Whether you’re saving for a car, a first home, a new baby, or you just want to curb some bad spending habits, here are some quick and simple ways to save money.
Heads up that this post contains an affiliate link. It's clearly marked. Thank you for your support. For more information, please read my disclaimers & disclosures.
Sam and I are hoping to buy our first American home in the coming months. Given that my income is limited over here because of the type of visa I have (I’m basically my husband’s +1), my mind is focused on finding small ways to save money so we can bulk up our down payment.
From my own experience, and from lots of research I’ve done recently, I’ve compiled a list of frugal tips to help your budget stretch even further. Choose the ones that will work best for you.
11 Ways To Save Money
1. Eliminate fast food
I don’t just mean the “would you like fries with that” chains that are on every city street, but also restaurants, takeaway joints, frozen pizzas, and any sort of meal where you pay a premium for the convenience of having it made or prepared by someone else.
Make your own coffee, pizzas, sandwiches, and meals, and watch those pennies pile up (and those lbs drop off).
2. Get comfortable with the cold
Try cut back on your use of appliances that produce heat. Those are the biggest consumers of energy in your home (and therefore the things taking up most space on your electricity bill). Ditch the dryer for a load or two, select a slightly colder wash cycle, and turn your thermostat down a degree. Put on a sweater and suck it up.
3. Cancel subscriptions
This can be a tough one but if you really need to pinch the pennies, get rid of recurring costs. If your Netflix addiction is strong, and you genuinely use the service on a regular basis, then feel free to keep it. But consider the cost versus what you actually get out of it. Most of us are paying a monthly or annual fee for something we don’t really use, or at least not enough to justify the cost.
Have a look at all your direct debits and see which ones you could cancel.
4. Meal plan
I’m hesitant to put this one on the list because I generally only preach what I practice, and meal planning is, unfortunately, not one of those things. However, I know from the many attempts I’ve made at it that it does cut down on wasted food. You only buy what you need, and you use up what’s in your cupboards before buying more.
5. Don't shop while hungry or emotional
Often easier said than done, but recognise that if you’re feeling empty, food and clothes and yes, even stationery, are only temporary solutions. Meanwhile your bank balance will dwindle and you’ll find yourself back in a hollow state. Spare yourself the vicious cycle.
If you don’t want to end up with a whole pile of stuff you don’t need, only shop when you’re satisfied.
6. Pay with cash
When you hand over the plastic, you may as well be paying with Monopoly money. Until you get that bill in the door, it doesn’t seem real. So, if you want to feel the sting of each sale, pay in cold, hard cash and watch yourself reconsider every single purchase you make.
$100 on the credit card? It’ll be grand.
$100 out of your hand? You're damn sure you need this thing.
7. Steal from the source
If you’re the type to only save what’s left after you’ve spent the rest, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Set up a direct debit so that as soon as your pay check clears, a portion of it is whisked directly to a savings account. And make it as difficult as possible to access those savings, where you need to give several weeks’ notice and your newborn if you want to make a withdrawal.
If you can’t touch it, you can’t spend it.
8. Borrow or rent
We’ve all bought things we’ve only used a handful of times before they were left to sit and take up space. Maybe we had grand intentions of taking up a new sport, or we vastly overestimated our interest in a particular pastime.
For things you’re not sure you’ll need, or for things you know you’ll only need temporarily, consider borrowing or renting them instead of buying them.
Fat Lama reached out to me recently to explain what their service is all about. Essentially, you sign up, choose your location, and start searching for things you need. They have a huge selection of products – everything from cameras to projectors to musical equipment to camping gear – so instead of having to invest your hard-earned cash in a piece of kit you’re not even sure you’ll want to keep, you can pay a much smaller fee to try it out.
If you’re interested, sign up through my FatLama affiliate link to score yourself a free $25 (or £25) credit. (If you go on to rent an item, I’ll earn $25 from Fat Lama as a thank you for the referral.) Great for that ski trip you’re going on, or if you think your daughter’s wedding would benefit from some drone footage but you don’t want to fork out a fortune.
(Psst... you can also rent out your own stuff on Fat Lama, so it's a great way to MAKE some money too!)
9. Take away temptation
One of the first things I did many moons ago when I decided it was time to take saving seriously was to unsubscribe from Groupon emails. The deals are great, but there’s only so many cheap massages a person can get per month.
If there’s a newsletter you receive or a store you visit that always lures you in with its siren song before basically stealing your wallet (*cough* Target *cough*), erase it from your life. Unsubscribe, or walk a roundabout route to avoid passing it. If you can’t see it, you can’t be tempted by it.
10. Avoid interest charges
Maybe it’s not an option for you right now but, if you can, pay your credit card balance in full every month. Banks are clever and will sign you up for minimum payments so they can bleed you dry in interest charges. Have them switch you to a payment-in-full plan or, if that’s not an option, set a reminder on your phone or calendar to make a manual payment each month, clearing the lot.
The same goes for anything you always seem to incur late fees on. Set a reminder so your money is actually going towards genuine expenses. Don’t be the reason a money-grabber sits back and smiles.
11. Get acquainted with your local library
Even if you’re not a bookworm, your library is a treasure trove of free resources. They’ve got music, movies, newspapers and magazines, workshops, and WiFi! They’ll also have lots of official leaflets and application forms you can take instead of having to print your own.
And hey, head towards the finance section for all the knowledge you’ll ever need on managing your money.
And those are just some simple ways you can save money and get your bank balance back in the black.
I have lots more tips so if you’d like to see a follow up, be sure to shout YES in the comments. Or let me know which of these tips you think will save you the most money. Drop the tip number in the comments so we can see which one has the biggest impact.
Need a quick fix in the meantime? Check out my budgeting playlist on YouTube for even more ways to save money and fix your finances.
Until next time… I’m off house-hunting! EEP!
Any (American-specific) house-hunting tips for me? 😉