You may not think that you earn enough to contribute to a savings account in any significant way, but you likely don’t realize how much of your monthly spending is optional. And that means you can cut this spending and put it away for a rainy day. Saving money doesn’t mean that you have to live like a hermit. Believe it or not, you can have your cake and eat it too. Here’s how.
Playing chess in the park. Hiking. Going to the beach. Taking a bike ride. Having a picnic with friends. These are just a few examples of the many activities that you can do for free (true, there may be ancillary costs involved, but there are no hard and fast direct costs). Rather than spending your Saturday afternoon shopping or eating out at an expensive restaurant, consider things that you can do for free. Call up your friends and see if they’d like to meet up for a walk around the neighborhood. Or visit your sibling across town. Whether you live in New York City, Los Angeles, or somewhere in-between, the options are limitless.
These days, it’s hard for two people to eat fast food without spending $20. So you can imagine how quickly you burn through money going to gourmet coffee shops and farm-to-table restaurants. With a single meal, you may find yourself spending as much as you make in a day. Clearly, this is not a tenable scenario if you hope to put money aside on a fixed budget. So instead of eating out, eat in. Find recipes online (Bon Appetit and Food & Wine Magazine are good places to start) and cook your own gourmet meals. Not only can you save money (especially if you use ingredients you already have at home), but you’ll have a great sense of accomplishment as well. Share these meals with friends and family for an even more enjoyable experience.
Apps like Mint and Level Money can help you keep track of – and manage – your funds easier than ever. And this is important if you hope to put money aside on a monthly basis. After all, to save money, you first need to know how much money is needed for expenses. Missing a mortgage payment or forgetting to pay your car payment are simply not options. With these online apps, you can sync multiple accounts, pay bills automatically, and get a better sense of what your actual expenses are. And not in a “I think I spend this much” way, but in a “I know that I need $3,462.75 per month” kind of way.
Have you ever thought of earning a little bit of extra income purely for savings and discretionary income? Some people may not have the time or the inclination, but if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and put in a bit of extra work, you can help yourself by actually generating extra funds – and not simply lowering your expenses. For freelancers, there are ample opportunities. Thanks to sites like Fiverr and Freelancer, it’s easy for graphic designers, copywriters, developers, and other professionals to search and bid on jobs. Other options include direct sales and entrepreneurship; you can sell goods on Etsy or sign up with a company like Amway. The choice is yours, but know that there is money to be made!
For people of a certain age, there’s a stigma associated with coupons. But we’re here to say that there’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to saving money! In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Only a fool would pay more than he or she has to. If you aren’t a “coupon person,” per se, give sites like RetailMeNot and Groupon a try. There are daily deals and tremendous savings to be found. Alternatively, you may want to look through your junk mail before you instinctively throw it in the recycle bin. You might just find that there are coupons for products that you buy on a regular basis. If you can buy your favorite shampoo 2-for-1, why wouldn’t you? Over the course of a year, this could lead to hundreds of dollars in savings.
Spending time outdoors and taking up free past times go hand-in-hand. Whether you’re walking your dog, playing a game of pick-up basketball, throwing a Frisbee around, or taking a leisurely stroll around your favorite city park, spending time outdoors is a great way to pass a couple of hours, and it will cost you little to nothing. If you have gotten into a routine of going to the mall, seeing movies in IMAX 3D followed by a lunch at your favorite bar, or going to the ballgame and indulging on concessions, it may be time to take up some alternative hobbies. You can revisit those pastimes once you’ve saved up a bit.
Don’t take this the wrong way if you have a gym membership, but they’re a waste of money. At the very least, it’s money that you don’t have to be spending each month. Why? Because there are plenty of ways to exercise without paying a monthly membership fee (which can amount to thousands of dollars over the course of a year). If you have a gym membership, cancel it immediately and commit to putting that same amount of money into your savings account every month. In lieu of a gym, exercise at home or outdoors. With sites like Meetup, you may even find exercise groups that you can join for free.
There are lots of things that you can buy secondhand at significant savings. And sites like Craigslist and Ebay make it easy to find secondhand items that are lightly used, if at all. Do you enjoy photography as a hobby, for example? Camera lenses and camera bodies can often be found for hundreds of dollars less than their new-in-box counterparts, yet perform just as well. Before buying something new, ask yourself if you’re willing to buy a pre-owned version instead. If the answer is yes, do so!
CEO and Founder at Mighty Shouts.
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