The journey to financial security can start with one little money-saving life hack, like saving $5 on your weekly grocery bill. Add new habits and new ways to save, until frugality is just your lifestyle and saving money is second nature.
Increasing the amount you save means you’ll have more money for debt payoff, saving for big goals, or investing in retirement. It means that you will rely on debt less, or not at all, in the future.
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What is the trick to saving money?
The number one money-saving life hack is… spending intentionally.
Whenever you spend money, do so with intention. Even routine grocery runs require thought and planning to help stay on budget. There are many ways to be intentional with your money, but it all starts with making a decision to change.
It’s often uncomfortable at first, but getting well acquainted with your finances will let you make better decisions. There are so many little ways to save money every day, but you need to have the intention to see the opportunities.
Living frugally isn’t just about money-saving life hacks; rather, it is a way of life. When you become proficient, you don’t need lists of ideas. You’ll just know how to save money because you’ve been spending with intention.
What’s the 30-day rule with money?
The 30-day rule, when it comes to money, is simple in theory but difficult in practice. Whenever you want to buy something that isn’t a necessity, just wait 30 days to buy it.
It’s a very simple concept, but the implementation can be HARD. If that purchase is something you really want or have been thinking about for a long time, waiting 30 days to buy it is going to be excruciating.
This is when you need to tap into your motivation; focus on your why. I know how hard it is to resist buying something you just really want, so I rely on a combination of willpower and terrible memory.
98% of the time when I add something to a cart online & resolve to wait 30 days to make the purchase, I forget about it. With everything else going on in my life, a $15 phone case or $20 top quickly falls off my mental radar.
Adding something to your cart gives you a little endorphin boost, but your wallet doesn’t take a hit. Instead, let the potential purchase simmer for 30 days before deciding if you really need it.
Sometimes websites will notice you have abandoned your cart & will send an email with a discount code, encouraging you to finish the purchase. Again, you’ll still wait 30 days, but if you decide to buy eventually, you might as well save money too.
What is the $5 challenge?
The $5 challlenge is an even easier trick for saving money: every time you get a $5 bill, save it. Take it out of your wallet & put it somewhere safe. At the end of the year, the month, or another predetermined time period (or when your jar is full), count up your cash & use it for a goal.
Start the $5 challenge by deciding what you’re going to use the money for.
The $5 challenge might be harder to follow during COVID times. I know I’m not spending cash nearly as often. Instead, feel free to transfer $5 to savings whenever you would have gotten a $5 bill in change.
For example, if you order something online for $14.99, transfer $5 to savings. If you had made that purchase in a store with cash, you probably would have used a $20 bill.
How can I save $1000 fast?
First, check out these ways to make saving money fun. No guarantees you’ll save $1000, but a “no spend month” challenge is a money-saving life hack that takes you in the right direction.
Cut big expenses
If you can afford to move, look at downsizing your living expenses. Moving to a more affordable area, or just a more affordable home could save more than $1000 per month.
Consider replacing an expensive-to-drive car with a cheaper one. Some brands require expensive specialty tools and premium gasoline, while a Honda gets you from place to place just the same.
Cut daily expenses
If you’ve been spending wildly above your means, you probably have room to cut expenses in your budget.
Slash eating out and grocery costs by meal planning and actually following that plan. I know it can be hard to cook every night, after a long day, but it does help save money. Stop ordering drinks, appetizers, and desserts when you do go out.
Work to reduce the fuel needed for your car, ride a bike, or use public transportation if it’s available.
Sell debt-related things
Look at what debt-bearing assets you have to sell. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but getting rid of debt is a big help.
Let’s say you have a car with a $500 per month payment. Sell it to pay off the remaining loan and you’ve saved $1000 in just 2 months. You’ll save even more going forward. $500 a month added back to your budget is huge.
Sell other things
Saving $1000 fast is going to be hard, but making $1000 fast is a more achievable task. If that extra car is paid off, you could easily make $1000, or more. Sell any other big-ticket items you have too – an RV, an ATV, a TV, a gaming system, other “toys.”
I can almost guarantee you have random junk lying around that
1. you don’t use or need and
2. can be sold for real money.
