So, like 40% of Americans, you’ve resolved to save more money this year. But for some reason, the weeks go by and you don’t seem to have made any progress on it.
Here’s the thing about resolutions: if we don’t have a specific plan of action on how to get results, we’ll just be making the same goals over and over again without seeing any progress. So, if you’re a little disappointed on the progress you’ve made so far to save money, here are some ideas to give that resolution a little kick in the rear:
5 tips to save more money
1: Cut Back on Food Expenses
Usually, the most flexible way to save money is by cutting back on your food expenses. Admittedly, you don’t want to start living off of ramen noodles, but there are many ways that you can greatly reduce your food expenses. The best place to start is on eating out. Estimates state that Americans spend 40% of their food budget on eating out. However, there are lots of ways to (1) save money by reducing your restaurant excursions, and (2) reduce the bill when you DO eat out. This link has some great tips.
Even when you do your grocery shopping, though, you can cut down on your expenses by purchasing in-season or frozen produce, cooking more often from scratch instead of getting processed foods, and cutting back on expensive treats like ice cream and chips.
2: Use the Cash Budgeting Technique
If you’re having a hard time sticking to a strict budget, the best option is to strip it all down to cash. Leave your credit cards at home (or wrap them up in wrapping paper and label them “For Emergencies Only”) and get yourself a billfold where you can put cash designated for all the different parts of your expenses; $150 for gas for the month, $500 for food, $100 for entertainment and shopping. Once you’ve used up that cash, that’s it for the month, and you’ll have to hold off on any extra purchases.
This technique might seem extreme, but it forces us to plan and deal with the consequences if we don’t stick to our goals. Hopefully, you won’t need to use it for long, but it can teach you a lot about your spending habits.
3: Remove One-Click Payment on Online Stores
Do you have your computer set up to easily make purchases on Amazon with just one click? Or, do you have your Paypal account set up to easily make payments to other online stores? It’s really convenient, but if you’re trying to cut back on spending, it might be TOO convenient. There’s a reason that stores set up this kind of purchasing… they know that it allows you to make impulse buys and not think through your online shopping as much. So, if you’re trying to cut back on shopping expenses, remove your card from easy one-click systems. Force yourself to go through the inconvenience of logging in to various places, getting out your credit card, etc… it gives you time to make smarter choices.
Speaking of which, if you have a tendency towards impulse buys online, it might be time to go through your emails and unsubscribe from certain things. Many of us get daily deals and notifications of sales. But it’s important to remember that 20% off of something that you wouldn’t have bought in the first place isn’t a deal at all.
4: Use Auto-Deposits for Your Savings Account
Instead of using auto payments for your purchases, set them up on your bank account. Make sure that auto deposits into your savings account (or retirement or investment account, whatever you use) are set up for right after you get your paycheck. This ensures that you set good priorities and don’t get attached to the money, making plans for how you’ll spend it this weekend.
5: Pick Up a Side Gig
Sure, most of us don’t seem to have time for all the stuff we need to get done in the day. However, if you find yourself finishing a couple seasons of a show every month on Netflix (admit it!) that probably means you have some hours to spare. Think about it; one season of a show is 20+ hours! Even at a meager $10/hr minimum wage job, you could turn those 20 hours into 200$ instead. Look into something that you’d enjoy doing, something that you’re curious about. It doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. Try something for two months and then you can go back to your normal life if you want, with cash to spare and a new appreciation for your free time.