If you and your spouse want to cut your spending, you’ll get the best results by working as a team. That means finding ways to save money together so you’ll have more cash to reach your financial goals.
To help you do this, GOBankingRates asked personal finance and money-saving experts for ways they cut costs and boost savings with their spouse. These 25 tips will help you save money on everything from everyday expenses to nights out and get your finances aligned so you can set aside more for your future.
1. Have Savings Competitions
Saving money can actually be fun for couples, if you turn it into a friendly competition. That‘s what Grayson Bell, creator of the Debt Roundup blog, and his wife do to keep their spending in check.
“We will see who can save the most money for 30 days, and the loser has to treat for dinner at the end,” Bell said. “We base this off a percentage of income earned, not total amount saved because of the differences in income. We’ve found the competition brings out the best and pushes us to find new ways to save money.”
2. Set Common Goals
It‘s hard to save money if you and your partner don’t have the same priorities when it comes to finances. That‘s why you need to discuss your goals so you can decide together where you want to allocate your funds, said Regina Conway, consumer expert for Slickdeals.
“It makes it a lot easier to skip a meal out when you know the money is going toward something … you are both on board [with],” she said.
3. Create a Budget
“It‘s extremely difficult to save if you have no idea where your money is going,” said Barry Choi, a personal finance expert with MoneyWeHave.com. So both partners should track their spending for a month or two by logging every purchase and expense, he said.
“Now that you know your spending habits, you can make adjustments to your spending and increase your savings,” he said. You don’t have to think of it as budgeting, but rather as creating a spending plan that makes saving a priority.
4. Use a Budgeting App
Sticking to a household budget or spending plan can be difficult if a couple doesn’t keep track of how they’re both spending money. Fortunately, technology can make this easier.
“Get a budget-tracking app that can sync between your phones, like Home Budget with Sync,” said Phillip R. Christenson, a chartered financial analyst with Phillip James Financial. “By sharing the information, you and your spouse will be held accountable for your spending. You might think twice about your next purchase knowing your spouse will find out that it broke the budget for the month.”
Related: 20 Apps That Make You Money
5. Don’t Hide Spending
A CreditCards.com survey found that one in five Americans in a relationship have spent $500 or more without telling their partner. That sort of financial infidelity can certainly sabotage a couple’s efforts to save.
Mark Greutman of the Mark & Lauren Greutman blog, said he and his wife keep spending in check by not hiding expenses — except for the occasional gift. “Simply put, if you know that every dollar you spend will have to be ‘approved’ by your partner, you will be less likely to use it on unplanned expenses,” he said.
6. Live Off One Income, Save the Other
Having two people in a household earning a paycheck can make it easier to afford the things you need and want. But it also offers an opportunity to build significant savings for the future.
“My husband and I live off of one income and save the other income,” said Elizabeth Colegrove of The Reluctant Landlord blog. “We even put that income in a separate account so it is not even accounted for in the budget.”
7. Make Your First Home a Multi-Family Property
Housing is typically a family‘s biggest expense. So it’s a smart move to put your house to work to help you save money.
“Consider making your first home purchase a multi-family property like a duplex or a triplex,” Christenson said. “It might be your dream to buy a big fancy house with a white picket fence, but an income property ensures you and your spouse will start out on the right financial footing.” The rent you earn can help you pay off your mortgage faster, and help you set aside more for the future.
8. Have a Joint Bank Account
Considering the average checking account has about 25 fees, having just one account can save a couple money. Plus, financial planning and relationship experts say having a joint bank account is a great way for couples to be joined financially.
Sandy Smith, creator of the Yes, I Am Cheap blog, said that having a joint account with her husband has helped them stop wasting time juggling accounts and bills. “Saving time was just as important to us as saving money,” she said. “This also allowed us to stop determining who was paying each time we were going out and who was buying groceries, who bought gas — whatever. It’s just so much easier to have a certain amount go into the account and just spend from that.”
9. Get Health Care Savings
If both of you work and are offered health coverage through your employer, take the time to evaluate which plan offers the best value for you as a couple. Smith said that before she and her husband got married, they reviewed their options and found that they were better off getting insurance through one of their employers rather than sticking to individual plans.
“We were able to eliminate duplicate payments for individual plans, saving $207 per month,” she said. “That equates to $2,484 annually.”
10. Take Advantage of Tax Breaks
You often hear that couples can be hit with a “marriage penalty” by filing their tax returns together rather than individually. The opposite is true though, as marriage can bring tax advantages.
“The higher wage earner in our family changed the W-4 withholding to ‘married’ and adjusted deductions, which immediately resulted in a higher take-home wage,” Smith said. “This one resulted in a significant $300 in additional take-home pay per month.”
11. Take Date Nights Mid-Week
Finding room in your budget for a date night with your spouse can be a good use of your money. Just make sure you’re not spending more than necessary.
One way to save on dates is to go out on weeknights rather than the weekend, Greutman said. “Most couples might go out on Friday or Saturday night, but local restaurants usually have much better deals in the middle of the week when it’s slower,” he said. “As an added bonus, you’re likely to get more attentive service.”
12. Go on Daytime Dates
Going out with your sweetie during the day can be a great way to save money on dates, too. For starters, you won’t have to pay for a babysitter if you have kids and they’re in school. And many things, such as movies and restaurant meals, tend to be cheaper earlier in the day.
Deacon Hayes, a financial coach and personal finance expert, and his wife use this money-saving strategy. “Often times, we will go to matinee movies, which are generally about half price if you go before 5 p.m.,” he said.
13. Use Discounted Gift Cards for Household Items
When you’re buying everyday items for more than one person, the costs can add up quickly. However, there’s an easy way couples can save money on the things they need.
