 10secs is wasting gas to idle. For older cars, it can be as high as 30 secs (most lights are longer than this). And yes, starters can handle the extra starts – in Germany, the law says you have to shut off your car at red lights and when not moving.

12 years ago

As TFB said, I stop the dishwasher short of the dry cycle. I also use the light wash mode. Our dishwasher’s regular mode is a 2 wash and 3 rinse. The light wash is 1 and 2.
Mike, I agree, cash in the wallet quickly finds it’s way into cash registers.
I get my books from the library like you mentioned, buy as for number 12……..blasphemy! lol
We both like some of the “premium” channels, A and E, discovery and of course the Golf channel.

I never gave solar lights much thought lulugal, thanks for that one.

12 years ago

I have linked to your list and if you could be so kind as to change your link to me to –
Thank you

Gates VP
12 years ago

Hey FT, I like the comments about not carrying cash, but I find them funny b/c I do the exact opposite and so does my fiancé.

I find that spending money on the CC is too easy, instead I just pull out cash for the period (week or two) as my “allowance” and then just “let it ride”. The rest of my expenses are basically preset, all of the bills except rent come in on the CC, and we really haven’t made any significant purchases in the last few months.

In our case, the logic ends up simply being the opposite: it’s too easy to generate a CC balance that you can’t pay down, so budget for essentials on the CC and pay for the rest in cash.

And oddly, cash doesn’t burn a hole in my pocket, it’s quite the opposite, I tend to get the “delayed gratification” thing with cash. If I have cash, I’ll look ahead in the week and ask myself if there isn’t something that I want more later on :)

So for readers out there… it can definitely work both ways, just “know thyself” first.

12 years ago

Interesting view on carrying cash. Like you say, “know thyself”. My issue with the ‘allowance’ model is that every day the cash is in your pocket is a day it is not compounding interest.

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12 years ago

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Blain Reinkensmeyer
12 years ago

Stumbled, awesome post FT!

12 years ago

My husband and I follow the same principle on cash as Gates does.

Mike, you make a good point about compounding interest but for us, the money would be in a non-interest bearing chequing account anyway.

thrifty momma
12 years ago

Here are a way of the ways I have saved:

1. I keep an eye on the local classifieds for sale and for free sections. I got a huge organizational unit for my toddler’s room with just a few scratches on it, painted it a beautiful blue to remind him of the sky, and it was better than anything I could have spent hundreds on.

2. We had to leave the vehicle we had just paid off when we moved across the country, so this year we picked up a thousand dollar vehicle in a moving. It is dependable, and has enough room in it to pick up furniture I’ve found in the classifieds. With the money we are saving on payments we are able to set up house.

3. I love to decorate and try to get the best bang for the buck with most things, but paint colours are one of the best tricks. Cultivate good taste and be creative and you will never be bored, and be able to live in high style on a very small budget. One of my friends used to shop yard sales every weekend and her apartment was so beautiful and unique. Her rule was to never pay more than five dollars for anything. For some this could backfire. It’s not a deal if you buy things you don’t want, need or really love. One lady I knew used to collect multiples of things that were never used.

4. I look for quality that will last. I’d rather have one thing that will last 20 years that I adore (eg. we waited a year to get a really good mattress) than something I don’t like that will be broken in two.

5. I tend to look for classic pieces of clothes and often in black, or white that are easy to mix and match and that won’t go out of style. I’ve stopped doing the value village things there, as I found I tended to not wear many of the “deals” I was picking up. They say most people only wear ten percent of their wardrobe so why bother to buy 90 percent you won’t wear?

6. I try to get things than will pay for themselves. Right now I’m thinking an electric fireplace will not only be cosy but balance the heat in the house. We tend to spend the most time in the coolest room. I picked up a high end dishwasher that works perfectly at less than half price in a moving sale… they say you could spend four years of your life hand washing dishes… that’s four years that I could put to much more productive use, and work on my at home business. Just heard the stat that a fully loaded dishwasher is more cost effective than hand washing and I think I believe it. I try to run it only every second or third day, and it keeps clutter down in the meantime. It’s a more zen space to be productive in.

