When you want to save money, standard advice says to look at your budget and cut what you don’t need. It’s the basis of many popular money-saving strategies, including the infamous Latte Factor proposed by David Bach. If you just cut your daily $5 latte, you can save $2,000 a year that, when invested correctly, cuts you a $1 million check for retirement.
Except, you know how bogus this latte trick really is. Ignoring for a minute that Bach’s math doesn’t add up, you probably aren’t swinging by Starbucks for a fancy coffee every day in this economy.
In fact, you’ve probably already shaved down a lot of your expenses just to make ends meet. Inflation is still higher than usual, causing your everyday bills to take a bigger piece of your financial pie. There simply isn’t that much leftover to spend on lattes.
So, does that mean you can’t save more money? Not at all. Anyone can unearth some extra cash if they know where to look. Here are some ideas below:
Bring in More Money
Your budget’s aim is to balanceyour spending with your income. If you can’t reduce your expenses to suit your earnings, look at the other side of this equation. What can you do to bring in more money with each paycheck?
In an ideal world, you can ask your employer for a raise, and they’ll adjust your paycheck right away. But in this economy, your employer is more than likely going to say “no”. With this in mind, it might be time to consider leaving your job for a new, better paying one.
A career switch can take some time to execute, especially if you have to spruce up your skills or education alongside your resume.
In the meantime, you can find ways to earn extra money from home in addition to your full-time job.
- You can pick up a side gig as a virtual assistant, accountant, or graphic designer.
- Of course, you can also pick up a traditional part-time job in your evenings at the local mall or grocery store.
- You might earn more than you expect by selling your belongings online.
Give Your Budget Another Once Over
When things are tight, it’s easy to assume that you can’t stretch your budget any further. But you can spend a lot of money without realizing it if it happens in small enough increments. Always double check your budget to confirm you aren’t making any unnecessary purchases.
To do that, cast a retrospective look at your spending from the last three months. Comb through your records to see where your money goes in the average month.
It’s a good idea to go through these expenses with a clear idea of what non-essential or discretionary spending can be. Today, it’s easy to hemorrhage money without ever stepping foot in a Starbucks.
Discretionary spending represents anything you don’t need to purchase to live your life comfortably or safely. That means anything but housing costs, essential transportation, healthcare, and bills are fair game.
Here are some common ones to watch out for:
- Late Fines: Paying your bills on time will help you avoid this ding.
- Bank Fees: Consider a neobank or online bank that provides no-fee checking and savings accounts.
- Streaming Subscriptions: You don’t need a full suite of streaming platforms to enjoy your favorite tv shows. Your local library should offer free accounts to Kanopy and similar streaming subscriptions for free.
- Parking Fines and Traffic Violations: Always be sure to park in designated areas and drive defensively at the posted speed limit.
- Warehouse Memberships: Buying in bulk at Costco and Sam’s Club can save you money, but a membership only makes sense if you save more than the yearly cost of your card.
- Salon Services: Learn how to cut, style, or dye your hair at home for maximum savings.
Reduce Your Non-Discretionary Spending
The essentials often make up the mandatory expenses you must pay. They would be impossible to live without. But just because you have to pay for housing and groceries doesn’t mean you’re stuck paying the maximum for each of your essentials. With careful planning and a lot of hard work, you can reduce what you spend on the foundations of your budget.
Downsizing can cut your housing costs in half, especially if you can find a smaller place in a less expensive neighborhood. Consider subdivisions with an HOA (Homeowners Association) carefully, as these fees add up.
Like getting a new job, moving to a new home may take some time. But this exercise can help you envision the changes you have to make in order to achieve this goal in the future.
Buying in bulk, as mentioned above, isn’t the only way to save on groceries. Here are some tips to help you find savings with every shop:
- Use coupon and rebate apps to maximize your savings and earn money back on purchases.
- Don’t sign up for meal-in-a-box subscriptions.
- Downgrade takeout to special occasions.
- Never shop hungry — an empty stomach can cause you to spend 60% more than planned.
- Shop generic brands — you can usually find them above or below your line of sight on the shelves.
- Use store credit cards to earn cash back, provided you can pay off your balance in full.
Your utility bills often reflect your energy consumption, so if you can reduce what you use, you can reduce what you pay. You don’t even have to do any drastic energy-efficient renovations. Small changes to your daily habits can save more than you realize.
- Reduce your water heater to 120F.
- Raise your air conditioner when you’re out of the house and keep it as high as you can tolerate when you are home. Even just one degree higher over eight hours can reduce your heating and cooling costs by 1%. You stand to save even more by turning the thermostat back as much as 10 degrees.
- Use energy-hungry appliances like dishwashers, dryers, and washing machines during off-peak hours.
- Reinsulate windows and doors with new caulking to reduce drafts that make your air conditioner or furnace work harder.
Your auto, home, and health insurance might be necessary, but they aren’t sunk costs. Shop around between insurance companies to confirm you are getting the best rates for your preferred coverage. You might be able to reduce your monthly auto premiums by updating your insurer of any significant life changes, like getting married or earning your full license.
Even the tightest budget has room to maneuver. Remember these tips if you’re finding it hard to save money. Getting a part-time job, reducing your energy consumption, and switching insurance companies might just do the trick.