Budgets: They're something we all need. Or at least, most of us need them; it's likely that the vast majority of people out there would benefit greatly from more money in their pocket. But on top of the usual saving tips and tricks, a recent AskReddit thread on unexpected ways to save money suggests all sorts of creative methods to put some extra cash in your piggy bank. They're definitely worth checking out, because hey, who doesn't want more working capital?
Of course, it's a smart idea to have one larger, overall plan for how to budget your finances, too. For example, the budget jar method involves assigning various expenses (rent, food, etc.) to individual jars — either real or metaphorical — to keep a better handle on how much you're spending, where you're spending it, and what's left afterward. Meanwhile, some people may choose to set all of their bills to auto-pay. This takes some of the responsibility out of your hands and gives you a consistent idea of what you have remaining each month. It can also reduce some of the stress associated with bill-paying, since you don't actively have to do it.
There's so much more we can do, though — tons of little things that really add up. And I can say so from experience: For a good part of my adult life, I was barely making enough money to get by. You don't realize how much money there is to be saved until you don't have any other options. You start to get creative, pinching pennies and constantly hunting for a better deal. You switch to generic toothpaste, but not generic toilet paper, because that leaves crumbs on your tush.
So, what smaller choices can you make that leave a big impact on your finances? Check out 12 of my favorites below, and head on over to AskReddit to view the full thread.
1. Spend Equal Money On Savings As You Do Fun Stuff
This is such a great idea, and an excellent way to avoid temptation. If you can afford to spend $60 on a video game, you can possibly afford to put $60 in your savings. If you really want to treat yourself but can't afford to put away the same amount, pick a smaller amount and stick to it: Maybe for every $10 you spend on fun stuff, you put $5 in savings.
2. Take Extra Care When Shopping Online
Buying stuff online is so dangerous. If your credit card is on file, you can easily spend a boatload in a matter of seconds. Sleep on the idea and see how you feel the next morning.
3. Shop Smart At Your Local Farmers' Market
Sure, the food might be picked through. But if a farmer is looking to get rid of their stock before they go back home, they might be offering some delicious, organic food at a deep discount. On a similar note, when doing your weekly grocery shopping at your traditional store, don't forget to check out the ugly produce. You'll frequently find that there's nothing wrong with it, and you can find fresh, delicious eats for less than a dollar!
4. Don't Drive With A Lead Foot
Not only does this save money, but it's less wear and tear on your car — which could also be money saved in the future. There are many other ways to save money on gas, too. Braking frequently uses up a ton of fuel. Also, avoid gas stations right off the highway. They tend to be more expensive. During warmer months, buy gas early or late in the day when it's cooler — the gas will be more dense, and you'll get more of it when you pump. Finally, buy it earlier in the week, as prices tend to rise between Wednesday and Saturday.
5. Think Of A Purchase In Terms Of Time Invested — Not Money
I used to do this all the time when I was making very little money and had very little to spare. When I knew how many hours I'd have to work to pay for something, I'd skip buying it. I knew that if I wanted to treat myself to a burrito, I'd have to work about an hour just to break even. Who wants to work an hour and not have any money to show for it? (But you would have a burrito to show for it, which is almost as good. Almost.)
6. Go Meatless, Even Just For a Brief Time
This is huge, people! Skip meat for a week — heck, even a day. Have Meatless Monday and save not only tons of animals, but plenty of cash. Here's one example for Meatless Monday: If a family of four pays $20 for a lasagna dinner, they could remove the meat from just that one meal and save about $520 a year. Nobody's telling you to go vegetarian (although it's not a bad idea, if you're into it). We can all survive a few days a month without meat, at least.
7. Don't Be Ashamed To Buy Used
I've bought tons of used clothes, and I'm not afraid to admit it. In fact, some of my favorite pieces (purchased for mere dollars) were bought "gently worn," and I've owned some of them for years. It's a great way to sort of reduce, reuse, and recycle. Depending on where you live, check out the nearest Goodwill, Salvation Army, Buffalo Exchange, and Plato's Closet. By the way, you can make donations to places like Goodwill and get a tax deduction; and places like Buffalo Exchange and Plato's Closet will pay you for your used clothes. It's not a ton of money, and they're picky about what they accept, but money is money.
8. Always Check For Coupons and Cashback
You have no idea how much money there is to be saved and made. Check out Ebates for cashback deals, plus promo codes, coupons, and more. You should also download Honey for discount coupon codes. (It's a Google Chrome extension.) My boyfriend and I use these religiously and it makes a huge difference.
9. Set A Little Extra Cash Aside Regularly
Make it a habit and you're going to save some serious cash. I also like to keep only a certain amount of change in my wallet. The rest goes in my handy little savings jar on the kitchen counter.
10. Live Modestly
You might make $4,000 a month, but that doesn't mean you need to spend it all. Instead, only take the $1,400 you need to pay bills and expenses every month, and put the rest of it in savings or investments. I'm a big fan of this. I know exactly how much I need to survive, and everything else gets put away.
11. Ditch Expensive Bottled Water
I know how important it is to have clean drinking water. I live in Nevada, where you might as well drink from the toilet bowl. Bottled water might be safer, but you're wasting tons of money and, if you don't recycle your bottles, contributing to creating unnecessary waste.
If your city doesn't have the best drinking water, you still have more cost-saving options. Invest in a water filter for your refrigerator or faucet, or get one that comes with its own pitcher. Another option is to buy water by the gallon, which is way most cost effective than buying packs of individual bottles. We pay for a water service that delivers big gallon jugs to our apartment, and we use them in our water machine. You get so much more bang for your buck.
12. Give Your Purchase A Little Time
When a seller or business thinks they're about to make some money (especially if it's a big purchase), they might reduce the price a little to avoid losing the sale. If you can hold off on buying something, give it a few days or a week and see if you can get a better deal.
Images: negativespace/Pexels; AskReddit (12)