Saving money can be the hardest thing in the world. We get involved in our day-to-day rituals that we sometimes lose sight of how much we spend. For example, coffee in the morning is a must-do and if we assume that the average American drinks at least one cup from Starbucks at about $4 five days out of the week for 260 working days—that can total $1,040 at the minimum. So, how can saving be easy? Let’s start off with some simple tools to help make money more than something in your pocket but accumulative data that can make you realize how much you spend each day.
Let’s say you’re planning a trip and you only have three months to save. The best way to begin is to start small. When you start to see some cash beginning to pile up it’ll become a little bit easier to put some money away; the real challenge is keeping it tucked away from spending until you have to. These are some useful tools that I find especially helpful.
1. Make Use of Technology
With the world moving towards a more digital age and devices becoming smarter than we are, it has become a useful resource to help you. Travel Apps in particular are a great tool to help you stay on track and keep an eye on your spending habits. If you have Bank of America or Chase, they have useful options including alerts that pop up whenever you pay for something. These apps also allow you to constantly check on your bank statements, and sometimes, seeing the red highlighted numbers can stop you in your tracks from carelessly spending.
Another useful app is Mint, which is a very advanced tool that links to your bank account that you can securely sign up for on their website; it provides charts and details on what you buy. The most interesting aspect of Mint is that it offers monthly reports on what you spend, how much you save, how much you make in your investments, and how money is moving around. It provides spending limits and adjusts itself each month depending on your trends. You can also manually adjust these limits according to how much you plan to save. These apps can be accessed online as well as downloaded on your iPhone or Android.
2. Find a Sponsor
I don’t mean a sponsor like those you find in NASCAR; I mean finding someone who will invest in you and push you to save. Perhaps it’s the person who might be going on vacation with you. It always seems easier to make a change when there’s someone around to support you. Better yet, you can be there to support each other to save. Getting to your goal will be a lot easier.
3. Start Your Money Jar
Having a jar or piggy bank is a great way to watch your savings accumulate. I prefer a small jar because it’s pleasurable to see the money and hard work I put into saving more apparent—a lot more so than seeing it in a bank account. A good way to get started is to put in loose change. Whatever you spend with cash—hopefully not too much—just throw your leftovers in the jar. I know mothers like this idea a lot (cuss jar). Little things like this can become a big step towards saving a lot.
4. Make Some Cutbacks
As previously mentioned, the key to saving is starting small. If you do drink coffee daily, perhaps you can buy your own beans and make coffee at home. It only takes a few minutes, and there is nothing like smelling fresh coffee during the wee hours of the day. The same goes for eating out. If you eat five times a week, try to limit it to two, or even three, days. It will make a huge difference at the end of three months. Material spending such as shopping for new clothes or the latest devices can hold off. If there is indeed an absolute reason to get something, make sure to find the best deals. Search around and find where you can maybe get things used or refurbished. Sites like Amazon or eBay are good resources and offer even free shipping for a handful of their products.
5. Invest in Yourself
Like making cutbacks is investing in certain things that tend to accumulate in costs. If you or a family member has a Costco card, you can stock up on certain things or even try splitting the cost with them on wholesale items. Also, don’t be afraid to cut coupons. Nearly everywhere offers coupons, and they can save you hundreds of dollars depending on what you buy.
Supermarkets are the holy grail of coupons: Invest in that bag of coffee instead of making those Starbucks runs. Buy vegetables to make healthier, cheaper meals at home. Fun fact: If you buy a head of lettuce for $1, you can feed a family of two for a whole week with salads in your lunch or dinner. There are plenty of other resources that can help you save money when it comes to eating cheap and healthy, such as BlueApron.com. Blue Apron sends you ingredients with the right portions to your doorstep at an affordable cost depending on your family size. It also saves you gas and time. If you choose not to go with any of their meal plans, they also offer recipes all for free on their website.
There are a few ideas I have found useful in my own life to save a few bucks. It really depends on your location and commitment to saving that will ultimately define whether you have hundreds at the end of three months or just coins. Before you put down that money in the morning, just ask yourself: “Is coffee really worth it?”