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10 strategies to save money that actually work

Imagine someone hands you a wad of cash. What is the first thing you would do with it? Would you treat yourself or a loved one? Take care of a financial obligation? Invest it? While we can’t provide you with a cash-delivering fairy godmother, we hope that our tips on ways to save money will make you feel just a little bit richer.

Embrace the struggle

If you beat yourself up about not being more proactive or “responsible” with your money, lament your lack of financial fitness or regret previous money-related decisions, you’re not alone.

Actually, shame about money is such a common issue that a whole industry of self-help books, websites, and even a Financial Therapy Association have been created to help folks like you and I shake the guilt, discomfort, and general feeling of ickiness related to dealing with personal finance. 

One foundational step to saving money is shedding money shame and getting honest with yourself about your finances. Avoiding, ignoring or denying the reality of your financial situation may help you stave off the stress of financial woes in the moment, but can lead you to lose money in the long run.

In order to capitalize on other ways to save money, first get real about how you feel about money and honestly layout your expenses, savings, debts, income and other financial obligations.  

Budget

Once you have accurately defined the different elements of your financial life, it’s time to make a budget. Defining a realistic budget is one of the most important ways to save money.

One practical method is the 50-30-20 budget strategy. According to the 50-30-20 strategy, about half of your budget should be reserved for life’s essentials (food, insurance, shelter, and healthcare), around 30% to flexible spending (hobbies, fun activities, and non-essential clothes, products, and treats), and 20% to your personal financial goals (investing, saving, and paying off debts).

Determining how much of your paycheck will be dedicated to essentials, your fun fund, and financial goals ahead of time can help you save money by trimming down on unnecessary spending, which is a major source of debt. 

Pay yourself first

You can also combine your budget with the pay yourself first principle.  

According to the PYF principle, you should invest in that last 20% of your budget first in order to avoid spending it on other nonessentials. For example, as soon as you get your paycheck, set up an automatic monthly transfer for 20% of your earnings to earmark that money for your financial goals.

Ultimately, PYF doesn’t necessarily require you to change your budget or increase how much you’re saving or investing, it simply forces you to prioritize these financial goals differently. The PYF can help you save money for the long-term because it forces you to stay true to your savings and other financial goals.

Adjust your mindset

Much like physical health, financial fitness is a long-term game, not a sprint.

Of course, saving money requires us to budget and cut out non-essential items. But, in order to save money, we must also adopt long-term vision of our financial well-being. Save money through future-minded personal finance by planning debt repayment, setting up a pension plan or retirement fund, and investing.

Finding ways to grow and save money over the long term is an important priority to developing your financial fitness. 

10 strategies to save money

As you work on long-term planning and transforming your money mindset, it’s also wise to take advantage of practical tips to save money. Consider a few of these simple tips to fatten up your wallet:

1. Save money on groceriesSaving on groceries will let you eat healthier, plan your meals, stay faithful to your list and take advantage of money-saving tools. 

2. Dare to take a challenge – Find a money saving challenge that seems attractive, like the 52-week money challenge, and tweak it to your personal situation.

3. Save money with your sweetie – Instead of habitually splurging on your special someone, try some of our inexpensive and creative date ideas to spark (affordable) romance.

4. Prevent emergency spending – When a rainy day (or fender-bender or broken leg or cracked laptop screen) strikes, one of the best ways that you can save money is by preventing yourself from getting into debt to pay off that emergency. Create an emergency fund to help you prevent financial emergencies and save money over the long-term.

5. Share expenses – Save money by sharing expenses with roommates, carpooling and sharing bulk-buy groceries.

6. Buy used – Goodwill, Ebay, and Facebook Marketplace are just a few places where you can begin buying and saving on used items. Oftentimes, you can furnish an apartment or fill a closet with a few trips to the Salvation Army and thrift shops.

7. Try minimalism – Try applying minimalism (or a few of its principals) to declutter your life, cut down on spending and to help you focus on your financial goals. 

8. Track your expenses – In order to have a good idea where your money goes and in what areas you might be able to cut back, track your expenses using an app, Excel sheet or even a notebook.

9. Activate the power of your savings – Maximize and make money off of your savings using tools like high yield savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) and other investment opportunities.

10. Get a side hustle – If you aren’t quite able to meet your savings goals with your 9-5, consider supplementing your savings by making extra money with a side hustle.

While these tips might not quite compare with a generous fairy godmother, they might be able to help you start saving money painlessly.

For more tips on how to make the most of your money, check out the rest of the Academy library!

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