We know, saving it hard. There are ways to save $5 a day, $100 a week, and even $500 a month if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t have one yet, then you need to start with a savings plan.
How bare bones is your budget? Are you watching every penny, really tightening your belt? Most of us aren’t. Here are some ways to save little amounts and big ones too.
Save $5 A Day
It’s likely that every time you leave the house, you’re spending money and those amounts are sometimes very small. But $5 is $5, and every little bit counts.
You don’t have to skip it entirely but that old wive’s tale about breakfast being the most important meal of the day is bunk. You won’t go into “starvation mode” and wreck your metabolism if you skip one meal. I’ve never eaten breakfast because I’m not hungry until a few hours after waking and my BMI is stellar.
If you must eat, that’s okay; some people do wake up hungry. But you don’t have to buy breakfast out. It’s not like it’s some great treat or luxury anyway. I’m all for luxurious treats as a worthy, occasional expense. You’re just having a stale donut or a greasy egg sandwich.
And for cripes sake, stop buying coffee out! How many times do I have to tell you?! I don’t understand how people so desperate for coffee that Starbuck’s is their first stop upon leaving the house in the morning, can leave the house in the morning without coffee. I have never, ever left my house without drinking coffee since I started drinking it and I started drinking it when I was eight because I had neglectful parents. (Just kidding, I have wonderful parents.) Buy a coffee pot, some filters, some Cafe Bustelo and make it at home for free!
Not when you’re out for a nice meal, we are people of standards, not barbarians. You’re a grown up, and you should be drinking wine or a pretentious cocktail at those meals. I mean the meals you’re eating out because you’re in the middle of holiday shopping, it’s 2:00 and I already made you skip breakfast.
For those types of “food court” meals, don’t get a tea or soda, drink water. Water that you brought in your re-fillable bottle from home because sometimes water is more expensive than a crummy soda.
Use Coupons, But Not In The Grocery
The coupons you get in the Sunday paper for grocery items are usually for processed junk that you shouldn’t be buying for health and money reasons anyway and are usually for such small amounts, that it’s not worth the hassle. I don’t care if I save .25 on canned pasta. But every time you need to buy something else, google “coupon code” for the thing you need to buy or the store you’ll be buying it from.
You’ll be surprised what you can save. I just looked for Home Depot coupons on Coupon Sherpa and found one for $5 off a purchase of $50 or more, 6.61% off gift cards, and $5 off a purchase over $50 on lawn and garden items. The site has coupons and codes in several categories, including restaurants. So spend five minutes before you set off and see what you can save.
Scour For Loose Change
How many purses, work bags, man bags, gym bags, shopping totes, pairs of pants, coats, and couch cushions do you have? A lot, which is why you’re reading this to find out ways to come up with $5. Paw through all those places and see how much you can find.
Now, going forward, instead of tossing those coins in all those places, you’ll empty it into a piggy bank or old coffee can if you’re a bootleg. At the end of the day, you will surely have at least $5.
Cross It Off
Every time you go shopping, you should be armed with a list. And, this is the hard part, you should stick to the list. Otherwise, you get distracted by shiny things in Target and fancy, hard to pronounce cheeses in Whole Foods.
Now that you have your list that you are sticking to cross two things off of it. Do you need two types of cereal? Do you need milk and flavored coffee creamer? No, you do not. Jettison the extras.
Save $100 A Week
Getting a little uncomfortable now, but you can do it!
Sometimes you do need to buy things. A coffee maker for example since I’ve shamed you out of your Starbuck’s habit. But everything you buy doesn’t have to be brand new. Check out a local thrift shop before you head to Target. They’re great for things like small appliances, toys, and clothing.
You can find some great scores if you go to a rich people neighborhood to do this. It’s way more exhilarating to find a good score in a thrift shop than to pull one of the dozens of the same thing off a rack or shelf in a regular store or shop.
You can double dip here too. If you find something amazing that you don’t need for, check Amazon and eBay and see how much the item is getting on-line. If you can make a profit, grab it and sell it later.
Take A Booze Hiatus
This is the perfect time of year to do this because there are so many parties. Free drinks! I wasn’t suggesting you stop drinking altogether. I already made you stop eating breakfast, and my cruelty goes only so far. It does not extend to stepping on your buzz. I also try not to give advice that I would not follow in a million years.
So I’m not telling you not to drink. I’m telling you to drink other people’s booze. But only the booze of people who are richer than you; your parent’s for Thanksgiving, your office holiday party, your in-law’s at Christmas. Don’t take the booze from people in the circumstances similar to your own. Think of the savings when you’re drinking for free.
If you’re reading this after the holidays, you can still achieve the goal. A determined, cheap drunk can suss out free drinks whatever the date on the calendar. Find a gallery opening, they often have free drinks and sometimes free appetizer type things too. Go to some type of work industry event. The NYC contingent of LMM went to one last week that had an open bar for two hours. That was probably all our weekly salaries combined that we drank in free booze. T’was awesome.
I think the only time I leave the house that doesn’t end up costing me money is when I run and that’s only because I don’t have my purse with me. I need something from the drug store, from the grocery, from the book store. The outside world is full of opportunities to spend money. So shun it! And sunlight and human interaction and fresh air. Ugh, this sucks! That’s okay; we’ll just do this one for two days a month.
Pick a Sunday, that’s a nice, lazy day. Stay inside and read, cook, do some squats, watch the Lions get their ass beat for the eleventy millionth time in your life. If you are feeling super ambitious, you can even make some extra money from your couch.
Now, you’ve saved on brunch, groceries (cook from what you already have, this is America, none of us have bare pantries), books, movies, clothes, all those things we spend money on during weekends.