7. I’ve made christmas gifts. Last year it was free planners from, and this year it will be handmade photo/scrap books full of pictures of the children for grandmothers and aunties. Other years I’ve done paintings, or painted little boxes. The year I bottled grape jelly made from the concord grapes in our garden backfired in terms of savings because they cost so much to ship, but it was a lesson learnt.

8. I save a fortune in my contacts by ordering from, less than half of the costs from an eye doctor and I don’t have to pay for an annual eye exam. They ship to the door free of cost for bulk orders. I keep an eye out for companies that will ship for free, and there are a few.

9. I comparison shop, wait for sales and read many reviews, so I don’t waste money on something that will disappoint or not measure up.

10. I prefer hand me downs when it comes to baby’s and toddlers clothing. Little ones grow so fast they barely have a chance to wear things out, and it is much healthier without all the toxins from dies and chemicals in new fabrics.

11. I love clean air and life, so I have never smoked and we grow plants to help clean the air. I read a review and found out one of the honeywell hepa air cleaner was the best value for money… so I grabbed one the weekend it went on sale for the baby’s room.

12. I nursed my children. It saved thousands in formula, and if you believe the studies also in short and long term medical costs… there has barely been a sniffle. Plus I got to cuddle my baby a lot.

13. My blogger husband gets a lot of books and office supplies to review. He even put up a wish list and the books have been arriving at our door almost twice a week for over a year. Although I have to wonder when people send things things like wobble headed dolls….

14. I’m sure there are places we could do better… and things we have to work on. I’m going to get more small towels to save on wash. (It is hard to keep it down with children, but I try my best and keep thinking it could add up to the cost of their college fund.) I’ll also feel better about turning down the heat as they get older… I try to think of needs over wants (this can be a matter for debate in a marriage), but if something silly like a beautiful throw pillow (i.e. comfy art) give joy, inspiration and energy every time you look at it then it may be good value for money. This is when I remind my husband how much we saved getting slipcovers instead of new furniture (-: .

Gates VP
12 years ago

Yeah Mike, I’m with Telly here, having $200 “not generating interest” for two weeks doesn’t seem really severe to me. I figure I sock away $3 to $5 in change every time I pull out $200, which should make up for the lost 15 cents of interest :)

12 years ago

Hey Gates and Telly, I realize that the interest is not much money but every bit counts. The most important thing is to do what works for you. I find that I spend less when I buy everything on my credit card (and acumualte rewards) while my money is generating passive income. At the end of the month I have a bit of interest and a bunch of reward points. If you buy more on your CC then with cash then it is not a good plan for you.

Gates VP
12 years ago

Hey FT, when you write the book, this will need to a “Point / Counterpoint” style of page with a left / right split.

Why you want to buy everything in cash.
With a big brown border around the page.

Why you want to buy everything on credit card.
With a big green border around the page.

Man, only 198 pages left :)

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12 years ago

Most of the things you do is pretty standard. But I have to say a few of your items caused me to cringe. Notably things like brown bagging your lunch, not going to movies, and not getting any “fancy” cable. There are certain little pleasures in life that are CHEAP. These are some of them. If I ever got into a position where I didn’t go out and enjoy a night at the movies just to save money I hope someone would hit me over the head. Life is short, enjoy it. Enjoying life and smart budgeting can easily go hand in hand, no need to live like a miser.

just learnin'
12 years ago

Don’t be so tough WhoaNelly. Sometimes cuddling on the couch to watch a movie is better. We hardly ever go out to dinner, because my hubbie is a better cook than we can find in most of the restaurants around. And sometimes brown bagging can just taste better. (-: There’s something to be said for saving everyday and splurging once in a blue moon.

