Saving is hard — especially when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. It’s rare to find spare funds, and when you do, it can be difficult to even consider putting them away.
Don’t get down on yourself if you’ve fallen into this trap — it’s not an uncommon problem. Just know that there are solutions available even if you feel like you’ve tried them all. If you find saving to be arduous and painful, this list aims to change that for you.
1. Start Small
Begin your saving journey by not putting too much pressure on yourself: focus on smaller steps first. A common beginning method is to make a habit of setting a “zero point” for yourself in your bank account. This can be done in two ways.
First, whenever your savings account reaches a certain threshold, set a rule for yourself to no longer dip below it. For example, if you started with zero and saved $105, then make $100 your new zero. If you want to take money out of your savings, you only have $5 at your disposal.
The second way is to do the same with your checking account so you have enough for essentials.
This method is purely psychological, but it works wonders if you can stick to it. Similarly, you can try doubling nonessential purchases. If you’re prone to buying coffee before work, then afterward put the same amount into your savings account. When considering spending money on something unnecessary, you’ll have to make sure you’re able to part with double that amount.
Finally, if you still have issues following through with saving, the key may be to automate the process. Certain debit cards offer the option to round up each purchase to the next dollar and put the difference straight into savings. This requires no effort on your end, but it allows your savings to build just as you’d like them to.
2. Create a Budget That Works for You
Once you sit down and review your expenses, you can create a budget that can coexist with your lifestyle. What kinds of purchases do you not want to give up? With these costs plus essentials in mind, how much are you left to spend at the end of each month? Take that amount, then consider putting a sizable but dispensable portion into savings.
If your final amount gives you enough monetary leeway, then set up an automatic monthly transfer to savings. If it doesn’t, consider reducing your nonessential expenditures. Instead of eating out twice a week, only do so once. Instead of getting coffee out every weekday, only buy it three times a week and brew your own on the other days. Reducing your discretionary spending is a surefire way to end up with more money at month’s end.
Happily, many purchases can be made unnecessary by learning to make things yourself (like brewing your own coffee). Learning to cook is a key thing you can do to save without “saving,” and it can be rewarding, too. Plus, if you formulate your weekly meals to use similar ingredients between them, you can cut expenses even more. This frees funds at the end of the month that can be added to savings or used to treat yourself.
3. Buy, Sell, and Borrow Used Goods
It can be thrilling to catch a good sale at the store. But oftentimes you’ll find that the item you purchased can be found secondhand for even less. This is particularly true at thrift stores and reseller websites. Even though they are used, many of these items can be like new and are still well able to serve their purpose. Stash the money you saved in your savings account.
Now that you’re shopping more sustainably, you can afford more for less. There is one problem, though — you may be running out of space. Luckily, several of these stores and websites allow you to sell your own stuff as well. Many clothing-based thrift stores will buy your clothes to resell, and popular selling websites include eBay and Etsy.
Reselling is a useful means of partially recouping your investments when you’re done with an item. Refreshing your style becomes more affordable when you continually buy and sell, as you are essentially recycling your wardrobe fund. It is possible that you won’t even need to put in any “new” money the next time you shop.
Beyond this, if you’re looking for entertainment, then all you need is a library card. Local libraries are goldmines for media of any sort, whether that be books, movies, or video games. With the money you save on movie tickets and video game downloads, you can pad your nest egg.
4. Change Your Consumer Mindset
Alongside these basics, there are numerous other rules of thumb that will help you curb your extra spending. Businesses often create events such as sales to draw customers in, so remember to only buy with previous intention. Sure, that tortilla warmer might be 50% off, but if you wouldn’t have bought it otherwise, then you’re still losing money. This also applies when paying for amenities like cable.
Television service in your home can be quite expensive. Companies often throw deals around enticing people to subscribe, but these plans usually cost the same in the long run. Instead of paying for an excessive cable package, cut the cord and switch to streaming.
If you focus on one service’s content each month, you’ll only need one or two at a time. On top of free trials, this can cut your monthly media costs significantly.
Another thing to consider is store-brand products. Frequently, stores have generic versions of name-brand products that cost less but are of equal or similar quality. Many of these products are even manufactured in the same factories. While you may only want the best, a brand name’s reputation for quality may only be the result of marketing. You might be surprised at how good the store-brand counterpart is.
The term “saving” generally provokes negative feelings in people — you want to spend! It’s only natural in a consumption-based economy, and the impulse is nothing to be ashamed of. Still, it’s important to save your money for emergencies or other financial goals. With these tips, you can boost your savings and still enjoy your paycheck. Good luck!