Guide to Save Money
September 5, 2018 by MoneyKey
An Actionable Guide to Save Money
For those of another generation, “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a widely-known saying. The phrase emerged during the 1950s during the post-war boom, when America’s middle class began to earn more disposable income, and in turn began to make purchases and spend money to purchase more frivolous items. This in turn caused neighbors to want to have the same items, or show the world they could afford them, “keeping up” with their neighbors – the proverbial Jones family.
Through most of the past six decades, the fixation on keeping up with the Joneses – and spending more and more money to do so – has gradually become an entrenched part of the American culture. Banks and credit card companies have been more than happy to oblige, providing all kinds of lending to consumers to help them keep up.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, many Americans have spent more time keeping up with their payments rather than the Joneses. Even though double income families are increasingly common, the cost of living has significantly increased, making it difficult for people to save for the future.
That said, there are still many ways to take a bite out of your monthly expenses through small, daily changes that you may not even notice once you start doing them. Whether you’re trying to climb out of debt or simply trying to live within a budget, there’s never a bad time to start saving. The earlier you do, the better off you will be.
But where do you start?
The first step towards saving is asking yourself a few simple questions:
Do you spend more than you earn?
What can you afford to spend?
What are you willing to give up to save some money?
Once you have answered the above questions about how you spend, it’s time to start thinking about why you need to save. So, why are you saving? What goals are you looking to achieve?
Write out all the reasons that you’re saving. Are you saving for something big like a road trip or a down payment for a new car? Or perhaps for a special graduation or wedding present? Or maybe you just want to be able to afford college.
These are important questions to ask because the timeline of your goals will determine how you approach them. If your goals are very short term it may make more sense to take out an online payday loan to afford what you need as soon as possible, i.e. a car repair, emergency travel, etc. If you’re going to need a little more flexibility, online installment loans may also be helpful to you.
Whatever it may be that you are saving for, and whichever tools you utilize along your way, what you will need most is motivation. Try to find ways to surround yourself with reminders of what motivates you.
If it’s a trip you’re saving for or a present you’re hoping to buy by the time graduation rolls around, make it your screen saver. If it’s your dream home or a location you’re looking to visit on a family road trip, sign up for alerts on houses online or affordable places to stay while on your road trip. These types of services will provide you with constant reminders about what you want.
Now that you’ve identified why you want to save money – and surrounded yourself with some positive reinforcement – let’s talk about how you’re going to do it. Below are suggestions for daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly changes you can make that will help save money.
- Make coffee at home. It may take a few extra minutes in the morning, but making coffee at home will save you $2-$5 per day. That may not seem like much, but it’s about $500-$1300 per year, and that’s only if you’re purchasing a coffee 5/7 days a week. Waking up late is no excuse to buy coffee as most coffee makers have “auto on” settings that allow you to pre-set when the coffee is brewed.
- Make your lunches for work. Although it may be more convenient to just pick something up at work, it costs a lot more than preparing a lunch. Most fast food or restaurant lunches cost between $5-$15 making this a big ticket daily item. Start getting into the habit of packing your lunch the night before and/or making weekly snacks to help you resist the temptation to splurge on expensive, prepared foods. Find a process that works for you and stick to it. Depending on your savings goals – you may pack food from home daily, or at least a few times a week. As an added benefit, most homemade lunches also save on calories and sodium.
- Stop buying water. You can get water for free. So why are you paying for it? Constantly buying water bottles to take to work or the gym is a huge waste of money. Purchase a reusable water bottle and fill it each day.
- Transportation options. Is it possible to walk or bike to work? Would transit be cheaper than driving? Can you carpool? It’s important to weigh your options when it comes to transportation and see which option works best for you. Walking or biking to work is free and it’s also a great way to exercise and/or reduce stress.
- The ‘daily rule’. The daily rule is basically a way to rationally determine your needs versus wants. Before you buy an item, you ask yourself ‘do I need this today or can it wait?’ If it can wait, then put it back on the shelf. This will help you to work towards a minimalistic lifestyle where you only buy things you need.
- Set weekly limits on how much you are going to spend. Some people opt to go on a ‘cash diet’ for the week. This means that they take out $50 and that’s all they can spend that week. This reduces the temptation to indulge in retail therapy or to go for a bite after work and forces you to start assessing trade-offs between the many things you want to spend money on throughout the week.
- Use coupons. It may seem like a hassle to search for coupons to buy food or other items but they can lead to big savings over time. Coupons may also be available online and via your mobile phone so you don’t necessarily need to carry coupons around, just do a bit of research on your phone before buying an item. Grocery and drug stores issue weekly flyers that can also be searched online, or are often delivered door to door. Comparison shopping can go a long way.
- Dry your clothes outside. We all do laundry, but the electricity cost can add up. If the weather is nice enough and you have the time, try hanging your laundry on an outdoor clothes line. You will also save on dryer sheets or fabric softener and often, lined dried clothes smell fresher than clothes that are tumble dried.
- Rethink how you socialize. We all need social interaction, but there are ways to see your friends and/or family without spending a ton of money at a restaurant or bar. All you need is a change of location to feel like it’s an occasion. Why not take turns with friends to host gatherings? Everyone can bring a snack, drinks, or a game. And if the weather’s good, how about going for a walk instead? Science has proven that being outdoors can improve both your attitude and mood, and who couldn’t use more exercise?
- Direct debit. If it is an option for you, arrange to have your bills directly taken from your bank account. A direct debit is where a company withdraws funds directly from a person’s bank account. Direct debits are typically used for recurring payments, such as utility bills or cell phone bills where the payment amounts vary each month. The key here is that the payment comes out automatically so that you won’t accidently forget to pay on time. If you choose to use this method, make sure you record the dates that all payments will be withdrawn to ensure your salary/paycheck can cover them all.
- Check your bank statements. This is something not enough people do. Check your bank statement every single month. This could help you catch any charges that you may not have realized have been going through – for example, a subscription you signed up for years ago for a small amount that you no longer use/want.
- Subscriptions. Speaking of subscriptions, if you have a few that you want to keep, it may be worth considering paying annually as opposed to monthly. Annual subscriptions usually save you a fair bit of money in the long run and take the stress out of monthly payments.
- Buy discount brands. You may have been brought up on specific brands that you are sure taste better, but it may be time to try some less costly alternatives. Try out various discount brands for a month and see how it goes.
- Travel in the off-peak season. If you’re trying to save money but still have that travel bug, try travelling off season when prices may be lower. Be sure to do your research to ensure that it’s safe to travel wherever you’re looking to go at that time of year.
- Download apps to monitor trips/deals: You don’t have to stop going out and doing things, you should just be conscious of the costs. Sign up for apps or email services that send you deals on the things you love so you can still have fun occasionally!
- Get a loan to consolidate your credit: Many of us have debt and it can be very difficult to budget when you feel like you have a million bills to pay each month.