If you want to know how to save money, this article will point you in the right direction! Let’s get started.
This week I am answering another common question, which is how to save money on a consistent basis each month.
You know you need to save more of your money, but where do you find the extra income to save? I’ve talked about how a too-big mortgage or leasing new cars is a strain on your budget that has to be addressed if you are serious about getting out of debt. But sometimes it’s not the big ticket items that are holding you back.
It’s easy to take on payment plans to finance almost anything these days. You may not dream of running out and spending $2500 on a Peleton bike, but making monthly payments $69 seems manageable. Over time, you get a raise at work or a bonus and feel like you have room for more extras in your budget. Before you know it, these subscriptions and payment plans add up and you have given in to lifestyle creep.
I return to budget often because it is such an important step in seeing where your money goes. When you closely track your spending for a few weeks, you start to see where your “leaks” are. Those areas of the budget that are hemorrhaging money need to be your focus.
Here are a few of the common ones.
Save Money on Debt Payments
What can you do to pull back on the monthly spend? You have another two years to pay off your latest toy. If you want to prioritize getting out of debt and saving, you aren’t tied to the bank’s payment schedule. You can—and should—pay faster to free up your cash flow.
If your debt is on credit cards, shop around and see if you can get a better rate, even if you move your balance to a new card with a low introductory rate. Your priority is to pay off the debt you already have, so a lower rate will speed that process. Any room you have in your budget from saved fees should go toward the old debt, not new things.
An introductory rate is usually only good for a year. Make it a priority to pay that debt down before the window has passed to avoid fees.
Review Your Monthly Spending
Where do you find this extra money each month? First review what monthly subscriptions you have that you can stop now.
I don’t think I need to tell you that your wine-of-the-month needs to go. But consider gym memberships, yard maintenance, pest control, cleaning services, pool memberships. If you can do it yourself or do it another way, consider dropping the monthly bill.
Look at all your recurring monthly bills, and pick up the phone. You may qualify for better insurance rates if you haven’t shopped around lately. There are low cost cell phone providers that may offer a better rate for your family.
The cable bill, in particularly, should be reviewed. Cable companies have a habit of increasing your bill over time, so if you aren’t reviewing it regularly, you are almost certainly overpaying.
If you can’t do without it, call and see if there is a cheaper package. Many cable companies are competing with streaming services now, and will offer you a lower-priced streaming option. If you mostly watch streamed content from hulu, you tube, or netflix, consider cutting the cable completely.
Find Your Inner “Food Network Star”
Eating out is an easy target that can make a huge impact in your budget. If you regularly order takeout, search copycat recipes for your favorites online. You may be surprised how easy they are to recreate at home for less. If you like to cook and you are up to the challenge, make bulk meals on the weekend to make mealtime easier during the week.
If you don’t have much experience or interest in cooking, it’s probably unrealistic to start eating all of your meals at home. Start small. Make your own sandwiches for lunch. Recruit someone else in your family who would enjoy spending time in the kitchen. Make a grocery list only for items you will use and stick to it.
Covid-19 has given many of us more time in the kitchen. Even if your schedule is starting to return to normal, hold on to some of your new habits. Where you were forced to scale back, consider which expenses are worth reincorporating and where you can make some changes permanent.
Save Money by Putting Away the Plastic
When you go to the store, plan your trip and what you’ll need to spend. Try to transition most of your purchases in cash. Studies show it’s much harder to part with cash, and it will keep you honest if you go to the grocery store with a list and $60 and know you have to stick to it.
When you make any large purchase, shop around! Look for a deal, and be willing to wait a few days or even weeks for it.
But don’t rationalize a big purchase you don’t need just because of a great price! A pet-hair vacuum deal on Black Friday is not a deal if you weren’t already looking to buy one.
About the Holidays…
Without planning, the holiday season can easily wipe out a year of good behavior.
You want the season to be magical for the kids.
Plus, you don’t want your family to think you are cheap.
Finally, you want your friends to know what they mean to you!
I hear you.
But consider for a minute that a lot of our holiday giving is based on our own relationship with money. While exchanging gifts will always be associated with the season, others are not as worried about (or impressed by) what we spend. This study found that while givers feel like an expensive gift is more meaningful, the recipient does not tend to agree.
In other words, the obligation to overspend at the holidays is in your head.
But we all know that holiday hangover feeling when the January credit card bill arrives. You know, two weeks after Christmas when most of the gifts have already been forgotten.
Yes, kids like gifts, but often they are happy without a pile of them. Younger kids do not pay attention to the price tag. Resist making the focus of the season or the day all about the presents, because your kids are likely not the ones driving this mindset.
If scaling back is a break from tradition, make a plan early with your family and friends so no one is caught off guard. Host a secret gift swap for a large group. Suggest a spending limit and make cookies or candles instead of spending big.
If you don’t want to blame the money aspect, there are so many other good reasons to pull back on the holiday spend. Sparing the environment, focusing on what the season means to you, avoiding buying more things to spare the clutter, and teaching your children that spending should not be the focus are all good reasons to pull back.
When it comes to your kids, make sure to be the adult! Show them how to save money by modeling this behavior yourself.
It’s especially hard when it comes to kids. They love travel hockey and lavish vacations. You love showing your affection by providing these things. But pulling back on spending is a great lesson for them. Spending money you don’t have is normalizing reckless spending for your kids.
In a world of predatory lending, where kids are accosted by credit offers early, show them how to live without being indebted to someone else. Be open about those decisions for your family. Explain to older kids how saving in one area now gives them more options later, whether it’s starting a college fund or saving for a first car.