If you’re on a tight budget or if your income was recently reduced, you might think it’s impossible to save. But that’s not true. In fact, if you’re in a tight spot like that, you actually need the extra savings even more so you have the emergency funds available for the unexpected. Here’s six ways to save when your money is lean.
1. Change the way you eat
The average meal eaten out costs over $13 per person as of 2021, according to Money Under 30. A similar meal prepared at home costs around $4 for groceries – a savings of $9 per meal. This means restaurant meals are over 300% more expensive than meals prepared at home, on average. If you’re eating out every day (or many days) at work, consider prepping your lunches at home instead.
2. Become a coupon cutter and look for online deals
Instead of tossing out the coupons that come in your mailbox, look for the ones that could help you save money – but only on the things you’re already buying. Search around online to find deals too. The key is to only use those coupons for what’s already part of your monthly budget – don’t get lured into buying something you don’t need just because there’s a great coupon for it.
3. Cut each category of your budget just a little bit
When money seems tight, it might seem impossible to find even an extra $50 left over at the end of the month. But you can come up with a surprising amount of money if you cut every budget just a little. If you don’t know what categories you’re spending on each month, then you need to make a budget.
Once you know how much is going to each category each month, trim at least $5 to $10 off that category. (Some categories – like rent – can’t be trimmed. Others – like electricity bills – can be trimmed if you change your habits.) If you have six categories of spending and trim $10 off four and $5 off two, you’ve got an extra $50 you can deposit into your Money Market Select account each month. At the end of the year, that translates to $600 in your emergency fund, enough to cover a large range of emergencies!
4. Consider cutting big expenses
Depending on what your needs and goals are, you may need to consider cutting back your larger expenses as well. For many people, these expenses are for housing and transportation.
Some changes may be easier to make than others. Could you switch to the bus instead of driving every day? Other changes may require more consideration – such as finding a roommate or selling your car. These types of changes can yield big savings. Just be sure to think through the ramifications before taking the leap.
5. Switch to cash for daily expenses
Switch to cash for your daily expenses, particularly for groceries, dining out and entertainment. When you go out, take only what you’ve allocated to spend – for example, $100 in cash for groceries or $25 in cash for a meal out. This gives a hard limit to your spending.
It may feel difficult having to put things back at the store before heading to checkout, but you won’t be able to spend what you don’t have.
6. Automate your savings
Automating your savings is also an excellent way to make sure you save. There’s two common ways to automate savings. The first option is using Patelco Online™ to set up an automatic transfer to your checking account each week, every two weeks or every month. Sign in and select the TRANSFERS widget.
The second option is talking to your employer about splitting your direct deposit. One portion would go into a checking account for your monthly expenses and the other portion would go into your savings account.