If you find yourself overwhelmed by the idea of tightening your budget and saving more money, you certainly aren’t alone.
Just the thought of “saving more” conjures up negative images of deprivation and joy-draining frugality.
However, the reality is, saving more money is not that difficult. It won’t leach the joy out of your Friday evenings and you won’t have to switch to home-cooked beans and rice. Here’s a list of 16 quick and easy ways to save a little extra money each month.
Pay yourself first by automating your savings
A part of all you earn is yours to keep.
Let it be not less than one-tenth and lay it by.
Make it your slave. Make its children and its children’s children work for you.The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
If you were to only ever focus on one thing with your personal finances, let it be this. Pay yourself first.
It is the single best thing that you can do for your financial health. No matter what you earn, no matter what your monthly expenses, pay yourself first and then make adjustments after. The money you earn is yours to keep, only if you actually make an effort to keep it. j
So next time you receive your paycheck, take a portion of it and set it aside. Place it in an online high interest savings account or an investment account so that it can work for you by earning interest.
Only after you have set a portion of your income aside do you then pay your monthly bills and expenses. If you are short money, find ways to lower your bills and overall spending.
To learn more about the power of paying yourself first, visit Pay Yourself First – The #1 Wealth Building Secret.Richest Man in Babylon[RICHEST MAN IN BABYLON REV/E][Mass Market Paperback]
Use a budgeting tool to set spending limit alerts
There are so many different budgeting tools available these days that it’s overwhelming to decide where to start and which one to use.
The fact is, the best budgeting tool out there is the one that you actually use.
It doesn’t ultimately matter which you go with. So long as you use it.
That said, if you want to step up your budgeting powers, use a tool that allows you to establish budget limits and then send alerts via text message when you are close to reaching those limits.
Which tools allow you to do this? I personally use Mint because it is free. My bank actually allows me to do this as well, and is also free, but Mint has some additional features and is slightly more user friendly. It does a better job tracking all my other accounts as well.
YNAB is another option that works particularly well for those that have never budgeted before and need some additional accountability. There is a monthly fee to use it, however, the massive YNAB fan following is a clear indicator that this fee is well worth the investment and your new monthly savings will exceed the small cost.
Review your biggest expense categories and find ways lower your spending
If you want the greatest savings bang for your buck, you’ll have better luck cutting costs on your housing expense category than your occasional Starbucks habit.
After all, which is more, $50 in superfluous lattes or overspending $1,000/month by renting the newer apartment in the hip new part of downtown?
We all have a top 3 or 4 spending categories, typically Housing, Food and Transportation that take up the majority of our monthly expenses. If you need to make a big impact on your savings, start with the largest expenses first, then work your way down to cutting back on the smaller things.
For more details on how to review your largest expenses and save more money, visit How to Save Money on Your Biggest Household Expenses.
Download a free workbook to review your expenses and dramatically cut back on spending.
Pick up extra hours or a part-time job
There are two sides to the money saving equation, you can cut back on your spending or you can earn more income.
If you have the option, consider picking up extra shifts at work in order to earn more. Just remember to shuffle that extra savings right on over to your savings account before you get too excited and rush out to meet your friends for Friday happy hour and dinner.
If extra hours isn’t an option, consider an extra side-hustle activity.
Earn more by asking for a raise
If you’ve been working at the same company and role for a few years and haven’t received a merit increase in pay, it may be time to request a raise.
Review your value by researching other positions and jobs available. Contact a local recruiter and see if they have additional insight into jobs and pay rate for workers with your training and skill level. If you aren’t earning what you should or could be, request a meeting with your manager to review earnings and compensation.
Just remember to do your research ahead of time and come to the meeting prepared to answer questions as to why you should receive an increase in pay and what you will provide in return. Be creative and open to negotiation.
Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to be Rich, has an incredibly thorough guide on how to ask for a raise. Check it out at The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Raise and Boosting Your Salary.
Give every dollar a purpose
One of the main reasons that YNAB is so popular and saves users so much money is that the app specifically forces you to give every dollar a purpose.