Even if you’re selling $10 and $20 items, it adds up. During hard times, every little bit helps. Yes, it takes time, but a lot can be done online when you would have been sitting on the couch anyway.
How can I save money with a low income?
When you don’t have a lot of money to waste, you have to get intentional. Pay attention to what you’re spending on and make a plan for future spending (AKA make a budget).
You need to prioritize too. It’s not always possible to cover the necessities and have much of a budget for fun and entertainment. I realize that’s not fair and it makes life harder mentally, but you have to do what you need to do.
It’s also not always possible to pay off the debt you’ve accumulated on a limited income. There’s no shame in filing for bankruptcy when that’s the only way to start fresh.
Mindset is a money-saving life hack
Find ways to change your mindset & make the journey fun. Challenge your partner (in life or just accountability) to see who can make the most from side hustles each month. Spend your lunch hour doing mystery shops or answering paid surveys online. Make money in your downtime to help you reach your goals sooner.
Focus on your motivation, the real reason you want to save money in the first place. Whether it’s improving your daily life or being able to retire one day, cling to your why. Make a vision board or put up a sticky note on your bathroom mirror; monitor your progress with a visual tracker or free website/app.
Plan for the future
Living on a low income will always be a struggle… and no one wants to struggle forever. Whether you reduce your living expenses by moving or increase your income through education and promotions, you need to do something.
There is a correlation between poverty and mental illness – including depression and anxiety. Anyone who has worried about paying the bills knows that. There’s no shaming in it, it’s just a fact of life. While you work to improve your financial situation, I would also encourage you to work on your mental health as well (read: I Can’t Afford Mental Health Care: How to Find Good Care That Fits in Your Budget)
When you have a low income, just do your best. You are entitled to happiness and respite, but try to find free or cheap ways to go about those activities.
20 best money-saving life hacks
3. Have budget meetings regularly.
5. Drink more water. It’s way cheaper than pretty much every other beverage, and it’s good for you.
6. Buy in bulk (when you will use it all). Bulk purchases are almost always less per unit, but don’t waste the money if it’s not something you’ll use up.
7. Plan errands and trips to save on gas. Batch errands and map out your route to reduce mileage and save gas.
8. Use power strips to save energy. We have one for our TV that depends on a master device: when the TV is off, the other appliances don’t draw any energy. Once the TV is turned on, everything else has power too.
9. Cook at home more (and meal plan) to eat more frugally and reduce food waste.
10. Learn to be content at home. Reading, gardening, baking, home repairs… find a cheap hobby you can do at home.
11. Eat out for less. On the rare occasion when you eat out, order from the lunch or appetizer menu. Eat a snack at home so you can order less. Share an entree. Don’t order alcoholic drinks.
12. Make coffee at home (and other treats). Buying nice coffee beans & a grinder is much cheaper than a daily latte. My $10 grinder is still going strong 7 years later. There are even super affordable espresso machines out there, to make your own lattes at home.
13. Lose your brand loyalty. So many store brands are exactly the same as name brands; some are even manufactured in the same plants. Of course, sometimes differences are noticeable, but often the quality, taste, and appearance are nearly identical.
14. Find free or cheap activities and hobbies. Limit the number of activities you & your children participate in.
15. Delete your credit card information from the websites where you regularly shop. How likely are you to get up, walk to your wallet, and grab your credit card? That extra effort will save you from making mindless purchases.
16. Reduce your subscriptions. Cancel cable, choose between Netflix and Hulu, delete either Spotify or Pandora (or both). Reducing monthly subscriptions means you spend less each month.
17. Buy used. Look on Facebook Marketplace, in thrift stores, or in “buy nothing” groups for non-food purchases before heading out to a store. Used items are less expensive and better for the environment overall.
18. Embrace minimalism. Owning less means you’re spending less – fewer toys, fewer items of clothing, fewer knick-knacks lying around, and less upkeep.
19. Ask questions when you want to buy something, to help you stay mindful and on budget. Only buy what is necessary, useful, and needed.
20. PLAN. Plan for big purchases, meal plan, buy kids’ clothing ahead of time when they’re on sale, buy in bulk during sales. Knowing your habits and needs will allow you to save money by shopping with a plan.