You’ve heard the phrase “a penny saved is a penny earned,” but are you applying this concept to the various facets of your day-to-day life?
If you have never actively taken the steps to crack down on your finances, it's very possible that you're inadvertently wasting money—from the food you buy, to the activities you do, and even in regards to how you choose to budget. The idea of saving money can be intimidating since there are so many methods to go about doing so, but fear not! This comprehensive list will provide you with the inspiration you need to begin your cash saving journey. (Your wallet will thank you)!
It’s difficult to get a grasp on your savings potential if you don’t know where your dollars are going in the first place. Before becoming a money saving aficionado, you have to make a point of tracking your cash input/output and setting monthly monetary goals. If this is new to you, try to integrate these tips in order to create a bulletproof budget:
- Be aware of how much you are spending in the “big three” categories: food, entertainment, and bills. You can break down your budget in more detail in the future, but this triad is most likely where a majority of your money is going.
- Set up monthly transfers to your savings account, and adjust your spending in order to meet your savings goals.
- Create a spreadsheet (or use an app) to track your spending. Apps such as Mint make this process uncomplicated.
- If you find you are overspending in a specific area, tighten the reigns a bit. Remember, the best way to save money is to practice frugality, and not spend in the first place.
- Don’t think of credit cards as available cash. Avoid carrying a balance, because paying interest is the equivalent of throwing money in the garbage. (You can use them, but always pay it off at the end of the month).
Channel Your Inner Minimalist
“Less is more” is true in many ways, but it's especially pertinent when it comes to saving money. Here are a few ways you can utilize the concept of minimalism to bolster your bank account:
- Don’t fall victim to the materialism trap. Justifying a purchase in your mind is easy if you think it will provide you with a quick happiness boost, but as we all know, the thrill of buying new things is generally short-lived.
- Try to meditate on bigger purchases for a few weeks before pulling the trigger. You might come to find that you don’t even want an item after you’ve mulled it over for an extended period of time.
- Make do with what you have rather than actively searching for new items to buy.
- Whenever you are about to make a purchase, ask yourself if you can DIY. There are several tutorials online which can assist you in creating your own gifts, decorations, furniture, etc.
- It’s easy to conflate “wants” as “needs,” so try to be mindful when separating the two.
- Constantly upgrading to the latest car, phone, and television can be devastating to your pocketbook. Waiting a year or two (or longer) has the potential to save you thousands.
Search For Free Alternatives
Are you paying for things that you shouldn’t be in the first place? You may be surprised at how much you are spending on products and services that can be found at no cost to you (and in most cases, are exactly the same, if not better):
- Books, audiobooks, music, magazines, and movies can all be found for free at your local library.
- Once you've got your library card, make use of Kanapy for streaming movies and TV shows.
- Some libraries also offer free (or discounted) tickets to events in your area, including concerts and educational attractions.
- Drop the gym membership, and try calisthenics or bodyweight exercises instead. No special equipment required!
- Carry a water bottle with you instead of buying water from a store or vending machine. Choosing water when eating out is also a perfect way to save a few bucks on your final bill.
- Walk, bike, or use free public transportation rather than driving when you can. Gas and auto expenses can add up to thousands of dollars annually.
- Peruse websites such as freecycle.com or Craigslist to find items that people do not need anymore.
- Coffee can be expensive. Try to utilize your work place’s coffee pot rather than brewing your own.
- Swap out a costly hobby for another that is free to participate in. Drawing, singing, acting—there are several activities that do not require you to open up your wallet.
- About to buy expensive software? Look for free alternatives instead. For example, Photoshop can cost upwards of $700, or cost you a monthly subscription fee, whereas similar programs like Gimp and Pixlr are free to download.
- Educational courses can also be found for free online. If you aren’t concerned about college credits, there are thousands of college-level classes you can take right now from your computer, and at no cost to you.
