Let me guess. You want to save money, but you don’t want to do math. Percentages and spreadsheets make you glaze over or break out in hives. The idea of a bunch of cash filled envelopes lying about just seems dumb. It’s okay. I’m here for you. I’ve got a few simple things you can keep in mind to help you save money without having to overthink it.
- Carry cash– In case you never figured out the name of my blog, I take out the equivalent of $20 a day from the ATM once a week on Fridays. Living here in Glasgow, that means I put £90 in my wallet each week, and that’s all the money I get to spend on incidentals like clothes, extra bits from the grocery story, drinks at the bar, etc. If you use your debit card for everything AND you hate doing math, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to lose track of how much money you spend. I find this amount to be just right for me. Some weeks I have money leftover, and other weeks, Thursdays are sad. That’s life.
- Stop buying crap– Become more intentional about what you buy. Before you make an impulsive purchase, ask yourself “Is this something I know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I don’t know who said that, but it’s worked for me. You don’t have to be a stingy miser, but if you live in the real world, you probably can’t just have whatever you want.
- Sleep on it– Since we’re trying to stop buying crap, I find it useful to walk away for a day from something I’m interested in buying, especially if it costs a little bit more than I would normally pay. It may be that you can look around and find it cheaper somewhere else, or it may be that with a little bit of space, you realize you don’t actually need it. If you’re still in love with the item the next day and you have the cash in your wallet, go back and get it.
- Think about how you’re going to get there– We don’t have a car right now, so our options are pretty limited, but I think it’s always worth it to consider walking somewhere. It’s free, and it’s great exercise. Yeah it takes a bit longer, but if I’m by myself, I listen to news podcasts and get smarter, and if I’m with my husband or a friend, it’s the perfect opportunity to have some great conversation without having your face stuck in your phone.
- Embrace store brand– There are a few things, like peanut butter, that I just won’t compromise on, but for the most part, I’m quite happy to save a bit of money on fancy packaging and advertising and just buy the store brand. If you find you don’t like the quality on a certain product, just don’t buy it again. Most of the time, though, you can’t tell.
- Pack a lunch– When I find my wallet empty at the end of the week, it’s usually because I’ve been forgetting to bring my lunch with me to work. When you’re putting leftovers away from dinner, pack them in single-serving portions so you can just grab something from the fridge on your way out the door. I can barely navigate my toothbrush in the morning. Forget about making a sandwich. Make your life as easy as possible.
- Check for a Groupon– If you haven’t checked out any of these types of sites in a while, it’s definitely worth checking out. Rememer #2. Don’t go buying stuff just because there’s a groupon, but you may find something you already needed or wanted for half the price, at which point it would be dumb not to get it. It’s a great way to try a restaurant or experience that may have otherwise been inaccessible because of price.
- Buy things that last– When you’re shopping for things that are non-consumable, take into consideration how quickly something may need to be replaced. I’ve had the same black pencil skirt since I graduated from college. If something is going to be useful to you for a long time, make sure it’s going to last. Spending a little bit more one time equals spending less in the long run if you end up having to buy it again.
- Invite your friends over– Instead of going out to a restaurant or bar to socialize with your friends, invite them to your home. You don’t have to do anything extravagant. Ask friends to bring stuff to contribute to the night. It spreads the cost around, but you can bet everyone will still spend less than they would going out. You’ll be able to hear each other talk, and sometimes your friends will even do the dishes.
- Put some money away– Now that you’re being more conscientious about your spending, you’ll have some money to save at the end of the month. If you don’t, you may need to reevaluate your life a little bit. Here’s what I do. First, make sure you have a separate savings account that you can easily transfer to online. When payday comes around, I look at my last balance before the deposit. Subtract from that balance the amount you pay in rent (so you know you at least always have an extra month’s worth on hand at any given moment), then put the rest into your savings account. I know we don’t like to do math, so just round to the nearest hundred (or ten if you have to). Don’t overthink it. Then sit back and watch your money add up.
Saving money, sort of like losing weight, isn’t really about tricks. It’s much more about changing your habits and your attitude. Say no to the pressure to consume. Don’t feel you need to deprive yourself, but don’t give in to every little whim to spend. If you’re feeling pressure to keep up with the Joneses, just remember that the Joneses aren’t actually as cool as you. Eventually, being awesome on $20 a day just becomes your life.