22 Financial Hacks to Save Money, Even on a Low Income

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).

These financial hacks to save money work even if you’re on a low income. On my journey to becoming debt-free, I had to get creative. I have personally used almost all of these tips. I hope these hacks help you!

1. Add items to cart online and then wait 24 hours

I used to work in email marketing, and trust me, most online retailers have an “abandoned cart” sequence, where they automatically email you a discount about 24 hours after you’ve added something to your cart but didn’t complete your purchase.

Here’s an example of one that happened to me yesterday! I went to buy a Pepper Bra, changed my mind, and got this email the next day:

It pays to wait!

2. Pay your car insurance premium in full

For YEARS, I was paying my car insurance month to month and didn’t realize I was missing out on savings! Auto insurance companies like GEICO will give you a discount if you pay your premium’s 6-month total upfront.

3. Take advantage of your health insurance rewards programs

I have Blue Cross Blue Shield, which offers a rewards program that reduces your monthly premium if you complete certain healthy tasks. For example, by answering some questions about my eating and exercise habits, I got $50 off my monthly bill! For my state, I can get up to $500 in rewards. Definitely check with your health insurer!

4. Plan ahead on your purchases

Your procrastination is costing you. (I speak from experience.) Here’s what I mean:

  • You wait until your last pair of contact lenses expires to order new ones—and now you need them immediately, so you pay $14.99 for expedited shipping (when it could’ve been free with regular shipping).
  • You waited until the day your auto loan payment was due to connect your bank account—and that takes 3 days to set up, so now your only option is to pay via credit card over the phone, which comes with a $5 convenience fee.
  • You missed a big sale at your grocery store on the items you buy a lot of because you didn’t read the sale paper ahead of time..

See how waiting until the last minute costs you? If you know you need a new box of contact lenses every 6 months, create an event in your online calendar for 5 and a half months from now and have it remind you to order that box. If you know you run through your favorite face wash every 3 weeks, then set a reminder to order a new one every 2 weeks. And so on and so forth. You’ll save money by planning your purchases ahead.

5. Set up automatic payments on all your bills

Of all the financial hacks to save you money, THIS one is my strongest recommendation. SET UP AUTO PAY. Look, I know some of you are like, “But I don’t know if I will enough money in my bank account to pull from when that bill is due!” I’ve been there. If that’s the case, it’s time to look at your overall financial situation and figure which bills need to be cut. You cannot afford to be living paycheck to paycheck and wondering which bills you’re going to be able to pay. Not paying a bill can RUIN your credit score and jeopardize your chance at ever owning a house or even renting one.

Once you get a handle on your financial situation, including an understanding of your cash flow, set up auto payments on your credit cards, your utility bill, your internet bill, your health insurance bill, your cell phone bill–everything.

I cannot tell you how much stress I’ve endured and how much money I’ve lost by forgetting to pay a bill. One time, my health insurance was canceled. Another time, my utility bill was sent to collections and cut my excellent credit score by 100 points!

6. Switch cell phone service carriers

Lemme tell ya right now: Switch to Visible. It’s what I personally use. Visible is basically Verizon-level cell service (I’ve never had a problem with signal) without the contracts or the high price.

Visible has:

  • Excellent service through Verizon (5G included)
  • Free calls to Canada and Mexico
  • No hidden fees

Visible saves you money in two ways:

  1. By having 4 people in your “party,” you each only pay $25/month!
  2. By referring friends, your monthly bill gets reduced to $5/month (for up to 12 months)

Want to pay only $25 for your first month of Visible cell phone service? Use my referral code: 3mqz99

7. Negotiate your medical bills

Did you know you might not have to pay the full amount of your medical bills? Read my post on how to negotiate hospital bills and the like.

8. Use a cashback rewards app like Ibotta

With a cashback app like Ibotta, you can earn money every time you go grocery shopping or book travel.

