This is my quick list for how to save money when my budget gets tight. These 10 things are tried and true for me, and I find myself returning to them again and again.
If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking to save some cash wherever you can. A lot of the time saving a little extra money is important because a little bit saved here and there really can make the difference between covering myself each month or not.
However, even when I’m feeling more flush and my budget has more flex room, I still can’t help but try and pinch pennies. My grandmother raised my mother to be very frugal, and my mother, in turn, raised me to be the same way.
I can’t help it, it’s just in my nature. I will probably still be looking for ways to save and be resourceful even when I have a million dollars in the bank 😊
Without further ado, here’s my round-up for you guys on the ways I most frequently save myself some cash.
1. Ride your bike or walk.
It may not seem like it would make too much of a difference, but walking or riding your bike to places that are close enough for you to do so is a great way to save money on gas, as well as wear-and-tear (read maintenance expenses) on your car. If you can allocate the time, you won’t have to allocate as much money.
2. Eat smart.
Prioritize your meal plan and train yourself to eat what’s about to expire next, instead of whatever you most feel like eating at each meal. This lesson came from my grandmother, and it will go a LONG way to eliminate food waste (AKA wasted money).
Shifting your mindset takes some getting used to, but once you get in the habit, it actually becomes sort of fun.
To me it feels like a game, trying to figure out which ingredients I need to use by the end of that day or that week and coming up with meals I can make that include them (almost like I’m on a cooking show where they give you a random group of ingredients you MUST incorporate into your dish and wow the judges… I know, I’m kind of a dork).
Pro tip – if you adopt this method of eating and find that you still can’t keep up with the expiry rate, you can freeze what you can’t eat in time and use it later. I often freeze meats, veggies, and fruits for smoothies when I can’t eat them fast enough (another pro tip: make sure to PEEL bananas before freezing them – it’s damn near impossible to peel them once frozen).
Another way I stretch my food budget is by immediately setting aside half of my meal when I eat out. Portion sizes at restaurants are usually plenty big enough to satisfy me for 2-4 meals, but I have to be proactive and set the extra food aside right away, otherwise I WILL eat it!
Alright, now for some real talk. If you haven’t been to the gym in over 3 months, cancel that shit.
I know this one can be especially hard, because we WANT to be going to the gym and getting healthy and strong, but there are ways to accomplish that without a gym membership, and holding on to that hope that you MIGHT want to go in one day could keep you shelling out $10-$100 a month without ANY BENEFIT.
I just canceled my membership myself because I’ve switched to a home workout routine, but it felt hard to let go. Meanwhile, I have been paying for this gym membership for the last 8 months and have probably gone in twice. What a waste of money. Cancel it.
If you can’t remember the last time you used your Hulu account, cancel it. If you are receiving a monthly subscription box of some kind that you’re not really enjoying that much, but just haven’t taken the time to get online and cancel your subscription, DO IT. Upgrade an app recently and feel like the free version was just as good? Cancel it.
Any services that you pay for monthly or annually that you’re not using are a drain on your wallet.
4. Pretend the apocalypse is here and you’re stuck at home.
Okay guys, this way to save money is perhaps for the more adventurous. It’s similar to the food waste elimination one above, but takes it one step further.
Sometimes when I’m really in a financial crunch, it feels painful to even go to the grocery store and spend money on groceries, even though I know food is one of the most important things you can spend your money on.
I like games, so sometimes I like to pretend that the zombie apocalypse is here, and for better or worse, the food I already have in my kitchen is all the food I’m going to be able to get.
And then I see how long I can go without going to the store.
It may surprise you how far you can go when you actually make the navy bean mix, lentils, broths, or rice you have in your cupboard, or the stuff that’s been in your freezer for the last year. It may also push you to get creative with the meals that you make – one of the best meals I’ve ever had was one my roommate made for us one evening when we had nearly nothing in our cupboards.
Bonus – the stuff that’s been taking up space in your freezer or cupboard for months and months needs to be eaten anyway and replaced with fresher food. Think of it as refreshing your inventory.