“Sites like CardCash.com are a great way to save some cash on your household-related purchases,” Conway said. “The site re-sells gift cards at a discounted price.” She and her husband buy gift cards for retailers where they regularly shop and get instant savings of 20 percent or more because they’ve paid less than face value for the cards.
14. Plan Meals to Save Money on Groceries
There are plenty of ways couples can save money at the supermarket. One of the easiest is to simply take the time to plan your meals so you’re not wandering the aisles wondering what to buy — a surefire way to overspend.
LaTisha Styles, host of Young Finances TV, said she used to like to cook whatever came to mind. But now that she’s married, she and her husband plan meals in advance.
“With a handful of recipes, we can buy groceries in bulk and that lowers the overall cost of the meals,” she said. “We cut our grocery bill by about 30 percent using this strategy.”
15. Work Out at Home Together
The average monthly cost of a gym membership is $58, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute. So if you and your spouse are working out at the gym, you could be shelling out about $120 a month.
Holly Johnson, creator of the Club Thrifty blog, has found a cheaper way to workout. “Instead of taking turns going to the gym — or finding daycare for the kids so we can go together — my husband and I do workout videos together every single day,” she said. “We alternate videos depending on our moods, but it’s fun to have a workout partner. We also motivate each other when one of us doesn’t feel like doing it.”
16. Find Free Entertainment
You don’t have to spend money to spend quality time with your significant other. There are plenty of sources of free entertainment and ways to “go on a date” for free.
Talaat and Tai McNeely of the His and Her Money blog, said they have movie night at home by picking DVDs up from the library. “Each time we go to the movies, it costs us $30,” Tai said. “We avoid the cost by making our own popcorn and enjoying a free movie.”
17. Ditch TV Entirely
You might think you’re saving money by watching TV at home rather than going out, but you’re probably paying a lot for cable TV. Cutting the cord can lead to big savings. Cat Alford of the Budget Blonde blog and her husband took it a step further.
“Many couples decide to cut the cable, but we’ve been very happily living without a TV completely,” she said. “We sold our big 50-inch plasma TV — that we should have never bought to begin with — and watch our shows on our computer. It really works for us, and I estimate we save at least $600 a year because of it.”
18. Use Daily Deals
A great way to save money as a couple on dining out, travel and more is to take advantage of deals on sites such as Groupon and Living Social, Tai McNeely said.
“We get everything from dinners, spa packages and hotel stays for up to 50 percent off retail,” she said. “Our best find was a Groupon for a beautiful bed and breakfast spot. We saved by getting free breakfast and free entertainment.”
19. Share Restaurant Meals
Johnson said she shares meals with her spouse when dining at restaurants, which saves them a few hundred dollars a year. “My husband and I share an appetizer and an entrée at restaurants all the time,” she said. “We both hate wasting food, and we are almost always served more than we can eat.”
Hayes takes a similar approach: “Often times when we go out to dinner, we will go to a place that has specials for two people.”
20. Do Babysitting Swaps
There are plenty of ways to lower the cost of going out with your significant other. But if you have kids, you still have to pay for someone to watch them. That is, unless you use a strategy that Hannah Rounds, creator of the Unplanned Finance blog, employs.
“We do babysitting swaps instead of paying for babysitters,” she said. She and her husband take turns with another couple watching each other’s children and take turns going out.
Read More: 34 Savings and Money-Making Tips for Moms
21. Don’t Give Gifts
Lindsey Knerl, creator of the 1099-Mom blog, said she and her husband don’t give gifts to each other. Instead, they “allocate that money to do something we both really want to do, whether it be an appliance upgrade or gifting to someone else,” she said. “We share priorities, so it’s nice to be able to skip the fuss and know that our birthdays are contributing in a meaningful way long term.”
22. Have Weekly Money Meetings
Erin Chase, creator of the $5 Dinners blog, said she and her husband sit down for a meeting once a week. “These meetings allow us time to look at the big and small picture of our finances,” she said.
Her husband prints out a list of all of their accounts, then they review totals and talk about progress toward their financial goals. They also use the time to discuss upcoming expenses and any purchases they might need to make. “Without this time where we discuss our planned purchases and expenses for the week, we’d still be stuck on meeting our first ever financial goal,” Chase said.
23. Bargain Hunt Together
It’s always smart to look for the best deal. Couples can save even more money by making sure they’re both searching for bargains.
To make it fun, the McNeelys do it together. “We love to bargain shop together for our home,” Tai McNeely said. “While we were renovating our home, we would go to local home improvement stores to find paint for a fraction of the cost.” If a customer chooses a paint color that they are not happy with, the store turns around and sells it for less, she said. They saved big by buying these “oops” paints.
24. Find Travel Deals
The cost of travel can add up quickly when you’re paying for two people. However, for couples who like to take trips — as Styles and her husband do — there are many ways to save.
“We look for deals and plan our trip based on the flight deal,” Styles said. “We attempt to fly to a location for a third of the price, or less if using miles.” She and her husband use the “explorer” feature on Kayak.com to see when flights are cheapest to particular destinations. They also sign up to receive price alerts when fares drop.
25. Mystery Shop Together
Not only can you make money by mystery shopping, you can save money too. There are plenty of legitimate opportunities that offer a quick and easy way to earn extra cash if you’re willing to evaluate products or visit establishments and offer feedback.
“We mystery shop together during date nights,” McNeely said. “We are able to eat for free at 5-star restaurants [where we evaluate the service]. Not only are we eating for free, but we are spending quality time together.” The McNeelys found all of their jobs through MSPA-NA, the trade association that represents mystery shopping providers.
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About the Author
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.
U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more.
She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.