Cut That Grocery and Food Bill
Unlike superfluous expenditures, it’s impossible to avoid spending money on food. This is one of those weekly expenses that you will never be able to entirely circumvent, but there are several ways you can minimize your costs. Try these tasty tips to keep your grocery bills down:
- Homemade is generally cheaper than buying pre-made, pre-packaged foods. When you can, make it yourself. (This applies to sauces and condiments as well).
- Grow your own veggies, herbs, and spices, rather than purchasing store-bought. Love veggies but can't grow your own? Consider trying a service like Imperfect which ships "ugly" fruits and veggies at a reduced cost.
- Utilize both virtual and paper coupons to double up on your savings. Some stores also have proprietary apps that will give you even more discounts when shopping at their store.
- Buying in bulk might more expensive initially, but in terms of cost per pound, it is cheaper than conventional shopping.
- Prepping your meals for the week allows you to avoid buying more food than you need. It also reduces the amount of trips you make to the store.
- Choose store brands over brand-name. Not only are they less expensive, but some store brands (such as Kirkland and Kroger) boast a reputation for high quality food choices. Maybe you live in a city where an Aldi has opened?
- Fruits and vegetables that are in season will be less expensive than foods that are out of season.
- Meat is one of the pricier items that you will find on your grocery bill. If you’d like, you can get your protein fix from cheaper alternatives such as seeds, nuts, and whole milk instead.
- If you can’t swipe free coffee at work, brew your own instead of making that daily trip to Starbucks.
- Write a shopping list, and stick to it. It’s far too easy to go overboard on groceries (especially if you shop while you’re hungry)! Stick to the basics. Milk, eggs, cheese. Write down the prices on your list to keep track of price increases in the future.
- Get creative with your leftovers. It doesn't have to be boring. Bring it to work tomorrow. - See next point.
- Pack a lunch for work rather than eating out. If you don’t have time in the morning, pack it the night before, or prep your lunches for the whole week during the weekend.
Spend Now to Save Later
Penny pinching can actually cost you in the long run if you aren’t careful. Try not to cheap out on everything, and be mindful of the things you should invest more of your money into. Here is a short list of things that you should be paying full-price for instead of cutting corners:
- Dental work - save those teeth!
- Aesthetic and corrective surgeries (like plastic surgery and Lasik)
- Home repairs - don't put it off too long
- Work from home? Don't skimp on the gear you need to be efficient and productive while working from home
- Quality clothing (especially boots and shoes)
- Your mattress and pillows - your back and mental state will thank you
- Paint - get it done right the first time
- Auto expenses (tires, oil, parts)
- Safety gear
- Power tools
- Cookware - enjoy cooking, so you'll want to go out to eat less
- Appliances - energy savings!
Even More Practical Ways to Save Money
If you need a few more ideas to leverage your savings potential, consider the following in addition to the aforementioned points:
- Use credit cards to your advantage. There are several cards available which offer rewards points and airline miles. As long as you are paying your balance off at the end of the month, you can reap these rewards without any charge!
- With something like the Empower app you can set up automatic deposits into your savings account. For example you can tell it to take 5% of your direct deposit every pay day, and deposit that money into your savings account automatically.
- If you are in a position to live with other people, do it! With only one other roommate, you can cut your rent costs in half. If you own a home, consider renting out that additional room that you never use.
- Cancel any services that you aren’t using, such as cable, gym memberships, or music subscriptions.
- Go cold turkey. This is a tough one, but cigarettes are not only harmful to your health—they’re dangerous for your wallet as well.
- Use less when it comes to personal care products. Think of it this way—if you use half as much shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and moisturizer, you will double their longevity. (It is very common for people to use too much of these things in the first place).
- Don’t underestimate loose change. Keep a spot in your home to collect those random dimes and quarters that find their way into your pockets. Check if your bank takes rolled coins or utilize a Coin Star machine at your local grocery store. Don't cash it in. Instead turn them into Amazon gift cards to give away at birthdays or holidays.