Do you ever look at people flaunting their lifestyles on social media and wonder how they’re able to travel all over the world?
No, they’re not rich – at least not the majority of them. The one thing these people have in common is they know how to stretch and save a dollar when it counts.
Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does require some financial stability. It’s hard to find that stability when you’re constantly living check-to-check.
Many people struggle with saving money, and some feel like they can’t save at all. The most common advice is to make a budget, but it’s not always that simple for everyone.
Since no one is perfect, and we all need help from time to time, I’ve made a list of realistic steps that you can follow to help you save money immediately.
Reduce Impulse Buys:
According to a survey conducted by slickdeals.net, Americans spend an average of $450 per month on impulse buys. That’s a whopping $5,400 every year!
The majority of impulse buys are food and groceries.
Even if we round down, that’s enough to rent this luxury villa from ATA Consortium in Phuket, Thailand for about a week:
How do you stop the madness?
I have two surefire methods of combating this. First, I have to validate my purchase with five good reasons for spending the money. Second, if it’s a potentially big purchase, I use the 30-day rule. If I still feel the same way after 30 days, I’ll purchase the item without any regret whatsoever. If 30 days is too long for you, try 48 hours instead.
Get a Guardian Angel:
For some, money can feel like it’s burning a hole in your pocket, and you spend it as fast as you earn it. You know who you are.
You couldn’t save money if your life depended on it, and a typical budget won’t suffice. Enter the guardian angel.
The guardian angel has to be someone you trust and like a lot because they will play a vital (and annoying) role in your financial rehabilitation. The ideal person is a significant other, a sibling, or your best friend.
Every time you go shopping, you should take your guardian angel with you. Their job is to talk you down whenever you’re about to buy things you don’t need. Your guardian angel should already be privy to your savings goals and financial situation for the month, so it won’t be like they’re randomly telling you that you can’t afford something. Nobody likes that.
If your guardian angel can’t go with you, show them your receipts when you get home. Anything like cookies, tabloid magazines, or random useless items should be flagged by your guardian angel and earmarked for a prompt return to wherever you got it.
You’d be surprised at how someone looking at you and asking, “do you really need that?” can change your decision making. Sometimes, you need someone in your ear who can remind you of what’s important and stop you from wasting money.
If you want to save money, give the guardian angel a try.
Stop Dining Out:
What could you do with an extra $1,700 to $3,600 every year?
The easiest way to stop wasting money is to cook your own food. Forbes.com analyzed recipe data from Priceconomics to determine the price of cooking different recipes at home versus buying them in a restaurant. Their study split the recipes into individual ingredients.
The savings were startling.
Search for Deals and Coupons:
The good news about today’s coupons is that you don’t need to make an afternoon out of finding them anymore.
Numerous services are dedicated to saving people money, so you have plenty of choices here. Slickdeals.net can help you find coupons and sales online or in-person. Groupon and Deals Plus are also useful weapons in your fight to save money as you can find almost anything you need between the two.
Makeuseof.com has a list of the 7 best deal-hunting apps on the market.
The key to deal-hunting is only spending money when necessary. You’re not saving money if you buy something on sale that you didn’t need or already plan on buying.
Don’t spend for the sake of spending.
Cut the Cord:
Cable TV is going the way of the dinosaur.
Not to mention, cord-cutting is much more cost-effective. Cable packages can cost anywhere between $60 and $200 per month depending on your location and your cable package.
Internet-only plans can cost as low as $40 per month. Combine that with a Netflix subscription ($13), and you’re paying around $53 per month for internet and quality programming.
If you’re not ready to cut the cord, you should at least reevaluate the packages from your cable provider periodically. Cable companies change their plans often, and they will not tell you if you’re paying an older more expensive rate while newer customers are paying less.
If you’re not locked into a contract, at the very least, do yourself a favor and change to a cheaper package.
There are numerous ways to have fun and stay within a given budget. You just have to be a little creative and persistent.
Groupon has saved me on many occasions.
I’ve purchased goods, experiences, and excursions through Groupon, and I have yet to be disappointed. Yes, you have to sacrifice some convenience and autonomy when you buy things through Groupon, but you will save money.
Going the movies is another cost-effective way to entertain yourself.
I survived on discount Tuesdays when I lived in New York. AMC Theaters still has the discount Tuesdays promotion at all of its theaters. All you have to do is sign up for a free AMC Stubs membership, and you will be able to see movies for a mere 5 dollars every Tuesday.
Just remember to eat before you leave the house, and buy candy from anywhere but the movie theater. Movie theater food prices are almost criminal.
Just about every city has some sort of events calendar. The calendar usually highlights different types of events along with the price of attendance.
An event calendar is helpful when you don’t know what you’re looking for. A good events calendar will tell you everything that is happening near your location and give you options.
Finding your local events calendar is easy. Go to Google and type “events calendar + city name.”
At the top of the search results, Google will populate a scrollable calendar for you. You can also find your city’s official events calendar within the first few search results.
If those still aren’t enough entertainment options for you, you can always consult Culture Trip. Culture Trip is one of the largest collections of travel guides and entertainment options on the internet. It covers nearly every major destination on the planet.
