Do any of the below scenarios sound familiar?
“Save money? Who are you kidding? How can I save money when I barely make enough to get by every month as it is? I’ll start saving when I have plenty of extra income and am living comfortably.”
“I save a little, sure. But then some emergency comes along, like a big vet bill or my car needing a repair, and the savings disappear. And then I’m back to square one.”
“I hear these people talking about putting money into savings or investing in mutual funds, and I think they must be really wealthy people because I’m too much in debt to ever start thinking about doing anything but paying off my credit card bills and student loans.”
Many of us have trouble imagining how we can possibly save money since we never seem to have any extra funds on hand. Our monthly bills, long-term debts, and occasional expensive crises seem to squeeze every dollar from our paychecks.
However, each of us gets to the point in our lives when, whether out of necessity or willpower, we realize that we really need to start saving for our future. Maybe we see retirement on the horizon and realize how little we will have to live on in our older years if we don’t set some aside to invest now. Perhaps we recognize that if we ever want to buy that house or take that dream vacation, we need to start setting funds aside now rather than later.
Too many among us think of savings as a luxury we’ll attend to later when we are more flush with cash. However, financially healthy people perceive savings not as an option but as a non-negotiable habit, regardless of income level. Arguably, we should start this habit as early as our twenties, when we are first starting out in the workforce and as soon as we earn even a little money beyond our living expenses.
Regardless of where you are along your life’s journey, there is never a better time to actualize a savings plan than the current moment.
The fact that you could have already started saving can be intimidating, which is why we’ve created a comprehensive list of the best strategies for saving your money. Our selection includes techniques you can implement throughout your savings journey, including instructions on carrying out each of our tips.
It is never too late to start saving. Take a look at our suggestions for saving money and getting yourself prepared for significant, life-changing expenses in your future, such as a new car or home—or retirement. Get started saving today so you can craft a better tomorrow for yourself.
Why is saving money important?
The average adult age 30 or younger believes they have their retirement savings in order if they have at least $10,000 set aside. Without getting too distracted by a specific number, this provides an important benchmark against which you can check your own savings journey. Getting your savings together should be your priority not only for retirement but also for your quality of life now and into the future.
Saving money is crucial because it sets you up for the rest of your life. Naturally, you want to save money for your long-term future. But if you have an emergency, in the meantime, or just want to treat yourself, you will have accumulated savings into which you can reliably dip on select occasions.
If you want to have a family, buy a house, plan for retirement, or go back to school, efficiently saving money is a non-negotiable skill you need to learn. Should you not have any long-term goals now, you can set personal dollar-amount goals to both ensure your security in the near future and also to build toward a more extensive savings plan when you inevitably develop one.
While spending money on things in the moment can feel exhilarating, that moment is temporary and rather fleeting. Enabling yourself to save allows you to have money to afford vacations and more meaningful experiences from time to time.
While we hope they never occur, emergencies and accidents happen to people all the time. By accruing money in savings, you prepare yourself for when something happens, and you need to pay unexpected bills.
Likewise, having savings makes it easier to transition between jobs, such as unexpectedly losing your employment on terms other than your own. You can use your savings to cushion yourself and your loved ones.
How do I save money? Ten lifestyle changes for financial growth
Discipline might be the most essential skill you need to save money. Luckily, you can build discipline over time. Just as well, some of our tricks will make saving easier for you, taking the pressure off you and your discipline skills. But before you begin your journey, you’ll need to have a challenging conversation with yourself and come to terms with the fact that you’ll need an iron will if you want to start saving money.
You can find plenty of money-saving apps for your phone or computer. Some of these apps will directly put money into your savings every time you make a purchase. Other apps allow you to budget within them, setting up goals and letting you know how much money you’ve spent. Don’t hesitate to download one of these apps—even if the first app you choose is not perfect, just get yourself started so you can track your spending and start making headway.
If you’re less technical, a spreadsheet program works just fine to chart and manually track how much money you spend and where you spend it. Keeping detailed spending records should be your main priority when you begin saving. Everything else comes second to tracking your spending and having records to reference.
Read on to learn more tips to help you save money, including information on how to budget—a word with which you should become intimately familiar. Let us walk you through each step so that you’ll know exactly how to take advantage of our money-saving suggestions.
