If you’re trying to save money fast, it can be hard to know where to start. Everyone’s situation is different, but no matter who you are, you can achieve your financial goals by starting with these tips on saving money fast. If you stick with it and keep a tight hold on your expenses and income, you could even save $1,000 a month.
1. Set a savings goal and keep your eyes on the prize
It’s a lot easier to stick to a savings goal when you have something concrete to aim for. So right now, decide why you want to save money. Here are some common reasons to get you thinking:
- Building up an emergency fund (financial experts recommend setting aside expenses for at least 6-9 months)
- Saving up to move into your own place
- Saving for retirement
- Setting aside a nest egg for your child’s college fund
- Saving for a down payment on a house or car
- Funding a home improvement project
- Setting aside for higher education
- Funding a move across the country
After determining your reason for saving, please do some research to determine how much you need to set aside to pay for whatever it is you want. Break the long-term amount into per-paycheck portions. This will help the goal feel more manageable and will be easier to keep track of.
2. Create a budget (and stick to it)
This is a great starting point that can help you save money even if you’re on a low income. Start by taking a serious look at your spending. Identify what you’re doing well and what purchases you can eliminate, reduce, and be realistic. For necessary expenses, look for ways to cut back or reduce costs instead of completely eliminating them.
For unnecessary expenses, set reasonable constraints you can stick to. Nobody’s perfect; everyone buys things they don’t technically need. The goal here is to be conscious of how you’re using your money without making yourself miserable or living an ascetic lifestyle (unless that’s your thing).
This is a great time to examine your priorities. Make sure you’re prioritizing spending on what really matters to you and letting the rest slide. It’s all about making sure your money works for your well-being instead of spending money on things you don’t need or that won’t improve your quality of life.
Since the goal is to save money faster, budget for savings. Make it a priority so it can fit into your life. Set up an auto-transfer into your savings account every payday for the amount you want to save per month. That way, the money isn’t sitting in your bank account available for you to spend mindlessly, and you’ll get to watch your savings account grow every month without trying. That will keep you motivated.
3. Lower your monthly expenses as much as you can (within reason)
The easiest way to save money fast is usually to reduce your spending, and what better place to start than the purchases you make regularly? Here are some good questions to ask yourself:
- Can you move to a cheaper place to save on rent? If moving isn’t an option, can you get a roommate to split rent with? Rent is usually one of the people’s biggest monthly expenses, so cutting it down any way you can is a great start to saving money fast.
- Do you have a gym membership you don’t use? Consider replacing your gym habit with running or at-home workouts. If you usually hop on the treadmill at the gym, look into buying a cheap used treadmill to use at home instead. Just make sure you’re not spending so much on your at-home equipment that it cancels out your savings. Or better yet, run outside.
- Cut down on your cell phone bill. Shop around for the cheapest plan and switch if you need to. Keep an eye on your data usage.
- Lower your utility bills. Unplug appliances when not in use. Insulate your windows with a sheet of bubble wrap. Turn off the faucet while you wash dishes or brush your teeth. Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED ones; they use less energy.
- If you have any subscriptions or memberships you don’t use (or aren’t that crazy about), cancel them. If you have subscriptions, you need and/or adore, consider sharing them with family or friends. Can’t live without Netflix? Split the cost with a friend.
- If you have many recurring items on auto-ship, consider reducing their frequency or canceling the auto-refills outright, even if they’re essential items. How many times have you found yourself with five boxes of cat litter or seven extra razors because your auto-ship schedule sends them out faster than you use them?
- If you still have cable, cancel it. There are plenty of cable alternatives online that are cheaper, don’t require a contract and give you just as much entertainment for your money.
These are just a few ideas; there are endless ways to reduce your monthly expenses for things you still need. Review your bank statement from the past month and see what you can eliminate that you won’t really miss or items you’re splurging on right now that you can find a cheaper alternative.
4. Meal plan once a week
We all know that feeling when you come home from a long day at work, only to find there’s nothing to eat in your fridge, and your only options for dinner are to drag yourself to the grocery store and cook or to order takeout. This is one case where a little planning and taking care of yourself can also be good for your wallet.
Once a week, sit down and plan what you’ll eat for all your meals. Pick specific recipes, not just a vague idea like “I’ll make pasta.” Take a thorough stock of what you already have in your pantry and use that information to make a list of everything you need to make the specific recipes you’ve chosen. When you get to the store, buy everything on your list and nothing else. Make this part of your weekly routine, so you don’t fall behind and find yourself shelling out for a mediocre delivery pizza, plus delivery charge and tip.
Additional tips for this approach:
- Eat a snack before you go; hungry shoppers make impulse buys.
- Don’t grocery shop in a hurry. Rushed shoppers make similar mistakes as hungry shoppers.
- Don’t let any food in your house go to waste. Use it before it goes bad.
- If any food items are past their expiration date, make sure they’re actually spoiled before throwing them out. Food companies’ expiration dates aren’t always correct, and throwing out perfectly good food is money down the drain.
- Buy generic brands.
- Try new recipes often to keep things exciting. This will prevent you from making the same chicken dish over and over again until you’re so sick of it you break down and order sushi instead.
- Never buy bottled water if you can avoid it. If the tap water at your home isn’t great, buy a water filter instead. It’ll pay for itself.
