People often claim that they do not make enough money to start saving. However, even those who make minimum wage can save money with the proper planning and diligence.
People need to save money in order to have a financial safety net to fall back on when emergencies occur. By drawing upon these funds instead of relying on credit cards or loans, individuals can avoid going into debt or at least minimize the amount of debt they incur when they encounter unexpected expenses. It’s also important to save money to pay for everything from vacations, which can reenergize people and help them work more effectively, to long-term goals like retirement. The following are some ways that people can save money—even when they feel like they can’t afford to do so:
Plan shopping in advance.
People who shop on a whim tend to make impulse purchases and thus spend more than they would have spent if they had planned out what exactly they needed to buy. Before going to the grocery store, for example, individuals can tailor their shopping list according the store’s available coupons and weekly specials. While the savings one can garner from these efforts may seem insignificant at first glance, over the course of weeks and months it can add up to hundreds of dollars, which can be a good start to an emergency fund or a decent chunk of the cost of a vacation.
Look for used alternatives.
One can purchase a wide variety of used items, from the latest electronics to designer clothing, and some of these products, like discounted open-box specials, are in nearly new condition. Some good places to look for used products are eBay and local flea markets. Although purchasing used clothes may initially sound like a bad investment, people can typically find very high-quality clothing that will last years at the same price as cheaper “bargain” clothes that will fall apart after a single season.
Put windfalls directly in the bank.
While it can be very tempting to splurge when one receives an unexpected chunk of money, whether from a gift, a tax refund, or an inheritance, it’s important to allocate the majority of this money to savings (or to creditors if individuals are carrying debt). Even when people do use the money to pay off debt, they should still set at least a few hundred dollars aside for savings.
Reevaluate housing expenses.
The biggest expense for any household is usually the house itself. However, there are several different ways to save money. Renters may be paying more than they need to depending on the market, so it is worthwhile to occasionally investigate local rental prices to see if a better deal exists. Sometimes, it makes sense to rent a larger place and bring in a roommate or two to split expenses. While the initial cost is great, the monthly breakdown can save renters hundreds of dollars. For those who own their homes, it is a good idea to periodically look into refinancing deals to see if they can lower their monthly payments.
Opt for a programmable thermostat.
Purchasing a programmable thermostat—one that turns off heating and cooling systems when no one is home—is an investment that typically pays off very quickly. While basic models cost only about $40, they can cut energy bills up to $15 each month. Shaving this amount off of one’s monthly utility bills can add up to significant savings at the end of the year.
Pay attention to small expenses.
Individuals should look for ways to save money wherever possible. While occasionally purchasing a lunch at work or grabbing a coffee for the afternoon may seem like a harmless splurge, this money adds up very quickly. Thus, it’s better to pack a lunch and make coffee at home to keep one’s budget in check. Other ways to save money include knocking out all of one’s errands in a single trip (to reduce gasoline expenses) and saving and rolling spare change. Similar to several other strategies on this list, the money gained by these actions doesn’t seem like much at first, but it can easily add up to quite a significant amount without drastically impacting one’s day-to-day life.
Lower transportation expenses.
Not everyone needs access to a car, which comes with steep bills for maintenance, insurance, registration, and fuel. If public transportation is available, it can often save people a lot of money and reduce the stress involved with the daily commute. Individuals can also try to work out deals with significant others or roommates to share a car and its expenses. Carpooling to work is another easy way to cut down on spending. As a carpool driver, individuals get help paying their car bills, and as a rider, they only have to chip in a tiny amount—much less than it would cost to maintain a personal car.