1. Make a budget
Budgeting is the number one way to save money across the board. Budgeting allows you to get a fuller sense of how much you make, what your “overhead” is for living and paying bills, and how much you typically spend on discretionary purchases. You start to know yourself better, financially.
A zero-based budget means that when you subtract your income from all your expenses, you get zero. These expenses include your savings; therefore, this budget accounts for where every dollar you earn should go and provides you a comfortable safety net as you enter each new month.
With this type of budget, you get the hard work out of the way at the start of the month. Saving money becomes easier when you don’t have to do math before considering every purchase. Your money has its allocation set ahead of time.
Get down to the nitty-gritty of your spending. Determine what each dollar is going to each month, placing each purchase in a category. If you have a low income, you may need to reduce your discretionary (optional) spending categories wherever you can.
Once you have these parameters set, a favorable outcome is when you discover some budget limits that are higher than your actual spending. This advantage lets you add money to your savings and then create a stricter budget for yourself next month.
It goes without saying that budgeting amplifies and supports any good savings plan.
Track your spending throughout the month, realizing that you may spend funds a little differently than you initially planned. To err is human. As long as you take your budget seriously, it will serve as the cornerstone to your savings plan.
2. Make your coffee
Making your coffee is a must. Occasionally treating yourself to a Starbucks latte is a treat, but purchasing one every day racks up. If you need caffeine, making it at home will save you hundreds of dollars every year (and even more if you consume a lot of it).
If you enjoy gourmet coffee, perhaps you can purchase a good espresso maker. Some expensive coffee brands offer their products cheaper online, especially if you make a bulk purchase. Overall, you save time and money when you make your own coffee. Traditional coffee pots take little time, and you can return to work or other activities while the pot’s brewing.
Be sure to check out your local grocery stores and drugstores for coffee sales for specific brands. Overall, buying coffee in bulk online is likely the cheapest.
3. Make your food
One of the easiest ways to save money is to make your food. Of course, you can allocate funds each month for eating out on occasion. It surprises many people when they discover how much money they spend on food outside of the grocery store.
The grocery store should be your best friend, as should online recipes. You can find plenty of low-budget meal options, even if you live alone. Make a concrete plan of what you need before you shop and get the most out of every trip.
If you want to commit yourself to saving money, learn to love eating leftovers. Most meats and proteins sold at the supermarket come in packages designed to feed at least two. While you cannot avoid leftovers, eating them will save you time and money on food the next day and perhaps later into your week.
If you have a job that pays you based on assignment, eating leftovers or prepared lunches can also help you make more money since you’ll spend less time away from your task. Meal-prepping on the weekends is a wonderful way to prepare every meal for your week so that you don’t have to spend time (or money) during your workday.
When eating leftovers, make sure you are familiar with your foods’ spoiling rate so that you eat it before it goes bad (to avoid both food poisoning and food wastage). Additionally, learn the spoilage rates of all non-perishable foods you buy. Try to plan out an entire week’s worth of meals before you shop and then buy what you plan to make and eat all in that week.
Buy generic brands. These off-brand products taste nearly exactly like their counterparts, and they consistently run at lower prices than their competition. One of the only times this does not apply is if you shop at Trader Joe’s, since its brand products are cheap. The store even carries inexpensive frozen food options–perfect if you failed to plan a meal for a specific day and need something quick to eat. Even if Trader Joe’s is not your store, compare the prices of the stores in your area.
4. Set up and use a savings account
This one goes hand-in-hand with budgeting, as you will need somewhere to put all the money you save on your budget. A savings account makes it easier to track what you are accumulating each month.
Most large banks will offer you a free savings account with your checking account, although some have minimum dollar thresholds you must maintain within your savings account to keep it active (e.g., $500).
Watching your savings grow helps with motivation, too! Once you get a steadily climbing account, it acts as a motivator while simultaneously providing you security if you ever need some extra cash in a challenging situation.
Likewise, you have a few options for how you can add money to your savings. You could set up a monthly budget where you put an exact dollar amount into your account—in fact, you can set up an automatic transfer so that you don’t even need to think about it. Alternatively, you can put any extra money you make each month directly into the savings account.
