It’s the middle of the month, and you told yourself that you’d have a certain amount of money saved up by now, but – surprise, surprise – you don’t. Now what? Well, you can go through the cycle all over again next month, or you can make a few changes. And, no, we’re not talking about invasively massive cuts like avoiding gas costs by walking or biking to work instead of driving (though, for the environment’s sake, that should always be an option if you live close enough to your office). Believe it or not, all it takes is a few small changes to amount to some pretty big savings every month. And while penny pinching may seem like a challenge at first, like all good habits, you’ll get used to it over time. And by starting small, you’ll find yourself feeling less intimidated by the bigger money-saving changes in no time.
Ditch the debit card and opt for cash each week.
Doing this means you’ll have to budget yourself at the beginning of each week. Try to calculate the money that you’ll need for gas, food, and other primary expenses down to the nearest dollar, and then withdraw that cash from your bank. By having enough – or just about enough – cash to get you through the week, you’ll be able to leave your debit card at home and track your spending better. The cash-only policy will essentially help you hold yourself accountable for every dollar you spend, and because you left your card at home, you won’t be tempted to charge anything to it.
Put your spare change away at the end of each day.
Because even if you’re not going to use those pennies for anything right now, you better believe that your coins will add up over time. Each day, make an effort to put the spare change you acquire into a jar or piggy bank. At the end of the month, cash out. Better yet, keep the bank filling up month after month and then cash it in when you’re looking to treat yourself. You may be surprised at just how much all that change amounted to!
Brown bag your lunch for a month.
Buying your lunch every day is costing you big bucks, and you’re not alone. Americans, on average, spend more than $1000 per year at restaurants and at least $20 per week on takeout lunches and dinners. It would be far cheaper (and maybe even healthier) to prep your meals at home to take on-the-go.
Make your morning coffee at home.
Skip the line at Starbucks and save your cash by brewing your coffee right at home. Let’s face it, your favorite venti soy latte may be delish, but a lot of the ingredients that you need to make it might be right in your kitchen. Plus, there are plenty of other ways to spice up your morning brew that don’t require a trip to Starbucks.
Utilize automatic transfers on payday.
Automatic transfers are an awesome way to start your savings. Talk to your employer about automatically depositing a portion of your weekly paycheck – let’s say, $25 per check – into your savings account. In four weeks, you’ll have saved $100 without even having to think twice about it.
Make sure that you’re unplugging before you leave the house.
You already know that turning off your lights or your television when you’re not in a room is essential to keeping your electric bill down. But what you may not be aware of are the things that are costing you even when you’re not using them. Before you leave for work, unplug your lamps, chargers and appliances even when they aren’t running. Even when they’re not running, they’re running up your electricity bill. And while taking the time to be thorough and unplug everything might be a little time-consuming, you could consider investing in power strips to make the process a whole lot easier.
Recycle your cans and plastic.
Recycling does more than reduce your ecological footprint – it also puts money back in your pocket!. Stop throwing away your cans and bottles and return them to your local grocery store or distributor, and depending on how much you consume, you can earn up to $10 back per week.
Seek out fun, free entertainment this Friday night.
They say the best things in life are free, so instead of hitting up the movies or the bar with your besties this Friday, do a little research on what free events might be happening in your city this weekend. Gallery openings, free music performances, and outdoor movie nights are all possible ways to spend your weekend, and they sometimes offer free food and drinks to go with the free admission. All that leaves you with is the question of finding out when, where, and how you’re going to get there.
Take advantage of apps that help you cut back on those unavoidable expenses.
There are some expenses that you’re just not likely to cut if you need them, like your gas expenses or your must-have groceries. But for those expenses, it’s a good idea to take advantage of apps that can at least save you from spending more than you need to. GasBuddy, for example, is an app will find you the best deals on gas based on your location – making it especially useful when you’re in a pinch and nowhere near your local, trusted station. The app relies on its wide base of users to report on prices, and if you’re an active user, you can even participate in contests and challenges to win cashback to fill your tank.