There are a myriad of reasons to save money. For emergencies, for for big life changes, or for retirement (it's never too early). There are also more exciting reasons to save, like for a new car or a future vacation. There's different levels of saving money too. Our household has been pinching its pennies for the last year since we're moving out of state. Our saving has been extreme: no frills, no extras, no fluff for 12 months. Even if you're in a predicament where saving seems out of the question because of student debt or credit card payments, these tips may help deal with your financial burdens. Whether you're saving up for the next big thing or you just want some extra financial cushion, it's always a good time to start saving your extra dough. Here are some of the things we've done over the past year to help us fill our proverbial piggy bank.
- Set To Save Automatically // Whether through your bank or through your job, there are options to have money set aside automatically. Some companies will offer to pull money out of your paycheck every pay period & have it set aside for you. You can also contact your bank about their automatic savings plans. My bank sets aside $1 for every debit/credit transaction I make & puts it into a savings account. It's helpful for me because I don't have to remember to save - it just happens when I spend.
- Set To Save Manually // If you're the type of person who can remember to set funds aside, plan it out. Heather budgets her paychecks this way. She sets aside enough money for necessities (gas, food, utilities, etc.) plus a little wiggle room, & puts the rest into savings. While it may seem extreme, putting yourself on a budget really forces you to consider where your money goes. If you're a little less budget-minded, like me, you can try this trick: every time I run my debit card, I ask for $20 cash back. The $20 never gets spent - it goes right into my savings bank. Knowing that I have to pull out an additional $20 every time I run my debit card makes me less likely to use it. Those $20s add up fast!
- Plan Your Meals // This is not a new trick. You've seen it a dozen times in articles just like this, but that's because its effective. The moment our household started planning meals by the week was the moment we started saving some serious cash. It may seem droll to plan out your menu week-by-week, but in the end it makes dinnertime less stressful. Decide on seven dinners before you make your shopping list. Try & pick meals that work with the same ingredients (for example: if you're buying a pack of mushrooms for pizza on Tuesday, use the rest of the mushrooms for quiche on Friday). Take stock of what you already have on hand & work that into your meal plan so nothing goes to waste. When you get to the grocery store stick to the list. Never shop hungry, & don't get distracted. Planning meals ahead of time means no last minute trips to the store (saving on gas money), & you're less likely to eat out (which we all know is expensive).
- Don't Help Yourself Be Impulsive // I haven't seen the inside of the mall in a long time. You know why? It's because my mall just got an H&M store. I love that place. I love everything they sell. Plus, when I walk in & see the sign that says "SALE," I freak out. Sale? That means I'm saving money! Sadly, no. Sales & coupons aren't an excuse to spend money. They're great when you actually need something (& you should plan to spend when there's a sale or a coupon) but they shouldn't be an excuse just to buy. Steer clear of places that make you want to spend - for me it's H&M, World Market, & the craft store. If you receive e-mails from your favorite stores alerting you to deals & coupons, flag them as spam. That way you never have to see the potential "deals" & if you do need a future coupon you can still retrieve the e-mail from your spam folder.
- Cut Your Wants In Half // Get a piece of paper & divide it into two columns. One column will be your "Needs" & the other will be "Wants." In the "Needs" section, write down all the things you have to have in life (running water, food, rent, etc.) & how much each thing costs every month. In the "Wants" section, write down all the things you purchase that aren't necessary, like the cable bill, coffee, movie rentals, going out to eat... anything that doesn't seriously alter your life if you were to lose. Write down how much each "Want" costs every month. Don't guess the amounts - pull up your online banking statement & really investigate how much money you're spending. Now it's time to cut your "Wants" in half. For instance, if you spend $25 a week on lattes, cut that down to $12.50. Treat yourself to a latte twice a week & stick to making coffee at home the other days of the week. If you're spending a large portion of your "Want" budget on the cable bill, consider switching to only watching Netflix or Hulu. This past year we were serious about saving, so we cut the "Want" column out almost entirely. That may seem drastic, but if you're serious about saving or trying to get yourself out of a financial hole, it's the unnecessary things that have to go.
While setting aside money may seem daunting, it's totally doable. The unnecessary things I cut out of my financial life hurt to let go of initially, but now I don't even miss them. Every time I get the itch to blow a bunch of money on something, I just think of why I'm saving my money. & I'm happier for it.
Related // Put your newly saved money in a DIY mason jar change bank.