While we strongly recommend tracking your spending and savings on your own, a savings account acts as a direct indicator of how close you are to meeting your goals. Just having your money in a separate place makes it easier to resist spending it.
5. Stop smoking
Smoking is a money waster on top of being massively detrimental to your health. If you cut out smoking or even begin to cut back, you will quickly accumulate that extra money you were pumping out before. With cigarettes costing up to $10 on average, you may have been shelling out $20-$100 or more each week, depending on how much you smoke.
Not a smoker? Consider your cup of coffee you get every morning from the coffee shop nearby or the drinks you may buy while socializing at the bar with your friends. While each instance may seem affordable in the moment, look for purchases like this that you don’t need to make. As you track your spending, you’ll see how quickly those tabs add up.
Most people have a vice they are at least subconsciously aware of. Managing that habit can have healing effects on your health while shoring up a funnel of funds once devoted to getting your fix.
Try to cut out—or at least cut back on—these “vices,” which are often addictive substances, which means that you’ll need to generate more willpower to meet your goals than with some of our other suggestions. That said, cutting out these expenditures will amplify your saving process, and it may feel almost like you got a pay raise when you suddenly free up $100 a month you were spending on indulgences.
Without getting too morbid, quitting some of these addictive habits will also save you money down the line in terms of medical bills. Smoking truly destroys a person’s respiratory system, and that destruction does not come without a monetary cost as well. Do yourself a favor for many reasons and kick your smoking habit, saving a ton of money to boot.
6. Properly maintain your home and car
Routine maintenance of your car will pay off in the long run. Giving your car regular oil changes and taking it into the shop every once in a while will keep it running efficiently while neglecting to take care of these things will lead to problems, including shortening your vehicle’s life. It may be a common theme in this list, but tending to issues upfront will save you time and money down the road.
Google Maps allows you to search gas stations by price. You can filter through all the nearby options and pick the cheapest.
Make sure your appliances and utilities work correctly at home, and nip any problem in the bud as it surfaces. If you plan to resell your property, this advice is doubly important, as you save yourself money in terms of future repairs while simultaneously boosting the resale value of your property.
While at home or away, make sure to turn off all lights and electrical devices that don’t need to be running. While the cost may seem marginal, a large portion of your savings over time will be the cumulative effect of small savings from many different choices and behaviors.
7. Measure money by hours and use the 24-HOUR method
The 24-hour Method is similar to the 30-day Method; however, it focuses on smaller, everyday purchases. Remember that sitting with the desire frequently allows your want for the item to dissipate altogether.
If having the thing is still a pressing concern the next day, go ahead and make the purchase. More often than not, you will avoid purchasing unnecessary products with ease.
A great way to decide if you want an individual item is to think of the cost in terms of your hourly wage. If you determine how many hours (or fractions of an hour) it would take you to work for that item, it puts your want for it into greater perspective. If you realize something would take you two full hours of work, and you still want it, it might be a worthwhile purchase.
While considering hours worked, be sure also to consider hours of enjoyment or use the product can deliver. While this is more of a general buying tip, the number of hours of use, fun, or efficiency a product can produce should factor into your decision. Purchasing something that has longevity makes your purchase more of an investment.
8. Make impactful lifestyle changes
This tip involves examining your life and figuring out what everyday things you do that you could convert to a cheaper option. We covered food and coffee, which are perhaps two of the most important lifestyle changes you can make, but an abundance of other lifestyle choices waste a lot of your money in preventable ways.
A typical example is drinking water. If you buy plastic bottles or jugs at the store, you waste money.
You already pay for running water in your house, so why not use it with a water filter? Water filters are reusable (though you have to replace their filters once a month). Even with filter costs, using water filters and refilling your bottle can significantly reduce your spending.
If you go out a couple of nights each week, consider cutting back a little bit. Once at a bar or club, it becomes easier to spend money without thinking. Consider eating at home before going out to offset some of the costs you would otherwise encounter.
Whether out for a night on the town or commuting to work, think about using public transportation whenever you’re safe and able. Calling Ubers, Lyfts, or cabs is convenient but vastly overpriced when compared to the bus or subway. If you live in the city, a bike is a great way to save money on transportation while getting a good workout.
