Saving money is hard for everyone. But sometimes it feels impossible.
Maybe you’re barely making ends meet. Maybe you mysteriously spend all your money, no matter how much of it there is. You can still save.
It all comes down to making more or spending less, but there’s more to do than that. In this article, we’ll learn frugal living strategies like cutting out luxuries, saving on essentials, and budgeting well.
Let’s explore how to make your money work for you, one step at a time. You can save money, even if you don’t know how.
This guide breaks down easy, practical ways to start saving, even when you think you can’t. It’s all about small steps leading to big changes in your financial health.
Changing your mind
Saving money on a tight budget isn’t about stashing away large sums; it’s about the little actions that add up. Just like a single raindrop doesn’t cause a flood. One small saving habit won’t fill your bank account overnight. But consistent, tiny drops can make a river swell. It’s all about perspective and approach.
When you focus on what you can’t do, it’s paralyzing. But when you shift to what you can do, even if it’s saving a dollar a day, it’s empowering.
It’s about celebrating the small victories. Saved some change from your grocery run? Great! Skipped that extra coffee? Awesome! These small steps create a positive feedback loop in your brain. Over time, they become habits. This is not about a complete lifestyle overhaul overnight.
You can, and will, get there.
Step 1: Track Your Spending
Let’s be real: tracking your spending is unpleasant. It’s boring.. It’s. tedious. And worst of all…it’s embarrassing. It’s like turning on the lights in a room you haven’t cleaned in a while – suddenly, you see all the mess. But just like that room, you have to face it.
You can’t start saving effectively until you know what you’re dealing with.
Getting Started: Easy Ways to Monitor Your Expenses
You can use a basic spreadsheet, a budgeting app, or even a notebook. The key is consistency. Every time you spend, jot it down. And I mean everything – even that $1.50 soda. Do this for a month, and you’ll have a clear picture of where your money’s going. Plus, there’s something about physically recording your spending that makes it more real. Before you buy something, if you know you have to write it down, you think twice.
Uncover Hidden Spending: What Your Purchases Reveal
As you track your spending, you’ll start to notice patterns – and some of them might shock you. Those coffee runs and takeout meals? They can add up to a sizeable chunk of your budget. But this step isn’t about cutting things just yet. It’s only about facing the truth.
Step 2. Create a Budget Where Savings in Non-Negotiable
So you know what you’re spending money on. From now on, you spend money according to a plan.
It’s not about fitting into a one-size-fits-all plan. Start by looking at your income and expenses – the real ones, not some idealized version.
Then, divide funds into your needs, wants, and savings. This is the key. You have to budget for savings. Treat it like a bill. It can’t just be saving what’s left at the end of the month. There’s never anything left at the end of the month.
You have to treat your savings account like it’s your most important bill. Act like if you don’t put money in that month, you’re getting. evicted. Everything else will have to work around that expense. It is now non-negotiable.
Tip: Make savings automatic by having a deposit pull from your checking account every single month. Or use a printable savings tracker so you can visualize your money as it grows.
Step 3. Making Room for Your new savings bill by cutting out luxuries
So, we’ve added a new bill to our life. How do you… you know… pay it? The non-essentials have to go. They have to go.
Needs are things like food, shelter, and transportation. The fact is, you have a lot (a lot!) of things in your life that are luxuries. You’re so used to them that they don’t feel like luxuries anymore.
- Streaming services. (But they’re cheaper than cable!! Don’t care. Luxury.)
- Out-of-season fruit.
- Your pet.
- Any paid app. End of story.
- Deli Meat.
- Eating out. Ever.
- A smartphone. A cell phone might be a necessity, but a smartphone isn’t. Really!
- A gym membership.
- New clothes. If you didn’t buy that shirt, would you be literally naked? No? Luxury.
Don’t get me wrong. I have many of these things. There is nothing wrong with having them. But don’t kid yourself into thinking they are needs. Every single one of them can go. If you’re trying to save money, you have to prioritize your savings over luxuries.
Step 4: Lowering The Cost of Your Essentials
So you have to spend money on food. Fair enough. Do you have to spend so much? What about your electric bill? Can we lower it? Maybe.
Remember, your savings bill is now non-negotiable. You have to make room!
Saving Money on Groceries
First, if you’re buying ingredients instead of prepared food, you’re ahead of most people. Good job! Maybe you can do even better. Maybe not. You can cut your food bill without coupons or crazy stuff.
- Shop international markets. These markets often offer fresh produce, meats, and unique items. They are usually priced lower than mainstream grocery stores.
