Budgeting is hard. Saving money can seem impossible. But it doesn’t have to be. Your money management determines how comfortably you can live your life. We talk about how nice it will be when we make more money and can do more things, but the trick to living comfortably is to budget for the money you make now – not for the money you hope to make someday.
If you feel like you can’t squeeze another cent out of your bank account, it might be time to do more than hope to find money to save every month. You need a new, frugal plan to build your saving, manage your debt and live a better financial life.
Monitor your money.
Do you really not have any money left for saving? It’s impossible to know without digging through your finances to see where you money is actually going. Go back through your bank to find your spending patterns for the last few months. Where is the money going? How much are you spending on fun things versus things you need? Why do you feel like you never have enough cash?
You can’t make changes until you know your status quo. Keep track of your spending for a bit without changing anything else and you’ll probably see some trends and patterns emerge. You might also be a bit shocked about where all of your money goes every month. Serious money mistakes might become very evident when you simply pay attention.
Know what you’re saving for.
What – specifically – are you saving for? Are you saving for retirement? For a new house? To pay for a trip to Vegas? It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the savings we are supposed to be doing – retirement, future purchases, college for the kids, emergency funds.
But before you throw up your hands and give up entirely, make a plan of what types of savings are important to you at this time. You can’t do everything at once. Do you want to start with building a small emergency savings account for when the car breaks down? Save up some spending money for a future trip? Start with your goal and it will make the process easier.
Create your new budget.
Now that you know where you money is going and you know how much you want to save, take a look at your budget. Some expenses will be fixed, like your rent or car payments. Others can be trimmed like your entertainment and grocery budget. Spend $100 less on eating out or going out drinking with friends every month and you can easily save up an emergency fund in a few months.
As you create your new budget, look for areas to trim rather than slash. Making dramatic changes can be hard to manage, especially if your new budget isn’t realistic. Don’t eliminate your favorite hobbies because they are expensive. Look for ways to make them more balanced or affordable.
Automate your savings.
If you’re expecting to see big savings at the end of every month, you’re going to be disappointed. Saving money happens at the beginning of the month, before you even have a chance to send the rest of your paycheck. Look for ways to automate your savings. This might be splitting your direct deposit between two accounts or an automatic transfer to a savings account the same day you get paid. Automate your savings and essentially you will pay yourself first.
Consolidate your debts.
If you are paying for multiple credit cards and smaller loans, consider consolidating them using a short term loan. Even with fair or bad credit, you can apply for personal loans to essentially pay off your existing debt and simplify your finances.
Pay off multiple small cards and then have only one loan to deal with every month. You will probably find that the payment on the new loan is less than the total of the minimum payments you were making, freeing up even more money for saving.
Eliminate extra fees.
How much are you paying every month in fees for services you could be getting free or for far less? Cable is an easy one to cut because it is so expensive but can be replicated through several streaming services. But be careful paying for streaming services because you can quickly spend $50 per month on shows you don’t actually watch.
Eliminate streaming services you don’t use. Cut cable out completely. Look for bank fees or credit cards that charge a monthly fee and close those accounts. There are plenty of cards and banks that offer free banking or charging privileges without fees, especially if you have a decent credit score.
Check your credit card statements to see how many subscription services are charging you every month. Paying $5 here or $10 there per month for a subscription service to a gaming channel, fashion purchase, razor club or any other type of monthly club can add up in a quick way. If you don’t actually need a new razor or a new set of boots every month, cancel your subscription and save yourself some money.
Change insurance companies.
You may be paying more for car insurance than you need to. Shop around for lower car insurance rates and see what is out there. You might be able to trim quite a bit off your car insurance bill, especially if you can bundle car insurance with renters or homeowners insurance.
Plug everything into power strips.
You have a lot of devices that suck energy even when they are not in use. This means you are paying more for electricity than you actually need to. Plug everything into power strips and surge protectors and you can easily flip the switch to turn on all of the electronics when you get home after work and turn them all off again before you go to bed to quit wasting money. Look for the biggest “energy vampires” like coffeemakers, phone chargers, your cable box, your computer, or your game system.
Wait 30 days to buy.
Before you buy anything new, wait 30 days. It’s easy to make impulse purchases when you see a good sale price or feel like you need something right away. Implement the 30-day rule on purchases over a certain dollar amount. Make the amount low like $10 or $20 as purchases can add up quickly.
If you feel like you need something in particular, simply wait 30 days. If, after a month, you are still thinking about it and you really want it, go ahead and get it. In some cases, the desire for the item will fade pretty quickly and you’ll save yourself some serious money.
Order online or eat in.
The best way to save money is to cook for yourself. But this can be a drastic change if you aren’t used to shopping and cooking for every meal. A middle ground would be to find ways to save money by eating in a restaurant or by ordering online where you can use coupon codes.
Ordering delivery often means paying quite a bit more for delivery service. If you eat in the restaurant, you will save that delivery fee and have less mess to clean at the end of the meal. If you really need delivery, order through the company’s website and find a coupon code online to help you offset the delivery fee.
When it comes to saving money, it is often the small things that can make the biggest differences. Trimming a few dollars in many different places in your budget will add up quickly and help you reach your savings goal with just a few modifications to your current lifestyle.