On the topic of working out, sometimes it’s a great idea to just quit the gym and train at your home or around your neighborhood. Running or biking are obvious home-workout contenders, but you could also buy weights. You can find plenty of online workout resources including free routines, so you can easily achieve a killer workout wherever you are.
9. Be frugal in every way you can
Do you want to learn guitar? Teach yourself. Are you looking for a new non-stick cooking pan? Call your local home goods stores and see who can offer you the best price for what you want to purchase.
Being frugal becomes a habit, making it easier to hunt deals wherever you can. Learning a skill like coding through a free online course keeps you from spending money in other areas while also keeping you busy.
Being frugal also extends to planning. If you annualize your budget for an item, you may be surprised at how much you spend on certain items. For example, if you spend $30 on snacks each week on top of your traditional grocery supplies, that amounts to $1560 over one year.
Another great way to save is couponing. Couponing and chasing sales at different grocery stores are two effective ways to lower the cost of your food. You might also use coupons for takeout food occasionally to stay within your budget.
Live and die by sales. You can subscribe to email services for nearly every retailer these days. These companies will likely be sending you an email any time their products go on sale on their online store.
Be careful, though, as getting email notifications may entice you to spend more money impulsively when you don’t need to. If this sounds like you, unsubscribing from clothing retailers and similar companies might be a good idea since it will keep your mind away from excess consumerism.
10. Utilize “buy nothing” groups and online marketplaces
If you use Facebook, you should look up your neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group, which are neighbors who are giving away their furniture, silverware, and other assorted products.
Turn notifications on to get an immediate notification when a new item goes up—this is integral since, many times, the person offering the item will give it to the first person to ask. Hunt this page for anything you may need for your home.
Alternatively, you can use Facebook Marketplace and websites like eBay to sell things that you no longer need. Don’t lose money trading in videogames to GameStop; if you sell your used games online, you can get great value for something that would otherwise collect dust in your apartment.
Depending on where you live, local thrift stores have great deals on clothes. You don’t need to break your budget when you need some new style. Clothes fall closer to the category of necessity, but we often find ourselves buying clothes out of desire rather than need. Thrift stores let you have some shopping fun without setting you back too much.
If you have a craft or hobby you can monetize, you can sell your products or even develop a side business. Skills like macrame, sewing, embroidery, photography, and even writing can make you money. Start a blog about a topic of interest for you and see where it goes.
What’s the best way to save money?
One of the best ways to save more money reliably is to give yourself savings milestones to meet. These can operate weekly, monthly, yearly, or however often you wish. You can use a savings calculator to monitor how much you would need to save each month to meet or surpass your goal.
Setting goals for yourself gives you something to feel good about. This emotional boost reinforces your savings habit and often helps you save more money than planned. Goals act like a secondary budget, where instead of tracking the money you spend, you track the money you accumulate.
We recommend creating long-term goals in the form of a calendar or timeline to give you a point of reference as you make your way through each week and month. Should you want $5,000 in your emergency fund by the end of a 10-month period, you can now break that amount down into smaller blocks of time: $500 a month or $250 per semi-monthly paycheck.
Don’t forget to give yourself rewards every once in a while. Saving can be hard work, and giving back to yourself in terms of occasional planned (not impulsive!) treats or special gifts to yourself goes a long way towards revitalizing your motivation to keep saving.
What is the 30-day rule?
The 30-Day Rule is an excellent exercise in discipline. When you see something you want to purchase, record the price and wait 30 days. After 30 days, you can decide if you still want to buy the item. This rule is one of the best ways to curtail impulsive and desire-based spending.
The idea of “sitting with an emotion” is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) technique where people learn to let their emotions and urges exist alongside them without influencing their behavior and decision-making. This DBT skill applies to making purchases since it gives you time to consider how much buying this specific item means to you. Many times, after the initial desire passes, people find themselves feeling perfectly capable of living life without that purchase.
Additionally, the long waiting period limits you from buying multiple items. Maybe in the past, you would have bought one, two, or even three online purchases a week (or per day). Setting a limit upfront keeps you from feeding the emotional pleasure that impulsive desire-buying gives you and trains you to make spending money more of a rational decision.
