This article is part of the “Save More Series,” which comprises of 4 articles. Read part 1, part 3, and part 4 for more information.
When you have lots of financial responsibilities and bills to pay, finding room in your budget for savings is pretty tough. Some recommend keeping at least three months of living expenses (a rainy day fund) tucked away in your bank account for emergencies. But if you’re struggling to save money, that can seem like an impossible goal.
To avoid getting overwhelmed or stressed, it’s a good idea to break your savings goals down into baby steps. Challenge yourself to set aside a small, achievable amount of money, like $100, each month. Over time, that $100 can really add up, especially if it is wisely invested. In a year, you’ll have over $1,000 saved PLUS a bunch of great financial habits that will set you up for future savings success.
If you don’t know how to start paring down your expenses, you’re in the right place. Today we’re going to share some of our best budget tips with you so you can hit (and hopefully surpass!) that savings goal of $100 a month.
Save Money on Groceries
Food is likely one of the biggest drains on your budget. In 2017, American households spent an average of $7,729 on food alone. You can really rake in the savings if you cut back on eating out and save money on groceries. Some great tips for saving on your grocery bills include buying staples like rice in bulk, purchasing produce that’s in season, and sticking to store brands instead of name brands.
One of the best ways to save money and reduce impulse purchases at the grocery store is to create a weekly meal plan, which is one of the most common forms of healthy meal prepping. It’s a good idea to plan a few simple recipes with common ingredients to make each week so that you don’t have to buy a lot of ingredients or spend too much time in the kitchen.
This blog already has an excellent section on healthy and affordable eating, but another great place to find simple, budget meals is Budget Bytes. It has recipes that only cost a few dollars but taste like something you’d get at a restaurant. Either way, you’ll still be able to eat well on a budget if you make use of some smart and healthy recipes!
Subscription services like Netflix, Pandora, and Amazon Prime may seem cheap, but once you’re subscribed to a few of them, they can easily cost you hundreds of dollars per year. It’s worth taking a second look at your monthly subscriptions to see if you can cut anything out.
When you look back through your transactions, you may find unwanted subscriptions you thought you cancelled, especially if you use a tool like Trim. It helps you identify and cancel subscriptions you don’t use anymore by analyzing your credit card and bank statements for free. Even if you’re pretty good at keeping track of your subscriptions, using Trim can help you make sure nothing slips under your radar.
Renegotiate Your Contracts
If you’ve been with the same insurance provider or cable company for a while, it’s time to call them up and try to renegotiate your rate. Before you call, you should do some research and see if your company or their competitors are offering any discounts to new customers. If they are, ask if you can have the same discount. They might just give it to you because you’re a longtime, loyal customer.
If the representative you’re speaking to won’t give you a discount, you can either hang up and call back later or ask to cancel your service. They’ll transfer you to the customer retention department, which often gives out discounts to entice customers to stay.
Automate Your Savings
Automating your savings is a convenient, easy way to prioritize your savings goals. Instead of waiting to see if you have any money left over at the end of the month, you can treat savings like your other expenses and deduct it from your checking account automatically.
You can also use apps like Chime and Acorns to help automate your savings. Chime rounds up every purchase you make to the nearest dollar and deposits that extra money into your savings account. Acorns works the same way but invests the money instead so that it can accrue a greater return and grow.
If you struggle to curb discretionary spending, automating your savings could be especially helpful for you. If you can’t see the money, you can’t spend it on shopping trips and takeout. It’s a great way to put your money where your mouth is and fully commit to your savings goals.
Use a Cash Back Credit Card
Some people find that they overspend when they pay with a credit card. But if impulse purchases aren’t a big problem for you, paying with a rewards credit card can make your dollars stretch further.
American Express offers several credit cards that give you rewards for shopping at the grocery store. You can redeem them for prepaid gift cards that you can use to buy gas, groceries, and other essentials. If you spend around $400 a month at the grocery store, their Blue Cash Preferred Card will net you a $300 gift card every year. That’s a pretty good return on purchases you would’ve made anyway!
You can also get cards that will give you cash back at the pump or at restaurants. Research rewards credit cards and pick the one that best fits your spending habits to get the most out of it.
Get a Side Hustle
If you want to save money without changing your lifestyle, you’ll have to increase your income. Luckily, there are lots of apps that can help you make extra money. Rover, for example, is a popular app that helps you find pet sitting and dog walking gigs. It’s a great app for animal lovers — you’ll get to hang out with cute dogs and make a little cash at the same time!
If dog walking isn’t your thing, there are lots of other gigs available. You can run errands, deliver food, grocery shop, move furniture, and more. There’s new gig apps popping up every day, so take a look at the App Store or Google Play Store and see what you can find.
If you’d rather work from home, that’s an option too. Depending on your skillset, you can freelance in the evenings as a virtual assistant, writer, graphic designer, or software programmer. Making some extra money from home should definitely be a consideration, especially if you’re looking for some part-time work.
Find Free or Cheap Things To Do
Saving money shouldn’t make you miserable. You shouldn’t give up your hobbies or avoid gatherings with friends just because you’re trying to set aside some extra cash.
However, if you can trim your entertainment budget by finding cheap things to do, you’ll be able to save money a lot faster. Instead of going out to bars or restaurants with your friends, look up free events you can attend in your area like outdoor concerts and street fairs. You can also invite your friends over for a game night or potluck at your place to save money on going out.
Another great way to reduce your entertainment budget is by finding creative ways to fund your hobbies. If you’re a crafter, try selling some of the things you make to recoup the cost of your materials. If you’re a gym buff, offer your receptionist skills or social media services to small yoga studios and gyms in exchange for free classes. You can even make videos or blog posts about your hobby and put affiliate links in your content to earn some side cash. With a little creativity, you can do the things you love without hurting your budget.
If you combine some or all of these strategies, you’ll actually be able to save much more than $100 a month. You’ll be able to build up a sizable financial safety net and save money towards potential future goals, such as buying a home or traveling.
What are your best tips for saving money? Share them with us in the comments section below!