Whether your income has been affected by recent global events, or you’re simply looking to grow your savings or pay off debt, extra cash in the bank never hurts. The good news is that you don’t have to wait for a pay raise or windfall to come your way. One simple method to save money is to… spend less. Fortunately, there are many creative ways to do this. Here we list a few ideas to help you stop spending and take control of your finances.
1. Create a Budget
While a budget may seem restrictive it can actually free you up mentally. The parameters you set mean you don’t have to spend time worrying whether you should buy something or not when temptation strikes. The first step is to track every single penny spent each month. Log every receipt, bill, and cash outlay. You might be surprised to see where your money’s going.
Then, decide which budgeting system will work best for you. The zero-based or zero-sum method has you put all your available income toward your expenses, debt payments and savings. The end goal being zero money left at month end. Another popular and simple strategy is the envelope method. You identify your main expense categories like rent or mortgage, credit card payments, and groceries, for example, and then physically put the amount you plan to spend into the envelope. Once that envelope is empty, you’re unable to spend any more on that category until the following month.
Benefits of a spending plan:
- Gives you control over your financial situation (empowerment for the win!)
- Allows you to analyze your spending habits
- Helps finance your dreams by way of a savings account
- Keeps you out of debt or enables you to start paying down debt
2. Plan a “No-Spend Month”
The point of this exercise is to spend only what’s necessary for one month. Basically, you’re only allowed to pay bills and buy groceries (however, you get to make the rules). Make it easier to stick to by choosing a month where you don’t have expensive events on the calendar like a wedding to attend or a vacation planned. Once you’ve chosen your month, get out your budget and calculate your bare minimum for living expenses.
Benefits of a no-spend month:
- Great way to kickstart a savings goal or debt repayment plan
- Lets you see how much you typically spend on non-essential items
- Can be fun to get creative while making do
3. Get to Know Your Kitchen
After a busy day, it can be tempting to eat out or have food delivered. When you eat at a restaurant, you’re not only paying for the food, but also the costs of running that business. The same goes for pre-made or frozen meals from the grocery store.
Benefits of cooking at home:
- Healthy, fresh food prepared exactly as you like it
- Family bonding over shared meals
- Significant reduction in food costs
4. Cancel Paid Subscriptions and Memberships
If you don’t use your gym membership, this is the first and easiest place to stop spending needlessly. Even if you do go to the gym, you could take your workout into the great (free) outdoors. Monthly payments to services like Amazon Prime, Spotify, Blue Apron, and Stitch Fix may seem inexpensive when you sign up, but if you multiply the monthly cost by 12, it can add up fast. Even worse is when you don’t use the product or service anymore, yet you keep paying for it via automatic payments. Paying for unread magazines and newspapers? Your local public library can keep you informed and up-to-date for free and many offer books and services online.
Benefits of canceling subscriptions:
- Save hundreds of dollars per year
- Enjoy fresh air and sunshine
- Guilt-free reading and listening
5. Find the Freebies
Sign up for free event alerts and check local publications to take advantage of all that your hometown offers gratis, like concerts in the park. Museums, zoos, and botanical gardens often have complimentary admission days too. Check your local community center for free activities and classes. Also consider volunteering—many organizations will reward you with free passes to events when you donate your time.
Benefits of free events:
- Year-round fun at no cost to you
- Immersion in cultural experiences you may not try otherwise
- The feel-good feeling you get from volunteering (freebies are a bonus)
6. Consider Your Car
There are many ways to cut car-related expenses. One of the easiest ways to spend less is to use your car less. Another is to use one of the many gas-buying apps like Gas Buddy. The app helps you save on gas by crowd sourcing the cheapest pumps in your area. (You can also earn free gas if you let them know where you’re finding the lowest prices).
Benefits of driving less:
- Save lots on gas, oil, tires, and maintenance
- Pay less in auto insurance premiums
- Get healthy by walking and biking more
- Reduce your carbon footprint
By adopting even a few of these suggestions, you’ll be able to spend less. Moreover, most of these ideas won’t even impact your lifestyle much. In fact, you may find that by not spending in certain categories, you enrich your life in many ways.