What are 10 ways to save money when you don’t have a lot of money to begin with?
While many of these tips are universal, they have a more significant effect on people who do not have a lot of money to kickstart their savings since every dollar holds so much more weight.
1. Take colder showers
While this may not be the most pleasant tip, taking cooler and shorter showers is a proven way to cut back your water bill as well as your electric bill for the heating.
2. Schedule “no spending” days
While common purchases like gas for your car make these “no spending” days hard, you could schedule a weekly no-spend day with a little planning.
3. Take advantage of cashback offers
Credit cards and even your bank’s debit card will offer great cashback bonuses for purchasing certain items or from certain vendors. These rewards cycle in and out, so always be sure you know what cashback bonus comes next.
4. Sign yourself out of every online retailer
Having to log in again forces you to consider if the purchase is really right for you. This small barrier can be a wake-up call and make you think twice before spending.
5. Enjoy nature and public spaces
Enjoying the natural public spaces in your community will holistically benefit you, as well. Take advantage of what your community has available to you. The more you do so, the more you will enjoy it (and the more you will save money).
6. Reconsider shopping at sales
Sales are great, but sometimes we forget that while we may be saving money compared to the original price, we end up spending money we otherwise would have kept. You can still track sales, but reconsider just about every clothing or discretionary purchase you are thinking of making.
7. Share passwords
Go in with a friend to share a Netflix account or other services. Drop cable or satellite, too, since streaming can replace whatever you would watch there.
8. Switch to a cheaper cell phone brand
Cheap brands offer outstanding deals on new phones and plans. The service may wane sometimes, but overall, lesser-known brands perform better than people know. For example, check out Mint Mobile’s unlimited talk and text data plan for $30 a month.
9. Inquire about discounts
Don’t be afraid to negotiate with salespeople at retailers. Even over the phone, your words can go a long way if you remain careful with your phrasing.
10. Use the library
The library and other free entertainment sources are ideal for someone with little money to spend. Books will occupy your time while strengthening your mind.
How can I save $1,000 fast?
Cut out anything in your life that you don’t need. You should eliminate ordering takeout, buying food anywhere besides the grocery store, ordering items from online sites besides essentials, and any other unnecessary purchases or services. Scour your subscription services and cut out whichever you can.
You will want to live an ascetic life, more or less. Depending on how much money you make, this process could take a while. For a short-term goal, eliminate any luxury purchases, especially if your situation is desperate.
For every purchase you make, excluding utilities and large monthly expenses, match that amount and put it into your savings. If that’s too steep, you can set a fraction of each purchase to match. If you continue to save every time you spend—which is likely more than you realize if you budget wisely—you’ll quickly save up a noteworthy amount of money.
What if I don’t have a lot of money?
Some people get into the trap of believing they need to have money already in order to save and make more money. While having cash plays into one’s ability to make significant money on the stock market, the primary tools used for saving money—and limiting spending—work just as well for anyone who wants to try them.
What if I can’t meet my goals?
Don’t be afraid to augment your goals or even set very modest, small goals as you begin. Since so many ways to save money exist, you can start by applying a few of our tips until you’re ready to add more.
It serves you better to set small goals that you can meet rather than grand goals that you miss. Hitting your goals will make you feel good, reinforcing your desire to save more money overall while missing your goals can sour your feeling about having to sacrifice to save. Start small, and maybe you will see yourself crushing your goals and becoming more motivated.
How do I begin saving?
Start with tracking your spending and making a budget to put your income and spending into perspective. Once you set your budget, you can see where you spend most of your discretionary income. You can choose how much to cut back as you start moving forward with your savings plan.
Now you have tips and skills that run the gamut of budgeting and saving. You can start your savings journey anywhere, and it will get you moving in the right direction since every little bit counts.
If this all seems intimidating at first, take a step back and figure out which tips you could apply most readily to your life. Once you get the ball rolling, the process will snowball, and you’ll find yourself saving with ease.
Use our list as a reference should you ever need help along your journey. You save money both actively and passively; some methods require more effort or restraint, while others just happen over time. Find balance in your life and watch your savings come piling in.