When you’re living on a shoestring budget from month to month, saving money can seem like a monumental task. After paying for bills and all your necessary expenses, you may have some trouble making significant contributions to your savings.
According to a 2018 Urban Institute survey, many American families are struggling to cover their basic needs, like food, health care, housing, or utilities. About 40 percent of those surveyed reported their family struggled to meet at least one basic need during 2017. So, if you’re having trouble with meeting some of your basic necessities, how can you be expected to start saving?
While there’s no magical fix to your financial troubles, trying to incorporate a few simple money saving tips into your lifestyle may help you on your way to accomplishing your saving goals. You may still experience challenges, and some months may go better than others—after all, it’s not always easy to plan for emergencies and unexpected expenses. This shouldn’t stop you from discovering how to live frugally and save money on a tight budget.
To help you confront this money saving challenge head-on, here are a six money saving tips for you to try to slowly incorporate over the next few months.
The first step to saving is to get financially organized by evaluating your budget, pinpointing exactly how you’re spending money, and identifying problem areas. You can find free or cheap budgeting apps to help with this task, or check out our ultimate budgeting guide if you need some help creating your budget.
Once you have set a budget, it’s time to start tracking your expenses. You also can create a money saving chart, which sets out incremental savings goals for you over a certain period of time. If you’re looking for a regimented challenge to help keep you on track, try out the 52-week challenge. The goal is to start by saving $1 in Week 1, $2 in Week 2, $3 in Week 3, and so on, until you’ve accumulated $1,378 by the end of the year.
One of the best money saving tips is to let your apps do the work for you. There are a number of great personal finance apps that will help with everything from budgeting, saving, and even investing. Two of these that we love are Ibotta and Acorns.
Ibotta helps users earn cash back on in-store and mobile purchases at various businesses with a receipt and/or purchase verification. The money adds up slowly, but all you’re required to do is watch occasional adds or provide brief feedback.
Acorns is an investment app that rounds your purchases up to the nearest dollar and automatically invests the change on your behalf for a relatively low fee. It’s a great way to start saving and investing your change digitally, without having to constantly engage with the process.
Whether it’s going out to a bar, movie, or restaurant, a night out on the town can cost you a pretty penny. But your fun weekend excursion doesn’t have to such a drain on your finances. When looking for fun weekend activities, check out your local library, community center, or any other local organizations to see what’s going on around town. Some performing arts centers also offer Pay What You Can promotions for certain shows, allowing you to watch productions for what’s affordable to you. If nothing catches your eye, design your own money-free weekend.
If you do plan to spend on a night out, take a look at Groupon or Living Social to help mitigate some of these costs. Only buy the vouchers you know you’ll use, and don’t use the presence of a great deal as an excuse to overspend.
It’s normal to occasionally fall victim to temptation when it comes to food, springing for that extra lunch outing that you hadn’t originally budgeted for. But if you’re trying to cut back on your spending, it’s time to buckle down, take a hard look at what you’re spending on food each month, and find ways to whittle this number down. The most obvious place to start is to cut down on eating out. While you may not have to worry much about a single $8 lunch outing, this adds up quickly when you make it a habit.
When you’re shopping to cook at home, start by putting together a meal plan, and make a list of meals for the upcoming week. Try to select dishes that share ingredients so you can buy them in larger quantities and ensure they get used up. If you’re looking for money saving tips specifically geared towards your grocery bills, check out our guide on saving at the grocery store to make sure you get the most out of your grocery trips. You may also want to look for tips on how to get the most out of your grocery coupons.
The best way to reduce your transportation expenses is to walk, bike, or take public transportation when you can. Depending on your job or where you live, these alternatives won’t always be feasible, but use them when you can. You can also commute with co–workers or set up a carpool system with other parents to get your kids to and from school.
For some those who need to drive and don’t live near any co-workers, walking, biking, or carpooling may not be viable money saving tips. This doesn’t mean you can’t see any savings on some of your regular car expenses. Check out sites like Gift Card Granny and Cardpool to find cheap gift cards for gas and automotive services. You also can download apps like GasBuddy.com, which will tell you where the cheapest gas stations are in your vicinity.
While you may be forced to pay for larger expenses like rent and utility bills by check or e-transfer, using cash for smaller, more frequent purchases can help you control your spending habits. If you’re looking for money saving tips designed to help you to stick to cash, try implementing the envelope system. The general principle is to assign each envelope a different portion of your budget, fill each one with the designated amount, and restrict yourself to whatever is in the envelope. This should help you regulate your spending, and a quick look into your envelope will tell you how much you have left to spend for that portion of your budget.
Money left over in some of your envelopes at the end of the month? Congratulations! Put it into a savings fund (or piggy bank) and start growing your savings.
When you’re dealing with low income and struggling to make ends meet, the prospect of saving money can feel out of reach. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Use the money saving tips we’ve listed to maintain visibility into your financial situation and start implementing these techniques to cut costs and grow your savings. Once you start to successfully implement healthy financial practices, you may have an easier time paying for essential expenses like your grocery bills, rent, and online loan payments. You can also check out our blog for more tips on budgeting, saving, and how to have more control over your finances.
What are some money saving tips that have helped you trip your budget?