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12 years ago

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Leading Edge Boomer
12 years ago

Well I am already retired so I have plenty of time to take my time doing shopping, to research products and cross-shop to get the best value. Not everyone with a job and family can do this to the same extent due to time constraints.
A friend and I sometimes go the movies, at St Laurent Shopping Center in Ottawa where movies are $3 before six pm.
I use a half hour of my day entering online contests and doing surveys. I have not won anything big YET but win a number of small prizes. Examples in 2007 are— $200 in Loblaw gift cerificates, a $50 Petro-can card, two tickets to an Ottawa Senators game ($260)and several other small amounts of money or merchandise .

12 years ago

Do you ever splurge? If not, how do you keep your discipline. I bring my lunch to work everyday, but about once a month I surprise myself with a very expensive restaurant visit. It’s like I’m saving money for the restaurant and not my self.

12 years ago

A good money-saving technique that was featured on CBC’s MarketPlace this week is to cancel any “credit insurance” that you might have via your bank – this insurance is sometimes called “mortgage insurance” or “balance protection”.

As MarketPlace noted, the banks love selling these “insurance” packages, because there is very little chance that they will ever pay out, and even if something bad happens, there’s a good chance that they won’t pay out then either. Save your money, get a good standard term life insurance policy, and avoid padding the bank’s profits.

These policies are remarkably common – if you have a mortgage or a line of credit through a major bank, the chances are quite good that you have this insurance unless you specifically declined it.

Cancelling this insurance when we switched our mortgage saved us $16 per month. Not huge cash, but enough to pay for a few lunches.

12 years ago

the thing about bank insurance policies is they only pay the bank and they only pay the amount outstanding. if you compare it to term insurance of comparable monthly payments, you’d be much further ahead with term.

mortgage insurance for high LTV mortgages are mandatory i think. and you never get that money back.

does anyone have disability insurance on your mortgage? i know there is some payments through work, but it’s not very much.

12 years ago

Noblea: I think you’re confusing CMHC mortgage insurance with “mortgage life insurance”. The former is mandatory, the latter is not. The former protects the bank if you default on the mortgage, while the latter (in theory) pays off the mortgage if you die during the mortgage term.

As a rule, you’re better going through an independent insurance broker to get life/disability insurance rather than going for the “convenience” of getting it through a bank. There’s no sense paying extra for the “convenience” if you’re paying more for a substandard product.

Term Life Online
12 years ago

I agree with you on #15 about using term life insurance instead of whole life or universal.

In the right situation, term life insurance may be more affordable, and provide a greater amount of protection.

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Kevin A
12 years ago

Just read through everyone’s comments and I have only a few things to add.

You can save a fortune on groceries! Watch the adds and only go to 1 or 2 different stores when they are on the way somewhere else. No extra trips. For true sale items buy extra (not just 1 weeks worth). Always buy the larger box or bag. Cut back on pop buy punch or coolaid especially if you have kids!

If you are not in a contract get the monitoring centre $9.99/ mo. vs $20 or $25 for others.

If you have or need a cell phone but don’t use it much go with pay as you go not a contract/ plan. You may pay $100 for the phone upfront but in the longterm (usually 3 year contract) you will save a bundle paying only $10 a month with Rogers or Fido.

Definately change to CFC light bulbs. One room that is often forgotten is the bathroom where most of us have 4 to 6 bulbs each 40-60 watts each! If you have kids they tend to leave the lights on (often).

Another little trick is to turn your central air unit off at the fuse box (in the winter). This can save over $25.00 over the course of the winter and you won’t even notice.
Just don’t forget to turn it back on.

Use timers for outdoor lights – works for both security and convenience. That way you do not forget to turn them off in the day like my neighbor often does. Works very well for Christmas lights too. Why have them on at 2:00 in the morning when no one will see them or care anyway.

Get rid of your bar fridge. It really is a power hog and oftentimes is mostly empty anyways. If you have a party get some ice chests/ coolers and ice. Use you coldroom in the winter (works great too).

Get rid of your gas guzzler! I had a van prior to the price of gas hitting the $100 barrel mark and switched to a small sub-compact car (wagon) and I have no regrets.
You may fill up with the same frequency but I would rather fill my tank with $45 than $65-85 or more for many large vans and trucks. My wife bought a new car last year and was considering an SUV before her new job. Well this was before the price spiked again and she NOW drives alot now for her job. Needless to say I carefully steered her into a smaller vehicle than she originally wanted but now she thanks me every day!