At the very least, you should be able to find something affordable to do that is relatively close to you.
If you’re in a relationship, chances are at least one of you is fiscally responsible. If that’s the case, try letting the responsible one control the money. The caveat here is you have to trust each other for this to work.
It’s understandable if you”re hesitant about yielding control of your finances to someone else. You can always open a joint bank account that requires the presence of both parties for any transactions. No one will be able to withdraw the money without the other person’s consent, so it eliminates the fear that is commonly associated with joint bank accounts.
If you’re single, open a savings account and set a portion of your paycheck to be automatically deposited into your savings. It removes the obstacle of exercising a discipline that you seemingly don’t have, saving money, by doing the dirty work for you.
Think of it as paying a bill to yourself.
Bankrate wrote an interesting article about the many benefits of automatically dividing your paycheck between a checking and a savings account. You’ll earn interest on your money, and you’ll be less likely to spend it.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind:
Some of us are more susceptible to marketing campaigns than others, and we can’t pass on a sale.
Marketers know this, and they prey upon those of us who can’t resist their wily sales pitches and marketing campaigns. The easiest way to combat this is with what I like to refer to as complete annihilation.
All that means is that you will cut off their access to you entirely.
Don’t look at their promotions that come in the mail, and unsubscribe from all marketing e-mails. Again, just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you’re saving money.
If you can’t resist a good deal, you should definitely implement this step to save money.
Find a Second Revenue Stream:
If you want to save aggressively, a secondary source of income helps. It’s almost mandatory in today’s fluctuating economy.
The days of 40 years and a gold watch are over.
Think of something you like to do and research it to see if/how you can monetize it. For example, I teach English classes a few times a week, and I design websites when the opportunity arises.
Depending on how much you work, you can teach English online and easily earn $1,000 per month. Here is a list of companies that will pay you to teach English online.
Millennial Money Man published an article by Passive Income, M.D. about 10 important reasons to develop a secondary income. Among the highlights are paying down debt and building long-term wealth. The article goes into great detail, and I highly suggest giving it a read.
If you don’t know where to start, Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks has a wide-ranging list of ways to generate monthly passive income. If you’re looking for inspiration or ideas, this list is just as good a place to start as any.
Don’t Rob Peter to Pay Paul:
It’s easy to fall into the trap of borrowing money to pay a bill. Whether you’re borrowing money from loved ones or your credit card company, borrowing money is a slippery slope.
For starters, don’t borrow money from friends or family.
It’s too easy for misunderstandings to arise and create a rift. It also places unnecessary pressure on your loved ones, and that’s not fair to anybody.
It can also make your family and friends resent you. Avoid borrowing money from friends and family if at all possible.
I needed to get that one out of the way first.
Using credit cards to pay bills is another bad habit that can accrue debt rather quickly.
Credit cards are okay if you can pay off your balance every month, but there are plenty of people who can’t. If you’re carrying debt every month, you need to curtail your credit card usage.
According to lexingtonlaw.com, fifteen percent of American families spend more than they earn in a given month. Of that fifteen percent, forty-three percent are using credit cards to finance their monthly expenses.
Like many 18-year-olds, I got roped into the credit game during my freshman year of college. Those eager bankers were on-campus signing us up left and right, and no one was there to give us credit counseling.
I accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt that took years to eliminate. At one point, after coming to my senses, I cut up my credit cards so that I couldn’t use them anymore. I learned from my mistake, and I’m hoping you will too.
Don’t use your credit cards frivolously!
Now, I keep one credit card, but I haven’t used it in years. It’s strictly for emergencies. If I can’t pay for something outright, I generally don’t buy it.
Credit cards should be your safety net, not your primary tool. And that’s after you’ve exhausted whatever monthly emergency fund you may have stashed away.
The Finance Twins made a great list of the pros and cons of credit cards that I encourage you to read if credit card debt has impacted your ability to save money.
Ignore Social Conventions:
Following social convention is an easy way to cost yourself money.
The social convention I hate the most is splitting the check. It’s too easy for people to take advantage of the situation.
There’s always someone who orders a bunch of expensive items and then gleefully splits the check evenly with everyone else. Even if you only order things within your budget, you can still end up paying for other people.
There’s also the person who takes more than their fair share. That’s just as bad as over-ordering and evenly splitting a check. The point is, you can lose big when you split the check.
Stop splitting the check!
Another social convention to ignore is paying for your friends.
Don’t finance the fun. It’s human nature to try to maintain appearances and keep up with the Joneses, but if you can’t afford it, don’t do it. Let everyone pay for themselves.
We all have that one friend who pays for drinks or food whenever we hangout. If you don’t know who it is, you’re probably that friend.
Ignoring social convention is an easy way to save money.
Saving money doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t have to be a financial wizard either. Just like losing weight, to save money successfully, you have to make realistic lifestyle changes.
- Reduce your impulse buys
- Get a guardian angel
- Stop dining out
- Go deal-hunting
- Cut the cord
- Budget your entertainment
- Remove temptation
- Unsubscribe from marketing e-mail campaigns
- Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul
- Ignore social convention
- Find a second revenue stream
If you implement some of these steps, you’ll be well on your way toward your savings goals before you know it.