- Bulk bins. Instead of pre-packaged spices and grains, buy exactly the amount you need from bulk bins. Bulk bins can be cheaper.
- Choose frozen over fresh produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be less expensive and last longer, reducing waste.
- Don’t buy packaged snacks. Make muffins or something.
- Don’t buy individually packaged snacks. If you must buy prepared snacks, buy a big bag and divide them up yourself. Takes less than a minute.
- Check unit prices: Sometimes, bigger is cheaper. But not always. Compare unit prices to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Reducing Utility Bills
For some people, this doesn’t move the financial needle much and isn’t worth the trouble. But for some, it is!
- Opt for Smart Power Strips. These automatically cut power to devices in standby mode, reducing ‘phantom’ energy use.
- Insulate Your Water Pipes. This can help retain the heat in your hot water pipes, reducing the energy needed to heat water.
- Try a ‘No-Cook’ Day Weekly. Reduce electricity or gas usage by planning meals that don’t require cooking. For example, you could make salads or sandwiches.
- Install Motion Sensor Lights. Ideal for rarely used spaces; they ensure lights are only on when someone is present.
- Plant Trees Strategically. Trees or shrubs can provide natural shade and cooling. They reduce the need for air conditioning.
In short, saving money on utilities is about being conscious of your consumption habits. You can’t do all the same things and expect to lower your bill. You might need to be a little uncomfortable.
More Ways to Save Money on Essentials
You might need something, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save on it.
- Buy Refurbished Electronics. Choose certified refurbished phones, laptops, and gadgets. They often cost a fraction of new items.
- Use Public Transportation or Carpool. Save on gas, parking, and maintenance costs by using public transit. You can also save costs by organizing carpools.
- Borrow, Don’t Buy. Ask friends for books, movies, and even tools instead of purchasing new. Reciprocate!
- Repair Instead of Replace. Fix clothing, shoes, and appliances whenever possible, instead of buying new.
- Swap Childcare with Neighbors/Friends. Arrange childcare swaps instead of always opting for paid services.
- Attend Community Events. Look for free local events and entertainment options in your community.
5. To Save More, You Can Make More
It’s a simple equation, really. To save more, sometimes you’ve got to make more. Sure, cutting costs is great, but there’s a limit to how much you can trim your expenses.
At some point, you might need to look at boosting your income. It’s like trying to fill a bucket with water. If there’s only a little coming out of the tap, it’s going to take a long time to fill. But if you turn up the flow, or better yet, add another tap, that bucket fills up much faster.
Making More at Your Current Job
First things first, let’s talk about your current job. There might be opportunities to make more money that you haven’t tapped into. Maybe it’s time to negotiate a raise. If you’ve been doing solid work without a raise for a while, it might be time to talk to your boss. Or, consider overtime opportunities if they’re available.
Then, there’s the world of side hustles. The internet has opened up a ton of opportunities to make money on the side. We’re talking about freelance gigs, tutoring, selling crafts, or even pet-sitting. The key is to find something that aligns with your skills or hobbies so it doesn’t feel too much like a second job. A side hustle can be anything from driving for a rideshare service to freelance writing.
Lastly, let’s not overlook the potential goldmine that is selling stuff. Most of us have things lying around that we don’t use or need. Why not turn that clutter into cash? You can use platforms like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and garage sales to do just that. It’s not just about making a quick buck. It’s also about simplifying your life and getting value from things you no longer need. In essence, boosting your income can take a bit of creativity and hustle, but it’s often a more effective strategy than cutting costs alone.
More Saving Resources
Saving money is a huge topic with a lot to learn.
- Budgeting Apps: Managing your finances can be easier with the right tools. For example, “You Need a Budget” (YNAB) is great for detailed budget planning. It assigns a job to every dollar you earn. The app provides a centralized layout of your income, spending, and bills. It’s easier to track and plan your finances. Another option is “EveryDollar.” It integrates old-fashioned budgeting techniques with modern technology. It offers features such as a budget calendar and customizable spending categories. “PocketGuard” offers a debt payoff plan as part of its Plus version. It uses algorithms to create personalized repayment strategies for people dealing with debts.
- Finding a Side Hustle. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr offer platforms for freelancing. They cover various fields, from writing to graphic design. For those interested in selling products, platforms like Etsy or eBay can be great outlets. Additionally, local gig economy opportunities, such as rideshare driving or food delivery, can provide flexible income sources.
- Debt Management and Financial Education. For debt management, consider resources like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or Debt.org. They offer counseling and debt management plans.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. Here’s to making smart choices, embracing new habits, and watching your savings grow ❤️.