You just got your bank statement, and it's left you scratching your head. Where did that money go? In an increasingly digital world, it's easy to lose track of your finances. Swiping a magic card every time you need or want something seems great until you're hit with an overdraft fee. Whether you're looking to stretch your paycheck a little further or trying to save for the future, consider these creative ways to make space in your budget!
1. Cut transportation costs.
Gas and parking fees can add up quickly, and they often feel like necessary expenses. Of course, you have to get to work, but depending on where you live and work, other options may be available. Consider carpooling with a friend or coworker. If you live in a city, check out your options for public transportation. If you live close to work, consider walking or biking! Eliminating the convenience of a car may seem like a hassle, but even cutting these costs a few days a week can make a reasonable dent in your expenses.
2. Find a roommate.
Roommates are no longer just for college students! Living with a friend (or a few) can significantly cut down on rent and utility costs every month. Having roommates doesn't mean living in a tiny space either. Find a spacious townhome or house to rent, and be sure to establish some ground rules. Be sure to choose a companion who will be respectful of your schedule and lifestyle.
3. Break-up with your barista.
Everybody loves an occasional treat, and no one is saying that you can't occasionally stop in for your triple mocha frappe-latte. But if you're an avid patron of your local Starbucks, take a moment to do some math. That skinny latte is going to cost you about $4 a day, $20 a week, or $80 a month! Make your coffee at home and explore the options for DIY cold brew, flavored coffee, etc. at your local grocery store. Your barista will miss you, but your wallet will thank you!
4. Eat at home.
Food is a basic necessity, but be realistic with your dining budget. That meal at Outback could have been tomorrow's breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Hit the grocery store instead. Like many money-saving strategies, this method is going to require a small sacrifice of time. Still, cooking at home can be a rewarding chance for you to experiment with new skills or spend quality time with family.
5. Eliminate subscription services.
There's a subscription for everything these days. From entertainment to basic hygiene supplies, you can have just about anything delivered to your door or your computer for a monthly fee. These services make a large portion of their profits off of customers who subscribe and rarely use the service! Take a look at your bank statement and see if you have sneaky automatic payments you've forgotten about.
6. Find free entertainment.
Speaking of subscriptions, the entertainment industry has been overrun by digital streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. When you're really strapped for cash, eliminating these luxuries can offer some relief. Ditch that streaming account, and hit up your local library for movies and shows! A library card is totally free to you, and most public libraries have great collections of everything from the classics to recent movie releases.
7. Find new ways to exercise.
Working out is awesome, and there's nothing wrong with committing to your fitness goals. Still, gym memberships can cost a pretty penny. Cancel your monthly membership, and find ways to work out at home. If you're a big fan of the treadmill, run outside. You can even run to and from the grocery store or other errands to cut down on fuel costs. Big fan of weight training? Use household items like water jugs or mulch bags to get those gains! Need more motivation? Find an accountability buddy who will work out with you a few times a week.
8. Set up a budget, and stick to it!
Take some time to evaluate how much income you have to spend and which consistent monthly expenses you need to account for. Go through your bank statement, and make a list of everything you spent money on this month. Highlight necessary expenses like rent, bills, and credit card payments. Figure up how much excess cash you have each month to spend. Is there a certain amount you want to set aside for savings? Break down what's leftover into categories such as food, gas, and entertainment. Be sure to log what you're spending in each category every time you make a purchase, so you don't go over budget.
9. Use cash.
When you get paid, leave the appropriate amount for bills and automated payments in your account and withdraw the rest. Having cash in hand allows you to closely monitor how much money you have left. Use cash as a budgeting tool by only withdrawing as much as you need and limiting yourself to that spending amount for a certain period of time.
11. Split your direct deposit.
If your employer uses direct deposit, ask to send a certain percentage or dollar amount directly to your savings account every pay period. This will take the pressure off of you to transfer that money to your savings every month. Before you know it, you'll have a nice little nest-egg saved.
12. Manage your debt.
Debt can ruin your savings goals with interest payments. Consolidate credit card debt by transferring your balances to a single, low-interest card. Many options are available with a 0% introductory-APR rate, giving you time to eliminate the debt before interest payments kick in. Also, consider taking out a low-interest personal loan to make conquering your debt easier. If these options don't work for you, speak with your creditor about lowering your interest rate.
The reality of the situation is that saving money isn't usually fun. It requires some sacrifices, but the payoff is well worth it! Evaluate your spending habits carefully, and identify two or three ways you can get started today!