We all have the best intentions when it comes to being more financially responsible. But actually making changes in order to save money? Well, it can feel damn near impossible. You might to try swear off takeout food. Or forsake your social life. Or quit online shopping. But then you crave a burrito, your friend wants to go out, or your see a sale at your favorite store. Denying yourself can feel like a huge pain, so you decide to splurge "just this once" —and just like that your budget goes right out the window.
That's why the answer to saving money may rely in finding ways to store up extra cash without drastically changing your lifestyle. If you can find a way to make smart financial decisions without having to delete your Seamless app, for example, wouldn't that be sort of a win-win situation?
I'd like to think so, which is why I reached out to several financial experts to get their best tips for saving money without having to give up all your favorite things. While it will definitely require you to make tiny adjustments, saving some extra cash is totally worth it. "You end up with lots more money with less effort if you start [saving] young," financial expert Andrew Overby tells Bustle. Do you want to do your future self that favor? Then read on for some mostly painless ways to keep yourself financial independent forever.
1. Track Your Spending
First things first, you gotta track your spending. As Germano says, "You can't make better financial decisions if you don't know which decisions you're already making." So go ahead and download an app, like Mint or PocketGuard. They'll allow you to see in real time where all that dough is going.
2. Get Rid Of Unnecessary Expenses
Do you pay a ridiculous amount of money for things you don't even use? Cutting these expenses is one of the first things you should do, especially since their disappearance won't necessarily impact your life. To start, Germano suggests canceling your cable service. "In the age of Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus and more, it doesn't make very much sense to pay an extra $50 a month for cable," she says. And I have to agree.
3. Pay Attention To Your Thermostat
OK, so you may enjoy prancing around your steamy apartment in nothing but a tank top. But it won't be too much of a life adjustment (no pun intended) to lower your thermostat and put on a sweater. As Airserv owner Richard Cires tells me, utility expenses can easily cost you a lot of money. If you turn down that heat (and turn off your lights) it'll seem like you're magically saving more money.
4. Actually Stick To Your Grocery List
You gotta go grocery shopping, but you don't have to treat yourself to extras and/or exotic ingredients each and every time. So do yourself a favor and start making lists. "I have found that preparing ahead of time helps me avoid impulse buys," Germano says. "You can be old-school and write out your shopping list, or you can use an app on your phone, like AnyList."
5. Let An App Do The Work
Another app that can do the hard money-saving work for you is Digit. "You link it to your bank accounts and it's technology figures out how much you can afford to save (i.e. live without) and transfers it into savings," says Jean Chatzky, financial expert for the Today Show and author of AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip. "It [also] protects you from overdrafts and it all happens behind the scenes." So easy, right?
6. Set A Monthly Restaurant Budget
One of the most difficult changes to make when trying to save money is giving up takeout food, lattes, and dinner dates with friends. So let's go ahead and not restrict that 100 percent. Instead, you should make a budget. "Based on what you earn and how much your expenses are, pick a budget for how much you can spend on dining out each month," Germano says. "This way, you're being responsible with your money, but still allowing yourself a treat."
7. Pack Your Lunch Most Days
Delicious cafe lunches sure are a nice way to break up the work day. But occasionally packing your lunch can save you so much money that the sacrifice may just be worth it. As Germano tells me, buying yourself lunch every weekday for an entire year can cost up to $2,500! Motivation to cut back? I think so.
8. Borrow All Of Your Books
I know, the desire to have a bookshelf full of classics is strong. But all those $10 purchases can add up fast. So, until you have extra cash, be all about borrowing. "[Those who] read a book once and then move on may want to consider borrowing an eBook from the library instead of actually buying the book," says NYC-based certified financial planner Roger Ma, CFP. You also might want to consider having a book swap with friends.
9. Find The Right Credit Card
If you're going to swipe your credit card all the time, at least make sure it's one that gives you something back. "Finding a credit card that rewards you most for the types of [spending] you do could pay off in the form of cash back or travel rewards," Ma says. Shop around for the best one, and reap those benefits.
10. Be Choosier With Your Vacations
Instead of totally forgoing vacations in order to save money, go ahead and learn how to do them on the cheap. "Timing is everything," says financial expert Andrew Overby. "With vacation spots, there's an off-season when it's cheaper." You might also stay in an Airbnb instead of a pricey hotel, and make your day about sightseeing instead of dining and shopping.
11. Hang Out With Thrifty Friends
You may think you have to give up your social life in order to save money. But often all you have to do is hang out with thriftier friends. "People emulate their friends and those they spend the most time with, so it won't feel like you're denying yourself if you spend time with people who also appreciate making every dollar count," Overby says. Sound advice, right?
12. Set Up Automated Savings
You don't have to be a financial expert in order to save money. Often all the effort it takes to be all money savvy is setting up an automated savings account. You know, where a portion of every paycheck goes into an account each month. "It's even more effective if that savings account is not linked to your checking account," Germano says. That way you can't "accidentally" spend it.
13. Check For Coupons First
Of course you should try to cut back on those 2 a.m. Amazon shopping sprees. But if you want to treat yourself, or feel yourself about to give into a purchase, use an app to check for coupons first. As financial planner Rosemary Linden says, "I rarely make a purchase without checking the app first." RetailMeNot is a good one that offers coupons for in-store and online purchases.
14. Get Yourself A Side Job
There's nothing wrong with buying daily coffees and treating yourself to life's little extras if you have the money for it. And one way to do that? With a side job. Whether you sell make up or brew coffee, a part-time job can allow you to increase your earnings and invest money for the future, Avon representative Georgiana Haynes tells me. It really is a win win.
15. Put Extra Money Directly In Your Savings
Let's say you get an unexpected bonus or raise at work. You might want this money to go directly to a new gadget or a ton of snacks, but it should go directly into a savings or retirement account instead. "You're used to living on your old salary, so the impact on you everyday life will be minimal to non-existent," financial expert Christopher Carosa tells Bustle. Just save it and don't think about it again.
With little tips like these, you can rack up extra money without really having to change your life. Want to go out to lunch? Go ahead and do it. Feel like seeing a movie? Be my guest. Just make sure you're saving money, thinking ahead, and making little changes to make sure you don't go broke.
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