Creative Ways to Save Money
As a recent college graduate and fresh young professional staring out at a world of electric bills, student loans and the realization that dentist appointments cost more than four pennies and a lollipop for good behavior, I’ve had to get creative and pull cash from sources other than my parents’ pockets.
But you don’t have to be broke and entry level to save money. In fact, all it takes is adjusting daily habits to rack up for retirement, vacation, Christmas presents and tomorrow’s beloved happy hour.
Whether you’re starting with zero or funding future endeavors, we’ve got you covered with some creative ways to make bank (and keep it!).
1. Ditch fast:
Fast fashion, fast food, fast lifestyle. It’s easy to succumb to daily impulses of morning Starbucks, late-night junk or a cute $5 Tee from H&M. And we’ve all heard the eye-roll-inducing statement that if you stop buying coffee you’re suddenly a millionaire. But how many of us have actively quit caffeine, invested in a long-lasting pair of office shoes or meal prepped for maximum food savings? Nada. Which is why this tip has nothing to do with coffee or cheap clothing. Instead of limiting yourself, actively change your mindset from fast-paced to thoughtful and considerate. If you take the time to figure out what truly improves your day, you’re less likely to throw away cash on everyday indulgences that only provide short-term bliss.
Ditching the fast lifestyle and busy mantra of today’s millennials and office executives brings me to my next tip. Sometimes figuring out what truly makes you happy means writing down everything you spend money on. Every food purchase, every accessory bought, every trip booked and every transaction approved should be written in a notebook somewhere for future reference. Writing down what you spend helps outline a reasonable budget and allows you to understand what’s valuable. Forcing yourself to record purchases also makes the purchase a little more painful, a little less obscure and a lot more real. 3. Cash (yourself) outside: It’s so easy to throw a square piece of plastic at a smiling cashier and drop hundreds of dollars on fancy clothes or an extra drink at the bar. To stop spending thoughtlessly and avoid interest rates on credit cards, take out a reasonable amount of cash for the week and limit yourself to a cash-only diet. Paying primarily in cash makes purchases feel more like physical hits to your wallet, so you’re less likely to spend irresponsibly.
4. You can get almost anything for free:
Including haircuts, workout classes, meals and showers. Tight on money but want a fresh look? Find the nearest beauty school and book a free haircut. Tired of over-priced gym memberships? Watch workout classes on YouTube or rent workout DVDs from your public library. Speaking of libraries, stop buying books at full-price and rent exclusively from the local lib. And don’t forget to take advantage of your birthday! Restaurants, coffee shops and retail stores galore give birthday celebrators free food, lattes and jackets. Hot day in July? Skip the shower and pull out the sprinkler for an excuse to act five and wash off outside. College student? There’s an event near you with free food and we all know it. Figure out when things get free and embrace the no-cost lifestyle.
5. Limit your time with super consumers:
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. Minimize the presence or influence of the people in your lives who always want Sunday brunch, drag you out for meals every afternoon and convince you to buy that sweater that’s (sort of) on sale because you only live once! You know who they are. They may be lovely, but they also burn a hole through your pocket and if you keep giving in to their crippling habit of feverish spending, you’ll end up resenting the air they breath when it’s time to pay rent and you’re a Happy Meal short.
6. Go green!:
Limit your showers and turn off the lights because energy bills are bad for the environment and your bank account. If you’re looking for a double-hitter, limiting yourself to a five-minute shower saves serious money on water bills while helping conserve natural resources. The same goes for lights. Use natural lighting whenever possible and switch to LED bulbs.
7. Side hustle:
Get yourself a side hustle to accompany that main source of income. There are a variety of ways you can do this, and many of them are feasible from under the covers. That’s right, you don’t even have to get up. Take surveys for money through (legitimate!) sites like Swagbucks, Toluna, Valued Opinions and Crowdology. To save up cash and add a resume bullet point or piece to your portfolio, sell your strengths and start freelancing through sites like Upwork, Contently and Toptal. If you’re social-savvy, consider managing social media accounts for local businesses looking to boost sales and spread brand awareness. You’ll be surprised at the number of places near you that need a little extra help from the Instagram-inclined.
8. Sell, sell, sell:
Take an inventory of everything in your closet and on your bookshelf and around your house and sell it, sell it, sell it. Apps like Postmark allow you to sell clothes without worrying about shipping and handling while sites like Chegg and BookScout will buy back leftover college texts. That blender you never use? Sell it online or through apps like LetGo. You’re practically sitting on a pile of money, especially if there are scads of stuff you never use, wear or read, so cash in! It’s part of the human experience to desire security. For many, that security comes in an emergency fund you know exists or a little extra cash for tough weeks of water bills and high gas prices. It doesn’t take a lot to cut back on expenses and save for something substantial. But training your brain to rethink finances and redesign daily impulses takes work. For many, the first step to saving is looking at fiscal responsibility like an exciting game rather than a harsh reality. Hopefully, these tips were creative enough to shift your outlook on personal finance from required to desired!