Are you living paycheck to paycheck and missing out on the opportunity to make your money work for you? Learn to save money without sacrificing!
I can't save money!!
When I talk to people about saving money I almost always get the same response, “I can’t save money now. I’m living paycheck to paycheck and making minimum payments on everything just to keep the bills paid.”
I can certainly understand that. Running a daycare out of our home for most of my life, I was usually able to pay the bills but not much more than that. And if we were able to save up a little extra, something would come up and set us back to zero.
A lot of people are in this kind of situation. Living paycheck to paycheck and no real way out of it. I was only able to get out myself out of it by realizing that I needed to save some money even when there was no room for it in the budget.
We hit on the idea of taking your saving money out of your budget before your expenses in a great post about setting financial goals. The idea is that by taking out a little for saving before everything else, you force yourself to cut back where you can to find the money to pay bills. After a while, you’ll start making money off the interest on your savings and investments. That’s when you really start to see a difference because you’ve got a little extra in your account each month.
But to be able to save that money, especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck now, you’ve got to find places to cut. We got the top ideas from 40 experts on how to save money last week but I wanted to add a few more ideas to the list.
Where is the money going paycheck to paycheck?
First, you need to know how much you’re spending and where it’s going. Track all of your spending for the past three months. Go over each item to see where it can possibly be cut. I’ve always liked the worksheets at smartaboutmoney.org, one of which is a spending diary that helps track expenses. Even a couple of sodas a week and coffee with friends can add up to be expensive and wreck a budget.
Saving money at the grocery store
Go over all of your grocery receipts you can find from one paycheck to the next. How much was spent on impulse shopping? There’s a reason all the candy and magazines are sold close to the checkout. They know that, given enough time staring at that Snickers bar, you’ll pick one up.
- Before you go to the store, make a list and purchase only what is on the list!
- Buy store brands when possible. The quality is mostly the same as the higher priced brand name items.
- Buy off-season and in bulk when something is on sale. Coupons are great if you normally buy that item anyway, otherwise leave it alone.
Eat at the most exclusive restaurant in town
Did you know that in March, Americans spent more money eating out than they did on groceries? It was the first time since the Commerce Department started collecting data back in 1992 and I bet the trend won’t reverse back until the next recession.
How often does your family eat out? For one month, try eating at home and packing your lunch to take to work. Yes, this sounds dreadful and impossible to do but it’s a huge savings you’re passing up.
Crockpots are miracle appliances for dinner. Turn on the crockpot before you go to work and when you get home, dinner is ready! At the end of the month, splurge and go to an inexpensive restaurant.
Cut the cord and make your paycheck go further
Once upon a time, children played outside until the street lights came on. Parents talked to the neighbors while the children played. Bring back the good ol’ days of community and invite neighbors over to play cards or table games.
While you’re at it, call the cable company and tell them you won’t be paying for their monopoly anymore. You’ve finally got a choice for TV services and won’t be paying their hidden fees.
An HD digital box will get you all the local channels for free. If that’s still not enough, a subscription to Netflix costs less than $8 a month and has more programming than you can watch.
Turn the clock back on our cashless society
The credit card companies have sold us on the idea that the ‘convenience’ of plastic is worth double-digit interest rates. Some people don’t even carry cash anymore.
Don’t think the problem of impulse shopping is solved by carrying a debit card that’s limited to what you’ve got in the account. It’s too easy to whip out the card and drain your account anytime you go out shopping.
Leave the cards home and only use them when you’ve got a larger purchase you need to make. Wait a week before buying anything that you do not absolutely need! You may find that sticking to your budget will make you much happier than new shoes or clothes.
It Adds Up and You Can Beat Live More on Your Paycheck
Add these money saving tips to the huge resource list of 40 expert ideas on how to save money and anyone ought to be able to find a little extra cash in their budget. Some tips may save just a few dollars while others can help save hundreds.
It all adds up and just saving an extra $200 a month can turn into more than $33,000 after ten years. At that point, you’re making more than $2,000 just on the interest! Don’t think of saving as sacrificing all fun but as a game, how much can you save and still enjoy yourself? You’ll break the paycheck to paycheck curse and you’ll be happier while you do it.
We’ll talk next week about some ways to invest your newly saved money and build that financial nest egg. Frugal Grandma
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.