Best Ways to Save Money When Stretched Thin
Developing proper money-saving strategies and making them a habit is the most important step in the process of staying within a certain budget. It is important to know that you are not alone when it comes to struggling to save money and that there are resources and people out there willing to help. You can consult your bank for advice, a responsible family member or friend, a counselor, etc. To quote from U.S. News, “And yet saving money can be maddeningly difficult. After all, there are so many distractions vying for our attention and wallet... It’s hard to resist” (2).Compiled below is a list of the 15 best ways to help you save money.
Set Savings Goals
It is important to remember that to save money, you have to manage priorities. “One of the best ways to save money is to set a goal. Start by thinking of what you might want to save for—perhaps you’re getting married, planning a vacation or saving for retirement. Then figure out how much money you’ll need and how long it might take you to save it” (1).
Find Ways to Cut Your Spending
If you are struggling to save money, then it might be prudent to start cutting back. Whether it be eliminating non essential purchases, or shopping for cheaper alternatives, cutting your spending is most likely an important step.
Record Your Expenses
An important step in the beginning stages of starting to budget your money is organization. This may be a step that people often gloss over when deciding to start cutting back on their spending, but it is an essential one. It’s hard to start saving and managing your expenses more efficiently if you don’t keep track of where your money is going. “Once you have your data, organize the numbers by categories, such as gas, groceries and mortgage, and total each amount. Use your credit card and bank statements to make sure you’re accurate—and don’t forget any” (1)
Decide your Priorities
Determining the most important expenses in your life is part of the saving process that can really make a difference. Your priorities, whether they be vacations, buying a car, or just paying rent, are helpful to know in the saving process because it is easier to allocate your finances and create an effective budget.
Creating a Budget
Once you know how much you spend in a month, your income, and potential rises in monthly spending, you can begin to create your budget. “Your budget should outline how your expenses measure up to your income—so you can plan your spending and limit overspending. Be sure to factor in expenses that occur regularly but not every month, such as car maintenance” (1)
According to TIAA, there are three important timelines to consider when figuring out how much money to save each month. Those three are:
- Less than 1 Year
- These expenses may include holiday/birthday gifts or paying bills
- Less than 1 Decade
- “You might use this money to replace your dishwasher, fix your car's timing belt, cover a major insurance deductible, stay afloat when you're between jobs and make a down payment on a home” (3)
- “Retirement is the ultimate long-term savings goal” (3)
Shop the Sales
This strategy is simple, yet effective. Utilizing sales when grocery shopping may seem minimally effective at first, but over time it makes a difference can save you a lot of money. Certain stores have specific days for sales/deals, depending on where you shop. “Many grocery stores launch new sales midweek, generally on Wednesdays, so shoppers who browse the aisles then often get first access to new promotions and discounts. Plus, stores will frequently honor the previous week's coupons” (2).
A good strategy for saving money when on a budget is saving advertisements and coupons for discounted prices and promotions whenever you see them. Certain items may not be of interest to you in the moment but that could change down the road. You might end up purchasing a gift for someone with one of those coupons you decided to save.
Put Money in your Savings Account
This step may seem obvious and self-explanatory but it is essential and sometimes overlooked. You should always be putting “unexpected cash” into a savings account, whether it be birthday money or a refund of some sort.
Start thinking about items that you can reuse before throwing out or replacing with reusable options. One of those options could include a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
Next time you decide to go shopping for new clothes, consider a thrift store as an alternative. Their clothing is drastically cheaper than normal retail prices. While the idea of buying used clothes may not appeal to you, thrift stores sometimes have new clothes with the tags still on them.
Manage A/C and Heating
“According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you could save as much as 10% a year on your electric bill by turning your thermostat down 7 degrees to 10 degrees for eight hours a day from its normal setting” (2)
Reconsider Streaming Services
There is an abundance of entertainment options available today and specifically an abundance in streaming. If you are on a budget and paying 3 or 4 streaming services, you may need to reevaluate which, if any, are a priority and eliminate some from your monthly expenses.
While this may seem trivial, saving coins you collect throughout the year can add up to a decent amount of money that could be used to pay for a couple meals maybe or a month of Netflix.
This financial rule/suggestion states that 20% of your income should go toward savings, 50% should go toward necessities, and the remaining 30% should go toward “discretionary items,” such as entertainment, vacations, or any other non-essential purchases. (3)
This list was intended to help you if you are struggling to save money. These are not required to be done at the same time, nor required at all. They are merely suggestions that you can take at your discretion. Hopefully, these tips serve as good advice for your financial future. Overall, saving money is important, but don’t forget (if you are financially able) to spend a little on your well-being and happiness.