Stay Off The Internet
Well, not all of the internet. Piss off Al Gore and see what happens. Looking at cat pictures on Reddit is free and so is looking at whatever you’re looking at on Youporn. You know the usual suspects, Amazon, Seamless, Etsy. If Pinterest ever implements a click to buy function, I’ll be living in a cardboard box.
Cash Is King
I rarely use cash. I like getting miles on my credit cards, and it’s easier to track credit card transactions because Mint pulls them, unlike cash transactions. But because of this, I don’t worry about each transaction. Unless I’m buying something big, big ticket, there is plenty of room on the card.
If I left the house with only X number of actual greenbacks in my wallet, that’s all I would spend because it’s all I would have to spend. So for one week, only carry one $50 bills with you. If you have to go to the grocery, you will be standing there with a calculator to make sure you won’t be embarrassed at the checkout. Embarrassment is a powerful motivator. You can tell the checker that, of course, you have more than $50, but you forgot your wallet at home. But they won’t believe you, and they’ll just think you’re some urchin.
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Save $500 In A Month
Feeling the pinch now but we’ve come this far.
This one will not only save you money; it will save you time. You might drop a few pounds too if that is a goal you have. I tinker with my diet and eating habits a lot. A few months ago I started intermittent fasting, not for weight loss but the various health benefits.
Also for the time-saving aspect. I work from home so I could eat all day if I wanted to (or let myself). This is annoying because my diet is not the kind where I can grab a handful of gold fish crackers if I’m feeling peckish so I would stop my work flow to prepare and eat something. And by prepare, I mostly mean just heating something up since I batch cook, but it still takes more time than eating the crackers.
So I cut it down to two meals a day. Big meals that meet my calorie, macro, and micro nutrient requirements. This is very freeing, both time and cost wise. Even though my meals are bigger, I spend less time and money on them.
Eat The Pantry
If you are reading this from the first world, you have so much food in your house right now. Cans of beans, tuna, small amounts of rice and pasta in the bottom of boxes, some old carrots in the crisper, rubbery but edible. Butter, eggs, olive oil, salt, pepper and all manner of exotic spices.
You could probably feed yourself through a nuclear winter from the contents of your kitchen. It’s just that you maybe don’t know how to make those ingredients into a meal. This site can help. It might be that what you could make just isn’t what you’re in the mood to eat. Tough! You don’t have to be in the mood for it or even like it. You just have to eat it.
Generic products have come a long way since they were sold in black and white boxes that looked like things that would be sold in a prison commissary. They haven’t even considered generic anymore but “store brands.” Ask a Costco member about Kirkland and watch their eyes glaze over in ecstasy.
Two Buck Chuck is the nickname for a cheap “house” wine sold at Trader Joe’s because it used to be $1.99 a bottle. It’s a little under $4 a bottle now, but it’s a good, drinkable wine that has won a few awards and what the hell do you know about wine anyway? As Brandon Behan so eloquently put it, “Guinness gets you drunk.” Well, that’s all you need to know about Two Buck Chuck too.
Probably the biggest bang for your generic buck though is at the pharmacy, both over the counter drugs and prescription. The FDA mandates that generic drugs must have the same active ingredients as the name brand counter part.
The name brand drugs are pricier because the manufacturers are trying to recoup the cost of their research and development and advertising. Duane Reade brand acetaminophen will cure your head ache just as well as Tylenol. And no one ever slipped cyanide into the Duane Reade brand.
Skip One Holiday
Holy cow do we love spending money on holidays. Even the ones that don’t involve gifts. We spend $6.9 billion dollars on Halloween this year! That’s a lot of plastic candy collecting pumpkins. Halloween spending is now second only to Christmas spending. We spent $2.4 billion on Thanksgiving last year.
When is the last time you enjoyed a holiday? Does anyone? For every article about how to make X holiday wonderful, there are three about how to make it through X holiday without going into the poor house or murdering your entire family and a few strangers because you had some bullets left over.
So object by abstaining from the whole sordid affair. You don’t have to opt out entirely unless you are looking for an excuse to alienate your family and if you choose this method, you will have savings you can only dream of. Birthdays, weddings, showers, the savings are endless. If you’d rather not, just choose one holiday and agree to cobble together a celebration using things you already have.
Be a ghost for Halloween by cutting eye and mouth holes in an old sheet. Invite yourself to someone else’s Thanksgiving, wrap up old toys for Christmas that your kids forgot they had. Or just sit on the couch, Grinch hat firmly in place with your arms folded. They’ll forgive you eventually.
If you don’t want everyone to know you’re doing this for monetary reasons, you can always co-opt that moral high horse and claim that the holiday has gotten “too commercial” and you’re going back to what it’s “supposed to be about,” spending time with family and friends. Probably no one will buy it, but you can try!
You have talents untold. You can sew! Finding you would be like finding a unicorn to me. Your friends have untold talents too. Janet can fix anything, computers, printers, washing machines. But she can’t sew on a button, poor thing. And you can’t do anything about your malfunctioning computer beyond turning it off and back on again which is not resolving the problem.
If you need something that is potentially expensive, see if anyone you know can help you out. And see if they need anything that you can do. Then trade. Believe it or not, there was a time before money. Bartering is how people exchanged goods and services. You might accidentally start your little underground economy in the process.
Savings are lurking everywhere, waiting to be found. Even if you managed to save just $5 a day, that’s $1,825 a year. Money to invest, pay off debt, or add to your emergency fund. If you make $20 an hour, that’s over 91 work hours. Money saved is money earned.
Inter-Article Image Photo Credit: “Coupon Clipping.” by Paul Swansen on Flickr