You don't have to completely transform your lifestyle to save money. Still, if you want to increase your savings, you will need to make some changes. The good thing is that even small changes over time can be extremely effective.
The first step toward successfully saving money is to identify those areas of concern. Maybe you spend too much money eating out every month. Perhaps you're a shopaholic who can't resist a new outfit or a new pair of shoes. Maybe you're racking up late fees by missing payment dates on your bills.
Whatever the reason, there's hope. Small lifestyle changes, when applied consistently, can save you quite a bit and help put you back on track.
Make eating in easier than eating out
Eating at home is always cheaper than eating out. If you can’t cook, develop your skills so that you don't always have to rely on fast food, takeout, and going to restaurants. Find a YouTube channel you like to make the learning easy.
Minimize the stress of cooking, especially if it's new to you, by sticking with simple recipes that you can repurpose. For example, you can prep shredded chicken in the slow cooker and pair it with salads, pasta, or roasted vegetables to make different meals throughout the week.
Create a weekly healthy meal plan so that you don't make last-minute decisions to get takeout. Then, grocery shop accordingly. When you have fresh, ready-to-prepare food in your fridge, you'll be more likely to eat at home.
Make it social by inviting a friend or two to help with the prep work and to cook and eat with you.
Use debit instead of credit
Use your debit card instead of credit cards. It’s the same approach as living on cash only. You'll spend more thoughtfully because you’re using only what you have in your account, not just putting everything on credit to worry about later.
With debit cards, you withdraw the money as soon as you make a purchase. Each transaction is in real time and means you have to know whether or not you can afford to spend the money.
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Create a budget
Budgeting can help you save. Building a basic budget that balances income and expenses gives you a true picture of your finances. Plus, it allows you to identify areas where you can cut back on spending in order to save money.
Plenty of budgeting apps like Mint and PocketGuard make budgeting easier and less time consuming than having to put numbers into a spreadsheet manually. As a result, you'll be more likely to stick with your budget, which can help you meet your savings goals.
Get a coffee maker
If you're a coffee lover, there's nothing quite like that coffee shop java. However, coffee comes at a price, and grabbing a coffee every day can add up quickly.
Think about it. If your average coffee costs $4 and you get it a few times a week, you're spending about $12 to $16 on coffee every week. That’s $48 to $64 a month on coffee.
The alternative? Invest in a good coffee maker, and fill a travel mug with a home brew before your day begins.
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Refinance your debt
If you have debt, consider refinancing. Credit card debt, student loan debt, auto payments, and your mortgage probably take up a large portion of your budget.
Refinancing your debt at a lower interest rate can impact how much money you pay every month and, just as importantly, how much interest you pay over the life of your loans.
You can save money by refinancing, provided you're in good standing with your lender, have an excellent credit profile, and steady income that makes you appealing to potential lenders.
Avoid impulse purchases
Impulse purchases can have a big impact on your spending. When you start to make more thoughtful purchases, you'll be surprised by just how much money you can save.
First, never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach because you'll buy everything that looks good, not just what you actually need.
Also before you check out in any store or online, take one final glance at your cart and ask yourself, "Do I need this?" If the answer is no, don’t buy it. At least, put off the purchase for a later time when you can reconsider. And if you still need the item then, make sure you have enough money to buy it.
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Set up automatic payments
If you're notorious for missing payments and then being hit with late fees, it's time to put those bills on auto-pay. When you do, you are sure to avoid those fees which waste your money. Of course, you'll have to ensure you have the money in your account to cover those automatic payments.
The effort is worth it. Paying your bills on time doesn't just save you from late fees; it also improves your credit rating, which can help you in the event you want to refinance.
Some companies might even offer a small discount for signing up for autopay. When it comes to small savings, they add up over time!
You don't still have cable, do you?
Cable TV might have been a must-have a decade ago, but now, there are many options for watching your favorite live TV. Ditch cable and choose a streaming service to watch live TV and sports.
Be selective in which service you choose, as they come at different price points. Even more, avoid signing up for every streaming service available because then you'll be paying just as much as you did when you had cable.
Don't be a label snob when it comes to buying clothes, grocery, and pharmacy items. Choosing store-brand or generic products can deliver significant savings. Chances are you won't even notice the difference, but you will notice the extra savings in your bank account.
While you'll want the label sometimes, usually off-brand clothing or food and prescription drugs deliver what you need at a reduced price.
Piecing together several small savings strategies can have a big impact on your finances. Whether you’re making a point of putting tax refunds and cash gifts into your savings account or being mindful as to when you use your heat and air conditioning, these habits all work together to keep money in your pocket.
Remember your basics too, like shopping around for better cell phone and insurance plans, and checking to see if you are paying for subscriptions you no longer use or need. Or even seeing what stores offer student discounts if you're still in college.
Start with a basic budget, pay attention to your spending, and then stick to a savings strategy that fits your needs. Then sit back and watch your savings grow.