Years ago, my husband was laid off from his job. I was in the process of going back to school to finish my degree, and we had a house full of teenagers. It was a great wake up call for us to evaluate our finances and discover ways to save more money in our monthly expenses.
I’m glad the stress of unemployment is behind us, but the lessons we learned aren’t just for when we find ourselves in crisis mode. When it comes to saving money, we’ve learned it’s about more than what we have in the bank — those are only numbers. It’s more about learning to modify and control our behavior, changing our mindset to get the results we want.
Here are some things I do to save more money.
1. Keep a Budget
I know! It seems like such a time-consuming task to do but keeping a budget it the best place to start when it comes to saving more money. A budget accomplishes a few key things. It tracks where your money is going, helps you identify what you might be wasting money on, and allows you to be proactive about saving.
A budget gives you more control over where you want to spend your hard-earned cash. Maybe it’s dinner and a movie, but perhaps it isn’t. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an actual choice?
2. Put Your Savings on Autopilot
Once you’ve created your budget, be sure to add a savings category. We’ve always treated saving like it was another bill. After reviewing your budget, decided on an amount you can commit to saving each month. Whether it’s $50 or $500 be consistent. Most banks have options where you can automatically transfer the amount on a set day each month.
I have our auto-transfer set up on payday, so I don’t feel like I’m ever missing the money. Several times during the year, I evaluate our budget and determine if there is any extra I can be adding to our savings. We’ve learned to live on less to ensure our savings account is growing at a healthy rate. Be sure to use an interest-bearing savings account so your little nest egg can continue to grow. Talk with your banker about available options to help you get your savings on autopilot.
Finally, make sure you are optimizing your employers 401K options. If they match your contribution, it is almost like a little raise that goes straight into your long-term savings. Even if they don’t match, it is a great tax-free way to save money each paycheck.
3. Cut Out the Extras
Is it stopping in the drive-thru to grab your favorite drink? Or the annual magazine subscription you never get around to reading? The extras start to add up quickly when we aren’t paying attention. Don’t look at it as some kind of punishment; instead, think of it as a savings game. Think of the dangling carrot. What type of reward will you get for cutting out a costly habit?
This last year we decided to cut back on how often ate out. Its meant I’ve had to be more intentional in meal planning, but the reward has been healthier food options and a better self-image because I’m taking care of my body. (We are both down 20 pounds, yay!) The side benefit has been we’ve saved a significant amount of money. We hadn’t realized how often we had opted for a quick meal out rather than staying home to eat.
Use your budget to track your spending and see which “extra” is costing you the most. Come up with a plan to reduce the amount of money you spend on the most significant “extra” draining your bank account. Remember baby steps.
4. Make a Shopping List
How many times have you made a quick trip to the grocery store only to walk out with a cart full of food? If we go to the store with a list and stick to it, we can avoid impulse shopping, wasting food we won’t use, and save more money.
Right in line with our effort to cut back on eating out, I had to be more conscious about making a shopping list. I created my meal plan and worked backward from there. It also helps to go after I’ve eaten. When my stomach is growling, it is always harder to avoid throwing a few extras in the cart.
5. Know Prices to Find Good Deals
Sometimes it is better to buy in bulk and other times it isn’t. Know what the average prices are for your commonly purchased items. Then watch for when they go on sale and stock up.
For me, it is almost a game to see how big of a deal I can get. I’m not a huge coupon shopper, but I do have a few sources that have proven to save me time and money.
Rakuten is the Japanese word for “Optimism” – fitting for a website that offers you rebates on what you’re already buying. Since creating my account about five years ago, I have a lifetime savings of over $1500.
This is how Rakuten works: first, install the extension to your browser, and then take care of your online shopping. If a website you are purchasing on has a rebate offer, Rakuten will have a small pop up in the corner where you can claim your rebate before you check out. If you connect a bank account to your Rakuten profile, they will automatically deposit your refunds once a quarter. Otherwise, they will send a check via snail mail.
Do your online shopping on your phone? It’s the same primary process. Before going to a website, go to your Rakuten app, select the store you’re shopping from and then open it from inside the app. Once you check out your rebate amount is added to your balance.
You can also link in-store purchases by connecting your credit card to your account. I haven’t tried this one yet, but it is another excellent way to save more money.
Another app I use regularly is ibotta with the same basic idea. Most of my savings come from in-store purchases, and primarily the grocery store. Before shopping, I compare what’s on my list and what rebates are available. I add the ones I want to use to “my offers” and then go shopping. Once I’ve checked out, I scan the receipt, and my savings appears in my app account. I can transfer my balance to PayPal every time it reaches $10. Ibotta also has regular bonus deals, and contests to make saving a little more fun.
6. Adopt a Debt Reduction Strategy
Years ago, I learned about this one in a finance class. Similar to Dave Ramsey’s Snowball method, it’s all about eliminating debt to be free from the albatross around your neck.
- Start by making a list of all of your debt. Put them in order from the smallest owed amount to the largest.
- Make minimum payments on all of the accounts except for the one at the top.
- Take any extra money you can find in your budget and apply it to this balance. (Any of the above strategies can help you find some extra money to add to this step.)
- Work to pay off the smallest balance as quickly as possible.
- Once your smallest balance is paid off, take the amount you were paying on that bill and add it to what you are paying on the next debt on the list.
- Don’t lose your steam yet! Rinse and repeat. Each time you pay off a balance, use the momentum and excitement towards working off your next debt.
The key to this strategy is consistency. We paid off our mortgage in less than 15 years using this method, and it has allowed us to have so much more financial freedom for investing and doing the things we love!
Takeaways to Save More Money
The amount of money in my bank account is only a number, but what I can do with our money is a blessing. It provides shelter and food for our family. I can use it to help others, do fun things to strengthen relationships and help provide some of the necessities in life.
Rather than thinking of spending from a place of scarcity, try acting from a place of abundance. Remember, having enough money is a gift, learning how to save more money is a skill.
What skills have you developed to save more money? Share your ideas in the comments below!
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