Whether you need to payoff debt or save towards a specific savings goal, every dollar in is given a destination. And this is the powerful tool to control your money.
This can easily be established yourself through the use of auto-transfers through your bank. To learn more, visit 15 Tips, Tricks and Tools to Automate Your Savings.
Save for later by adding to your favorite Pinterest board…..
Write down your financial goals
The simple act of setting specific and challenging goals, and writing them down, is scientifically proven to increase your odds of success.
It’s difficult to make any substantial headway when you don’t have a specific goal or plan in place. Sure, you want to save more money, but is that thought alone enough to make you think twice before ordering dinner out for the fourth time this week?
When you set a specific goal, say, “I will save an extra $500 this month”, you are more focused and motivated to make small changes to your habits and routines throughout the month. And it’s the small changes, consistently made over time, that move you forward.
Download the goal setting workbook to help you set long and short term goals. Stay motivated and make real progress on your biggest financial goals.
Track your progress
Writing down your financial goals is the first step to goal setting success. The next step is to actively track your progress.
By keeping tabs on each dollar saved and every credit card that is paid off in full, a magical thing starts to happen.
You become motivated and excited to keep making progress.
You can keep track by using a journal, or goal setting planner, or keep a scorecard / vision board. Be creative, try a few different methods out and see what works best for you.
I find that a scorecard is most motivating. All I do is write down the habits and tasks that I need to accomplish in order to make progress on my goal, then draw out checkboxes for every day of the week. For each day that I successfully work on my goal, I cross a box off on my scorecard. The goal is to cross off a checkbox consistently, without any gaps, for the whole month. Once it feels like a game, it’s more fun to take the extra time to achieve each little step on the journey to goal success.
Celebrate small wins
Similar to tracking your progress, it can be very motivating to work your way toward a reward. Set milestones on your path success and celebrate those small wins.
If your goal is to save $500, set small rewards as you make progress. This could be making a special dinner or baking a yummy desert, taking some time off to go for a long hike or taking some downtime to relax at the beach or a park. Whatever helps you relax, celebrate and renew your motivation. Just make sure it isn’t a reward that costs money and works against your goal!
Combine weekly errands into a single trip
There was a time, mostly when my son was younger and wanted to be entertained practically 24/7, when I loved going to Target. It became so bad that with every visit, I had something to return from my last visit.
I went just to stay busy.
And I would inevitably buy things I didn’t need. Even though I was returning the things that impulsively purchased, I was still buying more than I needed.
And I was wasting valuable time, gas and wear & tear on my car.
These days my time is more valuable to me and my son doesn’t need to be lulled to sleep in the back of a moving vehicle.
I started combining all my errands, typically spread out throughout the week, into just one afternoon. Any grocery shopping, shipping, home improvemnet trips, etc, is done all together. This saves so much time and money.
Mainly because I have to plan ahead and write a list of everything I actually need.
So now there is no more impulse shopping when I’m there for a specific reason and have 3 other stops to make.
Find an accountability partner
If you have a hard time sticking to your financial goals, find an accountability partner who can check in on you every day or week and hold you to your word. Better yet, find a friend that is interested in achieving their own personal finances goals as well.
You’re much more likely to put those Target pajamas down when you start thinking about how you’re going to justify this purchase to your friend when she checks in with you tonight.
Make a list of free things to do and keep it handy
How often do you and your partner or family go out to a movie on Saturday afternoon because you can’t think of anything else to do?
Take a look through your local calendar of events and see what free local attractions there are. Spend some time brainstorming fun activities and sights to see in your area and make a list that you can review the next time you’re tempted to pay for entertainment.
You’d be surprised by how many free (or nearly free) and fun activities there are in your town.
Use Rakuten for cash back savings on qualifying online and in-store purchases
How did I not know about Rakuten sooner?
I’m seriously in love the money saving powers of this app. All you have to do is sign up, open the app before you make an online purchase, click the merchant you’re about to purchase from, then continue making your purchase.