Take advantage of bundling if you are happy with your provider and don’t feel the need to switch. You can save up to 15% a month.

Use Air Miles or Scene Card programs and save up to go to the movies – why pay extra?

Use gas credit cards like Petro Canada Petro points and save 2 cents/litre as long as you are paying it off every month.

Hopefully my suggetions may help someone out there.

Kevin A

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12 years ago

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Term Insurance Pro
12 years ago

I like number 15. Most people don’t realize how inexpensive term insurance can be these days. The prices have consistently gone done for the last few decades, and chances are they will continue to do so. This is because of the competitive landscape among the different life insurance companies, and also because life expectancy continues to increase. If you want to quickly see how much term insurance would cost for you, I suggest using a term insurance comparison site like They show all of the top life insurance companies side by side. It’s interesting how much prices can vary from company to company.

12 years ago

I bought my first house a 8 months ago and I’m also supporting my girlfriend in her 6th year of university and I’m only 23… so as you can imaigne money is tight.

These are a few things that work for me:

Buy when things are on sale or clearance. Seasonal items can often be bought at a fraction of the cost at the end of the season. A lot of items can be bought at a dollar or bargin store cheaper then at walmart or other big stores. Some items I regulrarly buy sell for $3-5 at for exameple at walmart but can be bought for $1 and sometimes its better quaility. We seem to have good dollar and bargin stores in Ont. Cananada, not to sure how it is in the states though. When shopping for food I go early in the day and get all my fruits and produce that have been marked down. Also the local grocery stores puts 30-60% off the meat the day before or the day it expires. I get what I can and freeze it for the future, I’ve yet to have a bad meal from it. Also I look at my recepit when I get home and look at the items that cost the most, and try and find them cheaper or else where nex round. I sell things I am never going to use again on local classifieds. I also purchase many items from classifieds at a fraction of the retail cost. I use CFL and LED lights around the house. You can get LED night lights at walmart that only use 0.3W and will light up a bathroom, hallway, stairwell, or a kids bedroom nicely during the night and they turn off during the day with a sensor. Also unplug things like cell phone chargers, power adapeters etc that are not being used. They consume energy even when things are not plugged into them. If you don’t commute and don’t have to get gas every few days, only get it when its low. Switch your bbq from propane to natural gas if you can. I’m sure I am forgetting tons of things I do and don’t eve think about, I’ll post again as I think of them.

12 years ago

Re: #25 Okay, so how do you bank so that you have zero banking fees? We pay $14. per month (which is now going down to $11.) for a basic chequing account. Perhaps I misread or misunderstood, but I know of no bank which will handle your money without getting something in the process. I mean, that is their business, right?

Alexandre C
1 year ago
Reply to  Karen

You can save fees on banking by using banks that charge ZERO fees. Banks such as Tangerine (formerly ING) or Simplii (formerly PC Bank). I managed to negotiate 2.5% interest on my wife’s savings account and 3.0% on my own. We also park money in 3.1%, 1 year GICs. I invest money in LOW cost ways such as using Wealthsimple and using QuestTrade to buy ultra-low cost ETFs.

I *refuse* to pay fees for using a bank. They’re making enough from the money I have in my savings accounts (that’s where I hold my spending cash).

On pay day, 40% of my income is diverted to investments; so if my wife’s. We spend every penny of the rest; vacation, new couch, replace the broken TV etc. Mind you, I spent a year shopping for the couch. I managed to find the PERFECT couch for $900.00. It was in the basement corner, behind a support beam, discounted for sale 3 times over. It was exactly what we were looking for to boot! That 1 year of shopping saved me over $2000.00. I also managed to negotiate the delivery from 60.00 to 40.00 ( I live to far for free delivery).