- Learn how to home-make cheaper versions of your favorite indulgences. They’ll almost certainly be cheaper than buying them pre-made. Things are often tastier homemade than store-bought anyway, and you’ll have learned a new skill in the process!
- Home-make your daily cup of coffee or tea. You can buy loose-leaf tea or freshly-roasted coffee beans from a local place or online shop that are far better quality than half the cafes out there, for a fraction of the cost. Invest in an affordable kettle or coffee maker and enjoy not having to walk to the coffee shop every time you need a boost.
Meal planning has 2 big benefits:
- It keeps you from eating out or making other impulse food purchases, both of which are much more expensive than cooking at home. In almost every case, even a drive-through burger and fries is more expensive than if you were to make the same meal at home (and the homemade version will taste a lot better).
- This strategy forces you to be conscious of how much you’re spending on food every month. It’s easier to track food spending if you only buy food once a week, rather than trying to keep track of multiple purchases a day mentally.
5. Use the 30-day rule
Before making any big purchases, wait 30 days to make sure it’s actually important. Waiting gives you time to weigh your options and distinguish between impulse purchases and things you really need. It also gives you time to find that item on sale or decide whether to opt for a more inexpensive option.
For smaller purchases like a modest new purse, use the 24-hour rule. A day later, you might realize that purse isn’t as important to you now as it was in the store. You might even completely forget that purse existed, in which case, no harm done by letting it go. Even if you end up still buying that purse, now you know how much you really valued it, and you’ll appreciate it all the more.
Again, saving money is all about making sure your money is working for you, and that includes making sure you’re spending it on what’s most important to you.
6. Think about prices in terms of labor hours, not dollars
This is a particularly great way to frame your mindset around spending and save money as a teenager, but it applies to anyone who works for a paycheck. When you’re thinking of buying something, divide the price by your hourly wage to find out how many hours you have to work to earn that item’s price. This can help you see your money and labor as working for you and reframe what expenses feel worth it to you. If a manicure “costs” you four hours on the clock, that might show you that you’d rather save that money instead.
This is an especially great strategy when you’re deciding between two options for an essential purchase. If the fancy, nice-smelling shampoo costs you an extra half-hour at work, that might well be worth the small luxury. But at least you’re aware of it and are in touch with your values.
7. Buy used, not new
You’d be surprised what you can find at a brick-and-mortar thrift store. Find a hip thrift store in your area, or visit one in a wealthy neighborhood nearby; the selection will still be quality but at a fraction of what you’d pay for the new items. Make it a habit to check for clothes, furniture, small appliances, home goods, and books at thrift stores before shopping for the new. Use websites like CraigsList, eBay, and Facebook to get in touch with people dying to get their old things off their hands.
For people unfamiliar with thrifting, it can seem a little unglamorous, maybe even cheap. But if you think about it, buying used items gives your wardrobe and possessions a bit more character. It might be an adjustment to thinking this way, but thrifting can be fun, rewarding, and will definitely save you money. There’s a reason why people do it for fun!
8. Bike, walk or use public transportation instead of driving
It might seem small, but even taking the bus or metro once a week can help save on gas and wear and tear on your car. If you live in an area with a good public transportation system, you may even be able to sell your car outright and save big on insurance, gas, and upkeep.
Maintaining a bike is much cheaper than maintaining a car, and one huge benefit to biking or walking is that it’s time-efficient: you’re getting exercise into your day while getting where you need to go.
9. Find free ways to have fun
Many money-saving tips feel like work, but everyone needs to have fun from time to time. Otherwise, what are we saving all this money for? Developing a taste for free fun can save you lots of money on recreational expenses.
Libraries are the unsung hero of free fun. You can find books, music, and movies there, as well as community events. If you don’t have a library card, sign up for one and find what your local library has to offer. If you think about it, you’re already paying for this service with your tax dollars – make the most of it!
Outdoor activities are another great place to start. Instead of paying to go to the movies or a bar, go on a hike or bike ride.
Sometimes, the truth is you’ve already cut down on your spending as much as you can, and the answer to saving money is simply making more money. If there’s no more room in your budget to cut, think about ways to increase your income. These next tips are a great place to start.
10. Sell your extra stuff
Who doesn’t have things they don’t need (or even like) hanging around their house? Set aside a day to do some de-cluttering and identify what you can offer up to someone else to get off your hands in your house. Depending on where you live, you can have an old-fashioned yard sale or sell things online. Old electronics (make sure they still work!), housewares you don’t like anymore, or old clothes are a great place to start.
11. Pick up freelance work or get an extra job
Find a way to monetize your hobbies and passions. If you’re an artist, start doing commissions. If you love to write, start a blog, and figure out how to monetize it – or start writing for other people’s blogs. Love animals? Sign up to walk dogs on the weekends or offer to pet-sit for your neighbors. Love kids? Offer to babysit for friends and family.
If your schedule allows, look into part-time jobs to supplement your existing income. Weekend jobs can be great for this. But even if it’s just a few extra dollars a week, it can still make a big difference over time for your savings account.
One thing to beware of, though: Make sure whatever extra money you’re making goes directly into your savings account! Don’t let it float around in cash or languish in your checking account where you can easily spend it, letting your extra income go out the window in the form of increased spending.
Tips like these can work for anyone if you find ways to tailor them to your life situation. Not every money-saving tip works for everyone, but anyone can find a few things that work for them. And just like dollars in a savings account, a few changes can make a big financial difference for you in the long run.
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