I use Amazon Prime for almost all my household needs. New cushions for the free patio set that my neighbor wanted to get rid of? Amazon has just what I need. Toilet paper and laundry detergent…. they have it all.
But now that I have Rakuten, before I hit purchase from my Amazon shopping cart, I open my Rakuten app or account from my laptop, hit the Amazon button which re-loads my Amazon account, and then make my purchase.
And just like that I get 5% cash back on my purchase.
I even had to book a work trip recently. A full week hotel reservation in New Orleans. I opened my Expedia account, picked out my hotel, hit my Rakuten Chrome extension, then booked my trip. And I will receive 10% cash back – a whopping $140, just for clicking on that Chrome extension.
These are all purchases I was planning to make regardless. But with just a little planning ahead, ie, remembering to open my Rakuten account so that they know I’m making that purchase, I earn a nice 5% or more cash back. Auto delivered to my PayPal account.
It even works for in-store purchases. I don’t do much clothes shopping, but I do have a puppy, which means I’ve been running in to my local PetSmart on occasion. Before I go, I activate my Rakuten account by linking the credit card I plan to use in the store. And just like that, I earn cash back.
This is hands down the easiest cash back app I’ve ever used. And the highest paying.
Utilize $5 Meal Plans
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at meal planning. But when I needed to save more money and dramatically cut my budget, $5 Meal Plans came to my rescue. I learned not only how to make simple and quick dishes, I learned how to grocery shop more effectively. Which also happened to tie in nicely to my goal of combining all my errands into one afternoon and grocery shopping only once a week.
It’s easy and versatile, working for different sized families and taste preferences and dietary needs. Check them out at $5 Meal Plans.
Place recurring purchases on auto delivery
Every now and then I listen to a podcast episode that, for whatever reason, changes my life. It could be that I was simply ready to hear whatever information was being presented, or it was presented in just the right way that it hits home and makes an impact.
Well, a couple years ago I listened to an interview with Rosemarie Groner of The Busy Budgeter. She mentioned that one of the biggest things that helped her take control of her budget and her spending was to take inventory of every household product that her family used regularly and then stock up so you never run out.
Such a simple thing. But what does it mean to have a home inventory of shampoo and dish soap? It means you aren’t running to Target every other day.
Having shampoo and toilet paper in the cabinet in the garage means that you have time to shop for the cheapest sale and deal around and save the most money.
So for awhile I was waiting until a great sale popped up for whatever my favorite household item was, then I’d buy a few and keep them in the storage cabinet. But then I discovered an easier and cheaper way of going about it.
I started using the subscribe and save feature on Amazon. If it’s reusable then chances are pretty high that I’ll be ordering again in the next 1-6 months. So, I set it on auto-ship, save 5% and think about it no more.
Here’s an example of options you have for ordering laundry detergent. Do they have your favorite soap and how does it compare to how much you typically spend?
Use your grocery store’s online saving app and plan meals around weekly sales
After listening to the Podcast interview with The Busy Budgeter, I also started utilizing my local grocery store’s coupon app. Every week they post the sales and my app sorts them based on what I commonly purchase. Which means that all I do is go through my list of common items, see what’s marked down and then plan my meals around the sale.
Since, honestly, we all tend to buy the same items over and over again, rotating through a list of favorite dishes, this simply nudges me in the direction of planning those dishes around the savings.
I don’t feel like I’ve uprooted my evening and family routine and yet my receipt tells me that I now save between 15% and 25% on a regular basis.
If your local store doesn’t offer a similar app, that’s okay. There are many others that essentially offer the same savings. Read more at 11 Tips to Save Money on Groceries.
Saving more money may feel like an overwhelming chore that will force you into new habits and leave you feeling miserly and deprived.
But really, it’s not that hard. And your life doesn’t need to change. You may even find that it can become easier and more stream lined. Better yet, with all that extra savings in your account, you may even feel motivated to keep at it and see just how much you can save next month.