There’s no question, it is hard to save money. Most of us have monthly debt payments on credit cards or loans, mortgage payments or rent, food costs, etc… the list goes on and on. So, how can you save money? Here are some saving money tips:

1. Pay Down Debt First to Avoid Interest Payments

If you pay down your debt, you will eliminate future interest payments. Make sure to pay down your highest interest rate debt first. Once you’ve paid down your debt, you can start investing, and make your money work for you.

2. Minimize Transportation Costs

Transportation costs can kill your budget. Whether it’s driving to work, taking the metro, or riding the bus, you have to pay. To avoid or minimize these costs, it may make sense to buy a bike or carpool. Estimate how much you spend each year on transportation. It’s probably more than you think. For example, I ride the metro into work. I pay $3.65 each way, which is $7.30 a day. Working 5 days a week all year, this adds up to $1,898. Not only that, but it costs me in time – it takes me about 30 minutes to get to work and 30 minutes to get back (assuming there are no delays) – so I am losing about an hour a day total – in addition to the cost of riding the metro. I do try to use my metro trip time reading, but sometimes it’s too crowded to even do that.

It may make sense for me to live closer to work and sell my other mode of transportation: my car. Selling my car would mean avoiding taxes, gas, insurance, maintenance, inspections, etc. I would also avoid the metro costs altogether. If I calculate out these transportation expenses, it is actually cheaper for me to live in Washington, DC and pay higher rent than to  travel in from the suburbs. I could also get roommates to help share rent costs in the city. Instead, for the time being, I’ve decided to buy a bike and ride into work on most days. This means I also get to save money by avoiding a gym membership, and I’m using my time efficiently. I’m still hoping to move in the city soon to avoid the transportation and time costs.

Think about how you can change the way you get to work and other ways you can change your transportation routine. Over time, chances are you could save a good chunk of money by minimizing your transportation costs.

3. Save on Food Costs

Do you eat out a lot? I know I do. I eat out almost every other meal – and I’m paying for it. I like the convenience, but I try to save where I can. For example, I will go to Subway during $5 footlong FebruAny. Instead of buying a drink and chips at Subway, I’ll bring a soda and chips from home that I buy from Costco which are usually 1/4 to 1/2 the cost. For other months of the year, I will look for coupons online through Groupon, Restaurants.com, or Living Social. Instead of sitting down a restaurant and having to pay a 20% tip, I order “to go” and eat in the park, at my desk, or at home. There are many ways to save on food costs. Think about how you can minimize your costs, and avoid buying add-on items. They can really add up over time.

4. Use a Rewards Credit Card for Every Purchase

I’ve stopped using cash completely. I only use rewards credit cards. This is because I want to maximize my rewards and keep track of where my money is going (by using Mint.com). In addition to a great sign on bonus from opening a new rewards credit card, most cards also give 1-5% cash back bonus on all purchases. If I am spending $30,000 a year, this means I can get $300 back – and if I have a sign on bonus, I could be saving nearly $700 a year (my last sign on bonus was $400 in travel expenses through American Express, if I spent $1,000 in my first 3 months). Using a credit card instead of cash can be an easy way to save 1% of your budget immediately.

What are some ways that you save money?