Anyhow… What I really wanted to say was that you CAN bank 100% free of fees. I recommend Tangerine. I also use their cashback credit card and get 2% cash back on most things I buy, .5% on the rest. It makes me an extra 260.00 a year. :)

12 years ago

Karen: Banks make money primarily by borrowing money from people and lending it out to other people. They pay lower rates of interest on the money borrowed, and charge higher rates of interest on the money lent out. The difference in the interest rates provides the bank with quite a bit of revenue.

Money borrowed by banks = chequing and savings accounts.
Money lent by banks = loans, mortgages, lines of credit

The money banks earn from service charges and fees are just gravy for the banks, and some banks have figured out how to cut their costs and charge no fees. A couple of examples are ING and PC Financial, but there are others.

There are some drawbacks to these accounts (they may have fewer features, or have fewer ATM machines in their networks), but the main advantage is that they don’t charge monthly fees. They also tend to pay more interest than the “big bank” accounts.

Gates VP
12 years ago

Hey Karen;

Pretty much every major Canadian bank account will give you free banking if you keep some average/minimum amount in each account. Typically for a chequing account, keeping ~$1000 in the account will get you free banking.

Honestly, making money off of fees is just one part of the banking business. They make tons of money off of providing loans using the money you give them. If I had to pick one, I would say that making money off loans is really their business and bank fees are a “just because”.

If you live in the US (like I’m doing right now), free checking accounts are everywhere: Bank of America, WaMu and tons of others.

12 years ago

never give to charity, since charity begins at home.

ways to beat paying any user fees.

always try to get back any taxes that you’ve paid during the year

still trying to master getting all of the running expenses of the home (heat, hydro, property taxes) back 100%

Life insurance discussed on here, should have its own article discussion thread, there are things you can do for those that like the idea of life insurance, whole (paid up), term, universal life etc.

cheap reliable, non gas guslers vehicles, with only third party insurance.

dont eat out, no take out either, brown bag lunches

Energy savings in the home, hydro and timers, thermostat timers, recycle water for toilets and clothes washing

12 years ago

I don’t know about all of the things that have been mentioned (like life insurance or mortgages) cuz I’m not old enough to move out, but here’s a few of the things my family does:

-wash laundry in cold water; if it’s nice outside, hang clothes out to dry. handwash small things (like undies) and hang them over a towel rack. this will cut down on what you’re throwing into the washing machine.
-don’t flush the toilet every time you pee (but make sure you do before company comes over!)
-drink tap water instead of buying bottles
-wear sweaters instead of turning up the heat
-canned fruit makes a great snack in the winter, and it’s cheaper than buying fresh fruit
-when you make something like soup or rice, make extra. put enough for one persons meal into a container, and put it in the freezer. this is great for my sister and i, because if we’re going to work or something and mom won’t have dinner ready, we just grab a container and microwave it. this is way cheaper than it would be to turn on the stove and make the same meal.
-clip coupons!
-if you’re going to a movie, go on a cheap night (like toonie tuesdays). don’t buy food from the concession either – pack some! large purses are GREAT for this! ;)
-my mom and I are huge fans of tea, and we go through alot of it. to save on tea bags, we use one for two cups. (if this doesn’t work, use two used ones together. example, use tea bag A for one cup. later use tea bag B. they’ve each been used once. now instead of using a third tea bag for a third cup, put tea bag A and B together – sometimes it needs to steep for a while).
-hand-me-downs are VERY popular in my family. not just my immediate family either. my cousins and my sister and i routinely go through our closets and take out what we don’t wear. everything gets rotated through all of us – take what you want, and then pass the bag onto someone else. this way it’s like getting new clothes without spending money.
-unplug things (like lamps or a stereo) when they are not being used.
-only turn a light on if you really need it. i don’t even turn the kitchen or bathroom light on if i get up in the night, because i know my house well enough.
-wear jeans and sweaters a couple days before throwing them in the laundry.
-shop in thrift stores! some people are against this, but at least take a look. sometimes you can find something really nice for really cheap.

I’m sure there’s more but that’s all I’ve got right now. Hope these help somebody!