You know when you’re just going about life and everything’s cool and then you realize you only have $20 left in your bank account? It doesn’t happen to me anymore (finds wooden surface, knocks on it obnoxiously), but I remember constantly being in a cycle of spending and having nothing and getting really tired of it. These are ten things that have worked for me to save money quickly no matter what my starting point was.
1. Save first. Don’t just hope that you’re going to save $50 this week, or whatever amount you’re trying to save. There should be no “hoping”. You have to actually make it happen by taking that amount out of your checking account and putting into your savings, or by taking it out in cash and put it in an envelope that says “SAVINGS” on it to remind you not to touch it. Do this before you set your budget for the week so the money isn’t even there in your checking account to tempt you.
2. Get your basics at the dollar store. Things like pasta, butter, milk, bread, toilet paper, paper towel, coffee filters, toothbrushes, hairspray, dish soap, cleaning supplies, and office supplies can all be found for a dollar or less at stores like the Dollar Tree or any sort of budget store. Most Rite Aids also have a $1 section for cleaning and kitchen supplies. I sometimes will stop into the Dollar Tree when I don’t need anything just to see what they’ve added to their stock so I remember for next time.
3. Skip the meat. You can make some mind-blowingly easy and delicious vegetarian and vegan meals and save yourself quite a bit of money just by keeping meat off your shopping list. Vegan and vegetarian meals are typically based around grains and produce, both of which are inexpensive and easy to cook, too. The internet is full of cheap, meatless meal recipes, so google “easy cheap vegetarian meals” and take your pick. My personal favorite is Eating Vegan Simplified because Liz shows you how to make everything from start to finish.
4. Be deliberate with your clothes. If you’re an impulse shopper, spend the weekend going through your closet to put outfits together and you’ll see how much you already have. Every time I do this, it feels like I’m going on a shopping trip in my own closet because I end up finding things that I like that I forgot I even had.
And, doing this intentionally and with the mindset of saving can get your mind working more creatively than when you’re just getting dressed in the morning. Another thing that has helped me appreciate the clothes I already have and make better use of them is hanging them up. When things are folded up in drawers (or piled on the floor) it’s hard to know what you have and what you can see doesn’t look very appealing. If you do end up finding things you’re never going to wear again, you can list anything you don’t wear anymore on Facebook Marketplace, Let Go, Thred Up, or Offer Up to see if you can make any money before you donate what doesn’t sell.
5. Use your car as a last resort. If you can walk, bike, or bus it, do it. Just like with eating out, you can set some parameters that make this easier to accomplish. Maybe only use your car for work and the grocery store, and take the bus or walk to any “fun” stuff, or don’t use your car at all on weekends.
If you’re in an area where public transportation or walking is difficult, be more efficient when you use your car so you’re not making multiple trips to the store during the week. You can also look up “gas reward programs” and see if you can get a free rewards card through some of your local grocery stores to save on gas at the pump.
6. Take your credit cards out of your wallet and leave them at home. Don’t spend money you don’t have when you’re not making enough to save. Physically taking your cards out of your wallet gets rid of any temptation you might have to use them.
7. Use cash. Figure out what you can spend for the week and take that amount out in cash from your bank. When you run out of cash, you’re out. If something is urgent, then sure, go back for more cash. But really try not to, and try not to use your debit or credit card. There’s something about the “invisible money” on your card that makes it hard to keep track of, and you almost always end up spending more than you can afford.
8. Schedule a spending freeze. When I really need to save, I won’t spend at all. If it’s not groceries or gas, I’m not buying it. Even doing this for a weekend or a week can potentially save you enough to pay a forgotten bill or fill the rent gap. Because this one is tough to do, I like to check my accounts every day to see how much I’m saving. Seeing how much I’ve saved keeps me going.
9. Do your research. Don’t just buy something because it’s there and you need it. I do a Google search on almost everything I buy to see if there’s a discount code or a coupon somewhere. If it’s an outing or a salon service, I check Groupon first. If it’s clothes or home goods like pillows or sheets, I try to find it at a thrift store or a discount store like TJ Maxx, Ross, Big Lots, or Marshall’s. If it’s a hotel, I use Hotwire. It takes an extra few minutes, but when you’re saving, time is usually the trade off.
10. Limit social media. Social media is where we consume most of our advertisements these days. It’s hard to scroll without seeing targeted ads or even friends posting pictures from vacations or of something new and cool. Limiting the time you spend gawking at everyone’s stuff can actually help you realize that you’re probably just fine with what you have, making it a lot easier to keep yourself focused on saving.
Any other tips you want to add? Leave a comment!