One of the more difficult aspects of personal finance is figuring out the best way to utilize our money. For the Millennial generation, especially, it’s tough to figure out how to save big on a small budget. But, the key to lessening your spending is to cut back a little in each area, versus taking out big chunks of your budget all at once. It may take a little work in the beginning but you'll find your financial stress start to decrease once you're able to save and pay off more of your debt.
Here are eight simple but effective ways to cut back on your expenses and increase savings.
1. Put any Bonuses Into Savings
There’s no better feeling than finding $20 in an old jacket pocket or while you’re cleaning out your car. Instead of pocketing that cash and potentially losing it a second time, pay yourself first by automatically depositing it into your savings account. You can do that with larger amounts too, such as your tax refund or a year-end bonus. The same goes for your annual raise if you get one at work. Funnel the additional amount into your 401(k) plan to grow your nest egg faster.
2. Make Meals at Home
It can be tough to find the energy to make a meal after a long day at work. Start out with the habit of cooking at least twice a week, if you eat out often, and slowly build up to three or four times a week. If that’s not realistic for you, find time on Sunday to meal prep a few easy dinners for the week. This way you’ll have a meal ready to go when you come home from work.
The same goes for coffee. Buying a coffee every day can seem like a small expense but it really puts a dent in your wallet in the long run. Cutting out this one small expense can add up to hundreds or potentially even thousands of dollars in savings each year.
3. Make a Grocery List Before Going to the Store
If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store without a list or when you’re hungry it can be tempting to buy more food than you normally would. Pre-plan what you will need for the week before going to the store to not only make sure you don’t forget anything but also to avoid picking up extra items you don’t need. A list helps make sure you avoid making another unnecessary trip and temptation. And, it can also help with making meal prep more affordable.
4. Set a Shopping Limit
Make it a habit to avoid buying things on impulse. If you find yourself wanting an expensive coat you stumbled upon at the mall, wait a day or two and see if you’re still thinking about it. And in the meantime, look online for printable coupons or promo codes from coupon apps you could apply to save money on the purchase.
5. Clean out Your Closet and Sell What You Can
As spring approaches, it may be time to go through your closet and get rid of the items you never wear. These clothes just take up extra space and could potentially earn you some extra cash. If you want to go full minimalist, a la Marie Kondo, go room by room through your home looking for things you can get rid of. Once you’ve done some deep cleaning look into hosting a garage sale or sell some of your items to a consignment store.
6. Cancel Club Memberships or Entertainment Bills
It can be easy to forget about our automatically recurring monthly bills. If you have a gym membership that you’ve always had but never use it may be time to cancel it. Additionally, if you have cable but find yourself mostly watching Netflix, see if it makes sense to cancel your cable bill. Spending $100 a month on cable TV may not seem like a lot on a monthly basis but that's $1,200 a year you could be saving! Eliminating the extra expenses you rarely use could make a significant difference in your budget.
7. Embrace DIY Projects
Instead of going out to buy a new face mask, see if you can make one with the items you already have at home. Pinterest is a miracle tool for DIYers. Use it to find free, easy recipes for meals, cleaning hacks, and ways to use the most out of things you have around the house.
8. Use a Budgeting App
It’s easy to overspend when we’re not setting limits and holding ourselves accountable. Some apps like Mint and Quicken can help you track daily, weekly, or monthly spending to see where you need to cut back and receive personalized advice based on your financial needs and goals.
What Will You Do With Your Savings?
As you work to save more of your hard-earned dollars and cents, think about what you'll do with your savings. Will you build up your emergency fund, for example, put it into a down payment savings fund to buy a home or invest it for the future? Having clear goals in mind for your savings can help you stay motivated to continue looking for ways to trim expenses.