5. Shop Smart.
When you go to the grocery store, or to target, or anywhere really that you do your shopping, keep your eye out for deals. Items are always on sale, and to save the most money, you need to get good at buying the things that are on sale (and saving them for later, if you can’t use them right away), and waiting on the things that aren’t on sale.
Stores often have buy one get one free sales, which are awesome for stocking up and getting the most bang for your buck. Even when you buy things that aren’t on sale, make sure you are making the most economical choice you can.
When faced with two or more products that meet your needs at the grocery store, check the tag on the shelf to see the price per ounce. This is another lesson gleaned from my mom and grandma.
If you have 3 products that could all meet your needs, and they are 3 different sizes for 3 different prices, it’s hard to know which one to go with. Checking the price per ounce makes the decision simple – I always go for the lowest price per ounce, so I know I’m getting the most product for my money.
6. Look for a local business exchange.
I really love to go to yoga at least once a week, if not two or three times. My body is not so flexible, and it makes me feel good to be working on improving that.
The problem is that at $18 a class, it’s hard to maintain my yoga practice when I’m trying to stick to my budget and savings goals. If I go 3 times a week, that’s $216 a month that my more practical side wants to put into my savings account.
Luckily, at my favorite yoga studio in my neighborhood, they allow people to exchange classes for a few hours of working their reception desk, since they are relatively new and sometimes short-staffed.
Think about your own habits and if there are any local businesses you frequent that might allow for a similar exchange. You don’t have to sacrifice your self-care in order to save money.
7. Look out for freebies.
The community college I attend hosts a bi-weekly food bank program where they have mounds of produce arranged on several tables, and anyone is welcome to come and take what they need, absolutely free.
My professor has highly encouraged everyone in my class to take advantage of this program, even if we can’t eat all of the food we take and need to share some with friends or family, because the program will likely be terminated if it is determined that not enough people are utilizing the program to make it worth people’s time and resources.
I have been going to this for the past month, and I just eat what I can and freeze what I can’t for later. It’s likely that there are similar programs where you live, at schools, libraries, or other public community spaces, and it’s a great way to cut costs and ensure that these programs keep running.
8. Shop your streets (or your friends).
If you’re looking to save money on furniture, keep your eye out for curbside finds that have been abandoned.
Alternatively, look at the “free” section on Craigslist, or if you know friends or family who are moving or doing some spring cleaning, ask if you can take a few things off their hands (they may have clothes or household items they’re clearing out, too).
I have found many an amazing piece of furniture in all of the above ways.
Some really good quality things can be found because when people are moving or they are just tired of having something, they put it out on the street or will just give it to you.
People are lazy and they want to get rid of things in the easiest way they can. Be poised to take advantage of that, and you can really score.
9. Install Honey.
Another tip – buy used on amazon.
I know that some items you are going to want brand new (underwear, Q tips, coloring books, etc.), but there are a lot of items that it really doesn’t make much of a difference for if they are new or used (books, bike racks, pots for plants, etc.), and if you buy those items used, you can often save a few dollars – and sometimes a lot more.
10. Hit the thrift shop.
With or without the Macklemore song as theme music – I’ll leave that one up to you.
I have been an avid thrifter for the last dozen years or so, and it’s definitely one of the best ways I consistently save money.
People donate really great stuff to thrift stores – you just have to be willing to scan potential purchases for stains, tears, or smells. If they pass that test, you can often snag them for a quarter of their original price, or less.
For even MORE savings, see if there is a Goodwill outlet store near you. They sell clothes there BY THE POUND.
The last time I went, I believe the price was $1.49 a pound, and I scored on a bunch of items. I calculated the price per item when I got home – $1.02 per item, and I scored brands like Gap, J. Crew, Banana Republic, and more.
Outlet stores by far have the BEST deals out there.
That’s my round-up! I want to hear from you, too! If you have tips and tricks for how you save money, please post them in the comments below! I know people get really creative and resourceful when it comes to stretching their budgets, and I’d like to learn a thing or two from you.
Until next time,
P.S. Looking for more money advice? Check out my post about how to absolutely crush it on Rover working for yourself.
Or perhaps you’re more interested in getting paid to lose a few pounds, which you can read about here.