At some point or another in life, we all have to tighten our belts and look after our money a little bit more. It might be because we’re saving for a special occasion like a wedding, an anniversary, or a once-in-a-lifetime holiday; other times, it might be because we see our income fall or an unexpected bill lands at our feet.
Whatever the reason, most people’s perception of saving money is the same. They believe it requires us to go without the things we enjoy so that we can boost our bank balances a little.
This is actually one of the major reasons why people choose not to save at all. Around 28% of adults under 38 in the US say they haven’t started putting money aside simply because they “haven’t gotten to it”.
Research by the United States Federal Research Agency found that 39% of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover an unexpected bill or emergency of $400. It also found that more than half (56%) have less than $5,000 in savings, and around 33% have less than $1,000.
With such dire statistics, it is clear the vast majority of us still need to do more to support our financial wellbeing. So if you’re putting it off because you think it will seriously degrade your lifestyle, here are some steps you can take to have a good time while still squirreling away some extra bucks.
Go for Low-Hanging Fruit
The first thing you can do when looking to save money is cut your spending on things you currently pay for but don’t use. This is money that will make a big difference to your finances but won’t affect your way of life.
Examples of these low-hanging fruit include gym memberships you don’t utilise, subscriptions for magazines you don’t read, and expensive mobile data plans that go unused because you’re connected to WiFi all the time.
Others will depend on your lifestyle. You might have a huge cable TV package but spend most of your time watching Netflix, in which case, you can look at changing what you subscribe to.
If you have a lot of these types of subscriptions, you could save several hundred or even a thousand dollars every single month by just spending a few hours canceling them all.
Look for Discounts on Things You Buy Anyway
You can’t stop spending altogether. Ultimately, you’ll still need to buy food, pay your rent or mortgage, and continue using utilities. But if you’re trying to save money while still enjoying the things you love, then you’ll also still spend money on socializing and discretional items like clothes and gadgets.
Although you’re going to keep spending money in these areas, you can still find ways to reduce how much actually leaves your bank account.
You can find promotions, deals, and offers for almost everything you could imagine spending money on. This includes obvious things like using loyalty cards in supermarkets like Walmart and Tesco, and lesser-known techniques like taking advantage of credit card rewards schemes (more on those later) to maximize the cashback you receive.
You can even save money on the things you do for fun. Cinemas often sell discounted tickets if you go at off-peak times and many restaurants have “early bird” menus for customers who visit earlier in the evening. Gamers can save money by using free-to-play titles like Fortnite instead of buying new releases of games like Call of Duty. Even those that play popular online casino games can often find “play money” versions of slots and card games and take advantage of free spins promotions.
If you’re unsure of where to start looking for these kinds of deals, there are huge coupon websites that publish all the latest discounts and deals for practically every store you could imagine.
So before you hand over your card details, do a quick Google search for “RETAILER coupon code” and you’ll almost certainly find something.
As we touched upon earlier, cashback is another way in which you can save money on things you buy. There are two main ways to do this and the first is to join a cashback website. These work by earning affiliate commissions on the products that you buy and then sharing some of that with you.
This adds an extra step in the buying process as you first have to visit the cashback site, search for the retailer you want to buy from, and then click on the link to its website. Cashback rates vary from retailer to retailer and can range from anywhere as low as 0.5% all the way up to 50% or more.
On larger purchases, even a small percentage can really add up, and many dedicated users claim to earn rebates of several hundred dollars a year by using them.
The second is to find a cashback credit card that offers points or a rebate for your spending through it. If you play the field a bit, you can easily earn a couple of thousand dollars every year, though you need to be disciplined to make sure that you pay your bills on time. If you don’t, you’ll pay more in interest that you make in rewards.
Buy in Bulk
This next option is a great way to save money in the long term, but can be harder to do if you’re short on cash right now. In business, the act of getting a lower price per unit for buying a larger quantity is called “economies of scale” and it’s why larger businesses can often offer lower prices than smaller rivals.
You can also take advantage of this phenomenon, simply by stocking up when there are discounts available.
Say you’re doing your weekly grocery shop and you notice your favorite shampoo is currently on sale at 50% off. Buying 10 bottles instead of one will mean you’ll save 50% on shampoo for an entire year, rather than just this month. It’s also a much bigger saving than the return you’d make in the bank since savings interest rates aren’t going much higher than 1% at the moment.
You shouldn’t look at this in isolation either. When you do this on a few different products, the savings will soon add up.
You can also find herbs, spices, and dried goods at discounted prices on sites like Amazon and in stores like Costco. You just need to put a little bit of time in to search for where you can get the biggest discounts.