9. Get a rewards credit card like Chase Freedom

Caveat: Use your credit card responsibly and pay it off in full every month so you don’t pay interest! If you use a credit card wisely, it can SAVE you money. Chase Freedom, for example, gives you cash back on purchases and you can earn up to 5X points on qualifying purchases each quarter. Your rewards can be used to get cash or book travel. If you have regular bills you have to pay anyway (cell phone, utilities, etc.), charge it to your credit card! (And pay it off ASAP!)

10. Adjust your thermostat by 1 degree

Or more, if you can! For every 1 degree you change your thermostat, you can save 1%.

11. Drive your car more efficiently

Alright, leadfoot, it’s time to ease up on that gas pedal! Did you know you can increase your car’s fuel economy (MPGs) by NOT accelerating or decelerating too quickly?

12. Walk or bike instead of driving

Save money on maintenance and gas by using your car only when you absolutely must. If you can, walk or bike there instead!

13. Housesit

I once saved $2,400 by house sitting (instead of renting a place) for 2 months. I used TrustedHousesitters to snag a long-term house sitting gig in Connecticut as a way to pay off my debt in 2018.

14. Switch to generic

Do you know why Tylenol costs more than generic acetaminophen? It’s the brand name! Whether it’s medications or food items, buy the generic versions. They’re the same thing, but cheaper. For example, 90 tablets of Allegra costs $39.99—but for $11 LESS, you can get 150 tablets of Fexofenadine Hydrochloride (the active ingredient in Allegra).

15. Check the unit price

It always shocks me when people don’t understand that the UNIT price is the only thing that really matters when trying to save money. The unit price is the price per UNIT of the item you are buying.

For example, if one box of 12 pencils is $12, and another box of 3 pencils is $4 dollars, the unit price of the 12-pencil box is $1 and the unit price of the 3-pencil box is $1.33. So even though, at face value, the 3-pencil box is a lower price, the better deal is actually the 12 pencils (assuming you actually will use all 12 pencils).

16. Use the Honey app when shopping online

Honey is a free Chrome extension that automatically searches for and applies coupon codes for more than 30,000 sites!

17. Switch your lightbulbs to energy-efficient ones

Changing your lightbulbs to LED ones could save you $1,000 over 10 years.

18. Cut down on using your dryer

Besides your AC and heating and water heater, the dryer uses up the most electricity in your house! By line drying your clothes, you could save a lot of money over the course of a year.

19. Switch to a no-fee, no minimum balance bank

I used to bank with Wells Fargo and was dinged with all sorts of fees for not keeping enough money in the account.

In 2019, I switched to Charles Schwab bank and haven’t looked back. Schwab is a NO-FEE bank. There is NO MINIMUM balance. Schwab also refunds you ATM fees and has no foreign transaction fees.

You could save so much money by switching to a no-fee bank like Schwab!

20. Use the Earny app to get refunds for price drops and delayed Amazon deliveries

When I first started using Earny in 2017, they were able to get you cash for price protection policies from credit card companies. Basically, if I bought something with my credit card and the price dropped within a certain amount of time, Earny would send me a check! It worked great.

Now, because of changes in credit card policies, Earny has pivoted but can still save you money! They now get you refund for price drops from certain merchants (check their website to see which ones) and they get you refunds for Amazon orders that get delivered late.

21. Use the Truebill app to cancel forgotten subscriptions

Don’t you hate it when you sign up for a free trial of something and then FORGET to cancel even though you’re not using the service at all? Truebill puts an end to all that by canceling subscriptions that you’ve forgotten about. What a great way to save money!

22. Switch to a high-yield savings account

When you keep your money in a checking account, you lose money to inflation. The rate of inflation averages about 2% (though it’s hitting record highs this year!). While no checking or saving account APY is going to BEAT inflation (you need to invest your money to do that), a high-yield savings account that is above the national average will help you.

For example, in 2019, I switched my savings account from Wells Fargo, where it was earning a MEASLY 0.01% APY, to Ally Bank, where it was boosted to 1.6% APY (sadly, because of the pandemic, it’s since dropped to 0.5% APY–but that’s still higher than the average 0.04%!)